This morning I decided to follow up on my visit to protest.net, (mentioned in my last post) and the lack of activity I saw on it. I couldn’t believe that my old programmer friend would let it lie low unless he had something else more significant going on.
Little did I know… It turns out that he is even more involved than ever before, and more broadly advocating for his beliefs. You can check out his blog, Anarchogeek, to see a bit of what occupies him these days. I was wrong about protest.net’s inactivity, I just wasn’t looking in the right places. Even more amazing to me is that he’s involved with programming for Indymedia, a group I first heard of through Asheville Global Report. Both are essential sources of under reported news from around the globe.
(I miss Asheville, NC very much, and one of the reasons is the Global Report. You can’t find a more dedicated volunteer staff trying to make sure that buried news reports get some press outside of politically aligned outfits such as NPR and the Nation. I was especially excited to find that, even with operating expenses in the red, the Report is distributed up here in Chicago as well. I found copies at both Alliance Bakery on Division, east of Damen, as well as at Earwax cafe on North, also east of Damen. Congratulations to Eamon et al.)
All of this got me thinking again about wikis and social networks, and the general distrust of library professionals about their reliability or security. Annalee Newitz, with Alternet, has a wonderful little article about Wikipedia activism, pointing out why it is important to be active in supporting & contributing to wikipedia. If it’s worth having an opinion about in the first place, then isn’t it worth the trouble?
And wikis themselves are proving to be very popular business tools, especially when preparing for industry get-togethers. Perhaps we could use them to collaborate with the ALA in drafting meaningful policies for local administrative use? Or in drafting legislation for national advocacy? (If this is already happening please don’t feel shy about letting me know about my ignorance…)
Many library professionals seem to feel forced into the debate because of the growing numbers of users. And libraries cannot be faulted wholesale for tensions about the quality of new information sources, as we are acknowledged leaders in tech heavy environments, with much technological acumen. We are picking up on valid problems. (Sorry for a lack of links there, I’m not able to reference some good articles without compromising copyright issues, but check out Library Journal as well as several emerald-library articles)
One limitation I see in our involvement with Ning, Second Life, MySpace, Facebook and their ilk is that we are leaving the design and programming to others. Apart from Casey Bisson’s Scriblio (formerly WPopac) project, using open source blogging code to enable a user-friendly library catalog interface, there isn’t much going on with librarians generating unique coding outside of individual webpages.
Which brings me back to my friend, who is working on a Ruby on Rails book for O’Reilly Media. Some of the work he is doing can point the way toward open source networking frames possible in library environments, so we don’t have to rely solely on Google to scan our books, or Yahoo to author our widgets and apps. My point is, there are dedicated professional programmers, outside the library profession, who might be willing to help us out if we ask nicely enough, and are willing to learn some of it as well. Just check out Change.org to see some of the networking possibilities available if we meet the net head on. We need to harness the Wisdom of Crowds, not condemn it outright as Michael Gorman is often doing these days. We’re all in this together, right?