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Web 2.0: weblogs and podcasting for health librarians Barsky, Eugene 2006-02-28

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FEATURE / MANCHETTEIntroducing Web 2.0: weblogs and podcastingfor health librariansEugene BarskyEugene Barsky 34Discussion is rampant amongst libraries and informationindustries about what is Web 2.0. One thing, I believe, isclear now; Web 2.0 isn?t a standard in almost any sense ofthe word. Most concepts behind this term are constructive,building on today?s best and improving for the future.Stephen Abram suggested in his recent Information Outlookarticle that Web 2.0 is about the more human aspects ofinteractivity on the Web: ?It is about conversations, interper-sonal networking, personalization and individualism? [1].Frequently, our users want to experience the Web; they wantto learn and succeed. And we have to provide the tools andcontext so they can do just that. As the technology infra-structure of Web 2.0 is still complex and constantly evolv-ing, Web 2.0 is ultimately a social phenomenon of users?experience of the Web and is characterized by open commu-nication, decentralization of authority, and freedom to shareand re-use Web content.Many new technologies are emerging under the Web 2.0umbrella: really simple syndication (RSS), wikis, weblogs,comments functionality, Web personalization, photo sharing(Flickr, Zooomr), social networking software, AJAX and APIprogramming (Google maps), streaming media, podcastingand MP3 files, social bookmarking, open source software,user driven ratings, and open access content. My intent is todiscuss some of these technologies and to see how we, ashealth sciences librarians and medical librarians, can integratethem into our daily practice. I started this series of articles bycovering RSS use in medicine [2]. In this installment I amdiscussing weblogging and podcasting. If you are interested,please see my coverage of social networking and socialbookmarking and tagging in the next issue of the Journal ofthe Canadian Health Libraries Association.WeblogsBefore 1997, the term weblog just didn?t exist. By 1999,there were only a few hundred weblogs. Today, the searchsite tracks almost 29 million of them.Weblogs, or blogs, have been defined as online journals,published chronologically, with links to and commentary onvarious issues of interest. Blogs are easy to create and pub-lish for many reasons. First, one does not need to knowHTML coding to create a Web page. The software will dothat for you as they all have built-in templates. Second, theweblog writer does not have to arrange any space on aserver as most weblog tools provide free hosting space. Theonly work that the weblog writer needs to accomplish is cre-ating the text. It?s that simple. This ease of online publishinghas made weblogs an international phenomenon, and numer-ous librarians and library workers have created them in re-cent years. Frequently, blogs are networked between severalpeople, and several members post thoughts that often re-volve around a common theme.A January 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Projectmemo, ?The State of Blogging?, found that 27% of Internetusers said they read blogs ? a 58% increase from theprevious survey in early 2004 ( So, yes, this is a widespread andpopular Web trend. Many medical librarians have alreadyjumped on this Web bandwagon. Some of these blogs(which I read) include Michelle Kraft?s The Krafty Librarian(http://www.kraftylibrarian., Dean Giustini?sUBC Google Scholar Blog (, and Denise Koufogiannakis? Librarians? Rx( library blogs that I subscribe to include Gary Price?sexcellent ResourceShelf ( Jenny Levine?s The Shifted Librarian ( For some entertainment (we allhave a life too, no?), I like reading my RSS feed fromBoingBoing ( of us who haven?t started a weblog, but are consid-ering doing so, can get started right away (yes, right afterfinishing this article!). While there are many weblog soft-ware tools available, users may want to try Google?s Blogger(, MoveableType (,or Live Journal ( to get started. Allthese publishing tools are easy to use and cost nothing (ornext to it), and they can have a weblog up and running in amatter of minutes.It will take you about 10 min to start your first blog by go-ing through the simple steps at Blogger ( deciding on a username and password, you title yourblog and choose a template (which can be changed anytime)for your page. You will also create a profile; it is how otherswill find you (and also how you locate people with similarinterests).Admittedly, blogging is not for everybody; think aboutJCHLA / JABSC 27: 33?34 (2006)33E. Barsky. Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University ofBritish Columbia, 1961 East Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1,Canada (e-mail:, blog: that you are willing to share. It is a good idea to stayon point; if you maintain a library blog, it should reflect theprofessional standards you apply to every other publishingvenue. The content you track should be distinctive, the sortof material that no one else could present more effectivelythan you. A lively discussion and presentation help to definea sense of community and identity.You want to search for other people?s posts on their blogs?Here are two of the more robust (in my modest opinion)search engines that specialize in indexing weblogs:(1) Technorati ( ? This is one ofthe biggies, and it is able to search for almost 29 millionblogs. One of the handy features is searching for blogsby subject. For example, a search for dermatology blogsretrieves only six hits ( Google Blog Search ( ?This is a powerful search engine for self-publishingweblogging content. The good thing is that many of thestandard Google control language commands are sup-ported. For instance, you can search blogs by author(inpostauthor:) or by words in the title (inblogtitle:).Definitely, I agree, not everyone is born to blog, butblogging deserves a close look, not only because of its sim-plicity, but also because of its potential to open a new zonefor professional practice and communication channels, par-ticularly in public and academic librarianship.PodcastingIn January and February 2005, the Pew Internet andAmerican Life Project conducted a survey of iPod and MP3player users. It learned that more than 22 million of thosewho are age 18 and older own an iPod or MP3 player(, defined in the New Oxford American Dictionaryas ?a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar pro-gram, made available on the Internet for downloading to apersonal audio player?, is the 2005 Word of the Year, ac-cording to the dictionary editors [3]. Podcasts are basicallydigital files you can download from the Web and listen towhenever and wherever you want. Free (or very inexpensive)software makes it easy for computer users to subscribe toregular podcast feeds, download them automatically, andtransfer them to a portable device like an iPod for later play-back. Created by ordinary people, podcasts use RSS technol-ogy and can also be described as audio RSS feeds. Becausethey are feeds, users can subscribe to podcasts and havethem downloaded automatically to their computers, just asnews aggregators automatically capture RSS feeds.Surely, to receive or download podcasts you do not needan iPod; you can use any MP3 player. You can also listen topodcasts on any laptop or desktop computer equipped withspeakers and supported by media software such as WindowsMedia Player or Real Networks RealOne Player. Also, youcan listen to podcasts on your Palm Pilot or cell phone.Many podcast programs are quite short, so they are perfectfor my 30?45 min daily commute (public transport is notbad in Vancouver).Could I recommend any reliable medical podcasts to try?Michelle Kraft (The Krafty Librarian) has recently compiledan impressive list of various health-related podcasts( that includes myfavorites: The Naked Scientists ( (listen to their?Why chocolate is good for you? ? good news for all choco-holics out there), and the Nature Publishing Group podcasts(http://www., for those of you working in the academic environ-ment, what do think about coursecasting? Drexel University,which distributed iPods to students in its School of Educationlast fall, has already started experimenting with podcasting,as has Duke University, which last year handed out iPods toevery incoming freshman. Governments also do not want tomiss the trend. Very recently, the US government has started tosupply podcasts on different subjects of interest (,including a health section from the Agency for HealthcareResearch and Quality. Personally, I believe that the Canadiangovernment is soon to catch the wave.Interested in producing some podcasts? Here is my insightregarding podcasting. First of all, you have to know your au-dience and select focused topics. Remember, the content isvery important; substance trumps style. You also have to belively and genuine; scripted discourse is hard on the ears.And please keep it short because long audio files will testyour users? patience.If you are interested in searching for podcasting content,take a look at the following specialized search engines:(i) Yahoo podcast search ( ?This is an excellent and powerful search engine (still inbeta) that will allow you to listen to, search for, andsubscribe to the audio content distributed on the Web.(ii) Podscope ( from TVEyes( ? This is one of the first enginesto allow searchers to keyword search podcasts and thengo directly to where the words were spoken in the pro-gram (transcript search). A nice feature also allows youto subscribe to a podcast RSS feed for your search terms.The iPod continues to shrink in both size and price withthe debut of the iPod Shuffle, but its ?cool? factor is stillgrowing. Podcasting is really big now, but what will it belike 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years from now?Even though podcasting is still in a very early stage, I ex-pect it to continue to grow in popularity as it receives moremainstream press, develops new tools (for the creation ofcontent and the delivery of content to the end user), and in-creases public awareness that iPods or other MP3 playerscan hold not just MP3 files but other types of content (e.g.,pictures, video, text). What kind of audio or video content willyour library users want to take with them? The podcasting phe-nomena will grow in ways that we haven?t even envisionedyet. This is definitely another exciting trend to watch.References1. Abram S. Web 2.0 ? Huh?! Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0. Infor-mation Outlook. 2005;9(12):44?5.2. Barsky E. Introducing Web 2.0: RSS trends for health librari-ans. J Can Health Libr Assoc. 2006;27(1):7?8.3. McKean E, editor. New Oxford American Dictionary. 2nd ed.New York: Oxford University Press; 2005.34 JCHLA / JABSC Vol. 27, 2006


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