Using Web Tools to Curate the Web

Tools, part 1
CC BY-SA Flickr user scjody

As I may have alluded to, one of the focus areas in my graduate studies is digital collections and curation.  In fact, one of my jobs at the University of Michigan is in the Digital Curation department at the Bentley Historical Library.  While most of my time there is spent performing QA on the web archives and processing digital collections, a lot of my cognitive energy is spent contemplating how to curate massive collections so that the best of it makes it out of the depths of the repository and into your eyeballs.  And then, into your brain!

As you may recognize, the web is a vast and dynamic collection in and of itself.  How do we find what we’re looking for?  Better yet, how do we find what we don’t know we’re looking for?  Enter: the social network.  While the social web may have been built around our desire to connect, its growth can clearly be attributed to our reliance on our networks to help us find the best, most relevant content.  Obviously, there is no shortage of tools to share interesting content in a one-off fashion: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, take your pick.  But for carefully curated collections of web content that are explicitly relevant to users, no tool has met the need as well as the blogosphere’s link round-up.  It’s as effective as it is pervasive.  As simple as it is extensive.  The only problem?  It’s always done the same way.

I came across Digital Inspiration’s Best Tools for Content Curation in my feed reader one day and I knew immediately it deserved another look.  Outlining the pros and cons of several content curation tools, the article helped me to rediscover tools I had long forgotten (what up Delicious!), as well as new ones I had yet to try.  With all the growing options for content curation tools, I figured I would test some of them out to see if I could add a little sumthin sumthin to the blog’s oldest content curation mechanism (besides the blog itself): the link roundup.

Over the next month or two, I’ll be adding a new weekly link round-up feature utilizing a couple of the tools I’ve found to be the best fit for this particular service.  First up is Bundlr.  It’s simple to use a la Firefox extension, supports a good number of web services, and can be embedded.  Which Storify–the next on deck–does as well.  I’ll be looking out for several things as I conduct this little experiment: usability, service integration, ease of sharing, and probably some more stuff I encounter along the way.

So stay tuned every Wednesday for some awesome web content coming your way courtesy of yours truly and these (possibly excellent?) tools.  I strongly encourage you to share your feedback.  Do these tools suck?  Do they make a link roundup better?  Do you think I suck at picking out interesting web content?  Whatever the case, holla back in the comments!

Em xo

 

 

 

Awesome Summer Adventures // Part 3

I’ve already told y’all about my trip to Chicago. And my trip to Cleveland. So all that’s left of my summer adventures are my trips to Baltimore and Pensacola. And since Pensacola is my home town, I don’t have a lot to share aside from the things I alluded to in my (sometimes) weekly gratitude post. If you don’t mind, I’m just gonna combine these two trips into one post or I’ll never get this series finished. So let’s do the damn thing.

Baltimore

Ahh, Baltimore. The land of crabcakes and more bars per capita than anywhere else in the union (not a scientific fact really, just my observation). This wasn’t officially my first trip there, but since I was like, 8 the last time I went, we’re gonna call this my first visit to B-More. Can ya dig it? The purpose of the trip was to visit Jeffrey’s old friends Luke and Jojo, who he hasn’t seen in nearly 15 years or something insane like that. They own an adorable little record shop in Hampden called Jojosouth and I highly recommend you visit if you’re ever in the area. I think they primarily deal in collectible and old-school stuff, but you can find some new releases, too. Ain’t it cute:

 

 

 

We spent most of our time kickin it in the shop and on the porch above the shop, but we did get to do a little touristin’ around in Hampden and Fell’s Point. Which reminds me… Fell’s Point, the oldest neighborhood in Baltimore–like, 1600’s old–has got to be the best pub crawl destination I have ever encountered. It is this neighborhood alone that has me thinkin that Baltimore has the most bars I’ve ever seen in one town. I think I stopped counting at 27 within a two-block radius. They really love their beer in Batimore, y’all.

