Idea from Designing for the Social Web

Just read/skimmed Joshua Porter’s book, Designing for the Social Web (Voices That Matter). In all, it’s a good book that has lots of great ideas for building social sites. The book focuses first on defining what the social web is, and then spends the rest of the book discussing design and interface problems for the social web, and how to fix those things.

One idea I wanted to share (and to remember for my own future use) is this, from page 34:

“So how do you avoid feature creep when creating and adding features? Start with your objects, your nouns. Observe all the actions people do with/perform on those objects, and those are possible features for your application.”

So, for example, a list of nouns or objects might be Videos, Articles, Photos, and Books. The Verbs, or actions, for Articles include things like this: read, archive for later, quote, link to, share, comment on, annotate, etc.

Cool idea! So – when building a new website or web app, this is a great way to figure out what it should do, and what features it should have (and what features people will potentially ask for, too).

pic by Ben Dodson

The Social Web and Libraries: Listening to your Community

Many of us work on listening to our user communities. In the library world, we listen at the reference desk and the circ desk. We hear about the library when we’re at the grocery store (and get asked questions, too :-) and at the local board meeting.

But how do you listen to your local digital community? How do you hear what your online customers are doing / saying / liking / or not liking about your library? Here are some possibilities, from the late 1990s – early 2000s. We’ll call these …

Traditional Listening Tools:

  • email: providing an email link and/or an email address on each page of the site, usually in the footer
  • An Ask Us page – can go to email, can also be the ask a librarian service point
  • a digital comment box (this was fancy back then!)

I’m calling them “traditional listening tools” because there are many more interesting ways to listen now. Check these out …

Shiny New Listening Tools:

  • Google Alerts – finds blog posts, newspaper articles, local media mentions, etc.
  • Technorati alerts – finds blog posts about you
  • Twitter searches (was Summize) – captures twitter conversations (more on Summize/twitter search in the next post)
  • Youtube alerts – do a search, then subscribe to the corresponding RSS feed.
  • Flickr alerts – subscribe to a tag related to your library
  • Subscribe to local blogs and local twitter feeds. This captures conversation in your community, by your patrons.

When you listen using both the Traditional Listening Tools and the Shiny New Listening Tools, you hear very different things. Traditional Listening Tools pick up specific conversation that is purposefully directed at you – via email. Someone has a question or comment, and sends that comment to you.

Shiny New Listening Tools help you discover actual conversations taking place. Those conversations are not necessarily directed at you – but they can certainly be about you. Listening in on Twitter, for example, might find things like this: “The comics section at the Seattle Public Library is f**king STUNNING.” (actual tweet from today). And this type of tweet is a golden opportunity to START a conversation. Let’s pretend this comment happened at the reference desk for a sec – how would you reply? Possibly with something like: “gee, thanks.” That’s a polite response… some of us would probably go one further, and say something like this: “Cool – thanks! So… WHY do you like it? How could we improve it?” This type of response continues a conversation, and pulls out useful info in the process.


Again, more on that in my next post… but you get the idea. When you’re eavesdropping on conversations, you have the opportunity to chime in – correct wrong info, add to conversations about the library, and generally help humanize your digital branch by “talking back.”

Wow David – That Sounds Time-Consuming!

Does all this listening take a long time? No – not really. The set-up (doing the searches and subscribing to the feeds) takes the longest amount of time. But once your feeds are set up, it really doesn’t take much time to quickly scan through the results, looking quickly for questions, praises, suggestions, and conversation.

Start participating with those customers using your digital branch. If you do this fully, your listening experience can be transformed from one of eavesdropping to what amounts to a shiny new service point for your library. One that’s called Community Manager in the corporate world.

Your customers are already talking – are you listening?


The Social Web and Libraries

I was just doing some blog reading, and that triggered some ideas that I want to do some more thinking about. And YOU get to come along for the ride!

Here’s what I was reading:

First off – I think I like the term “Social Web” better than “Web 2.0.” Why? Web 2.0 is a vague, muddied term. It mixes the social with the uber-geek-techie in ways that is sometimes confusing.

But the Social Web? To me, by the time social web components are being used, the techie part has already been accomplished. The blog is built, the coding has been done, and the framework has been tidied up. It’s all ready to go – it’s ready for people to start connecting with people.

And that’s something that libraries do well – the social. When we’re working the reference desk, answering questions… we’re doing the social. When we’re in a meeting, discussing our programs… we’re doing the social. Having a social focus is a HUGE component of what we do as libraries.

So anyway…  I read the ReadWriteWeb article (which doesn’t really deal with the Social Web in a big way – but they used the term, thus the trigger for me), and then I remembered Sarah’s post on social networking tips. Some of her points touch on the need to be real/human/transparent with our library communities, and provide tips on how to do that.

So – how are you “being social” online? How do you “do” digital community? There’s really no easy answer to that question … but a lot of people are focused on figuring it out, at least in the commercial online world! I think there are some posts there, too. What do you think? What’s the social web all about? How do you connect with patrons online? Why would you even want to do that?

Let’s discuss…

[photo by Max’s Pixs’]