Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Week Three: RSS

RSS and Newsreaders

One of the great things about the internet is the vast amount of information available. One of the worst things about the internet is also the vast amount of information available. Like most people, you probably have a handful of websites you visit on a daily (or hourly) basis and larger group of sites that you visit less frequently.

Bookmarks are the classic way of remembering the websites you like or find interesting, but you still need to visit the sites to see what’s new. For sites that are being updated on a frequent basis, like news services, magazines, or prolific blogs, it would be handy to have a tool that summarizes what’s new. Enter RSS and newsreaders.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, but the term newsreader is used interchangeably. To use RSS, you use a software tool called a feed reader that loads just like a web page in your web browser. You then subscribe to RSS feeds that interest you and their content is sent to your feed reader.

For example, if you were interested in business news you could subscribe to the CBC’s Money feed. Every time a new story was posted to the CBC site in the Money section, the headline (and optionally the full text of the article) would be sent to your reader. Instead of having to check the CBC for new stories, the latest stories are sent to you. And of course you can subscribe to additional business feeds like CNN or The Economist, and all those new headlines are sent to your account. This allows you to quickly scan the top stories from multiple sources in one place at one time. If a headline grabs your interest, you can click on it to be taken from your reader to the originating site.

To try this out, please do the following:

* Go to http://www.bloglines.com/

* Click on Register and work through the creating an account process.

* Open a new browser window (“Ctrl” and “N” keys).

* Go to http://www.libraryjournal.com/ and click on the RSS icon (as seen above) next to “LJ Latest Stories” Highlight the URL in the Library Journal – Latest News box and copy it (“Ctrl” and “C” keys).

*Go back to the browser window with your Bloglines account and click on the “Add” link on the left hand side.

* Paste (“Ctrl” and “V” keys) the URL from Library Journal in the Subscribe field and click on the Subscribe button. Don’t change the options that appear, and click on the Subscribe button again.

* The most recent Library Journal headlines will now appear in your Bloglines viewer.

Go forth and subscribe to three more RSS feeds from whatever sources interest you, and be sure to log in to your Bloglines account regularly to check them.

Make a new post in your blog that lists the feeds you’ve chosen, and write about your experience using them. Is it a useful tool? Too much information or a time saver? Better for work or leisure?

Send a message to 23things@torontopubliclibrary.ca that you’ve completed the assignment. Be sure to include the address of your blog.

See you next week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week Two

Photo Sharing

For your second 23 Things assignment, you’ll learn how to post and share photos and images. There are many popular photo sharing websites available, such as Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa, but some work very slowly on TPL computers. We’ll be using Flickr, but feel free to try some others in your spare time.

Before you begin, you’ll need to have at least three images saved on your PC.

First, create a new folder on your G: drive called 23 Things, by double clicking on the “Shortcut to G Drive” icon on your computer’s desktop. A window will open: under the File menu choose New > Folder, and change the name of the folder to 23 Things.

Now go browsing on the internet for photos that grab your interest. When you find a photo you like, right click on it, choose Save Picture As… from the menu, and save it to your 23 Things folder on the G: drive. You could also put photos from e-mail attachments or your own digital camera in the folder.

To check that your photos have saved, double click again on the “Access to G Drive” icon on your computer’s desktop, open the 23 Things folder, and double click on a picture file. It will open automatically in Microsoft Photo Editor.

Now, please do the following:

* Go to http://www.flickr.com/

* Click on the Create Your Account button and work through the registration process, being sure to note your login name and password for future reference. As Flickr is part of Yahoo!, you'll be creating a Yahoo! ID at the same time.

* Once you reach the main Flickr page, click on the "Upload your first photos" link, and then select the three images in your 23 Things folder you want to upload.

* After a moment, the images will be shown on your Flickr page. You can add titles and descriptions for each image if you like. Click on Save at the bottom when finished.

* Click on the first photo you'd like to add to your blog. Above the photo are a series of icons, including "All Sizes" - click on this. Note that under each photo is a "Grab the photo's URL" field. Click in this field to highlight the URL and then press the “Ctrl” and “C” keys on your keyboard at the same time to copy the URL address.

* Launch a new browser window (“Ctrl” and “N” keys) and log in to your Blogger account.

* Choose create a new post, give it the title of 23 Things Assigment #2, and click on the Add Image button (it looks like a small photograph).

* In the new window that opens, there is a field called “Or add an image from the web.” Click in this field and press the “Ctrl” and “V” keys on your keyboard at the same time to paste the URL you just copied from Flickr.

* Click the orange Upload Image button (you may have to agree to terms of service) and then Done and your photo will appear in the body of your blog compose window. Add a few lines about the image.

* Repeat the above steps for two more photos.

* Publish your post with all three photos, trying out different sizes and positions.

* Send a message to 23things@torontopubliclibrary.ca that you’ve completed the assignment. Be sure to include the address of your blog.

For extra activities, take a look at some of the creative tools that have been built on the Flickr style of photo sharing:

Flickr Color Pickr: Let's you find shared photos based on their colour

Flickstrs: Tracks the most highly-rated photos and members on Flickr

Check back here next Tuesday for the next assignment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Week 1: Welcome to 23 Things

Create A Blog

For your first 23 Things assignment, you are going to sign up for a free blog account, select a template, and make your first blog post. Each week’s assignment from this point on will make use of your blog in some way, so there’s no time like the present to get started.

We’re going to be creating Blogger accounts, which are part of Google. Please do the following:

* Go to http://www.blogger.com/

* Click on the Create Your Blog Now orange arrow

* Work through the account creation screen – if you already have a Google or Gmail account, log in to it first

* Give your blog a name and a website address (______.blogspot.com)

* Choose the template for your blog. You can change to a different template and customize your blog later if you choose.

* For your first post, title it 23 Things Assignment #1 and then write a few lines about what you hope to learn through the 23 Things training. Then publish your post.

* Try out some of the editing and customization features in Blogger, using the tabs along the top of the window. Spend some time getting comfortable with using Blogger.

* Send the address of your new blog to the 23things@torontopubliclibrary.ca account to complete your first assignment. 23 Things staff will take a look at each blog and post a comment.


Spend some time this week looking at other blogs, both library and non-library related. Try blogscanada.ca as a starting point. What makes a good blog? How do blogs enhance existing web sites? Are blogs a easier way for people to self-publish? Discuss these questions in a few posts to your own blog, or by making a comment on the 23 Things blog.

Congratulations, you’re on your way.

Check back here next Tuesday for the next assignment.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What is 23 Things?

23 Things is widely-used and wildly popular training method for library staff across North America. It began with an article by Stephen Abram in Information Outlook magazine called 43 Things I Might Want To Do This Year, in February of 2006, which in turn was inspired by the website 43 Things.

Stephen's enthusiasm and influence in the library world led to the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in North Carolina developing a training package for their staff called 23 Things. It's goal was "to encourage staff to explore new technologies" by trying out 23 new and fun things based on the emerging world of Web 2.0.

The success of PLCMC's program has resulted in dozens of other library systems across the continent offering their own versions of 23 Things to their staff. And now, it is TPL's time.

To get the most out of your 23 Things experience, please come with an open mind and an eagerness to experiment. Many of the assignments require you to work independently, and learn new tools at your own pace.

If you do get stuck, please send a message to 23things@torontopubliclibrary.ca.