Tuesday, July 31, 2007

socializing the social

I was at the Dublin office all of last week and although I was working rather hard, I had a lovely, lovely time. I spent my time there in three ways: first, working on wireframes for the new social networking features that will eventually show up on WebJunction; second, doing a series of meetings with other OCLC product managers and their friends to find out which, if any, of those features might be useful to their services and/or community building efforts; and three, working closely with my WJ colleagues Dave Ungar, Michael Porter (libraryman), Clayton Wood, and our Seattle-based colleagues on the future direction and strategy for social networking at WJ. LMTU, jam-packed fun and excitement.

First night, libraryman and I were blessed with the opportunity to connect up with Jasmine & Bob (OCLC Social Networking) along with Lorcan, Thom, Stu, and Eric (OCLC research) over dinner. The bulk of our conversation fell on the topic of the relevance of emerging social tools to OCLC services and the cooperative at large. Later, over a makeshift bar (with contributions from Stu) at Lorcan's house, we meandered around current implementations and process, as well as discussed the im/prudence of "disruptive" technologies and "subversive" processes in the context of a much larger organization. We left with varying degrees of agreement on the extent to which both patron and library staff services should be "socialized" but we sure had fun dreaming up new ways to get stuff done that's not just cool, but ultimately supports the cooperative on the whole. BTW: Lorcan pointed to this cool list of tools yesterday. you may have already seen it, but I was wowed by it and wanted to pass it on here, just in case.

Next few days we rocked the WJ wireframes process, although we didn't quite get them into full draft (yet). As soon as they and initial design drafts are finished, we'll take them out to our community for initial review and feedback. Preview: what are you and your friends doing (in libraryland)? ;) Please leave comments, email, directmail, or whatever your preferred method of contact if you're not a regular WJer and you'd like to be involved in this feedback!!

Mid-week I spent a (too brief) lunchtime with George, whose careful leadership and trusted mentoring are always welcomed. If only he'd move to Seattle. This in between non-stop (literally) meetings with everyone from WorldCat.org to Delivery and Collection Analysis. I know there are those who like to refer to us as the "Anchor People" of libraryland (nice!) or to our OCLC headquarters as "the Deathstar" (not so nice, but funny!), but when you take a step back and think about it - we do some fairly mind-blowing things together as a cooperative.

By the time Friday rolled around, having spent nearly every waking hour in conversation with one or another of my colleagues about social networking, some things started to gel for me that hadn't before. Ideas are still marinating, but so far, here's how it goes:

-social tools are useful because they connect people around shared information, activities, or interests
-social tools might be efficient augments to online delivery of both tools and content (or data) because they can facilitate support, deliver news and documents, and connect people who work w/ the same stuff
-depending on what my role is in libraries, or how broadly I like to get involved or connect, I might want to have a fully integrated social experience (lots of people, lots of tools, lots of content) or very narrowly defined social experience (only people I work with, only content I care about, only the tools I use)
-if we could all get together on a shared platform (a single portal?), we could deliver the range between these extremes to "everyone" without their having to move from place to place on the web, and according to their preferences
-although i think primarily in terms of services to library staff, since that's where i spend most of my work time, consumers probably could benefit from exactly the same sort of thing - everything you can do with libraries, all in one place, and it's social

ideas are cheap, i know, but this is where my big giant dreams are starting to settle.

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