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Introducing Web 2.0: social networking and social bookmarking for health librarians Barsky, Eugene; Purdon, Michelle 2007-02-28

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FEATURE / MANCHETTEIntroducing Web 2.0: social networking and socialbookmarking for health librariansEugene Barsky and Michelle PurdonBarsky and Purdon 67In this last article in our series [1,2] introducing Web 2.0applications to Canadian health librarians for the Journal ofthe Canadian Health Libraries Association, we would like tosum up Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 this way: Web 1.0 was almostall about commerce; Web 2.0 is almost all about people.Web 2.0 is about the architecture of participation. UsingWeb 2.0 applications, we provide a service, not a product.We encourage user contribution, we create collective intelli-gence, we make it easy to reuse and remix content, we focuson customer self-service, and finally we create a feeling ofbelonging to a community, as well as a sense of empower-ment and ownership.Web 2.0 is about democracy. By now we have several ex-amples that prove even amateurs can surpass professionals,when they have the right kind of system and tools to channeltheir efforts. Of these, Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org) iscertainly the most well-known example. Experts have givenWikipedia mixed reviews, but we believe they miss the criti-cal point — that it’s good enough for people to use and thatit facilitates use. And it’s free, which means people can ac-tually read it, and they do — daily, in droves. The most dra-matic example of Web 2.0 democracy is not in the selectionof ideas but in their production. Have you ever noticed thatcontent you read on individual blogs is as good as or better thanthe content you usually read in newspapers and magazines?We believe that Web 2.0 is not only about a crowd ofgeeks paying US$2800 per person to attend the sold-out2005 Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, where 800 peo-ple jostled in the doorways of sessions and workshops. It isabout us — users generating content, rather than simply con-suming it. And it is about open programming interfaces thatallow everybody to participate.Looking at the recent Web 2.0 Awards (http://web2.0awards.org),therefore, we feel very proud. At the Irving K. Barber LearningCentre at the University of British Columbia Library, whereone of this article’s authors hails from, we use many of theaward-winning applications to serve our clients’ informationneeds. We use Bloglines (http://bloglines.com) to subscribe torelevant really simple syndication (RSS) feeds in our areas of in-terest. We use PubSub (http://pubsub.com) to search futurecontent appearing on our topics of interest and convert it toRSS feeds for future use. We use Furl (http://furl.net) forWeb site social bookmarking. We share photos and make notesabout them on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com). We use Odeo(http://www.odeo.com) to record and share simple podcasts.We create discussion groups for our clients on MySpace(http://www.myspace.com). We use Rollyo (http://rollyo.com)to create specialized search engines. Moreover, we blog,read RSS feeds, and share content, and yes, we are still aliveand have some time for fun. In this article, we will followthe theme of the excellent Canadian Health Libraries Asso-ciation / Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Can-ada 2006 Conference in Vancouver and share with you somepearls we have come to know about social networks and so-cial bookmarking and folksonomies.Social networksSo what’s the buzz about social networks? Or more to thepoint, what exactly are online social networks? Well, we seethese as relatively new kinds of virtual communities that arestructured to delineate and build on relationships that mem-bers have with each other by virtue of their being part of thatcommunity.Informal social networking has existed since the inceptionof the Web, but sites dedicated to social networking havebeen expanding exponentially since 2003. These sites collectdata about members and then store this information as userprofiles. The data, or profiles, can then be shared among themembers of the site. Social network sites offer a free andeasy way to create personal Web pages and fill them withcontent such as blogs, digital photographs, favourite music,short video clips, and much more. Social networks areformed as members link their Web pages to those of theirfriends and search through the vast number of sites in searchof new friends who might share common interests.Membership on social networking sites has become ubiq-uitous. MySpace.com is one of the most popular sites on theInternet (second only to Yahoo in the number of page viewsper day), boasting more than 80 million members whocollectively host more than 16 million Web sites. This is twoor three times the traffic on Google per day! For its part,Facebook.com is currently rated as the top site for 18-to-24-65JCHLA / JABSC 27: 65–67 (2006)E. Barsky.1Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University ofBritish Columbia, 1961 East Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1,Canada.M. Purdon. Strategic Health Information & PlanningServices (SHIPS), SHR Medical Library, 701 Queen Street,Saskatoon, SK S7M 0M7, Canada.1Corresponding author (e-mail: eugene.barsky@ubc.ca; blog:http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/physio/).year-olds, with more than 7.5 million members. These areastounding numbers, considering that both MySpace andFacebook were each launched just over 2 years ago.While MySpace.com and Facebook.com are US-basedsites, the social networking phenomenon is an internationalone. In South Korea, Cyworld.com is threatening to swallowthe country. Less than 4 years after its launch, 15 millionpeople — the equivalent of almost a third of South Korea’spopulation — are Cyworld members. Among those in theirlate teens and early twenties, 90% are hooked. So as youcan see, these social network Web sites are extremely popu-lar, particularly with teens and young adults. Some of themore popular social network Web sites include the follow-ing:(i) MySpace (http://www.myspace.com) – Currently, it is theworld’s fourth most popular English-language Web siteand the fifth most popular in the world. MySpace canplay and store music (http://music.myspace.com) andalso offers powerful invitation management capabilities.MySpace was purchased in 2005 by media pioneerRupert Murdoch for over US$580 million.