Anyhoo, the hubs and I weren’t really in a pub crawl kind of mood, so we spent most of our touristin time wandering in and out of thrift shops. Check out some of the awesomeness we came across:


The original 3D!  Circa 1865.

 


Wax cylinder records.

 


The most bizarre painting I have ever seen.  I should host a caption contest for this one.

 

Overall, we had a FABULOUS time in Baltimore. Although, I think that was mostly due to the company we were keeping. Since y’all probably aren’t lucky enough to be friends with our friends, you can make up for it by visiting a few of the places we enjoyed while we were there, like the Annabel Lee Tavern, the Golden West Cafe, Holy Frijoles, and Atomic Books.

 

Pensacola

Like I said, Pensacola is my home town and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it there. Mostly for my people that are still there and the nostalgia that one’s hometown inevitably brings.  The beach helps, too.  I mean, could this be any more beautiful?

Pensacola Beach
CC BY-NC Flickr user theo0023

 

My trip mainly revolved around hanging out with my mommas and celebrating this girl’s 30th birthday:

 

and making a fool of myself in bars:

 

 

Long series short, I had a kick-ass summer what with all the traveling and all.  Not that I don’t love Ann Arbor, but sometimes a girl’s just gotta get away.

xo Em

Awesome Summer Adventures // Part 2

Hey y’all!  Remember that little post I did about my trip to Chicago this summer?  And remember how I kind of implied that there was more to come by naming it “Awesome Summer Adventures // Part 1“?  Well, since autumn is right around the corner, it might be about time to introduce the next episode.  So I’ma gone ahead and do that…

Cleveland

Yes, you read that right.  Cleveland.  Perhaps not the summer adventure you may have thought of when you read the title of this post.  In fact, Cleveland was not my idea of a summer adventure either.  But some old school friends of the hubs from Florida were gonna be there for a week or so and Jeffrey and I had a long weekend to spare, so off we went.  To Cleveland.  Horray.

As it turns out, Cleveland wasn’t nearly as desolately boring as the 5 hours of Ohio we usually drive through in order to get the hell out of Michigan.  It was green and lush, had a glorious breeze, and was home to some surprising swankiness.  In case you don’t remember your geography, Cleveland is lakefront property.  Actually, more like oceanfront property if you’ve never seen a great lake before.  As a Michigan resident, OF COURSE I’ve seen a great lake before.  But not one as vast, serene, and beautiful as this one.

Another really awesome thing about Cleveland is all of the charming little neighborhoods and old brick buildings.  I’m a sucker for old ass buildings.  Especially old ass brick buildings.  And boy, does Cleveland got em.  We dined in Little Italy (and overdosed on cannolis) and drove around the old downtown areas that have clearly been there since god was a boy.  Since the whole point of the trip was to spend some QT with Jeffrey’s friends, we even had some time to get some silly kodak moments with our buds.  FYI, this is generally what life is like in Ohio:

IMG_1610

The absolute best part of our trip to Cleveland was our day at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I must admit, when I first learned that it was in Cleveland I was like, “WTF! You mean to tell me that the world’s largest rock and roll museum is in some BFE town like Cleveland?  Cleveland, OHIO?!”  But y’all, for real.  Even if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the only reason you visit Cleveland, it will be worth every minute, every dime, every boring mile you spend driving through the state of Ohio.  (Sorry for all the anti-Ohio stuff… I am a Wolverine after all)

The one shitty thing about that place was this: NO CAMERAS ALLOWED.  Seriously.  Even cell phones.  But, being the outlaws that we are, we snuck a few.  Like this one:


Johnny Cash’s git-fiddle!

And this one:


Jimi Hendrix’s quilted outfit of awesomeness!

