Archive for the ‘IRLS672’ Category

In summary about this week’s reading, I loathe the word “projectized” and yet knew instantly what it meant…and for that, appreciated it. As with technology plans, I knew the reading and understanding would not be swift for me with project management. My mind or the material or both turn very slippery, unable to pin down the words. I acquired my own copy of the PMBOK specifically because I need to tackle this hurdle if I am to play with technology projects. As ever, at least being able to recognize the language without visibly flinching in meetings…would be progress. It is hard to believe that I was a co-chair of the steering committee for my library’s first strategic planning effort. Talk about trial by amateurs.

I had an “aha” moment when I saw that this body of knowledge is a body of knowledge because people acquire it and get certified as Project Management Professionals. My stepmother acquired the body of knowledge required to become a Certified Professional Purchasing Manager. I don’t know why, but this gave me a better sense of “place” for this material.

I am very glad to be introduced to the PMBOK as the manual of best practices. The takeaway idea for me is the 5 process groups X 9 knowledge areas. Much as I frankly dislike, or is it disdain or distrust? this arena and its language, I know that having standards promotes cooperation, and the 5X9 scheme seems to me the bare bones of the standard, free for local tailoring. In other words, I know I’m just ignorant and wrong. Less so now, possibly.

Wikipedia’s offering on project management was great for the history overview. Bas De Baar’s video was kind of hilarious. But true. Flesh and blood is always the problem. Forsake the wishes and desires of the stakeholders at your and your organization’s peril.  “Try the flow.” And the James Chapman video was, as promised, memorable. Did the animals correlate obviously with the project tasks? I may have missed something. I did not miss that tracking is the oposable thumb.

I might actually use Chapman’s Project Management Scalable Methodology Guide–this was my favorite item along the way. I kept seeing everything in my work universe as just too small to warrant copies of the PMBOK on every department shelf, but Chapman I felt did a great job of translation down the scale for those of us who need it spelled out.

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I’ve never been comfortable with wrap-ups, really with endings, so this is not my favorite assignment of the course. I also believe that the change the course has wrought is who I am now. So I can’t truly remember my state before the course started. I’ll try.

arcane circle exampleIn May I think I had in mind a rich and arcane mix of secret hands-on techniques, revelation-inducing tricks, and illuminating tips to take data and voilà! And that’s pretty much been the reality. I have loved the course, even if the units hang together in my mind by the most fragile of threads. This is the material I’ve been wanting to cover for a few years now, and I do hope that the program’s remaining coursework revisits, not only adds to, where we’ve been.

I am impressed by how many domains of expertise make up the “simplest” web presentation of digital content. Not all steps along the way are deep, but many complex routines reveal an inner core that in best implementation demand art, not just accurate typing. On the other hand, I should not have been surprised, but I was, at the number of parts of the process that are way up, abstracted from command line, web apps—gosh, at how far we’ve come from machine language! I didn’t know about HTML forms; I didn’t know that Linux would be so familiar and so…complete. I evidently had a pretty warped idea of Linux, speaking of the arcane and machine language. This was probably the biggest revelation of the summer, every single detail about installing, using, updating an actual working instance of Linux. Granted it was exciting to see database query results pop on the screen, but the demystifying of Linux was the deepest change to my reality. It still gives me a thrill to see Hardy Heron and hear the snippet of Hardy Heron theme music.

I’m also less impressed with instances of digital libraries now that I know a little of what it takes (this isn’t the sausage analogy, it’s just that doing it is not beyond the likes of us). But I do have trouble seeing how anyone can be master of it all. I am always curious how professionals keep up with the sheer global volume of the new that exists for every scintilla of IT/digital life; we have been introduced to so many different aspects, each with its standards, forums, official and unofficial documentation, blogs, famous practitioners, lore, and culture. I hope there is time to hang out with Ubuntu just to get a better sense of its nature. We didn’t have time. Dream: build the physically separate practice machine August 19-23.

I am much more appreciative than I was at the beginning that we are learning open source solutions, that DigIn was built this way; it’s a twofer, getting the technology AND the moral high ground (IMHO). Open source is not just a product choice, it’s a piece of a larger social picture that has everything to do with our cultural commons and the means librarians and archivists and museum pros choose to achieve the end of preservation of culture. Various extracurricular talks and news this summer have made me surer that it’s a firmer path; you can always pay money, but with open source you will probably be negotiating, planning, and designing more, and that brings you closer to your product (or process). And it’s community.

