Wikipedia as shared worldview

I’m still reading Here Comes Everybody. On p. 279, Shirky writes: Wikipedia, which looks like a reference work to the average viewer, is in fact a bureaucracy given over mainly to arguing. The articles are the residue of the argument, being the last thing anyone declined to disagree about. This made me think: in other words, Wikipedia is a massive experiment in shared understanding of the world. Shirky discusses “shared.. Read More

Expertise swell in Wikipedia?

At the 2002 VRD conference, my now-colleague Phil Edwards (at the time we were both still mere doctoral students) presented a paper titled: Characterization of Volunteer Expertise Within the Internet Public Library Reference Service. In that study he found what he called “expertise swell.” In other words, novice IPL volunteers answer questions on a limited range of subjects (users submitting questions via the IPL’s Ask A Librarian webform can self-categorize.. Read More


I want to start this by saying that this was completely Kathleen Kern‘s idea. We were talking over dinner at LIDA last week, and she asked me, essentially, “Why isn’t there an equivalent of WorldCat for digital libraries?” I gave some lame answer: no standardization across DLs, complexity of dealing with item- and collection-level description simultaneously, cost, I don’t even remember what all I said. (In my defense, we were.. Read More

Peer review and institutional repositories

“Now you have two problems…”: On mandating Open Access, from Open Access Anthropology So, you might ask yourself: what in the world is the [scholarly society that publishes its own journal] providing authors who seek to publish in their journals? It certainly isn’t the article… The answer, to my mind is actually simple: prestige; high quality peer review; creative, path-breaking editorial vision; promotion and marketing; public policy relevance and creative.. Read More

Niches and filters

I’m reading The Long Tail (the book, not the article), and something struck me. On p. 119, Anderson writes: As the Tail gets longer, the signal-to-noise ratio gets worse. Thus, the only way a consumer can maintain a consistently good enough signal to find what he or she wants is if the filters get increasingly powerful. I wonder if this is actually true. It seems to me that a significant.. Read More

Distributed Science

After all that foofarah about purging my backlog of posts, here’s an actual new one. Ever since living in Syracuse, Yvonne and I have participated in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Great Backyard Bird Count, which took place the weekend before last. I was thinking about the GBBC the other day, and realized that it, and Project FeederWatch, are examples of distributed data collection. Now all of you regular PomeRantz.. Read More

Cost of collaborative development?

Today in our faculty reading group we read the Report of The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. In that report there are many comments along the lines that we need more data on the costs of various library functions, and there’s a whole section on the Web as Infrastructure. And that made me think: how much does it cost to develop resources collaboratively? If.. Read More

What motivates Wikipedians?

So this is what I think about when I’m being insomniac during the holidays… As my dear readers are aware, I’m obsessed with the set of problems and/or questions (probably depending on how you look at it) surrounding the motivation for participating in and contributing to open projects such as Wikipedia, and the free rider problem and how to avoid it. There are a few articles that I’m aware of.. Read More

Communities on Delicious?

I recently ran into Aggie Donkar, a former student of mine, now graduated. We got to talking about her Masters paper, which sounded interesting and which I subsequently read. As an aside, I’d just like to say that a very large percentage of our Masters papers sound incredibly interesting, and I only wish I had the time to read them all! Anyway, Aggie’s Masters paper was indeed very interesting, though.. Read More

Slam the Boards + Yahoo Answers = frustration for your humble narrator

On September 10 there was a sort of guerilla action digital reference event, called Slam the Boards. This was “a day-long answer fest” where reference librarians would answer as many questions as they could in one day, using authoritative resources. This was quite well publicized, at least in the digital reference community, and planning had been underway for more than a month. It’s not clear how many librarians actually participated,.. Read More