technology pitfalls – backing the wrong horse

Jenny is back on the scene with a Movable Type based site. As you may or may not know, this site runs on Movable Type as well. I’ve got other sites running on WordPress, Blogger, or even just old hand-coded goodness. In preparation for the Information Commons symposium this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about online products versus online content. We all know how smart Jenny is technologically, and yet she was temporarily brought down by non-functioning software. Jessica is also a smart cookie but has been drowning in comment spam. I like to think I’m pretty bright, but I’m dead in the water when ibiblio goes down, or gets a DoS attack.

How many times do libraries say their internet connection isn’t working when what they mean is Internet Explorer has been taken over by browser hijacks? How much do we wince when we see AOL advertisements claiming to be able to “fix” the internet? In my beginner email class, people have a lot of questions about attachments, thinking that “the internet” is causing their frustrating attachment woes instead of conflicts between proprietary software. Wouldn’t you like to read a news article that described a new virus in terms of the operating systems and/or software that was vulnerable instead of just painting the danger with the widest possible strokes? There’s a larger point here, beyond just pointing out deficiencies. As librarians, we need to be able to deliver information. If the technology is keeping us from doing that, we should hope that we’re not so married to the information delivery mechanism that we can’t retool and endrun and deliver the goods, not just say “computers are hard” or “we’ve got a licensing agreement” or “this software doesn’t do that” and throw up our hands. It’s been fun watching folks grapple with this in their weblog worlds, I hope we can apply the same troubleshooting and solutions to our libraries as well.