UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Social Aspect Of Resource Discovery

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Oct 2008

How do I discover new things, new places and new ideas? An approach I take is the approach I’ve used ever since I was a child – I ask people and I eaves-drop on conversations.  And on the Social Web this approach can be even more useful as there are more people I can ask and more conversations I can listen to.

I’ve produced a slideshow with a 9 minute 25 second accompanying audio track which is available on Slideshare and is embedded below explaining why I feel that the social aspect of resource discovery is under-rated.

I should probably have added in the talk that when I publish peer-reviewed presentations the literature search and use of more formal resource discovery services does take place – however this tends to be done by one of the co-authors (David Sloan in the case of my accessibility papers).   Which I think illustrates another example of the social aspect of resource discovery – you have a co-author who is happy using traditional library-based resource discovery tools, while you another co-author focus on the social aspects to discovery.  Just as social Web tools need not be to every researcher’s taste, so the more formal approaches do not have to be used by every researcher.

3 Responses to “The Social Aspect Of Resource Discovery”

  1. Wendell said

    Well said – especially the bit about twinning with a co-author interested in a different mode of research / presentation. A colleague and I were talking our way toward your conclusion last night; though, in comparison, expressing ourselves badly. As a fieldworker, I often lean on my more university-minded colleague for information and perspective.

    On the other hand, I’m the one who reads/ writes blogs.

  2. alteregozi said

    Interesting. I think there are two issues at play here: one (your slides on blogging and twittering) can be described as “Newton’s third law of web 2.0” :-) where your participation in social and content sites drives participation of others responding to you and “pushing” that info to you, the other (your slides on related tags) describes the rise of collaborative filtering as an ultra-powerful tool for automatic likeminded filtering of information, a tool that could only have been enabled by the web.
    Note by the way, that search, as a form of social discovery, takes such a small part of your social experience (one line in slide 11…) – that’s what we’re trying to change in

  3. Thanks for sharing your slides! I also agree that the social aspect of information discovery has been overlooked (or under-rated), but I think that it may be important to distinguish between the two types of discovery mechanisms you discuss here. In some cases, information gets “pushed” to you; in others, you explicitly seek it (“pull”). I would imagine that your information need in those two conditions are different enough so that you wouldn’t want the same “social discovery” solution applied to both.

    I have done some research looking at the role of social interactions in different types of search acts (with different information needs). But perhaps more interesting to this discussion is a study by Sandstrom (2001) which showed that scientists received a large portion of information relating to their primary field of study from colleagues “pushing” it to them, whereas most of their active foraging activities (“pulling” information) were in areas just peripheral to their core focus. Apply this to your talk, I might conclude that your experience is much like that of these scientists. You do actively put information out about yourself on your blog, through Slideshare, and through Twitter. This defines your primary interests (or it’s the only thing people have to draw on). But as a result, you receive lots of related information from others (through no other actions on your part). On the other hand, when you look for a hotel room or examples to use in a presentation, you are explicitly seeking information—your information need is different (you mentioned a timeliness aspect)…your process is different…and the social support you’re looking for is, importantly, different.

    On the other hand, maybe your point is simply that online social tools are blurring the line between passive discovery and active seeking, which I do believe is happening. In that case, and in light of the study I mentioned above, what are the implications for social media changing where and how we receive information?

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