June 05, 2004

Great Movable Type Support

They are probably weary of me by now, given that I am not exactly part of that high-end developers' community they need feedback from for 3.0, but Movable Type support folk have been terrific (and terrifically kind).

I finally "get" the templates (although I won't be doing too many tweaks without extensive tutorials or model templates from the likes of Elise), the tags make enough sense that I was able to replicate my favorite features and even implement a three-column style, and I now have comment registration working properly on the forthcoming new site for Free Range Librarian. (I'm not publishing the URL just yet, since I'm still tweaking the code, but if you think really, really hard, you can probably figure it out...)

I leapt into a 3.0 installation rather rashly, primarily because I feel the need to upgrade before I start the MFA program later this month (and plunge into a 2-year work/school abyss). Despite that, my blogs never actually broke, support staff were amazingly responsive, and three days later "I" (as in, I and the Movable Type support staff) have resolved all of the issues.

While I did make it through an upgrade, more or less, if I had to do it over again, I would save all of my templates, export the data, archive the existing MT installation (I actually did steps two and three), delete the existing MT installation, do a new install of 3.0, and recreate my blogs. I had to update the templates anyway, and my choices were to install new ones and add the edits, or fiddle with the old ones. (Procrastination awarded again: I've been foot-dragging about moving my main blog to its new domain, so I was able to blow away that blog and start over with all-fresh files I can tweak at relative leisure). Plus one of my problems had to do with several modules that I missed when uploading the files for MT 3.0. Had I simply taken a scorched-earth approach, and put up a barebones "watch this site" message, I could have had my existing blog up and working in at least a primitive fashion within an hour of getting MT installed.

I'm one of those folks who should not execute Perl commands without close adult supervision, I'm so low-end that I've been using the same 20 Unix commands since 1991, and yet I made it to the other side of 3.0. I'm sure it has its bugs, some of which will no doubt be made manifest the night before a major deadline for work or school, but I'm still rather pleased that I was able to get this far, and I owe that to excellent, patient tech support from MT (and a few good tip sheets from Elise, who is a treasure).

And among other nice features, I love, just love that comment registration!

Stay tuned for FRL's new, improved face.

Posted by kgs at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2004

Comment Registration, Again

After several days of work with very patient Six Apart staff, they pinpointed something crucial: I hadn't modified the MT 3.0 default templates. They pointed me to some documentation I hadn't seen during purchase and registration. Ah hah! I immediately solved a problem with a test blog I had created (involving a DateTime module I hadn't uploaded) and am now deep, very deep into the documentation.

Posted by kgs at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2004

MT Comment Registration Somewhat Funky

If you are commenting, or not commenting, or trying to comment (oh, go ahead, comment!), be warned that the comment registration feature seems way buggy. I put in a help ticket. I'm handling comments a little differently in the future--I eyeballed a posting from Liz Lawley talking about scripts that close comments after a period, and I think that's my route--so I'm not sweating bullets. I'll post any replies from Six Apart I get on this.

[Help Ticket Text]

I upgraded to 3.0, and it went surprisingly well, given that I'm exactly the sort of person who shouldn't be doing this. However, I'm a bit baffled by comment registration management issues.

I don't see any of the current approved commenters (many of whom are comment spam, unfortunately) listed in the Commenters area, including several I added last night to test the comment registration feature. When I list Comments, these users are "approved," and there is no way to ban them from there, either. When I see users listed in the Comments area that I want to ban, I can't ban them. I can approve them, or delete their posts, but I can't ban them.

I have comments set this way:

Accept Comments from Unregistered Visitors: UNchecked
Accept Comments from Registered Visitors: Checked
The typekey token is entered, autoapproval is NOT enabled, and e-mail addresses are NOT required.

I plan to manually disable comments tonight on nearly all of my older posts (I was using MT-Blacklist, which turned into a laborious cat-and-mouse game), so comment spam will be (temporarily) managed that way, and this is soemwhat moot. But I'm curious. Is this a general "developer edition" bugginess, or does this speak to something I did wrong in the upgrade process--a library not installed, etc...? (I had one external library I had overwritten, which I did fix from my old, carefully backed-up site.) Everything else seems, well, strangely easy and functional.

I do love the potential of this comment registration feature!

Posted by kgs at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 02, 2004

Upgraded to MT 3.0!

Hey... I upgraded to Movable Type 3.0, in under an hour! (I just couldn't stand not knowing what it looked like.) Greetings, comment registration! Good-bye, Mr. Penis Ad! Hello, batch-process IP banning!

I haven't done anything with stylesheets... I'll get into that in a few days. Better get moving... once school starts 6-26 (and I already have homework!), I won't have any time for techno-hijinks.

