Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Using Bookmarking Services for Organizing Citations

One of the things I love about speaking to classes is that the questions that come up always spark great ideas and conversations. I spoke to a Library Science class last week about what it's like to be a distance librarian in a university library. We had some very good questions in the discussion, but it's continued via email. Today, I got a question about organizing resources for papers, projects, and classes.

We do subscribe to a service called Refworks. Refworks is a bibliographic manager, like Endnote and Procite, but it's web-based. You can import citations from many of our databases (including book records from our catalog or WorldCat) and Refworks will even format them, in any of a huge number of formats, when it comes to do your paper. It's a great service.

However, it's a little clumsy for anything besides the materials in the databases. For databases without standardized formats, for obscure print resources, and for open web resources, you must manually enter records. I only use it for materials for which I know I want formatted citations. Most of my collections are open web sites for presentations, subject guides, blogging, collection development, and professional development. Entering all of that into Refworks would just take too much time.

You can also use a bookmarking service. These are services that allow you save URL's, usually with some sort of categorization, in a web-accessible format. Like a Bookmarks or Favorites list that's accessible from anywhere. There is generally a link that you save that allows you to add a page you are viewing to your account. So the basic procedure would go:
  1. Start your research.
  2. When you find an interesting resource, bookmark it to the service, adding appropriate keyword tags or adding it to the appropriate folders for later retrieval.
  3. Later, review the materials you've found, and select the ones you're going to use for your paper/project. (At this point, you could add the selected items to Refworks to format for your Reference list.)
  4. Next time you do a paper, review the relevant categories and add a new tag, for the new paper, to the ones that might be useful.
I use for most of my resource organization now. Any web address can be added, even resources within the databases--just make sure that you use the permanent URL as described in my linking guide. So if I had a collection of articles from Academic Search Premier, for instance, I would find the link on the article record page, click my Add to bookmarklet, and replace the automatic URL with the one on the record page. That one will include the proxy information so if I want to access the information from off campus, I'll get prompted for my ID and password.

If the material was something that I thought might disappear quickly, for instance a news article from a local paper, I might use SPURL or FURL, which both cache private copies for later use. (SPURL interfaces with quite well.) Both SPURL and FURL also allow for private links, which aren't available in your publicly accessible account. (Private is a relative term, don't cache sensitive information in a service like this.) The caching may not work as well with password protected materials like the databases--however, the databases are much more stable than the open web, so the link should last (though you might want to annotate the URL with the citation information, just in case).

All of these services allow some sort of categorization. allows keyword tagging. FURL uses folders. SPURL uses both. They are all searchable. You can tag or file links into categories for a particular paper, project, or class. If you use a service that uses tags or multiple folders, be sure to categorize your links by subject, not just project. You may want to use the same resource later on for a different project, and the subject terms will allow you to find it more easily.

One of the reasons I like is that you can coordinate tagging between members of a study or project group, and then you can view all the resources tagged by the whole group. (You have to decide on a unique tag that no one else is likely to use. I recommend something having to do with the course number--and that you do a tag search to be sure that some other class hasn't used it already.) If you use RSS, you can monitor what everyone is finding through your RSS reader. Or you could use a service like RSSfwd to get the new resources by email. FURL and SPURL also have RSS feeds, but the group work is harder to manage.

Another reason to like is the large number of add-on services available. A newish one is Pasta, which allows you to paste a small amount of text into a new site and add it to your account. So you can save the reference to something you can't find online. (Just be aware that Pasta is completely open, so don't post incriminating emails or anything. You could add a Pasta note that you've got something related in your email, however.)

There are dozens of bookmarking services out there, most of which will do the job of organizing your class research efforts. Which service you use is mostly a matter of what you find useful to your own style and preferences. There are a few things to think about:
  • Do you want to keep copies of the actual page? Then be sure the service you choose has a caching component.
  • Do you care if the whole world sees everything you save? Some services offer a privacy option and a few are completely private.
  • Do you want to share with a group? Some services make it easier to coordinate than others.
  • Do you want to be able to add anotations to your links? Many services allow some notation, but the length varies. Many are quite short.
If you want to try it, but aren't sure what service to try, I'd start with It only takes a quick registration, and an email address, to start an account. It is also sort of the defacto standard, so many services offer "convert from" options, which makes it easier to switch from if you decide you like something else better. There's a long list of social bookmarking services at this Wikipedia entry. This list contains some non-social services, i.e. ones that don't create publicly accessible pages where other people can view your links.

Newer services are generally more sophisticated, so if you want to try something more advanced, you might try one of the newest services, Blinklist. Blinklist really emphasizes the social aspects of discovery and collaboration, so it might work for team projects. I haven't used it yet, having too much invested in to want to switch to something brand new right now. I am keeping an eye on it though. There's an enthusiatic review at Blended Edu.

