November 9, 2009

Interactive Learning Experiences in Libraries

Filed under: blog,precat — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 10:43 pm

I was happy to see some new faces presenting at last month’s Internet Librarian conference, with one of them being Will Kurt. While I had a bad cold and couldn’t attend all of the sessions I wanted to, I’m glad I was able to make it to his session because it represented what I hope is one growing trend.
Will’s first presentation at #il2009 was about the anatomy application he’s developed for medical students at the University of Nevada Reno, using a Microsoft Surface table. Both DOK and the Darien Public Library are using Surface tables to present information visually (and Gretchen Hams gave a great talk after Will’s about Darien’s experience), but Will’s app is the first learning application that I’ve seen that was created by a library. Students are responding positively, and usage statistics are going up. It sounds like a win-win situation all the way around, assuming you can afford a Surface table ($12,000+).

In addition, you can watch a video of Will’s presentation.
I also saw a presentation about an interesting project at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County about “interactive learning rooms” they’ve created for students, which are essentially study rooms with interactive whiteboard walls. The whiteboards are added for the incredibly low cost of one Wiimote (about $40) using Johnny Chung Lee’s Wiimote hacks. If you don’t have a Surface table, this is an interesting and much less expensive step in that direction. I love the idea of interactive spaces in libraries, and I hope this trend grows, too.
Libraries are all about enhancing learning, and this seems to me like another step towards getting away from pure lecture or text-based instruction. Along with technology/gadget “petting zoos,” instruction that incorporates gaming principles, and the recent crop of “23 Things” programs for the public, I have hope for more experiential learning experiences created by libraries, not just using technology and tools as new ways of presenting information and maps.
I’d love to hear about anything your library is doing to implement interactive learning experiences and environments.
My notes from Will’s talk:

Ubiquitous Computing and the Microsoft Surface at UNR – Will Kurt, Applications Development Librarian
Computers should plug in to us, not the other way around
MIT’s Sixth Sense project
We bring our computer with us now (smartphones), not go to it
Microsoft Surface table – okay for coffee and even changing babies on it
Playing with pictures has been relatively popular on their Surface
Their admissions office really likes the concierge application that gives you campus information
have 5 minutes to impress prospective students and their parents
Kids *love* this and they always rush to it
Shows how intuitive the interface is
Most people thought this was a ridiculous expense
Had to go in to creating in-house applications
“successful new technologies need to be perceived as valuable, not novel”
Put The Tree of Life game on it
people didn’t like it at first because it’s not a traditional game but then they got into it, experimenting with the rules and playing with their friends
Then Microsoft released a second set of apps
Checkers, chess – Surface lets you visualize the rules on the board
Don’t try to emulate web browsers on a Surface because it has one tiny screen as your whole world and one touch point
You can bring all kinds of content from the net into the Surface environment
They built an app of high-resolution anatomy images
Surfaces are multi-touch *and* multi-user
Add something to where the students already are, working together, in a natural way
They can put their lab on the table and it has data about it
This has been hugely successful – have 2 units available and it got more than 70 hours of usage in just the first two weeks
Every student he’s talked to absolutely love it – it’s useful, so it transcends just novelty

My notes from The Wiimote IWB and Library Instruction – May Chang, Shu Qian, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC):

All they need to do this on the cheap is a wiimote, Bluetooth download, and interactive pen – that’s it!
Wiimotes cover a 45 degree angle, so if you have two, you can pretty much cover the whole area
This type of setup is portable, too, whereas an Interactive White Board isn’t
Created “active learning rooms” – auto logins when they book the room
Chemistry and art students love it – drawing with a pen is much more natural than using a mouse
2 options for instructional software for Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard
– Activeinspire studio version
– can also use Microsoft tools like OneNote and Powerpoint with the sharing tools
Did pilot instruction sessions for the international students at the English Language Center

November 2, 2009

Is Your Library's Content in the Stream?

Filed under: precat — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 5:43 pm

Learn more about Gary’s Social Media Counter.

September 25, 2009

The Book Was Not Driven by Reading

Filed under: precat — Tags: , , , , — tsladmin @ 4:41 pm

I hadn’t seen Jay Walker’s Library of Human Imagination TED talk before. It’s an interesting take on the printing press, the book, and reading, and how they’re not as connected as we think they’ve always been. The whole talk (short at just eight minutes) is interesting because of the way Walker links different items together.

“The book was not driven by reading. In 1455, nobody could read, so why did the printing press succeed?… The printing press was driven entirely by the printing of forgivenesses and had nothing to do with reading….”

September 23, 2009

Social Media Policies

Filed under: precat — Tags: , — tsladmin @ 5:34 am

Yesterday I was invited to the DuPage Library System to give a presentation about ALA Connect as part of the kickoff session for their year-long series of programs called “Let’s Get Social.” I had a great time, and I was pleased to hear positive comments about Connect and its future, so thanks for inviting me, DLS! If you’re in the Chicagoland area and want to learn more about social media, this is a great opportunity (see the rest of the series listed in the entry here).
During the lunch break, I was asked about social media policies for libraries, so rather than just send the URL for the Database of Social Media Policies to two people, I figured I’d post it here in case you haven’t seen it yet. While it’s more business-oriented at the moment, it does include a category for government and non-profit organizations. If your library ends up implementing a social media policy, help out and use the “add your policy” option on on the site so that we can build a repository of library policies, too.
If you haven’t tracked it, the site Mashable also has lots of great tips, recommendations, and suggestions, including a post from April asking Should Your Company Have a Social Media Policy. If you find the site a little overwhelming, try tracking just the How to category as a start.

