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Updated: 2014-10-04T20:17:38.985-07:00




My summer of social networking has been be continued both for pleasure and in my career. I want to find a good RSS feed for keeping up with the latest developments in the Web 2.0 (and maybe 3.0) field.

The Interaction between Humans and Social Software: A Personal View


I decided that I had better look back at my original blog posts before posting this week because I don’t want to repeat myself and I wondered if my opinions had changed over the past few months. I made a comment near the beginning of the course about not liking the fact that once online the blog post is there “permanently”—I cannot change my mind and delete it; I cannot correct errors in it. I still think this is annoying, and bloggers should be able to edit their own blogs. I find reading blogs on the Internet that have no substance just a waste of time—and so I avoid them as much as possible. For this reason, I am reluctant to put on a blog anything that is not founded in research or serious thought. So for me, blogging is a good method of collecting my thoughts on a subject—but I know I need to add more personal opinion—that is what makes the post interesting to read. I still hope to use the blog to determine my own interests and points of view. I can see how communities of bloggers read at each others’ blogs and share ideas—that’s ideas, Jill, not facts. has been an interesting browsing tool within our course community. I did not, however, find it useful for general browsing outside the community—the quantity of unrelated material one has to browse through to find the “serendipitous” link takes too much time to go through. I do think I’ll continue using for personal tagging and later retrieval. I will also use Cite-U-Like.

RSS Feeds are a great idea, but I don’t find them very useful hiding on my aggregator where I have to go and search for them and where they are out of context on the aggregator screen. I did not use the aggregator to access fellow-student’s blogs—I relied on the course blog’s listing, where I could link directly to the blogs and see the updates in context. I like feeds onto my desktop. I also still prefer information fed to my email (listservs, etc.).

Wikis are great for collaboration for internal projects. I certainly intend to use these. I also intend to become reasonably proficient in Second Life in order to witness the virtual world that parallels the real world. This course has been a trip to various options in cyberspace—where we continue to socialize as human beings, which we do best in small groups. We will continue to “tread” virtually in new paths, but still interact as humans.

A New Level of Interaction


Although I had looked at blogs and wikis, sometimes for research, I had never contributed to one before. I had been wanting to implement tags and RSS feeds for some time, and I have appreciated what I have learned. My recent online social network presence gave me an understanding for the possibilities in this field. And although I knew about online gaming, I knew nothing about SecondLife. There is a whole world on the Internet that parallels the real world, and that expands our options and speeds up our interactions. As with the Internet in general, the quantity of information on social software is vast. Online communities within that software reduce the space to a conceivable size. Friends and colleagues read and comment on each others’ blog posts. Wales stated about wikis that “things go well when a group of people know each other; things break down when it’s a bunch of random people interacting”. Choices of RSS feeds customize the information. Tagging communities develop such as the one set up for our course. And of course online social networks and gaming are community-building. In the vastness of the Internet, people need the smallness of the communities. Social Software and Libraries: Steps to Consider 1. Community: I think this is one of the most important things for libraries to remember when considering social software. The library serves a community. Different libraries have very different community needs, and these should be assessed before a decision is made. The social software must meet that community’s needs if it is going to succeed. It’s hard to decide in preference of one type of social software over another for use in a library because the software serve different purposes. I feel that instead of trying to choose just between one and another, the library should look results from a community needs survey and adopt whatever variety serve those needs. 2. Planning: The library needs to plan its involvement with social software. This may include a change in description of services to the community, and may go to as basic a level as policy making. It will include a commitment to the development and maintenance of the library’s use of the social software, and clear goals to be achieved. The use of social software involves a very different relationship to the community than either the library staff or the community are used to—far more interaction, requiring feedback from both sides. The library needs to prepare for this. 3. Collaboration: As part of the policy, the staff as a whole should be involved and have responsibilities. The one-staff-person blog efforts, seen in some case studies, sound too much like that—one-person blogs, and not the voice of the library. 4. Involvement: The inauguration of this new library service should be advertised widely. We have seen many case studies of libraries who have set up social software that is not being used. Libraries cannot assume that if they set it up “they will come”. 5. Centralization: With all the many services possible, the library must have a central site as a portal, with any social software service prominently linked from that site. There should be an equally prominent link from the blog, wiki, or social network back to the library’s portal. Often, the links were very hard to find (or impossible for me to find). The most successful sites were those that held everything together, with perhaps a wiki or a blog serving as the portal. 6. Education and expertise: In addition to advertising, education and encouragement is needed about using the software. How to receive an RSS feed, for example, or how to tag. The library staff may need this education just as much as the patrons. The really good examples of library uses of social software were done by staff who had lots of knowledge and training in the capabilities of the software. 7. Commitment and flexibility: Once an online presence for the library has been es[...]