I think my favorite part of the museum was the special exhibit they had goin on entitled “Women Who Rock”.  Of course, all of bitchin ladies you’d expect were highlighted… Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Kim Deal, Tina Turner, Madonna, Siouxie Sioux, Patty Smith, Janis Joplin, etc, etc.  I did have to do a major double take when I saw some imposters in there though.  Nelly Furtado?  Rhianna?  Are you KIDDING me?  I’m not saying they aren’t good at what they do.  I’m just sayin they ain’t worthy of the adoration true female rock and roll icons are.  At least they had the good sense to include my teen idol Kathleen Hanna in there:

Anyhow, it was fascinating to be within a mere 6 inches of rock and roll–nay, AMERICAN–history and I highly recommend a trip to anyone who can make the drive.  Chances are, Cleveland will surprise you just as much as it did me.

xo Em

PS – Oh yeah, and since I’ve never done more than get out of the car to pee in Ohio, I considered this a visit to a brand new state.  Which means, I crossed off #84 on my 101 in 1001 list.  Hells yeah.

How to Protect Your Digital Photos from Ruin

Do you have a back-up plan?
CC BY-NC-ND Flcikr user Images by John ‘K’

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my coursework at SI, it’s that LOTS OF COPIES KEEP STUFF SAFE.  This is also the tagline of LOCKSS, a Standford University digital preservation project, but nevertheless.  It’s true.  Let me tell you a little story about how I almost lost 10 years of photographic memories…

Five years ago I realized that the digital photos that I was amassing were filling up the 128Mb hard drive of my old HP desktop at an alarming rate.  Since upgrading that beast was outside of my budget at the time, I purchased an external hard drive on super blowout from Best Buy.  Problem solved!  I’d been using that hard drive for my primary storage of photos and videos ever since.  Fast-forward 5 years later and I’ve got close to 200Gb on that sucker.

After getting a new laptop and moving a couple of times, that old external spent a good year or so locked up in a box until the day that I needed to dump the photos from my phone and my laptop on it.  Never backed up.  Not even once.  So, I dig it out, plug it in, and–as you can imagine–nothing.  It powered on, but my computer wouldn’t recognize it.  It made weird sounds.  It blinked and buzzed.  I tried a new cord.  Nothing.  Scoured the internet for troubleshooting tips.  Still NOTHING.  At this point I was hyperventilating.  Photos and videos of nearly every memorable event of the past 10 years gone for good.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

So I think, “Okay, there’s got to be a data recovery service I can use.”  Newsflash!  Data recovery services are HELLA EXPENSIVE.  Best Buy, the least expensive service I could find, charges $200 just to see if it’s possible to recover your data.  If they can, you’re lookin at a grand, baby.  This, I could not afford.  Long story short… after wallowing in depression for a few weeks, I decide to try one more time on my Mac.  After giving it a couple of swift kicks to the groin (figuratively speaking), it worked!  HALLELUIAH!

My point here is this: BE YE NOT SO STUPID!  You best be makin lots of copies of your stuff or you might find yourself in a similar situation.

Here are a few tips for preserving your photographic memories for a lifetime:

  1. Know what digital photos you have.  You may not want to go as far a complete inventory, but keeping a list of what you have–and where–is helpful in making sure you keep them all preserved over time.  Honestly, I find it easiest to keep them all together in one directory.
  2. Organize your files.  Use whatever method makes the most sense to you.  I’m a fan of organizing by date, but you can also categorize your photos according to their content.  An easy way to do this is by using a photo management software like Picasa or iPhoto.
  3. Make copies and store them off-site.  Whether on an external drive, CD/DVD, or in print, you should always maintain at least 2 copies of the photos you want to preserve.  One of those copies should be kept elsewhere… a friend’s house, a safety deposit box, a storage unit (climate controlled, please!).
  4. Back-up your files!  Perhaps the most important (and easiest) thing you can do to preserve your photos is to utilize an automatic back-up service for your machine.  There are plenty to choose from… I use the CrashPlan Unlimited Family Plan so that all of our computers are backed-up online to the same account automatically, no matter how big our directories get. They can also back-up external drives!  At $119 a year, it’s worth every penny.
  5. Still have analog photos?  Digitize!  I fancied myself a photographer way back in the pre-digital camera days and I’ve got TONS of prints that I want to preserve.  I’ve started sending small batches of photographs to scanning service PeggyBank to digitize and back-up.  If you have a lot of prints, it may be a little costly to do this all at once–which is why I do a little here and there.  You could, of course, do this yourself with a quality scanner.  I highly recommend PeggyBank, though.  They sent me a hand-written thank you note for my order!  How awesome is that?
  6. Protect your files from data loss.  Did you know that digital files corrupt over time?  It’s called bit rot.  To protect your files, check them every year to make sure that they can still be read.  And every five years, make new copies.

