Alexa, Jelly, and Web 3.8

Forget Web 2.0! That is so 2005! Now we have Web 3.8. Wow!

What is that? Remember ‘six degrees of separation’? Well, according to Biz Stone, the guys who came up with that theory have done more research and found that in this digitally connected era, the degrees of separation have reduced to just 3.8.

Rich Roll interviews Biz Stone in an intriguing interview where Biz explains his newest website and system – askjelly. Biz Stone is one of the guys who co-founded Twitter. Oh – that Biz Stone!


Askjelly is a systemised knowledgebase that uses people for answers instead of text-based information on the Internet. As Rich and Biz spoke I realised that Librarians might finally be out of a job. The famous quote by Neil Gaiman: ‘Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.’, might finally be defunct. Biz has found a way to crowd-source the subjective questions.

So I put askjelly to the test and posed the question: “What will happen to Librarians in the age of knowledge-bases, ‘jelly’ and AI?

And shortly thereafter I received two thoughtful replies:

From CallKathy:


And from Chris:


Biz’s theory is that there are not really unique questions, and that someone on this planet will have the answer for you.

He then went on to show how this technology works with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa and it evoked similarities to the AI robot in the movie Her.

Rich Roll has kindly listed a lot of the relevant articles and links in the show notes of his podcast information and it’s well worth a look.

As for the success of #askjelly and the future of Librarianship – only time will tell.


What is social networking

I recently gave a talk about social networking. It was at the public library where I work. We offered a free information session to the locals residents. The presentation was to inform people in the community about the social networking trend. The intended audience were those people who don’t know what it is all about, and are curious to know more.

We advertised the event well through local media. There was interest prior to the event. I had prepared a worthwhile presentation and had practice runs with library staff and family. I had a back-up plan in case of IT glitches. I knew the material. I had no bullet points and had put together a relevant and interesting presentation I thought.

I began with a video The Machine is Us/Using us by Professor Michael Wesch. I had asked for his permission trying to honour copyright and do the “right” thing. I explained the difference between Web 1.0 (the static web) and Web 2.0 (the interactive web). I gave a quick glimpse of the huge number of Web 2.0 websites online then went on to talk about the more popular ones: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, LibraryThing, and blogging with RSS.

Of course, like any self-respecting librarian, I spoke about security, privacy, copyright, and phishing scams.

I finished my talk with a story about Gary Vaynerchuck and how he has mastered the online social networking tools making them work for him in his work as a wine merchant and now an author of Crush It and perhaps a motivational speaker. This description highlighted how the social networking tools work together: we switch seamlessly from one to the other.

So what went wrong? I had only two people in the audience. Two older people seemingly from the same demographic, but one was knowledgeable and a skilled user of these technologies while the other was still reluctant to dive in. They appeared to be interested and focused during my talk. We had a discussion afterwards that was positive and engaging.

It was a cold rainy evening. It is tuna fishing season. This community seems to be active, involved, and maybe busy enough. Maybe they all know about social networking already and don’t need to hear anything else. Somehow we missed the mark with this. This community here is very much oriented to the outdoors. Maybe that is the reason. They don’t need to go online to network socially because the life here is so present in the real world – something I value and appreciate immensely.

I must confess that I am over Facebook myself. This medium manages to have an unsettling ability to make me feel disconnected. It is not authentic. It robs me of the ability to use my bull-shit detectors to capacity. Something feels not quite right to me. Comments are misinterpreted. Harsh judgements are made by total strangers. It is unkind and shallow. We miss out on the essential communication messages read from body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and more. Our written messages lack these. Most of us lack the mastery that the wordsmiths have in illustrating our points with precision and correct grammar. Personally I feel that unless I actually know the person who I am communicating with, then any attempt at “connecting” is a pathetic waste of time; and reeks of desperation. I don’t need it. My life is full enough without this added emotional discord.

