Customer Service With a Helping of Open Source

The power of the Internet. Typing away in Google docs when Meebo pops up with a message from someone coming in through my blog. The conversation started out with a few questions about what IM client I used and turned out to be a programmer from Grooveshark.  He had read my blog post about the widget and he wanted to resolve my problems with it.

I was utterly blown away.  This is what I call customer service 2.0.  Keeping track of what is said about you on the web and addressing issues right away is fantastic.  Only other company to do that was Napster.  The programmer from Grooveshark explained that they had had some issues when they first went live (boy can I relate to that) and he wanted to know if I had created any other widgets since my first one.  I hadn’t and told him I’d give it a try.

Went on to talk a little bit about open source (they use many open source applications and hope to go with more as their software matures) and my library (which is big on open source).  He liked our web site and was impressed with how fast the pages loaded.  Thanks to our web programmer genius, Danny Bouman.

This is definitely the power of the web being used for good.  Going to go back and make a new widget as Grooveshark is becoming fast my favorite music site.

Late night musings of a techie procrastinator…umm trainer

Explore, discover (or rediscover in this case) and play. That is what I’ve been doing all day. Some might be jealous that I had such a luxury but truth be told it was due to a bad case of procrastination. Months ago (last year even) I was spurred on by a Web 2.0 committee meeting. Being part of the staff development committee I had been privy to all the great training we were offering staff when a light bulb came on – why shouldn’t we offer more of this for our customers? Since my base is in the technology world my thoughts immediately turned to computers and the web. So while sitting in a meeting trying to figure out what Web 2.0 features we wanted to explore to give our customers more, it dawned on me – why not start with a class on just what Web 2.0 is.

Forward to this year in May when I submitted to our marketing department, a series of classes (5 in all) touching on Web 2.0. I was fortunate enough to have several committed colleagues that wanted to help me explore Web 2.0 with our customers. Classes included wikis, photo sharing, audio streaming, and social networking. All of which followed my overview class. Classes didn’t start until the second week of October and in May that seemed a long way off. I had thoughts in my head, bookmarks on at least 3 different computers, and a few Impress presentations slides started but nothing really solid.

Monday October 13th. Thank goodness for Christopher Columbus and the government for wanting to celebrate him by giving me a day off from work. However, the Internet service providers weren’t letting me off the hook that easily. I settled in at my desk – laptop, comfy chair, plenty of Diet Coke and my English Springer Spaniel at my feet. Now if only my wifi connection had enough strength to load a page of Google image results I might have gotten something done. Alas it was not in the cards or the stars. Off I trudged to work where I could be assured (I hoped) of a blazing fast connection to the Internet. Bingo!

Felt I got a lot done but time flew before I knew it it was time to pickup my son from school. Stopped to get dog food on the way home, minor bird emergency (son’s cockatiel) to attend to, dinner to fix and eat, being IT had to figure out why hubby’s Windows laptop was suddenly not connecting to the wifi while my Linux laptop had no problem (solved) and at 8:30 pm I was finally able to look at what I had done that day. UGH! What I thought sounded good this afternoon suddenly didn’t flow like I had first thought.

So here I am as if I was back in college pulling an all-nighter. Laptop, FineTune.com playing, and a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke by my side. Sadly the Springer is asleep in her cage. Hopefully, I’ll be able to put the “paintbrush” down. I tend to tweak and tweak and tweak like a painter who is never quite happy with how things look or sound.

So when I go to demo blogs, tags, comments, RSS feeds on Wednesday night, I think I might just keep my class away from my blog. I don’t want them to think I didn’t care enough to do this earlier. Honestly, things have been mulling over in my brain since I first thought about doing this class in 2007. And work has been plentiful this year and in the last couple of months very intense and consuming so much so that when I got home I was usually asleep right after dinner (not a whole lot of time left to work on things).

Lesson learned – even though I know the material inside and out, upside and down it takes time to sort, organize, play a little so you rediscover features and okay, get a little too lost on YouTube (darn those Mac/PC/Linux, Eddie Izzard, and Springer Spaniel videos!).

Where Are YOU on the Ladder of Web 2.0?

A post by (almost)baldgeekinmd on FriendFeed about a site he bookmarked using Delicious gave me a great idea about how to market the “What is Web 2.0?” classes I’m presenting. So where are you on the ladder of participation?

I’m betting that the classes will be full of mostly spectators and a few joiners with a sprinkling of collectors. I figure those that are critics and creators already get it so they won’t be taking the class. I hoping that I can gear the class towards anyone (except the inactives doubt they’d come in the first place). Nice thing about that ladder is there is something Web 2.0 for everyone no matter what level you are on. Now the trick is to appeal to those spectators and get them to move up the ladder at least just one level.