If you're interested in my ridiculously large collection, it can be found at (I like the Cloud View better, personally). My public FURL list is at FURL has folders for two classes, including EDTC590 (University of Phoenix). I started using after I finished my classes, but I have tagged references for conferences and projects.

Update (10/28/05): just saw David Weinberger's post about future plans for's good stuff coming up!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Carnival of the InfoSciences #12

Picture uploaded on July 7, 2005
by Le Scribbler

Welcome to the Carnival of the Infosciences, #12!

This week's submissions were few, but excellent.

Rick Roche, of ricklibrarian, has a great post describing some of the problems of
Open WorldCat for Rural America. Two problems, one regarding membership and one regarding algorithms, combine to create a...umm...bad picture of (and for) libraries in rural areas.

Dave Hook of The Industrial Librarian, submits Lessons Learned From Conducting a User Survey. He has some thought-provoking points about thinking ahead as you create the questions: "What if the most popular response is ‘moderately dissatisfied’? Then what – do you make improvements…only not as much as if people were ‘very dissatisfied’?"

Joy Weese Moll is back with another insightful post at Wanderings of a Student Librarian: Networking works. Joy, I'm going to send the URL to our student listserv, for a little encouragement to our ALA student chapter. Joy's been covering a lot of job and student related topics recently (and I wish she'd been around when I was in graduate school!)

Natalie sent in a suggestion for Phil Bradley's post on the Google Librarian's Center. Phil's blog is great for keeping up with news on searching and webdesign. Personally I haven't signed up for the Google Newsletter by email yet: as the Distant Librarian pointed out when this first surfaced, you can subscribe by RSS via Google Groups.

Whoops, almost forgot this one (sent to Greg at OpenStacks, so it wasn't in the proper email folder): Nettie at Ask Nettie Day comments on why TV makes me a better librarian. I was asked about what I watched in my job interview here. (Not much.) More comments.

Editorial selections:
Picture uploaded on August 12, 2005
by Todd Klassy

One thing I wanted to do as a Carnival editor was to give some examples of relevant posts outside of the immediate library field. As a distance education librarian, I follow a number of ed-tech blogs, but especially Weblogg-ed. I thought that this post, Pull vs. Push Edcuation, was especially meaningful to me as a librarian. Libraries are traditionally push institutions in this sense (trying to keep push and pull straight is quite confusing, as they sometimes seem to switch meanings): "designed to “push” resources in advance to areas of highest anticipated need." What would a "pull" library consist of? Maybe RSS feeds for subjects, including new books and database searches.

This post is also meaningful to me as a blogger. Will Richardson is posting about a post by Stephen Downes, who is posting about a post by John Hagel III, about an article...etc. I do read Stephen Downes' OLDaily, but I didn't pay any attention to this particular post, until Will Richardson commented on it, and I never would have stumbled across Hagel post under "normal" circumstances. That's the beauty of blogs.

Another source I read regularly is SearchEngineWatch. This week they mentioned a nice piece of news regarding the Google Print lawsuits: Author Wants To Be In Google Print, But Publisher Says No. Do authors want exposure (which would include access in libraries) or protection? And who will get to decide?

If you haven't checked out the ALA TechSource blog yet, be sure to give it a look. Makin' Copies and Caching In caught my eye this week, as Tom Peters reflects on copyright, caching, and the moon. He joins Teresa Koltzenburg, Jenny Levine, Karen G. Schneider, and Michael Stephens in blogging for ALA. Regarding copyright, also check out the iTunes at Stanford Questions and Answers (PDF), which states that "sharing music is illegal."

Other things that appeared in my RSS reader this week:
And I have to end with a comic strip: Unshelved's What happens in the library, stays in the library. I think we've all had this temptation.

Next week's Carnival of the Infosciences will be held at Tinfoil + Raccoon. Submission instructions are here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

WebCT's Vista: Coming soon to a campus near you

The CSU system is in the middle of a transition (it's more than an upgrade) from WebCT Campus Edition to WebCT Vista. Of course, if you're not at Central, you may not have noticed. CCSU is piloting the transition and is running a couple dozen courses on the new system this semester. They are also hosting training sessions this month. I went to the introductory sessions last week.

If you are used to Campus Edition (CE), Vista is different. The underlying technology is different, a flat database (think Excel file) vs. an Oracle relational database (think Access on steroids). In CE, you had limited choices and a fairly fixed organizational structure. In Vista, the opportunities, and the decisions, have multiplied. It's actually a little hard to compare them, especially since I haven't used CE much, but also because the underlying...hmm...philosophy is different.