I like reading the blogs people write because the longer discourse allows a far better insight into the person and their ideas. And I can pick and choose the ones that are of real interest to me. It is an expansive learning experience, by contrast to Facebook that has a reductionist and limiting social experience. In my talk I tried to explain the benefit of using an RSS reader like Google Reader as the convenient place to gather the blogs that you like to read – but this may have gone over their heads. Not everyone understands the powerful element of this aspect of the Web 2.0 world. And I guess not everyone is interested.

I don’t mind admitting my apparent failure here. I don’t pretend to be a motivational speaker and nor do I aspire to be one. I also feel no need to hide behind a mask of pretence by not confessing the reality of the situation. I am confident that the material was sound and my message clear. I think the audience is there but I can’t begin to guess why they stayed away in droves. I don’t take it personally. It remains a mystery.

Master of the Web 2 World

Gary Vaynerchuk is The Master of the Web 2 World. His voice rings out above all the other web2ers. He is a wine seller in the USA who uses social networking technologies to market himself, his business, and his world views.

I first heard of him mentioned by someone I was following on Twitter. I followed the link to a YouTube video of Gary’s presentation at the Web 2.0 Conference in New York in 2008. His presentation made an impression on me. He stood out as being brash, aggressive and passionate. His approach was far from being politically correct or polished. His impassioned plea to everyone to “stop doing what you hate immediately!” resonated outward like a tsunami.

So I started following him on Twitter and added his blog to my already overflowing and unmanageable list of blogs in my Google Reader account.

I noticed he had written a book, “Crush It”, but that hardly raised an eyebrow since nearly everyone who writes a blog is also promoting their book – advice from yet another self proclaimed guru on marketing using Web 2.0 tools. Yawn!

Then – again on Twitter – I see he has a music video, so I follow the link to YouTube. It’s a cute, catchy rap tune called “Crush It” that promotes him and his book. I am amused and think that here is someone who really uses Web 2.0 technology to the max. What he lacks in charisma, looks, charm, and polish, he makes up for in effort, determination, creative endeavour, and online knowledge.  

So the very next day I notice, on Twitter again, that he is about to do a live broadcast via Facebook. So I log on and tune in to his talk about marketing, wine selling, web 2.0, his book, his t-shirt, etc. Everyone logged in to Facebook can comment or ask questions, or comment on the comments. He answered the questions as they came up. The number of viewers grew steadily from about 30 to 430 in the first 30 minutes that I watched.

So the message wasn’t new, inspirational, or earth-shattering, but the use of Web 2.0 technology was clever AND his voice stands out above everyone else who is pedalling the same message. But having said that, it was the live and immediate comments from the viewers, that prompted me to think “I really have to read this book!” And so I have ordered the book for purchase at the library. This is the point of his marketing efforts and it has been achieved.

Stay tuned for my review when I do read it in the very near future.

Twitter Toy

I have been slow to warm to Twitter and still remain only lukewarm. But as the tool has gained in worldwide popularity the usefulness and relevance has also grown.  It is possible to find topics of conversation relevant to your own interests. Here are some of the “people” I follow: Carlton_FC, AFL, NASA, stephenfry, DHughesy, KevinRuddPM, nolimitsforme, zen_habits, cshirky, miracle_virus, Eckhart_Tolle, alaindebotton, ALIANational, francophilia, marwilliamson, GrandDesigns09, ngv_melbourne.


I have learnt how to use the tools of twitter, so that I can talk the lingo and stay in tune. These websites have great information about how to do that: Twitter chats; Blogging Twitter and other stories for beginners; #FollowFriday the anatomy of a twitter trend; Top 7 twitter comands; The most popluar twitter acronyms; TwittEarth; The Bamboo Project in which I’m almost convinced of the value of twitter. I look forward to #FollowFriday and #MusicMonday and I often tune into conversations that might interest me.

I see no value in reading updates like “having coffee with friends” or “got the kids off to school” etc etc. And I won’t monopolise updates with meaningless information like this, unless I see it as offering a view on life that might help in some way. I do like links to interesting articles, live football score updates, emerging news of world events, suggestions for music, books, movies, and events.

