NFAIS – User-Generated Content – Nature Precedings

I want to preface this by saying I will probably never ever need to use this tool – but it was really awesome sounding so I wanted to share it with you all!

Hilary Spencer from Nature came to talk at the NFAIS meeting about Nature Precedings and Nature Network.

Nature Precedings allows scientists to post pre and post publication research papers and presentations to share with the community. It allows for documents that were not previously available to be open to the scientific research community. While similar to arXiv, it is not a replacement or competitor. ArXiv is for documents from the Physics and Math research communities.

The problem with Precedings as I see it is that each item is pre-screened to make sure it’s being submitted by a valid scientific community member. If Precedings is going to grow the way they hope it will (and the way I think it will) they’re going to have to come up with a more convenient method for adding content – or the process is going to slow down under the load. A possible answer to this is using information from Nature Network to validate the content being submitted to Precedings.

Nature Network is like Facebook for scientists – but very very protected. Users are screened to make sure that they are who they say they are and that they have something to contribute to the scientific community. Each profile on Network has a list of publications for the member – possibly allowing the people at Nature to write a script to check submissions to Precedings against Network – eliminating the human element and speeding the process along. While Hilary mentioned something like this – most of this is conjecture on my part.

This is a great step – especially since it’s being made by a publishing company. Unfortunately, they’re only one publishing company and many others have rules that prohibit the publishing of papers in their journals if they appear in any form elsewhere. This is an issue that Nature is dealing with – and to start they are promising that they will consider items in Precedings for publishing if they are submitted by the authors. Other issues include people being afraid of sharing their research and having it stolen – a valid fear – and another that Nature is addressing. Nature is making times in the Precedings depository citeable so that original authors can show that they came up with the idea first.

Overall, it seems like a great tool – and something that will be a great benefit to the scientific community – I hope it continues to grow and that we see similar tools for other disciplines.

[update] Originally I was calling Precedings by the wrong name. I have changed all occurances of Proceedings to Precedings (which is the right name). [/update]

[update2] Hilary has corrected me. Precedings screens members, but Network does not. [/update2]

NFAIS – User-Generated Content – Blogs

The next session I attended at the NFAIS meeting was on blogging. It started with Steven Bell who talked about the four different types of blogs he writes for and how he managed blogging for four blogs.

The newest of Steven’s blogs is called Designing Better Libraries. It was started as a promotion for his book and is managed by a team of writers. I mention this blog because it intrigues me and has just been added to my blogroll. I also mention it because Steven had a great tip for finding the time to blog – join a team. A team blog is a blog written by more than one person. This way you don’t have to be solely responsible for publishing on a daily basis – you get to share the work with others.

Next up was Rafael Sidi of Really Simple Sisi (RSS). Rafael was awesome to listen to! He was so genuine – I hope my presentations come off that way. Rafael talked about how people say we’re controlling the information age – in particular he pointed out the Time’s person of the year issue where we were all named as the winner. He said he wished he was controlling the information age, but the truth is that we’re just contributing to the information age. He went on to compare the blogosphere to the grand bazaar in Istanbul. When you go to the bazaar you have to know who the trustworthy merchants are and where you’ll get the best deals – the same is true for blogs.

Rafael’s secret to blogging? He doesn’t care what people think. He blogs for fun! He said, “I use my blog as a post-it note.” What a great analogy. Another great quote, “If you are planning to blog you need to be ready to be transparent!” The thing about blogs is that they’re open – which is both the beauty of blogs and the challenge of them. Lastly, Rafael encouraged us by telling us that we’d learn more from reading blogs than we ever would from our colleagues. By reading blogs, you hear from people all over the industry – not just your little pocket. I’d actually take that one step further and say that by having everyone in your organization read blogs, you’ll actually be able to learn more at work.

NFAIS – Current Status of User-Generated Content

Yesterday I attended and presented at a meeting for NFAIS members. The first presentation was done by Michael Mahoney of Nerac. Michael talked about the current status of blogs, wikis and podcasts at his organization. While most of what he went over was nothing new to me, I did get some good snippets that I’d like to share with you all.

A friend of mine recently started blogging. She is still learning the ropes and really wants to give it her all. This means that she’s spending a lot of free time blogging and reading blogs. Sometimes this bugs her spouse.

What does this have to do with NFAIS? Apparently Michael went through the same thing. He talked about how before he brought blogs into his organization he spent his nights and weekends driving his spouse crazy by using his free time to play with blogs. He encouraged attendees to really take the time to experiment and learn about the technology – even if it means driving your spouse crazy. I guess I’m lucky that I have a geek for a husband – he wanted to learn about blogs right along with me!

At Nerac, a few of their blog experiments failed and a few worked. One of the ones that failed was a company blog where each expert wrote on the topic he or she knew best. The problem with this model was that there were too many topics being discussed and no reason for fans of one topic to come back on a daily basis. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but a possible solution in a case like this is to provide topic specific RSS feeds – that way people who care about one topic can just receive updates when a new post is made on that topic.