July 12, 2009

Innovation at DOK

Filed under: precat — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 4:14 pm

Shanachies Erik, Jaap, and Geert talk about the DOK Library
Jaap is the “head of innovation” at DOK – love that title
DOK = Library Concept Center
video of library manager Eppo touring DOK
– showed Bluetooth download station
– music pods
– video games (“The library can’t be without games.”)
it’s all about people – share the stories to tell and make the stories
DOK sits on one side of “culture square” – they named it that because they’re across from a movie and theater
there’s a lot of color in DOK because they believe this is important to lift people up, help motivate them to share their stories
the staff offices on the top floor are totally open – not just open source, but open access to staff :)
have a “reading cafe” with the magazines
they put the timely reading materials right near the food and coffee/cafe
the building is a converted supermarket – it’s concrete but made attractive
the bookshelves don’t have a top shelf, so they seem more open
not collecting dust
shelf along the bottom to display the books but can also use it to step up and reach the top shelf
Geert does the signage – it’s attractive and uses everyday language
the library has a very luxurious look but the bookcases are made of NDF (?)
spend the money on services, rather than bookcases
the children’s collection is on bookshelves that are on wheels, so movable; allows them to move the collection for programming
all of the children’s bookshelves are green so easy to identify
the kids can stand on the bookshelves and it’s okay
one sign in the adult collection uses an image from Psycho :-p
their electronic signage runs on Nintendo Wiis because it’s cheap! :)
cost about a quarter of the price, plus can use the Wiis for game tournaments
the floor has a rubber texture so playful
an area where people can learn languages
it’s a quiet area and an open study room
snoic chairs (music pods)
an enriching experience that goes beyond just lending out CDs
can sit in the chairs and listen to music that only you hear
the touchscreens are hooked up to the library’s network, so can watch movies
the “romance room” is completely red
kids like to come study in this room and use the library’s wifi
they dim the lights to make people look better (rather than harsh, bright lights)
people can take food and drink from the cafe anywhere in the building
offer an art collection for checkout, with paintings out for display
have a catalog online where residents can reserve paintings
projects they’re working on now:
started a new “science and innovation” department to look at different ways to bring people together around data
1. hacked a Microsoft Surface table
worked with Technical University in Delft
developed two applications for it, one of which is finished
second one, still working on, will be a news quiz – users will work together using the table
brings people together around topics of interest
first application uses special barcodes on the library card
put your card on the table and it reads your address, shows you historical images for your address
totally freaking cool video of how this works, narrated by the student who developed the software
can also use a map application to find images from any street
also includes video
can sort images
because the table can detect objects, it can detect shapes, so there’s a ring you can place on top that acts as a magnifier
2. DOK Agora “Storyboard of your life”
works with material from the Delft Archive
idea is to get people to share their stories
a collection of storytelling tools for people visiting the library
let you see, hear, and watch other peoples’ stories, as well as tell your own
includes maps, paintings, etc.
the library is a collection of stories and culture – how can we get the community’s stories into the library?
huge screen with small stories on it that you can make larger
national archive, local archive
they pick a story, scan their library pass, the story is linked to it, go down one level to the storytelling area
this is where anyone in the community can add a picture, audio, video, etc. to the archive
when the archive has grown, they have a launch party for it (for specific topics)