It may seem like a lot to do, but just think of how awesome it will be opening up your photos from college when you’re on your death-bed!

xo Em

Most Awesome Week Ever // 9.18.11

Today I’m celebrating the most awesome week ever.

It's fall y'all.

my niece is crawling! // Jeffrey is recording the new Hand to Claw album as we speak // quiet weekend with my pup // takin care of business // gettin out of my comfort zone // sharing my idea in the face of fear // mad pageviews // puppy tracks // taking the entrepreneurial leap // long talks with mom // the first fall days // looking forward to a visit to the cider mill // spending way too much $$ at whole foods // happy hot dogs // gettin blog love // switchin up my class schedule // receiving hand-written notes from customer service reps // sharing old school photos with the internet

What awesomeness are you celebrating this week?

xo Em

Awesome Eats // Crack Cake

Alright folks. I realize this may be a little dangerous, but I am going to give y’all the recipe to the birthday cake that Jeffrey and I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.  I figured I would just nickname it Crack Cake, because well… yeah.  It’s formal name is “Butter Pecan Cake with Pecan Pie Filling, Coconut Pecan Icing, and a Chocolate Glaze”.  YEP.  THAT’S RIGHT.  Use that imagination for a second and pretend you are tasting those flavors right now.  Mmmmmmm.  It’s ridiculous.

Don’t like pecans?  Don’t like coconut?  Well, this here cake’s gonna change that.  Believe me when I say that there is NO WAY you cannot like this bitchin ass baked good.  I myself have never cared for pecans, pecan pie, butter pecan… none of it.  Some people would say that is pure insanity in itself.  But this pecan-laden sugar monster beat me into submission.  So I, dear friends, am here to pass that glorious experience on to you.

A disclaimer of sorts: we didn’t make this from scratch.  When we were concocting the recipe, we weren’t really sure if it was going to be as good as it seemed.  We didn’t want to waste a bunch of time baking with nothing to show for it, so we used pre-packaged cake and icing mix.  It was my birthday after all, and we had a damn romantic comedy to watch!  If you want to take this to the next level and bake it from scratch, GO FOR IT.  Just promise me you will report back.  So, without further adieu…

Crack Cake

Ingredients

1 package of butter pecan cake mix (we used Duncan Hines)
eggs, canola oil, & water as called for in the cake mix
1 prepared pie shell
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tub of coconut pecan icing (we used Duncan Hines)
1 bottle of chocolate glaze (again, Duncan Hines… they should be sponsoring this post damnit!)

Directions

  1. Prepare the cake mix as instructed on the box.  Make sure you make two layers… we did 9″ rounds.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Combine beaten eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, molasses, butter, flour, salt, and vanilla in a bowl.  One variation would be to add chopped pecans to this as well, but we didn’t since I don’t like pecans (or so I thought!).
  4. Pour mixture into the pie shell and bake for 30 minutes. The filling won’t be completely set at this point, but this is what you want.  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Flop one of those cake layers out onto a plate and start scooping out the pie filling and piling it up on top.
  6. Once you have as much pie goo as you can get on this layer, flip your other cake layer over and put it on top.  The filling is going to ooze out of the sides… don’t worry, it will still be delicious.
  7. Pop open that tub of icing and get to town slappin that stuff on.  Whatever you d, make sure you use it all.
  8. Follow the directions to heat up the chocolate glaze and pour that stuff over the cake as you see fit.
  9. Try as you might to allow the cake to sit in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you dig in.  But if you can’t help yourself, that’s okay.
  10. Enjoy!

