Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thing 37: Music Finders

I tried both suggested music finders, Pandora and Last.FM. I used my current favorite artist, Tiesto. Since trance music is not something regularly heard on local radio stations in my area, I've always surfed the net to find out the latest trends. I enjoyed both music finders and they each featured artists that I had not heard of. I liked that they offered extensive bios and artist cross-references. I could not pick one over the other in terms of better choices but would use both to see what is out there on the trance scene.

There were however a couple of negatives: I did not like that you couldn't hear many of the songs in full on Last.FM, many were just snippets. How do you know if you will like it or not if you can only hear 30 seconds? Pandora only loads one song for you to listen to at a time but at least you get to hear the full song. Overall, I'll use both services in addition to other sources I normally check.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thing 36: Online Photo Editors

For this discovery exercise, instead of taking several photos and testing them on one editor, I took one photo and looked at several editors. I posted the results on Flickr, tagged Cinnamon, since that is the subject of the photo.

Original Photo
Here is the original photo. This is our neighbor's cat, Cinnamon. She is too skittish to hang around if I go outside but I got this shot from the kitchen window.

Registration required. For an inexperienced photo editor like myself I found that Picknik offers the right amout of simplicity and level of detail. It also helps that Picnik is already the photo editor partnered with Flickr and, both of which I use to store my photos. Very nice.

Splashup (Formerly Fauxto)Registration required. If I was a Photoshop user I'm sure that I would have taken to Splashup. But there was no tip sheet and some things I just didn't understand how they could be used. So for this novice, the picture probably didn't turn out as good as it could have.

I appreciated that I did not have to create an account with Pixenate. I could just upload my picture and get to work. It was also nice that Pixenate gave you the ability to upload your edited photos directly to Flickr or save to disk. I was able to get the contrast I wanted on Pixenate but not the level of sharpness.

Registration required. Very limited on what it offers for online photo sharing-except for email. It really pushes you to buy things. It didn't even give me a place to save the images I edited back to my PC. I had to right click and copy and save it myself. I was afraid I wasn't even going to get to do that. Like Pixenate, I was able to get the contrast I wanted but not the level of sharpness.
Another nice site that I did not have to register on. I just uploaded my picture and set to editing. It gave me the ability to save back to my PC. gave me the sharpness that I wanted but not the contrast.

Since I do not have a cell phone camera I did not use CellSea.

ImageEditor would not let me upload my original, untouched photo to edit so I did not use it.

No registration required. Wiredness gives you many places you can upload your photos from and back to. You can integrate with Flickr or Picasa, save as a .jpg, .gif, or .png. You can also bookmark the site directly to Delicious, Stumbleupon or Digg. I wasn't able to get the level of sharpness or contrast that I wanted though. Again this may be due to my lack of photo editing experience.

Overall I choose Picknik for its ease of use and intuitive layout and autocorrect features. At almost every level there is an auto-fix feature which made it so straight forward. I recommend Picknik for online photo editing whether you are a novice or an expert. If you are an expert you may appreciate Splashup more.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thing 35: Micro Blogging

I created an account with Twitter and it was very straightforward through the whole process. One glitch, when I went to pull friends lists from my email accounts, Twitter kept hanging up. But searching for library and librarian brought up several people and places that I knew right away so I set them to 'follow'. The 140 character limit of Twitter means that I'll be using TinyURL often. :) It was also easy to add Twitter as a badge to my blog and to my social networking sites. I like that I can add a message to Twitter and have my status show up in all of the places I have linked it to.

I tried to create a Jaiku account but there are not accounts available at the moment. Jaiku said it would email me when an account came available. It's in the process of joining with Google. I wonder if that is the reason I could not sign up.

So I tried Pownce . It has a much easier 'find friends' feature. You can also see who your friends are friends with. Sort of like Facebook and MySpace. You can create a personalized theme for your background and can add links, files, or events. It allows you the largest amount of space for your microblogging.

I can really see micro blogging as a useful tool for library program promotions. Especially as an eye catcher to your website. It's also a nice way to alert readers to updates to your blog or website.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thing 34: Fitness Calculators

I created accounts for both Nutridiary and FitDay and compared them with our local fitness calculator Fit City Challenge. Between Nutridiary and FitDay I liked FitDay best. I had more of the foods that I eat in it's database and it was very straightforward to use to get a breakdown of how I obtain my calories.

The clean interface also helped FitDay be more intuitive. A less busy interface means that there will be less to distract you and you are more likely to find what you are looking for. The activities list was not as extensive as I would have liked but it was very easy to approximate a similar exercise. I was disappointed in that I did not see anywhere on either site to input whether you take dietary supplements or not--especially things like multi-vitamins and calcium.

On a separate comparison, I'll still log my exercise time in Fit City Challenge because of the incentives at work. According to the FitCity site: "Eligible employees will be rewarded with one half () vacation day for every 200 points earned through participation in the Fit City Challenge, for a maximum of 400 points and one (1) vacation day per calendar year." Not bad for something I do everyday anyway. Might as well get credit for it.