Posted by kgs at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

How I'm Using MT

Thanks to Liz Lawley's MamaMusings, I caught that Mena at Six Apart is looking for people to tell them how they use Movable Type; see http://www.sixapart.com/log/2004/05/how_are_you_usi.shtml

I just counted, and I have 9 blogs, but only five are really active. I use one blog to host my main site, Blue Highways. It seemed like an easy way to have a main Web page. Then I have the blog for Free Range Librarian, where I do my daily gabbing; another blog for freadom.info, a free-expression blog I set up with some friends for an ad hoc project related to Cuban dissidents; one for a committee I chaired until recently (and I plan to decommission it shortly); and several test blogs of one kind or another, including one that is a very early test site for where Free Range Librarian will move when I roll out its new design and fancy new domain.

I have several abandoned blogs that I really should delete. I also set up a blog for my friend Fred, who is a retired trial lawyer; Fred likes to review movies and chat about our neighborhood. It was easier than trying to explain TypePad. However, I could nudge Fred to TypePad, if need be.

None of my current blogs have more than two authors.

Assuming I get Fred moved to TypePad, my only need beyond my current blogs is to be able to test blogs. I think it's important that above any license agreement, we can create fully valid test blogs that we can use to test CSS and coding. In fact, if Six Apart is thinking about what a test blog should be like, it would be nice if a test blog would have an "inactive" feed so that our too-alert public would not pick up on the test blog's existence. I don't really like to make sausage in public.

I had noted early on that the MT licensing agreement worked fine for me. Although I wasn't a respondent for the Six Apart survey, it sounds as if I represent the group that provided the tragically misleading information for Six Apart. Still, although I fit pretty well into the low-end-user prototype, I'm still topping out at around five blogs, give or take, not including test blogs.

Posted by kgs at 11:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My real Gmail account

What was I thinking? My G-mail address is bluehighways at gmail.com(not highways@gmail.com). Oy!

Posted by kgs at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Gmail Account

Update: Note corrected address! I set one up, courtesy of a colleague who had a few to give out. Feel free to write me at bluehighways at gmail.com (first problem: I couldn't use my preferred username, kgs, because usernames need to be at least six characters long).

One part of the user "agreement" gave me pause: "Account Inactivity. After a period of inactivity, Google reserves the right to disable or terminate a user's account. If an account has been deactivated for inactivity, the email address associated with that account may be given to another user without notice to you or such other party."

Maybe it's just as well I didn't use "kgs."

Posted by kgs at 09:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

Six Apart Clarifies Licensing Strategy

Six Apart responded to the deluge of complaints about its new pricing plan. For the most part I think they had made decisions based on reasonably good information (a survey of their users), but failed to take all of the available information from their environment in account. The missteps are instructive, and--saying this with great fondness for what I think is a good company run by nice people--I would love to build this incident into a library management class called Fatal Errors.

What led to the management equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death? Six Apart had failed to factor in the frustration users feel at the "element of surprise"; the impact of small errors (the original license had a single-CPU restriction, which was simply a dumb error); information right under their nose; the importance of minority constituencies; and--a viper they have nursed to their own collective bosoms--the ability of blogging to dilate and disseminate the opinions of a few.

When I had heard what "everyone" was saying, my manager's ears perked right up; whenever you hear vague references to "everyone," you are often hearing a minority opinion undergoing heavy self-promotion. When I peeked late yesterday afternoon, I saw fewer than 500 complaints. You may think that's a lot, but think about how many people use Movable Type. But due to the capabilities of TrackPad--a technology they invented--the complaints had enormous self-perpetuating power. (Now you know why I was in such a hurry to quickly squelch the Googlehacking incident with LII.)

Then again, the notion of "a lot" is relative. I keep thinking about the 15% of their users who have more than five blogs. (I do, actually, if you count the trashed-out test blogs I use to test features--and the new software should include a non-publishing test capability, so you aren't making sausage in public. In fairness, I don't need more than one or two of these, but I will still have to delete a couple to become compliant.)

Where I work, we just completed a user survey with over 4,000 respondents, and I consider 15% to be a very healthy constituency. After all, these folks are representative of a larger number--that's why it's a sampling, remember? Honing in on those 15% would have been useful for Six Apart.

The other factor they didn't consider, in analyzing the complaints, is that many personal bloggers fall into what the cell phone companies call "family plans." (Asking follow-up questions of the 15 Percenters would have helped here.) A blog with four family members sharing thoughts about their petunia gardens is a much different arrangement than the engine behind major blogs such as Blog for America.

Six Apart recognized this, upped the number of authors to five, and added the capability to add a blog and an author to a license for $10. If your family is Cheaper By the Dozen, get the $100 edition, now on sale for $70 (you're paying that much every week for milk and bread, anyway).

But--oops--don't buy anything for at least a week, since Six Apart is rebuilding its billing engine, they tell us, and who in their right mind would make an online purchase with that information in hand? I can already read the message, "For those of you who created orders between May 13 and May 21..." Six Apart, leave the fuzzy management stuff behind with the steaks and martinis of the Fin de Siecle. Just say you will begin accepting orders by May X, and make sure this capability is available on that date.