Are Libraries Stretching Themselves Too Far?


A thought ran through my head as I examined the case studies for this week plus other examples linked from them and the examples referred to by Farkas in her post: do libraries need to develop a presence on an online social network?? The reason this thought stayed so prominently in my mind is that a lot of the examples of libraries’ efforts on MySpace and Facebook seem awkward, out of place, overly busy with detail (not well laid out) or too unused to be of interest. In the MySpace environment, the advertising strip at the top of the screen, plus all the MySpace tabs distract from the library’s presentation; having library information on a commercial site doesn’t fit. Orange County Library System had to state a disclaimer: “the views and opinions expressed in the ads and banners of MySpace are not those of the [library]”. I also found the set MySpace profiles very odd—libraries were given a "gender", an "age" (e.g., 86 years old), a "sign of the zodiac", a "level of education". What teen would want to converse with someone 86 years old on MySpace?! In other words, I don't think the commercial online social network environment fits the library context at all well. I noticed that many of the “friends” on the MySpace library environments were musicians, composers, narrators, puppeteers, theatre groups, authors—people interested in advertising themselves, and people thanking the library for its having advertising them. The ordinary teen patron might be interested in linking to these “friends” and finding out more about them. In a way, there is a networking going on—perhaps this would be a good purpose for a library presence on MySpace.A site that set itself apart from all of the commercial online social network presences is MyOwnCafe, set up by the Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Library System. Because it was not on a commercial site, it would be more difficult ot find. But the site states its purpose clearly: “a site where teens…find out what other teens in their own and nearby communities are talking about, reading, listening to, watching, pl.aying, and doing…a place to find information and post information..a pladce to do research and get help with research." It pays to design a professional looking site. Downloadable music, a chat reference service, a portal to the catalogue, advice on careers and scholarhships—there are information of interest to students gathered in one place. The Hennepin Country Library had a clean, bright design, with a catalogue portal, and links to many other parts of the library's website, also gathering information in one place. But isn’t that what websites--and some blogs and wikis for libraries--were doing already? Yes, but perhaps a choice of information gathered to cater to the young audience makes this environment more useful for them. The UWO Live Journal is a idea for a networking opportunity that libraries could use. I was impressed that there were 399 members. A teen chat equivalent could be sponsored by the library—to serve a question and answer purpose for information finding for students. The UIUC Undergraduate Library MySpace is also well used, with links to 520 “friends", but I am not sure the library has a role as a link to the often very personal conversations on the "friends" pages. In conclusion, online social networks are just one of many options in social software available to libraries, and I think libraries should restrict themselves in which software they choose and make a really professional resource out of their choice. [...]

Online Social Networks - A Role for Libraries?


“Information is no longer king of the Internet; social networking IS” (Blowers). Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that there is now a much broader spectrum of Internet users. It’s funny to discover that, in his musings about online social networks, Stephen Abram had quoted Joni Mitchell just as I did last week. Sure, people have been aware for a long time that change is constant (Abram quotes Heraclitus), but the pace of change is increasing at an ever faster rate and will continue to do so; we’re ever adapting to new developments. However, I like the French expression, “plus ça change, plus ça reste”, meaning "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Although new developments in technology allow us many new opportunities and new learning challenges, human beings are the same in their behaviours. Whether they socialize in person, on the telephone, on chat lines, or through online social networks, they still have the same wants and needs. With the proliferation of social software types, libraries are exploring new ways of reaching potential and actual patrons online. Farkas feels that “the more links to the library the better”; this is probably inevitable as software types continue to proliferate. However, I think it is important that the appearance of the various link pages is made similar to be easily identifiable. Trouble is, it takes time to set up a really effective presentation, and it is hard for many libraries to drum up first the expertise and second the hours needed to develop and maintain their online presence. Farkas comments that among the few successes there are many failed attempts by libraries at using the two all-pervasive giants of online social networking, MySpace or Facebook. As several authors commented this week, libraries are wasting their time if they are using these software just to be “cool”; there has to be a purpose. Abram assures us that online social networking is a trend; in other words, it is here to stay but will evolve. The problem is, the particular software being used is a fad—the migration from MySpace to Facebook by many in search of improved privacy in recent months illustrates this. If the library’s goal is to provide services to or to receive input from patrons where they are, the library must remain proactive in seeing changing patterns online and being ready to establish a presence on the next new software advance. Schmidt suggests that library staff ask teens to manage the library’s MySpace account—this would need a group of very committed teens. Farkas discusses an important point—do the young patrons want the presence of the library among their friends, in their “space”? It is indeed important to poll the individual community before establishing a library account. I would like to see a study done about the reaction from youth with MySpace or Facebook accounts to their library’s presence. Amongst all this is the library’s role as educator in wise use of online social networking. Parents would be interested in information sessions. Teens could be best reached as they use the networks, with discussions about privacy and about rules of behaviour. [...]

