Monthly Archives: July 2009

Did Library School Change Me?

Looking back on my old posts from before I went to school at a hybrid Information/Library Science school, my opinions of librarians seemed fueled by a bit of prejudice. For example, in my visiting days post I wrote:

I sat down at a table whose occupants were librarians. Pretty much everyone there was an LIS (library and information services) specialist. This wasn’t really a great first impression, since I applied under the HCI (human-computer interaction) specialization, and to be honest, libraries aren’t really my thing.

What, exactly, did I have against librarians and libraries? I think I mostly felt that, from the school’s website (or the parts of the website that I studied), the program was more for people who were generally interested in information from a more technology-oriented viewpoint. So I was hoping to see more technological-minded folks at my table.

I still, however, decided to enroll. And I’m glad I did. Slowly, I think I started to understand what libraries are all about. I started using the local library. A lot. It probably also helped that I worked at a library my entire time at the school. I wasn’t studying to be a librarian, but I was exposed to the culture. Computer nerds and librarians make a good team.

So did library school actually change me? Or was I somehow intrinsically drawn to the program where computer nerds and book nerds collide? Maybe a little of both. I’ve always had a secret love for organizing and archiving things.

For example, pretty much no one in my family seems to care much about backing up files. I, on the hand, am a bit obsessed about it. I still have files from middle school preserved in their original file formats and directory structure in place. Who knows, some day I might want to look back on that stuff. I’m also kind of a nut when it comes to properly organizing and applying metadata (and preserving said metadata) from photos. Oh, and also backing everything up, both on-site and off-site (using multiple online services).

I also get really irritated when I go to the library and see something like this:

Infuriatingly bad organization!

Is that a Drama and Horror blu-ray disc I see mixed in with the Action ones!? Usually I will take the offending discs and put them in the right place. There was also that one time I saw Harry Potter in Comedy when it should have gone in Fantasy. The worst is when a DVD gets mixed in with blu-ray. That’s like the same as a book being in the CD section! Oh man, now I’m rambling.

The point is, I think I already had some Librarian/Archivist in me before coming to library school. Hanging out with like-minded people probably reinforced the behavior mentioned above. And probably for the better. If you’re a computer nerd, I suggest you check out libraries (and librarians!). If you’re a library nerd, I suggest you check out computer nerd stuff (and computer nerds!). Together, we can make the world a more information-y place.

Vitamin Water Sync: Free MP3s and Economics

vitamin water sync

I’ve become kind of a Vitamin Water fan. Not because I think it’s actually healthy or anything (the second most common “vitamin” (ingredient) is sugar), but because I like the taste. I’ve actually been drinking the stuff for like a year now. Anyway, I recently noticed (like a month ago) that there was a new flavor available called “Sync.” The cool thing about this flavor is that it includes a code on the cap that you can redeem at AmazonMP3 (for some reason it says the music comes from MySpace) for a free song. By “a free song,” they really mean $1.29 of credit, since some songs cost that much, but others actually cost less.

Because of this added value of this flavor (the other ones don’t have free songs), I’ve been kind of loading up on Sync. This also leads me to a semi-interesting economics problem. If I regularly bought MP3s from Amazon.com, I’d be doing myself a favor by getting $1.29 worth of “music” for ~$1, along with a free sugary, sorta-vitamin-y drink. This price difference was even greater when I went to Kroger and got 10 Vitamins-Water for $5!

But I don’t regularly buy music online. If I like an artist and want to support him/her/them, I’ll buy a CD, because then at least I have a physical representation of something that I can “own.” Not just bits. But what about Sync versus other flavors? While I like the other flavors (and variety is good), I’ve kind of been giving Sync an 8:2 split. So for every ten Vitamin Waters I get, about eight of them are Sync. I mean, I like to have some kind of variety! The Sync flavor is actually pretty good, too. It’s probably just about equal with any other Vitamin Water flavor.

One positive about the whole free music thing is that I’ve actually bought a lot of music. Here’s what I’ve gotten thanks to glacéau:

I basically got a bunch of Ingrid Michaelson singles, a ska song I liked that I didn’t have on my computer and a Jonathan Coulton “best of” album. All artists who I like and want to support. I mean, Jonathan Coulton kinda offers all of his music free anyway, so I saw this AmazonMP3 thing as a good way to send him some money (I also went to one of his concerts, which I assume helped support him (or maybe TicketMaster just pocketed it all!!!)).

Sadly, my free ride is nearing its end. The last time I went to Kroger, I bought some more Sync. When I got home and drank one, I realized the caps had changed. No more free songs! The wording on the bottle even changed to reflect the fact that there’s no song in there. I assumed the flavor would have free songs forever, but apparently not. I’ll keep an eye out for the bottles with songs, but I fear they will eventually dry out. Pun intended.

The last economics question for this blog post: If Vitamin Water presents an extra incentive with the drink, then removes that incentive later, does it hurt its sales? I used to buy the drink because I liked it. I may have replaced the reason for buying it with free songs. Now that there are no more free songs, will I continue to buy? Or will I feel robbed because I am now paying the same amount for less?

To Google Voice or Not To Google Voice?

