Blog & Wiki Day

As you can see from Dick’s picture, “Blog and Wiki Day” was a great success! I learned a lot about new social communication tools, and, judging from the high level of audience interest all day, so did most of the other attendees. But the simultaneous open blog and wiki that was set up for people to use wasn’t greatly successful—more about that later.

Steven Cohen moderated the session, and he kicked off the day with a review of new developments and trends relating to blogs and wikis. Much of his information-packed presentation consisted of looks at new tools; you can look at his presentation here.

Steve noted that:
• Nothing seems to be released these days without “beta” in its title,
• RSS is a given now; everything new provides the capability of receiving updates by RSS,
• Spam has come to blogs in the form of machine-generated blogs with spam embedded in them. This problem mostly comes from blogs hosted on Blogger, and it has not been dealt with yet, and
• Desktop RSS readers seem to be on their way out.

Even Google is caught up with RSS; look at Google News, and you will find a link to RSS. (Google News is still in beta after 2 1/2 years; Steve thinks this is because they cannot make money from it because they are using other people’s content and therefore cannot put ads on it.)

An audience survey disclosed that Wikipedia is well regarded, particularly as a starting point for research. Steve feels that other sources should also be consulted as a backup.

What’s on your business card? Some people are now including their instant messaging address, Skype name, account, and other ways of communicating with them. It’s a sign of the times that blog companies are buying others, and some of them are being purchased—for lots of money. Yahoo! bought Flickr because it has become the “commons” for pictures and will become the best image search tool.

Steve groups new products into four classes: rating tools, interacting and collaboration, life management, metasearching, and instant messaging. He especially likes LibraryThing, which allows people to catalog their own book collections. The software automatically creates a Library of Congress catalog record, so this tool could be used to allow library users to create their own library catalog account. He also mentioned,
which allows you to enter a goal and tell people what you would like to accomplish. Others can help you and give advice.

Karen Schneider, manager of LII (Librarian’s Internet Index) presented five rules of ethics issues that relate to blogging:
1. Transparency. Say what your starting point is and have a clear About page. Fully disclose your conflicts, biases, and vested interests. Have a commitment to honesty. Transparency can be strategic and can pre-empt criticism. She stressed that the blogosphere can be cruel if a lack of transparency is discovered.
2. Cite it. Link to and name your sources, and avoid anonymous sources. Always check a secondary source because you are responsible for what your blog says.
3. Get it right. Check your facts and then recheck them. Don’t publish until you check your facts again.
4. Be Fair. Don’t let partiality stand in the way of what is right. Let your sources know when they are “on the record”. Don’t present opinion as fact, and present all sides of the issue.
5. Admit mistakes. People need to know what errors you made, so be direct and alert your readers. Add to or modify your posts so that people can see the changes.

This is all excellent advice in free-flowing environments like the blogosphere.

Two marketing presentations followed. Marketing is valuable for librarians, and it should be used when creating a blog. Jill Stover of Virginia Commonwealth University said, “If you have an idea to spread, you are a marketer.” So even with blogs, it is important to define target markets and then follow the “four Ps” of marketing—product, price, place, and promotion.

The session closed with Steve Cohen and Jenny Levine, creator of The Shifted Librarian blog, discussing more new tools. The open blog and wiki failed because of low use. Steve and Jenny wondered if this indicated a lack of need. Some audience members wondered if the blog and wiki should have been established well ahead of the conference because there was little need for them once everyone had gathered in the room. The creator of a successful blog for ALA not only established the blog in advance of the conference, but also created its structure so that contributors would have an idea of useful information and a place to put it. Many other tools were examined; view the list of them on Steve’s “What Happened” wiki.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

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