Also, they failed to recognize the needs of institutional users, such as educators and library consortia. These organizational elephants often rely on a specific price (which, note, had been "free") to make their decisions. There were several ways to handle this, but suddenly announcing a price structure where the previous price had been "none" was not a good option. Their previous, loosy-goosy "give us what you think we are worth" was ignored by institutions not because Movable Type isn't worth anything or because they didn't want to contribute to this product, but because purchases at the institutional level need to be based on solid prices you can see and touch. And it's agony if the price changes mid-year, which is why so many institutional purchases require some kind of license or contract. Six Apart will still need someone to help them negotiate the complicated world of institutional purchases. (If you're a librarian looking for work, why not pitch this to them as a PT gig? Gee, if I weren't gainfully employed and painfully overcommitted, I'd do it myself!)

They also missed addressing the licensing issue that people create mini-logs to build bigger blogs--a trick touted on their own help forums. They've addressed this, and in doing so have suggested that in terms of how many blogs you actually have to your name, MT will still be on the honor system (which may mean I can continue to create malformed and ugly test blogs that should never see the light of day).

I give them management style points for accepting criticism, addressing the problems as quickly as was reasonable (it took a long time for them to dig themselves into this hole, so a 24-hour rescue is pretty good, all said and done), and appearing to be enormously contrite. Rumsfeld they ain't.

Now can we move on to life's real indignities, such as the Bush administration?

Posted by kgs at 10:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Movable Type 3.0 Out, MT Price Plan in Effect

(Updated) Six Apart announced the debut of two major changes for Movable Type: a price structure, and the availability of what they call the "developer's" version of Movable Type 3.0 (a suave euphemism for "so beta you can see the wires poking out of it").

The new price schedule initially took me aback, until I looked again. True, the basic commercial version is almost $200. But the personal version, normally $99.99, is currently discounted at $69.99, and if you donated (and I did), you get credit for your update keys, up to the price of the license. That reduces my costs to $19.99, and heck yeah, it's worth it.

What is a personal user? That may be up for discussion, based on the following blurb on their site, which appears to be missing a few words: "The personal use license can not be used for any , or a web developer purchasing a license on behalf of a client." Whatever that "any" is, I'm sure I'm not doing it. I haven't (yet) figured out how to add a graphic to the banner on my site, let alone peddle Free Range Librarian thongs or sell downloads of my version of "You Can Leave Your Hat On." I'm just another librarian happy for a clean, well-lighted place.

What do you get for $69.99 (or less, if you can boast of earlier virtue)? The entry level personal blog provides for three authors and five blogs, plus tech support, which for me is a major security blanket. Perfect! I have three blogs that are important to me, and a couple of play-around blogs (including the place where FRL will sport its own domain name and a new design within the next month).

Not only that, "accredited" educational institutions are eligible for discounts (that would include libraries, I'd hazard), and if you realio, trulio can't pay for MT, Six Apart will continue to support a one-user, three-blog personal version that won't cost you a nickel (you cheapskate, you). You won't get tech support, of course.

I feel about Movable Type pricing the way I do about Paint Shop Pro: a terrific price for what the product offers.

I'm going to buy a license (as soon as I track down my old license keys) and finally upgrade to 2.66. I'd really like to upgrade to 3.0 and play around with all the cool-beans features, particularly comment registration (I have given up on posting recent comments on my sites because I battle a flood of spam). However, we are warned that stepping forward to 3.0 could result in frequent upgrades at unexpected intervals (which is euphemistic language for "we are hoping the 'developer community' catches the first 500 bugs this week, but don't count on it"). Pioneers get the best territory, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Congrats to Six Apart on this move forward into digital adulthood, and thanks for a wonderful product. Can't wait to see what 3.0 looks like--from a safe distance, behind the cheese.

Posted by kgs at 03:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Please Do Not Googlebomb LII

(Update: Cohen has called off the Googlebomb.)

I woke up this morning to see a well-meaning request to Googlebomb LII (the place where I work... o.k., I know you know that, but there is a very intentional veil between FRL and LII). Not only that, Jessamyn has already critiqued the practice. Lordy, lordy... can't a girl do something other than the Internet for an evening?

I don't like the Googlebomb action (or "meme," to use a dreadfully worn word now trotted around), for exactly the reasons Jessamyn specifies. LII may have its marketing challenges, but we (and here I quote directly from the Karen G. Schneider who runs LII, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Free Range Librarian) would like to handle them ourselves; and as Jessamyn writes, it just seems wrong (not to mention so-last-year) to finegle with an index. More to the point, while we certainly don't control the universe, we at LII would like to control our own destiny. We should have been asked if we wanted this--and if that's how we wanted it, and that's when we wanted it. I know it was well-intended, but I'm asking you folks not to participate in this Googlebomb. It is so very, very not what LII is all about.

