Friday, January 12, 2007

Article Note: Another brief overview of blogs and wikis

Citation for the article:

Ramos, Miguel and Paul S. Piper. "Letting the Grass Grow: Grassroots Information on Blogs and Wikis." Reference Services Review 34.4 (2006): 570-574.

I read the article via Emerald.

This is another light piece on blogging and wikis for those who may be unaware. I will venture to say that by now any librarian and/or LIS professional who is not at least marginally aware of this needs to crawl out of whatever rock they are dwelling under. By now the topic has been covered from LIS journals to the mainstream media. Overall, the article does not say much that has not been said already, but there is still a little food for thought.

  • "By understanding, harnessing, and actively utilizing these emerging socially mediated tools, librarians can tap into a wealth of collective knowledge, as well as utilize these resources for their own communication, information and instruction needs" (570).

In other words, blogs and wikis are useful. They can help librarians and others communicate better, share ideas, and create instructional resources.

  • "The ease with which new information can be introduced and/or challenged by a community of users can lead to the creation of authoritative, comprehensive documents, as well as rapid responses to breaking situations such as natural disasters and war-time reporting" (570).

Well, the ease of introducing information can be a blessing and a curse. Problems with spam and vandalism as well as some cases of trolling make the description above less than idealistic. Also, one look at Wikipedia let's us know that just because there is a community of users an authoritative document does not follow. A small internal wiki or a restricted external one can likely create something with some authority given a small group of editors. A large open system means larger odds of chaos. I think it is something to consider at least. In the case of timeliness, bloggers from New Orleans during Katrina and milbloggers provide a good example. Like any other source, they do have to be scrutinized and evaluated.

  • "The librarians who are publishing blogs, however, and some in very interesting ways, are pushing the limits of what blogs can do, using them to direct subject-oriented RSS feed to their liaison departments, using them to share research and resources, using them for announcements on their homepage, and even using them to display catalog records" (570-571).

Here's a few places where this sort of thing has been discussed; I just picked some items I have recently read, and I am sure there are a lot more (see here, here, and here). My point is that this is not terribly new. The article's overview of blogs and wikis is pretty basic overall. In at least one instance, the article becomes repetitive since the statement above is mostly replicated two pages later. So, for readers who are not aware, this is a decent start. However, given it was published in RSR, a publication geared to LIS professionals, this seems a pretty light article with little to offer.

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