Saturday, November 04, 2006

A realization...

I was playing cards with a few friends this evening (Shadowfist, a wonderfully balanced and complex CCG, much better than the Dr. Who CCG I have) when it hit me: from what I've learned in the last few months, I have the necessary skills to make an online version of this game. I don't have the time, mind you, but I know enough otherwise to make the game work.

This is kind of a shock. I had thought it would take much, much longer to acquire a powerful skillset that would actually let me create an electronic version of the Dr. Who CCG (simpler rules, older promise to myself). But if I were to create the database of cards, each with their particular rules on them, probably using a program like db4o, then I could query and modify that database from a PHP webpage. I could use Javascript for any client-side action I needed, and maybe Flash for some of the graphics handling (that's the only part I haven't learn much of yet; maybe if I get it for Christmas...). People could then log on, play against each other, and build decks as they liked. I'd need a server capable of handling the (admittedly slight) volume of traffic, and permission of the copyright holders to make the game publicly available.

I might not ever find the time to do this project, but its amazing to me that I actually could.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

More web design experience

The department has finally gotten ahold of the new URI web template (not yet complete, but close enough), so we can at last begin uploading information. I have some doubts about the site going live by the end of the semester, but that certainly won't stop me from trying my best to get the coding up and running.

I have also signed up for a course from the ACRL on how to design academic library websites. Am I crazy? Don't I have enough on my plate right now? Perhaps so, but this course fits so well with what I want to know how to do, I couldn't pass it up. Many points that were initially brought until in LSC 508 are being reiterated here; I do need to pick a better font and colour scheme for my personal site. See previous postings for those plans.

It also looks like I'm going to be able to do my Professional Field Experience (PFE) with the Rhode Island chapter of SLA, reworking their website. Their needs, so far, don't seem to be terribly complex, so I'm not sure I can make a 3 credit course out of it, but I'll know more about that after we do a user-needs assessment. I think a blog or wiki could provide some valuable functionality, if the chapter members want it.

Factor in my current database course, and website plans (as a LSC 593), and I should have some solid online information systems experience by the time I graduate.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Considering my course of study

It's been something like 5 months since I worked out how exactly I was going to earn both Master's degrees in just 2 more years. Going through my papers near my desk, I rediscovered the plan I drew up, and thought it might be of interest to someone.

I've already taken all my Core courses in LSC, as well as Special Libraries and Information Architecture. The former got me into the profession of librarianship, and the latter focused my interest in online systems design. This semester, in addition to my other pre-requisite computer courses, I'm taking CSC 436: Database Management Systems and LSC 550: Cataloging of Digital and Non-book resources.

I see it all fitting together like this: I want to focus on web-based information applications. Most simply, this is websites, but it can get rapidly more complex as the information dealt with grows. Advanced cataloging will allow for clear organization of most any kind of material, according to whatever standards have been accepted. Databases are the electronic systems that make cataloged information accessible and searchable. I will continue with database development in CSC 536, the advanced database course. I will also pick up a course on Operating Systems and Networks, since they are the background structures that make databases possible. Back in library school, I will take a course on Indexing and Abstracting (LSC 545) or Information Storage and Retrieval (LSC 549), depending on availability. This will provide a more generalized ability to categorize things. A course in Digital Libraries will fill in some of the practical knowledge in making these online structures work.

I had originally planned to take several credits of a Professional Field Experience (PFE), possibly at Massachusetts Historical Society, possible at Brown University. However, looking more deeply at the course listings and what I think is most valuable for me as a professional, I think I will take LSC 593: independent work, instead. This will allow me to make my webpage the focus of credit hours. I have several databases I'd like to design (one of which I'll get to do for CSC 436 this semester!), and I know I won't get to them if I make them pet projects. This way, not only will I get to do work that I find personally valuable and stimulating, but I will also do something practical that I can show to potential employers. I already have experience in a library setting, working reference at one of the best Bibliographic Instruction libraries in the country. I like my coworkers, and if I did a PFE, I'd likely need to quit. Better to keep on at the reference desk, at least until next summer.

There is also the matter of my thesis, which will hopefully provide me with an academic outlet for melding my two degrees. Perhaps I can relate it to my website, or perhaps it will be more content to post. That remains to be seen; I must seek council.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Card Catalogue

Seeing as I haven't posted in over a month, I figured it was time. I don't really have much going on professionally right now, since it's the summer, and I finally have a month off. I've gone camping in that time, as well as taken trips to Washington (state) and Boston. Oh, and I finally joined ALA and LITA. Just in time for the mid-Winter conference!

Since I don't have much else to say, I figured I'd post a picture of my card catalogue, obtained a few months ago from URI library (they said I could have it if I could move it; not that hard a task with 3 people and a heavy-duty handtruck). I'm very fond of it, and look forward to filling it with interesting things (probably Legos).

