Lake Waccamaw State Park

We visited Lake Waccamaw State Park last week. They have a nice visitor center and the lake itself its quite beautiful. 1 (910) 646-4748 Lake Waccamaw, NC 28450 http://m.google.com/u/m/BcbOWD

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There was a nice long boardwalk that went from the visitor’s center to the lake. This was great for us to be able to let the children run.

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We loved seeing the moss along the path. It was so vivid!

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To find lunch though we had to go to the next town over. We found a nice southern cooking buffet, and then loaded everyone back in the car to go home. We can’t wait to go back and take a nice long walk along the lake side. But, first we might have to find a baby sitter so we can make it the whole five miles.

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New Resolutions for 2013

This past weekend we decided to go on a trip to a state park

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We decided to go to Ft. Macon. It is about 2 hours from our house, and the first state park here in North Carolina.

It might seem an ominous choice at first as an old ft. from the revolutionary and civil war era. It has cannons that seemingly face in your direction as you first pull up.

cannon ft. macon

 

But, it is a really neat place to visit because it has a lot of history and a large number of rooms  and places to explore.

panorama

But you have to watch the edge with small children because there really are no guard rails in place. As the sign says as you enter the park “This fort was built for times of war and  not for your safety”

view ft. macon

Everyone had fun running around, although the toddlers desired more free reign than we gave them.

Our oldest boy especially loved getting up on the cannons.

cannon portrait

 

I think we will try to do better about getting the whole family in a picturet in the future but we were able to get the children to sit still for a second.

Fleming children at Ft. Macon

 

 

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Grooveshark’s New Survey Interface

I waited quite awhile to blog about Grooveshark’s update to their survey system.

First a quick recap. Grooveshark lets you take surveys to earn points toward a “free” month of their premium services. These services remove ads from your experience at the site or allow you to use Grooveshark on your mobile device to stream virtually any song at any time.

Here is how the survey service worked when it was first launched with paartner Clear Voice http://jasonfleming73.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/earning-points-toward-a-grooveshark-subscription/

Then Grooveshark split with ClearVoice and brought the survey system into the site so that every survey looks and behaves the same.

 

Which is great from a Usability perspective. This is The Good part of the change.

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I’ve been taking these surveys for over a month now and they work quite well. Previously you could tell pretty much which company was trying to get your opinion. But, these new surveys are pretty generic and seemed built to compile a database of your activities and who you are. I’m not sure who is paying Grooveshark to acquire this information or why. But that isn’t even really the bad thing. 

 

*This* is the Bad thing

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I can’t earn enough points to get the premium service I want with the number of surveys they give you to fill out. It is like the well isn’t deep enough to get enough water to drink from. I’m not really sure what to do at this point. I’m guessing that this isn’t going to end up working for them as a business model and they will disband it.

But I certainly hope not. I really enjoy earning a service on the web without paying money for it. So I’ll keep at it for awhile until I start forgetting to look for a new survey or care when I am notified that one is available.

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Graphic Novel Collection Development

Art isn’t one of the disciplines I collect for where I work. But, Graphic Novels have always been one of my interests. I have been researching what goes into making a Graphic Novel collection for quite some time, albeit on a casual level.

from Scott McCloud’s excellent book Understanding Comics

When I came to my current place of work there were hardly any graphic novels in the collection, and none of what I would consider to be the required titles that any library should have. I’ve kept this in mind over the years and have watched for opportunities to arise where I could help make some changes.

My library subscribes to a book loan program of popular titles that allows us to bring in current titles and let our users check them out. If we determine that we would like to add them to our collection then we can pay a small fee to keep them. As one of the librarians here I help select the books that they will send us. I have been carefully selecting from the catalog they send us monthly Graphic Novels that I believe would be good for the collection. I have also been talking with students and art faculty about what they would like us to have in our collection.

To prepare for the day when I would find an opportunity to purchase graphic novels for the library I have been compiling lists and soliciting suggestions also from Social Networking sites such as Google+ and Friendfeed. The initial list I had of top titles was a great starting point for my latest discussion with an Art faculty member who will be teaching a class next year featuring Graphic Novels.

We met and she indicated from this list which titles she would like us to purchase, and also sketched out a plan for what kind of titles  would best cover a range of topics she would be focusing on in the class. This turned out to mean focusing on characters from underrepresented populations such as African-American women and Native Americans.

When I went to put together the list I first turned to the LSW friendfeed room for inspiration. (http://friendfeed.com/lsw) There I found several members who were more than willing to help me with suggestions they were personally familiar with. I spent time looking for reviews of the titles and then compiling a list within Books In Print

She also needed some representative Manga issues to highlight how other cultures tell stories with Art. For a list of some sample issues I turned to a list I have on Google+ called library. There I found several helpful librarians who helped me put together a list of some of the best examples of the style.

I am really excited about adding these to the collection and seeing the students from this class and others use them. I love that there are so many people out there willing to help share their knowledge.

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Library Donations Workflow revisited

I work at a small library where I have had the privilege of being the interim director for the last 8 months. Which means that I have had the opportunity to modify some of the existing workflows.

One of these “modifications” was of the book donation workflow which I altered in conjunction with the cataloging librarian.

Originally we would take in books from different sources and determine if the books should be added to our collection. If not then they would be put out on a cart at the front of the library as a book sale for a few weeks every so often. These books would all be priced at .50

Some of these books would be snatched up very quickly, while others would languish and eventually we would box them up and send them to Better World Books http://www.betterworldbooks.com/  (BWB) Which is a pretty good workflow in the sense that we make a little money to go towards purchasing other books for our collection, and we don’t have to recycle the ones that are leftover.