I'm proud of the increase in usage for LII that has happened during my tenure as Director, Senior Cheerleader, and Da Boss, even though my pride is really derivative from the profoundly wonderful work of the staff who make LII tick. Wendy Hyman, Jennifer English, Maria Brandt, Charlotte Bagby, Tom McGibney, Pat Fell, and a host of contributors--they are amazing. And I'd like to see usage statistics based on our efforts. And I'm very pleased people care about us enough to compare us to Library of Congress.

But please--if you have the energy to Googlebomb--you have the energy to direct your efforts toward Good Works. Go read to a child, or help out at a soup kitchen, or go help get out the vote for the November election. Or if you feel you want to "do something" for LII, share it with a library patron, a volunteer, a neighbor, or a local newspaper. Get us a radio spot on NPR--that's a "meme" we can live with. But Googlebomb LII? Please. Just Say No.

Posted by kgs at 08:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

RFID in Libraries

Laura Smart of CSU Pomona has a terrific blog about RFID in libraries. Pick it up at: http://libraryrfid.typepad.com/libraryrfid/index.rdf

(Hey, people really DO read my blogroll! I see this got picked up before I even blogged it; in my copious spare time, in between buffing my taxes and updating my personal financial statements, I'm deep into reading Mary Minow's piece on filtering and preparing questions for her before I post about it.)

Posted by kgs at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

GMail: Google Stepped In It

"All this handringing by librarians and others is ridiculous. Google is a commercial service and business. They clearly state what they will be doing. If you don't like it go someplace else. Also, remember the old internet adage: 'Do not send stuff in an e-mail that you would not want on the front page of the New York Times.'" -- Bill Drew, post to Web4Lib, 4/8/04

(Or on the front page of Free Range Librarian?)

Here's my reply.

When Google offers a service, they should first of all be up front about how they plan to (ab)use personal information. As an 800-lb gorilla, they have a particularly strong responsibility to behave appropriately on the Internet. If they can't, and I suspect that is true, then they should be regulated by the government to force them to behave responsibly, and if they don't like that, boo-hoo: they got a chance to get it right the first time. Being piggy gives commerce a bad name.

I hope other search engines are rushing forward to offer private, non-abusive e-mail services, big mailboxes or not. (There had to be a reason they were offering so much space. Of course they want you to keep all of your mail on their servers!)

Second, there is no strong connection between your "adage" and this situation. That adage, while apt, applies primarily to friends and colleagues forwarding/sending mail to others. It does not refer to the WalMart of Internet appliances skulking through our mail, automatically or otherwise, and bombarding us with advertisements based on our personal information, or about hovering up our email addresses to trawl for their own purposes.

Good on the Times (and other media who have caught this) to report on it.
The world beyond us should understand these privacy encroachments much better.

And one again (waving trifocals in air, thumping sensible shoes on floor) we digital librarians need to be not only having "hackfests," to reimagine librarianship, but also "ethicsfests," to port our values to a new platform, as it were. If there is one thing we can bring forward from the quaint old days of bound books and Gaylord charge machines, it is our historically fervent commitment to free speech, the right to read, and privacy. "Let them eat cake" is not in my vocabulary.

Posted by kgs at 10:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

GMail: When Monkeys Fly Out of My Butt!

Just one little catch with Gmail: Google's computers will be scanning your messages and sending you ads based on message content. (I guess I'd get Preparation H ads for that title.) Hey, I trust them--not. Though the company claims it won't read users' email or share personal information--please.

Google compares Gmail to spam filters, "which have been used for years without raising privacy concerns." Talk about not getting the picture. Talk about confusing form with function! A spam filter is designed to protect you, based on incoming mail. It is not designed to bring commercials into your personal communications. I give it to them for moxy and creativity. Big Brother married Clear Channel, and begat Gmail.

This merry disregard for privacy is not restricted to commerce. I also didn't register with the Do Not Call database, after reading its privacy policy.

Aside: I've heard talk about librarians having hackfests to think through interesting problems. I think we could use some breakout sessions for thinkfests or ethicsfests or even just letstalkcommonsenseinthedigitalenvironmentfests.

I still remember the time at some library back in the day I installed this Really Kewl Tool that showed me in real-time every action patrons were taking at our Internet computers. I could see every site, every page they were linking to. I showed it to my boss, who said, "very nice--now don't use that again." Exactly.

Posted by kgs at 09:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 31, 2004

To Treo, Or Not To Treo?

I appeal to your collective wisdom.

My dear old ridiculously outdated Visor Deluxe, purchased the first month these became available, had some badly-timed "senior moments" this past couple of weeks, and I'm realizing that though I'm very attached to it, it's time to look for something better. I'm tempted to get a Treo 600, and the only thing holding me back is my concern that as soon as the new one arrives, PalmOne will announce a new version. (I rationalized the cost by reminding myself that I've skipped at least 2 PDA generations by holding on to Old Faithful.)

