Cool tools I’ve Discovered at SXSW (so far)

So I’m at SXSW 2013 this week, and I’m learning about some really cool, potentially useful apps, tools, etc. Here’s a partial list of some of them:

CratePlayer – I met the CEO of this startup, and he described CratePlayer like this: think Pinterest, but for media of all types, like video and music. Their website says this: “CratePlayer lets you discover, collect, play and share your favorite online media all in one place.” Nice. They call the Pinterest board-like thing a “crate.” So for a library, gather local media, news media, subject-specific or educational media into a crate, and share away!

Takes – a new iPhone camera app that turns your pictures into videos. Might be useful for video creation!

WeVideo – cool new online video editor. This one is freemium, as in the free version is fine, but to get HD videos and more than 15 minutes of exports, you have to pay a monthly fee. They told me that organizational pricing is available. So … instead of buying lots of copies of video editing software, think about using this online tool.

JumperCut – really interesting video tool. JumperCut lets you collaborate with others to make video. Think crowdsourced videos, multiple takes of the same scene, etc. And … then think about your smartphone-wielding teens. Could be a fun project!

modit – lots of basic online games that you can edit, or “mod,” using their browser-based editor. Then you can save it, share it, and play. This sounds like an easy way to make some localized games pretty easily! The guy I talked to mentioned making customized crossword puzzles, for example.

izik – a new search engine app built for smartphones and tablets. It has a more “Pinterest-like” search results display, and is built on top of Blekko (though the search results for the same searches come out different using the two tools … not sure what’s up with that).

meltwater – an online social media monitoring, management, and engagement service. Looked pretty extensive (but they didn’t tell me how much the service costs).

Nestivity – this looks interesting to Twitter users. It turns your Twitter handle into a “nest,” which helps you better organize, track, and save Twitter conversations. Analytics are provided, and the archive of the conversation is saved.

simplemachine – this looked cool. It’s a peer-to-peer cinema marketplace that allows anyone to book films for exhibition in a theatrical setting (think public viewing of videos). That generally costs money – with simplemachine, they’ve already done the hard work of tracking down the rights holder, and act like a go-between broker (so you don’t have to).

Xi3 – one cool newish hardware tool – check out Xi3. They make really tiny, inexpensive (relatively), power-saving computers. Definitely an alternative to the larger companies like Dell or HP! The picture included in this blog post is one of the computers. Here’s another image of the same computer side-by-side with a smartphone, just to see how big it really is (and a very low-light, grainy image, too – sorry about that!). They had some of these bolted onto the backs of computer monitors – pretty tidy setup!

Treeswing – not really a library app at all. It’s a cool new financial investing tool, and looked sorta promising. Why am I mentioning it? Because it’s sponsored by DST in Kansas City … and I worked for DST during the summers while in college! That was in the 1980’s, and my big job was taking huge dot matrix printouts upstairs to the programmers, so they could actually look at the coding work they just did. Weird job in a weird time. My how times have changed!

Delicious and other Services – Have a Backup Plan?

So last week, some of you probably heard that the service was possibly being – their term – “sunset.” Then they announced that it wasn’t, and that they hope to find another home for the service outside of Yahoo.

My library doesn’t use Delicious for our website – but some libraries rely pretty heavily on the service for things like a linkroll. I know of more than one library who replaced in-house reference web link databases with the Delicious service. I’m guessing a couple of us were scrambling around, looking for alternatives (Diigo is one good one that I’m familiar with), and figuring out how to export their links out of Delicious.

Here’s what I’m interested in – how much do we depend on these third party services for essential parts of our website? Delicious is one example … what if Yahoo decided to do the same thing to Flickr, or if Google decided to do that to Youtube or even their Google Accounts (many organizations have switched their email/storage/messaging systems to Google from hosting them in-house)?

There are definitely alternatives to most of these services, and I’m not sure that dumping content into one primary service and one “just in case” backup service is worthy of our time (though I personally do that with my Flickr photos). And honestly, I’m not sure that people who read my blog would have that much trouble finding alternatives (I know my library wouldn’t, anyway).

But what about understaffed, or smaller libraries that don’t have dedicated web dudes? For example, Topeka could easily build a links database – we have those skills in-house. But many libraries and organizations don’t have those skillsets, which is one reason why they chose a 3rd party tool in the first place – free/cheap and easy. And 3rd party tools are great – I certainly don’t want to store and host all the videos Topeka creates on an in-house server.

