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February 05, 2007

A new way of working

Building a Library Web Site on the Pillars of Web 2.0

Karen Coombs's article suggests six pillars of web 2.0, which she then explains, both in the abstract and in application. They are:

1. Radical decentralization
2. Small pieces loosely joined
3. Perpetual beta
4. Remixable content
5. User as contributor
6. Rich user experience

Her article is well worth reading, but here I'm going to contract the categories into three for simplicity of discussion:

Radical trust
Perpetual Beta
Reusable content

The term "radical trust" is much bandied about in web2.0 circles, meaning relinquishing tight control and trusting staff and users to contribute accurate, timely, and useful information. It means moving forward without endless layers of review and editing, allowing everyone at all levels of the library to contribute their best to the sharing of information and to be part of the face of the library to its constituents. It turns all our efforts into a conversation rather than a lecture; it celebrates and shares our expertise without demanding that such expertise be used as we intended.

I see it also related to giving up insistence on perfection or completion before letting the users in to play (i.e., test) both the concept and its implementation. This is where the idea of the "perpetual beta" fits in. It's accepting that "good enough" is fine for many applications, and not every endeavor deserves the effort it takes to make it the best of its class. Those familiar with Clayton Christiensen's concept of disruptive technology know that waiting for perfection before moving forward is what allows the upstarts with "inferior" products to eat your lunch. Perpetual beta takes the approach that our constituents actually do know what they need, and it's not always what we think is best - not only is the customer right, but that we're wrong, at least some of the time.

Reusable content is just efficiency. We've got too much good work in front of us to waste time on the things that don't matter, or don't matter as much. I could write on at length about priorities and letting go of work, but I'll save that for another post.

So, hype and buzz words aside, I'm looking forward to seeing library 2.0, both as a user and as a librarian. Let the games begin!

Posted by janeblum at February 5, 2007 12:42 PM

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