Mobile Devices, Libraries, and Policy Panel

Filed under: precat — Tags: , , , , , , — tsladmin @ 2:03 pm

Panel at #ala2009
Jason Griffey, Eli Neiburger, Tom Peters, Bonnie Tijerina, Deborah Caldwell-Stone
Jason: Overview of the Mobile World
numbers (because this arena is very important for us)
4,100,000,000 number of mobile phone subscriptions in the world
over 60% of the people on earth have a mobile phone subscription service
in 50 different countries around the world, the number of cellphones per person exceeds 100%
(means more than one cellphone each)
not just places like Korea, but places like Gambia, wehre 1,000,000 people have access to a telephone, and only 50,000 of those are fixed landlines
90% of the world’s population will have access to a cell phone signal by the end of 2010
2,400,000,000 people using SMS (active users)
75% of the people who have data access on their phones
we’re not good at handling numbers, but 1,200,000 people use email, so twice as many using text messages
2.3 trillion text messages sent in 2008
20% growth curve over 2007
so we have hard numbers that show this is the single most popular way in which the world accesses data
SMS is the largest data access method of communication/access in the world
showed the Wired Smart Guide for smartphones – iPhone, G1, Pre, Storm
we do often think about people accessing our information on smartphones, but there’s also a multitude of other data access devices with different models from cell phones:
– Kindles, buy content with no monthly charges
– netbooks with cell radios built into them (get device free but pay monthly data charges)
– Verizon MiFi, projects a wifi field for you, acts as a router to the cell network for ubiquitous connectivity
most areas of the U.S. have some cell network access
what we have now is child’s play (kindergarten), but in 3-5 years will be Harvard
LTE (Long Term Evolution) – next generation
current network is fast enough for text, but not for video streaming
LTE promises the video streaming
with those kinds of things, we’ll see things we can’t even imagine right now
this is not science fiction; Rogers has promised this will be available in Canada by the end of 2010, AT&T in 2011
Honeywell Kitchen Computer for 1969, for sale by Neiman Marcus during the Christmas season
$10,000 and weighed 100 pounds, had to go to programming school for two weeks to learn how to make it work
didn’t sell a single one
in 1969, they had the capacity to build the device, but the best idea they had was to make it a kitchen recipe machine (“if it plus in, it must be an appliance” – Eli)
mobile devices are just now becoming robust enough to be transformative
the early vision for a device is rarely the way it actually transforms the world
Henry Ford: “if I’d asked them what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”
someone has to flip the switch and change things, and we’re very close to that for mobile devices
Clay Shirky – “the tools don’t get socially interesting until the tools get technically boring”
we’re right at that cusp
problems in the mobile world:
(bike that only rides on roads specially designed for it)
1. copyright
2. DRM
as we move from text into robust apps we can’t even envision yet, it’s important to enable these things, not prevent them
Tom: doesn’t want to underestimate the adoption of cell phones; can’t think of another man-made, manufactured device that’s been adopted by 60% of the world in a matter of months
surpassed toilets? are cell phones more recognizable than paper?
huge in the history of mankind
Question for Eli: when we talk about mobile devices, we mean digital content. is it a given we’re moving towards this licensing model for digital content, when libraries have traditionally purchased “things” and lending them under first sale doctrine? how do libraries maintain their rights under these threats of DMCA, etc.
Eli: this is really THE question for libraries in the 21st century; holding something of a copy that exists in 10,000 places in the world is worthless – that’s not the value; you have the whole world in your pocket
the rest of the world has skipped the 20th century and gone straight to the 21st; we no longer provide value by providing a copy of something that exists elsewhere
it’s what doesn’t exist anywhere else, which means creating it, which is usually letting your patrons create that
no longer bringing the world to your community, but bringing your community to the world and making it accessible
you’re (the library) the only one that cares about that content being out there
possible future where DRM triumphs & RIAA, etc. get everything they ever wanted and there’s no room for libraries
but could have an uprising against copyright and everything being free to everyone, although this is equally dangerous to libraries
will come down to digital ownership of rights
important not to forget that a major role of the library is to aggregate the buying power of the community and provide access
best thing we can do is produce and assist in the creation of new knowledge
don’t want to get involved in the DRM nightmare and find a value proposition that is meaningful to users in the networked 21st century
Bonnie: agrees and thinks that’s where we’re going, but still have issues now about what we’re licensing and getting
libraries are known as being stewards; need to be thinking now about issues of providing access to content
agrees the future is more about making our collections and knowledge more accessible
Tom: who’s going to take on stewardship in perpetuity? a trust organization?
Question for Bonnie: libraries want to accommodate user expectations for mobile devices, how does the “mobile” change the traditional library service model?
Bonnie: are mobile technologies really changing the core and the values of what libraries provide?
when I think of our service models, it’s providing information they need when they need it where they need it
could be answering a question or access to a special collection
the “when” and “where” can now expand, but our core library service model changing as much as the tools we’re using can just expand those services beyond where we’ve done that before
need a willingness to experiment, even with tight budgets (which are the perfect opportunity to do this)
need a willingness to do more collaborative work, which is getting easier
need to talk to the users more and assess their needs
Jason: one of the things he’s been thinking about lately regarding services and mobility (and the new web) is that a lot of our info flow and communication is moving to a real-time communication river
we wish they used libraries in this way, using human filters in real-time
thinking about “proactive reference” – especially for localized situations
we’re going to need to be putting ourselves in that flow
pulling questions out of that flow and answering them, not waiting for them to come to us
