The Upkeep of Web 2.0

I was perusing through Davd Lee King’s blog today and there were a few interesting posts about notions of community and Web 2.0. I think it’s easy to understand the connection between 2.0 tools and the communities that use them. After all, that’s one of the big reasons why the library world has embraced them.

But, as King notes, who becomes responsible for maintaining these tools? Who maintains the MySpace page? The RSS feeds? The library blog? To me, when thinking about Web 2.0, this question becomes paramount. Many of us get enthusiastic (kind of) over these tools and plunge in head first like all of the 2.0 gurus tell us to. But then after we’ve created the MySpace page and the RSS feeds and they sit there barren and rotting away from neglect, we slowly realize maintaining these tools becomes a lot of work. In some cases, it requires so much work, the question then becomes, is it worth maintaining these 2.0 services at all?

Personally, I feel that there are times when our desire to be on the “cutting edge” actually detracts from the quality of service we provide. I’d rather have 3 really great 2.0 services than 8 poor ones.

The lesson here, as King suggests, is to plan accordingly and effectively, and it is hard to disagree with this. Without proper planning, your latest 2.0 flash-whiz-bang will go untouched and quickly become a waste of time. Of course, it’s easy to give lip service to the importance of planning, when in reality, it’s not that simple. Planning is difficult stuff. It involves people, many of which may be resistant to the undertaking from the start. I get headaches just thinking about.

Well, what does all this boil down to? Be selective in which 2.0 technologies you seek to adopt. Experiment with them to be sure, but be extra critical when it comes to deciding which ones to implement in your library. The fewer you adopt, the easier it will be to devote the required attention and effort it takes to make the project successful. Moreover, it’s much easier to garner support from colleagues and administrators when you’re not bombarding them with proposals every week about how the library should adopt the latest 2.0 tool that just came out yesterday.

2.0 is about community, but don’t forget it’s the library staff that is ultimately responsible for fostering that community. The 2.0 tools won’t do it for you.

3 Comments on The Upkeep of Web 2.0

  1. librarian47 // October 11, 2007 at 4:02 pm //

    The people that use Facebook and MySpace live in their pages. They set them up to suit themselves and edit when they feel like it. They are interested in attracting like-minded people to share their thoughts, and sometimes, they are daring responses from those who differ. They are living in the pages. Librarians who set up pages in Facebook or MySpace to give their library a “presence” are trying to engage students from a distance. They are not living in their pages, rather they are posing in the pages. If the updating becomes a chore, I wonder if that is an honest use of the resources?

  2. That’s a great point, librarian47. I couldn’t agree more. Regardless of our efforts to have a “presence” on Facebook and MySpace, we enter into these social networking sites with a different set of motivations than our users, and I would venture to say that many of them recognize this.

  3. David Oberhelman // October 30, 2007 at 9:19 am //

    This discussion reminds me in some ways of the early days of Web 1.0 when libraries were first wondering what to put on the then new World Wide Web. Back then the Web was a new technology, and discussions about what kind of homepages libraries should have were quite common. But as more resources moved to the Web, the library’s online presence became quite important, and libraries found their place on the Web since that was where their clients were.

    I wonder if some of this will occur as more and more Web 2.0 technologies become more mature. MySpace and Facebook are social networking sites, for now, but there are other sites and applications for 2.0 interaction that may become more and more dominant. Already content management systems on the Web, which have a variety of different interactive 2.0 capabilities, are becoming more common as we leave behind old html pages.

    I agree that libraries must be careful in getting an presence in such purely social networking sites for the reasons listed in the other comments. But we might see the 2.0 technology become more a part of our clients’ lives in other respects, and thus we will have to adapt as we did when we first began developing our initial homepages in the 90s. It is important to get a toehold, even if we play it cautiously, so that as the Web moves forward, we will still be a part of it..

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