Collaborative Information Systems

& Reference Service

Jessamyn West

"There's a difference between information and knowledge.
It's the difference between Christy Turlington's phone number and Christy Turlington."
PJ O'Rourke

Description of this talk at the EI website.


Me, my jobs, the quandary.

What is a Collaborative Information System?

Fact Example: what is the population of Bolivia. Now? How about now?

Opinion Example: where is there a good place to get BBQ in Austin Texas? Do you think I need to go to a doctor about this itchy spot on my elbow? I have a long narrow living room, how can I arrange my furniture

Berrypicking or iterative model
  1. Query is constantly shifting
  2. As search continues, new ideas and directions emerge
  3. Value of the search is in bits and pieces picked up along the way
The Library as source: A library gives you SOURCES a blog gives you ANSWERS, maybe
Problems with sources: authority, bias, microcontent
wisdom of crowds

wisdom of crowds rebuttal
Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism

What are some popular examples?

facts vs opinions, these sites are great for opinions, a lot of what people WANT are opinions, actually.... And their usage is increasing, sharply. "U.S. Visits to Question and Answer Websites Increased 118 Percent Year-over-Year"


More Info and Statistics

Ask MetaFilter: Going Where the Users Are
MetaFilter Information
Sites that anazlyze this information
Run your own MySQL queries

Good question examples

AskMe wiki collaborations

What are some features of these sites?

"What distinguishes experts is their ability to support or refute claims with arguments of very high quality, to be extremely well-versed regarding the sources relevant to their case."

Sites have in common



Could libraries could use this idea for reference services?

question boards?


Write a FAQ?
or a FARQ
for students
for patrons
as a guide
about your area


for staff
for patrons