The overall organizational structure is Server -> Institution -> School -> Department -> Course -> Section. Those with privileges at higher levels have access to the lower levels, but most faculty will be teaching at the Section level. It will be possible to combine sections to have one big class of all the sections you are teaching, which makes updating easier, but then you have to deal with the potential interactions. You can also split a section into groups, and assign different materials, including quizzes, to different groups. At least one faculty member in the pilot is working this way, with multiple sections combined into one class, and then the sections split into groups for testing and grading.

Most of the types of resources are still there: organizer pages, content pages (HTML), quizzes. However, Vista has a built in HTML editor (WYSIWYG in Internet Explorer), so you don't have to create pages outside WebCT and upload them. You can also use it to edit pages within WebCT--so no more downloading, editing, and reuploading to make a minor date change. I uploaded something with a bad image link to my test class, and was able to fix it to point to the right file in a few seconds. You'll probably want to use HTML content pages more, as Vista's organizer pages only have two text blocks, upper and lower (or header and footer as they are called in Vista.)

The Calendar now does recurring events. For those who don't have a pre-created syllabus, there is a syllabus creation tool that allows you to add text to a standardized syllabus template

In Vista, you not only have more tools, but you can do more with them. Pretty much everything, every action, every link, can be tracked. You can tell how much time your students spend within WebCT, where they went, where they started and finished. Yes, real "class participation" evaluation. If you assign a reading, and link to it, you can find out who clicked on the link. (Kind of spooky, in some ways. For students reading this, think of it this way: finally a way to prove to your professors how much time you spend on your online classes!)

The downside: only content can be transfered from CE to Vista. Anything you can download can be transfered (HTML pages, images, PDF's, etc.), and the questions from the quiz databases, but not the organizer pages. They don't migrate well, and I'm assured you'll spend more time fixing the migrated pages than it would take to redo them. I was able to copy and paste from CE pages to Vista pages from two different Internet Explorer windows. That probably won't work when you are on the same server, but you could copy the text from your CE organizer pages to Word, and then copy that to Vista organizer pages. It's awkward, but better than the kind of copy editing I've been told about with migrated files.

There is also a major organizational change: My Files is now a generic file holding folder, not attached to any course sections, and content for each course section should be added to individual section folders. So when you are teaching more than one section of a course, you will need to be even more careful about keeping organized, and keeping track of what's been updated.

I have a binder with the handouts from the two sessions last week, plus a link to the Vista Orientation course with the handouts from this week's classes (which I didn't attend). I'm trying to set up a "class" in both CE and Vista on using Library Resources in WebCT, so that people can see what things look like (and how they can use library resources in WebCT.) The classes have no students, being just demo courses, so if you'd like to see what it looks like or see the handouts, we can set up a time to do a demo (use the One-on-One instruction form and select any of my subjects, or contact me via the DE Library Home Page). I'll take some screen shots when I'm satisfied with the basics, and post those.

Now booking for the Carnival (of the Infosciences)

Greg over at Open Stacks started up the Carnival of the Infosciences about 11 weeks ago. A blog carnival is a collection of posts that highlights great posts of the week, but that switches hosts each time. Next week (Monday, Oct 17-Sunday, Oct 23) I'll be collecting posts for Carnival #12 to be hosted on this blog, Monday, Oct 24, 2005. Submission guidelines are on the Open Stacks blog, but send submissions to me via the comments to this post, or via any of the contact methods mentioned on the DE Library Home Page. Entries can be either something you've written or something you've read.

I am, of course, especially interested in distance education, but the Carnival is not limited to that. Anything regarding libraries, information science, searching...or the information aspects of distance education. I've found that the Carnival is a great place to find new blogs to read.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Problems with the Emerald Journals

We're having a problem with the Emerald Full Text Suite, Library and Management journals. We have access, but no full text. Emerald is working on the access issues, so if you cannot get on, try using the "old" site at The link on the library Databases list takes you to a page with the above link, but linking in from the Journal Locator may cause problems. Call (203-392-5732) or email ( the reference desk if you have problems.

Looking for online tools

When I was an online student (Master's in Education, University of Phoenix), one of the hardest things was switching from computer to computer. I might stumble across a great site while at work that I would want to include in a paper--that was sitting at home on my computer. I might need to work with my classmates on a project, when we weren't all in the same time zone (or continent). I might find I had an extra ten minutes before a meeting at another university, and want to do some research in their databases, but on a computer that wasn't mine and that I couldn't print from.

I'm sure that other online students have similar problems. So, I'm trying an experiment. With the proliferation of great online tools, I want to know if it's possible to do most research related functions online: notetaking, collaboration, writing, presentation, etc. They must be browser based, i.e. not require any downloads to use, and must be server-based, i.e. be accessible from any Internet connected computer. Ideally, they should be usable in multiple browsers, and at least editing/adding should be password protected. They should also be free or very reasonably priced (maybe $30 a year or less?) This is a Web 2.0 sort of thing.

