April 2007

I’ve been enthusiastically (and probably very naively) posting about open source for awhile now; however, I came across an article on linux.com that brought me down off of my fluffy little conceptual cloud, and I thought it was important to add Bob Metcalfe’s point to my stream of inexerienced positivity:

Metcalfe hasn’t swallowed the full glass of open source Kool-Aid. “It’s the sustainability long-term of the open source model that I worry about. Who will take care of the software after the novelty wears off and the volunteers lose interest and get real jobs?”

Something to ground me. For a bit, anyway.


The Problem with WikipediaA

Comic from xkcd.com. Permalink.

A good problem to have. 🙂

I’d like to see this become a “problem” with OPACs (preferably, starting with a better, less jargon-y name for them).

As Michelle Boule said in her post about Roy Tennant’s Computers in Libraries 2007 presentation, we need some “funability” in our systems.

Meredith Farkas recently posted about DrupalEd, and from what I have gleaned from her post and from the DrupalEd website, I have learned enough to become very curious.

One of the main issues with my library school is that, though it serves a twelve-state area, providing (very affordable and weekend-intensive) classes, the software that serves as the school’s connective tissue, Blackboard, does little to foster a sense of online community…something that a school that revolves around distance education should, in my opinion, have as one of its primary focuses.

If I had not been lucky enough to take some face-to-face classes with several people who I made friends with and have maintained contact with (largely through other online applications, such as Gmail), I believe that I would have gone through the program feeling alienated, isolated, and alone.

I’m hesitant to expand on the issue much further, as I don’t have the technological wherewithal or the student affairs background to pull out each individual issue and explain how I believe DrupalEd would succeed where Blackboard (or WebCT, or other less flexible software packages) have failed. Additionally, I was just about the opposite of a whistle-blower on this issue during my time in library school, and I believe that, in order for my complaint to be fully legitimate, I would have had to attempt to affect change. I can fall back on the “I didn’t have time to” excuse (I worked full time throughout most of my grad school career).

However, looking back, I wish I’d spoken up and tried to offer a solution…a solution that I believe DrupalEd could someday be. The features just about speak for themselves:

  • a personal workspace;
  • a group workspace;
  • the ability for site members to create informal working groups;
  • the ability to create formal class spaces;
  • a podcasting platform;
  • a WYSIWYG text editor;
  • wiki functionality;
  • personal and class blogs;
  • rss feeds for the entire site, individual courses, individual terms, and individual users;
  • personal image galleries;
  • personal file repositories;
  • the ability to create private, invitation-only groups;
  • social bookmarking, with searching within bookmark descriptions;
  • spam protection;
  • assignment calendars by course;
  • event calendars for site-wide events;
  • configurable user profiles with searchable text descriptions;
  • the ability to create lists of “friends” among site members;
  • the ability to find the missing sock in the dryer.

Everything I’m seeing here (especially the part about finding your missing socks…how awesome is that?) could translate into an incredibly personalized-to-your-institution, welcoming, vibrant online community.

I hope that someday I’ll be able to either gain sufficient knowledge to be able to come back and assist my (hopefully very welcoming) library school in implementing DrupalEd or something close to it, or be able to watch as others take on the implementation.

I realized yesterday that, in all my excitement about open-source ILSes and open-source text editors/IDEs, I’d completely neglected to mention some of the similarly exciting open source-y things going on in the part of the information profession that I hope to someday be a part of: archives!

These projects are unique in that, not only are they open-source and community-based rather than vendor-based, they’re also some of the first systems to attempt to create something akin to an ILS (managing accessioning, manuscripts processing, description, resource location, etc.) for an archival setting. This isn’t to say that vendor-based products don’t exist, products like PastPerfect and Eloquent Archives are out there as well, but as this is a post about open-source archival management systems, that’s another discussion for another time.

Several open-source projects have been generating some chatter on the SAA Archives and Archivists listserv lately:

I haven’t had a chance to play around with a working version of any of the above projects (though someday, hopefully, someone will pay me to do so…which would be a dream come true), but, as I said earlier, I’ve done enough kvelling about open source projects in general that it seemed silly to have not posted about similar goings-on in my intended profession.

Also, if anybody reading this has had a chance to play with any of the open-source (or even vendor-based) products mentioned, I’d love to hear about it in comments!

First off, I’m not a techie, so please read my comments in that context. I am basically technologically literate, and I love to play and tinker with techie toys, but I do not live, breathe, or speak “tech geek,” as is, I’m sure, about to become painfully obvious. 

I’m in the middle of trying to design a website for my Capstone portfolio, which is to demonstrate my “mastery of the SLIM program’s ‘Outcomes and Values’.” Finding the “artifacts” (papers, presentations, etc.) that demonstrate my (relative) mastery of each individual value turned out to be the easy part. Designing a web portfolio that showcased these artifacts in an easy-to-navigate, aesthetically pleasing way…not so easy.

As I’m very much not a website designer, I decided that my best route would be to find some free templates that I could manipulate in Dreamweaver MX 2004, giving, of course, credit to the original designer. After a digg search for “Dreamweaver templates,” my first “hit” was for Aptana, a product similar to Dreamweaver, but open-source and free of charge. However, as I thought I’d already decided upon Dreamweaver to manipulate the given templates, I moved on. I came up with several websites (openwebdesign.org and opendesigns.org, which have a few overlapping templates) that seemed to fit the bill. 

 Upon opening several chosen templates in Dreamweaver, however, I noticed that they weren’t displaying properly. And it wasn’t just one template, it was all of them. Since many of them had custom-designed Flash buttons included as part of the package, I assumed that this was the problem (as that was largely the part of the website that was displaying all sorts of wonky) and, after a few clumsy attempts to fix it, promptly gave up.

Curious, and frustrated with my inability to get Dreamweaver to do what I wanted, I decided to see how Aptana would fare with my chosen templates. I downloaded the application for Windows, which went relatively smoothly, and I figured out how to open the templates quickly. The source code displayed, I made a few modifications to the display elements, hit the “Run Configuration” button to display the site, and…voila! The site displayed exactly as it had when I viewed the template initially, including the changes that I’d made to the code. Additionally, I noticed that as I moused over different elements of the source code (title, content, href), I received a brief pop-up explanation of the element’s function (ex: href’s “pop-up” stated that it was the “path or URL for the linked object or document”). How cool is that? And that’s just after five minutes of just playing around, not messing with the documentation or anything!

Take this with a gigantic block of salt, as I am about as far away from a Dreamweaver expert as you can get, and I’m even farther away from being an Aptana expert. However, I am impressed with my five-minute tinkering.

 More updates later, so you’ll know if the bloom stays or fades on my newest “rose.” 🙂

Magnum, A.L.

 The staff of American Libraries send up Magnum P.I., with hilarious results. See, librarians are funny! Thank goodness for YouTube and Flickr, or I’d have no visual evidence of it. 😉

Also, several library blogs were hopping with April Fools’-related material. Many a librarian’s worst fears were realized when ALA TechSource announced that Google had bought OCLC, which Andrew Pace of Hectic Pace confirmed, as well as the Free Range librarian herself, Karen Schneider.

 Happy belated April Fools’ Day!