Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World

via Elin Waagen

This quarter’s issue of “Reference & User Services Quarterly” features a guest post entitled “Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World” that the editor of the journal — M. Kathleen Kern– introduces with the following:

“This quarter, Michael Stephens of the popular Tame the Web blog offers advice on dodging “technolust” and how to recognize and deal with “technodivorce.” It isn’t all avoidance, though, as he provides ten positive steps for your library’s technology planning. Michael has a pedigree in technology planning as the former Special Projects Librarian at Saint Joseph County (Ind.) Public Library. He now teaches in the LIS program at Dominican University and recently authored two Technology Reports on Web 2.0 for the American Library Association. If you’ve heard Michael speak, you will recognize his straight-from-the-hip style. ”

It’s an interesting diatribe, and one worthy of further discussion. (Hint hint… use the comments!)

2 thoughts on “Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World

  1. Ian McBride

    I thought this was a really good article. It highlights that we need to be thinking about what our technology is doing for us, rather than what the spokespeople for the technology tell us it will do. Something I want to point out is that the underlying concepts of web-based communication have remained largely static for the last 20 years. The most popular form of multi-person communication on the web today is the discussion board: multiple topic threads with back-and-forth discussion following them. The user-interaction aspect of this technology hasn’t changed since we were calling them bulletin boards in the 80’s. As an aside, blogging is actually a regression from boards, since the blogs are dispersed and the mechanism to reply is often stifling (i.e. the inability to reply to a comment, the inability to add markup to a comment, as seen in this blog).

    Let me expand this by saying that the web, when reduced to its basic technology, is extremely generic across multiple technologies and media. Almost all content on the web shares these traits: an author, a title, a body of text/images/multimedia, and a timestamp. The rest is just window dressing. This is how content management systems, blogs, wikis, feeds, discussion boards, and databases all work. Just add the special flavor of metadata for your application, some styles for human appeal, and viola you’ve got an internet based communication medium.

    The article’s author made a point about openness of authorship and communication. He rightly adjusted his point in the article, but the bullet point contains what I consider to be an incorrect philosophy. In “letting go of control” we cannot be overly aggressive. The openness of communication is often touted as one of the defining characteristics of Web 2.0, however we can’t ignore that a primary example of Web 2.0, Wikipedia, has defined administrators in place to police content and settle disputes. Another example from this week’s news is the site that released screen captures of Sarah Palin’s email, 4chan (please trust me, please don’t go there), which allows users to post almost anything they want without tracking who they are. Even that site has rules, administrators and a system for removing unapproved content. So too would any system LIS is asked to support, and probably to a degree of control more strict than those too example, but probably also to a degree less strict than our current CMS.

    If I were to pick one part of the article that I thought especially relevant to our organization it would be the seventh point which stresses how over-planning can be harmful. I think we’ve seen really good returns from trying out different approaches to technology. Our trial (by fire) of WordPress as a blog solution is a good example of a success: it enables multiple types of communication with an easy to use interface, is configurable and extendable. Our trial of Microsoft SharePoint as a single solution for a web portal was unsuccessful: it’s a really complicated product that does more than we need and is difficult to mold where it does things in ways we don’t like. We’ve got ways to set up virtual testing environments and try technology out, so let’s stop watching vendor demos over conference calls and set this stuff up. And let’s find a way to let people outside of LIS try it too.

    Reply
  2. Bryan Carson

    I would agree with you Ian on point 7, hence my somewhat cryptic post to the referenced blog/article the other day. I’ll be more explicit here. Many times over-planning stops a project before it starts. In the accelerated environment of change we operate in, over-planning can result in the plan (or whole project) being obsolete before it even starts. Opportunities for change and improvement can be missed.

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