The Research Pile

Evernote is THE best app I have found in the last year. I was given the task of looking into it for 23 things city and to be honest wasn’t sure what use it would really be but now I have no idea what I did without it.

Evernote is a web application which is also available to download on to mobile devices, desktop PCs, lap tops and just about every computer. This means that you can literally use it anywhere and it will sync with on all your devices and the website.

 I was always starting a notebook then forgetting it and starting another then never looking at the notes anyway because I couldn’t read my writing or had to scan through so much that I couldn’t find what I was looking for but with evernote I am finally becoming a notetaker!

Česky: Toto je ikona pro sociální síť. Je souč...
Image via Wikipedia

I use Evernote to plan blogposts, take notes in meetings or lectures and save pictures or links. I use it both personally and professionally. I can start something on my laptop at home, work on it on my iPad on the train, edit it on my work PC, log on to any computer to check it via the web and share it via my phone if I want. At the Business Librarians Association Conference I was able to make notes, download all the pre-conference information and agenda and keep it all in one “notebook” on Evernote. When I came back to the office I could view these notes online and add links to them where needed. I can then share the notes with colleagues. For example these notes on a talk about doing a library video from the conference.

Why use it?

Even if you don’t have a mobile device to use it on or a lap top to download it to it can still transform your work.

* You can log on to the web version (http://www.evernote.com/) anywhere with an internet connection and you can share your notes so it is a great way of quickly creating a simple web page or putting a plan together.
* You can clip all or part of a webpage into a note by using the web clipping tool (this is easier to install at work on Firefox than on Internet Explorer).
This is a note I created linking to a clipping of this page.
* You can create checklists so you can tick the boxes to keep track of what you have done.
* You can tag notes so notes in different notebooks can all use the same tage and be found on a search.
* If you are using it on a mobile device you can add a location so you can see all notes made at that location by you.

Evernote is particularly useful for projects as this video shows:

How do I start?

Evernote have some getting started pages which take you through everything step by step.


Using Google forms for surveys … (almost #23thingscity )

This week on 23 things City we are looking at Office 2.0. two of the things are Google Docs and Survey Monkey. I felt this was a good point to mention how I used Google Forms in Google Docs to do a survey as part of my MA Film Studies.

I used Google Docs because it allowed unlimited questions unlike the free version of survey monkey, otherwise it was similar to survey monkey in that the link was easily distributed (via Twitter and Facebook). Google Docs allowed me to enter unlimited questions and direct people to particular questions based on the responses to a question which was a great asset, although for some people this functionality didn’t work which annoyed some respondents, I have a feeling it was to do with their browsers because it worked when I tested it.

When I got down to the analysis and I discovered Google Docs does a lot for you. For example you get a lovely summary which includes graphics, percentages and counts.

favourite type of film
Click on image to see it bigger

The data summary meant I had more time to get on with the more detailed analysis, such as looking at gender differences in the responses and the free text answers. It was possible to limit the size of the free text responses but these provided a lot of information such as “I find watching rom-coms relaxing and uplifting. They make me think that not all men are immature pigs. They are also good fun to watch with your friends and family (usually female or gay male ones). The humour in them is usually more subtle than comedies with a broader focus (i.e. ones aimed at young men).” (Female, 20-29)” and “”I don’t have any because they are all rubbish. Sometimes I am forced to watch them by my wife to be.”” This respondent felt that enjoyment was only to be had by “”Short viewing time and numerous phone calls to interrupt it. Failing all of that a packet of jammie dodgers to eat” (Male, 30-39)” (this same respondent thought Die Hard 2 was a romantic comedy).

Comparison between the sexes was easy with the way google forms puts the data into spreadsheets (see image below). For example it was easy to find “50% of men believe the hero’s reactions and feelings towards people and events are somewhat like theirs and 36% of women appear to agree.”

The form I created is still available so if you want to have a look here it is. (It’s based on a particular study which is why with hindsight some questions would be different).

