At the Ref Desk (7/11/20): After 6 hrs of chat-reference, I got out of the house and hiked north on Broadway all the way from Diversey to Howard. Nice evening. (Took the bus home.) [more...]

Second Life - Stick a Fork in It

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 8/12/07 (4:59pm)

This isn't a post trashing Second Life. (For that, go here...)

Rather it's about allocating resources in the face of constantly changing technology. It's about which pony to bet on in the race for relevance. We can't bet on all the ponies so what should we look for when choosing a favorite?

(more after the jump...)


First, there ought not to be a debate over whether something is successful or not. It ought to be obvious. Tens of thousands -- even hundreds of thousands of people use FaceBook and MySpace every day. Millions use Instant Messaging.

There's no dispute that these are successful technologies or social networks.

Librarians shouldn't have to pick winners and losers. We shouldn't have to be in the prediction business at all. That's what we've got our users for. Once they've decided on a winner, that's when it's time for us to rush in.

It's smarter to jump on a bandwagon than off a cliff.


We can't be everywhere at once. The whole point of Web 2.0 is to duplicate our efforts in as many places as possible without actually having to recreate the work.

That's what's meant by syndication and mash-ups. In a sense we're getting all this increased exposure "for free".

If something requires more of our time and budget, then it should stand up to greater scrutiny. There's a proportionality to these things.

Just adding an email or web address is one thing. Having to return day-in day-out is another.


We're living in an environment where we can't even get our users to try "Advanced Search". How are we going to get them to drop everything, slip into an Avatar and spend the day with us?

Again, if they were already there, it'd be different but we're setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment if we think we're going to be the ones defining the environment rather than leaving it up to them.


Whenever I hear claims that librarians are adverse to innovation, I want to tear my hair out.

The field of librarianship is positively littered with the carcasses of still-born initiatives and abandoned projects.

These came about not because of any aversion to innovation but simply because the unfortunate institution bet on the wrong horse.

By far the best protection against such a fate is to improve our critical thinking when it comes to technology. We need to embrace technology and understand it sufficiently to separate out what's hot and what's not.

This doesn't mean to sit back and do nothing. Rather it means to go out there and hone our skills so that we make wiser decisions.