Asynchronous Communication--do Online Social Networks replace email?


Such software as Facebook and MySpace are the asynchronous communication of a new era, becoming used more than email by teens.

However, for me, emails are far more satisfying--more in-depth. In my experience with my Facebook account, an advantage is the multi-person asynchronous private conversation. I believe in-depth conversations should be put online only within private access conversations. However even these are quite brief. I am hesitant about revealing too much detail in an online social network conversation. I have not filled in most of the identifying information on my Facebook profile. I have put up a picture, but am hesitating about keeping it there.

When I have time, I enjoy surfing on Facebook, to see who is connected to whom in the network, and taking a peek at other people’s lives. I can see the neat opportunities for making connections with people. I think the breadth is there for networking, but the depth (in conversations) is not, nor should it be.

Online Social Networking and Education: Issues


There is much debate about issues surrounding online social networking; many issues are related to how these networks fit or clash with educational settings since the largest growing number of users of these networks comes from teens. I gleaned from this week’s readings comments that I felt were significant to the discussion. For example, Williams does state that students in class are rude by being distracted by the IM, Facebook, or whatever else they have open on their computer—an updated equivalent of sending messages on paper, doodling, or shooting peas through a straw. In other words, students have always been easily distracted. It is hard to capture and keep someone’s attention. I feel that a well taught class with a dynamic instructor who involves students in discussion will not have much problem from the distractions. The distractions are more the effect of a poor class than the cause of the disruptions. Williams argues that professors should reorganize courses to make students an integral part of the learning process. Does he imply that today’s students are more demanding and less respectful or attentive? More self-centred? Perhaps the fast pace of multi-tasking and partial attention resulting from the many media available to students has moved ahead much faster than teaching methods. But I’m not sure that in-depth learning can occur in a fast-paced environment. Roush and Barrett discuss the dangers of online social networks—adult predators, harassment and bullying. Such activities are unpleasant and real, but not new. The problem is that they are spreading since social networks online are so visible and large. I agree with Barrett that there is a need to educate children to use online social networking tools wisely, to be aware of potential dangers and know how to react. The frequent mention in the articles of how unaware teens are of the digital footprint they are leaving online is a comment I have encountered many times in news articles. Teens are not looking at the larger picture of the longer term consequences of their placing very personal pictures and opinionated comments online (in terms of these being visible to future employers, police, harassers). But then, teens were never known to look beyond the here and now at the long term consequences of actions. It will be impossible to regulate access, and attempts such as banning online social networks from schools may well drive teens underground. Hewitt and Forte’s study of Facebook use by faculty at a university found that one-third of the students who have faculty on Facebook feel that the faculty don’t belong there (an opinion expressed more often by female students than by male students). I can understand that the students want private conversations. I also think there is an advantage to getting to know faculty better--perhaps the lack of control on online social networks makes them less appropriate than get-togethers in person for such interactions.It is exactly a lack of control that Hewitt and Forte discuss, and their conclusion about online social networks seems realistic: using the networks is a trade-off. The user needs to balance the potential social gain associated with new opportunities to establish ties against the social pain of relinquishing control over the presentation of oneself. I enjoyed the discussion between Jenkins and Boyd about MySpace and the consequences of introducing the Deleting Online Predators Act: although both are convincing supporters of online social networking and present many advantages, they approach the topic from very different angles, reflective of their experience and research. They emphasize the importance of educating parents in how to communicate with their children about their experiences online and about how to deal with dangers. They point out that an effect of the legislation would be the banning [...]

Online Social Networks as a mirror of society


Humans are social beings. They need to interact. Online social networks are a new advance in methods of developing the social relationships so important to humans (as described in Wikipedia). However, I find Danah Boyd’s explanations for the popularity of online social networks a rather sad comment on today’s society. Teens do not have a place to hang out, a public place to mix and mingle: society is not as safe as it used to be; simpler pleasures such as roller rinks have been superseded by activities more dependent on technology (think, for example, paintball guns, video games). Youths of today have not been allowed to just go out and play all day. Their lives have been very organized for them, with activities filling their time. As society moves at a faster pace and changes at a faster pace, their demands of life increase at a faster pace. The new space for teens is cyberspace, accessed from the confines of their computer, but leading to the freedom and the social interactions the teens are seeking. It seems that our lives are leading ever farther from the real world, and our connection with the real world is being lost. “We won’t know what we’ve lost ‘til it’s gone” (adapted from Joni Mitchell). All this sounds very gloomy, but I think it opens the discussion surrounding weighing the tremendous opportunities offered by online social networks against the problems they create.



