Friday, October 30, 2009

Thing #12 - Twitter

The Common Craft video on Twitter.

Twitter is one of the fastest growing sites on the web, and it's also one of the hardest sites to explain. Why is it so hard to explain? Well, this is largely due to the fact that people are using Twitter in so many different ways. You can't really boil Twitter down to one short statement. But we're going to try!

(For those of you on Facebook, Twitter is almost exactly the same as your status updates.)

At its heart, Twitter is like a blog with very, very short posts. It's sometimes called "microblogging" because each post can only have up to 140 characters. If you think about it, that's not very much. Some of the folks who don't like Twitter complain that, like texting, Twitter is dumbing down how we use the Internet by forcing us to be TOO concise. However, if you look at it, there are some very interesting ways people and companies are using Twitter.

When you sign up for Twitter, you can add your own posts, just like on your blog. On Twitter, these are called "tweets". Much like with Facebook, you can "follow" other people. When you log in, you'll be seeing the most recent "tweets" posted by the people you are following. Some people don't post much, but merely use Twitter to follow others. In fact, a Twitter feed works just like an RSS feed - you can subscribe to one in Google Reader just like any other RSS feed. This means you don't even have to join Twitter to get the benefits.

Okay, so how ARE people using Twitter?

* Posting useless facts about their day ("I just had a burrito for lunch." "This weather is making me cranky." "I can't wait to go to happy hour tonight!")

* Linking to an article, a video, or even something they want to buy online (Did you see the video of that
Wedding Entrance Dance that was eventually parodied on The Office? Guess what - it originally gained popularity because people were Twittering about it for DAYS and it literally exploded in popularity to the point of being featured in People Magazine, and then The Office.)

* Breaking news (You can follow CNN, The New York Times, and other major news outlets, where they post short blurbs about breaking news stories.)

* Emergencies (When everyone was afraid that the 6 year old boy was flying over Colorado in a homemade balloon? Everyone from regular folks like you and me to major news organizations were posting updates and their feelings on Twitter. When the plane crashed on the Hudson in January, eyewitnesses posted photos and observations as it happened, way before those pictures and observations were on news sites like CNN, the radio or TV news stations.)

* Space Missions (NASA won blogging awards in 2008 when it created a Twitter feed for their Mars Phoenix Lander, which posted observations as if the robotic interplanetary explorer was writing them itself, all the way up until the end of the 152 day mission.)

* Protests and Politics (in the 2008 Presidential campaign, candidates used Twitter for publicity, news reports, and polling. And on the other side of the coin, regular people are gaining voices in protests around the world. When authorities in Iran blocked Facebook, text messaging, YouTube, and the BBC during the contested election earlier this year, they overlooked Twitter, and it became a connection for Iranian citizens to the outside world - and to each other.)

* Finding and posting jobs (Companies and recruiters are now posting job openings on Twitter, and in a way, by finding the job on Twitter, you're showing them that you already have a basic understanding of new web tools. Think about it!)

* Being a fan of your favorite sports teams (You can subscribe to news feeds from ESPN, local sports stations like SNY, radio hosts from WFAN, sideline reporters who update during the games... and surprisingly enough, the NFL has had to issue new rules that prevent players from tweeting during games.)

A Few Important Twitter Terms

your individual posts on Twitter.
Following: like friending on Facebook, when you "follow" people, you see their updates on your homepage. (You don't have to follow everyone who follows you! But you certainly can.)
RT: This is short for "re-tweet", and it is sort of like forwarding in email. When you RT something, you're re-posting something a friend of yours already posted.
Replying/@someone: In addition to writing your own messages, you can reply to someone else's message. This shows up with an @ symbol before their Twitter name, and then shows up in their feeds so they can see it.
Here's another more detailed glossary of Twitter terms.)

Other Twitter Extras:

* You can post to Twitter from the web... but you can also set it up so you can send a text message from your phone directly to Twitter.
* Fancier phones like iPhones and Blackberries have Twitter applications, too.
* If you use Facebook, you can configure Twitter to post your status updates for you.
* You can add a little box to the sidebar of your blog that shows your most recent Twitter posts.

To complete Thing #12, here's what you have to do:
  1. Go to and click Sign Up Now! You'll then be prompted to put in your name, a username, a password, and your email address. It doesn't have to match your blog address or include your real-life name if you don't want it to.

