April 11, 2006

Weaving the Web 2.0: RSS and the Future of Chemical/Science Information

Here's a link to the presentation I gave at last month's American Chemical Society meeting in Atlanta, as part of a CINF session on social computing tools. It was pretty well-attended for an early Sunday morning, with the audience about 50-50 in terms of RSS familiarity.

    Main Points
  • RSS is an information delivery tool that lets you collect and concentrate new content/information in a single location or portal. With an RSS reader, a user can capture new content from a variety of Web 2.0 tools: wikis, blogs, folksonomies, podcasts, etc.
  • If a user, in this case a science/engineering faculty member or student, isn't interested in RSS alerting for these, then substitute those tools for the ones that they will care about: news, databases, e-journals.
  • Using RSS to keep up with information isn't perfect, though it does have some advantages over e-mail alerts. It is another web-related "thing" to do, it's easy to create a backlog (backblog) of stuff that's not going to read itself, and it's not just about collecting information--it's taking that information and transforming it into knowledge that you can apply to your work.
  • The technology's very much in flux. Readers will improve, and their numbers will continue to increase to meet the evolving needs of users and their devices. The feeds will improve, and will include more filtering options (like American Institute of Physics journals where you can select a feed for just one section of a journal). RSS will continue to evolve, and eventually we'll get something "better than RSS." More publishers and vendors will offer RSS-enabled services, which will hopefully include our OPAC vendors.
  • RSS is part of the "bigger picture" of Web 2.0. Users want to customize their web information enviroment: delivery, content, interfaces and devices. We need to incorporate that into the next generation of library (2.0?) websites.
  • What I'd like to see down the road: my library delivering more content to our users' RSS readers. They'd be able to subscribe to feeds for library news, new books, new e-journals and web resources we've added to our future content management system, and even major updates to relevant webpages like databases guides. This content would show up in the reader along with the science feeds (science news, database search updates, and e-journal TOC and article alerts) and anything else outside the library/science sphere.
  • Even better: our users could simply select one feed from from the library (chemistry!). Any feeds or even specific entries that I have tagged "chemistry" would get remixed into a single, seamless feed of information to faculty and students.

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