I'm taking a holiday from blogging this week to visit my family. But I can see that it is important to keep up frequent blog posts to maintain readership interest. So I may not be able to remain totally silent! Happy tagging!

Tag, Browse, and Discover


Most case studies this week were of the use of to save bookmarks of interest—this gives patrons easy access to resources above and beyond the library’s collection.

The tag clouds show how extensive the tagging of each library is so far—La Grange Public Library’s cloud was quite restricted but I did notice that “LocalHistory” retrieved interesting links. The links were well tagged on the whole. The Sedovia Library’s tags demonstrated the difficulties of trying to restrict the tag to only one word. They ended up using tags such as “for.public” and “computer.use” as well as tags from words strung together “internetsafety”. Because tags were created by staff (it seems this way but the persons doing the tagging are not identified), tagging was consistent. This would not be the case if tagging were open to patrons as well.

The route to the pages was only clear in the case of Maui Community College Library website, where there is a link on the “About” page. The tagging subjects on the community college cloud impressed me as they are more serious and academic.

PennTags is different—and the richness of this site is incredible! I found I was not just retrieving catalogue material from Pennsylvania University, but also retrieving web pages, video tutorials, lectures, projects…. In fact, when you click on a link, you are not quite sure what media is going to appear! PennTags acts as a repository of the varied interests and academic pursuits of the Penn community. Anyone in the community can add resources and tags. PennTags describes itself accurately as a “discovery tool”, and is an exciting resource. It's appearance is so much more interesting than the bland presentation of a screen.

A Pile of Tags


So much information is being produced. More than human beings have ever experienced before. Cataloguing sytems such as the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress Classifications Libraries are not actually that old—born in the late 1800s. They were able to handle information in libraries before the advent of the Web. But now, librarians could not possibly hope to categorize the huge amounts of information.

Enter bookmarking (Hammond et al.). In the absence of an imposed structure on the Web, individuals organized according to their individual needs, first of all saving links as bookmarks or favourites onto their computers. Now social bookmarking adds a sharing element to this individual activity. Tags are not being chosen by professional cataloguers—they are being chosen be people from all walks of life. The result is, in David Weinburger’s words (quoted by Rainie), “The Power of Digital Disorder”. Tag language, or folksonomy as it has been coined, has many limitations because of inconsistencies in use, and lack of control. However, “self-interested use leads to a collective abundance” (Udell). and it seems tags are here to stay.

More focused uses for them are being developed, such as through CitULike. I think that the many suggestions proposed for guidance in tagging--such as having hierarchies (a step backwards?!) suggested, having tags used by others suggested, having Boolean searches of tags made possible (Hollenback)—must not lead to too many restrictions because creators and users will be less committed to tagging.

Feed 2JS and OPML in Libaries


I asked myself when I finally understood how Feed 2JS and OPML work of what use these tools are to a library. RSS feeds are for content that is frequently updated. A simple hyperlink to a more static source such as a website would be sufficient. So, that begs the question, what do libraries need frequent updates about?

I can see the reference desk in a public library, and patrons using the library website, appreciating feeds that update them on current events, local, national, and international. The staff of the library would appreciate a feed from a good quality professional blog that updated them on issues related to libraries—new technologies, etc. A reader’s advisory service could be enhanced with feeds from various sources, such as a blog to which staff and patrons contributed. Feeds could just enhance the website with general information, such as local weather, or employment opportunities from an employment centre. The use of Feed2JS makes the process of syndicating this feed very simple for staff members.

OPML seems to serve the purpose of convenience for moving groups of links to sites instead of placing them one by one in an aggregator. For example, library staff could find sites for music, for radio stations, for local history, for groups affiliated with the library such as reading clubs, and add these in an OPML package easily for patron use.

Library Wikis --Examples


I included in the group-assignment wiki a number of wikis showing the many different ways in which libraries can use the wiki format. I thought the BizWiki and the USC Aiken Gregg-Graniteville Library wiki in particular were very professionally done. I will focus in this blog post on the ones I did not mention in the group wiki.

The Wyoming Authors Wiki, affiliated with Wyoming State Library, impressed me. It clearly states on the main page that it invites contributions. I like the fact that this wiki clearly states its purpose as “a clearinghouse for information on book authors who've lived in Wyoming or who write about Wyoming” and also clearly states how to use it, and that in order to contribute, you have to register, and that in doing so, you are joining the book community. This should keep away any malicious contributions and spam. The wiki presents a useful, rich, and easily accessible source of information on authors, organized by author, county and genre..

The Princeton Public Library Booklovers Wiki was created for the 2006 Summer Reading Club. I would have expected it to be powered up for the 2007 club by now. It also receives contributions—book reviews—by not only library staff but also wiki members—in this case, probably book club members. It is well linked to the Library’s website and catalogue. It is a nice idea, with a specific purpose and I hope it continues.