(ii) Facebook (http://facebook.com) – Facebook allowsmembership only for people with e-mail accounts end-ing in “.edu” (denoting US college and university ac-counts), although membership was recently expanded toinclude high school students. Uniquely, Facebook’s on-line communities are organized by campus, and it is es-timated that about 85% of students in supportedinstitutions have a profile on Facebook.(iii) Friendster (http://www.friendster.com) – Friendster wasone of the first sites to allow users to create personalprofile pages online, post photos, and link to otherfriends. It grew quickly for a while, but its serverscouldn’t handle the heavy traffic, and its popularity hassince declined.So how can you use these resources in your everydaypractice, you may ask at this point? Well, we see a numberof ways that our community might use these tools. Our per-sonal belief is that our work is very much about communities,and increasingly, not only in the sense of the geographicarea of the building (i.e., the library) but also in the way thatwe share knowledge with our clients and each other. We canuse these tools to assist our clientele to share informationwith each other. By creating discussion groups and commu-nities of practice (COPs) on MySpace or similar resources,we can meet some of the information needs of the healthprofessionals we work with. For instance, this summer, oneof the coauthors of this paper created a neurological physio-therapy discussion group for his clients who wanted to dis-cuss treatment of neurological injuries. Librarians workingwith the general public might also consider recommendingor even setting up support groups for a particular conditionor a disease, like the MySpace “Cure Diabetes” group(http://groups.myspace.com/cureDiABETES).Specifically geared for use in the library environment isLibraryThing (http://www.librarything.com/). This is a librarysocial network site and a place for members to register thebooks they have read, will read, or are in the process ofreading. But it is also much more. LibraryThing promotessocial interactions, book recommendations, self-classification,and monitoring of new books. It’s certainly worth a try!Social bookmarking and folksonomiesSocial bookmarking tools appeared at about the same timeas social networks and have created quite a stir in their ownright. Wikipedia defines social bookmarking as the practiceof “classifying resources by the use of informally assigned,user-defined keywords or tags” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bookmarking). In essence, users can collect their fa-vourite resources in an online, open environment, which oth-ers are free to read and use. The end result is the sharing ofresources and the easy distribution of those resources. Whilemany are just starting to be noticed, there are a couple oftools that could be of particular interest:(i) Delicious (http://del.icio.us/) is an interesting site thatallows anyone to place their favourite links onto theirown page within the Delicious domain. After a simplesign-up procedure, users can easily start adding Websites to their account. Once a user chooses a site tobookmark, the URL, description, “extended”, and “tags”information can be provided. At this time, both the ex-tended and tags sections are optional. The extended sec-tion of the bookmark allows the user to annotate thesites. This is useful because Delicious also offers asearch feature that allows users to search their ownbookmarks. What makes Delicious worth using as acommunity-based tool, however, is the tags section. Foreach bookmark, users can assign tags. Once that tag isplaced, a separate URL will be created for any newbookmarks that are given that tag, no matter whobookmarked it. This is where the community and shar-ing features come in. Any Web site posted on Deliciousthat has the same tag in it will be placed on that particu-lar URL. For instance, the Google Scholar URL on De-licious lists all sites that were assigned to this categoryby different people (http://del.icio.us/tag/google_scholar).(ii) Furl (www.furl.net) is another free online bookmarkingtool that allows users to easily post and annotate Websites. Each post can be placed into categories via theposting options, and these are displayed within the FurlURL that is created.Social bookmarking tools are excellent resource discoverytools; when searching for a particular subject, you may seethat other users tagged a particular Web page and other sitesunder similar tags. This allows you to see the collective listof resources from all the users who share the same researchinterest. The advantages of social bookmarking utilities areapparent; these tools are Web-based and searchable, and theyfacilitate the development of communities of interest and ex-pertise.It is important to remember, however, that social taggingtools — folksonomies — are built from the bottom up; theyare built by people like you and us. They are democratic andinclusive, but as such they provide a snapshot of current us-ers’ behaviour and preferences, and they are not stable orcontrolled. For example, a look at the popular tags list onFurl gives you immediate insight into what users are work-ing on right now (http://www.furl.net/furledPopular.jsp).Again, how might we as librarians use these relativelynew tools in our practice? Well, we can use socialbookmarking tools to create Internet subject guides. An ex-ample of this is the University of Pennsylvania Library’s so-66 JCHLA / JABSC Vol. 27, 2006cial tagging cloud (frequently used tags appear in largerfonts) (http://tags.library.upenn.edu/). This page providesup-to-the-date information on user behaviour at the univer-sity’s library. Moreover, how about tagging your own onlinepublic access catalog (OPAC)? No, we are not suggestingremoving the traditional subject taxonomies but rather justenhancing these by allowing users to tag their favourite mate-rials and allowing other people, in turn, to use their tags.Please do remember though that folksonomies and taggingare in their infancies. New features are constantly poppingup. More than ever, this is a time of experimentation andrapid development, but don’t we all love change? This is yetanother, extremely interesting trend to watch and experimentwith.To conclude, we want to encourage you to use some ofthe Web 2.0 applications. Play around, try new things, andsee if they work for you and for your institution. Manywon’t work or won’t be appropriate, but don’t be afraid todrop them and try something else. Almost all Web 2.0 appli-cations are free, friendly, and easy to use. They are worth atry. Have fun!References1. Barsky E. Introducing Web 2.0: RSS trends for health librari-ans. J Can Health Libr Assoc. 2006;27(1):7–8.2. Barsky E. Introducing Web 2.0: weblogs and podcasting forhealth librarians. J Can Health Libr Assoc. 2006;27(2):33–4.Barsky and Purdon 67


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