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Embedding Content in Websites

   June 17th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Got 2.0?What do you do with your weekends? I talk about Library 2.0 with other librarians. Fun, yes?

In the course of discussion this weekend, I found myself focusing on one of my favorite elements, shared content. There is much more to Library 2.0 (and Web 2.0) than this, but it's a big part of it. By "shared content," I mean being able to display on one website content that originated (and is hosted by) another website.

On a lot of popular websites (like YouTube), there will be links to "embed this video" or "get our widget" or whatnot, and that's what I'm talking about. It's an easy way to make your own website more useful and interesting, but it also opens up all kinds of possibilities. You don't necessarily need to know anything about file formats, ftp'ing, or even HTML coding - all you need to know is how to copy/paste.

So, here's a bit of roundup of common types of embedded content, and a few ideas for using them to supplement what you're already offering on your website. The possibilities are really only limited by your creativity, so please share if you have ideas better than mine (and I'm sure you do).

Adding Movies and Video Clips
There's lots of websites that can host videos, but YouTube is the most common. Whenever you view a video on YouTube, you'll see a box titled "Embed" with some code in it. The code usually looks like this:

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/9FQzhtIJXJM&hl=en"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/9FQzhtIJXJM&hl=en" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

You don't need to know what any of that means. You just need to copy/paste it into your own HTML page or blog post, and a happy little video will be displayed on your webpage (the video still "lives" on the YouTube server, and you're just displaying it on your webpage), like this:

Ideas for using this:

  • Book Reviews, like StoryTubes
  • Library Tour, or a tour of historical sites around your community
  • A Teen Movie Making club
  • Staff introductions (I know, it'll never happen...)
  • Training on using library resources

Fun With Photographs
Again, lots of websites do this, but flickr is one of the most popular photo hosting services (it does video now, too). Instead of storing photographs on your own server, you can upload them to your flickr account and take advantage of the other tools flickr offers.

You can embed individual images (flickr gives you a choice of sizes, and provides the code for embedding it), or you can embed a slideshow or flickr "badge." These two are nice because after you put the code in, it can be set to automatically show your newest pictures. I use a flickr badge in navigation bar on the right, and my library also uses it to display historical photos and photos of our childrens room mural. Here's a sample of photos I have taken and tagged "Maine:"

herzogbr's items tagged with maine More of herzogbr's stuff tagged with maine on
www.flickr.com

Ideas for using this:

What's the feed, Kenneth?
Lots of Library 2.0 tools offer on RSS feeds. These can be grabbed and displayed on your website, no matter where they come from. One simple tool that converts an RSS feed to code you can embed on your website is Feed2JS - you just give it the feed, and it gives you the code. It also gives you some control over the formatting, too, which is nice. My library uses this to embed our three most recent blog posts onto the library's homepage - same content, different places.

Another fun set of feed tools let you mix multiple feeds into a single feed. So, if you wanted to get news from CNN, NPR and the BBC, or photos from different family members, you could combine them into a single feed and it makes keeping up easier. My favorite tools for this are FeedBlendr and FeedBurner - just enter the feeds you want to blend, and they produce a single feed for you. This can then be run through Feed2JS to embed on your website, and FeedBlendr also offers tips for using it.
Ideas for using this:

  • Promote your library blog on other webpages
  • Display blog posts with certain tags on related webpages
  • Display community news (especially headlines from your local paper)
  • Promote community connections by displaying feeds from patrons' blogs, photo streams, or other sources

Make subject guides dynamic
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website. It lets you "bookmark" websites into your account, which then can be used by you or other people. Del.icio.us lets you tag the websites as you bookmark them, which means that can be organized using your own structured vocabulary.

This is perfect for libraries that maintain online subject guides. It is much easier to add a website to del.icio.us and tag/describe it on the fly than it is to add it to a webpage by HTML. And when you do use a structured vocabulary for your tags, these new websites showing up on your library subject guides is automatic. It's also nice that multiple computers can add bookmarks to your account, so other staff can be adding websites whenever they see them. Read more about how to use del.icio.us for library subject guides on a previous post.
Ideas for using this:

Embedding fun features and communication tools
Once you start looking for them, you'll find lots of websites offering to embed their content on your website. This is a great was to encourage interaction and involvement, but the utility of the content must be evaluated - don't just embed things because you can.
Ideas for using this:

  • Local weather, from the Weather Channel
  • Polls and Quizzes, to see how patrons feel about an issue or just solicit input (flexipoll.com is one option)
  • Online chat, to ask a librarian a question or have a discussion (MeeboMe is one option)
  • Games, perhaps for a game club, to illustrated an article or collection, or just for fun (everyflashgame.com is one option)
  • Book information, to show new additions or a special collection (LibraryThing.com is one option)

Like I said, the possibilities of this are endless. The goodwill and usefulness can be immeasurable, too, but there are a few drawbacks. First, since this content is coming from other servers, it can be unavailable at times (or worse, go away forever without warning). Also, if you're displaying the content of other people, you can't control what they will say or do. This is why it is important to grab feeds only from trusted sources, or embed specific videos or photos, so you're sure of what you're getting.

And certainly, don't be afraid to just try something to see how it works. That's usually the best way to learn, and the best way to show people what is possible.



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