Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The End of the Beginning...

I have survived! My first semester of the masters' program at Syracuse University's iSchool ended last week, and after a few days' decompression I decided it was about time for a blog post. Technically, I started this blog as a class project, but I see no reason to kill it, especially when I'm finally granted the time to write!

I took three classes this past fall, and I'm still digesting them, but as this blog is a record of my library careers and interests, I thought to record some of the impressions taken from each of my classes in fall 2011.

IST511: Librarians rock in every way you can imagine. We make communities better just by being in them. Libraries (the buildings) need to change, and change quickly, or they'll disappear. This is the great challenge facing our generation, especially for those of us fortunate enough to be chosen by the profession.

IST605: People ask bad questions, but practice can make translating them easier. Finders have to enjoy the hunt. Reference is more like jazz than a symphony--lots of improvisation. Resources abound, but librarians need to be as familiar as possible with as many of them as possible in order to use them most effectively. Knowing what you're looking for before you start the search isn't strictly necessary, but helps.

IST614: Everything a business does is based on a set of assumptions, and that theory of business needs to be tested often. Management has to be principles-based, or you're flying blind. There are often many ways of achieving the same results, but equifinality doesn't always mean that all paths are equally efficient or effective.

Outside of classes, the semester proved to be full of opportunities. I've started blogging for InfoSpace, the official blog of the Syracuse iSchool, and I'm also involved with the SYR-LFL Project, where I've jumped into the deep end of web development (with some help, of course). I've made some wonderful friends, and my skill set is continually amplified by theirs.

A new semester is on the way--for now, to rest, to recover, and to recharge.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Terminally Curious

I've been thinking lately about the way I interface with technology. In stark contrast to the way I lived in undergrad, and in my gap year, I'm finding myself able and eager to adopt new tech, fooling around with it to see how it can integrate with my life. I use a smartphone; virtually all of my group work is facilitated by Google Documents, Dropbox, Evernote, & Prezi; and the vast majority of my computing time is spent in my web browser (Firefox, currently).

I see a shift coming. As smartphones, iPads & other tablets, and even netbooks become ubiquitous, I believe that people will stop generating content on those devices. Writing a blog post--even a lengthy email--on a smartphone is cumbersome, as even the largest screens don't allow for terribly comfortable typing (I've tried). Touchscreens don't give the tactile feedback I like (yet. Haptics are coming along in a hurry). The usefulness of mobile devices assures them a place in the future, however--the pace of life is rapidly shifting to require instant communications via SMS, email, even Twitter, and the convenience can't be beaten.

So we enter a binary: The mobile devices we have will shift primarily to output tools--access the information you've left in the cloud, watch a movie, play a game, read a book or an email. That market is full of new options, and continually expanding. Left wanting, however, is a contemporary input terminal--Standard desktop workstations simply aren't getting the attention they deserve, as many companies focus on more portable options. The iSchool has dual-monitor set-ups in their computer labs, and I find them incredibly useful: the style of work I'm doing these days often requires that much space. Because I'm generally immersed in a web environment, I want to have my browser maximized--and a second screen allows for a text document, a conversation space (Google Chat, Facebook, or Twitter), or a workspace. I'm considering building a similar workspace for my home.

This bifurcation of content--creation on one side, delivery on the other--is starting to be reflected in the technology available to us, at least from where I'm standing, but the lack of decent input devices could mean a shift to a more-consumerist internet. I'll be curious to see what happens in the near future, if these observations are a significant trend.

What do you think? Have you seen similar divisions of input/output terminals? Let's hear it in the comments.