thing 19: best of web 2.0

This assignment asks us to look at the Web 2.0 Awards and pick a site/tool to play with. I looked at both this year’s and last year’s lists and couldn’t find anything that interested me that I hadn’t already tried or am using on a regular basis. I guess that’s one of the benefits (hazards?) of having a lot of twopointopian friends — I may not be on the bleeding edge of shiny new technology, but I can at least see the contrails.

thing 18: web applications

It has been a while since I seriously looked at Zoho Writer, preferring Google Docs mainly for the convenience (I always have Gmail open in a tab, so it’s easy to one-click open Google Docs from there). Zoho Writer seems to have more editing and layout tools, or at least, displays them more like MS Word.

I have been dabbling with web applications like document editors and spreadsheet creators mostly because I don’t like the ones that I purchased with my iMac. I probably would like the Mac versions more if I were more familiar with their quirks, but I’m so used to Microsoft Office products that remembering what I can and can’t do in the Mac environment is too frustrating. While Google Docs isn’t quite the same as Microsoft Office, it’s more-so than iWork ’08.

Playing with Zoho Writer, however, reminded me that I need to work around my Google bias. Particularly since the Zoho products seem to have the productivity functions that make my life easier.

thing 17: UR wikis

At my library, we have a couple of wikis set up. One is basically a transfer of our main service desk manual from paper to online, and the other is Boatipedia, our FAQ. I agree with Carol in that the format works well for our manual, and I also agree with her that I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a FAQ in wiki format, unless the intent is more for the ease of allowing many authorized users to edit it. As Carol puts it, “we really don’t want anyone to be able to go in and change content — do we?”

As for other uses for an internal wiki… I could see myself using a wiki to organize information about our electronic resources, licenses, and contacts. Being able to search across pages to find information and the ability to have input from each of the individuals involved in the process would both be pluses for the format over more traditional paper files and email archives. However, we have paid for a tool specifically designed to do that, which also interfaces with the public side of linking users to the resources, so it wouldn’t make sense to use a wiki instead of or in addition to that tool.

thing 16: wikis

One thing I have learned from participating in several wiki projects — from Wikipedia to my libraries’ FAQ/Policies wikis — is that it takes a lot of work to populate and maintain a useful wiki. One of my favorite uses of a wiki is Whole Wheat Radio (which seems to have disappeared recently).

The streaming radio station out of Talkeenta, Alaska, switched over to using a wiki to maintain information about the artists played and available albums/tracks. Users could contribute as much information as they wanted to. For a while, I was addicted to adding content to it. Part of why I haven’t listened much in the past few months is because I would easily spend an hour or two adding data to the site every time I turned on the stream.

If the site ever comes back, I recommend you check it out. Aside from the wiki aspect, anyone can play DJ and pick the songs they want to have broadcast. Pretty cool!

side note: It appears that the music, at least, is still streaming.

thing 15: library/web 2.0

Librarians should be on the forefront of providing information services to users, but for some reason, we have a sizable contingent who seem to think that the innovations of the 70s and 80s are good enough for now. They’re the ones most often reacting negatively to anyone who mentions anything Library 2.0.

Anytime someone mentions some new web tool or gadget, and you think or say, “We don’t need that in our library!” or “What would you want to use that for?” stop for a moment. Do you use a computer in your daily library work? Do you use email to communicate with your colleagues and users? Have you talked to someone on the phone recently? These are all technologies that at some point in time, someone(s) didn’t think were needed in a library. They were wrong.

Maybe you don’t need to be on Twitter or Facebook to reach your users. (In fact, there have been many informal studies that indicate that students don’t want us in their social spaces.) But, you can use online social networking tools to expand your professional network, learn about what your colleagues are doing to improve services in their libraries, and share the things you are doing in your own library. Surely those are things that benefit the profession?

These things that people talk about as Web 2.0 are simply tools. You can choose how and when you will use them.

Library 2.0 has been used to describe a mindset that is open to exploring these tools and using them to enhance library services, but I think that has been a part of our profession for a long time. Library 2.0 was there when we began moving from card catalogs to online public access terminals. Library 2.0 was there when we opened up the stacks and allowed users to browse the shelves. Library 2.0 was there when we created free, circulating libraries that allowed anyone to access the knowledge they contained.

The philosophy of Library 2.0 isn’t anything new, we’re just using different words to describe what we already do best — exploring innovative ways to connect users with the information they are seeking.