Aside from industry info, are there predictable patterns for the release of new versions of equipment? Such as, never on Good Friday, at least every six months, after X sales?

I may just get it anyway, and appease myself, since I'm so good at rationalizing, by noting that PalmOne had a nice discount for people who upgraded.

I've played with one and shopped around, and I do feel this is the right match. (A new PDA every five years, I say, whether I need one or not...)

Posted by kgs at 08:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

RFID Forum, SFPL, 3/4/04

San Francisco Public Library is having a public forum on RFID this Thursday, March 4 (yes--my nuptial eve) from 6-7:30 p.m. This promises to be an interesting discussion. See: http://sfpl.org/news/events.htm

Posted by kgs at 11:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

LIS Blogsource Adds Mission Statement


Nice! I had personally groused that they needed this. It squarely places this resource in the biblioblogosphere for what it is--two guys and a blog, and a very useful one, at that.

Posted by kgs at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

Google Picks Atom for Syndication


Dan Gillmor reports, "Google's Jason Shellen confirms that the company is dropping RSS support in favor of Atom." Gillmor adds Dave Winer is worried Google is building its own aggregator.

RSS is such a standards mess that it's ripe for competition. What is not in competition is the proof of concept for a lightweight Internet headline service. May the best implementation win!

Posted by kgs at 06:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

LII New This Week via RSS

I try to keep Free Range Librarian very, very separate from my work life (notwithstanding my tendency to draft posts in between finishing sections of long projects, as I did today--sort of like tossing a sardine to a seal). However, I can't resist noting that Librarians' Index to the Internet now offers a native RSS feed, plus a tutorial for using RSS feeds for the first time. See:


Kudos to Jon and Bill for their quite clever coding. I've done one post to Web4Lib, with great results, and expand the announcement tomorrow.

And if you're in (or merely interested in) Washington State, You Read It First Here: here's extra stuff every week, just for you Evergreen Peeps, at http://lii.org/wsl.rss

Posted by kgs at 03:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

Library-Flavored Blogroll added to FRL

I just added a blogroll featuring the library-related sites I subscribe to via RSS. That's the good news. (Or it's the good news if you remotely care what I read.)

The bad news is this addition to the meandering left column of FRL makes it even more painfully clear that I need to redesign this blog, which needs a three-column format and could use a little color, but it won't happen until February. I'm toying with taking online classes in XHTML and CSS this spring. It's either that, or give it up and go to Typepad. But that's a metaphor for my world right now, anyway. Many of us are in a similar balancing act, torn between traditional and new librarianship.

Ah, back in the day, when information came in two colors (black and white) and fairly limited shapes and sizes. From a cup of joe to a half-caff low-fat caramel macchiato with extra foam...

Posted by kgs at 11:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 05, 2004

The ListenIllinois E-Audiobook Program: My Ears are Pea-Green with Envy

Jenny Levine is rightly crowing over her latest achievement: a group license for digital audiobooks for patron checkout.

Illinois isn't the first state to do this, but Jenny and others benefited from the experience of their predecessors (after all, it's the second mouse that gets the cheese). And they've thought through the marketing and deployment issues very carefully.

I like the way they are offering a large package of books--1800 to start with. I despise, absolutely detest, those halfhearted gestures to offer a new format (followed months later by the conclusion, "why, this simply isn't catching on!"). Do it right, if you're going to do it. I also like how they're starting with a small group of libraries--just 12. That will give them a chance to observe and tweak before this gets rolled out on a bigger scale.

Kudos, folks. For some of us who have had the privilege of working in libraries in Illinois, we know this state is a promised land that sets the standard for sharing, service, and innovation. And no matter where we are, we're fortunate to live in such a networked society that the achievements in other areas are immediately there for us to see and learn from.

Posted by kgs at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2003

Bloglines E-mail Posting: Follow-Up

Tech support for Bloglines said the ability to reply from Bloglines will come soon enough, but suggested many lists provide e-mail confirmation. That's true if you're running more modern list software. PUBLIB is still running on LISTPROC 6, and that's a bigger problem. (Web4Lib, on the same host, has the same problem.) PUBLIB needs a new home; that's a goal for 2004.

Meanwhile, Steven, on Library Stuff, said he doesn't subscribe to discussion lists. That's fine, but I disagree with him on the value of these lists, which he describes as 90% "crappola."

A good blog is a great resource, but it couldn't possibly replace the collective input of thousands of librarians sharing (and accumulating) information. It's a completely different tool.

