What was the Question?

User generated content, in the form of question and answer websites in this case, is only as good as the content being provided.  Obvious perhaps, except when one considers how difficult it can be sometimes to tell the difference between good information and bad information.

A quick look at the main page of two big question and answer websites Answers/WikiAnswers  and Yahoo!Answers actually made me question the seriousness of either website; at least from a scholarly standpoint.   Yahoo!Answers had recent questions that ranged from wanting to know how to cite something in MLA style to wanting to know if a particular movie was available in Blue Ray format.  WikiAnswers was similar with questions ranging from who Jennifer Lopez’s parents are to the conversion of temperature scales.

Many of the questions I saw on either website seemed silly, and the answers in many cases appeared to be more opinion than fact.

Looking a bit further into news on question and answer websites found a February 2011 article on the technology page on the New York Times website.  The top websites were reported as being WikiAnswers and Yahoo!Answers.  The article went on to discuss a series of other new websites which include:  Hipster, Quora, Stack Exchange, Twitter, and VYou.

Curious about Quora as there were a few articles about it I tried to take a look at it but was unable to view it as viewing required an account.  An article on Mashable about Quora linked to a video that explains and demonstrates the features of the question and answer website.  From this distant view Quora had an interesting format which enables you to ask experts a question, although it seems like there are quite a few steps that you must go through to post a question.

Another article on Mashable talked about a website called Formspring which allows you to subscribe to particular people whose questions appear in your inbox, and their conversations will show up in your feed.  You can in turn send out questions for your friends to answer.  Formspring has various celebrities you can subscribe to on the website who have been verified to be celebrities.  Like Quora this website was also unable to be viewed unless subscribed to and this time I decided to take a look.  This look required me to sign in either via Facebook or Twitter and to create a screen name.

(One a side note I find it interesting and a little disturbing how both Facebook and Twitter seem to be tying a lot of different websites together.  I wonder if this is a trend that will continue and flourish.  I am not sure I want Facebook to track my movements on websites other than Facebook.)

At this time the only friend I have on the website is Formspring itself because I cannot figure out how to search the community.

Looking beyond the easily found websites, an advanced Google search found that some universities offer question and answer resources as well.

Go Ask Alice! is Columbia University’s Health Q&A Internet Service.  A similar sounding website is Just Ask Antoine! with questions and answers relating to chemistry.  If you are curious about astronomy then Ask An Astronomer at Cornell University’s website.  Sex, Etc. is a development of Answer, a website by Rutgers University.

Whether you hate them or like them, given the proliferation of websites that are available, it would appear that the question and answer format websites are here to stay.

To Collaborate or not Collaborate….

Internal collaboration within libraries would seem to depend upon the culture of the particular library.  A library that is open to change and is comfortable with introducing new technologies would be more likely to succeed than a library where change is a complicated process and where the librarians do not like to use new technologies.

Introducing something like a wiki to a library would not only depend upon a culture that was comfortable with change, but also upon a culture that had a certain amount of trust amongst its members.  The nature of a wiki allows for editing by several people.  With community driven social software like wikis, lack of trust may mean the difference between a successful wiki rich with content, and one that is not updated and underutilized.

Before implementing a wiki a library should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the library and staff.  Would a wiki be relevant for the needs of the particular library?  Will the staff use the new software?  Are they comfortable with new technologies?  Does staff collaborate willingly on other projects?  If the answer to any of those questions is no, then software like wikis may not be a practical thing to implement.

Arizona State University (ASU) Marketing Report

Online Marketing

The ASU Library has a robust online presence.  The main library page showcases some of their features in the lower right hand corner of the page.  Links to the library’s Facebook and twitter pages are located there, as well as links to more news and their Library Minute.  One link leads directly to a feedburner page where you can subscribe to the library’s news.

Not until following one of the news links is it apparent that the library uses other social software to market itself.  The library also utilizes YouTube, flickr, vimeo, and iTunes.  There is also a Myspace account for The Library at the Polytechnic campus of ASU.  Further searching found that the library also has a web blog.

