Online services should work: A rant about Staples Online

Today I spent the day in the library collecting resources for my research. I saved everything to my jump drive and thought I’d go to an office store after the library to get the articles printed (the library cost $.15 a page and the office store is $.05). I looked at the websites for Office Max and Staples and chose Staples because it looked like it was cheaper and it was on my way home from the library. I registered for an account and the site crashed. I tried again a few times and go no where so I thought I’d do it when I got home and pick it up on my way back to the library tomorrow.

I was able to log in when I got home and I started to upload my files (one at a time because I’m on a Mac with Firefox – they have a tool for Windows users which I assume allows for multiple uploads). So I uploaded my 30+ files one at a time only to have the site crash on me 1/2 way through. The second time around I used the ‘Save My Job’ button (which only worked sometimes). Let’s jump ahead 1.5 hours. I’m ready to go on to the next option (yes it took that long because of site crashes, slowness and stupid design). Now it’s time for me to pick my print options.

I choose B&W and Duplex and the site says – fat chance and crashes again – and again – and again – and again this time in Safari – and again – this time on hubby’s computer in IE. I come back to my computer and Firefox and try again – no luck. I go back into Safari and low and behold I got the site to accept my selection of B&W and duplex only to find out that it takes 24 hours for an online printing request to be completed!!!!! If I want it by 12pm tomorrow 15 hours from now I have to order it Rush – but 12pm is no use to me – I need it tomorrow morning so I can read it at the library instead of waiting a whole extra day.

The moral of the story is this – do not offer your patrons/customers and online service that does not work – and always show the terms up front so that they know what they’re getting into before they dedicate 3+ hours to making your stupid tool work!!!!

My review of Staples Online Copy & Print Center – Zero Stars. And tomorrow I’ll be heading to Office Max to get my pages printed in person.

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Starbucks Closings – some in PA

Well, what does this have to do with libraries? Let’s see … librarians need coffee and so they care about which Starbucks are closing ;)

Anyway, the list of Starbucks that are closing is now available and it looks like here in PA we’re not losing any stores!

[update] The full list is out and while there are some in PA, none effect me :)

11767 LOGAN VALLEY MALL ROUTE 220 & GOODS LN ALTOONA PA
13696 CHESTNUT PLAZA 118 E CHESTNUT AVE ALTOONA PA
13837 NESHAMINY MALL 707 NESHAMINY MALL BENSALEM PA
13905 DOWNTOWN BLOOMSBURG 34 E MAIN ST BLOOMSBURG PA
13268 NEW BRITAIN 290 W BUTLER PIKE CHALFONT PA
10294 DALLAS 184 MEMORIAL HWY DALLAS PA
11859 PALMER TOWN CENTER 677 S 25TH ST EASTON PA
10789 NORTH HANOVER 189 EISENHOWER DR HANOVER PA
13543 PAXTON STREET 3462 PAXTON ST HARRISBURG PA
13636 3RD & MARKET 225 MARKET ST HARRISBURG PA
13863 GRANITE RUN MALL 1067 W BALTIMORE PIKE MEDIA PA
9726 ENGLISH VILLAGE 1460 BETHLEHEM PIKE NORTH WALES PA
7723 STATION SQURE-BESSEMER COURT 5 STATION SQUARE DR PITTSBURGH PA
9372 PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL 500 W GERMANTOWN PIKE PLYMOUTH MEETING PA
13545 MUHLENBERG 3225 N5TH ST READING PA
14118 STROUDSBURG 1000 SHOPPES AT STROUDS RT 611 STROUDSBURG PA
7882 UPPER MORELAND 2770 EON RD UPPER MORELAND PA
9470 WARRINGTON ROUTE 611 711 EON RD WARRINGTON PA
7902 RT 611 WILLOW GROVE 1107 EON RD WILLOW GROVE PA
11939 WYOMISSING II 798 WOODLAND RD WYOMISSING PA

Full list in PDF here.[/update]

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SLA2008: Keeping Found Things Found

For the last presentation of my first SLA, I got to hear William Jones author of Keeping Found Things Found talk about Personal Information Management (PIM).

William decided to change the title of his talk – and made us all giggle “The world is at my doorstep … and the house is a mess: putting our information in its place in a digital age.” When William talks about the world, there are two different types of worlds:

  1. a digital world

    • pictures, music, films – available with a few clicks
    • communicate with anyone at anytime from anywhere
  2. a physical world
    • plan whole trips online – plan, hotel
    • order everything online
    • change the (real) world online

But our houses are often a mess – paper docs scattered in stacks around our desks and tables. Our email inbox is overflowing (not mine … but maybe yours). We all have masses of digital data that is not organized or backed up (bad kids). Some of us even keep old computers with no plan what to do with them (I say donate them to the local library or school – that’s what we do). And at the end of the day we’re exhausted and yet can’t point to anything of substance that’s been accomplished!