I think one way to tackle this is to simply be vigilant:

  • stay up-to-date on web tools by trying them out, reading about them, etc
  • pick the best tool at the time – look for features and stability – ok, and awesomeness :-)
  • switch services when the next, better tool comes around – instead of waiting until one service closes its doors

That’s one way to deal with it – are there others?

pic by Ronn Ashore

CIL2008, Day 1: Widgets, tools and doodads for library webmasters

Speakers: Darlene Fichter, Frank Cervone

Firefox tools:
safecache: protects privacy, defends against cache based tracking techniques
safehistory: protects your privacy by defending your history cache
FoxMarks: automatically synchronizes bookmarks
FEBE: Firefox Environment Backup Extension – syncs extensions between computers

Other webtools for collaboration
meebo chat widget
LInkBunch: lets you put multiple links into one small link
DocSyncer: automatically finds and syncs your document files to Google Docs – this means everything.
Twhirl: desktop client for twitter
polldaddy: fast simple way to put a poll on your site

VisCheck: shows what things look like to a colorblind person…

Feng GUI: automatic alternative to eye tracking – creates heatmaps based on algorhythms…

Browsershots: creates screenshots in different browsers – service actually visit browser/PC combination. Cool!

Photoshop Express: coo new online photo editor

Think website distribution: get an “add this” tool – lets customers bookmark your stuff on different site

Google Gadgets: gadgets you can add to your site – things like countdowns

altavista babelfish translator: gets at the gist of what’s going on – not perfect, but good enough

Nifty utilities:

ProcessTamer: monitors CPU usage of processes, reduces the priority of apps that hop the cpu

FIle Hamster: real-time backup and archiving of your files while you work

Syncback Freeware: backup all files with a single click, scheduler to automate backups, versioning, incremental backups, machine to machine via ftp – encryption and compression, too.

LinkExtractor: pulls links off page

Moving large files:, slipload, yousendit, mediafire, panda (peer to peer)

reCaptcha – interesting…

anonymouse: check if resources accessible outside your ip range, or for privacy

Prism: app that lets users split web apps our of the website and onto your desktop?

Find more widgets:
widgetbox, google gadgets, previous cool tools presentations

CIL2008, Day 1: Fast & Easy Site Tune-ups

Speaker: Jeff Wisniewski

Keep content fresh

– Update your copyright date! You can use code to do this
– add a last updated script to your page (do it as an external script so you use one script in many places
– add photos to contacts! Goes a long way in increasing user’s trust in a website

Turn boring old contact info into exciting hCards
– using microformats extension – allows you to import contact info into your address book

Don’t use click here. Instead, use Current articles are available here (with current articles text as the link)
– “Current articles” – a trigger word, it’ll be highlighted as a link, so it’ll stand out more

Harness the awesome power of the 4 question survey!
Great questions to ask:
1. what’s the purpose of your visit to our website today
2. were you able to complete your tasks today
3. if you weren’t successful, why not?
ps – ask for their email

Web 2ify your site

update look with web 2.0 stylr, etc

Use graphics when possible


Yslow (firefox extension) – helps figure out why your page is slow

Exploit the user’s cache to speed up your site

For server admins:
– set certain file types to stay fresh/not expire
– image file types, css, js files, pdfs
– this helps speed

add an expiration date code thing in your .htaccess file – another speed thing

single image rather than multiple combined images will speed the site up – fewer http requests

eliminate inline scripts – call scripts externally instead

spring cleaning – tidy your homepage
validator – will automatically fix your css
CLEANCSS – it will unbloat your css, compresses it, etc

Move important info our of the blindness zone (top header area, far right, etc – “banner blindness”

Page titles
Google Webmaster accounts? sign up for account, get lots of goodies, including title tag analyzer

page titles – best way to structure:
document title | section name | library/site name

add labels – screen readers read this, the checkbox text becomes clickable – not just the checkbox itself

make sure to use radio boxes and check boxes appropriately

Make your site social media friendly

add social bookmark links
– social bookmark creator – select bookmark service, it spits out html code to dump into your website

Q from me – is it dynamic?