All entries for Monday 12 September 2011

September 12, 2011

Keeping up to date

Writing about web page

I took part in one of the Guardian's online "Q&A" sessions recently, on the theme of surviving your first academic post. How it seems to work is that an article introducing the theme and the experts is put onto the website, and then participants are invited at a particular time, whereupon they all start writing in the comments stream for that article and the experts start responding.

As an experience, it was rather disorientating and I confess that I dropped out of the conversation after 30 or so comments, because I couldn't follow all the different threads and different people. I went back to scan through the posts later, and I had a look at other such "Q&A" sessions too: there are some gems of advice and handy links amongst the content, but you do have to wade through a lot of other people's concerns! I might have persevered if I had a question to put to the experts myself.

It made me think about how I might like to host an online "Q&A" for our researchers, and I think it would not be a live session, but we would ask researchers to post questions in advance. I guess that the attraction of the session is that it takes place at a particular time, and you'd lose the sponteneity of people's questions/ideas prompted by others, but you would gain a structure that visitors could follow. Something for me to think about some more!

Social media: thoughts then and now

Writing about web page

I wrote an article on the use of "web 2.0" techologies and their usefulness to libraries which was published in 2008 but which was based on work I did in 2007. Some recent correspondence has caused me to look back at what I thought would be useful then, and to reflect on whether I was looking in the right direction!

One big difference is that I was specifically investigating Web 2.0 sites and services in 2007 and I don't have the time to investigate properly these days, so if a web 2.0 or social media site is on my radar nowadays, it is because it serves a purpose to me.

I was rather focussed on Facebook in my article which is probably because I was thinking of the undergraduate population. Nowadays I hardly touch Facebook myself: we use it in the Library and for the Research Exchange, so it's not about my own profile there and I can save that for my real friends! Facebook actually support such organisational profiles these days, which they didn't back in 2007.

The feature of Facebook which I didn't write about then but which I think is significant now is the simple ability to "like" something. It's kind of like social bookmarking: we integrate buttons onto the guides on the Research Exchange site, for readers to "like" our materials, or to tweet them or e-mail them or otherwise share them. We noticed that when we promoted the Research Exchange Facebook page to new PhD students last year, a number of them "liked" us and that gave us an indication as to how many we had reached, who had come to visit us and find out more after we introduced ourselves to them. Facebook continues to be a useful tool, but in different ways than I was thinking back in 2007. My colleague Katharine Widdows also wrote about the Library's use of Facebook in 2009:

Nowadays I value LinkedIn a lot more than I did then, which is probably because LinkedIn itself has grown in both the size of its community and the functions it offers, since 2007. The people who I want to network with professionally are using LinkedIn, so it's something that I use too.

RSS feeds remain as useful and relevant as they were then, although I read fewer posts on fewer feeds myself these days and spend more time promoting the feeds available from databases as a way for researchers to keep up to date with newly indexed/published material which meets their search criteria.

I still like social bookmarking sites but I haven't really used them properly for organising my own favourites. I am like the proverbial plumber whose own house is full of leaks! I think that the "like" feature of Facebook is probably the best way to share things that you are interested in with your friends, and to be social but I still think that there are bookmarking tools/sites with a lot of potential... I'm just a bit out of date and out of practice in this arena. I probably use this blog to store and share useful sites, more than social bookmarking tools: it's an unsophiticated but effective enough tool, for me.

Intute is not being maintained any more: it closed in July this year. MyIntute never seemed to take off and it never became a social media site which was perhaps part of its downfall. The web is vast and growing all the time, but it seems that people value search engines rather than selected and catalogued collections. I wonder if/when this might change. Search engines do a great job of matching results to your search query intuitively, but they don't index the deep web and they don't select for quality. I'm following the development of Microsoft Academic Search with interest, because it might help to improve Google Scholar or indeed take over from it... but this is not really Web 2.0!

I have not visited Second Life since my investigations in 2008... I remember it fondly and I can see from lists and such like that other librarians are using it, but I said back then that the place for our Library would be to follow our students into such a space, and I think we're still waiting for such an occurrence really.

I didn't even discuss Twitter back then: I really didn't see the point of it and it was barely a year old. I have since learnt "the point" but I don't tweet properly myself: headings from this blog are sent out on Twitter and very occasionally I have tweeted at others whose tweets I have read and valued, but I know that I'm just a visitor and not a resident!

"The point" of Twitter, as I see it now, is the massive reach that it has: you just don't know what others are going to be interested in! When Yvonne Budden took over the repository from me in March 2010, she set up a twitter feed of all the latest additions to WRAP and could demonstrate that it brought visitors to those papers, and I was truly surprised. I have also learnt to explain when a presentation is not to be tweeted about because it is for attendees only!

Twitter is probably not for me. I mean, how would I put all this in 140 characters? I'm much happier blogging!

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