Social Tagging in LAPL’s OPAC

I decided to try using screencast-o-matic for this presentation on social tagging and reviews in the Los Angeles Public Library’s Online Public Access Catalog. Here is the actual YouTube URL, if you can’t see the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QENAPflbpH4

Community Lurkers

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I found the concept of ‘lurkers’ in online communities to be a fascinating subject. Although, considering the community-like forum, it would make sense that there would be a category of lurkers. It seems that for a community to be successful, all members should contribute. This creates a rich environment of information that benefits the community at large. Without members and their contributions of varied interests, intellects, thoughts, and backgrounds, the community will possibly be rendered useless!

However, having depicted lurkers in a negative spotlight, I would like to disclose that as I was reading the article of “Inside a mind of an online community lurker”, I laughed. I laughed because I realized that I am myself a lurker. I tried to think of reasons for this lurking behavior of mine, and as I continued reading, I saw that some of the reasons they give for lurkers were actually my own hesitations on certain sites. Sometimes I just don’t know where to start on the site, and the idea of a welcome and help page is a perfect solution to this issue. Most of the time, I feel intimidated or shy. Here is this huge forum of people that I don’t know, who seem to know each other, and I’m just showing up to the party. So, the theory that there should be a separate place just for newcomers is also a brilliant solution. Then, I would have my own group of friends who were in the same boat as me, and I would feel more confident about contributing. Being bored with a site, or seeing a negative precedent are two more ways that lurkers come into being, though I haven’t felt these issues in too many sites. In general, if I don’t like the site, I just won’t join the community. The last topic, forgetting, has certainly happened to me. I like the idea of reaching out through media such as newsletters, to help ‘remind’ me of that particular online community. (Reed, 2009)

Lurking can apparently take on more than one form. “Active” lurking seems to be a positive form of lurking that actually helps online communities. In an MIT research study, active lurking makes up for about 40-50% of lurkers. These active lurkers visit a community to glean important and relevant information, and then pass that on to other members of other communities. Sometimes, the active lurker seeks out information on a topic, such as an answer in an Apple customer support community, and discovers an answer in that community instead of asking the Apple technicians. In effect, this saves Apple money. Lastly, though the active lurker may seem to be quiet within the online community, he may communicate with other members via other methods, such as a personal letter in an email. (Francois, 2010)

Essentially, though some lurkers may have a negative effect to an online community; usually they are lurking because of issues with the site, or are in actuality helpful active lurkers.

Francois (2010). Active lurkers – the hidden asset in online communities. Emergence Marketing. Retrieved from http://www.emergencemarketing.com/2010/02/18/active-lurkers-the-hidden-asset-in-online-communities/

Reed, M.  (2009).  Inside the Mind of Online Community Lurker.  CommunitySpark. Retrieved from http://www.communityspark.com/inside-the-mind-of-an-online-community-lurker/.

Del.icio.us Bookmarking

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Using Delicious has been a real mind opening experience for me. I used to be an avid AOL user, and more recently a Firefox or Internet Explorer user. Each software has its own internal bookmarking capability that I have utilized in the past. AOL’s bookmarking system was my most favorite as it was simple to use, and I was able to keep all my bookmarks in neat little files. However, there were a couple minor – rather major when considering all things – glitches in this particular system. Firstly, the actual bookmarks are saved on the computer that you are working with, in this case my PC. However, when I would sign onto my laptop when my PC was in use by another family member, I could not access most of my saved bookmarks on AOL. Strangely, the AOL software somehow connected to my account and saved some of my bookmarks and these would transfer over to my laptop. The reason why I say strangely is because AOL only transferred a small selection of my saved bookmarks. Also, originally my bookmarks were a total and complete mess in AOL. When I finally organized them into my own categories, I was able to retrieve them with relative ease. However, not only did only a select few bookmarks transfer over to my laptop from my PC, but they did so in a haphazard way – almost as if there was an incomplete electronic connection. Additionally, if I wanted to bookmark something I found while on my laptop, there was no simple way to ensure that it transferred over to my PC. How annoying! To top it all off, when my computer died suddenly, all of my hard work and wonderful bookmarks were entirely lost!  The second main issue with bookmarking on my AOL was that if I found a site that was both a museum and contained a page of fun activity ideas for kids, I had to choose where to put that site, or double the link into two different folders. Sometimes, I couldn’t find a bookmark I was looking for as I filed it somewhere that I couldn’t remember. The bookmarking dilemma did not get any better when I used different internet software. All this was a problem until social software sites like Delicious came along and saved the day.

After working with Delicious from the beginning of the semester, I discovered that all of my annoying issues with bookmarking had an end in sight. Here was a solution to all of my problems. I now have the ability to put all of my bookmarks in one place, and access it from any computer in the world. Additionally, I could tag my museum site with many tags like ‘museum’, ‘fun’, ‘kids’, ‘trip’, and ‘activities’; and find it easily depending on if I was hoping to take the kids to the museum, or plan a fun activity with them. Lastly, and most importantly, this information would not be erased by a faulty and old computer.