How I Got Into Blogging or Be Careful Who You Tag They May Just Tag You

Well I could blame Meredith Farkas for starting this meme or fuss at the (almost) BaldGeekinMD and Julie Strange for both tagging me. Actually I’m flattered that they both tagged me but feel maybe that Maurice is getting his revenge for the “Sisters of Irony” tag teaming him on a previous meme.

To be honest my first “dipping of my big toe in the pool” came when I participated in Maryland’s 23 Things program. I then went on to try blogging more of personal with my blog about our family vacation to the land of my husband’s birth – England. Then I tried to continue with a more personal blog about things going on in my life, Something More Than Long (taken from “My Corner of the Sky” from the Broadway musical Pippin). But I didn’t seem to keep up with it and that blog died in March of this year.

Maurice knows the answer to how my latest blog came about – peer pressure! It started during the Computers in Libraries 2008 conference. Prior to the conference, I had had the pleasure of taking an 8 week online course about online training and Maurice (and Julie too) were in the class. Finding my fellow trainer soul mate in Maurice (this man loves technology and good music as much as I do) we made plans to meet up at CIL 2008. While walking to lunch or chit-chatting between sessions Maurice had the pleasure of my outgoing personality and opinions of open source vs. proprietary software. He dubbed me “The Open Source Evangelist” but I had to tell him that title was already taken by none other than Nicole Engard of Liblime. He kept nudging me to blog.

Even after the conference when I ran into Maurice virtually he’d put in a plug for me to start blogging. But what finally got me to cave in was being tagged for another meme by Michael Sauers. It was an interesting meme – teaching the next generation about your passion (which for me was open source). The flood gates opened from there.

Although my blog isn’t always about open source, quite often it is. I try to stick to some topic that comes from my experience of working 25 years in libraryland. My current slant tends to be more technology based but I tend to include rants about fashion (Project Runway), politics, and music (help with FineTune playlist). For those that read this blog I hope I provide some insight, some fun, a bit of humor and an occasional question or two to make you think.

That’s the rest of the story…..now I want to know yours – Michael Sauers, Bobbi Newman, Joshua M. Neff, and Marianne Lenox.

In a Perfect World…

we can put an end to Word attachments, an article written by Richard Stallman. Mr. Stallman was featured in the movie Revolution OS and is the (according to Wikipedia entry) is an American software freedom activist, hacker (programmer), and software developer. He seems to be a man of strong convictions and at times can come off a bit extreme. But one can not fault him for being passionate.

My boss, Amy De Groff Director of IT, forwarded me his article on ending Word attachments. As someone that uses OpenOffice.org products which can open most Microsoft Word docs it never fails to frustrate me that someone assumes that I am using Microsoft products. Or that I want my inbox filled with attachments that take up room. But I just shrug my shoulders, grin and bear it and move on.

In a perfect world people would do just what Mr. Stallman suggests in his article – send as plain text, HTML (love that idea) or PDF. I don’t know how Mr. Stallman feels about this but why not use something like Google Docs or Zoho? All I would get in my email (if you must communicate that way) is a hyperlink. I like his ideas for many reasons – reduce the amount of space taken up by documents as attachments and not using proprietary software products. But lets take it one step further – use collaborative software such as Google Docs or Zoho. This keeps not only everyone’s inbox smaller but 20 people don’t need to download the document to read it, forgetting to delete it and then junking up their hard drive space.

I love to use things like Google Docs, Doodle (when I want to take a poll of many different people) because all anyone needs is a web browser (hopefully Firefox but that’s another battle) and Internet access. They don’t need specific software to view or edit the attachment.

I wish Mr. Stallman luck in his crusade. I think it is a noble one and one that will happen albeit slowly.

Let My Software Go!

Okay, so I’m not Moses (ala Ten Commandments). But I am proud to announce that the Howard County Library is taking part in Software Freedom Day. What I find heartening is the big name sponsors involved in this movement such as Ubuntu, Google, and Sun Microsystems. I’m proud to say that partners include Free Software Foundation as well One Laptop Per Child.

If you want to be part of the global celebration and education of why transparent and sustainable technologies are now more important than ever – join the Maryland Ubuntu Local Community Team, Howard County Library IT staff members, and others for a day of free software, presentations, and fun.

This fun and educational event will take place at our Miller Branch on Saturday September 20 from 10am until 4pm.

This is also posted at the Howard County Library’s blog “Open Source – Library Life on the Bleeding Edge”

When Words Escape Me

My boss, Amy De Groff, suggested to me that I should submit a proposal to Computers in Libraries 2009.  She knows how much I’ve enjoyed attending this conference over the years.  She felt that the classes I’m offering this fall at Howard County Library for our customers on Web 2.0 would be something that perhaps CIL might be interested in.