When it came to the experiments the company was doing with podcasts they learned some interesting things. First, podcasts are less stressful for employees to create than whitepapers. When people read text they analyze it and criticize it. When people listen to podcasts, they just listen – alleviating some of the worries of the podcaster. That said, people still prefer to download the PDFs to the podcasts – 5 times more likely! Michael suggested two possibilities for this. First, podcasts require more of an investment on the part of the user, you can’t just skim a podcast like you can a document. You also can’t flip the page of the podcast when you want to refer to it later. The other possible reason for this is that people may not have the luxury to listen to podcasts at work.

I’m not sure how they can address this problem – but maybe a good solution would be to provide written transcripts for podcasts – but then you have a bit of a catch 22. If people criticize written content then they’ll start to criticize the podcasts since they can read the transcript.

Overall, it was a very insightful talk. The one bit I hope most people took away from it was the part about playing and experimenting!

Upcoming Presentation

I will be presenting at PALINET for a NFAIS event on June 29th entitled “User-Generated Content and Social Media”:

1:15pm – 2:45pm: The Collaborative Information Workplace

  • Nicole Engard, Metadata Librarian, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Barbara Brynko, Editor-in-Chief, Information Today, Inc.

This session will focus upon the effective use of collaborative communication tools within the workplace. The speakers will discuss why they adopted such technologies and how they identified the tool(s) most appropriate for their specific need(s). In addition they will discuss implementation issues such as user resistance, the learning curve required, and any unanticipated problems that may have arisen. The level of success achieved to date and any emerging trends that they have observed will also be discussed.

See the entire schedule at the NFAIS site.

NFAIS 2007: Measuring Change

Today I got to hear Bette Brunelle of Outsell Inc. at the NFAIS 2007 Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Her topic was “Measuring Change: How Disruption Affects to Information Community” – nifty title.

Bette provided us with a bunch of statistics from the Outsell database, but before that, she made a very important point. She mentioned that many of us talk to our current customers to see what they think about our organizations – and to get ideas for change. This is the wrong approach! We should be talking to tomorrow’s customers. This model doesn’t apply quite as much to academic or public libraries – which I’ll come back to later – but most certainly to corporate and other special libraries. For our web redesign project at Jenkins I’ve asked to interview law and library students to see what they want to see on the website – I want to hear from the future librarians and lawyers so that I can design a site that’s going to meet their needs when they graduate.

Before I go into some stats, the disclaimer – in the Outsell database the average user age is 38 and the users are predominately American.

Information Seeking

When asked where users when seeking information for their jobs in both 2001 and 2006 the number one answer (79% in 2001 and 57% in 2006) was the Internet, followed by the office intranet (5% in 2001 and 19% in 2006). The library came in at 3% in 2001 and 4% in 2006 – but we’re not surprised since we’ve seen results like this in many other studies. What’s interesting is that when asked how many times these methods resulted in satisfactory answers there was a 31% error rate across all markets (internet, intranet, library) – but when people failed to find info on their intranets they just assumed it was because they didn’t search quite right – people apparently are very enthusiastic about their intranets – more so than the internet (yet they’re still looking at the internet first for information).

When they fail the users were asked where they go next. 64% will go to an in-house colleague, 18% will go to an out-of-house colleague, and 7% will go to their public library. Sounds about right to me – I work in a library and I still ask my peers for information first.

Email is still king

When asked how people prefer to get their information, 76% still say they want it to come via email. 45% want it to be on their office intranet, 45% want to look to blogs for information (55% of these are under 30 and 43% over 30), 20% choose RSS (23% are under 30, 20% over 30), and 21% get it via podcasts (27% under 30 and 19% over 30).

Remember all of these questions are in reference to work related information seeking/receiving behaviors. Would these numbers change if we were talking about personal information seeking? I know it would for me.

Corporate Libraries

When corporate libraries were asked what technologies they have recently implemented (or plan to in the near future), 40% have said RSS (Great!!), 28% say e-learning, 15% for web conferencing, 9% for blogs (which I find interesting – I would have expected a higher number here), and 7% said e-books.

Here’s where it gets disturbing – Bette points out that because corporate libraries are usually dealing with an older population than a public or academic library, it’s not where you’re going to find the most forward thinking people. When librarians were asked how they went about their daily duties they all gave very traditional methods for doing their jobs.

At this point the slide on the screen was of the New Yorker cartoon where the man is talking to his cat, saying, “Never, ever, think outside the box”.

She has my attention now (not that she didn’t before – but she’s touching on my area of the library world) – and now she’s warning the audience to be careful of who you’re talking to when you’re going to libraries for information. Is this what you expect to hear at an information conference?? It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting – but I totally see where she’s coming from.

The innovators

That said, if you’re looking for innovation and passion in libraries (she says) go to your public library. This is where you’re going to find the most passionate staff because they’re already dealing with the next generation of library users and they’ve been forced to keep up with the times. She showed us a few public and academic library sites where innovation was very obvious (tagging, MySpace, Virtual worlds) – and urged us to find out what our future information seekers are going to expect from us.


This was a great talk … and I’m going back to my library to push that little bit more to instate changes that are going to benefit both our current and our future users – because if we don’t start now we’re going to be way behind the curve!