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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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April 2008 Volume 6(2)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

Career development

How these tools work

If you are wary of Wikis or baffled by blogging let Celia Jenkins share what she has learnt at a recent CILIPS workshop led by consultant Karen Blakeman.

What is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is a concept, not a product, with a focus on the social and collaborative aspects of working online. The workshop showed how Web 2.0 technologies might be used as information sources, tools of collaboration, or as part of an information delivery strategy.

What is a blog?
A blog (short for ‘web log’) is a kind of online diary, where an individual or group can post information chronologically. Blogs also encourage participation by allowing people to leave comments. Blogs can be an excellent source of information, especially if they are written by experts in a particular field. However, as blogs are so easy to set up, some are of questionable quality and out of date.
Various search engines, such as Google and Ask, as well as specialist blog search engines, such as Technorati and Blogpulse, allow you to search specifically for blogs. It is also worth looking at the ‘blogroll’ which is a list of links to other interesting and authoritative blogs.
Blogs are also a great, and more informal, way of delivering content. The workshop presented the opportunity to set up a blog using an online application, such as Blogger or Wordpress. This took just a matter of minutes.
Karen’s tips on what makes a good blog, included:

Using blogs
There are many different ways to use blogs in your organisation. Examples include:

  • newsletters
  • ;
  • a marketing tool inside and outside the organisation;
  • CPD – recording professional development and reflective practice.
  • CILIPS and SLIC aim to set up a blog which will provide a more informal means of communicating with members and encourage debate on professional issues.

    What are wikis?
    A wiki allows people to collaborate on documents, with the ability to add and edit content. Authorisation can be set, but by default anyone can join in. The most well-known example of a wiki is Wikipedia. A wiki has a standardised format and layout, with focus on content rather than presentation. The main advantage is that there is only one centrally located copy of documents, instead of multiple copies circulating via email. It is also very easy to see what has been edited, by whom and when. A ‘wiki farm’ is an online third party service that hosts wikis. This is the best hosting option, especially for less experienced users. Examples include Peanut Butter, Wikispaces, Seedwiki, and Wet Paint.

    One important piece of advice from Karen was not to call your wiki a ‘wiki’! Call it a ‘workspace’ or ‘collaborative area’ instead so you don’t have to describe what a wiki is and also avoid the negative connotation of Wikipedia.

    Uses of wikis
    A wiki can be used for creating training materials, conference programmes, subject guides and intranets. It also makes an excellent project management tool.
    In CILIPS and SLIC wikis are used by various working groups which are developing documents and policies. On a personal level, I have set up a Chartership wiki, which I can let my mentor access.

    What are RSS feeds?
    RSS (Really Simple Syndication) provides a way of alerting users to new content within a specified web page. First, register with an RSS Reader, either web-based or a desktop program, and subscribe to any RSS services.
    Some RSS feeds contain just the first few lines of an item, so that people will have to click through to the original source. This in turn generates additional visits to the main website. RSS feeds can be used to create news bulletins and, as they can be generated automatically from blogs and wikis, are an easy addition to an organisation’s current awareness service. RSS feeds can be displayed in one location, such as on iGoogle or My Yahoo! pages. SLIC/CILIPS have created a Scottish Libraries Pagecast, which contains various RSS feeds, including one for SLAINTE news. An events RSS feed is also planned.

    Advantages to RSS feeds
    There are a number of advantages to using RSS feeds instead of email alerts, including:

    Web 2.0 – some challenges
    Other Web 2.0 technologies were mentioned, including Flickr, Slideshare, Facebook, and Twitter. We were encouraged to try them out but reminded that the emphasis should be on access to information, and not on the technologies themselves. The workshop provided an excellent overview of the main Web 2.0 technologies, with plenty of opportunity for hands-on experience. It also highlighted the challenges of implementing Web 2.0, such as showing return on investment (including obtaining web stats) and duplication of effort. These issues are beginning to be addressed. It is early days, but also exciting times.

    Information
    ‘Blogs, RSS and Wikis: tools for dissemination, collaboration and information gathering’ was a practical, one-day workshop lead by Karen Blakeman. It was organised by CILIPS and held on 11 March at the Edinburgh Training Centre. Karen is a consultant, whose company, RBA Information Services, provides training on online information resources. Blog


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    Information Scotland Vol. 6(2) April 2008

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    Last updated: 16-Jul-2008