Friday, November 02, 2007

IL2007: Searching, Metadata, and my final post about the conference

Danny Sullivan was the Wednesday morning keynote speaker at Internet Librarian. He spoke on the "Future of Search (sort of)." Sullivan talked about what has come true among the predictions he's made in the past and how the major search engines have changed in the last year. I didn't take a lot of notes, but did write down several URLs to articles on his web site that sounded useful:
Yes, some companies are trying to do natural language processing in their search engines (PowerSet and Hakia). This is called natural language search.

And people are trying other types of search like:
Tom Reamy spoke on "Folksonomies & Tagging: Libraries & the Hive Mind." I expect that a copy of his presentation will be here at some point.

Advantages of folksonomies and tagging:
  • Simple
  • Lower cost of categorization
  • Open ended - can respond quickly to changes
  • Relevance - user's own terms
  • Support serendipitous form of browsing
  • East to tag any type of object
  • Better than nothing
  • Gets people excited about metadata
Disadvantages: (hint: quality)
  • Don't work well for finding info
  • No structure, no conceptual relationships
  • Issues of scale
  • Limited applicability
  • Too personal or too popular
  • It's a skill
  • Too many word/phrase variations
He talked about specific web sites where people are tagging and showed some analysis (e.g., Flickr,, etc.). This was very interesting and helped us to understand his point of view.

What I learned was that we're fickle and incomplete taggers. We generally use a few terms, but we should use more (broader as well as more specific terms). We need to be more consistent in our terms, although that is difficult not only for one person but also for a group. If the sites can make tagging easier (offer suggestions, related words, etc.), then maybe we can do better.

I entered the session thinking I was good at tagging and left the session realizing what a horrible tagger I am!

Along the way to Cannery RowWrap Up: I had not been to an Internet Librarian conference before. Yes, I liked it, even though it took a long time to get there, and my flight out of Monterey was canceled due to fog. The location is beautiful and the area is very walkable.

in the in the Conference Center. We all appreciated it. Really...can you have a conference without The conference spaces were good, but there was only free wifiMonterey Conference Center and not in the Marriott. Thanks to Information Today for getting us access to the wifiwifi? No. (ITI...I don't know what hassles or cost it took to get us wireless, but thank you!)

All of the sessions were excellent save one (great odds) and I came away with lots of useful information. I also came away with new friends and colleagues. And that is always good.

In 2008, Internet Librarian will be on Oct. 20 - 22 in Monterey. If you can get there, go. If you can't get to IL2008, then try to head to Computers in Libraries (CIL) in Crystal City, VA, April 7 - 9, 2008. CIL and IL are different yet similar in content, with CIL being a larger conference (1500 vs. 2300).

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Anonymous said...

Hi Jill,

I've really enjoyed your posts on IL2007. It seems like there is a strong grassroots effort by professionals to embrace these technologies and use them to enhance library services. However, do you think graduate library programs are keeping up in the same way?


Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Ben, good question.

It can be difficult for academic institutions to quickly embrace what is happening "in the field." First, do the new innovations fit into the established, approved courses? And can those faculty members integrate the new stuff in a way that is useful and makes sense? Second, can new courses be offered to teach the new stuff? And do students have enough leeway in their schedules to add-in those courses? An MLS/MSLIS degree is around 36 credits, which includes some mandatory courses. Those other credits need to be spent on whatever that student thinks s/he will need as a professional.

So...are the MLS programs keeping up with the new stuff? Yes. Is the new stuff being integrated into some of the courses? Yes. More importantly, I hope that some faculty are teaching about these new things by using them outside of the classroom (teaching by doing). Are students using the new stuff? Yes, but sometimes they need a little prodding. They need to jump into Web 2.0 and social networking tools on their own. They can't expect that they will learn all about it in their classes.

At that brings me to my final point, a lot of practicing libraries are embracing Web 2.0, even though this was not part of our formal learning. We see the benefit and we're jumping in "big time." Now we need those around us to also jump in as well as those who are coming into the profession behind us. They all can't wait to be spoon-fed about this stuff. They need to learn by doing (as we did), and keep in mind that these tools are social. To me, that means that they need to be learned and used socially. Can they be taught in a classroom setting? Yes and I do workshops that teach about social networking tools, but the real learning comes from using.

I've rambled on. Hope this makes sense!

Anybody else have a take on this? more thing. I do integrate Web 2.0 tools into the graduate classes that I teach and find that they students appreciate being able to learn them in the context of the course. And they adapt to them very quickly (like blogging).