Web 2.0


Photo Credit: Tom Swift

Do you journal? I’ve been trying a few different ways to get my thoughts on paper daily and it seems like nothing sticks for more than a couple of weeks – at the outside. The closest I’ve come to consistently entering my daily activities in a single place is the “to-done” lists that I keep in Evernote. I started doing them every weekday to help me put together a document for MFPOW (My Former Place Of Work) detailing my job responsibilities for when I left. I still do it, though not on a daily basis any more, for really busy days just so I can keep my work straight in my head. It consists of taking the daily note that I have set up through IFTTT that shows up in my Evernote Inbox around sunrise each morning and contains the day’s weather forecast and adding everything I’ve done to that note. Under the forecast, I enter “To-Done:” and then start listing stuff. Every question I’ve answered, every edit I’ve made, every meeting I’ve attended – it all gets entered. This is the closest I’ve come to real, actual journaling – and it is entirely mechanical – what I’ve done, not how I’ve felt about it or what I plan to do or anything like that.

It’s getting to the point that I’m considering trying actual paper and pen (though that never works because keeping track of pens is not my strong suit – I spend more time looking for one than I do writing…). Using my iPad as a journaling tool fizzled out pretty quickly as has every other “real” journaling effort I’ve made. Maybe the tactile pleasures of a Moleskine notebook could help me keep up a regular diary or journal? I’ve been trying to spend some time in meditation each day – maybe I could incorporate the two (though I skipped the meditation today, so that might not be all that helpful).

If you journal, how did you start the habit? What helps you keep it? I’m going to give it another try, so any advice from successful journalers is welcome!

Cloud Computing Web 2.0

Web 3.0, Knowledge Graphs and Google

Several years ago, at the 2008 NAGW conference just outside of Chicago, IL, I gave a talk about the coming of Web 3.0. Fast forward a few years to yesterday, when I was trolling about on the Internet and came across the explanation of Google’s Knowledge Graph – a GUI for the technical stuff I presented to government web developers those few years ago. The presentation is embedded below and, while it’s 4 years old and a bit outdated, it does still describe the underpinnings of the Semantic Web, mostly. No mention of HTML5 resources, of course, and some of the stuff I mentioned didn’t really pan out…

Web 3 0 from Robin Hastings

But, I checked today – just to see if one of my predictions came true. In the presentation, I said that with the proper coding of the web with semantic markup, search engines would become very powerful – able to answer questions asked in native English. So I went to Google and entered the same phrase I’d used in the presentation – “who starred in both saturday night fever and pulp fiction” and got the answer – John Travolta’s wikipedia page is the 4th response and the 3rd response shows a video clip with him featured in it. The future is here!!

Search for "who starred in both saturday night fever and pulp fiction"
Semantic Web In Action

All that being said, we aren’t yet at a “good enough” place – anyone who has spent more than a few minutes fighting with Siri can tell you that there are improvements to be made. Google is making those improvements, though, and pretty soon our patrons will be asking Google the exact same questions they are asking us at the reference desk – and finding the answers. This doesn’t mean reference librarians will become obsolete – it means that reference librarians will become the resource of choice for those who need more than a simple answer to a simple question. That’s what reference librarians are good at, so I’m not concerned about the “future of the profession” in that regard, but it is something that we’ll want to keep an eye on!

Until our patrons become universally wired into the ‘net (if that ever happens…), we have a way to get those simple questions answered now without resorting to fancy boolean statements  and we have a way, with Google’s knowledge graph, to point our patrons to even more information about their subject, should they want it.

Libraries MRRL Personal

Scared? Check. Excited? Check. Must mean I’m starting something new!

I put in my notice today at my current POW (Place of Work), the Missouri River Regional Library, in order to move to Lawrence, KS and take the position of Director of Technology for NEKLS (North East Kansas Library System). December 21, 2012 (I never realized – that’s the Mayan date, isn’t it?) would have been my 14 year anniversary at MRRL. That makes this a pretty big move and makes the “scared” part of the headline understandable, I hope. Heading out to Kansas to help Kansas libraries with their technology issues and to support what appears to be a *very* forward-thinking set of member libraries? That’s where the “excited” part comes in. I may be quiet for a while as I tie up loose ends at MRRL and begin to figure out just what I’ll be doing at NEKLS, but I’ll be around on my social network sites, I’m sure!

