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New Toys! (possibly)

I just got out of a two-hour brainstorming session with our web team, and WOW! We might be getting some new tools made specially for us (sometime in the next few years).

It all started at CIL 2006. Well, it started long before I started working here, but it had been back-burnered until last week when I mentioned that I’d like to explore the option of reorganizing our subject research guides to aid in resource discovery as well as resource location. I’d been inspired by Chad Boeninger’s Biz Wiki. He had everything that normally went into a subject page and more, and (and this was the kicker) it was all keyword searchable! Finally, a subject page that doesn’t require students to know what they’re looking for before they even start!

So last week at our department meeting I mentioned that I’d like to try the wiki thing, and suddenly everyone got very excited about transforming our research guides from glorified handouts into something more dynamic and useful. Then, the magic that can happen when you work with a knowledgeable, engaged, and explorative group of people began to happen. We wondered what we actually wanted this new thing to do, and this led to a suggestion to brainstorm with the campus web team about our ideal tool and see if they’d be able to build it for us. Then today we ran all of our disjointed goals and hopes and fears past the team, showed examples of web tools that do some of what we want, and talked through possible architectures, bits, pieces, metadata, and functions with people who do this sort of thing for a living. (They already developed the database-driven content management system that our college uses.)

So, here are some of what we said we want. We want the ability to:

  • collect URLs, web pages, etc when we see them in the course of the day, and save them somewhere were we can get back to them and describe them before publishing them.
  • have database URLs and uber-description blurbs in a central place so we don’t have to update multiple pages whenever databases change their location.
  • pull this database and other links into pages maintaining their uber-descriptions or changing the descriptions.
  • have pages keyword searchable or browsable by discipline or category
  • have easily modifiable metadata (which we’re calling “baby bibs”)
  • have the whole thing based on a relational database
  • have keyword searching return short “advice” pieces as well as lists of resources
  • be scalable, customizable, dynamic, yet controlled… think square circles.

Basically… a furl/evernote/wiki/blog/catalog. And wouldn’t RSS be nice? And what about user tagging?

After today, the librarians are going to analyze the existing guides to see what’s actually there and how we would explain to a computer program what we’d want, create profiles of possible uses and users and how they would need the tool to function, and get closer to a list of features and functions that we want.

SO EXCITING… so much work for the poor web team. I sure hope this pans out.

Published inCarletonSocial WebTools and Technology


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