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February 22, 2007

I have an inkling ...

Which candidate will be the next dean for the School of Information at the University of Michigan? is a new market on inkling, a futures prediction site. Most reassuring is the bottom ranking for "none of the above."

It will be interesting to see how this particular example of the "wisdom of crowds" will play out. It may depend on how informed the traders are (not inside info, but how much they know about the candidates, UM, SI, and academics in general). Will the market prevail with a correct prediction, or prove the Despair, Inc, slogan "None of us is as dumb as all of us."

Thanks to Ed Vielmetti for noticing this market and posting on his blog. For more information on prediction markets, see the Wikipedia article or this introduction by NewsFutures.com

Has anyone used this for gauging interest or likely success of a new library service or feature? Any thoughts on how successful it would be?

Posted by janeblum at 09:04 AM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2007

We're stuck with each other

On reading Marcus's post, Librarian Stickiness Revisited, I was struck with how interesting professional interrelationships are. Marcus and Theodora (both bloggers, both health sciences librarians, and both connected to the post in question) both spent a second NLM Associate Fellowship year at Georgetown while I was there. Fellow blogger Scott and I are connected through AAHSL, and through the NLM/AAHSL Leadership Fellows Program, in which we were both mentors - Scott to one of my colleagues here at Michigan. I met another colleague, now also an AAHSL director, at an earlier time in her career at the wedding of one of my colleagues at Georgetown. I've followed many other interpersonal threads around in circles, meeting friends, colleagues, coworkers in changing roles and changing combinations. In a way, it's like Cheers. While you only interact in a limited sphere of professional activities, it's still a place in your life where everyone knows your name, and that's a home-away-from-home for a little while. If you have to work, you might as well work with your friends.

Posted by janeblum at 03:25 PM | Comments (2)

February 17, 2007

Split Personalities

I've been thinking about T. Scott's post Trying To Be Complete. Having come of professional age at a time when women, in particular, were advised to keep their personal life strictly segregated from their work, it's counterintuitive for me to bridge the gap between the two. It's not that I mind colleagues at work discovering my personal blog and knowing that they are seeing a different aspect of me, nor do I object to readers of my personal blog connecting to my work life - my "real life" friends know both sides of me, why shouldn't the electronic ones?

So why have two blogs? I've left behind "Dress for Success" and its kin, but this is different. In part, I see it as a courtesy to my friends, with whom I have an ongoing conversation about gardening, native plants, wildlife, conservation, friends, family, and yes, even the weather upon occasion. It's what we have in common, and I don't want to interupt that conversation to discuss my job or the current librarian-centric debate in our profession. The other aspect is that blogs are more than private conversations. Blog posts cross the line between writing for publication and gossiping with a friend, are linked in an ever expanding web of connections, and attract new people with similar interests to the conversation. It's harder to do make and sustain new connections if readers don't know what to expect from your writing.

I don't disagree with Scott's approach for his blog - for one thing, he's a better and more experienced writer than I, and for another, we're different people. I admire his ability to weave together disparate threads and make the whole more interesting than the parts in isolation, but at least for now, I'm comfortable with the split personality of my blog(s).

Posted by janeblum at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2007

Have you been there, done that?

Stephen's Lighthouse: Flying Librarians of Oz links to a slide show that gives the basics of libraries in Second Life. Good, quick, overview of who's playing in this sandbox and what they are doing.

Posted by janeblum at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2007

Other Voices at HSL

HSL Staff Blog

Although all staff members have the opportunity to create a personal blog, and several have taken advantage of it, we also have team blog efforts. The HSL staff blog is shared by everyone who works here, and is open to comments from all. It's designed to be primarily a communications vehicle for the staff, but is consciously in public space because many of the items blogged are of interest to a wider audience.

There is also the official HSL news blog, designed for our constituents. Those entries are displayed on the libraries web page at http://lib.umich.edu/taubman/.

We don't yet know the long term usefulness of blogging and other Web2.0 tools, but it's interesting to explore their use. We still use email, shared network drives, and the University's course management system to share information, links, resources, and communications. We're finding that one size does not fit all. Not all of us are equally familiar with or comfortable with certain technologies, and some collaborations and communications are more effective in one venue than another. Experiential learning is difficult for some of us, and others are uncomfortable with relinquishing control over content or timing. Nonetheless, it's a grand adventure, and one of the many things we are accomplishing together.

Posted by janeblum at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2007

Some of these aren't so far-fetched

You Know Google Crossed a Limit When...

I wish the first item was a little more distant in the future than it appears to be.

Posted by janeblum at 09:29 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2007

Lorcan Dempsey's weblog: Wikipedia again: an addressable knowledge base

Lorcan has blogged this column by John Southerland twice, once in the link above and earlier in QOTD: Wikipedia on February 6. Both the column and the posts address two different aspects of Wikipedia: it's an interactive, scalable knowledgebase to which anyone can contribute. It's also vulnerable to errors of various sorts. The proposed solution is to use Wikipedia, but advisedly.

Can we do this? Instinctively, I agree with this approach, but I've had lots of training and experience in separating good information from bad. It's part of my job, and the job of my library. Not everyone is as adept - think of all the people that send away for instant weight loss pills advertised in the back of popular magazines, and the many others that think there's millions of dollars in financial limbo ready to be theirs if only they hand over a bank account number to the exiled son-in-law of an important former official in another country.

Libraries have traditionally been gatekeepers of the information cannon, but on a book by book or journal by journal basis. Can we endorse a source on an article by article basis, even when the article may change? Do we discount it entirely and discourage its use? Is it as simply as teaching information literacy? These are interesting questions.

In health care, the accuracy of information is important. Wrong information has consequences far more serious than professional embarassment. Can we trust that the best antidote to bad information is more information? or is there an information varient of Gresham's law, in which bad information drives out good?

Posted by janeblum at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2007

No redeeming social value

But quite funny. Thank you, Nick Baker! and thank you, David Rothman for blogging this.

davidrothman.net - Blog Archive - March of the Librarians

Posted by janeblum at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

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 12:42 PM | Comments (0)