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I’m currently writing a training document on “Current Awareness” – how our patrons can keep up with the firehose of information now available to them. In the course of a couple of conversations, it was suggested the document might be of interest the wider Library community because of the way I’m incorporating so-called “2.0” concepts without actually making a significant fuss about their newness or that they’re something that needs to be learnt separately from any other learning/knowledge resource.

In the course of one of those conversations, an interesting comment came back that rather nicely illustrated the very point I was making, and allowed me to have a little philosophical ramble. Which I reproduce here, in the hope that maybe someone else understands it as well!

Lovely library person who sent me links to their astonishing podcast collection said:

> We are now considering using a Wiki instead of our intranet!!

And I blurted, more or less without thinking:

Now, here’s a mental exercise that illustrates, more or less, what I’m getting at, and please forgive me if this comes across as chiding, because it’s NOT – you just beautifully stepped into an example of where I’m heading with my documents :)

See, you’re not using a wiki instead of your intranet. You’re using a wiki as your intranet :) . Intranet, after all, is just the information concept – “internal internet”. Currently it’s probably fairly standard interlinked web pages, where each page has to be individually published after going through an approval process. What you’re considering is using a different type of software – but the result is still going to be an “internal internet”. A Wiki isn’t a new concept; it’s just a web page with improved user interactivity.

So if I start saying to my doctors and nurses and clinicians “consider using a Wiki for collaboration purposes”, they’ll back away slowly. But if I say “consider using interactive web pages for collaboration purposes”, they’ll look interested and ask questions.

One of my concerns about 2.0 hype is the fact that people are getting tied up in the terminology, and forgetting what’s actually underneath it. This is common, of course; early adopters need to spread the word about the new toys. But take-up of those toys doesn’t happen until the everyday consumer can place that toy in their everyday context; and I’m concerned we’re leapfrogging that phase into a wholesale adoption of the “new” precepts and “throwing away of the old”, without proper consideration of the fact that the new is part of the old.

Damn geeks and their insistence that the entire world is binary, rather than an analogue sliding scale :)

This concern that people are concentrating more on the technology, than what our users can use the technology for in the here’n’now is, of course, not new, and I’ve read umpteen posts that deal with this very issue. I’m also a little behind on my reading, so maybe I’ve missed it, but the vibe still seems to be that in order to overcome our concerns with “2.0”, we just need to learn more about it – and to learn, we should be teaching.

My concerns is that by teaching our patrons about “2.0” – about RSS and wikis and social software, we automatically make it something separate to the “ordinary” (1.0) web. If you give it a separate name, it must be a separate thing, right?

But really, all “2.0” represents is the convergence of how everyone expected computers to behave back in the 70’s. It’s exciting because science-fiction is becoming science-fact, because the underlying networks have finally reached human-like speeds, so the real-time high-graphic interactions expected way back when I was learning about computers are actually real now.

The excitement will die down, the hysteria will head off and find another target, and if we’re to retain our patrons past this wave, we need to incorporate these resources into their everyday usage NOW.

I’m not sure any of that agglomeration of different concepts made sense … but then, “2.0” is such a vague concept that I’m not even sure we should be having a debate about it as such, except it’s such a handy term to mean “new toys we can play with!”.

Anyway. I attach the very, very, very rough, early, and incomplete document I’m playing with. The first page pretty much illustrates where I’m trying to go with this; the following pages just flesh it out.

We completely forgot to report on the ACT Health Library’s highly successful PDA fair in early March – sorry, Saroj! Reps from a couple of IT and medical software vendors were on hand to spruik their wares, and the Library teased the hordes with the actual HP iPAQs soon to be available for loan (in what appears to be an unprecedented move in hospital libraries, although we are of course willing to be educated otherwise!). One iPAQ and many licenses for various bits of medical software (MIMS, Australian Medicines Handbook, among others) were up as prizes, which did generate a lot of interest.

So now the Library is up to providing these PDAs for two-week loan to the general public. But there’s a snag. See, it would be nice to restore the PDAs to a standard setup when returned by a patron, so as to avoid the PDAs accumulating unwanted data and software, and to save time having Library staff manually tidying the PDAs before re-lending.

A backup-and-restore service would seem ideal for this process. Unfortunately, the backup-and-restore options previously built-in to the OS (Windows Mobile) and synchronisation software (ActiveSync, both Microsoft packages) was removed with the latest versions (Windows Media 5 and ActiveSync 4.5).

This seems a completely bizarre concept but is nonetheless reality.

An attempt to contact HP and find out whether their iPAQ had some kind of built-in system didn’t end so happily, either. In the interests of investigating The Interactive Web, they were contacted via their Live Chat service. The result was, to say the least, disappointing. After spending 15mins finding the requested Serial and Product numbers, entering in personal contact details, and watching automated welcoming messages pop up on the screen, the only non-scripted responses were firstly incorrect (a recommendation to remove and re-install an unnamed driver) and then obliquely unhelpful (“not on the ipaq”). Further attempts at communication went unheeded.

As an advertisement for virtual reference/support, it was a brilliant lesson on what not to do and how not to do it, and can’t be recommended for serious attempts at resolving product issues.

So it’s back to square one on these PDAs, with third-party software being investigated. The launch, by the way, is April 16. Reports on the success of this lending scheme will follow. Discussion on similar lending schemes – using iPods, PDAs, and other such portable devices, will be welcomed and we can just about guarantee any recommendations will be followed up …