Web 2.0: An overview

On the 11th May I attended the ASLIB course entitled Web 2.0: an overview. There were three other participants on the course, two from law firms and one from the Royal Society of Science, we were a small group but this enabled us to cover many topics and enter into detailed discussions and so it was highly advantageous. The course director was Lyn Robinson, who is currently the director of Information Science at City University and who has worked as an information specialist for the last 20 years.

Introduction: What is Web2.0

After introductions, we commenced by discussing what we hoped to gain from the day. There was a general agreement from the participants that we were all familiar with certain components of Web2.0, but that our experience was tentative, hence we sought a general understanding of the concept and hopped to learn how to use the various tools of Web2.0 within our libraries. With that in mind we began by discussing and defining what is meant by Web 2.0. We concluded that Web 2.0 can be defined as applications which use semantic coding, which enables us to separate form from content, making it possible to update, move, extract and combine individual elements of a webpage, often creating new resources. In short, instead of having static webpage’s, we now have those with dynamic shareable content. These new applications facilitate shared resource development. Within Libraries, the term Library 2.0 has emerged which refers to the constant, purposeful change, provided by web 2.0 which allows for increased dialogue between both the information provider and users and between users themselves. Throughout the course of the day we discussed several of these applications including, Blogs, Feeds, Social Networking sites and Wikis. Lyn ended our introductory session with a highly original video summation of Web 2.0 video, which is broadcast on Youtube.

Homepages and Blogs

We next looked at Lyn’s own home page at City University. Lyn’s home page consisted of an overview of her academic and professional career, including publication information and also included a link to her professional Blog, her Delicious tags and a link to her Library Thing account, which details lists of books on her course module. Lyn’s highly innovative Blog is an excellent example of the multitude of uses a Blog has. Lyn uses Delicious cloud tags, links, pictures, vidoes and feeds, to interact and convey information to her colleagues and students. Her Blog is open to all and those whom she knows are welcome to post comments in response to her posts. Her Blog is very much a professional one, her posting consist of matters refering to information science and the other Blogs she links to of people in the Library world. Blogs are a great way to chart the progress of colleagues and organisations and provide a framework for discussion and interaction. From a professional view point Lyn commented that she found it very advantageous to search her Blog archive and detail what she was thinking about and discussing in past months and years, and thus uses it as a sort of portfolio. Lyn’s Blog is hosted by Word Press which provides very professional looking Blogs and enables the addition of a number of different widgets and applications. It also protects that copy right of the Blogger via the Creative Commons.

Twitter and Second Life

Probably the most interesting part of the day for me was that spent looking at Twitter. Though I have never used it myself I was aware of the premise of the application. One can sign up and post a 136 character ‘tweet’ in response to the question what are you doing now? Any one who is following you is notified of your new tweet, as you are of those people/organisations you have chosen to follow. Of all the applications which fall under the auspices of Web 2.0, this was to me the most contrived, however Lyn enlightened me as to some of the benefits of Twitter. The most significant in my opinion for those in the Library and Information Sector is the use of TwitterFall and TwitterFountain. People and groups can all enter a topic on Twitter Fountain/Fall and all tweet on the same topic and everyone signed up to the event can see all the tweets without the need to refresh their pages. Lyn informed us that this application is currently being used by CILIP and other organisations during meetings, so that those absent, can nonetheless interact with the discussion, via those members who tweet during the discussion. We also discussed several ways in which twitter could be used in Libraries including how TwitterFall could be set up and librarians and users could see exactly what other users feeling are about the library at that precise moments by way of display screens Another way of contributing to meetings and events from a far, can be achieved by Second Life, whereby users upload and animated version of themselves and interact with other animated users in a virtual environment. Lyn said she recently attended a conference where the speakers were all participants in Second Life and were joined by several second life delegates, all of whom were transmitted on a screen above the speaker’s podium.

Book marking and Tagging

We next spoke about social booking with particular reference to Delicious. Using applications such as Delicious allows users to store all their favourite links in a place where they can be accessed by themselves and others. Delicious enables users to create tags to organise your book marks you can also create tag clouds in which the frequency of use of the tag is indicated by the size of the text. Delicious can be linked to Blogs, websites and Wikis. Delicious also allows you to subscribe to a particular tag and or user and be notified or changes to the tag and the users collection. Delicious is utilised greatly by Library and Information professionals and was one of web 2.0 applications most utilised by the participants

Wiki’s ,RSS feeds and Instant messaging

Instant messaging provides real time communication between information providers and users. The concept has been around for a long time and is still very useful and is used by a number of Libraries, to answer, ‘Ask a Librarian Queries’.

Wiki’s are the classic shared authoring tool, Users can access information and also edit and update resources, they lend themselves very well to the professional environment and we all agreed that they are of great use in the Library and Information Sector. Users can access information and also edit and update resources, they are very important to the professional work environment.

RSS feeds are an alerting services, which can notify you of changes and updates to websites of interest to you. You can receive notification by setting up an aggregator such as Bloglines or Google reader, by email or by setting up a feed to part of a webpage, like your Blog.

Social and professional networking sites

Of all the applications which fall under the umbrella of Web 2.0, social networking sites, namely Face Book and My Space were the most familiar to those of us attending the course. We looked at some Library Facebook accounts and identified how they were useful for publicising there resources and aiding users. One of the participants pointed out that the Facebook page was like a second, more interactive home page. The Personal profile facilitated the ‘About’ section of the website. The major advantages over a home page are that people can subscribe as your friends and leave feedback on your wall. You can similarly post announcements and bulletins and send out messages to all your friends about new events. The BL has a successful Facebook site as does the Library of Congress. Lyn also mentioned the use of professional networking sites such as Linked in and Collective X, are professional networking sites used for recruitment which present a portfolio for employers and are a good way of networking with colleagues.

Problems with WEB 2.0 and information overload.

It is important to embrace changes that are purposeful and not merely the latest thing. The danger of web 2.0 advances are that users reach an information overload. There are also issues of privacy as recently came to light with the controversy of Google Street Maps. But certainly overall, libraries have gained and will continue to gain greatly from Web 2.0

It was a very interesting course and Lyn was an excellent teacher. It demystified some of the jargon and was a very good overview of all the different applications associated with Web 2.0


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  2. Sheena said:

    Thank you very much for such a super summary. I thought the video on YouTube was great.

    On another issue you raised I have been thinking about whether playing music in libraries is a good way to encourage new readers and having visited the Whitechapel Ideas Store I have decided I really don't think it is. Someone else is choosing the music they think you would like to listen to and you can do nothing about it. I feel the same way about 'musicians' who come into underground carriages, play a few broken cords of their choice and then expect to be paid for it. You rarely feel good about it. The chance of choosing music that appeals to a wide range of people is remote. The Whitechapel Ideas Store doesn't play music but it is an example of meeting people where they are and encouraging them to come in. I think Katie's visit report gave a really good summary of what it is about.


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