What I enjoyed even more about using Delicious in this exercise, was the discoveries of new websites and resources that I was able to make with just a few clicks of the button. Initially, it was difficult for me to determine if I was truly interested in a new site based only on its title. However, I realized that a comprehensive description was not necessary when there are tags that accomplish the very same thing in a more concise fashion. Additionally, I found that knowing the popularity of the site lends certain credibility to that particular bookmark. Still, I was not deterred by smaller numbers, knowing that I could easily find some rare gems among the rabble.

Collaboration

 

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Firstly, I found that much of the social software we have been learning about over the past weeks are actually great tools for internal collaboration in an organization. This was surprising to me, simply because it came as a “why didn’t I think of that” type of epiphany. Truly, utilizing these tools to assist internal networking and collaboration is a great concept.

One type of social software that I found useful for internal collaboration is the wiki. Wiki’s can be the perfect forum for adding ideas from all people in the workplace. However, this tool doesn’t work in all types of organizations. To be successful, I believe that a wiki would do well in a horizontally structured workplace, where most of the contributors are holding at the same level of expertise. Additionally, these colleagues must have some type of investment in the wiki’s information, or contributing would not be on their lists of things to do. If the contributors are worried about their information being deleted or replaced, I believe that Wikipedia’s discussion tab assists in creating a fair and balanced wiki of information. Lastly, a moderator is certainly necessary – and I believe that if the wiki is that important to a workplace, the organization would pay someone to be in charge of that area. Perhaps even an employee delegated to managing all internal collaborative mediums would be a good idea.

I think my favorite new internal collaborative tool is yammer, which seems to be a type of micro blogging software. Short and succinct posts are perfect for making quick announcements. For instance, say the IT guy is going to be out of the office for a couple of days. Sending a message via yammer for his colleagues would ensure that if a technical issue arises in the office, they know that they would need to wait until he returns in order to fix it. The social networking tool that I thought to be most useful is file sharing. This is extremely valuable in terms of speed and accessibility for an organization wishing to share an integral file, as opposed to say sending an email with the file attached. Additionally, if a potential client should need some information that is on one of the shared company files, since it’s on the internet they can easily access it. This may actually facilitate the progress of making this potential client into an actual client.

In short, social software is a perfect medium to assist in internal collaboration within an organization.

Wiki Worlds

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When I first started library school, I was wary of the most famous wiki of them all – Wikipedia. How in the world could it be conceivable to rely on an ever-changing environment of information? I was especially confused by Wikipedia’s reliability after hearing late night talk show jokes about how notorious famous figures’ pages were slammed with misinformation after scandalous behavior. This whole situation was unfathomable to me, until I read a book called Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger. He presented a unique fact that had not struck me until reading his understanding of the Wikipedia phenomenon. Basically, Weinberger proposes the concept that because anyone and everyone post changes to a page of facts, a certain transparency and truthfulness is developed. For example, say someone would post on Adolf Hitler’s wiki page that he was never born; I, as a Jewess whose grandmother’s entire family was murdered in the Holocaust, would take offense at this untrue factoid and would change it to the correct and truthful version.

Albeit, according to Meredith Farkas in her book Social Software in Libraries, the only possible way to rely on the wiki’s integrity would be to implement certain ‘safety’ measures. For instance, creating an account before posting a change onto the wiki assists in keeping out the spammers. Additionally, the success of the wiki is dependent on the dedication of the wiki users to the site, to maintain its veracity. In Wikipedia, though pages may be changed temporarily for the bad, many of the online community will delete and change the page into a more truthful one subsequently. While I was perusing the different wiki examples, I realized that another extremely vital element to a successful wiki is the organization of the page. Without a simple template, the wiki becomes a jumble of information that becomes irrelevant to the user. I found the RocWiki at http://rocwiki.org/ is a great example of a successfully organized wiki, versus Burbank Public Library’s AskWiki at http://burbank.wikidot.com/.

As an additional point, as I was reading Farkas’s book on social software, I realized that the new Online Public Access Catalog offered by the Los Angeles Public Library system, is indeed a type of library wiki. This OPAC is a newer acquisition that I absolutely love on many levels. Two of the new features are the tagging feature and review rating process. As long as you are signed into the system, which requires a LAPL account, you can tag and review any book you would like. Slowly but surely, I’ve noticed the tagging feature growing. However, the review feature has not been utilized enough, most likely due to lack of advertising. Either way, as a patron, it’s exciting to have the ability to contribute and be a part of the LAPL’s OPAC.

Farkas, M. G. (2007). Social software in libraries: Building collaboration, communication, and community online. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Weinberger, D. (2007). Everything is miscellaneous. New York : Times Books.

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