  2. Once your account is all set up, follow the OCL Web Challenge Twitter feed. If you go to, just click Follow under the OCL logo. We'll follow you back!

  3. Post an update or two.
  4. Blog about your experience!

Feel free to follow more people on Twitter! Here are some of our suggestions:

OCL's own Nancy Marino:
The Asbury Park Press:
CNN Breaking News:
Library Journal:
School Library Journal:


Try out this list of the
50 Most Popular Celebrities on Twitter. Check out Lance Armstrong, George Lucas, Shaquille O'Neill, Britney Spears, or William Shatner.

WeFollow is another way to find new people to follow on Twitter. It's a directory of topics and people that are popular right now (this minute!) on Twitter (including more celebrities, musicians, bloggers, etc!).

PS. Here are a few helpful links related to job searching on Twitter. These may come in handy as we are so often helping customers with job searches lately...

The LIST: Companies Recruiting on Twitter (compiled by Susan Strayer, a well-known author on the topic of careers and job searching)

Feeds for Job Openings, Job Postings, and Job Leads around the world (there are a TON here, but if you scroll down to the list for the U.S., there's a lot of good stuff.)

Tweet My Jobs! is a site that compiles Twitter job postings into an easily searchable interface that looks a lot like more well-known job sites like Indeed. It organizes them by industry so it's easier to browse.

Thing #11 - Facebook

Week 5 is all about Social Networking. But why is social networking a part of this challenge?
First, check out this Common Craft video about social networking.

What is Facebook?
Facebook is considered by many to be the frontrunner (at least this week!) in the Social Networking scene. It started out as a site just for college students, but is now open to anyone, and chances are, you know more than a few people who are on Facebook, even if you aren't. There are all kinds of terms that have become commonplace thanks to Facebook - friending someone, writing on their wall, poking them, tagging people in your photos...

Basically, with Facebook, you create a profile page that can include information about you, what schools you went to, where you work (or none of that! It's up to you how much or how little you share). You can adjust the settings so that everyone can see this information, or only those you have designated as your friends. You can search for your real-life friends by their name, a school or workplace, or their email address.

Facebook allows you to share little updates about your life ("status updates"), which also show up in your friends' news feeds. (A news feed is a page you can view to see the most recent updates from all of your friends.)

To get started thinking about Facebook, take a look at these articles and lists.

Newbie's Guide to Facebook: CNET
This article gives you a pretty good description of what Facebook is and why you might want to use it.

Facebook Principles
These are Facebook's stated principles, and it will give you a better idea of what you can do with Facebook, as well as Facebook's own ideas about the freedom of information posted on the site.

How to Use Facebook: 5 Tips for Better Social Networking

Okay, so you're using Facebook. How can you get the most out of it? This article helps you get started.

Save Face on Facebook: Facebook Etiquette
How can you avoid being that annoying friend on Facebook? Here are some tips.

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know
Facebook is all about sharing details of your life and connecting with others... this article will help you understand some of the important privacy settings to keep your information safe.

What do you think?
We're not requiring people to join Facebook for this part of the challenge. Instead, write a blog post about Facebook. Are you on Facebook? Why or why not? How do you think Facebook is changing how people interact with each other? What's your take on the privacy issues that surround Facebook?

Bonus for those who are on Facebook: Become a fan of the Ocean County Library. (Not required!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Catch up Week - October 26 - October 30

There are no new things for the Challenge this week.  This is a chance to catch up and a chance for new players to join in the fun. 

If you are already caught up and can't stand not learning something new for a week, here are some suggestions:

Visiting the Microsoft support site and learning just a little something about Microsoft's Office 2007 (coming soon to OCL). (20 to 30 minute online course)

Learning about Gale Virtual Reference Library from the Branch Managers Challenge (yes, the Branch Managers have an ongoing Technology challenge of their own)

These two suggestions are completely optional, don't count for the challenge and are only for those who want to give them a try.

The next challenges will be posted October 30 for the week of November 2 - 6 so relax, catch up if you need to and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thing #10 - NetLibrary ebooks

There are free ebooks all over the Internet. Examples include Project Gutenberg and the classics available from the University of Virginia. Websites like these are great for out of copyright classics. There are many ebook websites including and where you can download new ebooks from bestsellers to textbooks for a fee. NetLibrary offers access to both out of copyright and new ebooks that are free to library customers who sign up for an account with their library cards from subscribing libraries. While NetLibrary offers audiobooks for downloading to libraries, the subscription that Ocean County Library gets through an arrangement with the NJ State Library only includes ebooks.