PIM is about ordering our “houses” of information (personal information management). William and team have set up a Tales of PIM discussion forum (can read without registering) or register to post and talk about anything. William said that no one at parties asks “so how to you order your information?” – so this forum is a way to discuss information management with others.

He suggested a different slant on PIM:

P = is for mapping a personal mapping
I = is for fragmentation – a fragmentation of our information and a larger fragmentation of our lives
M = everyday living and managing our info along the way

When they wrote the book, there was no del.icio.us around. In answer to a survey of how people tracked information they said they would email links to themselves (I used to do this) and email to links others.

They found that folders were not just being used for organizing info, but to express their understanding of what the project was about. While the folders are not necessarily “organized” there is a visualization there that help people remember things. Just having search functionality is not enough.

What is Information?

Information is:

  • what is in docs, emails, web pages, etc
  • a drain on our money energy attention and time
  • what we create change publish and send to get things done
  • what we process to “make sense” of our world
  • how others wolds are represented to us – past and present, possible and pretend
  • how we are represented to the outside world

The power of writing it down

When I started writing on blogs, I started to remember more! The fact is that when you write things down it makes it easier to understand things. William had a student who would take notes and not refer to them – because the power is in writing it down.

We talk about information overload all of the time – but the fact is that information overload is nothing new. He referred to this quote from 1685 by Adrien Baillet:

“We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.” That is, “unless we try to prevent this danger by separating those books which we must throw out or leave in oblivion from those which one should save and within the latter between what is useful and what is not.”

What is new is the fragmentation of information. The problem is coming from all of the tools we have that are meant to help us keep track of information. Tools like our online calendar, websites, journals, budgets, TV, travel schedules, deadlines, contact lists, etc. Because of fragmentation, even a simple decision means checking in several places – email, calendar, web, files, etc.

William gave us a few examples of fragmentation and how to keep it organized. In one example he showed us a list of drugs and when to take them, this is not easy to read, but turn into a chart with drugs and times of day and it’s easier to read.

William and his team are working with alerts.com (a new service) to make the tool more useful. The problem is that you sign up and then turn it off after a week because it’s too much information.

What makes information “M in E” (mine and me)

Information can be:

  • controlled by owned by me
  • about me
  • directed towards me – phone calls
  • sent (posted provided) by me – personal web sites
  • (already) experienced by me – webpages that remain on the web
  • relevant (useful to me or not) – think i might like to see

Some elements of organization are:

  • schemes of organization
  • structures that results
  • strategies for managing time, energy, information flow
  • supporting tools
  • a system that brings these elements together

Folders or Tags?

William mentioned “Better to Organize Personal Information by Folders Or by Tags?: The Devil Is in the Details” which will be presented at ASIST later this year.

In their study, they had people use both Hotmail next to Gmail. He asked us which we used and which we thought was better. Of the people who used both, only one person preferred Hotmail. The question was whether people liked organizing their email with folders or tags. This is funny because I signed my mom up for Gmail and the first thing she wanted was folders.

Study results:

The differences between placing and tagging

  • keeping and organizing information

    • trade offs between cognitive v physical effort (cognitive you have to remember how you used it it) – with the folder you have to decide one or the other – with tagging you don’t have to pick one – but with tagging you have to do the same for all if you’re going to find them – so it’s 2x as much work
    • trade offs between hiding info and visibility – out of site out of mind – people who think like that didn’t want to put them in folders because it’s not in the inbox anymore
  • re-finding information
    • trade offs between flexible and systematic search – tags are useful if email is about two topics
    • trade offs in re-finding cues – folders are visual, i like that you can just sot of glance at it and remember it by where it is located

Information Management

William says that manage means “to handle” or to manipulate. He then pointed us to another study I Give Up! Five Factors that Contribute to the Abandonment of Information Management Strategies that will also be presented at ASIST later this year.

Management is all a matter of weighing what’s a better use of our time. One example is deciding what’s a better us of my time – a daily paper? or a weekly paper? Studies who that you can’t ignore a TV if it’s on … I guess I’m special – I’m writing this with the Today Show on in the background. In my case the best use of my time is to take care of my blogging while listening to the news – how else will I get my news – I can’t sit down and read a newspaper.

This study found that participants in the study had both short and long run factors.

  • factors for the short run

    • visibility -“i need something that is constantly visual to me”
    • integration – “Google calendar did not originally work well for me – eventually i started to use it because it was in my email”
  • long run
    • scalability – some tools just don’t scale over time
    • return on investment- start because of enthusiasm – but turns out to be a waste
    • co adoption – are others around us adopting the same tools

Managing Everyday

To live and be active is to have projects

  • plan online training course for ___
  • plan vacation
  • etc.

How do you organize project info?

  • drag and link “outside in”
  • in context create (ICC) “inside out”

William showed us an application that they were developing for Windows that links notes, folder, emails, calendars and more all in one place. This was his example of ICC.

