Web 2.0 & Libraries

Karen Coombs started out the session on Innovative Uses of Web 2.0 Technologies by sharing some basic principles of Web 2.0.

Radical Decentralization

An example of centralization is people sending content to one web person and that person making the necessary web edits. Decentralization is the opposite – letting the people change the necessary pages as they need. The perfect example of this is Wikis & Blogs – giving the people the power – and saving us web people from the day to day web edits so that we can spend time developing nifty applications for you (this last bit is added by me).

Small Pieces Loosely Joined

Modular is the key – having huge systems that do everything and having everything intertwined is no longer a good business model. You need to be able to plug things in and pull things out with ease – but you also have to make it seamless for the user.

Perpetual Data

No more lengthy programming processes (kind of sounds a bit like Extreme Programming which we went over briefly in my System Analysis course) – release things early and constantly make improvements. I think that the drawn out processes do nothing but let people’s fears fester – making the change all that more difficult in the end. Karen called this the “Paper Cut” effect – change hurts – I say rip the Band-Aid off quick and it won’t hurt as much :) Also by constantly changing, people are more prepared – they know it’s coming because it’s always coming.

Remixable Content

This is all about sharing data. Why not make the library’s data available to be published on other pages? Why lock it up in the library? And the reverse applies – why should we develop all of the content on our own – why not take some from other places?

User As Contributor

Comes back to the first point – all the users to edit the content – why not – they know it better than we do – we’re in the IT department. Let the users then tag their data so that they can easily find it later and to make it more accessible to other users (I’m going to talk about this more later – because I saw an exciting presentation that has me ready to add tags to our intranet). Why not host blogs at the library so that your members (or students) can create their own content through your site? Karen mentioned UThink at the U of Minnesota).

Rich User Experience

Add fun things to the site to make the experience more enjoyable. Use multimedia like images and videos – maybe a video tour of your library. Allow for personalization of the site – we all want things differently – why not let us pick & choose? And my favorite – offer a space for collaboration – this is key and really makes the user feel like a part of the library.

Next Up – Jason Clark

Jason Clark followed Karen to share his experiences with user tagging (and this is what I was talking about before). Tagging is the act of adding metadata and my Systems Analysis text defines metadata as data about the business’ data.

Jason showed us something I should have known about (considering it’s location) – PennTags. This is a tagging site hosted by the library at the University of Penn. From the site:

PennTags is a social bookmarking tool for locating, organizing, and sharing your favorite online resources. Members of the Penn Community can collect and maintain URLs, links to journal articles, and records in Franklin, our online catalog and VCat, our online video catalog. Once these resources are compiled, you can organize them by assigning tags (free-text keywords) and/or by grouping them into projects, according to your specific preferences. PennTags can also be used collaboratively, because it acts as a repository of the varied interests and academic pursuits of the Penn community, and can help you find topics and users related to your own favorite online resources.

It’s pretty nifty.

So why does tagging work & why should libraries be using them? Jason mentioned the “Wisdoms of the Crowds”. Also they’re adaptable, current, and scale well. It’s not all good – there are some hitches. There is a lack of precision (controlled vocabulary), there is a lack of hierarchy, users can be wrong (but then again so can librarians – yes we can be wrong!), and lastly, there is a chance for people to spam (or “game” the system) to make certain tags more important than others.

After listening to Jason’s talk, I came up with all kinds of ideas of how we can use this in house on our staff intranet – so keep an eye out for upgrade announcements from me!

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[update]added presentation link[/update]

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