Saturday, 9 July 2011

If RSS did not exist, someone should invent it

Thing 4 was about current awareness, with the examples of Twitter, RSS feeds and Pushnote.

A few months ago, my esteemed - and now former - manager managed (!) to convince me to create a Twitter account for professional purposes. And I have to say, it's a great help in knowing what is going on in the library and information and technology (and all three mixed together) worlds! I started by following the aforementioned manager, found another colleague and a friend, and by looking at what they were following and retweeting I started making my own list of people and organisations to follow (currently 32). As an example of how useful I now find it, it is via Twitter that I heard about CPD23!

Talking about usefulness, let's move on to RSS feeds... I think they're brilliant! I can't imagine still having to regularly visit every blog and website I am interested in to check for updates...
I have had an RSS feed reader for years, thanks to my friend Nomé. I use Netvibes, which is an online RSS aggregator. All you need is an e-mail address to register, and then you can personalise it and add as many threads as you like. On my Netvibes dashboard, I have a tab for news, with the weather forecast and headlines from French and British newspaper; a tab for hobbies, with my friends' blogs, cinema-related news and some graphic novel blogs; and a tab for library blogs, for example 23 Things for professional development or High Visibility Cataloguing!

I thought Thing 4 was very good at helping us with current professional awareness, especially by providing lists of interesting Twitter accounts and blogs. The only thing I was not so impressed with was Pushnote...
The idea behind Pushnote has potential: a way to recommend or advise against websites you have visited when other Pushnote users visit them. Or in more metaphorical terms : the light of user recommandation to guide you through the maze that is the web. But... in my short experience, it doesn't really work. Maybe it is because it is not widely used in Europe yet, and therefore websites I visit haven't been rated? Maybe I have been on the wrong websites... There is also the problem of, paradoxically, user comments and ratings. I mean, have you ever looked at websites which have comments on books or films? You can have proper reviews, or people just saying "This is rubbish/brilliant". It is just the same on Pushnote. For something I thought might be a little bit topical, I had a look at what Pushnote users said about the Guardian website. There isn't any bad ratings, and only a couple of "elsewhere is better"-type of comments. Only one comment mentioned the design of the website. What use is this to me? Is it the content or the web usability that is being rated? Which authority do these people have anyway?
Suddenly Pushnote's potential does not seem fulfilled. You might say I haven't used the social media side of it, which would allow me to see comments from people I do know... I'll wait for you to convince me!
A few years ago, libraries shared lists of useful websites with their users, via their own websites, a public RSS aggregator or Delicious profile. That's what information professionals do: recommend resources to users who need or might be interested in them. Is this still used? Is Pushnote aiming to be the Wikipedia of website recommendation or just another social media tool?

1 comment:

  1. Newcastle Libraries still use Delicious:

    But...I only use it to organise then links on our website better, if you see what I mean! For example, on our business pages instead of having a list of recommended links I simply link to the Delicious items listed under the business tag. It presents them better then just a long list of links on the Council webpage. Plus it's quicker to add to than wait for an external link to be approved by IT before it can be publish on the Council site. This way I just get the Delicious link approved once at the start and add that to the page.

    So the Delicious profile hasn't been promoted specifically as an information resource to customers (that doesn't mean it can't be) but to organise our links better.

    Staff send me recommended links every so often and I tag them appropriately so they appear in any lists I have already linked to.