Monday, April 10, 2006

Flickr of the Future, Web2.0

Take a look at the photo-sharing website, This is a social website that utilizes the tagging philosophy to create a folksonomy of searchable terms.

For example, if I create a username called mplictechtrain, I can then begin uploading my digital photographs onto flickr's website. I can then "tag" each photograph with a description of the photograph's contents. Tags cannot have spaces, so if I have a picture of me riding a bike in front of the Eiffel Tower, I would tag it with the terms paris, eiffeltower, bikeriding, and whatever else I can think of. These tags are then searchable by anyone.

I would eventually have all my pictures searchable by subject. Personally, this would be of great use. However, this tagging also benefits everyone who uses the site, as people can search through everyone's pictures. Take a look at the search results for the tag eiffeltower. There are over 9000 pictures. Yes, you will receive many pictures of the Eiffel Tower with a Google Image search, but will you find one like this?

This is just one layer, though. I mentioned at the beginning that you would have to create a username to start adding pictures. Well, the usernames are posted along with the pictures, so if you like a picture, click on their username and you will see all of their pictures. Their tags are also listed so you can take a look at their photo album by subject. You can even add comments to their pictures.

So, what is the purpose of all of this? How does this apply to libraries? This is a perfect and fun example of Web2.0, which is a more interactive and collaborative web. This is the web of the future, the web that many of our customers will be expecting to encounter. Web feeds, blogs, wikis, social sites are all examples of Web2.0.

Look at all the posts from the Tame the Web blog about libraries using Flickr to advertise their services.

Take a look at this blog post from The Shifted Librarian and it's links to discussions about tagging in an OPAC environment.

And in case you don't remember, take a look at this previous post of mine about web feeds and our new ILS.

Also, remember the not so distant past when I talked about the wiki Library Success.

So why do I talk about these trends so much while I know that many customer encounters involve providing assistance with the mouse or assistance filling out an e-mail registration?

Because the library will always need to be on the cutting edge if we are to adapt and stay relevant in the future. However, we will always need to be a bridge over the digital divide as well. So it is a difficult balancing act, helping one customer group jump over the digital divide while keeping up with the other customer group who is speeding down the Internet Highway.

And because we do not want to spend all of our time focusing on helping people cross the digital divide and then turn around and find ourselves on the wrong side of the divide as well.

1 comment:

Michelle Bledsoe, Poplar White-Station Branch said...

I just did a PowerPoint presentation for library school on photo archiving on the web.

The major problem that most of the research covers is that creating surrogate records for photos sometimes becomes subjective. The creator of the metadata also must keep in mind cultural differences and time period when they index photos.
A picture of a person with a “mullet” will mean something different today than it did in the 80s.

For a site like look at Delicious-
Bookmarks your favorite music, photos, and websites and allows sharing. Automatically assigns descriptors but encourages personal 'tags' or descriptors added to images, in order to better organize them. Once a site is tagged by a user others can hop from tag to tag looking for terms that interest them (taken from The Economist).

There are many, many historical archive projects (documents as well as photos become digitized images) on the web. I wonder if our own Memphis Room will someday get on the bandwagon. Check out the Library of Congress’ American Memory at

American Memory’s Mission Statement
“American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet written and
spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet
music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American
history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.”

For further reading:
• Arms, Caroline. “Getting the picture: observations from the Library of Congress on providing online access to pictorial images.” Library Trends.1999. 48:379-409.
• Ornager, Susanne. "Image Retrieval: Theoretical Analysis and Empirical User Studies on Accessing Information in Images." Proceedings of the 60th ASIS Annual Meeting. 1997.
• "Websites of Mass Description" The Economist. 2005. 376:19.

at PWS Branch Library,MPLIC