“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Readings Week 12 -- Social Software

This week's readings were about blogs and wikis. Until I started in the MLIS program, I'd read a few blogs here and there and certainly looked up a few things on Wikipedia, but really hadn't used wiki's all that much. During the past few months, however, I've gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for them. What they really bring to the table is a new way to connect and collaborate.

Blogs allow us to carry on a web-based discussion, be it a scientific or engineering-based discussion as the Reichert article talks about, or a discussion among student from different classrooms in different parts of the world. They open up new possibilities for how teachers can teach or politicians can carry on political debates. I've been quite intrigued by the whole thing and am sure that as a school librarian I'll be using blogs and encouraging teachers within my school to use them as well.

Wikis bring a new face to collaboration. Once skeptical of the validity of Wikipedia, my viewpoint has shifted. I am beginning to look at Wikipedia as a source with as much validity as an other encyclopedia. After reading about the creation of the OED and learning about the process of creating Wikipedia and the standards to which it is being upheld, it seems to be a valid resource. In using wikis for writing collaboratively, I am finding them to be incredibly useful. They force compromise as a group moves toward a finished document. I wonder what an experiment would be like if we took a section of US Copyright Law and put it on the web as a wiki for a year for all to tinker with? Would something reasonable come out or would it be an utter failure? Maybe Lawrence Lessig should give it a try just to see what happens...

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