they’re getting answers from peers, so we need to insert ourselves in as experts and guide that flow
this could be a real growth area for libraries
Question for Tom: with future, pervasive networking, how will library services change and what are the implications for privacy and bandwidth-planning?
Tom: he manages a downloadable ebook library project, so he looks at it through that lens
your access depends on your network connection
how do you get it to your ears?
the future is streaming media, not downloadable
already have “Tumble Talking Books,” which is a streaming audio service that has expanded beyond kids
storage costs? although approaching zero and can keep everything
big issue is battery life, which hasn’t really improved much
it’s the achilles heel in this scenario
he assumes bandwidth will be there when he needs it, although his options at home are limited; this will change
we’ve thought about information as physical objects (books, copies, holding something)
as we get more into streaming media, our thinking will change to information experience
we’ve always talked about a “good read” – it’s a mix between the object and the experience, but the experience will take on a much bigger role
eg, there are some really interesting information experiences in the virtual world, such as books you walk into, contribute to just by experiencing it
libraries haven’t had a good way to measure usage, so we use surrogate measures (walked in the library, but don’t know what they did there – doesn’t mean they “used” the library)
in a world of streaming media, you could say they only streamed “war and peace” for five minutes, which means they probably didn’t read the whole thing
will get closer to knowing how they use these resources, which raises privacy issues
Question to Deborah: when have granular data collection and partner more with third-party content owners, have scenarios like Google Books knowing which page you’re on; a few services have more protections than libraries; how can libraries evolve in this space and work with these vendors?
Deborah: the first thing libraries have to keep in the forefront is giving users the choice of how their data is handled, which means giving them full information, which means the library has to do due diligence on these issues
if you have to expose some kind of ID to get access to this information, how is that handled?
have to address who owns the personally-identifiable information that gets transmitted? it should be the library
insist on the highest level
in an ideal world, it would be one-time use and then the data is discarded
good policy says you only keep it for as long as you need it and then you discard it
make sure the third party isn’t mining that data
on the larger level, need to discuss what privacy means in the first place
we’re stewards for our users; we can’t assume permission where it’s not given
it’s fine for an individual to decide to expose information, but they have to know enough information to make an informed decision
if I don’t want to use streaming media, can I get a download?
Tom: InfoQuest project is going to offer 24/7 SMS text reference and the issue of privacy has come up
user will text them a question that comes in through Google, and the librarians can see the cell phone number
have two outside entities involved – Altarama and Google
as soon as they answer the question, they’ll delete the email
for info purposes, they’ll save the questions in the backend without personal data
Deborah: sometimes, we shouldn’t do something just because we can
Bonnie: in an environment where people are choosing their level of privacy, and some are allowing more than others, a better role for libraries might be educating users about what they’re giving up
privacy is not dead, but that decisions about privacy have gone into the hands of the user more than ever before
is our role then to help provide information to let them know what info they’re giving up instead of not providing access to these services that have risks?
Deborah: opt-in is the way to go; respect user choices
Eli: it goes even further than that, because there is no way to assure your patron’s data if you enter into a relationship with a vendor
the more that you do in-house, the better
most services will let you authenticate in-house and then pass the user to the vendor anonymously
if you’re using google analytics, you’re piping every hit through google, and they haven’t really been tested
the work of the 21st century for libraries is to make these resources owned and developed by the library, not making contracts for $20,000 to do something you could do in-house
we’re addicted to vendors
there are a lot of products on the exhibit floor that could be done by a good programmer in-house in two weeks, and privacy is a big motivator to do this
Question for Jason: DRM has been vilified, but some point out that DRM on digital library content is more aligned with the traditional model of library service; what are the drawbacks for users?
Jason: treating digital like physical is insanity of the highest order, and the fact that we’re still using that model is ridiculous
the music industry was the first to be utterly destroyed and rebuilt (Napster –> iTunes, which is now DRM free)
if the other industries don’t see this and change their paths, they’ll just have to be destroyed and rebuilt
this feeds into something else about content that we’re not paying enough attention to, that libraries subsidize the purchasing of the information and distribute it for free
digital drives everything to free – as storage and processing becomes cheaper and everything goes digital, the price point moves to free
you’ll pay for advertising, but the cost for obtaining that content is driving down to zero
the other thing we’re competing with, besides cost coming down to zero, is piracy
if it’s easier to get a pirated copy of a book they can do whatever they want with, they’ll do that
can’t compete with free, so need to compete with easy; need to be easier than piracy
iTunes became #1 music store in the country was not because it was DRM-free, but because it was easy
we don’t even allow sharing digital content between ourselves, let alone our patrons
he could go online now and get any NYT bestseller in 30-40 seconds
mobile devices accelerate that, as do peer-to-peer networks
DRM will destroy libraries if we allow it, and it will be very difficult for us to overcome in the next 3-5 years
Tom: completely agrees
digital networks allow you to make an unlimited number of perfect copies at the speed of light for a fraction of the cost
we’re working through the economic and legal ramifications of that fact
can’t deny this forever
we’ve hitched the notion of intellectual property to the wrong horse, the making of copies
made sense when it was hard to make copies, but now it’s easy (brainless)