One thing that does bother me though is the over reliance of many of these calculators on solely the BMI alone. If you are athletic, then you know that muscle weighs more than fat. A football player will be classified as obese based on BMI alone. So as with any of these fitness calculators, keep that in mind and get a better picture by getting a body fat test during your annual physical at the doctor. Overall I'll log my fitness hours on Fit City Challenge but keep my food diary with FitDay. Even though I'll log both on both for comparison I like those features the best on each.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thing 32: Online File Storge Redux

Two posts ago, I received some helpful comments about why Omnidrive was not working for me. Come to find out, Omnidrive is no longer an active site and is probably going out of business. But offers the same service and also uses ZohoWriter for editing documents inside it and instead of Snipshot, uses Picnik for photoediting--which is also used by Flickr. Awesome! Setting up an account was very easy, uploading documents and photos a snap, and editing them--Zoho Writer and Picnik pop open right inside You can add tags to your items for easy searching and have the option to share your documents with a handy URL. I'll be using this resource alot!

WFAE Features New Library Book Truck

While driving to work today I smiled as I listend to our public radio station, WFAE. They featured our library's new yellow book truck that is encouraging kids to read throughout the summer. Studys show that reading during the summer keeps children at their reading level or improves it. The hope is that the books the truck brings will excite the children to come to the library to get their own library cards and discover what resources their public library has to offer. It also featured our branch's very own Ms. Ursula reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz. Way to go!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thing 33: Online Art Games

This discovery exercise was quite fun. I explored all of the online art suggestions on the Learning 2.1 blog plus Jamie's suggestion in the ning forums. Falling Sand was interesting but it didn't keep my attention long enough to create anything with it. Since it was moving all the time it felt more like an Etch-a-Sketch with a mind of its own. Mr. Picassohead pulled me in and I tinkered with it a good while. I also liked that you could email your creations to others or yourself.

Zefrank's Snowflake Maker took me a couple of times to get the hang of. The trick is not to do too many swipes through. The more you add the less you can see the details.

Zefrank's String Spin was amazing to watch while it whirled your doodles into fantastic shapes. You can even change direction x,y, and z axis and even color of your strings.

The last one I played with actually came from the Learning 2.1 Forums on Ning. Jamie mentioned her favorite was and I just had to try it since I've used Pollock's signature paint splatter style on some Japanese lanterns I have in my living room.
Overall it was great fun!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thing 32: Omnidrive - Online File Storage

Omnidrive looks like a wonderful tool but was unavailable to me at the moment because it is currently in Beta and they have reached capacity in terms of number of users. I have signed up to receive an email when they start accepting new users. The Zoho Writer account that I created in Thing 18 is still working fine and when Omnidrive comes available again I'll complete this exercise and also utilize the Snipshot feature for editing photos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Thing 31: Plaxo - Stylish Organization

I will say that I was really impressed with this discovery exercise. Before Plaxo I had all but given up on trying to update my yearly calendar with important dates and anniversaries. Now I'll never have to
1-buy another day planner or
2-add another reoccuring date again!

Signing up was easy enough, Plaxo walked you right through the process and gave you suggestions on what to explore next. The trick with calendars is to create your different calendar categories first (work, home, etc). Then when you add an event select the calendar you want to add it to first--then add the rest of the data. If you don't remember to select the correct calendar then the event will have to be deleted and added again to the correct calendar. There were some quirks with the calendar, I couldn't set an event for every two weeks or three weeks, etc. Those I had to put in each event manually. But most every other sort of reoccurance was available. Viewing each of the different calendar categories and overlaying them onto the same calendar was straight forward. Countdowns were easy to do, just click on the event and check off the countdown box. Task lists were easy to create, and I'm glad that they didn't force you to put a deadline on them. When you check items off, Plaxo marks them out and deletes them.

iCalShare took me the longest to pick up on, simply because I didn't know where to look on Plaxo to find where to add the iCal calendars. It's not visible from the main calendar screen, you have to click on the 'Calendars' tab at the bottom of the screen and click on 'Share & Manage'. Then click on 'Subscribe to iCal'. iCalShare had some interesting calendars but I just wanted a simple astronomy calendar so I chose 'Science' category and then chose the Eclipse Calendar. Now here is what stumped me for a while. When I clicked on the word 'Subscribe' in iCalShare it would try to add the calendar to the default Outlook calendar. I didn't want to use that so finally I noticed that if I rested my mouse over the little calendar icon next to the word 'Subscribe' the calendar address would pop up in the marquee at the bottom of the browser. So I jotted that down and then directly added it to Plaxo and Presto! the iCal calendar worked without having to sync it with an outside calendar.

I tried printing the Plaxo calendar in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. It works best in landscape view and I had more space in the calendar if I used Internet Explorer. Your results may vary depending on what web browser and version you have.

I'll certainly be using my Plaxo calendar, not only for important birthdays and anniversaries, but also for work. This will certainly replace my print outs of the 'Systemwide Meeting & Important Dates Calendar' from the staff intranet. I'll be able to more effectively plan going to library conferences and continuing education workshops. You could use it for the staff desk schedule, although getting everything to fit in a small space for printing might be a challenge. You could also use it to advertise in-house library events and outreach activities if your library doesn't already have a calendar for that on their website. You probably would want to create a separate Plaxo account for that so that it is dedicated for that purpose. Here's a little library events calendar that I made public for sharing.


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