How many things? Only 23.

[Why have I waited so long to do this Thing? Well, I wanted to spend some time on it, and see if it would be possible to use these things in work, but I kept on running out of time, and in the end I found out they aren’t possible anyway, so I’ve finally written the blog post!]

Sharing your work is great (not in a plagiarism, can-I-copy-you at school sort of way), but sharing documents if you’re working on something with a group of people, possibly remotely from each other as well. (Thing 13.)

Unfortunately, in work, Google Docs/Drive is disabled, and we cannot install software like Dropbox onto the thin clients. Although there are occasions when I would like to make a document available virtually for a select group of (external) colleagues for their edits, it’s currently not possible in work. Internally, an electronic records management system was introduced last year so now we can view all documents and edit them, from one central place, which is much better than before.

I don’t really do home working so I don’t really need to work at home on a work document, so having Dropbox at home wouldn’t really help anyway.

I actually looked into sharing documents online about a year ago, not for my job/work, but for my yoga life. I have a range of typed handouts I wanted to make available to anyone, and looked into a number of different options, including Dropbox and Google docs, but the one I liked most was It is simple, free, uncluttered, doesn’t require installation, can be accessed from anywhere and does all that I needed. (Admittedly it’s not really designed for multiple-author editing.)

You can see my minus profile here, and download any of the yoga handouts you want!

And whilst I have used various wikis, I’ve never created one. Not really seen the need to do that yet.

This week’s thing (well, strictly speaking, the thing from a few weeks ago, thing 19), focuses on integrating what we’ve been learning in 23Things and if we’ve been able to integrate this into our work or professional lives.

Stand out things that I have definitely learnt and integrated into my work are: magazine for gathering and re-publishing news on a topic (thing 4) and screencasts (thing 18). With both of those I have now started using them in work. My is on e-books and libraries and I am trying to promote that and also wrote a blog post on my use of on my main library work blog.

Learning how to do a screencast was great and perfectly timed with a presentation I was able to deliver via a screencast, saving 9 hours on a train! My screencast is on social media and organisations and I was asked to focus on two particular things. If you’re interested you can watch it here. I also blogged about this in my work blog, trying to raise the profile of this really useful software.

Things I would like to integrate but haven’t found the time yet include citation tools for keeping references of research reports etc (thing 14) , and streamlining my RSS feeds and making a public page for those (thing 4).

And there are some things which I haven’t completed yet but could well become useful to me (filesharing – thing 13 and Prezi – thing 17). I’ve been asked to deliver my usual lecture to the post-graduates in the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University – it would be great to see if I could wow them with a Prezi!

So I feel I’ve gained a few new skills, and updated existing ones (such as blogging, brands, advocacy, networking etc).

Given where I am in my career, and my current job, these ‘learning something specific’ things have been the most useful for me. Some of the more ‘early career’ considerations are slightly less useful, in terms of learning, in that it’s been a wee while since I started in librarianship, although it has been nice to reflect on these matters.

Well, isn’t 23Things fabulous? I needed to make my first ever screencast, and that very week the thing to learn was … screencaptures! Prior to this I had seen a couple of screencasts in the making, and also taken part in a RSC Wales lunchtime bytes webinar on making them, but hadn’t made one myself.

Both Thing18 and the webinar focus on Jing, but Thing18 also mentioned a few others including Screencast-o-matic. The downside of Jing (and some others?) is that it requires downloading and installing, which is not possible where I work. Screencast-o-matic is not only free but also allows you to make your screencast directly, with no installation required (although you can install a version if you wish).

So, the exciting thing is that I made a trial screencast of only 30 seconds, and then I made a full feature length (15mins!) screencast! And I’ll tell you for why. Links are at the bottom of this post – either read the whole thing or skip to the bottom!

The request

I was contacted a few weeks ago by colleagues who run a knowledge information management course for my organisation. The forthcoming module was on communication and they were covering social media and asked if I would be able to give a 15 minute presentation on this, in Cardiff. Now, here’s the thing. I live in Aberystwyth which is 4.5 hours from Cardiff by train – so I would be spending 9 hours on a train (well, 4 trains), for a 15 minute talk! I suggested that this wouldn’t be the most effective use of my time or very sensible and so offered them a screencast instead (at which point I’d never done one before but I sounded confident in the email…!) They agreed and told me the two learning outcomes they wanted me to cover in the 15 minutes.

So then I set to learning how to make one.

Trials & tribulations

The path to making a screencast doesn’t always run smoothly. Screencast-o-Matic requires Java plugins, which aren’t installed on the work desktop so I had to use our non-networked laptop with WiFi. The WiFi kept dropping so I would be in the middle of recording my screencast flicking from website to website and then would have to re-enter the WiFi password every so often. I prefer using Firefox and set up all my websites I was going to visit (Twitter, my blog etc), as tabs in Firefox, only to find that Java plugins had been disabled for that browser on that laptop and I couldn’t find out how to enable them – I looked everywhere! So then I had to open up IE (groan) (but luckily we had two browsers on the laptop), and open up all the tabs again. Oh, I’d also had to send myself an email to my ‘home’ email with my powerpoint slides which I was using as a base for the talk, because we can’t use USB pens in work to transfer files (and I haven’t investigated online storage – I know, that was Thing 13 which I haven’t completed yet).

Anyway, the actual process of making the screencast was fantastically easy and very exciting. I recorded one version just using the inbuilt microphone of the laptop, but my line manager got very excited about it all and the next day brought in a headphone set with microphone and I recorded a second version of my talk. The quality of that version was much better so I would recommend using an external headphone/mic set if you’ve got one.

Having taken part in a webinar on screencasts I knew it was all in the planning. So I had a rough narrative and had already set up my powerpoint slides as a guide. I’m not someone who likes to read a script word for word so each version I made was slightly different in narrative, and in some places you can tell I’ve wandered slightly off track, but it’s not bad!

I haven’t experimented with all the functionality of Screencast-0-matic such as captions and notes, but maybe will do that when I do another one.

Saving the files was relatively easy. I initially saved the talk as an .avi file onto the laptop. However, as I wanted to have an online version I then had to upload my final version into Vimeo as you can’t upload a video into Screencast-o-Matic if you saved it locally and finished the session (closed everything down) and didn’t upload into Screencast-o-matic at that point. I think you can both save it locally and upload it within one session, but not if you have left their website or turned your computer off. I think you also need to create a free account if you want to upload to their site.

From what I recall doesn’t have a search facility so you can’t try and find your screencast, you have to use the url link they email you.

I know my presentation screencast is long, but that was the length of the slot they wanted me to do. Luckily 15 mins is also the maximum length of screencast you can do with so it was ideal.

Top tips

1. Have either a rough outline of your talk, or a full narrative if you prefer that.
2. Use an external mic/headphone set to record your voice, but don’t have the mic too near to your mouth.
3. Try to keep your screencast to under 5 mins – we have short attention spans theses days, and it also makes it quicker to upload!
4. Check you have all the technical requirements on the computer of choice before starting.
5. Best not to do it when on WiFi unless the connection is very stable and doesn’t keep dropping.

The evidence

Ok, as a reward for reading right to the end (you didn’t skip bits did you?), here’s the 30 second one which I uploaded directly into Screencast-o-matic. And here’s the 15 minute talk on social media and organisations which I uploaded into Vimeo. Feedback welcome.

As you can tell I’m very excited by this and am planning what I can do for my next screencast!

Update – the training session has just taken place and the organiser has emailed to say “feedback was very positive” and “the screencast worked very well as a media channel and think it inspired the trainer to use it for future events”.  Yay!

et cetera