I’ve been staff training at the Howard County Library for some time now.  My classes are always well attended (even when they aren’t mandatory trainings) and I’ve gotten good feedback such as “I speak in plain English not techie”.  So I thought I could move onto our customers and help them learn about the read/write web and maybe able to converse better with the techies in their lives (or at the very least go home and have the courage to play a bit more with the web).

I took my boss’s advice and tried to find someone to co-present with.  Good idea if you are new to presenting at CIL to have a more experienced co-presenter help you over the bumps and take you through the hoops.  I tapped my friend (almost)Baldgeekinmd to see if he’d be interested but alas he was unable to.  However, he had a fantastic idea and one that is very Web 2.x — throw the idea out to the community!

So off to FriendFeed I went.  Within a few minutes I had a Facebook email from Joshua Neff and several comments on my FriendFeed post from Michael Sauers.   Michael and I emailed back and forth a bit and he agreed to present with me (if we get selected mind  you).

Now the fun begins, writing the proposal.  Luckily the form only requires a paragraph for the session description but what is causing me to have writer’s block is the title.  I know from personal experience that catchy, descriptive titles also catch my eye when I’ll flipping through the CIL program guide.  So for once I am at a lost for words.

I’ve used Doodle to create a poll.  So, please feel free to vote there or comment here.

Shiney But With Substance

Today Google announced their latest coup d’etat – Chrome. Some have denounced it without even being to download it (this was prior to the Noon PDT launch time). To those I say that’s right up there with judging a book by it’s cover. Some equated Google with Microsoft. To those I say, HUH?! How on earth can you compare a company that is strictly proprietary to one that embraces open source with it’s latest and coolest product? Some have complained because it doesn’t have a plugin for this or that. To those I say time will tell. But if I were a gambling woman I’d put my money on Google.

For me personally, it is my browser of choice on my Windows machine at work. If they had launched it today as Linux compatible it would be my browser of choice at both work and home. I think that is a pretty good endorsement that after 30 minutes of playing with it (what a fast download that imported everything from Firefox for me lickety-split) I decided I could do without my colored tabs in Firefox (and other plugins) or my social networks in Flock.

Why you might ask would I be so willing to give up my favorite 2 browsers for Chrome which is still in beta and does have a few flaws? 2 reasons – open source and the amazing fact that if a site should crash my browser it will now ONLY crash that tab and not the whole browser. That alone is enough to make me switch. But you add to the fact that it’s an open source browser and I’m sold.

I’m sure I’ll run into something that doesn’t work just right but I’m willing to hang in there with Chrome as Google has yet to disappoint me.

Kudos to the gang at Google. They have created the next generation of browsers that everyone will be emulating in weeks, months, years to come.

Edit – and if my opinion of it isn’t enough….there is already a listing of the 7 Really Awesome Things About Chrome

Edit part II – ah, the first real problem arises.  But then every new product has to go through growing pains.  Thanks to Michael Sauers for Digg-ing this.

From This Can’t Possibly Be True File

…but sadly it is file.

In defiance of the patent that was awarded Micro$oft on August 19th of this year, I am no longer using the Page Up and Page Down buttons on my keyboard.  As a user of open source operating system (Ubuntu at home and work) I can not in all clear conscience use those buttons anymore.  Geesh, at this rate they might have to make an OS keyboard and mouse and monitor and printer and….

Guess I could just relabel those keys – Page vertical skywardly direction and Page vertical earthly direction.

T is for Training

I had the honor of participated in a niche that was finally filled today. To paraphrase what baldgeekinmd said “if you see something missing on the web you fill it – that is part of the read/write web”. Maurice was inspired by Greg Schwartz’s Uncontrolled Vocabulary show. And after searching around the podcasts out there realized there wasn’t anything that addressed training especially in the library world. So hence T is for Training was born.

Today was the “dress rehearsal” for the show. I joined Maurice, Jennifer Ranck (Training Coordinator for Eastern Shore Regional Libraries), and Bobbi Newman Digital Services Librarian at the Missouri River Regional Library.

I expected to be just a causal testing of the software (TalkShoe) but Maurice dived right in and had an agenda setup and the topics were quite interesting. Everything from do librarians need survival training to Bobbi’s 2.1 program to general talk about the aftermath of 23 Things here in MD (once Bobbi left the room was full of just MD trainers so we slanted the topic to us) and even a small trainer vent session. I suggested that Maurice keep the last 3 minutes of the show for the trainer vent session (will save a lot on our therapy bills).

I’m excited about this show and hope that lots of other trainers (library related or not) will join us on September 12 at 10:00 am for the first show and all the others to come.

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