Tag Archives: web 2.0

Why are there so few libraries that allow their patrons to edit library wikis?

I had to answer this question for my Web 2.0 class forum posting this week. This class is starting to make me sad. I’ve never been part of a library community that has embraced many emerging technologies outside of LibGuides, so I have to rely on examples from far-away libraries. It’s just not the same when you can’t say you’ve used innovative technology as a patron to find resources. I’m having trouble empathizing!

One reason why few libraries allow their patrons to add to library wikis might simply be lack of trust. In order to get the most out of user-generated content, libraries must trust their patrons to contribute useful information. But trust is a hard thing to gain. Letting users freely contribute information to a wiki is a process that probably won’t happen overnight for these libraries.

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RSSĀ Feeds

I don’t know how I survived without Google Reader. Admittedly, I didn’t even know RSS aggregators existed until a year ago. I’ve learned so much since then! You see, right after I graduated from college in May 2009 I got a temporary part time job as a receptionist at a law office. Because my only tasks were to scan documents and answer phones, I had a lot of free time while I was waiting for the phone to ring or for someone to hand me a paper document to scan. I remember sitting on the computer visiting my favorite blogs individually. I remember typing in the URLs for my favorite blogs. I remember thinking, “there should be an easier way to check for blog updates.” Then someone told me about Google Reader, and my life changed forever.

Now I am a Google Reader addict. I check mine at least twice a day. I would keep it open all the time, but I am so addicted to it that I added it to my list of sites to block during certain hours of the day. Here are some of the ways I use it:

  • To get up-to-the minute updates on new job/internship postings
  • To interact with my LIBR 246 (Web 2.0) classmates. Each of us has a blog that we use to post exercises and discussion topics. We comment on each other’s blogs twice a week or so. We also subscribe to each others’ de.licio.us feeds.
  • To get updates on new events on my school’s calendar
  • To listen to songs from Glee after each new episode
  • To relax after a long day of interning and homework with a cup of peppermint tea, some music, and subscriptions to over 150 blogs about libraries and librarians, knitting, music, technology, feminism, pop culture, commentary, social media, webcomics, fashion, and productivity.

Being so addicted to RSS feeds this past year has also led me to formulate a few standards about using RSS to maintain readership (at least readers like me). I’m sure I’m not the first one to do this, but here goes:

  1. If you have a blog, make sure the RSS feed is enabled and functional. Tonight, I visited a blog to which I would have loved to subscribe, but it had no RSS feed enabled! I probably won’t visit that blog again. It’s not that I’m angry and acting on my principles, it’s just that blogs with RSS feeds take much less effort to check. It sounds lazy, but part of creating a successful blog or website is knowing how your readers access it.
  2. Make sure your content makes it to the RSS aggregators. I hate when I subscribe to a blog only to find out that the posts show up as titles with no content. It’s only slightly better than having no RSS feed at all (unless your titles are really compelling or descriptive). Entice your readers with something.
  3. Make sure the appropriate amount of content makes it to the RSS aggregators. This is really only a problem when too little of your content appears with each post on an aggregator, because you want to have a large enough snippet (such as a picture and a short paragraph) to entice your readers. Entire posts, even if they’re lengthy, are not a problem because they are easy to scroll through (on Google reader, you can click “previous item” or “next item” or use keyboard shortcuts to skip through posts you don’t want to read).
  4. If you tend to write a lot of text-heavy posts, be sure to add some visual interest. Remember, people accessing your blog through an RSS aggregator can’t see your creative blog template (unless you make them to click through to read your post).

Well, I’m fading fast. The long weekend is over, my belly is full of my mom’s barbecue, and I’m ready to crash. Before I go, how do you check on your favorite blogs? If you use a feed aggregator, what are you subscribing to? What are some of your RSS annoyances?

Finally, here’s a song to mark the end of another week (a day late, since it’s labor day): Florence and the Machine – “Rabbit Heart” (Live on KEXP)

Major obstacles in adopting Web 2.0 principles: A little case study

Several weeks ago, I went grocery shopping with my mom. She needed to do her weekly shopping and I wanted to pick up some ingredients to make Jamaican jerk chicken bowls. When we were finished loading up the car, she asked me where I got the recipe. “I got it from a recipe blog,” I replied. After a moment of contemplation she asked, “is that how your generation finds things today? Through blogs?” “Pretty much,” I said. “If something doesn’t show up in a Google search, we’re less likely to find it. It’s not that I wouldn’t look in a recipe book. I just happened to be browsing through blogs and thought it looked good.”

Colorado River

Much of our water supply comes from the CO River. Further climate change could reduce the flow of the river, which means less water for Californians. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt.

It turns out Mom was looking for some insight into a problem they have at work (a government agency in southern California that shall forever remain anonymous on this blog). The agency foresees even tougher times in terms of access to water in the future, and they want to teach SoCal residents to be smart about their water use. I don’t know who their audience is right now (when she said “fix sprinklers,” Hank Hill came to mind), but in a couple of years, their audience is going to include young homeowners who expect to access and/or contribute to the agency’s information in dynamic ways. The agency has the capacity to redesign their unorganized, text-heavy website, adopt some Web 2.0 principles, and reach out to their audience where they are, but those who are ready to implement the changes are facing two major obstacles:

Lack of radical trust.
According to Meredith Farkas (n.d.), author of Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online and the blog Information Wants To Be Free, organizations must have trust in their audience. Some people at the agency feel that a public wiki would be useful in that people can post information on ways to conserve water around the house. External affairs, however, does not think the open, collaborative nature of wikis will lend itself to civil behavior and a high degree of accuracy in this capacity. Understandably, they don’t trust the public not to post expletive-laden comments or inaccurate information. Farkas suggests that organizations can prepare for abuse of trust by setting up policies for posting. Examples of these guidelines can be found just above the comments section of just about any online news article. As for wikis, they are constructed in such a way that it would be easy to revert back to earlier versions that did not yet contain the expletive-laden comments. But even if the external affairs department embraces transparency and collaboration with the public, they still have one more obstacle to overcome:

Too much concern with perfection.
Farkas also mentions that libraries are often too concerned with perfecting what they present to the public. They are known to strive for accuracy. The agency is the same way, from what I gather. They would rather not unveil new site features, such as a wiki or blog, that don’t work. It’s noble, sure, but Web 2.0 doesn’t work like that. Websites, apps, widgets, etc. that operate on Web 2.0 principles are in what is known as a perpetual beta state. To paraphrase Farkas, there is never a finished product. Organizations receive constant feedback from users about buggy software and needed improvements. Understandably, constant criticism (constructive or otherwise) can be difficult for some organizations to embrace, but in a Web 2.0 environment, embracing total collaboration is absolutely necessary in order to remain relevant.

Farkas, M. (n.d.). Introduction to social software (audiovisual slides). Retrieved from https://liffey.sjsu.edu.