The new copyrighted titles available in NetLibrary depend on what each library choses so just as different libraries have different collections on their shelves, the NetLibrary collection from the State Library is different from a collection chosen by a library elsewhere. This collection tends to be heavy with business and computer titles.

Unlike the other electronic subscription databases, customers (and you) have to be inside a OCL location to sign up for an account. Once you have a free account you can use it anywhere but the first time you have to be inside one of our buildings using one of our computers (not a laptop using our wireless connection).

NetLibrary QuickStart Guide 


1. Go to our list of subscription databases about Books and Reading. Click on NetLibrary and sign up for a NetLibrary account. Remember you have to be inside a library building when signing up.

2. Find a book inside NetLibrary either through browsing or a keyword search. Learn how to move around the chapters and pages. Don't know what to search for? Try a basic search term like BUSINESS or COMPUTERS.

3. Blog about NetLibrary. Was it easy to use? Could you show a customer how to use it?

Optional Advanced Exercises:

1. For a different ebook experience, explore the classic reference books on including Respectfully Quoted, a great quotation book that was created by the Library of Congress. Even though this book was published in 1989, as a US government produced title it is free of copyright restrictions.

2. Visit Project Gutenberg and download a book to your computer. You can search for specific titles in a variety of ways or just browse the Top 100 Ebooks downloaded recently. If you're interested, you can subscribe to an RSS feed that will keep you informed as titles are added. Project Gutenberg has public domain audiobooks and digital sheetmusic, too. Hint: it is easy to find a downloaded file if you download it to the computer desktop but when you've completed this optional exercise, please delete the book from the computer. Too many unnecessary files on the desktop can slow a computer.

Thing #9 - WorldCat

WorldCat lets you search the collections of libraries both locally and thousands more around the world. WorldCat doesn't include every library but it is the largest collection of searchable titles in the world.

Items in WorldCat include

* Books
* Music CDs
* DVDs/videos
* article citations - sometimes with links to full text
* documents and photos of local or historic significance
* digital versions of rare items

WorldCat is a version of what our Interlibrary Loan department uses to find what libraries own items so the items can be requested for our customers.Resources:

About WorldCatWorldCat help and FAQs

WorldCat Advanced Search screen

1. Take a look around WorldCat and search a recent book title. Click on the title for more detailed information and in the Enter location box put in your home zipcode and click go. What's the closest library that owns the title?
2. Click on the different tabs on the screen for a individual title such as Details and Subjects to find what information is hiding under those tabs.
3. Go to the advanced search screen and play around with some searches, then blog about WorldCat. Do you think WorldCat will help you and your customers with the form below?

Optional Advanced Exercise:
1. Use the Ocean County Library catalog and search any New Jersey or Ocean County history topic. Pick a book with an old publication date (the older the better). Now search that title at WorldCat. See how many libraries are listed in WorldCat as owning that book. Can you find a title where OCL is one of 500 or less libraries that own it in the world? Or just search the Pauline Miller title, Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making to see who owns a copy of our local history.

Thing #8 - a thing about LibraryThing

Are you a booklover? Do you enjoy finding lost and forgotten gems to read? Would you like an easy way to keep track of what you've read or want to read? Or, would you like a way of finding books by what they're about in a way that a standard library catalog just can't? Then LibraryThing may be just the tool for you.

What is Librarything? LibraryThing is an easy to use book catalog created by people in classic Web 2.0 fashion. LibraryThing also connects you with people who read the same things.

Add a book to your catalog by just entering the title and doing a little clicking. The LibraryThing tour explains the details. Then you add your own subjects or tags to organize your titles. The tags can be whatever you want: "Want to read", "Bookclub", "Recommend to grandchildren", "Books for Class" as well as more familiar subject heading like "Science", "Mystery", "Nonfiction" or "Cookbooks." Connecting with other users through your similar reading tastes is easy. LibraryThing tells you how many other LibraryThing users have your books. There are lots of other ways to use LibraryThing, too.

Libraries have started using LibraryThing. Small libraries are using LibraryThing to catalog their collections. Libraries are using the LibraryThing widget on their web pages to recommend books and list new titles. There is even a LibraryThing for Libraries available that works inside library catalogs, too.

So why not join the fun and create your own library online? With over 680,000 registered users and over 44 million cataloged books in LibraryThing as of September 2009, you're bound to discover something new.

