plurk rewards use, can library websites?

A friend invited me to join Plurk, yet another status updating site. I joined not because I need another place to microblog but just to check it out. There are a few neat things about the site, two of which I’d like to point out here:

Tweets, er plurks, are displayed on a timeline. I like this. I also love the fact that the timeline progresses from right to left. It took me a second to get accustomed to it, but I love that it isn’t what I think of as the typical flow. It makes good sense considering we, at least in the US and many other places, read from left to right. There’s no need to scroll for new content.

[time from right to left – click for big]

Another feature that I really like is that Plurk gets better, or at least give more options, as you invest more time in it. Through a reputation system they call karma, plurk rewards users for making connections, starting conversations, updating profile information, inviting friends, etc… It also takes karma points away for spamming, being defriended and the like. Attaining a certain level of karma opens up options to let you customize your profile with different colors and designs.

[you can do more with karma points]

There’s something to this. I had no time or effort invested in Plurk but I instantly wanted to raise my karma. It reminded me of wanting to level up in Game Neverending. There’s no real reason to do it, but it’s still compelling.

Is there a place for this in our OPACs and websites? Would it be wrong to actually reserve some fun options (assuming our web presences have some fun options) to reward use?

I don’t know if I’ll end up using the site much, but for what its worth, you can friend me at http://www.plurk.com/user/walkingpaper. At the very least you’ll get some karma points!

user experience vs buyer experience

Wise words from 37 signals. Please read the following paragraph but replace “enterprise software” with “integrated library systems” or “databases”

The people who buy enterprise software aren’t the people who use enterprise software. That’s where the disconnect begins. And it pulls and pulls and pulls until the user experience is split from the buying experience so severely that the software vendors are building for the buyers, not the users.

What would it be like to invite community members into the ILS or database buying/renting process? This idea might scare most decision makers and for good reason. I bet citizens/students would ask some great questions like “What’s with all of those boxes?”

Of course the situation with library software is complicated by the fact that it is meant for use by librarians *and* normal people. Too bad that one interface for both groups leads more often to the worst of both worlds rather than the best. I’d like to see two separate interfaces on many of these products. Which would we librarians end up using more often?

if libraries made slides would they look like this?

Because sometimes we’re equally as unusable!

When I see our OPACs, database interfaces, crummy signs, intimidating reference desks, long URLS, library fines, and locked down computers, I see cheese grater slides. Let’s smooth them out! Make it your goal to make your library even a bit more usable by the end of the week. We’re rearranging the YS collection.

museum GPS game

The idea of making the public library experience more game like has been stewing in my head for some time now, so it was with great interest I saw a blog post about The land of oppertunities. A Danish museum had a game created to enhance the experience of their visitors. I can see why this would work. People can develop a relationship with the space and information instead of simply walking around and looking at objects. The game forces engagement. It works via GPS enabled phones which doesn’t help us in the United States right now (though I’m sure that’ll be widespread soon enough).

I’m especially interested in the possible dichotomy of striving to break down barriers to library use (making it easy) and creating an environment in which people must become engaged (and put forth effort) to use. Could the goal of making our OPACs mindlessly easy be a bad idea after all? What if we made our goal mindfully easy OPACs that were actually interesting to use? The ideal goal, I suppose, would be one that’s easy for all to use and also contains various layers of interestingness for those who would like to delve deeper. Our current mindfully difficult OPACs incorporate risk, experimentation, and the need for persistence and collaboration, but not in an appropriate way. Make no small plans, eh?

One reason I’m keen on providing a gaming-like experience for interested library patrons is the success I’ve had with it on a small scale. Wanting the kids from the computer room to interact with the print collection (so old fashioned, I know), one day I offered some manga stickers to the first few people to a) find a book that they’ve read and liked and b) tell me about it. They actually scurried around the YA section with the enthusiasm they usually reserve for Runescape. I repeated the game a few times, and during the last few rounds a few of the boys found books and told me about them immediately. When I asked how they found their books so quickly, they replied that they figured that I would ask them the same question at some point, so they tried to remember the titles and authors of books they liked.


Pasta&Vingear has some more comments on the museum game, and there’s a video about it, though it is Danish language.

libraries can learn from rivendell bicycle works

riv bikeDon’t you love it when different spheres of your life collide? Today I saw an Interview with Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works that contained a few good acorns for libraries. The interview and the pullouts might make sense with some more context.

RBW is a small company that makes high end bicycle frames that has a strong (read: cult) following. “High end”, you say? Their flagship bicycle frame, the custom made Rivendell, costs $2750 and takes two years to get to your house (…don’t worry, the production frames are only about $1400 and come much quicker). Their frames are beautiful, practical, and well made. Grant Petersen, the personality behind the company puts out a journal-esque catalog called the Rivendell Reader that is infused with his voice and character. Our library newsletters and websites should be more like it. For a sampling, there are some good bits in their online catalog. Here’s part of a description of the kickstands they sell:

When Barbara Torres ordered her Rivendell with a kickstand plate and couldn’t be talked out of it, I said fine, and that was that. Two others followed, and I’ve since put one on one of my bikes (see the cover of RR30), and my daughters insist on them and my wife wants one. I don’t think every bike should have a kickstand, just lots of them. They weigh as little as 9.5 ounces, are simple to use, keep your bike from falling over, and are cheap. Most of the bikes in the world have kickstands, because they’re shopping and commuting bikes. That’s not dorky, just smart.

Everyone should be authentic when writing on library websites/weblogs, but the writing should strive to highlight the humans of the institution. This sure does.

