Thursday, May 31, 2007

Social Academic referencing: a trial

At the Library of the University of Amsterdam, we've done a small trial to investigate the merits of using a 'social referencing' service. In the trial, scientists from a specific research group used such a service for several months. With a panel discussion before and after, and logs during, we hoped to get some measurable results on the impact on their work of this. Not all went as we hoped, but the resulting report (url below) offers some useful insight in what this group of scientists found useful.

I'll highlight two points that may be of wider interest. First of all, our test group felt strongly about privacy. They liked to not just add cites to a system, and tag, rate or even comment them heavily for themselves. For sharing however, it was felt essential to have control over who could see what. Rating an article negatively could be helpful for direct peers, but who knows whether the author might decide over a grant in future? The participants wanted a clear, fine-grained control. Sometimes it would be fine to share the citation, but to limit the rating or tags to a certain group; some comments are meant private, some are for the whole world; and so on. Because of this, they voted to use BibSonomy at the start of the trial.

However, it turns out that ease of use is even more important than features, and the group considered the system not easy enough. To save the project, we switched to Citeulike, and extended the use period.

I'm curious what others think of this demand for detailed control over privacy-settings. In researching next generation research collaboratories, again I found scientists consider it paramount to be able to set the privacy level for each item themselves. Not through a helpdesk, ticketqueue and a sysadmin - themselves. The two main contenders to build such systems on top of, Sakai and Sharepoint, provide such a detailed rights-structure out of the box. So it's not pie-in-the-sky thinking: it is already out there.

The project page

Download report (pdf)

BTW: yes, we're working on a proper publication.

Linking social networks

Thinking further about social networks and the need to link them, I rememberd the classic post from Jason Kottke: Being your friend is hard. This was written in the heyday of the first generation of general social networking sites, before a clear winner had arrived - at least for specific areas, such as geographic (bebo for the UK, hyves in .nl), thematic (facebook) or generational (myspace).

The fact that these 'winners' have indeed arrived is an indication that users flock to communities that are large enough - with large enough being pretty damn big. Too big for individual libraries, that's for sure.

Maybe Aquabrowsers' interoperability might be good enough so that it becomes a de facto standard, like RSS became. For this to work, they need to solve the problem of unique identifiers for any item in the system, whether ILS item, internal digital asset or digital from an external source. Ideally, this would be the first step towards a generic DOI for objects.

Of course, let's hope it won't be like the tangled mess that RSS became. As the library community, we'd better keep an eye out! Interesting times, interesting times.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Notes on the Stroomt Library 2.0 workshop

Stroomt, a company specializing in 'information optimizing', organised a Library 2.0 Theme day (though actually an afternoon) this Friday.

A small impression first. I only took my camera out at the guided tour of the museum where the afternoon was held, at which the attendees expressed polite interest - until the tour finished at the old library room of the observatory, and the ooh-ing and aah!-ing commenced...

When Librarians go wild

On to business. A theme of the talks, and the discussion, was how to make social networks work. Folksonomies depend heavily on scale: the more participants a network has, the better. But in reality, networks are isolar, divided, split... For example, you could leave a comment on this picture both here, on the blog, or on its flickr page. Two different networks that do not connect.

Kudos for Moqub for full transcripts. These are a few remarks that piqued my interest.

Liesbeth Mantel (Moqub):

Observation: 75% of internet users does not know the term web 2.0 - but uses it all the time (leaving comments, using ratings and 'trust' on eBay, etc.)

Example of a (public) library that has embraced content: Gail Library

I somehow missed Librarything for libraries - that's cool! Even though it still is an insolar community (only libraries), it packs more users than a single library has patrons.

Menno Rasch (UU):

As port of portal strategy, they actually have a working portlet for the catalogue, showing books ready to be picked up, and books already borrowed with a renew link! It should be nothing special but no way we could build this with our ILS... (yes, our vendor is a four-letter word). Good for them that they chose Aleph.

And yes, they get it: the portlet can be integrated in other portals, *outside* the uni's domain, such as netvibes! Way to go.

But alas, they don't get it as far as user-contributed content for Omega is concerned - they're very hesitant in adding that. Pity. They doubt if the 25k users would be enough to make it useful - and 'long tail' does not count as such.

Alexander Blanc (SURFnet):

Rather specialised talk on the Surfnet video portal and their plans for that. Much still unclear. Much relies on material from the (rather expensive) academia license. They would like to become a youtube, but it'll be an organisational challange as the whole model right now is based on institutional use. Also no plans for supporting CC-licensing yet, though he's not ruling it out either.

Taco Ekkel (Aquabrowser):

Aquabrowser has 250 library installations worldwide. Their idea: add usercontributed metadata to these and link them. That's smart. They promise to do it using open protocols for exchange of such data, that alas have still to be developed. There'll be an open API though. If that works out, it'd be terrific.

Interesting approach: no special tools for librarians - they can make lists, rate items and all that jazz, but librarians' accounts are in principle no different from patrons'. Wonder if that flies with the professionals, might be a hard sell to let go of the specialness. Hope it works - I'm sure the pros will still come floating on top, simply by the quantity and quality of their contributions, but that way the 'trust' those accounts build up will be based on actual accomplishments.

The charts of Aquabrowsers' internals look a lot like Primo's. They hint at full support for integrating federated search sources. Unfortunately, nothing's even planned for bringing all the Library2.0-goodies that the internal sources get to these. Technically I understand, but how am I going to explain this to the average researcher? And why?


Interesting day. Good to see that Library2.0 is very much alive in the dutch library community. Also good to see that this is only the beginning. We've got a long road ahead - thinking on linking social networks together is only just starting out, and collaboratories and new forms of use and re-use of information objects weren't even mentioned in the discussions. For which their was, BTW, not enough time - the biggest drawback of this afternoon.

Famous last words

impromptu business cards - another use for MOO cards!