PUBLIB and Web4Lib are two examples of discussion lists with long and honorable histories of providing information, discussion, advice, and sometimes just a sheer sense of community. Both have editorial oversight; PUBLIB is moderated by two of us who have been around the block a few times--Sara Weissman and me--while Web4Lib has a four-member editorial board that provides oversight and general direction for the list (admittedly, I'm on that board, too). Other lists, such as Stumpers, Autocat, and LM-Net, also serve as an important voice for their communities as well as a resource, sounding board, and historical archive of how we done it good or bad, or just plain done it anyway.

I like voicing my opinion in this space, and I appreciate reader commentary. But it's not the same as participating in a longstanding community. Nothing like 5,000 reality checks for your ideas!

Posted by kgs at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 26, 2003

Bloglines E-Mail Posting: A problem

Oh ho... a problem. I've written the Bloglines folks.

Ruth Seid of Los Angeles PL captured it in a nutshell: "Okay. I can't figure out how to subscribe to PUBLIB on bloglines. I know there's a way to subscribe to an address different from the one you use to send the subscribe command, but then doesn't it ask for confirmation? In which case I can't answer, because you can't send from the bloglines email."

Most list software requires confirmation of one sort or another. I'm curious what Bloglines will say.

Meanwhile, tut-tut to me for touting a featured I hadn't tested. I wouldn't have caught this problem with PUBLIB, because as a list co-moderator I would simply subscribe myself with goddess-like command-line capabilities, but I would have caught it had I tried any list where I was a rank & file subscriber.

Posted by kgs at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

Santa Brought Me RSS E-list Tracking

I have a goal that I want to use RSS for anything I don't reply to. Bloglines has added a terrific new feature called "Manage Email Subscriptions" that brings me closer to this goal by adding the capability to track e-mail discussion lists by RSS, bringing us a giant step closer to taming the e-mail monster.

Through Bloglines, you create special (and spam-resistant) e-mail addresses tied to your Bloglines account, then use these addresses to subscribe to discussion lists. "You can create an unlimited number of special Bloglines email addresses that are tied to your Bloglines account. The email addresses show up as subscriptions in your My Blogs page, and email sent to those email addresses appears as new items."

Winged Pig notes that Bloglines will soon add the ability to reply to Bloglines e-mail messages. That's great, but just tracking the lists through RSS will be a bountiful addition to the Bloglines capabilities. God bless us everyone!

Posted by kgs at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

My Sharona--I Mean, My Feedster

I'm puzzled by all the breathless hype, as this product doesn't sound vastly different from Bloglines, but the new Web-based aggregator, My Feedster, is worth a look. Find it at http://www.feedster.com/myfeedster.php .

How long before major browsers integrate aggregators? (And when are we going to find better names for these tools?)

Posted by kgs at 12:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

Day Three of the Hostage Crisis

It's not quite that bad--I've done other things while I prepped my new equipment and upgraded my 2-year-old Dell in order to hand it down to Tom, one of the stringers at LII. Plus, it's rather meditative work to watch the status bars change color and press Enter now and then.

This kind of computer grunt work is worth doing once in a while--just often enough to serve as a reminder that stinting on library equipment is usually a false economy.

In a lil' peanut organization such as LII, we can be forgiven the artisan approach to hardware, where equipment purchases are made one by one, and older equipment is upgraded on an as-needed basis. And most libraries "get it." But occasionally--less often than in olden tymes, but it still happens, and bad budgets can make this more tempting--some library will take it into its head to "save money" by overextending the life cycle of computers, purchasing junk, or getting by on far less equipment than the staff need to get the job done. It all comes home to roost, though. Pay me now, or pay me later.

You'll have to excuse me again--I have to go hit the Enter key. You have been warned...

Posted by kgs at 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Yesterday's excursions into the Blogosphere were preempted by an only occasionally harrowing e-mail migration activity in which I brought up Thunderbird 0.4 (couldn't they have named it something like Gallo, or Bonnie Doon?) and Outlook 2003. The gauntlet is thrown. (Well, not quite; it was all so harrowing that after everything worked, I shut down the machine and went back to my old 'puter...)

I am an IMAP user, and I have two major accounts; I only brought up one account (and through one wrong click, I initially set up a POP account and then downloaded all of my mail into it--exactly what I didn't want to do--although I was able to copy a lot of mail back to the server).

So far, it's a tie. I like the one-click design of the junk-catcher tool in Thunderbird, and I'm very impressed by the user interface for its rules tool. Outlook has it backwards; you don't want to create a rule for every address--you want to create a rule and add addresses to it. Thunderbird's design supports this better. I am really, really serious about rules (or filters, depending on your product--but you know how I feel about the word, "filters"!), so this was the second thing I looked at, after the junk catcher.

Still, Outlook 2003 is good, too--the new interface doth please the eye-- and it has that whole "PIM" thing going on. I've long since become addicted to turning messages into contacts, notes, and appointments, and my PDA goes with me whenever I leave the house.

