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Tue, 10 August 2004 13:00:00 GMT
Social software in libraries
I've invested quite a bit of time in developing social software for libraries as part of my quest in spreading the good word of Topic Maps. So where am I at?
Well, I'm not that far off; the problem I very often focus on is that the technology still is in its infancy, and tailored systems are hard to come by. Think corporate/organisational blog aggregators such as the FeedOnFeeds or even BlogLines.com itself; they work quite well, but do not fit the bill of easily implemented in an intranet, for instance. Oh sure, the features needed may come one day down the track, but they're not here right now. But I'm not sure this is the right thing to focus on.
Next up is Wiki's. Some offer RSS feeds for comments to a page, changes to a page, news about a set of pages and so on, but may not fit into the current infrastructural scheme of things. Maybe it's in Python. Our business support group won't have anything to do with it. I'm hence stuck. I'm using a terribly simple Wiki for infrastructure stuff, one that I can easily hack to make sure we've got the tools in there that we would use. Here the tool is so simple, it can hardly be called a legacy system. But it will be in time as it grows. And that, too, can be a social software pattern that at the same time increases tacit knowledge in the organisation. It doesn't matter what blogging tool I use, as long as I provide a means of communicating. A lot of people rely on trackbacks for instance, which I don't a) have a clue how works, and b) obviously not implemented. Yet I'm able to communicate. So, don't focus too much on the tools, and focus more on what it is. Project and people management will soon follow those patterns as opposed to the technology used.
What about Topic maps? Well, they are great (not that I'm biased or anything), but the lack of any systems actually having open support for them (apart from the odd closed system) makes it hard to push it onto anywhere, even though Topic maps would be perfect for library systems, such as those I use and want to use. What to do? Should we conduct awareness seminars? I did and things are slowly moving about, but unless I keep strongly at it, it will fizz out and die. And as a busy type person, I'm going to let it fizz out because my time is spent elsewhere than evangelising. Social software is more about letting the concept seep into the organisation than actually trying to push it in the door.
The same problem is for social software in general; there are great ideas, infancy technology and a lot of buzzwording going on. These things combined is not going to get us anywhere near actual implementations. The only thing that works are maturity of tools and the will of the management. Grassroots movements works fine with personal blogs, but can be really tricky for anything corporate/organisational. Even personal blogs can get into problems if they are too corporate/organisational, as many have lost their jobs because of it. Prepare everyone of it. Talk about it in productive ways. It is not "fun way of communicating", but "communicating using social patterns."
What is social software? It surely isn't for socialising, but more to do with aknowledging the social aspects of interaction between computer users. Note this, because it is important, and quite possibly the very thing that keeps social software from getting in the door. Don't let the buzzword "social software" equal software to socialise with, because that is why the coffee-room was invented; no, talk about how the social patterns that are currently untapped can be utilised to make the corporate / organisational life excel and work better together. I think that will work much, much better.Permalink (Tue, 10 August 2004 13:00:00 GMT)| Comments (5) | Topic maps Knowledge and information