Boffyflow and spike

Peter Binkley has a thoughtful post on libraries and Second Life, which could be generalized to a variety of environments. He kindly notes some of my remarks on putting library services into the flow and goes on to say of Second Life:

But is there now, or will there ever be, a workflow there? I don’t know. My first impression of Second Life was that it’s all about sex and shopping; but I suppose a contemporary Martian’s first impression of the web would be the same. And what if there isn’t a workflow? Perhaps my services could be relevant to a playflow–I like to think so, but then again I think OpenURLs are fun. Perhaps SOA-based library services could facilitate such noble human processes as a jokeflow, or even a folly-flow. In discussing nextgen OPACs we agree on the pleasures of serendipity, after all, which is playfulness under the guise of work. But when you go into Second Life, would you prefer to meet your librarian, your mom, or your dentist there? In our efforts to insert our services into our users’ webflow, we risk pursuing them into the places where they go to avoid us. [Quædam cuiusdam » Blog Archive » Second Life Library]
It is not my purpose here to say anything about Second Life.

But Peter's post did prompt me to wonder aloud about something else. Now, clearly it is rather easier to suggest that libraries should be in the flow than to work out what the best ways of doing this are. Where should libraries and organizations which serve them put their 'reintermediation' efforts? I have been thinking about this recently and thinking in particular that it would be nice to see more reports of use, users and successful integrations into flow.

An example: check out the entry for Salmon in Wikipedia. Look at the remote links. The first is to the Salmon Collection in the Digital Collections at the University of Washington Libraries. This is a nice example of a library resource being in the flow, and helpfully so. The importance of Wikipedia as a channeler of flow is clear, so what, I wonder, is the impact on use of the UW salmon collection of being surfaced here where there are more chances of being seen by interested readers? Was there a spike when the link first went in? Has there been an increase in use?

Another example: what sort of impact on library services at Virginia Tech has Libx had? (Acknowledging that a FireFox extension has limited penetration.)

Another example: what is the impact on resolver traffic at libraries participating in the Library Links program from Google Scholar?

Related entries:

Note: I had actually read Peter's post before it popped up in my ego-feed ;-)

Comments: 2

Nov 27, 2006
Ann Lally

We have definitely received more hits since links started appearing in wikipedia; and the pace of referrals from Wikipedia has been consistent over time, rather than having an initial spike and then fallback. The Salmon Collection has received over 300 hits since it appeared in Wikipedia in May (May through October). Our WTO collection (also linked from Wikipedia) received over 1200 hits during this same time. Some links we have added and some have been added by the wikipedia community. Wikipedia is now considered an essential tool for getting our collections out to users.

Nov 29, 2006
Andy Havens

I've heard time and again from folks in library/education land that Wikipedia can be a good/easy place to start a shallow search or get a quick question answered, but that it shouldn't be held up as authoritative, etc. At the same time, Wikipedia contains within itself the tools and philosophy to become (at least somewhat) more authoritative.

We're trained to think of things like encyclopedias as resources; one-way flows; that which I go to to draw something out. Implicit in the concept of flow in some industries (gaming, for example... marketing sometimes) is back-and-forth. So when we talk about being in the users' various flows, it's not just a question of "How do I put stuff so that they can take stuff out?" It's a question of where can they put stuff in. [And shake it all about?]

The Wikipedia is a good example of this kind of flow because it facilitates two-way transfer. I go there for info, and I can enter info, and I can send people from there w/ links. We aren't consumers of wiki; we are all in the flow.

So, perhaps, in addition to asking "How can we be in users' flows?" we should also be asking, "How can they be in ours?" A large part of Wikipedia's popularity has been enabled by doing just that; creating an experience where the user is in the resource's flow.