As of last semester we had been making a little bit of money from the in house sale, but not very much as you might imagine. BWB had not sold enough of our books yet to reach the threshold at which they would write us a check. I believe this is because our in house users were buying all the books that could have been sold by BWB more easily.

I had prior experience selling my own books through Amazon, and I thought it was a relatively easy process so I suggested that we try doing it ourselves on a trial basis. The new workflow looks like this

  1. Books Donated (but not added to our collection) or Discarded
  2. Books Checked by students against Amazon’s Database to see if they are being sold for more than $5
  3. If they were then they would go in a pile to be entered into our Seller Account’s inventory
    1. I only list a book if it is not being sold for less than $5
    2. After I enter a number of books on a given day I will go through the inventory and make sure that our books are priced at least .10 less than anyone else’s
    3. If the book falls below $3 I’ll remove the listing and send it to the in house book sale
  4. Otherwise they would go straight into the book sale and then on to BWB as before

That is the basic workflow and the one that I worked on with the Cataloging librarian. It is pretty straight forward and easy to follow.

I started entering books in to Amazon and quickly discovered that the information on the slips in the books from students (that I had asked for) wasn’t actually useful. I had asked them to print on an old catalog card the lowest price, the general condition of the book, the seller’s rank, and I had them color code it by the range it was in the Amazon Seller’s index (by the Millions).

I pretty quickly found out that this information wasn’t actually useful when trying to put the books up for sale. I more often than not couldn’t find the same entry the student was referencing, and the seller’s index wasn’t providing a terribly good indicator of whether it would be sold. It turned out to be much easier to put everything online and take books off if they haven’t sold within a predetermined amount of time. So instead I was able to figure out which chunk of code in the URL was persistent and started having them write that down.

Pretty soon after I started putting books up for sale we actually sold the first book. This was exciting because I could actually show my coworkers that we were receiving a good price for the book (more than .50) and that there were people out there who wanted these books. I realized that we needed to receive the money so I had to figure out where the money could go, and then be transferred back to us. We don’t have our own checking account, and that is the only way that Amazon will send you money (trust me I have checked). Campus finance was able to work with us and we were able to have Amazon send the money to them, and then we would send Finance a monthly email detailing how much money should be sent to which account (postal fees, revolving collection fund). As long as we don’t mind the wait then this setup works out fine.

For the future:

Now that I have a good setup for how to wrap the books up to be shipped I need to transfer that responsibility to a student. I’ll consult with the cataloging librarian and determine which of the students

 

 

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Google Plus Circles: How to get the most out of sharing

This post is dedicated to anyone who has indicated that they don’t see enough involvement in Google Plus or that they don’t know how to set up their circles, or if you are broadcasting everything to everyone you follow (Stop it)

I initially created a circle for every group of friends that I belonged to. Then I started making circles for my interest groups. I kept my interests pretty limited. At first it was only “library” but recently I have expanded to a new interest “homebrew”

When I would post items in Google Plus I would create the post and then decide who my audience was and go through selecting different relevant circles that might want to see the post. This only worked for me for a few months until I realized that I was posting essentially the same content across the same circles. I needed a simpler way to do this.

To that effect I created new macro circles. In the Selective circle I included all of my friends and in the General circle I included people I didn’t know in my interest circles.

This works pretty well for simple posts without a targeted audience. I did experiment by creating an “active” circle that included everyone who had commented on a post since before the creation of the circle. The purpose of this was to include them in all postings and encourage more engagement. It was an experiment that didn’t end up bearing much fruit because people only want to engage with you on topics that they share an interest for.

The takeaway being: Post to the groups who will be interested in what you are saying. Don’t try to force participation.

The biggest change that has occurred since I set up this strategy was the creation of a new circle for homebrewers. This circle was growing very slowly until Google introduced the ability to share circles. All of a sudden users were sharing their circles of users filtered by interest. I added one of these homebrew circles all at once and there was a sudden explosion of new followers and new posts that directly pertained to my interest.

There was a problem however. The circle that had been shared and named “homebrew” actually contained quite a number of people who were not homebrewers. Many only had an interest in beer, and others had no discernible link to beer at all. I’ve tried to go through and filter out the users who should not be in the circle, but this is a time consuming process.

The next time I cam across a shared circle I was more selective about the process and went through the users in the circle first and examined potential people to follow from the list individually.

While grabbing that initial circle might have seemed like a big mistake, actually it led to a very large interest circle that is active and very knowledgeable about a topic that I am interested in.

I have filtered out many of the ‘love beer but don’t homebrew’ people and created a new circle simply called “beer” My next step is to move the entire homebrew circle into the beer circle. That way when I post a specific ‘how to’ question about beer production I will post to the “homebrew” circle and when I create a “I just made a batch of this kind of beer, or I bought this beer and loved it” post I will share it to the “beer” circle.

One parting word of wisdom. If you add people to Google Plus make sure that you are adding them to a specific circle where they will see information that will make it clear why you have added them. Also make sure that your profile clearly indicates interests you have so that the person you have added can use this information as a guide when adding you to a circle of their own (or at all)

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Attn: GOOGLE… RE: top links in the toolbar of Google pages

*This is a letter writing campaign*

Google moved the ‘Reader’ link off the top of the toolbar on the Gmail page. They tried to do this earlier in the year but it got moved back. As of now you have to click on the ‘More’ dropdown to get to the link.

For some reason the ‘Reader’ link still shows up in the toolbar when you are on the Google Plus page just not on the Gmail or (ironically) the Google Reader page. These links should be consistent across pages obviously, and we would like them to move the ‘Reader’ link back to the top.

Ideally we would like them to give users the option to choose their
top 5 or so sites that they would like to always appear in the Google
toolbar when they are signed in.

Please email everyone you know who works at Google so that you can
help make this happen.

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