Bull Run Library Wiki, by contrast, looks very amateurish. Its purpose is not clear. It has a personal blog attached to it, and states that it is a one-person project (not receiving contributions from anyone else), with a disclaimer separating it from the Prince William County Library System website--interesting! Perhaps including a larger community in the creation of the wiki would make the wiki a more worthwhile source. The wiki has links to external sources for book ideas (not related to the library collection), a link to a staff wiki, and to a personal blog, probably written by the wiki creator. The wiki has not been visited very frequently, and I don’t think it contains enough information to be of great value.

Will your Wiki Work?


The readings for this week were very informative about all aspects surrounding the wiki—its history, the various softwares supporting wikis, the options for a wiki hosted on the Web or one that is installed and customized, the many applications of wikis in the library, and the best contexts in which a wiki will work. The authors were full of practial tips and advice that made a lot of sense to me. The wiki has been through a period of experimentation, and the contexts in which a wiki will and will not work are much clearer. Wikipedia is not a good example to follow for wiki developers, especially not for those in libraries. I read with fascination Schiff’s article about the development of Wikipedia from a utopian online community devoted to the common good who could work collaboratively and produce an encyclopedia of unprecedented range, and led to increased regulations being necessary as a result of increasing problems, with more and more effort being spent on deleting and adding changes, dealing with vandalism, abuse, and pettiness of changes back and forth, so that so that the proportion of articles is decreasing. Although extensive, and easy to use and to edit, Wikipedia is not necessarily accurate. This is not a goal for libraries to aspire to either. Many of Wikipedia’s problems stem from its scale. I am interested that the somewhat disillusioned founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, concluded that “things work well when a group of people know each other”. From what I have read and observed, I can see Fichter’s comment is very relevant: “Wikis work best in organizational cultures in which there is a high level of trust and control can be delegated to the users of the system.” In other words, wikis are not going to succeed in a vast context, where they fall victim to the abuses of Wikipedia, but rather in a stable context where people know and respect each other. Wikis are a tool with many advantages, but should not, as Farkas discusses, be used just because you want to have the experience of using one, but rather to serve a need. Kille describes wikis as a centralized repository of knowledge, with the hyperlinks connecting relevant pages and linking to related external sources as well. What a wiki should do for you can be achieved under controlled circumstances: allow collaboration beyond the barriers of time and place. improve efficiency, accuracy, and consistency of information facilitate rapid transfer of information Used under controlled circumstances, wikis have many used for knowledge management, with many applications for libraries: they can enhance the planning stages of meetings and projects, can be a source of information for a group (e.g., intranet, email lists), can organize information for easy retrievability in the context of reference services, and can be records of stages in the development of a project (through the editing history). Despite what many authors say about wikis being quick and easy, in order for them to be accurate, they must be carefully done. For example, for the development of a significant repository of information for use in reference services, many staff hours, by one or many people, will be needed. Is it realistic to think that libraries have the extra staff time to prepare these wikis? In this context, I think wikis are another example of an effort-saving tool actually producing more work and higher expectations. [...]



Here is the link to the Wonderful World of Wikis group presentation by myself, Monika, Jane, and Daka.

OPML Feed2JS and RSS -- Foggy


My understanding of these is very foggy and will blog about these when I can understand them properly.

RSS Alert Services - Case Studies


Continuing on the subject I had broached in my previous blog, alerts of new material are very useful for researchers, and very handy for avid readers. Researchers have very specialized needs. On my co-op I am witnessing and am training to try, narrowing down a search for an alert service so that nearly all the incoming articles will be very relevant. I kept this in mind as I examined the vendors options. It seems that Ebsco does allow the RSS feed alert to be customized to the exact search string developed by the researcher (or librarian). I found by going to the Engineering Village 2 website that it seems very similar to the one offered by Ebsco. In the words of Engineering Village 2, the RSS feed provides “weekly updates of your search queries’ results”. Engineering Village 2 also offers an interesting “Blog This” option, translating the citation/abstract into HTML code that the researcher can copy and paste to his/her blog to share with colleagues [interestingly, “within the same institution” is stated—I wonder how the post is stopped from going outside the institution]. Proquest’s website did not explain whether they offered a similar service; it was promoting feeds for predetermined subjects. Although the topic areas listed in the “Curriculum Match Factor” were broken down (e.g., Engineering – Chemical), they still seem far too wide to be of use in bringing in really relevant material—perhaps good enough at a earlier level of education, but not good enough for postsecondary levels (perhaps this is their intention). ProQuest has set predetermined subject terms to match curriculum textbooks, in an attempt to make the feeds relevant. To me, a feed of a customized search query seems far more satisfactory and useful.

