At the Ref Desk (9/16/20): Worst thing about chat reference : the number of times you get cut off. Sucks. [more...]

We Prefer the Barnum & Bailey School of Web Design

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/11/07 (5:53am)

It's great to highlight the wonders of technology but we serve our users best if we first acknowledge what they're coming to us for.

Whatever that is -- and in the academic world, I'm assuming it's articles and books -- that's what we have to build our websites around. Indeed, the whole success of the operation depends on how well we deliver on these core functions.

Anything less and we've got a problem on our hands.

(more after the jump...)

That's why I've got to wonder about all the talk of transforming our websites into social networks. Is this what our users, particularly in the academic world, are really coming to us for?

Are the ones coming to us for articles and books going to be satisfied if we throw a wiki at them?

Are they coming to participate in a "conversation" -- or do they just want to grab something quick and get the hell out?

We want to open up our data to the widest possible audience. We want to establish a presence, where appropriate, in every social network and widget that we can.

But simply because we want to use social networks and various other technologies to extend our footprint, doesn't mean that they're the only models to follow. In some cases, they may not even be the most appropriate.

Cultural Note to Extraterrestrials: Barnum & Bailey were famous for the adage, 'Give the Customer what he wants'.