The art of crafting the database (the Organization of Knowledge, the holiest of course titles) matters clearly, and maybe some of us are natural artists and some aren’t but will be and some will know better than to try. This was the part of the course I was most invested in as an archivist/special collections librarian. It’s not easy for me, but it’s still compelling. Quest for the elegant.venn_diagram

The only disturbing element of the semester is learning to sit for much longer in front of computers. I can. And that’s not very good.

I am possibly more excited at the end of this course than I was at the beginning. And that’s knowing that all semester I have battled poor memory in remembering where in my three binders for the course that phrase is that tells me how to find Webmin or the syntax for retrieving user permissions info or the libraries of new software for Ubuntu. These are all the threads that are fragile now and will begin to break when not used in the coming weeks, so here’s to using them and weaving some real fabric. I don’t want just to be able to talk to the people who do it all, I still, at the end of the course, want to do. No change in attitude, three binders richer.

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the money day

moneyToday was it. Typing typing copying pasting copying pasting. Then…

* *real answers from a real database displayed on the real screen* *

Few clues why it works the way it works, couldn’t frame the question as invited to do by Professor, but there it is.

Of course, a minute after that I managed to make my Mac select the ubuntuserver804 screen as wallpaper, frontpaper, allpaper, could not find the way out of the darkness, ha ha ha on me and my money day.  Saved by random mouse flinging.

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fear of jinx


This week. Cake. (Last week, spinach, when I hated spinach.)

I do not want to jinx myself, but I have had a nice time with MySQL. It’s probably because a) the database mode is more familiar, b) it’s the area in which I’m probably most interested in becoming truly proficient, and c) the syntax is, as they promised, very friendly. It was great to be able to get in and play via MySQL monitor and phpMyAdmin, with the added challenge/play of using Dia in Ubuntu to create an ERD for my new mosaics database.

Occasionally something I could not get to work in monitor I went into phpMyAdmin to do; there may or may not have been the reverse case. I probably focused way too hard on a few elements of this work and didn’t play with a wide enough range of variables.

Challenging to remember where alter, update, insert work on what. Constantly consulting w3schools.

I begin to find confusion in keeping Webmin, phpMyAdmin, MySQL monitor, Unix command line, and what else have we visited?? straight. On that other hand…I have often found a paradox in *adding* complexity when I already think I’ve reached my limit. Like when my time feels utterly oversubscribed and I *add* something else…I get more done. Not that this is a rule to live by, but adding more to the biophysical database may coax new biotransmitters into happy, more efficient work.

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recursiveCorner Is MySQL recursive in managing databases with a database of grant tables?

MySQL has gone along much more smoothly than last week’s turmoil with ERD and database design–I actually had a grand time working on creating another database to accompany the sample one for class; need to go back and diagram the new one. Having downloaded DIA for Linux (didn’t come with the original distro that I could see), I need to get my money’s worth learning to use it. Just working with the databases is helping a lot to clarify the relationships–intuition can be learned. Diving in is my way.

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data tension


This is the first week I feel behind even though assignments will be submitted on time. I don’t know why…this is so hard. The ERD diagram I produced I’m sure is wrong because the relationships challenge me. I also feel hampered by flashbacks to our nightmare custom-built MS Access database that I tried to troubleshoot, enhance, work with over the last 10 years, with no real knowledge.

In fact I just sat back looking at my simple ERD and found it all wrong, for real. Do I fix everything?

(later) Well, I’m leaving well enough alone. What I think gets me is thinking about what a mess things are if you set things up poorly to begin with, and I’m not having an easy time being certain of 1NF, 2NF, and 3NF. I want to rely on intuition, not rules like “no partial dependencies on a concatenated key”…actually I think it’s dependency I don’t quite absorb. I wish there were a “Head First Entity Relationship” book. We’re talking about v e r y  s i m p l e  databases right now, and I’m squirrely in the head from considering original photographs and digital surrogates.

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rdbms (middle)

fish_Atlantic_codmiddle thoughts on rdbms
@ normalization going better than data modeling
@ better texts and examples
@ Mr. Codd is forgiven

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rdbms (early)

connectionwheelearly thoughts on rdbms
@ the “art” of this attracts and scares me
@ I don’t get independent/dependent, strong/weak
@ I don’t get resolving ternary relationships
@ I don’t get relationship “type” (how surprising is that, smile to self)
@ I hope that my intuitive sense of this material makes up for my cognitive fog

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I thought this week’s unit on planning would be like pulling my own teeth. And it was, at first. But it hasn’t been a complete trip to the dentist. I’m a middling to terrible planner myself, and I do not look for opportunities to serve on planning committees.