On to the interview. Most of the questions at the Push Button For interview are cycling and fly fishing related, but read this one in relation to our OPACs and services.

In your catalogs, web site, and in The Rivendell Reader, you write a lot about simplicity. Why is simplicity important?
Simple things make people feel smart, or at least competent, and complication has the opposite effect. If people feel smart and competent, they’re happy, and happy people are nice to other people, and it all starts or stops with how hard it is to use something.

Regarding running a transparent organization, it seems to come so naturally that he doesn’t quite grok the question.

You run Rivendell as openly as any company I’ve ever seen. Is there a conscious philosophy behind that?
Well, I wouldn’t call it a philosophy, but I don’t distinguish between “me” and “my company” when it comes to things like keeping secrets and telling the truth. It’s hard to keep secrets, so it’s best not to have any, but beyond that, I’m not exactly sure of what you mean by “open.” Is that it? If it isn’t, just clarify it and I’ll try to answer it.

social OPAC roundup

Speaking of social OPACs, I came across MIT Libraries’ The Virtual Browsery (Beta) via del.icio.us/jaydatema. It appears to be another OPAC/WordPress mashup, but not yet with as many records as the WPopac from Plymouth State’s Lamson Library.

Other social OPACs include Hennepin County Library’s catalog which allows for patron reviews, having reviews from Amazon.com load in the record, and RSS feeds for the reviews. Towards the beginning of the year John Blyberg showed everyone the AADL’s virtual card catalog. There’s also PennTags, which allows students to bookmark records in the Penn Library catalog, as well as PDFs, and websites. Am I missing any others?

I’m happy to see the project from MIT Libraries and hope more projects pop up. Due to ILS limitations it takes some serious coding to make anything like this happen, and since coding isn’t part of LIS programs, only libraries with enough resources to have coders on staff can approach these projects.

flickr game: name that movie, and social OPACs

In Flickr I recently titled and tagged a photo of mine with the name of a movie. I clicked through to see what other photos were tagged with “videodrome” and found one that is part of a flickr group called NAME THAT FILM. Group members post screenshots of films (placing them in the group and tagging them with name that film. Other members attempt to figure out what film it’s from. Try it out!

This is fun stuff, but it is also slightly important. Flickr didn’t intend for people to play this game but it sprung up organically nevertheless. People are creative and will do neat things when they can interact with data on the web. Imagine if we could build something like this into our OPACs. Off the top of my head, what about having short passages listed (or letting people contribute them), the make the goal figuring out the book to which it belongs and posting a URL to the book’s OPAC record. Oh my! A game that would make people better at finding stuff in our collections.

I’m sure if our OPACs were social, people would come up with all sorts of games and most certainly interesting tags. Here are some tags I’d love to see:

  • stories to read on a stormy night
  • books i’m reading in high school
  • relaxing
  • you’ll hate this book
  • read by:username
  • not written by a dead white male
  • favorited by:username
  • chicago
  • High School Name: English 205
  • reluctant readers (clearly tagged by a librarian!)
  • CDs that changed my life
  • for:username

A guy can dream, can’t he?

hardcore public access computer usability

I got to teach a beginning internet class this evening and I learned something in the process. It may seem very minute, but I learned that it would probably be a fine idea to check up on the response rates of the mice in our library. You might consider it too. Maybe you have one set so fast that only a cowboy could easily double-click and fixing this could prevent someone from having a terrible experience at your libray. I’m happy to report that even though one of tonight’s students was accustomed to a trackball device, she was clicking up a storm when I slowed down the mouse’s pointing action. Does anyone already do this?

bq. Windows users: start -> control panel -> mouse
Mac users: system preferences -> keybord & mouse

what do i read next 2.0

I’m not sure if folks have linked this around yet, but yesterday from del.icio.us/popular I noticed literature-map. This presents a not entirely functional nor data rich display of authors related to an entered search term. Why mention it then? Well, the display is pretty neat. The above is a screenshot of a search for ‘steinbeck.’ Authors nearby are allegedly likely to be enjoyed if Steinbeck is enjoyed. Proximity to the search term indicates a stronger correlation, and the entire process is (computer resource intensive and) fluid, reacting to mouse placement. Evidently this tool runs on some artificial intellegence. At any rate is it better than What Should I Read Next which told me to read David Baldacci and Philip K. Dick after I told it I just read The Grapes of Wrath.

This concept mapping reminds me of Aquabrowser, which I played around with at the Arlington PL’s catalog. It is also available at Queens Library NY and Lexington PL and I’m sure elsewhere.
Aquabrowser, in its nice little cluster, gives among other data, ‘spelling variations.’ My search suggested “steinback,” “stainbeck,” “steinbock,” and “stenbeck.” At first I thought these were perhaps misspellings of ‘steinbeck’ but they were rather other authors in their OPAC with similar names. Other data it provides is related items, your history of clicking, and translations of items.

Who is to say if interfaces like this are a fad or if they have lasting value? Not me. However, I think things like this might be a good way to add some dynamic, graphical content to OPACs. I’m all for innovation, don’t get me wrong, but two quick caveats: 1. Clearly there are some usability and accessibility issues with these snazzy displays. 2. I’d rather see OPACs not be broken and work well before bells and whistles get added.

Anywho, give these things a spin and let me know what you think.

hardware solutions presentation

For the participants, and anyone else interested:

Smart Computing at Your Library: Saving User and Staff Time (and Keeping Sane) or Geek to Live, Don’t Live to Geek.