Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Brainstorm Interlude

This is a brainstorm really. I've managed to lumber myself with doing a presentation on a conference call on the benefits of blogging. I've been having random thoughts on this for a while and now it's time to start to organise these. Bit of background. I've been doing a new books blog for 4 or 5 months now and have changed my opinion of web2.0 from reserved skepticism to avid evangelist. Here, in no particular order, are my pros and cons...
1) It gets the message out there. The way the corporate blog works is that every time you post you go to the top of a list of recent posts on the front page. More and more people are hitting this page so if you post regularly you are going to get to a whole bunch of people who never knew you existed.
2) It makes you think about your stock - I've got the process fairly automated (basically the blog posts are cut and pasted from catalogue records with a bit of personal opinion thrown in if I feel strongly that it's a good book). However, I'm always aware that I'm selling these new books to a highly critical bunch of users. If a book doesn't cut the mustard it will be spotted and comments will be made. I've had to learn to justify the stock that I select and that's a good thing. It's reached the point now that when I'm preparing shortlists for acquisitions I often ask myself "Would I be comfortable blogging this book".
3) It's generated requests direct from the blog pages. This equals more issues and is GOOD FOR THE STATS.
4) People read the blog then walk to the library. This nearly knocked me off my chair the first time it happened. The aim of the blog (and other web2.0 stuff planned for this year) is to accept that folks are busy and can't always make it to the library. I saw blogging as one way to take new books to people's desktops... BUT there have been many occasions when people have seen a book and been driven to come over to the library and add their name to the paper waiting list (I know this because they tell me). Invariably they walk out with a different book while they are waiting for the new book to do it's time on display. This again is GOOD FOR THE STATS.
5) Social Bookmarking. My eyes have been opened to this a bit more just this week. I made a fairly idle comment speculating on ways to improve the information retrieval of user generated tags. One response was that the point of tags is not purely an information retrieval thing, it's a social thing. In and off itself. This has taken me a long time to grasp. One word of advice is to let go of librarian sensibilities - tags might not be the best for searching to find information but they rock when it comes to relating one piece of information (or person) to another. They also provide a simple way for end users to label their own information. Most of the hits (excluding direct hits from feedreaders) come from being featured on other blogs. I think this is down to meticulous tagging.
6) Even a specific blog (like one themed on new books) will raise the overall profile of the library. Pretty much any publicity is good publicity for libraries right now and if it shows that libraries are on the cutting edge of communicating information then that might help to challenge a few stereotypes.
7) Reading blogs is a good way to find out what others are interested in. In a corporate environment it helps you to find out: what people are working on, what they are interested in, what tools they are using (basically what information they need). Beware though - it's very easy to get distracted.
1) You have to have a regular source of something to blog about. If you don't post for a while you'll still get hits (from searches on tags and people scrolling back through thier feedreaders) but you won't get nearly as many as if you're posting every day.
2) It takes time. I happen to think it's worth it but it does take time.
3) It can be addictive. Because you get feedback in the form of a count of the number of people hitting the pages and even comments from readers, it can be tempting to keep logging on to see what the response is. It takes a while to get disciplined about this. Like with email, it pays to manage your time blogging. Because you can manage a blog in relatively small chunks of time it is easy to fit around other tasks but it is also easy to get distracted (see 7 under +'ves!).
I'll edit this post as and when I think of anything else...

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