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I recently got a new iPhone 3GS (32GB!) and with it a new phone number. I’ve had a Google Voice number from way back when it was called GrandCentral. I never used it because I found the integration a bit lacking. As I now must inform people of my new number, I was thinking about giving them the Google Voice one instead of the “real” one. This is also as Google Voice is getting considerable buzz since it’s finally giving away invites after closing off the service quite some time ago.

Here are some pros and cons to either choice.

Pros:

  • I don’t have to ever tell people I’m changing my phone number again in the future.
  • Neat voicemail transcripting.
  • Routing calls from phone to phone (I might want it to go to my work phone at certain times, mobile  at other times)
  • Googliness?

Cons:

  • The voicemail system won’t be integrated into my iPhone
  • There isn’t an official iPhone app for Google Voice yet.
  • SMS doesn’t work with short codes (40404 for Twitter)
  • Calls made through voice won’t count as “mobile-to-mobile.”
  • Other integration issues.
  • Possible dependency issues.

For me, Google Voice is pretty cool, but not cool enough to rely on because of its crappy integration. By crappy integration, I mean that Google Voice just simply cannot expect to integrate itself well into other companies’ phone systems. There are a number of examples of this. One is that if I want to send a text to someone, I need to use Google Voice to do it instead of my phone. This adds a layer of obfuscation to the process. Here’s what the help doc on Google Voice says:

Call, Voicemail and SMS Issues: Receiving SMS on phone from 406 numbers
When you send an SMS through Google Voice, the SMS appears to be sent from your Google number. When someone sends an SMS to your Google number, and it’s forwarded to your mobile phone, it won’t appear as from the sender’s actual number (e.g., the SMS may appear from 1-406-xxx-xxxx). This is so that when you reply to the 1-406-xxx-xxxx number from your phone, the SMS you send appears to be sent from your Google number and will be saved in your Google Voice inbox.

Holy crap, that’s just confusing! Another example of Google Voice not playing well with existing companies’ systems would be mobile-to-mobile calls. If I call my sister using Google Voice, the call probably won’t count as “free” since it’s going to Google instead of directly to her phone number. Though apparently if you add the Google Voice number to T-Mobile’s “Faves” you could get some pretty interesting free call results…

Another peeve I have about Google Voice is that they’ve decided to make the mobile apps for Blackberry and Android thus far. I wonder if this is because the iPhone is a competitor to their own Android platform or if they just decided it would be easier, or for any other reason. It kind of shows a “Microsoft Moment” for lack of better term for Google; writing software to serve their own ends versus writing software to reach their customers on the platform they use. I don’t have any numbers to back this up though (are there more Android+Blackberry users than iPhone?), so at this point I’m just complaining because I have an iPhone and it doesn’t have an app.

For now I will ditch Google Voice (or just not use it) until it can be integrated effortlessly into my own mobile phone’s system. The whole point of using Google Voice is to simplify things. I can see it’ll be a really complicated road ahead for Google to actually implement this, but I hope they do. It almost surely means they’ll need to work with phone companies directly. This will probably take time and lots of money. I’ll just stick with my own phone’s capabilities until then.

Segway Tour Impressions

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This weekend, I was in Gettysburg, PA visiting a pal. Besides enjoying history, there are many other things to do. One of these things is riding a Segway around the historic battlegrounds. I guess that counts as enjoying history as well…

Emily, Katie and I set up an appointment at SegTours of Gettysburg for a “Segway Experience.” This did not include an actual tour. While we were getting ready for basic training, the lady asked us if we’d mind going on the real tour (she claimed she wanted to get more practice doing the tour). We were really happy to get a free upgrade since the reason for choosing the “experience” was to lessen the burden on our pocketbooks.

Basic training consists of Segwaying around in a parking lot until you get the hang of it. There are also cones involved. I got going pretty quickly. It probably has to do with the fact that I do Wii Fit a lot and thus am quite aware of my balance most of the time. The Segway accelerates backward and forward based on how much weight you put forward or backward. Staying stationary is kind of a challenge as you must keep your balance completely in the center. The video above is of basic training. There was an older couple who also did the training but didn’t feel confident enough to go on the tour. They were nice though; the older gentleman was smoking a pipe on his Segway.

The actual tour had us going through the Eastern battlefield. I must say, it was really fun going through alleyways and roads on the way to the actual battlefield. We also went through a hotel parking lot and passed a swimming pool. It’s really fun just effortlessly accelerating around while everyone else needs to walk up a hill. While the others complained about the Segway being a lot of work to ride, I thought it was pretty decent; just like standing.

What did I learn on my tour? That I want a Segway. I should really just get something more reasonable like a bike (which I think would provide the same kind of exhilaration, but with pedaling). Segway-riding is really fun and I hope to do it again some time. Oh, and history is also good, I guess.

Found Audio #01: Working Undercover For the Man

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Found Audio #01: Working Undercover For the Man

Here’s the first installment of my Found Audio series of “podcasts.” The start of my tape (at least, one side of it) featured a recorded session of Dial-a-song, They Might Be Giants’ phone song service. You call the number and they play you a song. Back when I recorded this, long distance phone calls were not free. Unless, of course, you used Dialpad, the PC to Phone service that worked over 56kbps connections circa 2000! Due to the transmission of the song from NY to phone to internet to my speakers to my portable tape recorder to my Macbook Pro, the sound quality is not the best.

This was a pretty popular dial-a-song, but not their best. I think I had recorded another one, possibly “Hovering Sombrero.”