This is part 2 of my Inviting Participation in Web 2.0 series of articles.
I thought I’d tackle the more difficult type of invitation first – passive invitations. Going back to the example in my first post on inviting participation, my Are You Blogging This song. Within my blog post about the song, I didn’t directly ask anyone to post anything about the song or to comment about it in my post. But the title of my song DID ask people, very directly, to participate, since it asked the question… are you blogging this? Listeners felt compelled to respond. That’s a good example of a passive invitation to participate.
So what exactly is a passive invitation? I think the word passive could probably be switched out with indirect. With passive invitations, you aren’t directly asking for anything; ie., “hey, can you write back” or “please comment on this post.” Instead, you are inviting participation indirectly – hence, passive invitations.
Passive invitations can come in different forms. The first form involves content:
- Just watching, reading or listening to your library’s content is a form of passive participation. Make sure you are highly readable, highly watchable … and actually have content!
- Write compelling content. Like the title of my song, your content needs to say “comment on me” – even if you’re not directly asking for comments! Maybe that content is funny, or slightly on the edge, or “just what the doctor ordered.” Either way, it should scream “comment now.”
- Use action-oriented titles. Again, like the title of my song. Rather than have the content itself direct the reader, a title can be action-oriented. Sort of like an email subject line that says “action requested: who’s going to the party?”
- Use a conversational tone in writing and speaking. Be approachable, and you’re more likely to invite participation. For blogs, this means learning to write for the web (even if you’re an academic librarian at Harvard). For podcasting, it might mean varying your voice pitch so you’re not monotone (I tend to have a problem with that), having a conversation rather than reading a script, or even giggling. For Videoblogging, it might mean just being You (rather than trying to act out a part).
- Include text links with podcasts and videoblogs. When you post video or audio, make sure you include accompanying text that describes what you’re going to talk about in the podcast or videoblog, and include links to relevant items. These can be links to other websites, or links to books in your colleciton that you’re discussing in the podcast. These links allow people to participate as they’re listening/watching, by browsing through the links.
The second form uses web 2.0 tools to invite participation:
- Allow commenting! Simply providing the ability to post a comment is a passive way of inviting comments. Turning comments off is definitely NOT inviting participation!
- If you moderate comments, make sure you do so promptly. Nothing will bring comments to zero faster than sending in a comment, only to have it not appear online for 2 weeks. Make sure participation takes place in a timely manner.
- Always respond to comments and answer questions – and do so quickly.
- Make sure your content is easy to listen to, watch, and/or read. If you have a Myspace page, allow everyone to see it. A page that starts out only viewable if you sign up to be a friend is not inviting participation! Make sure your links to the podcast are clickable and actually work in different browsers – you can’t participate if you can’t listen to it!
- Use multiple formats when possible. For example, if you are videoblogging, create a blog post that uses both Quicktime and Windows movie formats – and also post the video to Myspace and to Youtube. This gives more people the ability to participate. On the flip side of that, using only a Windows movie format tells Mac users that you want them to work harder to participate… and they probably won’t!
- Have RSS feeds. RSS is a great way for libraries to send out content and for customers to receive content, so make sure your website and your content can be aggregated. Also make sure there’s a great, simple explanation of what to do with RSS.
And finally, training. Yes, I think training is a form of passive invitation. Why? Because … you can teach customers about RSS and RSS readers, and instruct them, in class, to subscribe to your library’s blog. And to comment … which means that you have just invited them to participate.
Remember that I asked YOU to participate in this discussion? Well, now is a good time… what am I leaving out? Can you think of other passive, indirect invitations to participate? If so, please leave a comment – we can discuss them right here!