Google forms is great if you are undertaking complicated research and even for simple surveys I think it provides a great alternative to survey monkey with more functionality for free. Although it has to be said the survey monkey part of this week’s things is causing far more hilarity than expected and more on that will follow at a later date.

Week 4 – Twitter #23thingscity


Another of this week’s 23 things is Twitter. In my experience Twitter is a bit like Marmite. You either love it or hate it (or simply don’t get it). I love it, although if I had to choose I’d choose Facebook over it because more of my real-life friends and family are on there and there’s more to it. I posted a few weeks ago about the merging of professional and private lives via Twitter  and the power of Twitter so I won’t repeat that here but I will give a brief introduction into why I love twitter.

The BBC and the 23thingscity blog both explain Twitter very well but basically people post messages (tweets) in 140 characters or less and often have conversations using these tweets. People have Twitter usernames, mine is @melon_h, which allows other people to find them and follow them. Unless you have protected your tweets anyone can follow you and you don’t have to follow them back but you can block people if you don’t want them to see you.

I have been on Twitter since 9/2/2009 (coincidentally I joined twitter about the same time I had my brace fitted. There’s no connection between these events except when I had my operation I did get lots of nice messages from various tweeps). I think my use of Twitter increased when I got a blackberry, I check it whenever I check my phone for messages or emails. It’s part of my daily routine.

Twitter works best when you take part in it. You need to interact with people on there otherwise you’re basically the person sitting in the corner listening in on other people’s conversations but turning away when people try to talk to you. It can be daunting sending that first message to someone you don’t really know but what’s the worst that will happen? They might ignore you but unless they’re a celebrity who gets hundreds or thousands of messages it’s unlikely (and if they are a celebrity they might just reply).

I use twitter mainly to interact with other librarians and colleagues (both former and present) but I have a few people on there I know personally not through work. I also follow a few celebrities and several organisations and newspapers. I do think being part of a network of librarians who tweet makes it more relevant to me than if I wasn’t using it professionally which may explain why people doing other jobs can’t see the point.

I also enjoy watching the Apprentice and question time while tweeting with other twitter users. I’ve had conversations about Neighbours, Eastenders, and One Tree Hill with people I only know via Twitter. Of course if you don’t want to know the results of anything you need to avoid twitter, much like that episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads where they spend the day avoiding the football score.

Every day I see something that makes me laugh and something that makes me go wow. It’s probably my main source of news headlines, leading me to the whole story (usually on the BBC or guardian). I also am much more professionally informed because of twitter than I ever was before. When I was stuck in London last year because of the snow it was Twitter that kept me better informed than any of the rail staff or websites could.

One of the 23 things participants, Library Apocalypse, described Twitter as being like a radio. Always buzzing but you can tune in and out of it. I’d say that’s a brilliant description. One of the other good things is you can tune in and go back to interesting things by searching or using hashtags(#) to follow an event, conference, news story or any other stream. For example the # tag for 23 things city is #23thingscity. You can also retweet things you want to swear. According to my friend Jenny I do this a lot. I am offering no comment on this.

Thinking about Twitter for this week did make me wonder when I joined twitter and what I said first. Luckily (This sounds like a bad advert) there’s a site to help you find this out. It is called rather imaginatively my first tweet.


It’s safe to say I started tweeting when I was doing the film noir module on my MA!

Now that was my first tweet but what about the first tweet ever? According to the BBC it was “just setting up my twittr” personally I think mine was better!

Grace dent has written a book called “How to leave Twitter”, a few extracts have been published in the Guardian and make amusing reading (Grace Dent: 100 things about me and Twitter, Three typical tweeters, and Love in the Time of Twitter.

Whether Twitter will last or go the same way as myspace ( I used to log on to that all the time … I probably haven’t been on there for two years. Ooh maybe since I joined twitter!) only time will tell but right now I can’t imagine not using it.