Marketing Success

Rating the successfulness of ASU Library’s online presence finds that in terms of having a varied presence, the ASU Library is successful at marketing itself.

The ASU Library has three in house avenues for marketing its online presence. The first is the The Library Channel news events announcements which is the main news feed and is featured prominently on the library’s main page with a clear link to find content.   The second in house online presence is a separate news feed, equally visible, which features their video series, The Library Minute which is a series of videos dedicated to promoting library services.  The success of these two features seems probable considering both are updated regularly and are displayed prominently on the front page of the library’s website.  That the library also has a direct link on the front page that leads to a feedburner is another indication of their dedication to remaining in contact with the people who use the library.

The third of ASU’s in house marketing avenues is also a library blog called ASU Libraries Web blog, and unlike the two previously mentioned was not found prominently on the front page.  The Web blog was found from conducting a Google search for possible ASU Library blogs.  This content of this blog was mainly about e-resources so it could perhaps be meant for librarians and not for the general public.  If meant for the public then it should be more visible on the main page of the website.  This would not seem to be a very effective method of marketing the library’s e-resources.

The ASU Library uses several other social networking softwares to market the library.  The library’s Facebook page is updated regularly and also includes posts by friends of the library.  The Facebook page has 252 likes and there are 3 people talking about it.  There is one discussion that was created but it does not appear that anybody participated in it.  There are pictures included of the ASU Library’s subject librarians.  Considering that the library’s Facebook page is updated regularly and that other people make comments on the wall, this would seem to indicate that this is a successful venture.

ASU Library’s presence on MySpace appears to be absent and the only presence found there was The Library at the Polytechnic campus of ASU MySpace page.  The last activity on this website was two years ago and if there was any content on the page it has since been deleted, either that or it is required to be a friend to see content.

The twitter account in comparison to the Facebook account is much more vibrant.  The twitter feed is updated more regularly and there is different content than what was found on the Facebook page.  There were also posts that indicated that a librarian was answering student questions.  For example two posts read:

     ASULibraries

     @thisgirrlmegan We’re sorry about the slow connection. Can you tell us where

     you were in the building so we can report/track it? Thanks!

     29 Sep

ASULibraries ASU Libraries

@veryaimee I forwarded your info to the business librarians. Let us know if you

don’t hear back from them.

29 Sep

In terms of success, twitter is successful in not only disseminating information but more importantly they have created a dialogue with the people who use their library.

ASU Library’s YouTube, flickr, vimeo, and iTunes, while not featured on the library’s main page, are displayed prominently on the Library Channel newsfeed page.  The flickr account has current features and appears to be used regularly.  The three video sharing websites all feature the library’s Library Minute videos.

With the flickr account it is difficult to determine how often the pictures are viewed but considering how current the photos are and how often the website is updated it would seem to be good for marketing events at the library.

Looking at the YouTube viewing statistics it seems clear that this is a successful marketing tool.  The YouTube channel has 186 subscribers, the channel views are 16,658, and the total upload views 33,795.

With vimeo and iTunes it is less clear how many people view the videos but the fact that the library has dispersed their videos on so many different websites is a good indication of their dedication to promote the library.

The ASU Brand

ASU Library has built a strong and consistent brand online with their Library Channel and with their Library Minute.  They keep active in popular social medias, like Facebook and twitter, that their library patrons use.  By keeping active with multiple video streaming services the library ensures that its message can be seen in several different venues.  The ASU Library logo is consistent with the logo used for the university which further ensures its visibility.

Recommendations

The ASU Library’s online presence is good and it is difficult to find areas for improvement.  Instead they may want to go further with what they have already accomplished.  Perhaps they could feature an article about their twitter account on the front page to make more people aware of how they can utilize the feature.  They could also display the other social networking software that they use on the front page instead of on The Library Channel page.  The Facebook page could perhaps have more frequent content posted and reposted on it, similar to the way that twitter retweets posts.  If ASU Library continues to invest itself in new social software as they become popular than they should be able to continue to be successful in marketing themselves online.

Has Delicious Lost its Flavor?

