What I Read: “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” Review

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few years ago I went into the Human Resources office where I worked and asked for assistance in helping me decide what I want to be when I grow up. They made me take some fancy tests with multiple choice answers and then invited me back a few days later. I was presented with a report that told me I should become a librarian. I laughed and walked out of the room (and yes, I did eventually become a librarian). The reason those tests indicated I should become a librarian is not because I like to read (I do) but because I like to figure things out, I like to solve puzzles and mysteries, I like to learn new things, I like to make technology work for me, I like to make people’s day. I also like word play, numbers, algorithms, and I like to laugh.

Yeah, that’s nice, but what does any of that have to do with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore? Everything actually. This book has all that and more as it weaves the old (dusty old books in an eccentric bookstore) with the new (can you say Apple and Google product placement?) into a story of intrigue, mystery, and even a little romance.

The story revolves around Clay, a web designer struggling through the recession by taking the graveyard shift in Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore. The bookstore does very little business during his shift, but there are a few very regular customers, although they are not truly customers in the traditional sense. These customers seem to belong to some super secret, very mysterious book club that is trying to solve some life mystery by deciphering codes contained in books.

Clay soon realizes he cannot solve this huge mystery on his own, so he must pull in friends and his love interest and even all the computing power of Google to figure out what could be going on. The more he learns the deeper the mystery goes. Naturally, though, with Google helping out, an answer will be found soon.

Robin Sloan gives us a story that is warm and engaging and does not bog us down with techno-babble or other jargon. I totally engaged in this story on many levels, but for me, personally, it hit me at my love for both books and technology. Sloan shows us that we still very much need books even with all this wonderful technology we have today. Books and technology and the power they contain and the unlimited potential they bring out in all of us, if we let them.

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THATCamp Lehigh Valley–Project Management

The final workshop today for THATCamp Lehigh Valley 2013 will be on project management, presented by Sherri Yerk-Zwickl, who is the Director of Project Management and Web&Mobile Services at Lehigh University.  She gave her presentation a great title:  “How to Survive when You are Volunteered to Lead a Project.

What is a Project?

A project a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives typically to bring about beneficial change or added value.

A project is temporary!  Even if some projects feel like they never end, they will at some point.  They should have unique goals and add value.

Project Management, then, is the application of the knowledge, skills, and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently (from http://pmi.org).  Sherri will be focusing on the techniques and hopes to give us ‘just enough’ project management techniques.

A lot of the challenges of the projects is having a common understanding of what we are working towards.

Project Management

Traditional PM involves 5 stages:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring/Controlling
  • Closing

Documentation is important in project management.

Some Planning Steps are crucial:

Charter/SOW (What)

  • Objective: what is the point of it all
  • Context: Why we should do it and what its connected to
  • Goals: what improvements should occur
  • Deliverables: tangible items to reult
  • Scope: what’s in/out

Work Breakdown Structure (How & When)

  • How do you eat an elephant?  One piece at a time.  That’s what work breakdown structure is breaking down the project into smaller pieces.
  • Sherri likes using post-it notes and puts them on a project wall.  Generate ideas and components of the project.
  • Then need to organize these components and even break them down more.
  • Assign times to each of these tasks/smaller pieces.

Stakeholder Analysis (Who)

Communication Plan (Huh?)

Stakeholders need-to-know:

  • routine items (tasks, progress, etc.)
  • budget
  • risks and/or issues

The method and the frequency would may vary depending on the stakeholder.

We’ve covered primarily the ‘planning’ phase of the project.  It is important to put a great deal of focus on the planning.  Now you can execute.  Let’s tackle the project.  And remember every project needs to end.

Closing a project:  what was the good, the bad, and the ugly, and the (what should we do different the next time) part.  Here is where documentation is very helpful.  Avoid the temptation to skip the documentation, especially on those ‘solo’ projects.  Documenting your experience from a project can help inform you and others for future projects.

Some Useful Resources:

And Sherri will graciously share her Prezi and materials on the THATCamp Lehigh Valley blog very soon!

Who’s ready to tackle a new project?

THATCamp Lehigh Valley–Omeka

Next up at THATCamp Lehigh Valley is a workshop on Omeka.

Omeka

Omeka

Why would you want to use Omeka?  Use Omeka when you want to create an online archive.  Although a blog will keep an archive, it is generally archived in chronological order.  A more traditional archive will describe and arrange your archive in a more meaningful manner.