Discovery Resources:

* About LibraryThing

* Library Thing tour

To complete this challenge:

1. Take the Library Thing tour around LibraryThing and then create an account. It is one of the easiest and quickest accounts to sign up for. You don't even have to give them an email. (Giving them your email is recommended because if you ever do forget your password, then they can help).

2. Add a least 5 books to your library. You find a title, click add to your library, then type in your subjects (called tags in LibraryThing) and save. Separate different tags with commas.

3. Go to the Search page on LibraryThing and do a Tag Mash search. A tag mash is when you search two subjects like sailing and mystery together (called a mashup). LibraryThing finds books with both subjects or as Librarything calls them: tags.

Tags assigned by LibraryThing users aren't as formal as Library of Congress headings but they often include topics in books that the LC headings ignore. So you can find really interesting connections and ideas on what to read next. This is great place to find that book a customer sort of remembers that had a detective who was a librarian! When you enter the terms in the Tags search box, separate the terms with commas: librarian, detective.

If you really want to learn everything about TagMash searching in LibraryThing there is a detailed help page but if you remember to separate search terms with a comma you should do fine. If you decide to try Library Thing's other search features, there is detailed help page for that, too.

Sample Tagmash search:

Some results from the librarian, detective TagMash

 4. Blog about your use of LibraryThing AND link to your LibraryThing catalog on your blog. How popular were your books? Did you find any discussions about your favorites?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thing # 7 - Beyond Google

Now that you’ve learned about some of Google’s other features, it is time to look beyond Google to other search engines. Some of the more interesting types are clustering search engines that organize your results in categories, specialized search engines that concentrate on specific topics, and social search engines that take user generated content to rank results.

To complete this challenge, you’ll visit two search engines, explore a bit and blog about each. When you explore, look for whatever help the website is offering to new users. It may be the example page offered by Wolfram/Alpha or FAQs or even a short video. Then try a few practice searches. In your blog posts, describe your experience and how or whether you’d use it in the future.

Here are some suggestions to try.

Clustering Search Engine

Carrot2 organizes your search results into topics. So if you search “Java,” the results will be grouped into sites about Java, the computer program, Java, the island and Java, a nickname for coffee. This might be one of the most useful non-Google search engines.

Social Search Engine

Worio adds sites to your Google results that you might miss with your regular keyword search. Look on the right hand side of your results for the Worio suggestions. Worio looks at sites you click on and sites you tag to make better guesses on what you’d be interested in. You don’t have to create an account but for the full Worio Social Search engine experience, a free account is needed. You can share your Worio with friends.

Specializied Search Engine

Wolfram/Alpha searches through the web and databases to answer mathematical and statistical questions. To get started with Wolfram/Alpha, go to its example page: and pick something that looks interesting.

A new Google Competitor

Bing is the new general search engine owned by Microsoft. Bing is promoted as being especially good for shopping, images, news, videos and travel information.
A very interesting site called Bing vs. Google runs your search against Google and Bing and displays the results side by side.

Here's a screen shot from Bing vs. Google where the search was Ocean County Library.


If none of the mentioned search engines look interesting to you or if you want to see more possibilities, go to the notes on the "Emerging Search Technologies Workshop" on OceanNet’s Reference Page for many more suggestions.

You only have to write a blog post for each of the two search engines you explored to complete this challenge.

Thing #6 - Google Advanced Searching

Even when you think you know how to search Google, there is more to know.

Limiting by broad domains
Domains are just broad categories of websites. What a website address ends in (.com, .edu, .org, .mil) tells you whether it is a commercial or educational or organization or military domain. Using the domain codes in google with the "site:" command you can can limit your results to a specific category of domains. (site:edu, site:gov, site:org, site:mil, etc.) or to specific sites: OR

This is a great way to get rid of commercial sites. Limiting to specific websites is very helpful when a site doesn’t have a search engine or the search engine isn’t very good. (It is always a good idea to use Google to search the State of New Jersey website. Just include along with your search terms.)

Limit your results to specific file types
Need to create a powerpoint on a topic? See what others have done by limiting your results to Powerpoint presentations.
To find powerpoint presentations, add filetype:ppt to your searches
To find Adobe pdf documents, add filetype:pdf to your searches

Practice Exercises:

Search a major disease like diabetes or arthritis or influenza in Google. Then add site:gov to the search. Compare results.
Try adding site:edu instead of site:gov to get results from college and university sites instead of government sites.

