Monday, 25th January 2010
Some Thoughts on "Controlled Serendipity"
Resource of the Week — Some Thoughts on “Controlled Serendipity”
By Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy, editors
‘Controlled Serendipity’ Liberates the Web (Nick Bilton, New York Times)
If someone approached me even five years ago and explained that one day in the near future I would be filtering, collecting and sharing content for thousands of perfect strangers to read — and doing it for free — I would have responded with a pretty perplexed look. Yet today I can’t imagine living in a world where I don’t filter, collect and share.
More important, I couldn’t conceive of a world of news and information without the aid of others helping me find the relevant links.
Comments From ResourceShelf
“(F)iltering, collecting and sharing content” are things that info pros and many information companies have been doing for a long time, both in print and electronically — particularly in the area of aggregation. Now, many of us — both information professionals and information industry vendors — have to find new ideas and methods to make our services valuable to users. Which by itself is not enough. We must also make sure people know about our services rather than just going to the web and bypassing us completely.
Which means information professionals need to adjust, learn new skills, and develop new services to go along with those skills. That doesn’t mean we should be forgetting our “classic skills”. It means we should be adapting them to the times and circumstances in which we find ourselves. On example — metadata creation and management (what some might call “cataloging 2010?) is more important now than ever. And facilitating information literacy is an ongoing process.
Other new skills that come to mind are digital preservation, digital curation, organization of digital content, and working with/for the open access community.
Additionally, as more resources become available on the web (and that includes via mobile/portable devices), there will be more and more choices for consumers of information (including info pros who might be buying this stuff) on what to select and use. And that brings a whole host of issues front and center — assessing the credibility and currency of the information, knowing how and where to find archived content, determining the best ways to share information, being aware of intellectual property issues, and knowing how and where to find potentially useful related materials, regardless of format (digital, print, audio, video).
A well-trained information professional can provide all of the above skills (and MANY more). And we know this. We also know that the real challenge is teaching users and POTENTIAL users that research is more than just tossing two or three words into a search box.
Other increasingly important issues? Personal archiving. Keeping a copy for yourself. Why? Well, for example, if someone remembers a tweet from three weeks ago, unless he or she personally archived it, it might be a challenge to find it again. The web is, essentially, ephemeral. Which points up the value of “traditional” or “legacy” services. They have indices that go way back in time — more than a century in some cases.
Mobile or wireless access to information is becoming increasingly important. We know that many libraries and information vendors are offering mobile sites or apps these days, and we do our best to share some of them here on ResourceShelf. Relatively speaking, however, these are just the “early days” of the “mobile age” — which means info pros have a chance to be on the cutting edge here. Ideally for us, mobile users will come to realize that their local information professionals can help solve information access problems and/or save them precious time in locating what they need.
This web site, ResourceShelf, and our sister site, DocuTicker, are two examples of sites run by info pros who filter, collect and share a sizable (but still relatively small) amount of content each day. ResourceShelf is just now entering its eighth year of existence. And not a day goes by that we are not grateful for all of your suggestions and support.
I could simply type “What Gary said,” and it would articulate my feelings pretty well. Both Gary and I have, as information professionals, been on the Internet since well before it hit the mainstream. So we have the advantage of perspective — of gradually integrating information technology into the way we’ve done our jobs.
15 years ago, I was just beginning to teach people about e-mail…and telnet…and gopher…and ftp. Then I taught HTML and website design…and on to blogging and RSS. These days, I’m teaching social media — Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter — mostly to non-librarians. Even with all the mainstream hoopla over these services, I still see a lot of resistance. Many people still regard them as frivolous or fear them as a monumental time-suck. And, of course, if not used judiciously and strategically, that is exactly what they can be.
When people ask me, “Why do I want to be on Facebook?” or “Why do I want to be on Twitter?”, I give them what I think are the two main reasons:
1. There’s a conversation going on “out there.” Continuously. You can either choose to be part of it or let it pass you by. If you’re a business person, chances are pretty good that somebody somewhere is discussing your industry — or your specific company — in the social media space. Right now. This very minute. What are you missing? More importantly, what could you be adding?
2. Information overload is a chronic condition suffered by all of us. As individuals, we can’t possibly ingest and digest everything we need to feel well-informed — both in the general “what’s going on in the world” sense and within our own communities, industries and/or professional circles. But when we harness the brains of savvy intermediaries, the odds are pretty good that we’re not going to miss something significant.
Which brings us full circle. We have — by definition, as information professionals — a virtual mandate here to filter and aggregate.
The NYT “Bits” blog post referenced at the top of this post contains a statistic that just floored me:
John Borthwick, chief executive of Betaworks and Bit.ly, the URL-shortening service, said each month more people were clicking on shortened links from social networks and e-mail. Last week, Mr. Borthwick said bit.ly processed 599,100,000 clicks, its highest number since starting in July 2008.
bit.ly processed 599,000,000 clicks — IN ONE WEEK. That, my friends, is A HECK of a lot of information sharing. Especially since bit.ly is only one of many URL shortening services.