Friday, February 19, 2010

VALA 2010 - user generated content

The final plenary session for Wednesday was a panel discussion entitled Top Trends which primarily dealt with user generated content - comments, tags, search terms. Below are notes of some of the discussion.

Increasingly users have the opportunity to add comments to content on the web. It was suggested that comments could be treated as letters to the editor. In some cases the comments can also result in a dialogue among users - users responding to other users' comments - a forum without having a forum. Often useful, previously unknown information can be provided by users, particularly in regard to images, and can enhance the information provided. The user information can provide opportunities for further research by the institution. An example is the images that Powerhouse Museum has placed on Flickr - often useful information has been provided by the users.

Tagging records is available in many databases but generally this has not been taken up by users - not a culture of using tags on library databases. Institutions tend not to moderate the tags except if unacceptable words are added. In some cases users can delete tags of other users.

At the National Library user data is not moderated - user data is another layer from the original data. It is proposed to encourage annotation of catalogue records by users in the future.

OCLC WorldCat, a site that allows users to search for books in libraries throughout the world, is planning to separate LC headings and sub-headings into facets instead of one long term with subdivisions. For example geographic facets treated as a separate entity. Tags can be used to modernise LC terms and synonym lists will be used. These can be blended in tag clouds. It was suggested for some detailed subjects, user tagging may be the only answer to adequately provide search terms.

It was suggested that new classification schemes may be needed for cloud sourcing however another member of the audience said that as Dewey DC was available in 30 languages and could therefor be considered a universal scheme, the stem numbers without geographical and other additions might be used.

Micro tagging will also be useful for helping people locate information.

The use of search terms used in a search can also be tracked and this can be useful for suggesting additional search terms for an item as the public uses its own language.

The discussion moved on to how to get people to use tags and comments. Although the opportunity to apply tags and comments may not generally be used in library catalogues users are doing this in resources such as Library Thing. People who make comments have an interest in the topic.

It is necessary to provide useful tools that are easy for people to use and then make them available where the users are. An example of well used user content is the ability to correct the OCR for Australian Newspapers.

Linkages, trails and themes were also mentioned. Picture Australia and Music Australia currently utilise trails. It is planned that user created themes will become available in Trove.

The Internet currently has content and tools for people to use. It is now necessary to bring together the range of collections. Generally people do not care where the information comes from - they just want the information.

The final summation reflected on the 'power of communities that want to be involved. We have the tools. Go for it.'

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