need to rebuild intellectual property from the ground up so that it’s not about slapping people on the wrist
Eli: right now the copyright landscape is driven more by copyright holders’ fear
iTunes bridged the users and the copyright holders
the horse is still with us, but he’s still in the backseat, riding along with us because we’re bringing him with us
when you think about the people in charge at major labels right now, there’s a finite supply of them
the kids who went crazy with Napster will have a very different way of looking at the business model
research shows that giving stuff away for free drives sales
there are producers making more money giving content away than they did selling it
part of the problem with the Kindle is that they’re still charging hardcover book prices – imagine if the price of a book was $1 – no one is comfortable with that model yet
Question for the panel: there are obvious policy considerations – accessibility, special user groups; how can libraries continue to advocate for these users in a mobile environments?
Tom: thinks we need a reader bill of rights for the digital era
give the reader the right to choose the font, color, font size, etc., but it’s the readers right, not anyone else’s
the ability to turn any etext into a text-to-speech should be an inalienable right
blind & visually-handicapped users are tearing their hair out about the Amazon turning off TTS on the Kindle because of the author/publisher lobby because removed thousands of titles from their grasp
* this is an area where ALA could help
Jason: is going to take the opposite tact
it’s not Amazon that turns off the TTS – it’s the publishers at the book level (doesn’t like that Amazon gave that ability, but the publishers are making this a problem for these blind users)
collectively, we could make a statement by aggregating our buying power since we spend *thousands* of dollars with publishers every day
could organize an effort
Eli: at the same time, there are publishers who would say “fantastic, the library won’t be purchasing our content anymore”
OverDrive is a good example – not offer it because of some high falutin’ concept?
exert the pressure on vendors – we would pay more if you’d open this up – show them the value of opening up the content
there are market opportunities to get around these issues in many of the areas where libraries work with others on standards
iTunes made it okay by showing people would pay more for open content
Tom: libraries are a fraction of the buyers in the print book market, but we’re a much larger share in the audio market (30%)
we do have more clout there
Question from the audience: asked about the “sixth sense” device shown off by MIT
a mobile computing device with a camera that is smart enough to recognize objects and layer information over it – “augmented reality”
potential to attach reviews to books
displays the Amazon rating right on the book and whether you can get it somewhere else cheaper (whether your library has it)
Jason: there are a few different projects experimenting with augmented reality on the new iPhone
interesting one that overlays historical information over buildings
in general, libraries are the entities that have that information
Tom: a low-tech way to do that now is with QR Codes
Eli: what’s interesting about the sixth sense project is that it’s a transitory project
it’s for visitors, not those who live in the 21st century
in the future, it won’t be about decoding the objects
read Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbow’s End” about wearable computers and libraries
one of the first uses of the telephone was supposed to be piping music into peoples’ homes
someday, the Kindle will look like a joke – it’s important right now, but it’s just a step on the journey
Question from audience: what kinds of questions should we be asking about format? if we try to make our information accessible for special populations, will that meet our mobile needs?
Tom: accessibility benefits everyone
it’s very sad that most portable devices are operated by buttons, and somewhere along the line, buttons got turned over to marketers, not engineers – they’re not accessible anymore and they’re designed for the young
this is madness – our portable devices should be accessible to everyone
it’s a tragedy
Eli: the emergence of web standards is the best thing that ever happened to the accessibility community
if you’re stuff is standards-compliant, it will be accessible
the term “mobile web” is a transitive one, because what you have in your pocket is “the web”
it won’t be about special interfaces
text has become electronic, which has completely helped them
the economics of Braille don’t work, but the right platform and technology makes everything accessible
most of the accommodations necessary are in the standards
Jason: agrees
part of the problem is that we don’t have a standard ebook format
epub is the closest we have (behind HTML, which the publishers aren’t using)
as long as we stick with a standard, you can move from device to device (that’s why MP3 works so well)
haven’t gotten there with video yet
HTML 5 is falling apart because of video codec arguments
stick with known, published standards, which make accessibility easier
Eli: the industrial revolution truly began when people could make standard parts that worked together
the same thing is starting to happen with information
those who are succeeding are doing so because they’re embracing open standards
wouldn’t want a car you can only put one type of tire on
Question from audience: is Creative Commons licensing the way things are going?
Jason: thinks CC is a very important starting point, especially for library-created content
need to allow for sharing
there’s still a lot of work to be done with copyright law
we’re done with copyright law in a way that’s great for the 20th century
Eli: CC is the best hope and compromise we have right now
any legal team is going to say it makes them uncomfortable, but they should be able to live with it
sees libraries putting copyright on content they’ve digitized that was previously in the public domain
hopefully someday we won’t need it though
Bonnie: agrees, it’s a stepping stone
Eli: part of the challenge is that you still see a lot of creators, especially hobbyists, who look at copyright as the thing that will make them rich
most people receive very small amounts of money from copyright
it’s more how your ideas live, not wither on the vine
Jason: the challenge to creators in the 21st century isn’t piracy, it’s people not having any idea who the hell you are
CC gives people the chance to find out who you are and give you money
libraries should be using CC
Bonnie: works with a lot of scientists, scholars, etc. and talks to them about CC in terms of permissions they don’t get from others so that they’ll use it to make it easier for others

