Just because I don't use it doesn't make it worthless

A few folks might have gasped had they been at the Charleston Conference last week, in a Saturday discussion of OpenURL issues. The discussion got around to some sort of functionality for people to share tips and best practices (e.g., for new targets, new forms of linking, getting around problematic targets...)

Someone suggested a list.

I suggested that a Wiki might suit this particular need better than a list or even a blog.

Now, you gotta understand, I've never run a Wiki nor actually participated in one, and have commented on them much as I've commented on weblogs--that is, "I don't know that everyone really needs to have/do/take part in one, or that they're solutions to all problems."

But, as with weblogs, lists, some kinds of social software, Wikis do look to be low-overhead solutions to some problems--and I think building a "communal knowledgebase" in the fairly specialized area of OpenURL resolver practices may be such a problem.

Who knows? It might even happen. Fortunately, before people started asking me "What's a wiki?", Pat Harris (NISO) noted that the Metasearch Initiative is using a wiki, so setting up another one would be trivial...

Nothing really new here: I don't own a notebook computer because I don't need one at the moment and prefer to travel light. Ditto a PDA. Doesn't make them useless; just makes them less than universally essential.

And there's my Friday sermonette.


The subject of PDA's was discussed at recent conference I attended for academic directors. One director in particular felt PDA's with ebooks is the direction we should all be looking. I'm still not sure.
Ebooks (netlibrary) in our library get little use. Dismal would be more accurate.

As for PDA's, I find them somewhere between necessity and unneeded gadgetry for my needs. I hated pecking on that tiny keypad. My wife likes it though.

A wiki indeed might be a good idea for sharing information. Lists, and even sites such as this one, tend to be ephemeral. Also they have the risk of low signal to noise in terms of content. A wiki could solve those problems. The main concerns with a wiki would be authority control of the information, and critical mass for success.

The wiki would have to have some kind of central or correcting mechanism to ensure accurate data. Without authority control, any information from the site would have a taint upon it. But, this is a problem, which I believe to be solvable. The issue of authority control could be worked out either through the human element in the site or through software controls.

The second issue, that of critical mass, is a more problematic one. How does a community coalesce into something that is self-perpetuating? At my own library, we had a much-heralded launch for our internal message board, but after only a few months the thing is dead. No one posts or visits. Even the hardcore users have stopping using it, because nothing changes.

This same effect is found in the Wikipedia. The ratio of readers to writers is probably vastly skewed towards the reader, and yet because there are enough people going through Wikipedia, the slim handful of writers is enough to keep the site going. Without that critical mass for a wiki, without a sustainable driving passion any communal knowledgebase may be doomed to failure.

So, how do we solve it? I wish I had an answer.

Anybody have any ideas?

I think it depends on the purpose. For OpenURL, the community of people who care about or can do much about how resolvers are configured is relatively small (in the high hundreds or low thousands) and would have little interest in hoaxing, spoofing, etc. It's one of those technical purposes for which high levels of gatekeeping and authority control probably aren't needed. (I suspect someone would verify a tip via personal email before exposing a library's users to a questionable resolver link anyway.)

On a more general basis, my ignorant semi-understanding is that wikis can be set up to have varying levels of editorial control. David Mattison or some of the wikipedia folk could probably provide a knowledgeable answer.

My organizer history goes something like this

  • Daytimer (tm) for a couple of years (spiral bound)
  • Palm III for a couple of years
  • Daytimer (tm) for a couple of years (binder)
  • Palm T3 for a couple of years (to date)
  • I switched away from the palm back to the paper because I wanted to use the paper for taking lots of notes and the palm didn't add a lot. The new generation of technology gives me a lot more, so even if I use paper for a journal, the palm gives me enough. And the palm is a lot smaller than the paper organizer for managing the calendar and phonebook.

    As to ebooks, forget it. I actually have a couple of ebooks on the palm, mostly "because I can", but I never read them. Now, I do have the CIA World fact book, which might count as an ebook, on my palm, but it's a different beast.

I think you've hit on something with the CIA World fact book. If there is a market for ebooks, reference types seem to make the most sense.

I never had a pda until I got my smartphone (Nokia 3650). It has helped me with my failing memory, as it does all the pda functions I know about: calendar, alarms, notes (ugly but functional). Has bluetooth and Infrared. Syncs with outlook. Could even use the wap browser when I was paying the $5 fee per month (screen's too small to really read lisnews.com though).
Only has 16 megs of MMC ram (which *is* more than my first two computers. Combined), but I can upgrade. This phone has its own OS (Symbian), so can do java (also has virus' in the wild). And a camera. It's kind of freakishly clever.

I don't know if it will run a wiki....but I'll look into it.