Linking my twitter to my mobile phone is something I prefer to live without because it would annoy me to receive a barrage of messages that are irrelevant to my life, and I have a life in the real world that is busy, fulfilling, and I value it more than my cyber life. For businesses and ornganisations I see that twitter and facebook play an essential role in the marketing, advertising and promotion programs along with an online presence of a website and blog.

I also have not linked Twitter with Facebook or LibraryThing even though I am aware of these functions. I use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family and sharing photos with them. I use Twitter for a more public presence and therefore try to keep my updates on a more professional level. Ultimately I see Twitter as a new toy that is novel and fun to play with.

Slideshare Rock Star

According to Slideshare I am a “Slideshare Rock Star” because the slideshow I created and uploaded last year is very very popular. How to create a wiki has had 8913 views and is a favourite of 17 people and has been embedded 13 times. It has been downloaded 167 times and has been added to 2 groups. I used pbwiki version 1 as the wiki creation tool, then later created a second slideshow using pbwiki 2.

Are you clickable?

Are you clickable?” – We were reminded by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach at a recent talk she gave at our school. She is referring to the fact that many employers will “Google” potential employees and so teachers today should be making students aware of this and showing them how to create positive online information about themselves.

Sheryl’s presentation was about 21st Century Learning; something she is passionate about and trying to spread the word to the world. She encourages collaborative efforts towards this end. She encourages us all to become familiar with these online tools so that we can be proficient and knowledgeable in the 21st Century because “you can’t give away what you don’t own.”

Step 1 is “lurking”. Just log onto the web 2.0 sites and start reading and watching so that you get a feel for what’s going on. I think “lurking” is an unkind term for what is really personal investigation and self-education.

Step 2 is where you realise you have things to say and you find your own voice. This can be daunting especially for those of us who are reserved, and who perhaps like to give due consideration to our train of thought before we bleat it to the world.

Step 3 is connecting with others online and this too can be a challenge. Each group tends to have their own language according to their field of interest and for those not quite involved it can feel exclusive: like a clique. It really depends how much you wish to immerse yourself in that group.

I enjoyed hearing Sheryl speak but I felt my eyes begin to glaze over when she described how she set up virtual food for guests she had invited into her Second Life room to watch the Superbowl together. I could feel myself looking for the door but fortunately she did not dwell too much on this topic and moved forward. I agree with her in that Second Life does have a place in education but I wonder if that level of immersion in the virtual world is necessary or even wise.

Wiki wacky

Wiki software allows any dummy to create a website. No need to know html code, nor be able to use intricate web creation software like MS FrontPage or Dreamweaver. No need for access to servers. It’s all free online.

Wikipedia provides this definition of wiki and tells us that it is derived from a Hawaiian word meaning “fast”.

As a person who knows html code, takes pride in my use of website creation software, and works diligently to create webpages that are well designed both graphically and informatively, I find the wiki tools to be extremely restrictive. The wiki people control the look and feel of the finished wiki. Attempts to push these constraints to the limits are frustratingly awkward and never provide the desired result.

My job as the eLibrarian in the school though means that I have been using wiki tools to create wikis for the staff and students. So far this year I have created 30 wikis. There is no doubt that wikis provide an online platform that is perfect for collaborative projects; and the web-wise students take up these tools with ease and enthusiasm. So I create the wiki skeleton, invite the participants, provide the access points on the library website and in the library catalogue, and provide any training and assistance as it is required.

This week I presented at the SLAV Conference in Melbourne on the topic of wikis. My session was a joint effort between myself and work colleague and Web 2.0 convert Jenny Luca.