Friday, July 14, 2006

CSC 212 and Website development plans

I've been working my way through my Data Structures and Abstractions class, re-acquainting myself with Java and programming. Combine that with working as a Graduate Assistant in GSLIS, and I don't have too much time to make updates to the webpage. This is especially frustrating since I just took all those great courses at SLA 2006. So, just to get it straight in my mind what I want to do, I create this plan:

1. Keep updating the schoolwork section with worthwhile applets and essays.

2. Get my own domain name.

3. Integrate RSS feeds, including the new one for updates to the site.

4. Upload my gallery content to the new domain. Also update my intro picture.

5. Move this blog and the update feed to my domain.

6. Create something in Flash to help learn the ins and outs of Flash 8.

7. Redesign the website, using the principles I learned in my Wireframing course. I will keep the architecture, but the visuals will be upgraded. There will be subplans in this section:
  • Have the corner graphic automatically rotate between various kanji each time you visit
  • Use div sections to make changing navigation less of a pain
  • Stop using the rotating orbs, and put in more custom GIFs/Flash.
  • Integrate Flash and Javascript to make a CSS-rotation interface, allowing users to pick from 3 different styles (I get complaints about the green on black, but I don't want to abandon it entirely). This means I pretty much have to make the page visually three different times, but keep all the names of tags consistent. Could be tricky...
  • If I ever create that Dr. Who CCG computer game, I will find a way to integrate it into site, so my friends can come and play me online (this might not happen, but I'd like it to).
If I can get as far as number 5 by the end of the year, I'll be doing well. I mean, if I'm busy now, think how bad it'll be with 3 times the creditload, and twice the work hours!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

SLA Conference, day 3

I hadn't planned on attending courses today, but I'm very glad I did.

The Science of Chocolate, presented by Debra Miller and Dave Stuart, both of Hershey Co. - A very well presented and informative course. Dave Stuart started out with the history of chocolate, from its discovery between 1500 and 300 BC by the Olemics to building of Hershey, PA. While chocolate started in South America, currently over 70% of it is produced in West Africa. Some random facts:
  • The word 'chocolate' comes from either Xocolatl or Cacahuatl, depending on the language you're talking about.
  • Ancient glyths reveal a god of Chocolate, who happened to have a scorpion tail.
  • Cacao beans were used as currency in the New World for a while; 10 would get you a rabbit.
  • Spanish sailors originally mistook cacao beans for almonds, due to their size and shape (not their taste, of course).
  • Chocolate was a drink only until 1820, when Cadbury mixed it with sugar and cocoa mass to make the first bar.
  • While chocolate has caffiene, a bar contains less than a cup of decaf coffee.
Debra Miller then went on to explain the health benefits of chocolate. Naturally, she is coming from the angle of a chocolate company, but her cited research was valid and scientific. Apparently, cocoa has more antioxidents per gram than any other natural substance tested so far. More than blueberries, more than coffee, more than tea. This results in a statistically significant reduction in blood pressure and related cardiovascular diseases. The darker the chocolate, the better, generally speaking.

Closing General Session, featuring Walt Mossberg - This was mostly a thank you and rah-rah session for the conference, with some previews of next years' event in Denver. Walt Mossberg gave a very good talk on the future of the internet and information technology. He envisions the internet falling into the background, like the power grid, and for our devices to plug into it and get what information they need (microwaves that can download cooking programs for specific foods, for example). Cellphones will become the dominant devices for retrieving content, since they are more portable and longer lasting than laptops, and can do just as much these days.
The major impediment to this is are the "Soviet Ministries", the communications companies who want a return on their investment, but are going about it in stupid, counter-productive ways. He calls for a rewriting of copyright law to be centered around the consumer, not the copyright holder, enumerating our rights, rather than merely barring copying totally and then adding a few exceptions. He favoured DRM, but not the way its implemented currently.
Walt also spoke of how search engines haven't really done anything new in the last half a decade, and that figuring out a way to improve them will be the next big leap in internet technology. Products like Yahoo! Answers he calls "ethically irresponsible", since it claims to give real answers, but really only gives anonymous people's opinions. Anonymity is a major problem, he believes, since people lack responsibility. Just as Open Source will never take off because no one is responsible for the content; it will never get past the 80% development that geeks take it to.
He covered several other topics, which can likely be viewed on the SLA's website in completion. I found the talk to be excellent, witty and definately worth my time. I'm glad Prof. Stankus had me go (pre-requisite to the free lunch he provided, which was absolutely delicious, and gave me a chance to catch up). I look forward to SLA 2007 in Denver, if I can make it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

SLA Conference, day 2

Another exciting day.

I missed the bus into town, so I had to drive in. Upon arrival, I saw the same bus number that I had dismissed at the Park n Ride... dopey me. I hate to be wasteful, paying extra for parking, but it allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to run into Prof. Stankus (always a delight; I had hoped he would make it and we'd cross paths). There will be lunch tomorrow.

