12 June 2011

Every now and again I've revisited the question of how I'm using the tools at my fingertips, and it's time to do it again. Seems most efficient to try indented updates on the last iteration, so here's what I said then and what I'm revising now:

5 Dec 2009

I've occasionally paused in my Webthrashing long enough to write a summary of the current state of my use of electronic resources: here's one from May 2004, and another from June 2005. Seems like it's time to do that again.

Six years ago I was using a broad collection of somewhat interlinked html pages to record my thinkings and discoveries pretty much as they happened. I assumed that visitors to my Home Page might peruse the Current Work page to explore the quotidian flux. In the last few years (since retirement in 2005) I've done a lot less of that, partly because I embarked on big projects like Nova Scotia Faces and partly because I didn't perceive much in the way of potential audience for my efforts (though n.b. I had just presumed that I had an audience for my documentation while at W&L, but in fact I suspect that nobody was following along... It's interesting that I imagined they might be). And there's also the fact that my activities have been much more scattershot than they were when I was employed, what with fewer requests for the focus of my attention, and no Institution to worry over Reforming.

The Home Page concept (the idea of a launch pad to a branching structure of intertwingled but mostly static pages, a personal on-ramp) is soooo Web 1.0, but I never managed to engineer my way to something more dynamic --indeed, my html isn't even in CSS, and my thousands of static pages are awash in linkrot. The blog (which began as a separate entity in Spring 2004) isn't a whole lot better, still based in Movable Type 2.661, and making almost no use of tags in the postings, let alone anything fancier. Without some tame UNIX geek support I'm hesitant to try to upgrade the blog to a more recent version of Movable Type, or to attempt to move it to another platform.

My daily round of electronic engagement is dominated by the RSS feed (325+ blogs at the moment, though some are moribund), which I access via Google Reader. Which is to say: the blogosphere provides a lot of my "news" and fertilizes a kaleidoscope of interests. These include a LOT of music sites, many of which offer .rar downloads of albums (and how many hundred have I added to the music archives?). There's also a collection of basically-lefty blogs (many originally via Ron Nigh), a substratum of IT and libraryish blogs (postings in which I mostly skip over, but I note that I don't unsubscribe), and of course BoingBoing. I continue to be a follower of evolving Zeitgeist, though I've opted out of a lot of it.

My own blog has been more a display site for grabs via delicious than a place where I articulate my thoughts or comment at length. Might be different if I had more sense of a community that I'm writing for, but I've done nothing to create or seek out that community. Indeed, my participation in Social Computing is very slight, and pretty much one-way. I make no use of Facebook or Twitter. I suppose I could have kept up to speed with expanding technologies via those applications, but I didn't relish the exposure implied in friending or value the model of following people's tweets, and the restriction to 140 characters seemed just plain silly.

(2011 update: ...and the silo'd aspects of both Facebook and Twitter are constraints I don't care to live with)

A lot of my Information-wrangling energy has gone into music in the last few years, and mostly into collecting (less into organizing, still less into repurposing or analysis of what I have). Audacity and Media Monkey continue to be the main apps for manipulation and organization, MM because of the ease with which I can output .csv indexes, to be massaged into html tables.

(2011 update: the shift to Mac [May 2010 for Betsy and end of July 2010 for me, and it should have been much sooner...] ended the Media Monkey engagement and substituted iTunes, with which I've become a lot more comfortable)
The scale of the music collections (many many GB, and expanding via continuing digitization of my vinyl holdings, and transfer of CDs to mp3 format) is such that it's hard to imagine an efficient way to organize and narrate, let alone distribute, the resources --though those are all objectives of the collecting activity.

Google remains the tool of choice for discovery, and for finding answers to questions that arise. My use of Wikipedia is almost entirely via Google, but it's often a first stop when I'm looking into a subject.

Zotero and Delicious are the primary tools I use to KFTF --though in fact I rarely consult them to retrieve stuff I've saved to them.

(2011 update: I've also used LibraryThing to catalog my dead-tree media, and found it an interesting way to peel back the layers of interests)

In the realm of images, I work with Photoshop and save the results to Flickr.

(2011 update: it's now Aperture instead of Photoshop, and we're using Nikon SLRs with extreme lenses [macro, ultrawide, telephoto], and iPhone cameras for quick grabs)

My former interests in GIS have all but extinguished themselves, and I'm not doing much (beyond occasional browsing, and desultory following of several spatial geekery blogs) to explore the many possibilities of Google Earth. Again, no audience, and not much involvement with spatial data.

As for the modern affordances like cell phone and iTouch, no participation at all. Occasionally it occurs to me that I might make effective use of one or another, or that Tablet computing might push me over the edge, but so far I haven't been drawn to any of the devices.

(2011 update: here's the biggest change, with purchase of an iPad the very first day, and the recent addition of iPhone to the stable of affordances. In fact I don't use the cellphone facet of the iPhone all that much, so it's more that I'm carrying a computer wherever I go and using its powers to collect (via the camera) and play (via iTunes). I read a lot on the iPad (Kindle, ReadItLater) and a surprising amount on the iPhone too. I'm using Dropbox as a targeted distribution tool, and experimenting with various apps as new possibilities suggest themselves. For in-house distribution/consumption of audio and video I'm making a good deal of use of Roku.)