The latest news out of the IIS is that they’re working on linking WordPress to QABuilder (QABuilder is the IIS’ web-based dig ref app), as a project for AskNSDL. They’re calling this “Story Starters.” The idea of a reference blog is of course something that Fred and I have been thinking about for a while now. But Story Starters has an interesting twist that we never considered. Fred and I imagined a centralized blog, run by a library or an AskA service or a collaborative. Story Starters is decentralized reference, and as such probably more appropriate for the blogsphere:

An expert logs into his or her blog and can add an entry. Not sure what to write about? When they login they see a list of questions waiting in their expert area. Also, they see a list of resources that someone (NSDL in our case) has put up for comment (kind of like Slashdot). …

They pick a question and it gets put into a blog entry for them to write about. When they publish it, it stays in their blog, but also gets added to the QABuilder system. QABuilder sends the answer to the user and puts it into the knowledge base.

Dave rather amusingly relates a eureka! moment where he figured out how to pass data between WordPress and QABuilder, using the NetRef / NISO AZ / QATP standard.

I’ve written about Reference Extract here before. What I hadn’t mentioned is that the IIS has merged Reference Extract & Bibliomancer, so that now Bibliomancer is the expanded search part of Reference Extract. What that means is that now the corpus searched by Reference Extract is both URLs scraped from dig ref transactions & the content of the pages at those URLs. Now, of course, the transactions that are searched by Reference Extract may include blog posts.

Of course all of this is still in development. But I’m gratified that the idea of collaborative reference seems to be gaining some traction. Now the trick will be getting librarians interested in participating. Projects like the VRD of course already have a pool of volunteer answerers who may be interested, & with the possible demise of the VRD may want to attach themselves to a new project. I don’t know how many of them are bloggers though. Because of the WikiProject Librarians, and the fact that after a promising start it seems to have stalled out, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about open information sources as collaborative projects & how to keep them going. I’m looking to literature on open source development & online communities for this. I’ll keep you posted.