Here are some notes from Enhancing Quality Staff 2009.
The keynote speaker was Eric Celeste, a technology consultant. He discussed some of the issues raised by the new “cloud computing” concept, where much of your personal data and documents are no longer kept on your own computer but stored in places such as Google Voice or Google Reader. This has the incredible advantage of allowing you access to your material from anywhere. For example, Google Voice allows you to have one telephone number which you can instantly transfer from device to device. Going to be staying at your parent’s house for a week—you can make it so that any time someone calls your telephone number, it rings at their house. No more juggling phone numbers or having people unable to contact you.
All of this connectivity comes at a price, however—privacy. Google gets a complete record of who you call. Other convenience services are even more intrusive. Mint.com, for example allows a person to access all of their financial information in one place. To do this you must give Mint.com all of your account names, passwords, and even security challenge question answers. This question, privacy versus convenience, is going to be popping up more and more.
Celeste also mentioned a new search engine to keep an eye on--Wolframalpha.com. It goes live sometime this month. It is a computational search engine and will be able to process data sourced from the web to answer questions, rather than just find answers already determined by others. You will be able to ask it, for example, to describe the weather for a week in 1865. Here is a link to Wolfram’s blog describing how it will work:
Another interesting speaker described using Google’s collaborative tools to co-author a book with two people in Europe. An earlier speaker had discussed using these tools (here is a link to his Google Docs slides), but listening as she described how she actually had used it was much more illustrative.
One final observation was that everyone was talking about RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) as the new way for libraries to keep in touch with their patrons. More and more people are using RSS to keep up with their favorite web sites. RSS feeds notify the patron when new material is added to a web site that has RSS enabled. Perhaps this is something we should think about. For an example of a library RSS implementation, visit the Hennepin County Library’s web site.