June 24, 2009

Ohio – Save Your Libraries

Filed under: precat — Tags: — tsladmin @ 5:54 am

If you live in Ohio, you’re in very real danger of losing your public libraries. You need to contact your legislators now to save them or else Governor Strickland’s proposed budget cuts are going to end up shutting them down.
Save Ohio’s Libraries
Save Our Library (Columbus Library)

Rodman Public Library, Ohio

June 17, 2009

Should You Upgrade to the Pre?

Filed under: precat — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 8:00 am

I <3 the Pre When I picked up my new Palm Pre smartphone last week, one of the store employees said, “You must have been waiting for this phone for a long time.” He could tell I was excited about it. I told him I’d been waiting for this phone for nine years, six of them on Palm Treos and a Centro, waiting for the next leap.
And now that I finally have it, I can say that while it’s quite clearly a first generation device, I love it. This post will explain why, but it won’t be a comparison of the iPhone versus the Pre. I’ve only played with an iPhone a couple of times, so it wouldn’t be fair, plus everyone knows I’m not a fan of Apple, so I can’t really be objective about this. So instead, this will be a review of the Pre from the perspective of a Treo/Centro owner wondering if she should upgrade, because that’s the question I’m getting asked the most. Back in 2003, I started a popular page called What’s on My Treo 600 that listed all of the apps I used and as a result, I heard from Palm owners for years (and occasionally still do), so this is an area I know well.
In fact, a lot of my issues with the Pre come from features the Treos/Centros did better, but I’ll also describe what’s new, both the good and the bad. As a result, this will be a long review, so skip this post if you’re not interested in smartphones or the Pre.
Let’s start with the Pre’s problems, because there are quite a few of them. There are a lot of little details that are just annoying and even worse, time-consuming, as well as some bigger issues.
1. My biggest gripe with the phone is the lack of an expansion slot, limiting me to 8GB of memory. While early adopters are living more and more in the cloud, it’s not enough yet to rely completely on it for media. It also doesn’t help on airplanes, so Palm really needs to figure out a way to increase memory, either internally or via a MicroSD slot like the Centro had.
2. LED notifications are my second biggest issue with the phone. On my Centro, there was an LED that lit up orange when I had voicemail waiting, red when the phone was charging, and green when it was fully charged. Years ago, I downloaded an app called “Butler” that turned the LED green when new email or text messages came in. However, on the Pre, there seems to be no LED indicator whatsoever, which is a huge issue for someone who doesn’t want to be staring at her phone every minute. I want the phone to do the work, and the lack of LED notifications on the Pre, even acknowledging a full charge, bugs the heck out of me. The lack of an LED light means an app can’t fix this for me, either.
There are also other inexplicable quirks that are frustrating for former Treo/Centro owners. Like the fact that there’s no way to forward a text message, and there’s no character count when I’m typing one. That’s not a bad thing when I’m texting a single person, as Sprint now automatically divides the text into multiple messages, but it doesn’t work well at all if I’m sending texts to Twitter or Facebook. Hopefully these kinds of things are just oversights that will get fixed in software updates pretty quickly.
3. The keyboard is about the same as the Centro, so it’s not an issue for me, but the lack of the Keycaps program and the ability to add it is a problem. I realize this is purely my behavior based on how I had customized the Centro, but the ability to tap a key twice to get the symbol or hold down the key for a capital letter cannot be overestimated in terms of efficiency. And the Pre’s predictive text dictionary isn’t strong enough to overcome this deficit yet, so I have to hold out hope that we can get KeyCaps back someday.
4. The multitasking feature is fantastic (more about that in the “plus” list), but sometimes it hits the wall at the weirdest times. Usually, I can keep email, text messages, and the web up in individual cards and not have a problem. I can even open Pandora or the App catalog or a couple of other websites and be fine. But every once in a while I’ll get messages that I can’t open a new card, even when I’ve closed most apps. In fact, at one point, the Pre told me I couldn’t open the App catalog even when nothing else was open. I rebooted to clear out the memory and then it was fine, but I haven’t been able to find a pattern to it, other than to know I can’t have too much else open when I want to play Sudoku.
5. While I would never call “swipes” and “gestures” intuitive, I’ve gotten used to them pretty quickly. I do miss the navigation pad on the Centro, but I’m sure I’ll get used to the new ways of doing things. I mention it only so Treo/Centro owners know what they’re getting into. I still press the pearl button to take a picture, even though that takes me out of the camera app. I’m still learning to tap on the screen to do a lot of things, but I’m sure that will get better in time the more I use the Pre.
6. The email program is really great and really annoying. I’ll mention the good stuff below, but the fact that I can’t do multiple deletes in one task from the inbox or delete a message and go directly to the next one is truly frustrating. I really dislike things that waste my time, and this is one of them, so I hope Palm fixes it pretty quickly or someone comes up with a better email app. At least it’s easy (and even fun!) to swipe spam off the screen to delete it.
7. There are some quirks in the web browser, although overall it works very well. One of the sites I use the most, Google Reader, has an annoying tic on the Pre where when I tap on “mark all of these read,” it reloads the page with the next items but remains at the bottom of the page. I then have to scroll up to see the top of the page. This doesn’t happen on all sites, but when it’s one I use a lot, it’s a frustrating time-waster.
8. The lack of a public SDK that lets anyone develop an app is truly becoming a problem, which is surprising coming from the company that invented cellphone apps. In fact, the ability to completely customize a Palm phone was always one of its best features, so it’s troubling that Palm is frustrating its users in this way.
In addition to the fact that developers could fix some of the problems I’ve noted above, waiting for the big name partners to come through is proving a trial. For example, in the photos app, I can set up an account for uploading pictures, but only for Facebook and PhotoBucket. Huh? Yep, no Flickr. That’s just bizarre, and while I can continue to upload pictures to Flickr via email, the Pre is supposed to make things easier and it’s not doing that in all of the areas where it should be. If Flickr isn’t going to create the app or pay to be listed in the native one, a developer will have to create it to make up for this shortcoming. But no one can until that SDK is released.
I fully believe that the Pre’s app catalog has the potential to rival and even exceed that of every other phone, but the longer Palm waits, the more catch-up there will be. Things have changed since Palm phones were the only ones that used apps, and offering new ones is now a standard, not an option. With the rumor that iPhone apps can easily be ported to the Pre and a community that traditionally loves to hack, Palm is losing credibility on this one every day we go without the SDK.
I also want to address battery life as both good and bad. For as long as I’ve had a smartphone, I’ve used up the battery like crazy, first pulling in email and surfing the web, later gobbling up unlimited text messaging plans for lunch. If you’re a power user, you have to expect that you’ll need to power up at least once in the middle of the day if you expect to make it all the way through the evening. I think that’s just a fact of life now.
My friends who have a Pre and don’t use it as much as I do seem fine on battery life. If I watch a couple of videos, stream music, surf the web, and use the push email, I’ll need to recharge a couple of times a day. I’m not a good barometer, because I’d need to recharge a couple of times a day no matter which phone I use. With chargers at work and at home, though, I haven’t felt a need to buy a second swappable battery, at least not yet. We’ll see what happens when I start traveling again. This issue is a wash for me, but it might vary for others. If the Pre’s features make you use it more, expect to power up more.
So those are the major things that have been bugging me, and luckily they’re mostly fixable through software updates and won’t require hardware upgrades (although more storage might be worth it). So let’s jump in to the good things about the Pre, because the good is *really* good.
meta screenshot of multitasking on the Pre 1. The multitasking is by far the best feature about the Pre, and this alone makes it worth it for me. I can have email (for both of my major accounts) running in one card, text messages in another, a web search in another, and a Twitter client in another, all at the same time. Depending on the Pre’s temperament at that moment, I may also be able to listen to music, check the weather, or find movie times for a show near me. And if a website or Tweet (for Twitter) is slow loading, I can just flip to a different card while it finishes. I expect to be radically more productive at conferences and in meetings just because of this feature.
When multitasking is working properly (which is probably 90% of the time), my phone acts the way I expect to it, like my laptop. I don’t have to close one app to open another one, and I don’t spend any time during the day waiting for my standard apps to load. I can tap on a URL in an email or text message, and it will open a web browser while leaving the message open so that I can refer back to it. If I reply to a message, it comes up in a new card so that I can easily refer back to the text in the original message. I can also go look something up and come back to the message I’m working on. I think at one point I had ten different cards running at once. I can’t stress enough how useful this is, and in many ways, it makes up for a lot of the time-wasting annoyances I listed above.
2. The Touchstone charger is beyond cool – it’s incredibly practical and convenient. It’s one of those things that permeates your expectations once you start to use it. While it’s an expensive add-on for the Pre, almost everyone I know who has the phone bought one because it’s so convenient. In fact, I just bought a second one for work, because this is one of those moments where I’ve gotten to taste the future, and I want it all, now.
Think for a minute about how much time you waste plugging in and unplugging your phone. It’s something we try to make as painless as possible by putting the charger in a convenient spot, but we take for granted that every day or two, we’ll have to actually stop what we’re doing, look at the phone, and work the cable into it. It sounds like a small thing and it is, but you don’t even realize what a time waster that is until you don’t have to do it anymore. Being able to walk in the door when I get home and just set the Pre down and not hassle with cables is pretty phenomenal. It’s just as great at work, too, where the slant of the Touchstone makes it easier for me to check messages as they come in. It also serves as a handy desktop clock, and when I head out to a meeting, I just pick my phone up.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, and it’s certainly not a big enough feature to pull someone away from a different phone to the Pre, but this is the future, my friends. I wrote about a couple of products that promised this technology several years ago in a “Product Pipeline” column, and now it’s finally starting to happen. All this really does is make me impatient for this to become available for my laptop, but if you want a glimpse into how technology will make life better, this is one of those things. The way it just works is completely full of win.
As a side note, I haven’t experienced the resetting problem a few people have reported with the Touchstone, and I don’t think the back gets all that warm. In fact, I think it gets warmer when I use it as an actual phone and talk on it, but then I don’t actually talk much on my cellphone.