cooking Personal

Cooking and Traditions

I mentioned in an earlier post that my current obsessive compulsion is to cook, learn about cooking and read about cooking. This weekend, after watching my son (and the rest of the Jay Marching Band) nearly sweep their division in the first marching band competition of the year, I settled in on Sunday to do laundry, finish a book proposal and cook. I made both cottage pie and my Mom’s apple crisp.
The cottage pie is pretty basic – I browned some hamburger, made a gravy from the rendered fat, flour, a bit of beef stock and some milk then covered that will a bag of frozen mixed veggies and some homemade garlic mashed potatoes. That all got covered with some cheese and baked. It was very tasty and will be even tastier tomorrow for my lunch and possibly again on Wednesday…
As for the apple crisp, that is where the tradition part comes in. My mother has always made the best apple crisp ever. She doesn’t doctor up the apples – she just pours them into a baking pan, puts her crisp mixture over it (1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup each white and brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, some cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, mix it up with a pastry blender or in the food processor until the butter is thoroughly mixed through) and bakes it at 350 for an hour. I dredged my apple slices in a flour, cinnamon and nutmeg mixture and added some butter and maple syrup to the apples before I added the crisp. The apples themselves were excellent, but it’s the crisp part that I won’t mess with. That stuff is so good and so perfect with the apples – and it’s the part that makes me nostalgic for family reunions where it was plentiful and Thanksgiving dinners where it starred alongside the pumpkin pie for dessert.
Now I’m wishing that I’d gotten some pictures of my Sunday cooking efforts – the cottage pie was actually quite pretty, with the fluffy potatoes covered in cheese.

Web 2.0

NAGW – Day 3

I was up at 7 and breakfasted and back in bed by 8. I did get some rest in this morning and then went to lunch and the Taking It To The Street – Delivering Citizen Services Anywhere by Michael Jackson of Adobe. He started with a one minute video of all the cool things Adobe can do (think Wired and HBO Go on the iPad as well as other stuff). Adobe is “changing the government through digital experiences”. He started off talking about budget issues and other challenges that the public sector faces daily – and promises that Adobe has actually solved some of those challenges.
Mobile – for some people, the phone/connection is the only way they can connect to the ‘net. He mentions the greatest rate of adoption in the mobile sector is lower income – they need to have access to government services that are just as fully featured as are available through a full computer. Digital Government Strategy – 30 page document, 3 main narratives – use mobile, protect privacy and make gov’t info machine readable by default.
Showed a picture of a line coming out the door at a DMV office and talked about the silliness of the only people being empowered to interact with their systems are the relatively few clerks. This is changing in the private sector – Travel Agents are getting squeezed, customers can now interact directly with the reservation system – but not in gov’t. Yet.
To force old systems of record into new systems of engagement can create a “hot mess”. Adobe helps to translate legacy systems to new interfaces.
Adobe and Digital Gov’t – 3 legged stool; Citizen Engagement, Business Process Efficiency, Measuring Effectiveness (aka Analytics). Content Level Security (the seat of that 3 legged stool).
Adobe’s 5 steps of citizen engagement – create, manage, deliver, measure, optimize.
While Mike was talking about managing assets in Adobe, a question about accessibility was asked. Mike said that all of their products are 508 compliant.
(Sorry about the great appearance/disappearance issues on this post – I accidentally posted it early, but I’m going to keep it up and update it as the day goes on, hopefully this does not cause a Twitter storm).
Personalized engagement – Amazon says “Hi Mike” when he visits, we should be able to as well.
I’m getting the feeling that I’m not going to be able to finish this write-up – it’s getting on to 1:30 and I need to get to my room and get set up for my upcoming session.
He spent some time showing the failure of the site on an iPhone – an agency that is designed to help those most likely to have no other way to access them than by a mobile phone is unreadable on a phone.
Then he started talking about Adobe’s mobile emulator – he also suggested to build for mobile first, then build for desktops/etc. You can personalize on geography, browser, etc.
He next began talking about how Adobe helped the Army from start to finish. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to bail to get to my room and such. Next update will probably come from my house after I get home…

And now I’m home. I finished the day with my Tips for Solo Techs presentation,  which is embedded below, though it won’t be nearly as useful as attending the session is, because it became a big discussion about what tools we use to make our lives easier. I had my suggestions, of course, but the brilliant NAGW attendees used stuff that was just as helpful and we all shared our best practices with each other. It was all good!

