December 2011 Archives

Gmail's People Widget

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I stumbled onto a Gmail feature I didn't know about last week, and verified with the PIM collaborative that I wasn't the only one who hadn't noticed it. It's called the People widget.

You know how when you open an email, you see a pane on the right side that shows a list of people in the conversation? Oh, you know; like this:


You might have noticed the icons that allow you to start a chat, email, or schedule a meeting with the whole group:


And you might have even noticed that if you click on one of the people, you can chat, email, or call that person:


But have you clicked that Details link? Try it: You'll see a list of recent email conversations you've had with that person, their current availability from their Google Calendar, and a list of documents they've shared with you:


As one of the PIM Collaborative members so eloquently put it, there's just nowhere to hide anymore.

PIM Year in Review

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For our last meeting of the year, the Personal Information Management Collaborative celebrated with cookies representing our accomplishments over the past year:

Some of the things you'll see represented in cookie form are:

  • ACRL poster

  • PIM website

  • Staff Self-Assessment first pass

  • Google Forms article

  • Life Could Be Easier and Life Could Be Easier on the go

  • PIM Blog

  • bX Recommender review

  • Mendeley class

  • User community identification

  • Messages for user communities

  • eBooks and the eBooks page

  • Assembly presentation

  • Coffee Club

  • RefWorks 2.0 migration

(See if you can spot the Javascript cookie.)

Google+ Stream is now adjustable

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Google recently introduced the option to control how much of the content from each of your circles appears in the main stream. Until now, your main stream would just show every post from every person you've added to any circle. This can be a drag if some of your circled people are very talkative while others aren't. Now though, you can go to each circle and adjust the amount of content from each one that shows in your main stream.

The odd thing is that it's not clear what the percentages are or why you'd only want to see "some" entries, but not others. For me, the value is in the all/nothing approach. I've just reset my circles so that, for example, all posts from UMN folks show in the main stream while posts from folks in the Following circle don't. I put people in Following because I'm interested in what they have to say, but now it doesn't hide material from people closer to home.

To adjust what shows in the main stream, go to any individual circle and move the bar as directed.


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wunderlist-icon.pngWe've listed a couple of list-making apps in our Life Could be Easier: On the Go series, and I wanted to put in a plug for one we haven't mentioned, but that I have been using a lot lately: Wunderlist. Not only is Wunderlist fun to say, it's also super easy to use and it syncs across all of my devices (android, iPad, desktop, web.) Per Paul Zenke's suggestion, I've been using it to keep my inbox empty (well, close to empty at least) by adding items to my Wunderlist if I need to follow up on them, and archiving them if I don't. I keep a list for each of the collaboratives I'm on and I can view them either by the categories, or by due date. It's really helped me stay on top of things. Wunderlist also has the option to create shared lists which can be useful for collaboration on work projects or for sharing things like grocery lists with your family.

Not least of all, I like Wunderlist because it has a very simple, intuitive, and sleek design. Here's a picture of one of my lists:


Google+ has just extended its Hangouts feature (e.g. video chat/conferencing) to apply to specific posts.

This is pretty cool for reasons I'll explain below. But first, a short story for context...

Just yesterday in the SS&PP department meeting we were discussing methods of sharing information with each other with the example being an informal session I'd hosted for Wilson Reference staff on the World Bank Data site. Van Houlson sat in because he happened to be S30C at the time and said he'd found it really useful (thanks Van!).

However, he wished that he had something he could go back to later to refer to as needed, but it seemed like no part of really fit with this need.

I pointed out that even if we did have such a space - and I agree that we don't in - my session was aimed at librarians anyway. I presumed lots of knowledge on the part of the audience and focused on elements of the World Bank Data site that would be of benefit in a reference situation.

However, Google+ _can_ meet this need.

  1. It lets you target posts to specific audiences (reference staff or your department or your students)

  2. You retain access to the posts long after the fact & you can bookmark them, +1 them or save them to special circles for finding again later

  3. It now has hangouts attached to each post

So, instead of hosting sessions in S30C limited to staff who are physically present, I could write a post about using the World Bank Data site, invite people to discuss it via hangouts and participants could bookmark/+1/whatever it for their own use.

This would require that UMN staff adopt Google+ pretty broadly, but it might be worth it for precisely this kind of use.

Also, you can imagine how hangouts attached to specific posts could be used for instruction, class discussions, group projects, etc.

Scholarship and Social Media

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I recently came across a presentation by science librarian John Dupuis titled Scholarship in the Public Eye: The Case for Social Media. You can view his slideshow here:

Even more useful, I think, is this post linking to all of the resources used in this presentation. It's a great compilation.


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The University of Minnesota has created a short, interactive online workshops on e-professionalism and using social media. There are two different versions: one for students and one for staff and faculty. Both focus on how to create a positive professional online presence, critical thinking about the information you post online, and privacy/legal issues in an educational context.

You can access the workshops at

Both versions start with this video to get you thinking about social media:

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2011 is the previous archive.

February 2012 is the next archive.

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