A few links and a talk

I’m wrapping up the end of “talk season” here at librarian.net. I’ll be speaking at the Rhode Island Library Conference on June 6th and the Connecticut Library Consortium on June 9th. Then I’m done except for ALA. Yes, I’ll be going to ALA, giving a presentation with the incredibly talented Louise Alcorn for the MaintainIT people. It will be the first time I’ve been funded to go to a library conference… ever. Exciting times afoot at the Disneyland Hotel.

This afternoon I finished giving a talk online for the Education Institute. It was called Collaborative Information Systems & Reference Service and I’ve put a lot of notes and links online. Basically I talk about the changing nature of how people look for information and “Ask A” type services like Yahoo Answers and, of course, Ask MetaFilter. I have some statistics there that I think are sort of nifty. It’s very strange giving a talk online. I basically sent people to tmy website and then did a talk over the telephone. Except for the convenor, Liz Kerr, I wasn’t really aware of other people being present and it was unnerving. I know that continuing education is important and especially so for people who are too remote to go to standard talks or conferences, but I still feel like we’re trying to find a good delivery mechanism for this sort of content.

MetaFilter: Going where the users are

My article on MetaFilter, the community website that I moderate, is now up on the Library Journal website. Here’s the post on MetaFilter about it. I’m not the only liblogger who has written for them lately; Dorothea discusses being taken aback by the draconian terms of their author contract and has advice for potential LJ writers about how to negotiate the best deal to the rights of their own articles.

Answers, we have Answers

Sarah points to an article on SearchEngineWatch by Danny Sullivan about Yahoo Answers.

I’m interested in this particularly because I moderate and contribute to a similar but more blog-oriented site called Ask MetaFilter. The idea is simple. It’s a place where the 38,000+ members of the MetaFilter community blog can go ask each other questions and get answers. You can categorize and tag your questions, and everyone in the community gets to ask a maximum of one question a week. There’s a feature for marking “best answer,” marking favorite posts to keep track of, and asking anonymous questions which is quite popular. Each question has its own RSS feed. So does each tag. There’s a $5 [lifetime] barrier to entry that keeps the site from becoming just a one-off “free questions answered here!” site and there’s a group we informally call the MeFiBrarian Posse of info professionals (some of whom I’m sure you know) that answer questions like this one that I answered this week which seem like more typical reference questions. I’ve answered over 2300 questions since the beginning of 2004 and you can read every one of them. Going to where the user is, indeed.

I don’t know much about the traffic side of things, but MetaFilter is one of Technorati’s Top 100 blogs and AskMetafilter gets about as much traffic as the main part of the site. I spend a lot of time there keeping questions on track, helping write and organize the FAQ, putting out fires, enforcing the community guidelines, and being one of the human faces of a very effective website. I am the only librarian on a staff of three. I know I spend an awful lot of time talking about my small libraries and their trials and tribulations, but it’s worth knowing that there are also jobs in the online world at all that can test the mettle of even the most super-social and savvy librarian.