Posts tagged ‘Web 2.0’

Analog Knowledge in a Digital World

Working in a public library for the last two years has given me an interesting perspective on the divide between printed and digital information.  The emergence of web tools like Google and Wikipedia have greatly reduced the amount of time and effort it takes to find information.  Even academic journals are offering their publications in PDF format, downloadable from sites like JSTOR and Google Scholar. 

Does this mean that libraries are becomming increasingly irrelevant?  Not immediately, I don’t believe, but there is a real possibility for their demise if they do not adapt and evolve into a place that can be the hub of information that they once were. 

If the growth and maturity of Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it’s that the collaboration and sharing of ideas is what really drives today’s innovation.  Ask a question on FriendFeed and you’ll get an almost instant response, sometimes many great ideas and thoughts can arise from a single stimulus post.  Libraries, while once the place where information and knowledge was stored, must now take on a new role, one that is a hub of communication and sharing.  Libraries should be embracing their communities with tools like Twitter and FriendFeed.  Information that cannot be acquired from a source in the stacks could be requested from the community, and as people join the knowledge network, the reliability of the service increases. 

The reverse is also true.  People should be able to @yourlibraryhere a question that the reference librarians would receive, research, and reply with an answer that the sender would know to be reliable, removing the uncertainty of information posted online. 

The idea here is that libraries should no longer just be a place to go get a book to read.  They need to reinvent themselves and places in the community where ideas are exchanged and knowledge is created.  Today’s digital world means information is needed faster, and by using Web 2.0 tools, libraries can provide that service and remain relevant.   

Do you use your library to aquire information?  How could it better serve you and your community?  Share your ideas below.

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July 28, 2008 at 7:48 pm 1 comment

Facebook points out a societal problem

After reading Stanislav Shalunov’s post on the two types of Facebook users, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the reason why I never log on to MySpace.

The problem is the majority of users as described in the article, those that use the animated GIFs and have auto-playing music when the profile loads.  These are the things that make MySpace unusable for me.  MySpace profiles are almost always cluttered and improperly formatted, leaving an asymmetric mess of a web page that makes me more inclined to close the browser and walk away from the Internet than stay and find out about someone.

Facebook (pre-redesign) was moving in this direction, with its pages sprouting app after app filled with hatching animals and bumper stickers that were lifted off humor websites (like someecards.com).  Not only does this make a page difficult to use, but I believe it points out a deeper problem.

The Warning Signs

As Shalunov mentions in his post, “giggly” users are far less likely to read blocks of text, and are more inclined to communicate by clicking (Poking and playing games).  As the internet grows up and moves to the services found under the umbrella of Web 2.0, I cringe to think that these “giggly” users are still stuck in the days of Hamster Dance (see: WebHamster…the original HamsterDance has actually cleaned up its act a little).

Web 2.0 is (at least in my opinion) centered around the exchange of ideas and information, and using the power of the internet to connect people instantly, and allowing those people to generate new knowledge on the fly (that’s not to say that Web 2.0 isn’t about having fun at the same time; see: Flickr and Last.fm). If the majority of users can’t focus on text and only want to see glittery animations, then the problem runs a lot deeper than a profile page.

Who they are and how to fix it

Shalunov further explains who a “giggly” user might be:

Giggly users love to have fun with their friends, love to chit-chat and giggle, forward things easily and without a second thought. Giggly users generally don’t review applications because it requires typing. They don’t visit the about pages much. The prototypical giggly user is a female teenager who might later go to a party school to major in English.

This notion of not reading what an application is about before installing it, about being those that forward silly emails to their friends (and facilitate the spread of viruses) and are only in school to party is a real issue.  These are the college students that will be moving into the workforce soon, and what are we to do when our interns and junior associates can’t concentrate long enough to read a memo? Are companies going to cater to them, adding Lisa Frank stickers to their letterheads? No, they’re going to fire these people for being incompetent, and in the famous words of Ross Perot, there’s going to be a sucking sound as the pool of skilled workers dries up.

This country is moving eerily toward the situation seen in the movie Idiocracy where flashing lights and sensationalism attracts our eyes and our brains, and where laziness and apathy lead to underachievement and an economy that underproduces.

We need to take a serious look at our society and where we are headed. Facebook’s redesign that de-emphasizes the glittery applications is a start, and I’m happy to see them catering more to the serious user, who wants a place to exchange those ideas and find other people with similar interests. Images and media can be used in smart ways, and plenty of fun can be had interacting on the web, but the written word is something that we should never be too lazy or too giggly to appreciate and use.

July 21, 2008 at 3:32 pm 2 comments


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