Use Google to search just within the NJ state website
Either command "" or "" will work.

Try these sample searches:

underground railroad

nj town names

Compare results with using the search feature on the NJ State website. Does Google with a site limit or the regular NJ state website search get better results? Did you find the 15 page pdf guide to NJ and the Underground Railroad or the great database for local NJ town names (Lacey & Forked River)?

If you’re looking for even more search options in Google, there is a quick guide at Google.

To complete this challenge, try the above sample searches and play around a bit with the advanced search features and blog about your results. If you use something you learned to help a customer that would be a great thing to blog about.

Thing #5 - Google Power User

As internet users we have a tendency to use Google routinely multiple times a day. Chances are that most of us are only using a part of what Google offers. Google is changing almost daily from adding small refinements to adding whole new services. One part of becoming a Google Power User is keeping up with Google. Another part of becoming a Google Power User is knowing where to go to find what is already available and how to use it.

For a quick introduction to Google’s extras, please read David Pogue's recent article from the NY Times: Geniuses at Play, on the Job How many Google features, services or tips mentioned in the article were new to you? To begin the challenge start by clicking About Google on the Google homepage.

Notice everything from the stories behind the Google Logos, to the Google Blog and a must for any aspiring Google Power User, Google Labs is linked here. Google calls Google Labs its technology playground where they try out new ideas.
Be sure to read about all the projects still in the Labs (even on the 2nd page!) and check out the links for the Google Labs alumni on the left of the page.

Books are available in Google Book Search fulltext, selections or snippet view (a few sentences before and after your search term) depending on the copyright restrictions. Use Google Book Search to get so much more out of your book collection than the subject headings in the catalog can possibly give.

To complete this Challenge, try out something from David Pogue’s article or from Google Labs and blog about what you learned.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thing #4 - RSS

The above video does a pretty great job of explaining what RSS is and what it can do for you. For this thing, we’re going to be using Google Reader, just like the guy in the video. (You won’t have to sign up for a new account with a different service!)

If you want some more info on RSS and Google Reader before getting to the tasks, here are a few things for you.
So, what are you going to do this week?
  1. go to Google Reader and sign in with your gmail credentials

  2. read the Welcome to Google Reader info that appears on your screen, it looks like this

  3. subscribe to a couple of feeds *

    Google Reader makes subscribing simple. I can click on the Add Supscription button and type in and immediately the headlines and news stories form ESPN are pulled into my reader. Sometimes, Google Reader won’t know quite what I mean. If I type the web address in the subscription box (e.g. it will pull something it thinks is right and ask me to confirm. Also, if the site has more than one feed (e.g. I will be faced with a list of choices.

    Alternatively I can grab a feed while visiting a site and add it to google reader. While on a site with a feed my web browser indicates one is available by turning the RSS icon orange [screen cap]. Clicking on that icon will takes me to the feed page. I then copy the address, go to google reader and paste the address into the add subscription box.

  4. write a blog post about your thoughts on RSS and/or Google Reader

* Feeds you might choose from:
OCL Connections

OCL Calendar of Events
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Meg Cabot's Diary
Give Em What They Want
at Early Word

Thing #3 - Web 2.0 Awards

So we've mentioned Web 2.0 a few times already in the challenge. You might be thinking to yourself, what exactly is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is the current trend in computer/internet technology that allows the user to create, share and distribute content to others. So what does that mean? Let's say you have a Facebook picture and you posted pictures from your vacation to your profile, allowing your friends and family to see what you did. That's an example of using Web 2.0.

Or you found a video that someone posted on YouTube of their pets doing something cute. That's another example of Web 2.0.

SEOMoz puts out their annual Web 2.0 Awards, which lists the top new online services ranging from genealogy resources to travel websites to even music and television. Here's a sampling of some of the award winners:
  • Hairmixer- A website where users can upload images of their face so they can experiment with their hairstyle without having to go to the barber/salon.
  • Yelp- A local guide where you can comment and review everything in your neighborhood, including what restaurants to go to or avoid, where the best laundromats are and what the best places to visit on your vacation.
  • BBC iPlayer- Have you ever wished you could watch some of the popular British sitcoms and dramas? BBC iPlayer is an online service that lets you watch all your favorite British television programs for free over your computer!
Your thing for this week is to explore the Web 2.0 Awards list and make a blog post about your experience using two services/sites you found out about.