For this workshop, we will look at an Omeka site in Pennsylvania:  The Land of Penn and Plenty.

Three terms to know with Omeka: items, collections and exhibits.

  • Item: is a content building block in Omeka.  You can describe items using metadata using the Dublin Core standard, which provides a standard set of metadata for that item, such as title, source, publisher, etc.
  • Collection: a set of items.  An item can only be in one collection, but items can be in more than one exhibit.
  • Exhibit: organizing items in context, with description or interpretation.

Every Omeka site has a built in search, including a good advanced search.

Looking at an exhibit on the The Land of Penn and Plenty site, Native American foodways in Pennsylvania:

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 11.26.18 AM

Here, they use items in a certain context with additional descriptions and interpretation.  Clicking on any item in this exhibit again takes you to the information about that item:

Corn

Omeka has been developed by academics for academics.  It is mostly funded by an IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) grant.  There is a hosted version on Omeka.net and a self-hosted version on Omeka.org.

Creating an Omeka site is very similar to that of WordPress.  There will be a dashboard where you can adjust general settings, select a theme, plugins, etc.

Plugins:

  • COinS: Adds COinS metadata to item pages, making them Zotero readable.
  • CSV Import: Imports items, tags, and files from CSV files.
  • Docs Viewer: Embeds a Google document viewer into item show pages. PDF documents, PowerPoint presentations, TIFF files, and some Microsoft Word documents are supported.
  • Exhibit Builder: Build rich exhibits using Omeka.
  • GoogleAnalytics: A small plugin to include Google Analytics JavaScript code on pages.
  • Library of Congress Suggest: Enable an autosuggest feature for Omeka elements using the Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies service: http://id.loc.gov
  • OAI-PMH Harvester:  Harvests metadata from OAI-PMH data providers.
  • Simple Pages:  Allows administrators to create simple web pages for their public site.
  • Social Bookmarking:  Inserts a customizable list of social bookmarking sites below each item in your Omeka database

Users:

  • Super users can access all available pages in the admin, and manage the site’s settings, including: adding and deleting users; changing themes; managing plugins.
  • Administrator users can access all pages in the admin except those under the “Setting” tab.
  • Contributor users can add, edit, and delete Items, Collections, Item Types, and Tags that they contribute. They may also create exhibits using all items in the archive.
  • Researcher users can see all of the Items, Collections, and Item Types pages, but cannot edit.

After creating your Omeka site, you can start adding items.  How easy is it to add an item?  Very: if you’re interested, here is a link to a quick video on adding items.  (The video was created without sound since it was done during the workshop).

Want some examples of how Omeka is used?  Check out the Omeka.net showcase or the Omeka.org showcase.  You can also find example by Googling Omeka.  There is a lot more you can do when you set up your own installation of Omeka (through Omeka.org).

Some other digital tools (not necessarily to use with Omeka) mentioned during the workshop include:  MediaThread and Neatline.

How would you like to incorporate multimedia in your teachings?

THATCamp Lehigh Valley–WordPress

THATCamp Lehigh Valley is March 1-2 at Lehigh University.  Day one is workshop day and we are starting with WordPress.

WordPress

WordPress.comMany people know WordPress as a blogging tool, but it can be used for much more.  Participants were asked to set up a WordPress account in advance, so those steps were not part of this workshop.  You can use WordPress as a website, too, as I do for my site.  An example used in the workshop was First-Year Lehigh Engineers.

To get started, you will want to decide on how you want your site to look.  Under the WordPress dashboard, you can select your look and feel by going under ‘Appearance’ and selecting your theme.  The theme used for the workshop was ‘Titan’.

Titan Theme

We then went through some general settings in WordPress, where you can set your blog settings for how people can view, read, discuss, etc. your posts.

Next up is actually doing a post in WordPress, such as this one!  Adding text and media is fairly straightforward.  One thing to look at for a post is to look at your setting to publish the post:

WordPress Publish Setting

Another helpful tool on the WordPress page is the ‘Screen Options’ in the upper right corner.

Also on your ‘Add New Post’ page is an option to provide some metadata for your post.  You can add Categories and Tags that you can use to provide keywords to describe what your post is about.  Now you can ‘Preview’ your post before you publish it.

We just set up a blog and created a post in about 25 minutes.