I went to the Seattle Public Library’s catalogue to have a good look at the RSS option. The XML button at the bottom of a screen showing search results will set up alerts for new material with the same search query. The “What’s this?” link explains the service. I think it would have been better to include a simple introduction to the service should be stated on the search page itself (e.g., “Want to be notified automatically of new titles on this topic? Click here to discover more”). I wonder how many public library patrons would take advantage of this service? I can imagine that the avid readers of bestsellers or patrons with a hobby (e.g., quilting) would be thrilled.

RSS and all that


I found the readings this week straightforward. I picked up a few interesting tidbits. For example, Bloglines includes the option of creating an email subscription as a way of managing your mailing lists and other sites that have no RSS feeds, while keeping the information out of your regular email inbox (Reichart). I was interested in the U. of Alberta libraries’ plans to target grad students and faculty with current awareness feeds. In my summer co-op position I witness a taste of reality that bars taking advantage of RSS feeds. It’s called restricted bandwidth. Although there are feeds available from many periodicals that would be of interest to the researchers serviced by the library, the researchers are not allowed to access these feeds at work. Instead, the library staff provide a current awareness service by scanning the periodicals and emailing the researchers any URLs for articles relevant to their fields. The library also sets up an automatically emailed current awareness service for researchers, using various databases—with searches are set up to be very closely tailored to the researcher’s needs. I was also interested in the U. of A.’s suggestion of RSS feeds for collection development and cataloguing. I can only speculate that these feeds would be for library staff use—perhaps incoming announcements from publishers about new titles; copy cataloguing information from other libraries? It is interesting to wonder whether students will pay attention to feeds about library instruction. Would these feeds deliver small pieces of information broken down into disconnected pieces, or would they deliver complete lessons? RSS feeds are great for alerts; but do they quickly become too busy so that the receiver no longers pays attention to them much the problem with an overcrowded inbox on the email account? Hollenback’s description of how the use of networking aspects of Friendster and Orkut along with Flickr will show you your contacts’ photos as they post them (e.g., from a cameraphone) frankly makes me cringe. I suppose a public library could use this feature for a teen blog. Yes, it is wonderful technology, but I it makes me want to go into a quiet place, away from all this cyber-crowding, just so that I can talk to a person face to face. I feel all this incoming information is crowding out our time, our cyberspace, our lives. I think we need to use these resources with a lot more care—use them to improve the quality of what we do, but not just to jump on a new bandwagon. I like Winship’s comment that identifying blogs of value is hard because the proportion of serious ones is low! I haven’t got time to wade through all the junk. Am I suffering from information overload?[...]

Netvibes and other aggregators


Netvibes offers a personalized page to receive and organize feeds, podcasts, modules (games, clock, etc.), tabs (indexing). The idea of personalizing your feed aggregator seems good—Netvibes fits a lot more on one screen than Google Reader; that’s one problem I have with Google Reader—not enough visible on a screen. But Netvibes is very busy as a result; it also seems very commercial and very American. It seemed to give you the choice of feeds rather than expecting you to go and find feeds you would like--in that way, it is less personalized! I wonder to what extent one could redesign its appearance?

Rojo will be back “zoon” and did not work when I tried it. I looked through the Rss Readers and Aggregators listed on Yahoo! --too much choice out there; but is it really all that distinct?

Case Studies – Libraries’ Use of RSS Feeds


The main focus of the case studies for this week was on libraries that list RSS feeds leading from very specific parts of their website-blog. As an aside, a caution is evident for anyone using a blog for official reasons, as for a library—be sure the text has no mistakes before you post it—it does not make a good impression on readers if there is a mistake/typo (such as I noticed on the Hennepin County Library blog). I experimented with leaving the RSS feeds page in each case, and seeing how easy it is to navigate to it from a main page of the website-blog. In the case of the Hennepin County Library, I could not find the path back to the RSS feeds page even though the path had been displayed at the top of that page (even a search in the search box did not lead back to the page). I wonder how a library user would find the feeds? I feel that feeds are being overdone, overly detailed. For example, in the Hennepin CL site, the subject guide, booklist, events & classes, and news feeds might be useful (though I would think that events and news would be better combined); the “catalogue news & search tips” is probably not a popular choice of a feed, and would be better combined with a general news feed. The “My Account” feed would be useful if it alerted you about holds coming available and about books coming due soon; these services are already provided by some libraries by automatic emails. The idea behind having many feeds, with specific subjects, is to cater to particular needs and interests, and not to overload the user. But perhaps the user will be overloaded by the crowd of individual feeds subscribed to. The idea of making a catalog search into a custom feed would be useful for keeping up to date with what is being written in a particular field of interest. This feed option should explain that it is only for subject searches (it would not make sense otherwise). This is similar to a current contents awareness program offered by databases, with notifications sent automatically to email addresses. The North Harris Montgomery Community College District provides just this service, through its current contents feeds from specific journals—from a database that draws from multiple journals would be more useful. Western Kentucky University Libraries seems quite casual in its tone, with more programming than is usual at a university. The many feeds from the home page are for many blogs of varying style and format, not holding together in the style of the university’s main blog. The feed breakdowns into Coming Events, Current Events, and Part Events (who would want this one?) seem like overkill. Old Stuff and News Stuff feeds are very vague, and not fitting for the academic setting. The university is trying to use the blogs and feeds for social purposes, to reach out to students on a personal basis, separate from academics. To me, they do not fit in with a university library website. The University of Oklahoma Libraries’ use of RSS feeds to new titles is quite clever—connected to the LC classification system, and broken down into specific subject areas within that system, making for a feed similar to that from a customized search. I would imagine that this service would be of particular interest to faculty. An examination of the Kansas City Public Library blog includes a look at RSS/XML feeds, but goes far beyond that. I was very impressed by the tremendous amount of research on the part of the library staff that has gone into producing the rich detail o[...]

