The Socialization of Information - a few thoughts

There's a post that's been rumbling around in my head for some time -- it's about the socialization of information. Let me give you an example to help set the stage on where these thoughts are coming from ...

Back in January when I first started giving workshops to staff about blogs, wikis and RSS I used a search example to demonstrate how information channels were changing. The term I used? Yup, "Library 2.0"

In that very first workshop, we explored traditional news sources first and here's what we found:

Search of the Library's 50 + electronic database = 0 results from all resources
Search of Google News & Yahoo News = 1 relevant hit.
The Online Catalog --- forget it!!

Then we searched non-traditional resources ...

Search of Technorati = 286 posts mention "Library 2.0"
Wikipedia = 3 pages of principles, thoughts and definitions (see archived Jan 3rd page)

This morning, I duplicated this effort once again to see how things might have changed four months later:
Traditional Research sources:

Search of the Library's 50 + electronic database = 3 relevant news items from Ebsco Masterfile premiere
Search of Google News & Yahoo News = 1 item in Google News, 2 items in Yahoo News

-- Yup a total of only 6 -- I was disappointed here too!!

Non-traditional resource tools:

Search of Technorati for "Library 2.0" = 3,350 posts (for a narrower search, see also tags)
Wikipedia = Still 3 pages, but has been updated considerably with lots more added references
Yahoo Podcast Search = 21 entries!!!

Can you see a trend here? While traditional information channels are still struggling to catch-up, social information channels are exploding and exceeding with speed.

Now while I know that my observation here is not unique -- we all know that information travels faster via the local grapevine than anywhere else -- but what makes the difference is that the traditional "grapevine" is beginning to be replaced by new social networks that are not only changing the way we receive and share information, they are in some ways legitimizing it!

The advent of Web 2.0 publishing technologies (blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc) propelled by collaborative categorization tools (ie tagging, social bookmarking, etc) have enabled ideas and conversations to finally move from the watercooler into the mainstream mass market. I see this shift as significant not only because it means that information and public conversations are no longer controlled by media/publishing authorities, but it also means future significant changes for libraries - who's wealth and access to resources have been built on traditional information models.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've made note of a several significant changes I see happening and the one that stands out to me the most is the development of Social Searching. All the major players are working on this one and have made announcements in the last few weeks:

Anyway, what’s the point of this whole post -- it's this! Not only is information control and access rapidly changing, but the search tools that will enable mass markets to benefit from personalized shared knowledge pools are well within sight. I believe libraries are in a good position to benefit from this socialization of information… but I also acknowledge that it's going to take radical change for many of our staff to feel comfortable jumping into the SI (Social Information) Zone. Getting on board with Library 2.0 is big step in this direction!

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Michael Stephens said...

Hi there! I am amazed that Library Journal never covered the meme! Thank goodness for SLJ and Chris Harris' article this past month!

Ian said...

The problem that electronic media always face in terms of giving people access to information is that of vetting and quality control.

For an article to be accessible through a resource like EBSCO, it has to be vetted by an editor, and published in a journal or periodical of sufficient stature and track record that it is subscribed to by a large journal archive. This means that it takes quite a long time for these resources to become available, and thus the first articles on a new trend may not appear for quite some time after those in the know about the trend have begun to find out about it. However, it also means that for an article to appear it will have to pass muster with a professional editor, which acts as something of a quality control.

For an article to be accessible through Technorati, it has to be written and published in a blog. The more popular the blog, the higher the chance of Technorati bringing the article up, but nonetheless it can be a cery short period of time between someone wanting to write an article and a search of technorati pulling that article up. This has the positive effect of meaning that the latest communication and commentary on different issues are instantly available, but has the disadvantage that this information does not have to be reviewed, edited or otherwise checked. This can lead to inaccuracy.

one of the more famouse forerunners of the blogging craze is Matt Drudge. One of the reasons the Drudge Report made a name for itself is that it was the first news outlet to break the news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. This is a good example of how personal publishing can get news out well in advance of the slower mainstream news sources. However, the Drudge Report is also famously inaccurate in many cases due to the speed with which information is put out, such as erroneously announcing that John Kerry had selected Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

Certainly, we should embrace the speed with which communication and discussion can now proceed, but at the same time we should recognize that accuracy takes time. In a medium as crowded with information as the Internet, authority becomes even more important.

WoW!ter said...

This morning I found 13 results on Lista (a free article index for LIS). A search in D-lis is more problematic since it excludes the 2.0 bit, and only searches for the term library.

Anonymous said...

While there may be a negative correlation between speed and accuracy, we need to recognize that accuracy is as much defined by the user of the source as the source itself. We also need to accept that technology has enabled the user to be authority, rather than the content provider. Accuracy and authority is a mirage in libraries today.