TechSoup and WebJunction turned my little head around. I love these resources. I signed up and am immediately imposing an Event Tracker on my constituency, my library colleagues, so I can track their loss of connectivity, slowness of machine, broken applications, and lost shortcuts.

My opinion is that poor writing and verbiage are the bedevilments of some of the writings we examined for Unit 8. More below. I did find myself wishing there were very current articles to replace a few of the more dated ones.

Readings: selected notes

TechSoup and WebJunction, as mentioned, were a revelation to me. The wealth of help available, easily navigable, amazes me. This information would, could, will, be of help in various slices of my life (and would have been in the past). Including going forward (and backward, exam time) in IRLS672 and future classes. Definitions, advice, tutorials (some for a fee in WebJunction). And clarity of expression.

Information Technology at ALA: 2000-2005 |   I found this hard to like, with inconsistent writing style, parts of it just poor, and a sketchy, internal-shorthand feel. It did make me want to take a look at the ALA site; I’m not a member, but I believe they must have implemented many of their stated web intentions as it is fairly user-centric.

Chabrow, State of the Union |  This was good news! that there is any good news, federally technologically speaking. Modularity rocks.

Dugan, Information Technology Plans |   At first reading, I found this unbearable, dated slogging. BUT I returned to it several times in the process of looking at technology plans. One thought I had when he was discussing the “virtual library” (does anyone say that anymore?) is that I think in academic settings that students often “train” their teachers, without librarial intervention. Faculty may not think to look to the library to learn how to use new technologies; what they get back from their students provides motivation (or not) to learn the new.

Gerding and MacKellar, Applying for Technology Grants |   My hands-down favorite. Soup to nuts practical steps while keeping eyes on the prize: how will this project improve the lives of your constituents? There was much of statistical interest here, too, and I learned that the DigIn program is beneficiary of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. They point out that once you have a technology plan it is relatively easy to develop a project: simple but not explicitly stated elsewhere! I found this well-written with good links out.

Schuyler, Life is What Happens to You… |   I have to mention this one because he makes a few very, very pointed points that I agree with, but…you have to place them in your own context. I found myself thinking this was a viewpoint from a very understaffed perspective, but aren’t most technology units understaffed? I agree that an institution with truly integrated technology may not need a separate plan because technology is the water in which everything else swims. “It’s Safe to Be Vague” and, of course “How Dare They Judge Us?”. Woof! He’s right, and he represents what many, many technologists in libraries/archives/schools probably feel. It’s kind of a relief to get it out there, cathartically. And then move back to the center.

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ead EAD is where I live, XML-wise, but I’ve been exposed (xposed?) to other flavors of XML, all related to librarial and archival activity. I have played a little with MARC XML in attempts to map archival accession data; I have also played with a specialized schema that lives for and with the Archivists’ Toolkit project, their accession XML schema. Which leads to one of the questions on the table about extensibility and freedom this week: while I have found the AT schema very useful, granted only in testing, there could be, hypothetically, lots of archival accession schemas developed by lots of busy techn/archivist bees, with plusses and minuses. Do we desire this? (actually, yes! maybe). Ungoverned development of schemas of overlapping utility would not be a good thing if it really fractured community. The AT accession schema is not being marketed beyond the confines of the AT; I could see developing an “application profile” hybrid of the EAD and accession schemas to produce EAD accession records, i.e. “draft” finding aids but with a few distinctly different characteristics to be sure no one took it for final.

Just thinking out loud.

Of the tools at hand for learning XML right now, I find the W3Schools tutorials, as usual, good, quick enough and yet connected enough, with good navigation. I can take just as much as I can take but instantly see what’s related–i.e., learn from their structuring of the topics as well as from the topics. Gee, like a book. I went through the Basic and then scanned through Advanced which I found very interesting. I’m so impressed that they’ve compacted so much into morsels my poor attention span can handle. Topics of interest in particular to me were namespaces and PCDATA/CDATA. Namespaces are of immediate use to me; we have just implemented EAD authoring compliant with the current EAD schema, as opposed to the old DTD, and chose new software (W3C’s choice, XMLSpy, came in second to oXygen). All of this to be able to handle xmlns:xlink. None of this sinks in deeply, but with repetition there may be hope.

I also found the VERY densely-packed 10-minute Youtube presentation by James Pasley GREAT. I agreed wholeheartedly with the reviews. It’s all about the quality.

I went through a great many Mark Long videos and found them good–even the ones I found slow usually had a detail or two that were new to me. I do like submitting to the pace of someone’s voice in learning. His accent helps.

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