Palm Pre resting on the Touchstone wireless charger
Palm Pre resting on the Touchstone wireless charger

In addition, I prefer the conductive back cover that comes with the Touchstone. It makes the Pre less slippery, and it makes it easier to slide the phone open with one hand. For me, the Touchstone is a win all the way around and back.
3. Along those same lines, I very rarely use a cable with my Pre at all thanks to the wireless, push Exchange synching. This would work with Gmail and other email providers, as well, but it’s particularly impressive to a past Treo/Centro owner like me who’s had to manually synchronize bits and pieces over the years. When I first set up the phone, I just put in my Exchange info once in the email client, and it magically started syncing my email, calendar, contacts, and tasks. Unfortunately, it’s not grabbing my memos for some reason, but everything else is there, and it all happens in real-time without me ever plugging into my laptop. For business level users, this is indispensable stuff, and it shows how Palm pays attention to that market. You don’t have to install apps via the Palm Desktop anymore either, as it all happens “over the air.” In fact, there is no Palm Desktop anymore, and the Pre doesn’t even come with an installation disc.
4. The keyboard is a subjective measure, but I’m one of those people who wants a physical, tactical keyboard for typing, so the Pre is perfect for me. I got used to the smaller version on the Centro, so the size isn’t an issue for me, although I could see where it might be for people with larger fingers. That said, the Pre fits in my hand very well, and I can still type with one hand if I need to. In fact, I can completely operate the Pre with one hand, which was always one of my favorite features of the Treo/Centro. I especially like the curve of the phone, which doesn’t feel like a square brick, and it fits easily in my pocket even more comfortably than the Centro did.
5. Despite the things I dislike about the email program, the way it combines my inboxes into one is pretty cool, and it mimics how I think about my email. I can still view each inbox separately but I’m finding the combined view very useful, and when I reply to a message, the Pre automatically knows which account to use. The attachments are seamless, with plain text files appearing in the email itself. Plus, with the multitasking, I can open the attachment and still read the email at the same time. The integration is really stellar. In fact, sometimes the push is so great that I get messages on my phone before they appear on my computer.

email inboxes on the Pre
Email on the Pre – combined inbox or view each one individually