The tie-breaker may well be how well either product integrates with third-party sp*m-catchers. Norton Anti-Sp*m was part of the Norton suite I bought for my laptop, but I don't have it running on the desktop yet. I wasn't completely convinced by the interface; Thunderbird's one-click junk-catcher is a major ergonomic plus. But I'm completely sold on yielding junk-mail decisions to an intelligent third-party, as long as I can rummage through the junk occasionally to hoover up misplaced messages.

Outlook 2003 also identified the folder where my ISP had been tucking IMAP messages over their limit. Now we're both happy.

More in a couple of weeks, when I have some history with both products and am no longer able to lean on my crutch of old hardware.

Posted by kgs at 08:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

Google Print

The DYOL (Disaffected Youth of Librarianship) seem to be unmoved by this, perhaps because they now accept major tech advances as pro forma "what have you done for me lately" developments, but we librarians of a certain age are intrigued by Google Print, which "lets Web surfers call up brief exerpts from books, critic reviews, bibliographic and author's notes, and in some cases, a picture of the book jacket."

Go ahead and call this boring, ye DYOL who remember not the world of Gaylord charge machines and print indices, but once again, I wish a typical library catalog came even close to this kind of functionality. {thump thump} goes my heart.

(And Seth, thanks so much for pointing out that Google is a large database!)

Posted by kgs at 10:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

Weathering the Feeds

For the most part, I'm avoiding "gee, what a neat feed" posts, but as a long-time Weather Channel addict, I'm delighted that the National Weather Service is providing regional feeds for weather updates.

Posted by kgs at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

Google Slowly Catching Up with SWISH-E

Breathlessly reported on library blogs is a change to Google that SWISH-powered LII has used for years:


"Google now uses stemming technology. Thus, when appropriate, it will search not only for your search terms, but also for words that are similar to some or all of those terms. If you search for 'pet lemur dietary needs', Google will also search for "pet lemur diet needs", and other related variations of your terms. Any variants of your terms that were searched for will be highlighted in the snippet of text accompanying each result."

Good for them to do this; it's worth noting that stemming technology is pretty common, though since most library databases don't support it, I guess it would seem like a rara avis to most of us. (LII also has a spell-checker, and try to find that in most integrated library systems.)

I am curious why Google hadn't implemented stemming earlier (and no, I don't think it's because they were too busy installing their new toilets) -- or why they are implementing it now.

Posted by kgs at 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

Marketing Wireless in Libraries

Someone on Web4Lib asked about posting symbols or signage to identify wireless access in libraries. This is a slightly revised version of my reply on the list, sent after several folks referred the original poster to the wireless warchalking symbols popular among the digerati.

Essentially, this is basic library marketing 101. If you're planning to market wireless services not only to the folks who will seek it, but to folks who would either find a way to use it if they knew what it was or may never even use it but will mentally file this service under "what a great library this is," then integrate the fancy symbols with very plainspoken, large, plain-lettered wording. Go to a site that offers wireless for its customers and see how they peddle it. (Remember, that's what you're doing: selling a service.)

Make the language achingly clear. "Wireless hotspot" comes to mind... but maybe something else makes more sense locally. Assuming you have a bookmark or brochure advertising this service, repeat the logo and the phrase throughout the materials. I know that libraries offer things for free anyway, but why not push that as well? Wireless--FREE!

A funny idea that comes to mind is a play on the universal blue and white "library" sign, emanating radio waves from a slab that is more laptop or PDA than book, with WIRELESS HOTSPOT on it.

Or you could practice another kind of library marketing, and either put up one tiny, very obscure sign, or make it very large and then title it "Bibligraphic WEP-enabled 802.11* Access." And in your assessment of the service, observe that very few people use it. ;)

Posted by kgs at 05:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

LISNews10K: Join the Fun!


LISNews is only 160 entries away from reaching the 10,000-entry mark. To celebrate, they are requesting images or photos (why not ASCII art, folks?) that pay homage to "10,000." "Get out [your] digital cameras, crayons, colored pencils, Photoshop or MS Paint and send us something that shows us how happy you are that we hit 10,000 stories. ... Be creative, get a tattoo, stack up some books, shave it in your head, or just draw it on a napkin. You can send in a URL, or email an image file to blake at lisnews period com."

I just got my hair done, but the other options are tempting. And they offer a prize!

Posted by kgs at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2003

Help the Poor Struggler: Lightweight RSS Posting?


See Dan Gillmor's request, as he experiments with "headline news" via a Handspring Treo 600: "My blogging software doesn't give me an easy way to make a quick posting into just those two fields [title and entry], with an extremely low-bandwidth page that's easily readable on the handheld." He also wants a quick way to add a photo grabbed by the same handheld. Smells like a Movable Type plugin to me. This kind of headline posting would be a natural application for libraries (imagine "this week's new mysteries" or "program cancelled due to snow").

Part of the joy of RSS: all those little notices eventually (often quickly) go away. Part of my concern: I'm just waiting for someone to figure out how to hork up RSS the way sp*m horked up e-mail.

