Bookmarking, tagging and folksonomies

Initially I was not terribly interested in tagging and folksonomies (of course, this was before I had any real understanding of what tagging is; this pre-judgment seems to be an annoying habit I still strive to break).  I did not get into librarianship with any real desire to pursue the more cataloguing strains within the profession.  While I do admire our more catalogue-inclined colleagues, I have never felt a huge pull towards the discipline myself – professionally speaking.

That isn’t to say that I am uninterested in categorizing elements of my personal life and interests – particularly with music and music related culture.  For this week’s blog and lesson, I joined lastfm.  I have all kinds of friends and acquaintances who are rabid over the site, but for whatever reason or another, I have resisted.  This is a pity, as clearly tagging and creating a communal discourse on something like music holds immense appeal for me.  I have been a longtime fan of music, but I still sometimes get a little intimidated when I attempt to approach and embrace a new genre of music.  Sometimes the task seems so huge, so daunting that it is difficult to pinpoint any one place to start.

This is where tagging can assist: different voices may align and work to place this varied information together.  Like-minded individuals can direct and advise on places to start.  You like this new metal band?  Tag it and be linked to what others consider American Black Metal.  Amazing!

I think this speaks to many of the advantages with social media.  I have returned (at least in my thinking) to this idea that the internet as this vast expanse of information.  Social media applications and tools provide a means of connectivity.  Librarians would be well advised to position ourselves at the centre of the connectivity.


Microblogging

I only embraced Twitter this past fall, but I confess that I am well on the way to becoming a true-believer,  I have been with Facebook, but have always struggled with posting “Updates”.  While I admit that I do admire my friends who post regularly, I cannot seem to muster enough to bother.  I do seem to genuinely care what people are up to but have little desire in providing similar updates.  On a few occasions, I have family members and far away friends chastise me for not posting enough; they appreciated knowing I was at least up to something, if it was (in my mind) trivial chatter.  Still, however, I rarely stop by my Facebook profile – other than to send a message.  Which, in essence, might make Facebook a more glorified email account.

But, I do check Twitter throughout the day.  I might not care much for the Facebook status updates, I find Tweet massively useful.  At first, I was reticent to engage Twitter.  So much discussion on how successful Charlie Sheen or Ashton Kutcher have utilized the application – and I have little interest in receiving celebrity news via social media.  Of course Twitter also received a great deal of attention during the Iran/Libya and Egypt protests.  To connect quickly, through smart phones, laptops etc, Twitter seems ideal.  However, I am with Prof. Neal , who suspects that Twitter is more often used as a one-way communication tool (rather than an application that facilitates direct discourses).  

Twitter’s information dissemination appeal is what I really like about Twitter though.  At times I have felt overwhelmed by the simple amount of information on the internet.  I’m an OKAY surfer at best and always appreciate when someone directs my attention to something I will interesting.  I think that this is where Twitter succeeds: it offers a succinct connection to many internet points.  The “here – look at this link” method is immensely effective and appealing.  Yes, this happens in Facebook, but I find Facebook has too many layers and distractions.  Twitter distills the updates into simple posts.

Who do I follow?  I like following news reporters and technology bloggers.  My main criteria: in a tweet, ensure that I have a link to follow.  Jokes are nice and pithy observations can be diverting, but I tend to want more bang for my buck.  Help me explore what’s out there.

This – I am convinced – is what will help me as a librarian.  Any tool that aids in information seeking should be something librarians embrace.  One thing that has been on my mind – particularly during our skype chats – is our strict focus on how social media serves our client bases.  Of course, client services are (the most?) important facet to our profession.  And of course, we should have many, many discussions on how social media can enhance client services.  However, we have not discussed how social media can enhance the librarian experience or the librarian profession.  Perhaps only 5% of internet users embrace Twitter.  I might argue that 100% of librarians should be using Twitter.  And Facebook, for that matter – I am with Tagtmeiter: if any patrons are using Facebook or Twitter at this point, libraries should meet them there.


Social Networking

As with last week’s topic (on social media policy), I am particularly intrigued with how social networks operate – specifically in relation to how these applications can facilitate and foster online communities.

I may have related this anecdote in a past post, but it seems worth repeating.  While at my last co-op with the Kingston Public Library, I was allowed to do a little video purchasing for the online Overdrive application.  After some time at the task, I was discussing with my supervisor possible strategies to drive patron circulation and participation.  I floated ideas, such as online forums, through Facebook or even within the KFPL website.  My supervisor then revealed that attempts were made in the past, but a consistent community was always elusive.

I was reminded of this exchange during a thread within Edmodo.  Prof. Neal posted an article that suggested creating meaningful (in regards to generating sales through online participation) is challenging, even for the most successful brands.  This article and subsequent discussion reinforced some suspicions that many (most) organizations are not utilizing social media effectively enough.  But how can they?  KFPL tried it, but could not generate enough meaningful interest.  Was it too soon?

Katharine L provided the example of how her undergrad university used Facebook effectively: a lot of student activity was generated when the university offered options for students to suggest how social media could be used effectively.  Contests and prizes were also offered as incentives.  This got me thinking: perhaps we want to have all the answers – to social media’s effectiveness – immediately.  We want the online community RIGHT NOW.  And we want this community to engage at a level that nurtures itself.

But perhaps – as the KFPL found – it is still a little soon.  Not too soon to try, but too soon to receive real meaningful progress.  Perhaps, at the library level at least (thankfully ensuring a financial or sales return is not part of the equation), social media could be used to discover how social media could be best effective.  This sounds circular, I realize, but perhaps we need help from our communities, if we wish to best engage these communities.   Especially as social media applications and options increase in number.

With this increase in the number of social media these days, I considered two applications for which I am not a participant: Pinterest and Reddit.   Pinterest is receiving a lot of attention these days.  Indeed, many of the people I follow in Twitter, now are urging followers to also connect with them there.  Unfortunately, my request to Pinterest is still pending review.  Apparently there is a waiting list.  Certainly, not being able to engage (quickly – what is the point to a waiting list?  Should I be patient?  How patient?) might be a factor on how seriously I take this application.

I have been a lurker – please see the post on lurkers in our shared Edmodo page – on Reddit for a few years now.  Joining it was very easy.  I also wrote about Reddit for a different post; anyone who has yet to visit the site, it is worth some exploring.  While on the surface it may seem like a simple aggregation site – it does serve this function – there is a remarkable sense of community.  Members offer excellent advice to each.  They set up online secret santa gift exchanges.  Meaningful discourses on just about anything are constantly occurring.  The community is worldwide (with a significant Canadian level of involvement).