Sunday, December 11, 2005

User contributions

Several unrelated discussions this week involved the subject of user contributions for digital collections.

The contentdm listserv discussed web 2.0 applications and how we could integrate them into digital content management systems. Interestingly, most librarians were in favor of allowing users to comment on digital objects in appropriate collections. Another comment was that our collections don’t have a critical mass of exposure to be self moderating, and the consensus seemed to be that librarians would need to moderate the user contributions.

The Internet Librarian article by Joseph Janes in the December issue of American Libraries discusses the role librarians can play in helping preserve genealogical information. Janes suggests that we can play a bigger role in helping people document their information, and he mentioned flickr.com as an example of a grassroots movement to document photographs. This led me to explore flickr and open an account. It’s interesting to explore a site that’s been created without authority control. Users are struggling with singular vs. plural forms of words, and how to enter tags with two words. At the same time, authority control and rules for tags would make this site more technical and less appealing to novice users (and not as much fun). An interesting observation--Flickr is experimenting with creating clusters of similar subjects.

Finally, the Wikipedia story brings up accountability for anonymous contributions. There’s also the deeper issue of correct information for signed contributions. How can this be resolved? We assume that someone supplying missing information knows what they’re talking about. But if we let users supply missing information about digital objects, how do we know that it’s the correct information? To tie this into the contentdm listserv thread, what’s the critical mass needed to properly regulate user contributions? We assume that most people want to help supply missing information, but how can we weed out the few exceptions to the rule? Personally, I think that users should participate in our collection, but I’m not sure how this should be implemented.

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Other explorations for the week took me down the path of cascading style sheets. (When I was in school I didn’t think I’d be designing web sites, but one of the exciting things about this career is that I’ll always be learning new stuff.)



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