Posted by kgs at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

Getting Started with RSS: The Fifteen-Minute Tutorial

By popular demand, this is a short introduction to RSS, a tool for tracking headlines and new content on Web sites. This tutorial uses Bloglines, a free, Web-based RSS aggregator (reader).

RSS is a bit baffling at first. Once you step in, though, you'll have an immediate "ah hah." These directions were written to get you from baffled to "ah hah" in less than fifteen minutes.

RSS Tutorial

In this brief tutorial, following a brief explanation of RSS, you'll get signed up to the feed (the headlines for new entries) for Resource Shelf, Gary Price's invaluable site for staying up to date on a wide variety of Internet resources. (You can always unsubscribe to it later, in seconds, if it's not your cup of tea.) Then learn about several related tools for using RSS, including several good finding aids for locating other feeds.

What the Heck is RSS?

I love RSS (the acronym means various things, but my favorite definition is "Really Simple Syndication"). Using this new Internet headline service, I can track all kinds of news provided by new and familiar sources, from Dilbert to the New York Times, without filling up my e-mail box or tying a string around my finger to check various Web sites. The news comes to me as headlines and brief abstracts (with one-click access to the entire article) through my RSS reader (aggregator).

I. Using an Aggregator for the First Time

1. Go to www.bloglines.com and set up a (free) account

2. Now you need an RSS feed to add to Bloglines. Bloglines will suggest a few. I unsubscribed to most of those and looked for my own. There are various RSS finding aids, but let's just focus on Resource Shelf for now, unless you have a few more that interest you.

If you look at Gary's site, http://www.resourceshelf.com/, you will see an orange button on the lower left-hand side that says "XML." That's a link to a funny-looking file:


That's the address to the RSS feed. This is the address you will use in step 3 to add to Bloglines.

3. Now let's add this feed to Bloglines.

Inside Bloglines, go to:

Manage Subscriptions

Follow this link, and where it says:




(the entire URL, including the "resource.xml" part)

Then click the "Subscribe" button.

(For right now, don't worry about OPL or Folder. You can learn about those later.)

4. Read the Feed

Now you can read headlines and summaries from the blogs you are subscribed to. (Some blogs supply you with the full text of their entries, and some blogs, such as Dilbert, provide images, as well.)

You should now be at the main reading window for Bloglines. Resource Shelf will be on the left, in the subscription pane. Click on the title (it is probably bolded). The summaries of the feeds display on the right.

II. Tools for Finding Blogs and Feeds

Want to try other aggregators? To start with, try Newzcrawler and Amphetadesk. Most aggregators are clients (software you install on your computer); some, like Bloglines, are Web-based tools.

To Find More Feeds...

Random good luck: sites will often advertise their RSS feed with a link labeled "Syndicate" or a small rectangular orange icon that says "XML."

Use LISFeeds.com to find library-related feeds.

Med librarians, take note: pmbrowser.info provdes RSS feeds for PubMed.

Places to find more feeds include:


You can use Bloglines, Daypop, and Moreover to create custom search feeds (and this capability is showing up all over).

Bon appetit!

Posted by kgs at 08:21 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

MT Plugin Manager

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of time horsing around with the new MT Plugin Manager, which offers vastly simplified installation and one-stop management for a slew of plugins available for Movable Type.

I used the Plugin Manager to install four plugins; I implemented one, Entry, which I used to create the "Current Hot Topic" feature on Free Range Librarian. Using the Plugin Manager was faster and easier than downloading a plugin, extracting it, uploading it into the correct directories, and so forth. Plugin Manager automates the process so it's fast and (a few bugs nothwithstanding) relatively foolproof.

I understand that many authors whipped up these plugins for other code-savvy MT fans, and they don't need extensive documentation. Still, I'd like to see more examples of some of the plugins. RSS Feed comes to mind; I have it installed but have no idea how to implement it, even though I have a pretty good idea what it does. I was also disappointed that Photo Gallery didn't work; I posted a note with the Bug Tracker.

But overall, MT Plugin Manager is terrific. If you like Movable Type plugins, this resource is a must.

Posted by kgs at 10:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003

Amazon's Search Inside the Book

This is sort of a con-grunt from Internet Librarian 2003, but not specific to any one program. I heard repeated reference from presenters and keynoters to the significance of Amazon's new "Search Inside the Book" feature, confirming my own gut reaction that this is big, really big, in ways we don't yet understand or appreciate.

I'm going to be writing about "Search Inside the Book" for LJ; I owe them a small bucket of words by November 24. If you have thoughts about this capability--it's the best thing since beer in cans, it's the final death knell of librarianship, it's irrelevant, your mother really likes it--either comment below I'll follow up with questions to you), or reach me at kgs [at] bluehighways dot com.

Posted by kgs at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack