Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Word Clouds

I so enjoy the stuff Dave Pattern does with data and mashups, etc that I went to see what I could find to play with online.

I use 'play' in the sense of 'for work' of course! :-)

I had fun with Wordle - these are some word clouds I made, based on this blog. Possibly useful for library posters and suchlike (?) You have to Print Screen, paste into Paint, edit, etc...

Every which way cloud

And yes, you can change colours, layouts, etc - this one, for instance, is alphabetical..
Alphabetical cloud
I also tried TagCrowd, which has different parameters you can tweak, but does seem to remain alphabetical (although you can strim out common words, etc)

created at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why not write a book?

I guess this blog does tend to sound rather dry at times - just as the image of a librarian remains rather 'dusty and old-fashioned' - but I spent my life as an enthusiastic sharer, and I have to share this with anyone who loves books.

For ten years now, thousands of people have set themselves the challenge of writing 50,000 fictional words in November.  A simple goal, really.  I didn't say easy!  Just simple to understand.

Like a marathon. Simple enough.  Run 26 miles, taking as long as you like.  Straightforward.  :-)

If this intrigues you (and the only prize is reaching the goal you set yourself) then visit NaNoWriMo (national Novel Writing Month).

Even if you don't want to write, right now, you can contribute funds towards outreach programs for young people; you can promote the event (buy the T-Shirt); spread the word.  To really feel a sense of completion, I even published my last two (using Lulu) and although I don't expect to sell any, I really enjoy the process of designing and laying out a book, commissioning covers from the fantastic Bobby Campbell, and eventually holding a real, tangible book in my hand!  Other spin-off fun came from making videos on my progress (the story so far...) and getting interviewed for NaNo radio, etc.  You will find a whole community of people meeting up for write-ins, and all sorts.

Update:  If you don't feel sure about the value of this experience, read this article at Edutopia, about the effect on schools and teachers of the Young Writers program...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blogging for Librarians

I have just returned from a brief but informative workshop with Karl Drinkwater - Resource Discovery Officer at Aberystwyth University (and E-learning Adviser for Learning Resources at JISC RSC Wales).

In "Blogging Awareness" he took us through

  • the possible uses of blogs (for individual or departmental announcements of services or news, for instance, or simply for internal collaboration and communication)
  • the available sites that offer the service of hosting free blogs
  • the pros and cons (conflicts of interest between ICT security issues and access, for instance, or corporate branding and 'the friendly face' of the staff...etc).

    Although I run several blogs (for my different 'hats') I learned some new things, and really should get to grips with RSS, for instance.
    Karl Drinkwater
    He manages this website for Aberystwyth University, but here's an example of one of his blogs, Subject Support

    Unfortunately, this blog will not be accessible from Cardiff Libraries, as ICT recently blocked all blogs hosted at Blogger in response to a request from schools, after children were (presumably) found accessing inappropriate material.

    It's just my personal opinion - as I know children need to be protected - but that seems like banning all newspapers in libraries just because The Sun has Page Three girls. Surely you just stop offering The Sun in the libraries - you don't ban The Guardian, the FT, The Independent, etc? IMHO

    One by one I am getting harmless blogs unblocked, on request, but I have no idea how many useful, interesting and informative blogs get hosted on Blogger. Thousands? Tens of thousands? Millions?

    I would prefer that individual sites which were found to be offensive got blocked, rather than these big sweeping moves. Contentious stuff, of course, but at least we had a chance to air and discuss some of these problems.

    A very enjoyable course! Thanks Karl!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Playing and Learning in a VLE

As an enthusiast, I often forget that many people haven't started playing with the internet yet.

They may shop there, or do their children's homework, or chat, or seek true love, but haven't really begun to explore how much more we (as a human tribe in a global village) could do with it. But then again, many people don't consider themselves creative.

And, yes, I realise how irritating acronyms can prove.

VLE = Virtual Learning Environment

I feel my experiments in setting up elearning options for staff don't seem to attract people yet. I blame myself, not the Moodle / Learning Pool environment. As Michel Thomas points out, the burden of 'teaching failure' should lie with the teacher, not the student...

[update 13 Oct 09] Just to add to the confusion, some people use 'DLE'= Dynamic Learning Environment. For instance, you can view a conference presentation on Learning Pool, called "LP’s DLE: A Social Media Solution for Collaborative Working Within and Across UK Local Government" here:
(although staff in Cardiff can't watch Vimeo video at the moment).

So, accidentally coming across Producer (a free add-on to Powerpoint) has motivated me to attempt something a bit more interesting - and use video, screen grabs, sounds, etc to make staff training more interesting. It'll take a while, of course...but it does look a lot like Movie Maker, so perhaps I can crack it...

Meanwhile, the search goes on for a good way to transform Powerpoint to MPEG for our plasma screens. (sigh)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ahead in the clouds

Cloud computing does seem to relate to Google Wave (and the way the Google team already works, apparently).

Centrally stored information, accessed through 'thin clients' from anywhere.

Apart from the days when the network is down, and you don't have much stored locally to play with, this does seem the way to go.

At the socitm09 annual conference you will find discussion of Cloud Computing and other interesting material...economies of scale for council ICT departments, which might depend on the use of newer interactive models, the unblocking of Social Networking for staff use, etc.

Fascinating stuff.
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