Now I’m going to go sit on my couch and veg out in front of Glee for an hour or so, then go to bed. As always, NAGW was an amazing experience and an incredibly valuable conference. While I got a lot from the formal sessions, the contacts I made and the business cards I collected at the Nighttime Networking events are like Platinum to the NAGW session Gold… 😉


NAGW – Day 2

Day 2 was my day to be a conference attendee – no sessions for me today! The day started with an excellent breakfast and a great talk by Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America. Go ahead, click the link and check it out. It’s sort of a Peace Corps for the IT world – a small number of fellows get to spend a year researching, developing and implementing a solution to a particular problem in a particular city. The results have been good – she told of several stories, including one in Boston, where the development of a web app that helped parents map out which public school their child would attend, based on location, was a big success and done cheaper and faster than would be possible through a standard requisition process.

In Honolulu, the web site was out of date and not at all useful to citizens. They did a content refresh and created a “Honolulu Answers” mini-site that took the top 15 searched phrases/questions and answered them. They also did a one day write-a-thon (think hack-a-thon) where 60 people showed up and helped to write the content to answer the next 30 most asked questions in the site’s search logs. While Code for America wasn’t big enough to do all of it, they found capacity in the community itself.

She told more stories of successes – and admitted to failures – and then began talking about how citizens see the government. She has an iPhone for which she pays a nice chuck of change. She doesn’t begrudge that money, though, because the interface of the iPhone makes it a pleasure to use. If gov’t interfaces were a pleasure to use, would people see paying taxes as less of a burden?

That was the keynote talk – and it was a good one. The next session I attended was on Hootsuite for Government. We use Hootsuite at MRRL, but not to it’s best effect, as far as I could tell. From the information I got from this session, I was right. I found out a bunch of new tips and ways we can use even the free version of Hootsuite to get way more value out of it. The slides for the session, including the list of resources and other information, are linked above – go check them out if you have any interest in managing more than one social networking account.

After this was lunch (I won’t give you a blow-by-blow, but the hummus was to die for) and then a session on Responsive Design and Responsive Content by James Hopper, a professor of Web and Digital stuff (probably not his actual title) at the Johnson County Community College. He talked a lot about CSS3 and some about HTML5 and a bit about Javascript and how they were all going to work together to make it easy for us to create designs that fit whatever screen – be it a tiny phone or a huge HD monstrosity of a monitor – our sites might be called up on. The concept is pretty cool and I might have gotten a little over-geeked out at the thought of flexible, responsive grid layout in CSS3 (which is coming, hopefully soon…). The responsive content part was a bit shorter – it was less technical and covered understanding what our users want and providing it to them. Easy, right?…


After all that knowledge got stuffed into my head, I went for a walk. I ended up at the Williams Sonoma in the plaza and spent some time wandering around, trying really hard not to actually get drool on anything. I succeeded. Mostly. There was the whole section of Le Creuset cookware, you see…

After that, I went to the networking event sponsored by NationBuilder. There was some sort of seafood pizza and free hard cider and cool people all over the place. I hooked up with an especially cool person and ended up talking everything from Moodle to kids while enjoying the bounty provided by the sponsors. After that, we decamped over to the Melting Pot (fondue!!) for a party sponsored by CivicPlus.

The remains of my chocolate and the end of my whiskey and diet coke. They served me well.

At this festive event, my new friend and I hooked up with one of the sales people and started off talking about civic engagement and web CMSs. After a couple of whiskey and diet cokes and a metric tonne of fruit, brownies and rice crispy treats covered in chocolate, we were all having a grand time.

That party didn’t break up until nearly 11. You will have to wait until Day 3’s post to find out if I actually woke up in time for breakfast tomorrow, though… 🙂 Stay tuned!!

conference presentations Project Management

NAGW – Day One

Lots of driving started off the first day of the NAGW conference. The hotel is about 3 to 3 1/2 hours from my house, so I got up and headed out. I arrived at the hotel shortly after 11 and immediately registered, changed into my NAGW speaker’s shirt and hit the lunch table.

The view from my table was lovely. In the foreground are the boxed lunches, in the midground is the hotel’s pool and in the background is the KC Plaza. The weather was beautiful and the food was excellent and the company was even better. I had a lovely talk with the web person for the college at which my friend Doug works, so we had something in common, right away.

After lunch, I did my song-and-dance routine on Project Management.

The slides may not be so instructive. I used 28 for a 4 hour talk, so I did a lot of talking and less slide moving. The session went well with people at the end talking about how they are going to start using what they’ve learned immediately – which is nice to hear, as the speaker!