Receive RSS?--Easy; Create Feeds?--Unsure


It seems that RSS is a hard concept to communicate. Numerous articles and blogs use headlines similar to “So what exactly is RSS?”. This indicates that the concept is still in its infancy, and although many people now use it, a far larger number do not and do not understand it. Perhaps the acronym and the term “syndication” are too mysterious, or perhaps it is just too new.

It seems that receiving feeds through RSS is far easier than setting them up if one is a web publisher. Good’s article balances the pros and cons of RSS well. RSS is secure so far (few Trojans, not often spammable), but I think it will only be a matter of time before there will be problems with RSS feeds as there are currently with incoming email. The emphasis of Good’s article is on RSS feeds replacing e-publishing. In other words, replacing another one-way broadcasting. The RSS feed can replace the newslist or newsletter. The difficulty with RSS is that the broadcaster no longer has a list of mailing addresses and no longer knows the subscribers. For a company this will be solved with fee-based private feeds. Using RSS for broadcasted feeds would free up email for two-way communication and correspondence. I gather that the news aggregator collects information stored inside an auto-generating file that sits next to the web page and that contains updates to that page. I agree with Cohen’s remarks that aggregators need to be smarter—that we need keyword searching so that the feeds do not overload subscribers.

My reaction to this week’s readings is that although I already had a basic understanding of RSS feeds, I feel no closer to being able to create one myself, and remain confused. I found Nottingham’s tutorial full of useful detail, and I can see that using XML correctly is essential for your feed. However, I can’t say that at the end of the readings I know how to approach the XML for RSS. I need to examine examples.

More Case Studies--Different Blogs


The blogs examined this week were not as impressive to me as the ones we looked at last week. However, they were varied in the purposes they were aiming at. The Darien Library, for example, is trying to address different patrons groups (community, teens, children), different interests (movies, books), and different aspects of the library and its service (director’s blog, information & technology blog, events blog, front desk blog—this last one did not work) with multiple blogs and perhaps one or two staff members responsible for each. Is the aim to make the patron aware of all the different aspects of a library? The result for me was fragmentation. The information was too subdivided. The children and teens blogs resembled the other ones in style, and the need to separate them seemed lost. The frequency of entries varied from blog to blog, depending on the time and effort devoted to blogging by the various staff members. Garfield County Public Library blog was a single blog with multiple bloggers. Its title, “Library Loung” is appropriate—it resembled a staff room chat, wanderings on topics that would not be understood by most patrons. It did not have a focus. The Lamson Library blog, from Plymouth State University, seems to be a groundbreaking project under development, to incorporate the OPAC into WordPress. The blog was linked to the website and current catalogue. So far, the blog serves to purpose of highlighting recent acquisitions and material in demand. I was not clear about the final goal of the project, and the link to it did not work the second time I checked it. MabryOnline is another use of multiple blogs, this time in a school setting. Each administrative department (principal, nurse, café, counsellor) had a separate blog. The identifying photos were good in each. Some were better at updating their blogs than others. The band’s blog looked the most professional. Teachers also had blogs, and feeds for these blogs were being encouraged. As with Darien PL, the fragmentation seems overdone. These blogs seem to be replacing a school newsletter, which would have brought the information together. Parents, fellow staff, and students, all potential readers of the blogs, might very well miss important information because it is so scattered. St. Joseph County Public Library Game Blog seems to have no link to the library’s website. Obviously it is attracting many comments by the teens who are participating in the gaming tournaments. The staff seems as involved as the teens—their language style is no different. I wonder whether the blog lends too much familiarity. The Virginia Commonweath University Suggestion Blog seems to be well used. It has a focus—a “suggestion box” Q&A--and the comments are well worded, with responses by the appropriate staff member. It seems to be well used by both faculty and students. Multiple users, but with a narrower focus—this seems to work better. Again, I could see no link to the library website. I came to several conclusions as a result of examining these cases. This list is far from exhaustive—just a few thoughts: 1. A blog must have a clearly stated, narrow enough purpose that it will remain focused and useful to both bloggers and readers. 2. A blog must have frequent entries—needing a dedicated blogger to keep it going. 3. Multiple blogs within the same institution such as a school or library are too fragmented. A few, each with distinct and app[...]