Conclusions

  • P is a destination where you have a better personal mapping that organized info and our lives to make sense for our needs
  • I a starting point – info is available in many forms and is often fragmented
  • M managing information

Check out the Tales of PIM website for more information.

[update]

Nice summary of my talk overall. But one small correction: I mentioned work in the “Keeping Found Things Found” group in the iSchool of UW to understand how people keep web pages “found”. This work began in 2002 — before Del.icio.us.

However, the book of similar name, “Keeping Found Things Found: The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management” was published late 2007 and, in fact, discusses Del.icio.us and other social book-marking sites.

— William

[/update]

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Going Green

I am certainly not someone who is very green – but I do try to do my part. I recycle at home and grow my own herbs and try to shop at the farmers market when possible. The best way I can go green is to not print handouts for the classes I give – and lately I’m giving a lot of classes.

That said, this is a bit of a rant. At a few of my most recent talks I’ve had attendees complain that there were not handouts. I tell them at the beginning of the class that I’m going green and the slides are available online for people to print if they want – but that they can view them online whenever they want – and they still complain!! I don’t know about you, but most of my class handouts go into the recycle bin after I blog about the session – why keep them? I have it all documented and linked here. Librarians (and probably lots of other people – but I mostly see librarian) seem way too wedded to their paper! We need to learn to use some of the new tools available to us instead of wasting paper

Along these lines, there will be no paper handouts or water bottles at the SLA Annual Conference this year in an attempt to go green! They are asking all speakers to upload their slides before the event so that attendees can access them online. This is absolutely awesome!! And I feel for everyone who had to make this decision because they’re going to be bombarded with librarians complaining about not having handouts!

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More on Taxes

It’s tax time so I’ve got another tip to add to this morning’s. Another tip from Jenkins Law Library – this time from RayAna who points us to a great article on Yahoo! Finance about overlooked tax deductions. One example:

4. Student loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. Until recently, if parents paid back a student loan incurred by their children, no one got a tax break. To get a deduction, the law held that you had to be both liable for the debt and actually pay it yourself. But now there’s an exception. If Mom and Dad pay back the loan, IRS treats it as though they gave the money to their child, who then paid the debt. So, a child who’s not claimed as a dependent can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid by mom and dad.

Bet my parents wish that was in place while I was in college. Check out the list because you may qualify for more money than you realized.

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Like to file your taxes early?

Well, Nikki at the Jenkins Law Library has a great tip to save you some headaches. Because of the new Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), those who file before February 11th may have their returns rejected:

If you are like me then you already have your taxes e-filed and you are waiting for your refund. Many people have not heard that the IRS is requiring tax payers who file certain forms to wait until February 11, 2008 to file their taxes. Some of the forms are pretty common like the Schedule 2 for Child and Dependent Care Expenses and form 8396 for Mortgage Interest Credit. See what other forms will require the February 11 start date.

You can also subscribe to the IRS e-News to get up to date information.

Thanks for the heads up!

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My Change Mantra

We all talk about change, but what encourages you to push through the pain and fear associated with change? I have a song by the Indigo Girls that got me through a lot of tough times when I was younger and has stuck with me through the years. The song is The Wood Song. I want to share it with you.

the thin horizon of a plan is almost clear my friends and I have had a hard time bruising our brains hard up against change all the old dogs and the magician now I see we’re in the boat in two by twos only the heart that we have for a tool we could use and the very close quarters are hard to get used to love weighs the hull down with its weight but the wood is tired and the wood is old and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point that’s were i need to go no way construction of this tricky plan was built by other than a greater hand with a love that passes all our understanding watching closely over the journey yeah but what it takes to cross the great divide seems more than all the courage i can muster up inside but we get to have some answers when we reach the other side the prize is always worth the rocky ride but the wood is tired and the wood is old and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point that’s where i need to go sometimes i ask to sneak a closer look skip to the final chapter of the book and maybe steer us clear from some of the pain that it took to get us where we are this far but the question drowns in its futility and even i have got to laugh at me cause no one gets to miss the storm of what will be just holding on for the ride the wood is tired the wood is old and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point that’s where i need to go

Lyrics found here.

When I was in high school a friend of mine and I sat down and deconstructed the song – we didn’t understand the lyrics, years later it seems so simple. Change is hard, but it’s going to happen whether we want it to or not – “but if the weather holds then we’ll have missed the point” – I love that line.

So, if you have a friend with the CD, give it a listen or pay the $.99 to your favorite MP3 store and listen to it over and over as I have through the years – if you don’t have a mantra, it’s a pretty good one.

“…but what it takes to cross the great divide seems more than all the courage i can muster up inside but we get to have some answers when we reach the other side the prize is always worth the rocky ride ” — How can that not encourage you??

Feel free to share something that helps you push through change – maybe it will help others around you (maybe you know some old dogs or magicians).

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