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Stumble Upon and the future (?) of us information specialists…

In Evidence-Based Medicine, Information industry, Web 2.0 & all that on January 9, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve just introduced the office to Stumble Upon, and work has come to an abrupt standstill… well, it is late on Friday, and Stumble Upon is rather addictive, and a great way to discover some of the more interesting corners of the interweb, so if you’ve nothing to do (or more likely, if you’ve something to do but you don’t really fancy doing it right now, thank you very much) then give it a go.

An ex-tutor of mine has invited me down to my alma mater to give a talk on what I do and the role of information in medical decision making and all that sort of thing. I do find it interesting how reliable information and evidence is probably more important than it ever has been in medicine (and across a wide range of sectors), but that the role of the librarian and information professional is, if anything, seen as less and less important. I think that before, perhaps, it was necessary for a librarian to guide you to where you could find the information, and that required classification and indexing skills etc. Now, however, it’s not so much a problem of finding information (that’s so darned easy, given Google and other search engines), but rather it’s about sorting out the good stuff from the bad, and that requires a certain level of knowledge about medicine (or law, or chemistry, or business, or whatever), and so professionals from the sector are becoming the important parts of ‘Information Centres’ (not libraries), rather than those trained in indexing, classification etc – highly sophisticated search engines now do that for us. So what is our future role? I’m not sure, but I will have to come up with something, otherwise my students for the afternoon will be most disappointed (can’t you just imagine!). Any ideas…?

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4 Responses to “Stumble Upon and the future (?) of us information specialists…”

  1. I’ve just installed StumbleUpon as a Mozilla add on to try it. It says that it can lead you to websites that are similar to the one you are viewing. How? I went from one about Information architecture to Jackson Pollock (dot) com where your mouse becomes a paint brush dripping link. Is it just that this add on is better for ‘time wastage’ as some say or that I have not configured my settings properly? Perhaps StubleUpon should have moods/modes: work mode (informaticism sites, please), play mode, studenty mode?

    Alan, regarding your talk, you could suggest to the students that it is key to develop sound critical appraisal skills (or just sound critical skills) and be an elegant generalist. For instance, although I’m focused on health resources, it is not as if I have problems making a purchase or comparison shopping on the ‘net. We’re saved by transferable skills 🙂

  2. I don’t know about the functionality to go from the website you are on to similar websites. I guess it just uses folksonomies, so it’ll be all over the place for anything that’s not about Ms B Spears or Big Brother (not Orwell) etc. I vaguely told it what kind of thing I’m interested in and I then just stumble along. Maybe one in five websites I find are interesting – that’s still a pretty good hit rate.

    As for my talk, aren’t critical appraisal skills at the core of a number of professions? We can’t use it as our USP, else we really are in trouble. We need something technical. We need our own language. Dewey used to put the fear of god in people. We need new language to scare people off and suggest that what we’re doing really is unique, valuable and, most importantly, jolly hard. 🙂

  3. Hmm, basically you are asking how we can rebrand critical appraisal to make it unique to librarians. I think what is really unique is the generalism that we have that others only have for their niche. Or the generalism that we aspire to, anyway. But this requires more thought. I fear, actually, that we have our unique language and it makes people click off rather than tune in. That is why in some ways the web has passed us by (I mean, hello, is the WWW indexed and are the headings controlled?).

    I had a better experience with Stumble Upon this morning as I discovered channels–something you can toggle to include only the subject of interest. They aren’t very specific but still are interesting.

    • Oh really Danni. Now you’re just being silly. Indexing the web with controlled language…? ‘The Raw Feed’ suggests that there are around 155,583,825 sites out there (spurious accuracy, anyone?). Anyway, it’s a lot! Remember that librarians do try from time to time, look at the LII or BUBL, but they can only ever scratch the surface. Maybe we could delete the whole thing and start again? Format the www: drive…? 😉

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