Afterward, I checked into my  room and rested for a bit. I then went out walking into the Plaza and ended up having dinner at a “Gastro Pub” called Gram and Dun, which was quite good. I wandered back to the hotel, late, and popped in VERY BRIEFLY to the opening night reception. I was pretty tired by this time – it was all of 8pm – and just wanted to go back to my room and relax. So I did.

GTD presentations Project Management

Join me at NAGW again this year!

I’ll be speaking on Tuesday on Project Management for Web Designers and on Thursday on Techie Tips for Solo Web Designers at the National Association of Government Webmasters conference. It’s in Kansas City and is going to be, as always, both a fun and educational time! It’s not too late to register, either – if you are in the area and want to get some excellent education and networking time in, this is the place to be!


New season of Hoarders is coming! So of course I think “GTD”…

A screen shot from the A & E show Hoarders – each and every thing in this picture is a procrastinated decision.

Well. In a month. But it is coming! I’m not a big fan of many reality shows on TV, but watching Hoarders (auto-start music warning, be careful if you are at work and don’t want the TV show’s theme music to start blaring from your computer…) is one of my vices.  One of the things that fascinates me is how the professionals on the show deal with the hoarding mindset and how they help people to get past it. It also brings home the GTD concept of decision making. Watching the people at the beginning, when they struggle to decide what to throw away, brings home the importance of that decision-making process.

This is an extreme example, to be sure, but it is a very real thing. While most of us don’t have the mental illness required to ignore decisions until they look like the picture to the left, each of the bits of paper in your inbox and voice mails on your phone and emails in your inbox can be the seed of a Hoarders-level mess.

I don’t profess to be anywhere near perfect in this regard (though watching a couple of episodes of Hoarders does motivate me to clean my house…) but I do try to keep in mind that making  a decision is usually far less work than I think it will be and will be beneficial for me, in many different ways.

Web 2.0

Syncing and the modern computer

From Dropbox to iCloud to the new Simperium offering from the folks at Simplenote, the race is on to find the best option for synching data between the desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet and phone that you use every day. I know that without the ability to sync up data between my computer and my iPad, I’d be lost much of the time. Some of this is done through the application itself, such as my Remember The Milk application which syncs up beautifully between my browser, my iPad and my phone (as long as I pay that “premium” fee, otherwise it only syncs up weekly, I believe). Other syncing is done via one of the technologies listed above – Dropbox, iCloud or the new Simperium. To introduce the newcomer, we turn to the analysis at Read/Write/Web:

“You can think of Simperium as a post-PC circulatory system for data,” co-founder Mike Johnson says. It’s built to speak to all kinds of devices and services and be easy to implement. “The result is that developers can use Simperium like a Lego brick,” snapping together different applications and devices with data that fits, allowing “pretty much any feature where data needs to move quickly and reliably from one place to another.” (

A “Post-PC circulatory system for data”. That’s a lovely way to phrase it, in my opinion. It’s also quite true. The ability to have a “home” in the clouds where your stuff is kept is becoming vital these days. Many of us (and I’m certainly guilty here) have many. I use Dropbox, Evernote, Google Play and Drive, Amazon Cloud and iCloud for the big stuff and I use a bunch of smaller cloud syncing options (such as the aforementioned Remember The Milk syncing features) alongside those. I’m using mostly the free versions for all of these (Evernote and RTM being exceptions) so I have limited space. This means that I have stuff scattered all over the place.

This can be both a good point and a bad point. On one hand, if one service gets hacked, they aren’t getting my entire life – just portions of it. Google Play holds my music, but none of my documents. Dropbox is the opposite – many of my documents (but not all, because some are backed up from my iPad using iCloud and others are stored in Google Drive) are stored there, but none of my music. In this way I’ve sort of insulated myself from a complete loss of my digital treasures. On the other hand, that’s a lot of user/pass combinations to remember, not to mention remembering where certain documents can be found  – though there are services that help here – see Cue, which searches across most of those services; Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, etc. You could also take a pointer from a presentation I heard at the LibTech Conference in Minneapolis this year – use the standard “reminder/task” function that comes with your tablet or phone to sort out where you put what. The presenter used it to remember which note-taking program held which note, but you could also use it to remember which storage service holds which file…

However you choose to do it, getting by without some sort of cloud support is becoming more and more difficult in this post-PC era – I can’t even imagine trying to keep my Android phone, iPad tablet and Windows PCs all useful and up-to-date without my personal little cloud.