On to the courses:

How to use RSS to know more and do less, presented by Jenny Levine - This course was so popular, we had to move to a larger room, and there still weren't enough seats. The popularity was well-deserved; this was a very well structured and presented course, with lots of vital content. The basic message: Web 2.o is the future, and if we want to be relavent as professionals, we need to get on board. RSS is being built into every part of the new Windows OS, and even small-town newpapers have feeds. You can collect the newest news from any sites you wish with an aggregator, and then explore them at your leisure, in one place. You can also get software to put feeds into your own website (which I will be doing), keeping your content fresh with no human intervention necessary. How do you make a feed yourself? Easiest way is to get a blog. Blogs are automatically set up to work as RSS, and can be used for more than just diaries. If your feed is often read, there are even ways to get revenue for it.
I plan to implement feeds for Slashdot, Boing Boing,, ResourceShelf and now Shifted Librarian into my News page; I will also use Feedster, the equivalent of Google for RSS, to feed me searches on subjects like DRM and the RIAA, copyright, Google Book Search, FRBR or anything else I'm interested in. I also plan to add a second blog for keeping track of updates to my site, and having it fed to my page, as well.
Jenny Levine's notes can be found at and on the SLA Conference blog.

SLA Tech Zone: Ready...Site...GO! - Wire Framing a Web Site, presented by Thomas Dopko - Another course will Tom, this time about using Photoshop, ImageReady and Dreamweaver to create a prototype website for approval by some kind of committee. Once again, we started with theory, and then moved into practical, hands-on work. The basics of what we covered: use good Information Architecture to make your site logical and easy to navigate. Have no more than 3 clicks between the user and the material (if its really weird stuff that people won't want often, perhaps more is okay, but people are lazy this millenium). When you create your prototype, put in only a few links, enough to get across the navigation concept to your audience. Since you've only 'wire framed' it, you haven't invested too much time, and can change it quickly when they shoot you down.
You can create an image of your webpage in Photoshop. Draw it, as a graphic designer would, using layers for each different element. Once you have all you need, slice the image into smaller bits, so its easier to load. Try to keep the slices as close to even as you can. That way, when you click 'Save for the web', the HTML document you get has easier table code to deal with (you don't want to loose the speed added by slicing to the lag of longer HTML loading). You can then use the map tag in Dreamweaver to make Image Maps that fit your images, making a much more interesting and unique page. A word of caution: using images for everything is great, but Google indexes by text, so make sure you include your 'alt' attribute.
I will likely go back into Photoshop and create a version 4.0 of my site in the near future, using this wireframing/slicing/image mapping strategy. This might roll out at the same time as the Flash content, or it might be staggered; I don't know yet. I have to download some trial versions first, and find free time to make the changes (oh, yeah, and do all the graphic design!).

Tomorrow, we have the Science of Chocolate, and then lunch and drinks with Prof. Stankus. From there, on to DC, then to the Outer Banks for some vacation!

Monday, June 12, 2006

SLA Conference, day 1

Today was my first full day at the SLA annual conference in Baltimore, MD. Aside from sharing an umbrella with the president-elect, and having lunch with a colleague from the library, I attended two courses that I'd like to write about while they're still fresh in my mind.

1) At-Risk: Capturing and Preserving Web Resources, presented by Cathy Hartman - This program addressed the issue of finding a way to catalogue and keep record of old webpages. The main problem is the horrid lack of standards; the W3C has recommendations for what should be on all websites, but these recommendations are not followed with any consistancy. has caught many terabytes of information, but has no indexing system. What we need, the speaker said, was more funding from organizations to preserve web resources, and more people who can communicate between Librarians and IT people. The presentation was peppered with library "Bushisms", which were interesting, but didn't add serious content.

2) SLA Tech Zone: Macromedia Flash Integration - Scalable, Portable and Memorable, presented by Thomas Dopko. I really enjoyed this course; Tom started out with the reasons why Flash has value in a library setting. Many people assume that since its 'flashy' and so often used for funny animations, that it has no serious applications. This is untrue. Flash is simple a programming language for content that happens to lend itself well to visuals. It can be used just as effectively, if not moreso, than Powerpoint, and is far more memorable. It can also be read by any browser with the necessary plug-in; not so with Powerpoint. Unfortunately, Flash animations are more difficult to create than Powerpoints, and the software is pretty pricey. For a large organization that can afford a Flash expert, though, it is very practical to integrate.
We also had a chance to play around with Macromedia Flash 8 a bit, putting together a simple animation from some pre-created parts. I wish we'd had more time to work on it, but I'll see Tom again for the Wireframing course, and I can download Flash for 30 days from Adobe. That should be long enough to get some decent graphics put together for my site.

I left the conference very excited and pleased. I look forward to tomorrows courses!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another dual program

Some research for my Information Architecture class as turned up another dual degree program between Library Science and Computer Science.

The University of Hawaii's LIS is located within its Computer department, so I'm not surprised this dual degree has come into existence. However, even if URI is not the first to offer these two degrees at once, we are still the only place I know of on the East Coast that does.

I had applied to UH, and got in, but from what I've heard, Hawaii isn't in the best economical situation right now, and the cost of living is very high (which may or may not balance out with the low tuition). Also, previous residents and recent visitors have told me that there is quite a bit of racism towards Caucasians.

I'm in the right place.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


This Blog is intended as a supplement to my webpage. Here I will comment on my school and work life, and address the challenges of earning my dual degrees in both Library and Computer Science.