 

You’re welcome. :)

xo Em

Most Awesome Week Ever // 9.11.11

Today, I’m celebrating the most awesome week 2 weeks ever.

gckb tattoo

turning 31 // my new macbook pro!! // late nights on the porch, home-cooked meals, and lots o laughs with my BFF Jen // a new tattoo! // eatin a meat banana // the spectacle of full-contact jousting and watching our dude win // magic hat no. 9 // people watching at the ren fair // fresh corn chowder… mmmm // organizing my backpack for the first day of school // discovering the “campy b movies” section on netflix // larabars //napping with my puppy // singing songs with the hubs // kickin it with cousin Carolyn // coding // springing for omnifocus to keep me super organized // all my teams–LSU, FSU, Michigan–winning 2 weeks in a row

What awesomeness are you celebrating this week?

xo Emily

Back to School Y’all

Site/flow mapping
CC BY-NC Flickr user boxman

This week, in addition to revamping my blog a bit, I started fall classes at SI.  As much as I dread the insanity that a full load of graduate classes brings, I LOVE “back to school” season and all of the hope and excitement that it brings.  Before the readings, before the boring lectures, before the all-nighters, there is this.  This feeling, this hope, that perhaps one of these classes you’re about to dive into will be the one that changes your life.  And of course, organizing your backpack and folders and buying supplies is pretty awesome, too.

So far I’ve only attended one class, as most of my classes are on Mondays.  And last Monday was Labor Day, hence, no class.  So it’s like I get TWO first weeks of class.  I mentioned once before–really confusingly, I admit–what I am studying, but I’d like to share a little more about my actual classes.  Chances are I’ll be showing off some of my work here over the next few months and it would probably help to know where it’s all coming from.  So, without further adieu… my fall schedule:

Database Application Design

Bright and early Monday morning I’ll be diggin into some MySQL and PHP code with my favorite instructor, Dr. Chuck.  He’s got some great resources on his site, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to program in Python or build an app with Google App Engine, check it out.  Anyways… in addition to honing my database coding skills in this class, I’ll be doing some group design/consulting for a client with some fellow students.  People like to hate on group work in school, but it is seriously the best way to learn how to apply skills in the real world.

Interface & Interaction Design

Ooooo doggy, this one’s gonna be exciting.  As the name implies, this course is the flagship user interface/interaction design course at SI.  In addition to learning the basic concepts of UI/IxD, I’ll get to do some practical application in class and design/build something for a client with another student group.  That’s two, if you’re counting.  I’ll likely be doing some of what is pictured above… BRING ON THE DRY ERASE MARKERS!

Content Management Systems: Configuration

I’ll be wrapping up my Mondays with this course, which is often referred to as “the Drupal course” even though there are 3 courses in Drupal at SI.  You’d think with a title like “Content Management Systems” we would be using more than one, but Drupal is the most robust, complex, and scalable of them all, so that’s what we work with.  However, I may be dropping this one as I’ve done a lot of work in Drupal recently and this course may be a little too intro for me.  And, it requires another client project.  That would be THREE. GROUP. PROJECTS.

Programming

More coding.  This time in Java, which I am completely new to except for some haphazard JavaScript I’ve played around with.  I’ve already attended two of these classes and the good news is: I like the teach.  Bad news is: the textbook cost me $130.  Seriously.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Transformative Learning & Teaching with Technology

This course is my cognate, meaning it is hosted in another school.  In this case, it’s the School of Education, which I am mad familiar with thanks to my M.Ed..  I’m pretty sure this is a theory course, so I’ll be reading and writing mostly.  About technology as an educational tool.  Oughta be interesting, as well as give me a break from all the coding.

So there you have it.  This is what will be occupying 60% of my time this fall.  Probably more like 80%.  Shit.

Are you a student?  What’s kinda learnin you got goin on this semester?

xo Em