6. The toolbar/notification area is very useful, and it’s a huge improvement over the way past phones have handled interruptions. When a new email or text message comes in, it doesn’t fill the whole screen. This is as useful as some of the tics are annoying. You can deal with the incoming notice by tapping on it to open it in a new card, and thanks to the multitasking feature, you won’t lose what you were working on or have to re-open it. Or, you can ignore the notice and just keep doing what you were doing. Making these notices less of an interruption makes me more efficient, which I appreciate. It’s clearly one of the benefits of starting over and creating an operating system designed for this type of device.
The same thing is true with the app integration into the toolbar. When I listen to music, whether in the native app or via Pandora, the Pre puts the controls right in the toolbar so they’re always available. I can envision a day when that toolbar gets too crowded, but right now, this is another example of the Pre working the way I do on my laptop. It’s a killer feature for me, because I don’t even have to switch cards to control the music.
There are lots of other small quirks or cool things, but these are my overall impressions after a week with the Pre. Major enhancements to the Palm line include the 3-megapixel camera (with flash), much better Google Maps integration, WiFi, GPS turn-by-turn directions, YouTube videos, and they’re all well done on the Pre. The backup feature is a huge improvement, as I found out when my first Pre died and I had to replace it with a new one. I was able to just enter my profile name on the new device and almost everything synchronized down to it from Palm’s server. There were some app preferences that I had to re-enter, but I don’t know if that’s standard or if the first Pre just hadn’t fully synchronized yet. Either way, it’s nice to not have to worry about backing things up, although it does raise some privacy concerns for me.
As do the location-aware services, which I turned on in exchange for the convenience of finding restaurants and movies around me, along with the customized weather and navigation services. That’s another post, though, so suffice it to say that while I don’t plan to ever broadcast my location in real-time, I still struggle with this issue. It’s not unique to the Pre, though, so it’s a wash in the plus/minus equation.
So should you consider getting a Pre? If you can get the rebate that makes it $199, I think it’s well worth it, especially if you’re one of those people who likes the cutting edge. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the hackers and app developers do with it, and the success of the phone will depend quite a bit on what happens in that arena.
On our computers, we’re living more and more in a web browser, and on our phones, the early adopters are spending more and more time in these tunnels (apps) that customize the experience and make it more convenient. Convergence was always going to happen, but I’m not sure we realized the road that would get us there would start with apps. It won’t stay that way forever, but it’s the transition bandaid of the moment, and if the Pre can compete on apps, it will bury the bar with multitasking.
It’ll need a stronger processor and more storage to get there, but it’s a very solid first generation device, especially for one that’s been completely rewritten from the ground up. It’s not for everyone (no phone is), but if it can deliver on the promise of its potential, the future will arrive that much faster. I’d give the Pre two thumbs up if I didn’t think it would make it easier for someone to pry it out of my hands. I’ll raise that to four thumbs when that SDK is released and we get to see what the phone can really do.
Come on, Palm – let’s get moving!

June 12, 2009

Free Gaming in Libraries Class Comes with Free SNAKS

If you want a glimpse into one possible future for LIS education, look no further than Scott Nicholson’s free Gaming in Libraries course, running now on a computer near you. It makes use of a fascinating mix of tools that together let anyone participate at whatever level works for them, even after this iteration ends.
Dr. Scott Nicholson is an associate professor at the Syracuse iSchool. In fact, he’s the program director for the Masters of Science in Library and Information Science program there, and if you’ve followed gaming in libraries at all, his name is already familiar to you because of his video series, the monthly podcast he runs, the annual census he started in 2007, the Library Game Lab he runs, and more.
Now he’s one-upping himself and running a 30-day, introductory course about gaming in libraries. Syracuse and WISE consortium students can take the course for credit, but anyone, anywhere can watch the daily video lectures he’s posting on YouTube and discuss them in the class community on ALA Connect (you have to join the community to see the discussions, but anyone, including non-ALA members, can do that). The syllabus is available as a Google doc, and you can even download the videos from the Internet Archive to take them on the go. So far, the videos have ranged between about 5-17 minutes, so they’re easy to watch and digest.
He’s already up to video lecture #10 (I’ve been remiss in not posting about this before now), and you can join the other 66 participants in the Connect community to discuss your thoughts about the content, including some videos by guest lecturers. In fact, this is one of the most active communities on Connect right now since it’s such a hot topic.
In fact, now is a good time to jump in, because starting with lecture #9 (posted yesterday), Scott is breaking new ground by offering new insight and specific strategies for planning gaming programs in libraries.

“This is a new conceptual model I’ve developed over the last few months on how to look at the library gaming experience, and then I use that model to create five gaming archetypes, into which you can classify all (I hope) library gaming experiences. The archetypes then form a bridge between library goals and specific game choices.

Lecture #10, Gaming in Libraries Class Session 10 – Five Gaming Experience Archetypes

Watch for yourself and see what you think. Whether you’re new to the topic or an expert advising others, the new model alone is worth it (I love that it’s called SNAKS). With a total cost of $0, you’ve got nothing to lose, and if your library’s gaming program is relatively young, the content from the course will be invaluable for you. I hope other LIS professors begin teaching Scott’s model when they talk about gaming, and libraries that use it should report back about how it works so that we can begin building resources around it. Luckily, Scott is writing a book that will include information about the model, but I’m sure he’ll be reporting further research around it via the Library Game Lab.

June 9, 2009

Smart Marketing

Filed under: precat — tsladmin @ 5:23 am


Originally uploaded by pollyalida

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