Week 4 -Social Networking: Facebook #23thingscity

This is the first week where I’ve written one the “things” mine is the cool extra thing – Facebook. A week about social networking and Facebook is only a cool extra? I hear you ask. Well, it was felt we couldn’t ignore Facebook but we were also aware that some people have good reasons not to join and others wouldn’t want their work world venturing into their private/facebook world. So we have suggested people look at how other libraries have used Facebook. I am wondering what the thoughts will be …

Library and university presence on Facebook always makes me think back to Facebook’s early days and the theory that students didn’t want their studying life to intrude into their social space. They wanted to keep the two separate, logging on to VLEs for study and Facebook for fun. I am wondering how true this still is? 18 year old students today have been using Facebook/Bebo/Myspace for almost all their teenage years so are the divisions still there?

Interest in Facebook and formal university connections has existed since its beginning. Possibly because of its roots as a university communication network unlike MySpace and Bebo. Research from Nicole Ellison at Michigan State University in December 2007 suggested 79-95% of all undergraduates had Facebook accounts. I have no idea what today’s precentage would be but it probably is similar.

What I find interesting is why and how different people use Facebook. I use it a lot. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family near and far, I play scrabble on it (again with friends and family near and far), I arrange events with it and I have reconnected with friends from the past. I know people who have committed “facebook suicide” and I know people who have very strong privacy settings. I also know people who are far too open and seemingly live a virtual life at the expense of a real one. I think some of my friendships and connections have strengthened because of it but also sometimes you realise you have little in common with people beyond the setting you know them in.

I recently saw what can happen when people from different areas of your life collide on Facebook. I posted a link to a story connected with a close friend’s brother. I knew the whole story but the article didn’t tell it all (more here). Two friends ( ex- colleagues) then commented on it without much regard for the feelings of those involved. For a few hours I felt that I was in the crossfire of an argument with people feeling very hurt. I defended my friend and her brother but I didn’t remove what my other friends said because while I disagreed with them I do believe everybody’s entitled to an opinion. I hope my subsequent comments (if they read them properly) calmed things down properly and possibly informed them of the facts. It was a reminder that Facebook isn’t just a medium removed from real life but very much part of my life where people can reveal sides of themselves that make them seem a little less than I thought they were but also reminded me how strong my other friend is. This could have happened in a discussion in the pub but the record of the exchange remains on Facebook whereas in the pub nobody could keep going back over it.

Returning to the more professional aspects of Facebook. There was an article on the Guardian website which highlights the dificulties faced by universities in maintaining contact with students and controlling their image. Students can discuss courses, universities and even slag off the library’s fines. It seems that despite the early boundaries it is essential that all university libraries have a presence in social networks not least Facebook.

Looking through the pages I found for this week’s post it is clear students are interacting with the university presence on Facebook more than they used to. One post on the University of Sussex page shows the way that students are using Facebook to interact with their library:

Susex Facebook Post
Post from Sussex's Facebook

Previously this student would have had to find someone to complain about the heat but instead he could just post on the page. However the pages aren’t hugely popular. The British Library leads the field with 32,991 likes but Harvard lags well behind with a mere 110 (ironic as that is where Facebook started). Of the university libraries listed Brunel is the most popular with 1068 likes. It makes me wonder if the lack of interest is because students aren’t interested or if the pages aren’t interesting enough. Should we look at how companies use Facebook? I think we need a presence there because people look for us there but it needs to be interactive and not just because other people have done it.

Maybe Twitter is a more natural place for libraries to give out information? Orkney Libraries have only 837 likes on Facebook but on Twitter they have a big following of 3278. I can’t instantly explain why this is.

Week 3 – Images #23thingscity

We’re actually now on week 4 but I thought I ought to write something about week 3. Emily was the grand high master of this week and it was excellent. It brought together several concepts including creative commons which has led to lots of interesting discussions about copyright. This is of course unsurprising among a group of librarians. If we find it confusing try explaining copyright to non-librarians. This is when it becomes clear that as a law it is muddled, its aims unclear, and largely illogical. Especially went it comes to e-copyright. Comments like “but how would they know?” and “it would cost a fortune if we bought individual licences rather than just pass the password around.” are fairly standard. Of course the cost if it does go wrong can run into the millions but people seem blissfully unaware of this, the feeling being people should charge less for multiple licences if they want people to buy them.