Typically as a Librarian I am an introvert and not a confident public speaker, however I know my topic and this helped. I could sense that the audience was keen to hear the practical how-to steps into the Web 2.0 world, so I concentrated on delivering that content to them. As I spoke I could see them taking notes in earnest. I gave the URL’s for the instructional information I have placed online and hopefully this will help others to take up this tool in a thoughtful way. How to create a wiki and How to create a wiki using pbwiki2

The keynote speaker was Will Richardson and his opening address was thought-provoking, informative, and rich with knowledge from an obvious expert in this field.

Inspirational videos

Like me, you would have seen some fantastic videos online.


Common Craft make simple and effective how-to videos telling us about web applications “in plain English”. Like this one: Social Networking in Plain English


Professor Michael Wesch conveys messages about how technology has impacted the way we learn and use our time. Here is one example of his clever efforts: A Vision of Students Today


The TED Talks offer top quality presentations by some interesting and influential people on a wide variety of topics. This talk by Sir Ken Robinson is great: Do schools kill creativity?


And there are a million other amusing and inspirational creations by some very talented people. Watch the Worlds by Robbie Dingo is awesome.


Providing links to these from either the school’s library website or library catalogue for the benefit of the teachers is not the best way to share these due to security firewalls and bandwidth. YouTube is blocked for the students as are many Web 2.0 applications. For the teachers it can sometimes take so long to start a video on YouTube that the lesson plan is totally impeded.


A solution is to use an online file converter to convert the YouTube URL to a FLV file. This file can then be saved to the hard drive, and with a free FLV player downloaded, these files open and play automatically. Access points are then added to the library catalogue that includes all the relevant bibliographic information such as author. This is what I’ve been working on this week and we now have a little collection of “inspirational videos”.


Copyright and intellectual property is always considered. This kind of format shifting could be a breach of copyright. The loophole for the school environment is that these resources are used for education. Since these issues are apparent it makes for timely discussions.


The combination of easy to use multimedia creation tools with awareness of intellectual property, has resulted in people now creating more of their own original work than ever before. YouTube provides assured publication and popularity is reflected by the number of views, usually through electronic distribution networks of online friends. Move over corporations. Frozen Grand Central Station by Improv Everywhere


What a fantastic and fun world we live in! How great for coming generations to have this freedom of expression! Our inner creativity is finally being called upon and appreciated. Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall is certainly a thing of the past, thankfully. 


Online personas

Walking briskly along the track after work I pondered the incongruity of online personas.


At the simplest level there are the super-hero cartoon avatars on Second Life that may represent the real life homely cake-loving knitter. (Not that there’s anything wrong with cake or knitting!) There are the more complex, fluent, grammatically-correct and over-wordy bloggers who write online like there’s no tomorrow.


Then there is Eckhart Tolle! He has my mind ticking over on so many levels. The content of his books shove my consciousness sideways as I consider his theories. But then there is the man! Seeing him on YouTube speaking to an audience while wearing a gold vest stunned me. In A New Earth he tells us that the path to enlightenment requires us to recognise our ego as being separate to our Self. So the vest seems at odds with his message.


The shadows from the Banksia trees grew darker as I followed the path. I wondered how to shape my words to find some clarity. Don’t mistake the message from the messenger, is wise advice to recall, and this applies to online personas as well. To criticise and be judgemental is not my intention. Finding integrity in both the message and the messenger is what I listen for.


The beauty of Web 2.0 is that it builds bridges across the chasms created by geography, distance, age, gender, race, education and lifestyle. We can connect with like-minded others in a positive way; reading, appreciating, connecting and affirming others lives; and this enriches us all.


Just be aware that even if people are honest online and aren’t hiding behind a fictional character, a wall of well-placed words, or a super-hero vest, we still can’t really know the real person behind the online persona. In the words of Mr. Tolle himself, “All we can perceive, experience, think about, is the surface layer of reality, less than the tip of an iceberg.” And even less so online.


U2 3D at the cinema was fantastic. I swear drops of sweat from Bono fell on me as I reached out to touch his hand.  Powerful message, powerfully delivered by cool messengers!!