Saturday, June 5, 2010

Web 2.0 on a cloudy, wet Saturday

I'm sitting here doing a Saturday shift at the library (which may be a topic for another post, but I'll hold off on that for the moment) and the current conditions are forcing me to think again about working in a Web 2.0 universe, including my stuff that's found in the "cloud." I have to confess, at the moment, I'm not impressed. Maybe I'm just having a bad day, but I've run up against some of these problems before, so I don't think this is a "one off" situation. Some of this might not be "2.0" problems; some of it may be other infrastructure issues. In any event, let me elaborate (or maybe "vent" is more appropriate).

First, there's the issue of wireless connectivity. The way we're set up here for Saturday operations involves, for at least one staff member, a wireless connection. On Saturdays we position one of our staff in the library atrium (at the moment that's me) to meet researchers and visitors and direct them as needed. When I set up this morning I could not log on to our regular staff wireless connection. I don't know why. The signal strength was excellent. I was using the correct user name and password. But time and again I could not get on. Not satisfied, I tried connecting through our "guest" wireless connection and got in no problem. There may be a limit on bandwidth, but at least I could get into the system. But then things continued to be "clunky."

Once connected through wireless I then logged on to our chat system. We use Meebo. This is the way that our staff communicates with each other throughout the building. Its especially important on a Saturday, when we have limited staff. Here, again, I felt like I was hitting a wall. For whatever reason (maybe the wireless connection) I was disconnected and then reconnected with the chat server. For the last 45 minutes it seems to have stabilized, but it was frustrating at the beginning.

OK, now that I was connected through chat it was time to try and get some work done. Often during these Saturday sessions I'll work on my Holmes and Doyle bibliography. I use Refworks for this work and up until the last week or so I've been happy with this arrangement. But things are getting clunky here, too. And it doesn't seem to matter whether I'm working through a wireless connection or through my regular network connection. Things have gotten very slow. Maybe its because of the size of my database (over 9,000 citations). I don't know. But what I do know is that this "cloud" arrangement is making me have second thoughts about continuing with Refworks. Some examples of my frustration:

If I want to back up my database (which I do every week or so) I am now consistently getting timed out from my connection. In the last few days I tried to backup my material, was continuously getting timed out, and finally gave up. I'm going to try again later today, hoping that network/server traffic might be lower. We'll see.

The same holds true when I try to export my data. I do this as another means of backup and because Refworks doesn't offer the ability to create subject bibliographies. So I export all of my Refworks data into an EndNote library (where I can create subject bibliographies; I have the program loaded on my laptop, so don't use the web version.) But again, I'm constantly getting timed out from my connection. After three tries the other day I was finally able to get my data from Refworks and save it as a text file to my desktop and then import it into EndNote. I'm now at the point where I'm seriously considering dumping the Refworks project and doing all my work in EndNote. (That may create some other difficulties, but at least I won't be dependent on access to the "cloud" in order to get my hands on my stuff.) I logged off from Refworks and my try it again later. But it has been really slow of late, regardless of how I'm connected.

So what am I left with on a rainy Saturday morning? A wireless system that is fritzy and won't let me log in on my regular staff account. A chat system that sputtered at the beginning but seems to have settled down. A citation manager system that doesn't perform the way I'd like it to, and now a blog post that is having trouble autosaving itself as I draft this little missive. Maybe it is a connectivity problem (although at the moment my system tells me that the wireless signal is "excellent.")

I don't know, and there's no one I can ask on a Saturday morning. When I called the help line for the wireless system earlier this morning I got a voice message telling me that the office was closed. Signs of the times? Is this what the world will look like as budget restrictions cause us to cut back on services, like a Saturday help desk for IT issues? Maybe its all an infrastructure issue--budgets, staff, connectivity, the cloud?

What I'm left with is a Saturday that's proving to be less than totally productive. Maybe I'll pull out a book and do some reading. There are no infrastructure or connectivity issues there. Just the simple joy of turning pages. Maybe that's the best way to spend a rainy morning.

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