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Web 2.0 Updates

Web 2.0 applications: yes, maybe, no?

I ran a Web 2.0 workshop for North West Academic Libraries (NOWAL) on 2nd May 2008 at Salford University. The aim of the event was to give people a taste of what Web 2.0 is all about and an opportunity to test drive some of the applications. Inevitably, we were limited by what we were allowed to use on the computers in the training suite, and the absence of speakers on the PCs meant that I had to do the commentary for Common Craft’s YouTube video ‘RSS in Plain English’ . I suppose one could regard that as a mashup of real/1st life and the electronic world!

At the end of the day, I asked the participants to think about which applications they would definitely use, those that are worth considering (the ‘maybe’ category) and those that would get the definite thumbs down. As they had varying experiences of the technologies, and were looking at them from different perspectives, it is not surprising that some ‘stuff’ ended up in more than one category. We even invented a new award (see And finally… )

No!

There was only nomination for this category. Second Life (SL) did not seem to have any supporters on this workshop. As one has to download software to run SL and run it on serious, heavy duty network connections we were not able to experiment with it on the day. Some of the workshop participants had had bad experiences with it in the past and I did not help matters by recounting the tale of my disastrous attempt to attend an SL meeting the previous evening. Those of us who had tried it agreed that the technology is still getting in the way and it has a long way to go before it is promoted to the ‘maybe’ list.

Nevertheless, it is being taken seriously by Manchester Business School who have commissioned design and new media agency Corporation Pop to develop a Second Life island for them

Yes

Pageflakes – for pulling together frequently accessed information of all types. Can be kept private but also made public as a Pagecasts, for example Dublin City Public Libraries, East Lothian Libraries, ActiveIT.

Flickr – publicise your events, launches/relaunches of services, new library facilities

RSS – great for personal current awareness, but also a way of adding content to your web site, blog, Facebook etc. and generally facilitating the sharing of content.

iGoogle – your very own personalised Google start page for frequently accessed information of all types, but ‘tabs’ can be shared with colleagues.

YouTube – link to ‘how to’ videos, create your own virtual tours of your library, or make videos of your key events.

Wikis – great way to collaborate on documents for example a glossary of acronyms and abbreviations (under development by one of the workshop participants).

Blogs – can be used as sources of information and as a quick and easy way to provide news of services, events and ‘What’s New’ to users. Several of the workshop participants were already active bloggers.

Maybe

Social Bookmarking for example FURL, Del.icio.us, Connotea, 2Collab – could be a good way to provide access to evaluated subject and reading lists. Connotea (owned by the Nature Publishing Group) and 2Collab  (owned by Elsevier) are aimed at researchers and scientists. “If only we could persuade our academics to use them” exclaimed one workshop participant.

Facebook – worth a try but, because of its structure and minimal import/export options, beware of possible extra work in having to re-enter content held on web sites, blogs and start pages .

Google Docs – several people thought that they might use Google Docs as a way of collaborating  on documents but only for personal use and for applications where it would not matter if the document was inadvertently made public.

Presentation sharing services for example Slideshare, authorSTREAM. A good way to share lectures and also presentations on library services.

Nominated for both the ‘Yes’ and ‘Maybe’ categories were: YouTube, RSS and iGoogle.

And finally…

A new category. The winner of the John ‘you-cannot-be-serious’ McEnroe award goes to – ta da, ta da:

Twitter

I did try very hard to convince them of how wonderful Twitter is and was joined in my endeavours by some of my followers (thanks chaps and chappesses, your efforts were appreciated by at least me). The presence of the BBC, Timesonline and even No 10 Downing Street on Twitter did not help. I suspect that the main problem is the Twitter associated jargon and nomenclature. The name ‘Twitter’ generated enough titters on its own, but when quickly followed by tweets, twitterstream, TwitKit, Twitterfeed, Twitterment, Tweet Clouds etc … well, I think you can see the problem.

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May 11, 2008 - Posted by | Web 2.0 - general | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Comments

  1. Sorry to hear that Second Life got a thumbs down from the group.

    Although I recognise that there are still some barriers to its widescale adoption as a useful communications tool, Linden Labs have come a long way in the last year improving the application and easing the registration process. The open source software can be freely distributed and the current beta testing of the registration API suggests that the process of creating new user accounts will soon become a whole lot easier, whilst the implementation of technologies like Voice and Windlight have vastly improved the user experience.