Anyway, copyright does have a place in law. I have friends in various creative industries who rely on the fact copyright law protects their work and so they can earn money from it. Proportionally few make much from their individual works and so need to protect what they do make by stopping other people just coming along and walking off with it. I think (and hope) over the next few years a balance will be found to allow artists to produce and publicise work while being able to make a living from it.

As a user of images I do think creative commons is great because it does allow people to have control over how their work is used. I’ve paid for iStockphotos before  as they are also relatively cheap and sometimes better quality than some of the creative commons ones. 

Other than creative commons there were some other things to do, including using Flickr. I’ve had a Flickr  account for a few years but only have one album on it! This is mainly because I tend to post my photos to Facebook but recently my sister has started to use Flickr for photos of my nephew so that she can share them with friends and family not of Facebook and I can see the point of it (although you can share albums on Facebook to people not on there). I might well use it again when I do something to share with people beyond Facebook …

Anyway here’s some photos of some big prawns I had in Phuket from my flickr stream (I figure if in doubt use your own pictures!) …

Huge prawns

And here’s a nice view:


Week 2: #23thingscity Keeping up to date (igoogle)

Having revealed my lack of use/interest in RSS feeds I feel I should now say how great iGoogle is but sadly like my RSS feeds my iGoogle page has sat unloved for many years. Here it is. It’s quite pretty:


I obviously set up a search widget when I was doing my research on why people watch Romantic Comedies and my new feeds (which I will never look at) are there but I haven’t got it as my homepage as I have tabs which open in Firefox with the main pages I’ll use everyday (Library homepage, Cass databases, Google).

If I want to find out the currency conversion rate of something I wouldn’t use that widget I’ve got in iGoogle. I’d google a currency converter (Probably using the google search box which appears in my browser in the top right hand corner).

I don’t want to put people off from using RSS feeds or iGoogle. For many, many people they are excellent and fit with their own internet use but I guess that for me how I use the internet has evolved over the years and I use the bits of it I want to do the things I want to do. I am generally and early adopter and try most things once. If I benefit from it it will stay, if I don’t I forget about it until reminded later …. I wonder how many things I use during 23things I will still be using a year from now?

Week 2 #23thingscity – Keeping up to date (Rss Feeds)

This week’s set of things in 23 Things City is all about keeping up to date. Before I go on I will just say I used to deliver a great workshop at Brighton on this very topic. During this workshop I espoused the virtues of RSS feeds and so on.

Now for confession time … I don’t use RSS feeds. Gasps! I never use them. Not even while doing my film studies research or for following blogs or professional articles. I just don’t like them. I understand the point of them, I can see how they are a great idea but I, personally have never taken to them. I’ve had accounts with bloglines and google reader plus linked them to my outlook but they all sit there blissfully unread and unloved. My bloglines account still uses my brighton email address. That is how unloved it is.

I guess, quite simply when I need information I seek it out. My academic interest is in second world war film, when I’m in the mood I search for articles/blogs/books on it and get a plethora of information which goes back however far I want it to. I know I could do RSS feeds from tables of contents/blogs/websites which would give me tables of contents or even articles but for me it just doesn’t work. I feel like I am quite on top of current thinking and research in the history of film (ok not the largest moving  field).

Professionally I follow people on twitter who blog too and have to say my appreciation for blogs has increased through twitter. If they post something I click on the link in my feed and read it or if it is someone who blogs often about things that interest me I bookmark/favourite the blog and click on the link when I have time to catch up on their blog. I guess using it more like a magazine to dip into. I also post interesting things I might want to look at again on tumblr or follow tumblrs that interest me.