Digital Culture Library Issues

Last thoughts on SWIFT at CiL2008

SWIFT at CiL2008Just wanted to wrap up a few thoughts I had after sitting through the “input session” organized by ITI and The Otter Group on the whole SWIFT/CiL thing. Several really important points came up during that session, which I felt like needed to be pulled out for comment.

First was Ryan Deschamps comment during the (admittedly somewhat tense) discussion. Paraphrased, it was “you don’t just have to be good, you have to be better than me.” This wasn’t said egoistically, just to point out that any particular tool, especially a tool that is commercial in nature, has to be better in significant ways than the tools that are available for free. As well, the tool has to do something that the individual attendees of the conference can’t do either as easily or as quickly by themselves. While I’m quite sure that not everyone at Computers in Libraries is as talented as Ryan, I’m equally sure that anything he or any of the other seriously talented people who were at the input session were to build would be sharable and community driven. As Michael Sauers pointed out on, several presenters created tools for free, for the hell of it, that ended up being huge drivers of the conference. SWIFT has to be better than them, and it’s not.

Second was the issue that I have with perceived audience of this product. The product is marketed at people who use tools that rely on tags as metadata…flickr, blogs, delicious, etc. It, by necessity, has to have tags in order to pull all the disparate pieces together. But the very people using those services are the people who don’t need SWIFT. The Otter Group developed a platform that is useless for the very people that must use it for it to work.

Kathleen GilroyThird and last is what the session turned out to be. Meredith Farkas has, as usual, a thoughtful post on her take on the session, and comments on the very real tension in the room. I think the tension was a result of the clash between expectation and implementation…we expected an actual feedback session, and we got a sales pitch. Meredith got to the party a little late, and might have missed the fascinating anecdote about where Kathleen got the name for the product (SWIFT is named after a bird!).

We. Don’t. Care. We use products called things like ooVoo, Tumblr, Hulu, and Twitter. Clearly names are not at the top of our list when we choose products or service. We didn’t care about the history of the product, nor even really about its intended use. The street finds its own uses. The point of Web2.0 and Library 2.0 is to provide tools.

Several people in the room commented on the fact that The Otter Group seemed not at all interested in really hearing about the problems with the product. Everything was blamed on “being beta”, or on the lawyers, or something. My take on it is that they just don’t seem to get the social web, as hard as they tried and as much history as they have in trying to make it a commercial product. They fell hard once with their ALA Bootcamp, and if possible fell even harder with Cil2008 and SWIFT.

Oh, and since I know that eventually Kathleen and The Otter Group will see this: Who won the Wii?

Library Issues Personal

More from CiL2008


Originally uploaded by dwfree1967.

Today was my last day at Computers in Libraries 2008, even though the conference itself goes on through tomorrow. I fly out tomorrow early, in hopes of getting back to TN before dinner.

CiL is always a great conference. Like most conferences, it’s all about the people and the hallway conversations…not that the sessions weren’t great. For instance, the the Academic Library 2.0 preconference was amazing. đŸ™‚ In all seriousness, there are a lot of very smart people doing very clever things, and a lot of them were at CiL. I’m honored and humbled to be able to hang out with some of them.

I’ll try and do a wrap-up post linking out to all the things I found most interesting later this week after I’ve had a chance to decompress.

Library Issues Technology

Computers in Libraries 2008 –

My part of the Academic Library 2.0 preconference for Computers in Libraries 2008.
Library Issues

Computers in Libraries 2008 Calendar

As an experiment, I created a Google Calendar for Computers in Libraries 2008 and asked a number of my friends to help me fill it in with the schedule. Why? Because Google Calendar is an open standard, and allows people to do all sorts of sharing. People can add the calendar, overlay it with their personal calendar, copy events off….it’s just a much better way of dealing with this sort of information.

If you are interested, the calendar can be found here: HTMLiCal XML

If you want to be added as an editor, just drop a comment to this post with your gmail address, and I will add you. If this is useful, we’ll see about doing it for other, upcoming library conferences.


My Take on SWIFT

Many of the librarians that I admire have chimed in on the ITI/Computers in Libraries/Otter Group debacle. I’ve read over lots of the documentation provided, including the FAQ that was mailed out to attempt to assuage our concerns.

On the surface, the idea of a consolidated site for information on the conference seems like a good idea. So why the enormous pushback from the liberati? Several reasons:

The first is the one that David Lee King and others pointed out…the licensing agreement for SWIFT was onerous, to say the least. While they have said the agreement is changing, there is no evidence of said changes yet.

The second is more substantial. It harkens back to Tim Spaulding’s discussion of the difference between tags in LibraryThing and Amazon. Why did the tags in LibraryThing work, and in Amazon they did not? Because the tags in LibraryThing are my tags, they are your tags, they are tags that are used to describe things that are important to you, things we/you own. They are personal.

The tags in Amazon are not…they are potentially things you own, but they are not personal in the same way. There is a low ownership consideration with Amazon…as Tim points out, they don’t even have a way to export your tags.

SWIFT, in its way, is similar. It is a service asking for users….not users asking for a service. It is not personal, it is not needed, and it is not ours. Some of this is an issue with the method in which SWIFT was presented (poor marketing) and some of it is simply that it is a tool that no one needed.

Identify a need, then present a tool. Not the other way around.