    The widespread uptake of Second Life by the education sector is testament to its potential value. Its not just Manchester Business School showing an interest either. Many universities in the UK (and many more in the States) are already actively using Second Life for e-learning, recruitment and conferencing. In the business community big companies like Diageo and BP are using Second Life to find new ways of facilitating communication between employees around the world. And as a company (Corporation Pop) we’re working with both the education and business communities to explore the exciting possibilities that a third dimension offers in creating environments that engage with and sustain the interest of end-users.

    As someone who can remember evangalising about the world wide web in the early-mid nineties, and the widespread cynicism which greeted it, I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss virtual worlds. There are many of us that believe they are the future!

    Comment by Dom Raban | May 12, 2008

  2. Hi,

    I’m the product development manager for Connotea. It’s great to see that you guy’s are beginning to explore this space.

    I just wanted to make a comment in support of Second Life, not perhaps as it is, but looking more to where is can go. We have been running a series of lectures in Second Life and one thing that I find from attending events in Second Life is that when you do get the technology to work for you the immersive experience is more compelling than many other forms of remote speaking tools that I have seen used. I think that as the platform stabilizes then it has enormous potential for distance learning and participation, but you are right in saying that the technology is still early in it’s development.

    I’m also a fan of Twitter and it’s potential for a tool at conferences. I wrote up a little account of my experiences with it earlier this year: http://blogs.nature.com/wp/nascent/2008/04/hashtags_a_scientific_use_case.html

    – Ian

    Comment by Ian Mulvany | May 12, 2008

  3. Interesting link on the use of Twitter.

    Ian I agree with you completely about the almost uncanny ‘reality’ that is experienced in succesful (ie crash free) Second Life lecture, conference and meeting situations. We see Second Life as a super-rich video conferencing facility, enabling ‘face-to-face’ dialogue between participants who may be geographically widely separated.

    Linden Labs have recently announced that they will be introducing basic lip-sync to the viewer which can only add to the richness of the experience.

    Comment by Dom Raban | May 16, 2008

  4. A comment on the problems of giving workshops in external IT environments: Do others have nerves of steel or am I not alone in finding other people’s IT a major source of stress when attempting to organize courses involving any sort of computer-based material, whether online (no access to databases you need to demonstrate, absence of even basic tools like a PDF reader or Quicktime) or offline (Powerpoint in an antidiluvian version, no possibility of connecting the ceiling LCD projector to your own laptop, no access to local file server to deposit files for use by the participants during the course). Preparing the material is one thing; getting it to actually work in the course is another thing entirely. IT staff are either sick, will not be in for another two hours or have already gone home.
    So my unbounded admiration for your creativity and calmness in dealing with what sounds like the usual heart-stopping problems. It sounds like a great workshop!
    Janet

    Comment by Janet MacKenzie | May 24, 2008

  5. Janet, I am no longer surprised when IT does not work in presentations or workshops. I try and prepare as much in advance as is possible and have dozens, if not hundreds, of screen shots in an alternative PowerPoint should live access to the services not be possible. The problem is that many of my workshops are heavily interactive and we have long practical sessions in which people can experiment and play as far as is possible with the available technology.

    It is frustrating, though, that some organisations block YouTube and any video search engine site – and that includes news sites such as Blinkx. Flickr is often blocked (I was told by one IT person that ‘the management’ had labelled it as a dating site), and Facebook access may only be allowed between 12.00pm and 2 pm.

    And forget about SecondLife – you have to download software for that and that is most definitely not allowed in most training suites. Dom and Ian, Many of us just might get the hang of SL if only we could attend a hands-on session on how to use it effectively. Any offers?

    Comment by ukeig | May 25, 2008

  6. Ian,

    An interesting and useful posting on Twitter. And, yes, many of us are exploring services such as Connotea. Many of my workshop participants do now appreciate its usefulness but as a couple of them have said it can be hard work convincing the researchers and lecturers of its value.

    Comment by ukeig | May 25, 2008

  7. apologies for the delayed response to the dangled carrot in comment 5. I’d be delighted to run a session on effective use of Second Life. Email me directly if you want to discuss this further. Also if anyone is in Preston on 2nd July I’ll be giving a talk about how businesses are using SL (at sandbox, part of Uclan’s Media Factory).

    Comment by Dom Raban | June 8, 2008


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