For this latest assignment, after finding some of the links in my required text to be dated, I began looking for some current information on the state of Delicious. The first thing I found was an article published in January that talked about the imminent closure of the social bookmarking site and discussed how this would affect libraries and what they should do to mitigate the potential loss of content.

As Delicious is a social bookmarking software that we will be using in a future assignment I was a bit perturbed to find that it may not be a viable one to use in the future

The article gave a few examples of how university libraries were using Delicious but when I followed the links I found that some of the libraries no longer had any Delicious content available on their websites:

MIT Libraries

Stanford University Libraries

The College of New Jersey

I wondered if perhaps these libraries had been worried about losing the content they had invested in Delicious and had moved their links elsewhere.  After a cursory glance at each website it was unclear where, or if, they had moved their content.

I was not familiar with Delicious’ format before but it appears that they have added visuals to what had been simply text entries before.  This makes the application look more interesting but I am not certain if the functionality has changed.

I stumbled across another article on ZDNet.com, AVOS’ Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure, which offered up a somewhat scathing review of Delicious’ new incarnation.  Apparently the change from one format to another caused many users content to disappear.  This might account for the “404 Not Found” message I saw on The College of New Jersey website mentioned above.  Whether or not this disappearance is temporary is unclear.

There are a lot of social bookmarking sites out there, just see Squiddoo’s Big List of Social Bookmarking and Networking Sites.  The sites are voted upon and ranked by the most popular.  Interestingly Delicious was ranked fifth in the list.  One through four were: Squidoo, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and Digg.  Which of these sites might be best for libraries is a question best answered in a future post.

This exercise in investigating Delicious has made me realize how fluid content on the Internet is, and how this might be unfortunate for libraries that rely upon applications that are not run in house.   This might also be a case for investing in applications that could be run in house.  If libraries do use social bookmarking sites it does seem prudent to have a backup of this content somewhere local.

People are there, build it already

Should libraries build a presence and provide services on popular social networking sites like Facebook?

I think that the question should rather be…why aren’t they already?

I only have to point to my own university as an example of why an online presence is possible and helpful in creating online communities.  One of the SJSU Facebook pages that I have subscribed to is the SJSU School of Library and Information Science page.  I like this page because it is specific towards the SLIS program and helps keep me informed on various things that are happening on and off campus.  Other SJSU Facebook pages I have subscribed to are:

ASIS&T Student Chapter: San Jose State University

Library and Information Science Students to Encourage Networking (LISSTEN)

ALA Student Chapter (ALASC), San Jose State University

Actually in going back to gather these links I noticed that there were more SJSU Facebook pages that I didn’t know about:

SLISConnect

SJSU SLIS Second Life  (this one hasn’t been active since June 2010)

San Jose State Career Center

One thing I would have to say about some of these Facebook pages is that there could probably be more activity on them than there is now.  I think one problem with pages is that there is a tendency for people to think that they do not have permission to post on the pages; or perhaps it is that people are using a page to keep an eye on upcoming events or on industry information and feel no need to post their own content.  Whatever the reason for low participation on these pages, I do think they serve a vital purpose in disseminating information.

Besides pages on Facebook however, there are also groups that a library can use to create an online presence.  The Society of American Archivists SJSU SLIS Student Chapter for example, is an open group that anybody can join and I like it because it almost has a community like feel to it, more so than the pages in my opinion.  I think part of this can be attributed to the fact that in groups, members who post are recognizable by name and for the most part with a face.  Content posted on pages on the other hand, is mostly done under the name of the institution rather than by a recognizable person.

In regards to creating library communities on Facebook I see more of a future with the use of groups; to me they seem more personal.  Instead of a nameless librarian sporting the avatar of the institution as is the case with the pages, specific librarians could be admins in a group where everybody else was considered to be part of that group.  As group work seems to be a trend especially in my own online learning environment I would think that fostering that same type of environment through Facebook groups would be a good thing to do, especially when it seems that so many people are spending so much time visiting this social networking community.

People are already on Facebook…for any library who isn’t I ask…why aren’t you?