I’m gratified to see that my blog has been included on the
Top 10 Sources list of Blogging
Librarians. My immediate response is to wonder
why. There are hundreds of blogging librarians, and I don’t have
to work very hard at finding 10 that strike me as more erudite, timely, tuned-in,
technically insightful, edgy, radical, volumetric, or just plain thoughtful.
But I’m not complaining! Its better to be talked about than ignored. Better still to be linked. I’m happy enough
to be aggregated on the library corner of a site that includes the thoughts of
Lawrence Lessig, Robert Scoble, Tim O’Reilly,
David Weinberger and other notable
The why me? mystery
is part of a much larger question of why we read what we read, and there are lots
of subtexts. Why we read what we read online is a particularly important one, for
us as individuals and for libraries. Its the whole point of social software.
Poking around on the Top 10 Sources links, I
encountered a note by Steven Cohen on RSS feeds and serendipity which took me to a thoughtful
post by Ken Varnum on the topic of serendipity at risk (never mind the irony of
my having found this serendipitously).
One of my dirty little secrets is that I don’t use a
feed-reader. I tried feeds once or
twice, and they quickly added to my guilt-stack without an obvious improvement
in quality of life or productivity (and there is the laziness factor). None of us suffers from
too little to read.
I read blog posts, not blogs. There are sites I feel like I should
be looking at regularly… (Digital Koans, for example, is even on my browser
bar, as is Lorcan’s blog). But I don’t
start (or end) my day sifting through feeds. (Marshall Kirkpatrick promised to help me mend my ways, and
I’ll report back if he succeeds).
Mostly, I rely on the social network of people and information in which
we all participate to feed me stuff I need to learn about. I admit to an uneasy suspicion that this is an
incomplete strategy and the explosion of interest in social software validates the notion that we're all desperate for ways to be more systematic and effective.
If RSS feeds give us the “what we ask for”, can we rely on
social software and our own personal networks to provide the serendipity? I think the answer is yes, but even the slim
list of stuff I extracted from my rendezvous with Curt and Marshall is a lot to
digest and integrate, the tip of an iceberg growing faster than I can keep up. I’m thrashing, looking for the right mix
(remix?) of formal sources, personal connectedness and intellectual netflow. I’m guessing I'm typical. Suggestions welcome.
Image: A brilliant spray of phlox (I think) encountered on a bicyle trip through the Queen Anne district of Seattle. Springtime in Seattle is long, leisurely, wet, and often strikingly beautiful.
Well, what the heck... why not? So I arrived early and watched for the baseball cap with a B, waiting for a blind date who didn't know I was coming. Soon after 8, Marshall and Curt arrived and I introduced myself, and we set about deconstructing Web 2.0 (mostly they deconstructed, and I listened). Highlights of my Monday night site map follow:
Lulu Self publishing saleable content, one book, CD, DVD or podcast at a time.
Grazr - Web-based outline processor for better organized feeds (look under TopTen Sources for the Library Blogs); uses OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language).
Freedom Toaster Free open-source access kiosk - no internet needed (and where is Knysna, anyway???)
A week ago I had the happy experience of going to a local
pub with three graduate students in the iSchool – Michael Braly, Jason Parker,
and Geoff Froh. I am in their debt for the good times and stimulating conversations we enjoyed! In addition to learning
about session beers, sharing notes about travel, cameras and careers, they shared
with me some of their enthusiasms from their classes, and folksonomies emerged
as a prominent topic.
The term folksonomy is one of those linguistic constructs
that suggests its own definition. When I first heard the term, I wondered what
would happen if you hybridized a folksonomy and a formal taxonomy (I can’t
imagine that I was the first to have this thought, and I wouldn't claim it as my own), but also imagined
that the result might be too diffuse to be of much use.
Michael, Geoff, and Jason pointed me to the del.icio.us site
for their class on Web 2.0 trends. [aside: is this a great way to share ideas in a
class, or what?] Most germane to folksonomies is the Golder and Huberman article, The Structure of
Collaborative Tagging Systems, in which the authors cite evidence that the proportion of
tags assigned to a given resource stabilizes after about 100 tags. If this result generalizes, then the notion
of hybridizing a folksonomy and a traditional taxonomy might be both tractable and
A formal taxonomy provides an established hierarchy, but
suffers from rigidity (arguably both a feature and a bug). Collaborative tagging affords an electronic warrant of sorts, bringing to
the fore new terms and relationships that will be absent from a static
Whether additional value emerges from this hybridization is
unclear and would benefit from actual experimentation (insert hand-waving
here). The technical challenges of
automatically linking these clouds to the taxonomy are also uncertain (we do
agree that, in the words of Erik Duval, librarians don’t scale, don’t we?).
The top level syllogism goes something like:
There is value in formal knowledge hierarchies that have emerged over time and which are established frameworks for existing knowledge organization
There is value in the ad hoc semantic clouds of collaborative tagging and
The hybridization of these values should be complementary
Is anyone doing the experiment?
Image: The Rotunda ceiling of the National Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by the author, February 26, 2006