Saturday, January 15, 2011

How will the closing of delicious affect libraries?

Shockwaves were sent through the internet world, when news leaked that delicious would no longer have a future in Yahoo. Most media sources sensibly began to mourn the impending death of delicious and this started an exodus of delicious users. As I write this the future of delicious is still unclear, a blog posting on delicious claims the service is not shutting down, but planning a future outside Yahoo, but various analysis including this one by a ex-Yahoo executive suggests that Delicious is in peril  as a sale is difficult.

Libraries have always being a fairly heavily user of delicious, both by librarians on a personal basis or as an institution. What impact and implications would the shuttering of delicious means for such libraries?

Well it depends on how much the library uses delicious of course!

Examples below are based on convenience sample.

Social Sharing buttons

Some libraries, embed social sharing buttons on their webpages that allow users to quickly tweet, send to facebook or otherwise bookmark the page. Services such as addthis or sharethis are used. But perhaps the most common users would be over 1,700 libraries on SpringShare's LibGuides platform, where there is a addthis! button on all guides.

LibGuide with Sharethis! button

Impact : Minimal. At worse one of the options in the share button doesn't work. 

Sharing of resources for external or internal users (do not embed into linkrolls)

Some libraries have librarians who bookmark resources using delicious accounts and publise these accounts. This might even be a group account where different librarians pool their resources.

Impact : Some. If delicious shuts down it can lead to a loss of carefully curated content. But one can export the links to another service like Diigo. 

For external users, if all that is done is to publish a delicious button that links to the account on say the library homepage, probably the impact isn't huge if delicious comes down. Example here of an account done by NUS Libraries Computer Science Resource Librarian

However if  the library's delicious account has a lot of "Fans"/external users who follow it, the library will have to spend time building up it's connections again. 

Embedding of resources such as link rolls  or tag clouds into library pages

Libraries that go beyond this and embed delicious link rolls in their webpages will have to do more work.

This embedding of links can be relatively minor on a secondary page like a blog

Or could be just tag clouds in LibGuides

Even more serious is when content is a major part of the content.
For example Holdrege Public Library has embedded a " links we love" section on their webpage. It seems to be active as of Dec , there are still new links added.

Besides tag clouds, one interesting idea I covered in the past involved embedding delicious link rolls into subject guides . They have many advantages but currently libraries using this method such as The College of New Jersey library (see below) could have problems...

  Impact : Large . Libraries will have to definitely replace this.

Thoughts about preparing for failure 

 People a lot wiser than me have commented on the pros and cons using such cloud services and the importance of having a Plan B. Now there are fears that Flickr will be next...  Other similar services used by Libraries such as YouTube, Facebook are not currently under threat, but a plan B might be a good idea....

Overall, using Delicious as an example, it seems that there are 2 things that are lost when a service goes down. First is content (e.g videos, photos, bookmarks) but fortunately most services (except perhaps Facebook) allow this to be exported and imported into successor services. However, work needs to be done to change links, embed content on webpages again etc.

But perhaps more importantly, you lose your social-graph.. Imagine you built up a Facebook page of 1,000 fans and having to rebuild it again because you are forced to move to say Diaspora. Exporting content is relatively easy, but all the effort getting users to follow/subscribe/like your channel..can't be easily recovered.

With social networks trying to lock-in users and with social connections being their main weapon to do this , I'm not optimistic at all you can somehow carry over such connections . Moreover with personal accounts you can search your address book, Twitter etc to find connections to reconnect, but I'm not sure a library organization account would like to do this even if possible.

Currently with delicious, social connections are less important in most cases particularly if the main use is to embed content on a webpage, but something like Facebook or Twitter failing would great even more shock waves due to the importance of the social connections. I'm not sure how libraries on MySpace are handling this, but MySpace is an example of a social network dying by attrition, which is perhaps a different example...

Still thinking about this.....

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