Weblogging Matures


Everyone in the blogosphere should be reading guidelines for writing good blogs before they start publishing on the web. The world of blogging is only a few years old, and many are jumping in fresh, without any experience in this new form.

The emergence of blogging strategies and weblog ethics indicates that the weblog is maturing. Yet the mainstream is still largely unaware of details about weblogs, as shown by the Net Rage study. Weblogs are no longer only communications between bloggerati; readership of blogs is entering mainstream usage, as in the examples of the many libraries using blogs in conjunction with or even replacing their websites, and perhaps explanations about weblog construction and functions need to be included to clarify them for the mainstream reader.

Bloggers have tended to pour out thoughts--Schneider’s expression “information become conversation” describes the style—such is the temptation offered by the ease of blog publishing. Perhaps blogs should be compared to editorials written on the fly. Because there is now so much being written, perhaps blog texts should be written with more care (here’s the editor in me coming out), remembering accuracy, and acknowledging any biases (Blood). In other words, bloggers need to become more professional, since, after all, they are publishing on the web. It all makes common sense to me. I think bloggers need to slow down and reflect so that they will be proud of what they have written when they read it 10 years down the road.

Thoughts on how to choose a blog software for a library


My head is a swirl of MySQL, PHP, Apache, and the many options available in open source weblog and content management software. A steep learning curve lies ahead—I have no programming background. I can see that for a library’s use, a more complex weblog software is needed. It seems that some of the options to consider would be clear and detailed categorization; ability to host multiple blogs; a small core, with plugin architecture for adaptability; control by site administrator; flexible design (advanced skinning?) to fit in with a website, or static page options to resemble a website; robust spam blocking. It looks as if the more complex and flexible softwares, ones that a library would need to fit its customized needs, are those that are user hosted. The user then has to have programming ability. The developer-hosted softwares are usable with no programming experience, and seem less flexible and of limited use for a library.

Case Studies of Blogs


In the three examples of library blogs, the division between blog and website has become seamless. Libraries are now taking advantage of the characteristics of a blog integrated into the website, with the same appearance as the website and the same tabs at the top of the page throughout for navigation. What the blog adds are the frequent updates, with most recent news listed first, making the website a far more dynamic and current source of information. The fact that it is so simple to make these updates makes it easy for staff; the blog lends itself to the short and concise posts needed to announce news and events at the library. The Ann Arbor District Library seemed to have contributions from not just staff, but patrons as well—the list of postings is viewable. As I looked at the site, it was updated several times. I was impressed that a posting about an upcoming teen video game event had received 176 comments from teens—the blog was successful in reaching out. It is easy to hot link text in a blog and this site was full of links that served the role of encouraging blog readers to navigate around the site. The many short entries about books served a great purpose—arousing interest in the collection and in reading. Everything was well indexed and categorized—something that is quite manageable using blog software. Georgia State University Library has a number of blogs within its website, subject specific blogs, all indexed on the right side of the screen, with feeds. It also has a flickr of slides of the library construction (from which I could not navigate back to the website). From the home page, the blogs are not evident—they can be accessed through the site index. The main blog page groups the most recent entries for all the library’s blogs, with categorization to make it clear which blog they come from. Blogging is restricted to library staff, but again, the short entries are easy—and can communicate temporary news such as the bound copies of journals being unavailable for two months. Madison-Jefferson County Public Library again had a seamless website and blog. The individual blogs for Kids Zone, and Your Space for teens were personalized to those age groups. Entries were only by library staff, and again kept readers up to date of events and news. Email submissions were welcomed—with a promise that good ones would be posted. This use of email for submission allows library staff to maintain control of the quality of blog entries. Western Springs History is a beautifully designed blog of historical houses--although the site calls itself a website and not a blog. Characteristics of the blog enhance this site: categories and links on the right side of the page; and the interactive aspect of comments—readers have submitted carefully worded (not casual blog language) historical information on the houses illustrated in the blog, making the website a true ongoing group effort on the Web—drawing from snippets of memories of a wide group of people and leading from one memory to the sparking of another. [...]