The phrase 'people are entry points' has stayed in my mind since I heard Dan Chudnov use it at a meeting a while ago. It tends to occur to me also when I read, as I just have, documents which talk about 'providers' and 'users' of information, as in many of our more interesting services these roles mingle. Here is something I wrote a while ago on this ..
People connect and share themselves through 'social objects' (music, photos, video, links, or other shared interests) and it has been argued that successful social networks are those which form around such social objects. We are becoming used to selective disclosure and selective socialization through affinity groups within different social networks. Together, these experiences have created an interesting expectation: many network resources are 'signed' in the sense that they are attached to online personas that we may or may not know, whose judgment and network presence we may come to know. Think of social bookmarking sites or Amazon reviews, for example. People are resources on the network, and have become entry points and connectors for others. [First Monday. Always on.]
Now, clearly services are increasingly capturing usage and other data invisibly to refine what they do. Some services solicit explicit participation, in the form of tags, reviews, and so on. And some services are structurally built around people's interests, where social value enhances the practical value they provide, as with social bookmarking services for example.
We have become used to this, as part of the 'weather' of our web lives, and it is interesting to think about how much of what we learn and discover is shared with us by other people in network environments.
However, I have been struck recently by how I will intentionally seek out more directly personal entry points where before I might have done a more general topical search. Of course we are now used to following particular blogs in particular contexts. So, for example, I have come to value PersonaNonData for publishing and book trade context. I am not currently on Twitter, but I subscribe to several folk's Twitter pages via RSS, because it is often the best way of understanding what is important in particular areas. Delicious provides another example. I don't tend to follow what is happening with Second Life. But if I want a quick update, my starting point is Andy Powell's SecondLife Delicious bookmarks. In each case, I recognize the value and economy of a personal entry point.
In the First Monday piece I quote from above, I went on to talk about how this may change expectations ...
A 'signed' network presence: As I noted above, we are used to seeing 'signed' resources: reviews, ratings, social networking profiles, bookmarks. People have become entry points on the network, and signature is important. Think of library Web sites. They tend to be anonymous. Often, it is not straightforward finding appropriate contact points: there may not be photographs, or communication options are limited (office hours, IM, texting, e-mail, phone). Library services are not always associated with people. How often do subject pages, for example, carry a name and contact information who can be consulted?
Connaway and Radford (2007) [PDF] note how students are sometimes reluctant to use virtual reference because they do not want to interact with somebody who remains anonymous or who they do not know, even if it is a library service. [First Monday. Always on.]
In this context I was very taken with a presentation [PPT] I saw a while ago by Cody Hanson which I tend to associate with Dan's comment about people being entry points. I have referred to this before in these pages. Cody discusses the importance of signature in social networking sites and goes on to recommend that librarians be more personally visible on the network and ...
- Make personal and public recommendations of sources and articles
- Expose our selection processes
- Expose our expertise