I'm going to write this up as a "Toolkit" for online research that I am compiling, which will also include tips on searching databases and the open web, plus copyright and plagiarism information.

Here are some of the tools I've found so far:
  • Writely -- an online word processor (I blogged about this one last week.)
  • Num Sum -- an online spreadsheet (Haven't tried this yet, but it looks interesting.)
  • eSnips -- a web note-taking tool (This does require a download and at this point only works with Internet Explorer. I also can't get the "snipping" part to work right now. However, the concept is perfect and it's an early beta, so it's still on the list for now.)
  • Kiko Calendar -- online calendar with collaboration features
  • WebNotes -- open notetaking (not password protected)
  • OperaShow Generator -- an online generator for the Opera browser based presentation format (Specific to the Opera browser, but even in other browsers you get PowerPoint style organization, kind of like presentation notes. If you have CSS skills, you should be able to tweek this to be viewable in any browser that uses CSS, though you might lose some of the advanced functions.)
  • Skype's conference calling abilities
  • Jybe for co-browsing the web
  • Conversate for online discussions
  • Wikalong for annotating websites (Firefox extension, but usable in other browsers via Bookmarklets)
  • bookmarking tools like and FURL for saving links and sometimes content
  • blogs for notetaking and reflection (in some, you can make the entries private)
  • bibliographic citation managers and formatters, like RefWorks (RefWorks requires a subscription, but it, or a similar service, is available at many colleges and universities.) Some bookmarking tools also do citation managing, like Connotea and CiteULike, which pull citation data from databases, and FURL, which exports in APA, MLA, Chicago, and CBE formats. RedLightGreen, the Research Library Group's online catalog (or, really, a book search engine) will save and format references in APA, Chicago, Harvard,MLA, and Turabian.
  • Also, things that aren't meant for research use, but can be used that way. LibraryThing could keep a collection of books used for projects.
Anyone have anything else to add? Please don't send your favorite generic bookmarking tool or blog host. I know I've only scratched the surface of these tools, but I don't want to make a huge list of these tools that will be impossible to keep updated. If you have a huge list that you plan to keep updated, I'd wouldn't mind seeing that, or if there's a particular tool that does something unusual, like FURL's export in citation formats. (Remember that comment word verification has been turned on, so if that sort of thing makes it impossible or too annoying for you to comment, please contact me in another way.)

I would also be interested in hearing from developers on what you are planning, and from students (and instructors) on what you think is needed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Commenting guidelines

I got hit with Comment Spam this weekend, and ended up deleting most of the comments on my blog. My favorite is definitely the ones (multiple, on multiple posts) that started, "We are trying to find a good porn movie to take the kids this weekend." (link removed) There were several variations, including "movie tv", but I wonder if I should forward the link to the FTC or FBI for encouraging the distribution of pornography to minors?

Just in case someone objects to the deletion of their comment, let me set out a few guidelines on how I will treat comments.
  • If your comment contains a link, and it isn't immediately obvious why this link was included in a comment to that particular post, it will be deleted.
  • Multiple comments will be deleted--I'll leave the original if it seems like a legitimate comment on the post.
  • Anything that I deem to be offensive or hateful speech will be deleted. This is very subjective, but I pride myself on being a "reasonable person," as the lawyers say, so I'll try not to delete something that just attacks me personally. If you have an objection to something I say, please respond in a courteous manner, and I'll leave your comment up for the world to read.
  • As much as I love the ego boost, I'm going to delete comments that just say, "Good Job" with a link to the commenter's website. It's hard to tell the difference between people who really want to tell me I've done a good job and those who just want to increase traffic to their own sites. If you like what I say, you are welcome to contact me in any of the ways listed on my DE Library site, or post on your own blog (I have "ego feeds" from Feedster and Technorati, so I may see it if even if you don't tell me), or cite me in a paper, but let's extend the email etiquette of not replying with a "Good job" or "Me, too" to blog comments, please.

  • So the basic commenting guideline is: Comment relating to the post, in a courteous manner. Otherwise, chances are that I will delete your comment ASAP.
I don't want to enable the "word verification" for comments, because I hate those things*. But if necessary, I will, or turn off the anonymous comments, which I also don't want to do, because I object to making someone register with yet another Internet service just to talk to me.

By the way, to all comment spammers, according to Blogger, none of your comment spam links increase your Page Rank, because all links in comments are tagged with the "nofollow" tag. So links in my blog won't help you increase traffic to your site via Google. Especially since I'm going to delete those comments as soon as I find them.

*Update: I'm turning the verification on, I really don't have time to spend deleting comments. Sorry, folks!