Yahoo! 360?

As I browse the features of Yahoo’s upcoming Yahoo! 360 Beta project, I wonder how long it will be until university portals, library websites, and other community gateways begin to resemble this same level or standard for highly woven-together, tightly-integrated services. Not that library pages aren’t attempting to weave services together – actually, far from it and we’ve been doing it for a while.

It’s just that we more often than not can’t get around presenting these disparate services as anything more than a well organized group of individual pieces. Most users don’t like the struggle to have to learn how to use such a site. They, like myself, want a well-blended service (singular) with seamless services running beneath the layer that I need to see.

They don’t want additional hoops to jump through and they don’t want to have to learn around the pieces that the providers can’t fix, especially when other sites or services don’t make them have to do this.

What’s their secret? I don’t know, but when I look at the Yahoo! 360 overview page, I see hints laid out in the goals for their service…

“Getting Started Is Simple”

Yes, Yahoo, Google, Amazon and other mainstream web services generally are simple to use. There isn’t much need for extensive tutorials, glossaries and guides to get yourself started. Just point and click. Most importantly, the outcome of this activity is generally successful. Or successful enough.

“Share What Matters to You”

Collaboration and sharing in a digital environment. Strikes a familiar chord. It’s interesting to focus in on the phrase “What Matters to You.” Libraries have had a hard time deciding where to personalize, where to generalize, and where to simply open the floodgates, exposing our rich stockpiles of information resources through list, lists and more lists. For many people, I suspect we’re offering too much – what matters to them isn’t easily found, and when it is, it isn’t easy to “refind” it.

Folksonomies and social bookmarking are proving to be popular tools, outside of the library context. Metadata for the masses, as they say. What matters to you may be what matters to me too. What are the ways in which we can let users discover, share and group resources in ways that are meaningful to them.

How can we map this across our established knowledge and expertise in subject domains and advisory services, “suggesting” to them what else they might find of use, what other words they might want to search with, what others have found useful, and why their “tag” might relate to our “tags” for a more controlled approach to identifying all the resources at their disposal.

“One Place to Keep Connected”

The here and now. Conversing with friends, IMing with the engineering librarian, bookmarking the article for your next paper, and knowing what time tonight’s work shift begins.

Connected users with connected services — not just the millenials, but more and more of us, as technology becomes a little more accessible, a little more functional, and a little more affordable as each day goes on.

Library as space is something I’m extremely interested in, especially as we begin to expand the concept beyond just the physical and into the whole area of digital space.

Collections are a fundamental part of libraries, without question. However, libraries have traditionally been, and can continue to be, about meeting places, collaborative spaces, and supportive places where users can not just access information but also learn how to process, organize, and create with the information that is acquired there.

We need to support these “working spaces” by providing, or at the very least, being aware of the spaces and tools that can be used to make this possible. These should be easily integrated into the users life and workflow, and day three of being down with a flu bug. I think I’m getting a bit restless.

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