June 2008 Archives
I just read Paul's story about the great experience he had with WorldCat and more importantly, the wonderful service he received from the librarians at a WorldCat library, the University of Canterbury (NZ).
I love to hear stories of how WorldCat helped connect a Web searcher with an item s/he is looking for, in a library. If anyone else has great stories like this, do share!
Of course, if you're looking to do a whole bibliography in a click, staying on the WorldCat.org site is the way to go. You can build a list of all your works and generate your Works Cited page, quickly and easily. But for one or two listings or a quick refresher when you're posting out--this new Facebook app can't be beat!
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but cover art sure helps us identify the book we're looking for.
coarse course that doesn't help us know whether we'll like the book once we find it. Usually we turn to someone else to help us figure that out. Someone like the publisher who puts nice summaries on the jacket flaps or a reviewer in a newspaper. But this is 2008 and I'm writing to a Web audience that is probably using an RSS feed to get this post. Which means you're probably a savvy bunch so all this talk of jacket flaps and newspapers is silly.
But what if you're headed to your local library? How do you find something to read? You can look at the staff picks once you get there. Or before you go you can search the more than 150 lists of books to read on WorldCat.org. Because, hey! If this person wants to read this book, then maybe you will too. But how do you, the Web-savvy reader, know for sure?
You look at the reviews of other WorldCat.org users!
To read the Amazon reviews of a book on WorldCat.org, just find the book, scroll down a bit and click the Reviews tab. Then click back to the Libraries tab to see which library near you has the book. Find your library, click, log in and you're off!
And what about that scary movie you borrowed on Friday night? You can rate it and review it too. And soon you'll be able to see the Amazon reviews for it and other movies as well as music and games.
What more could you want!? No. Really. Tell us: What more do you want?
We all know the difference between "searching" and "browsing." When we search, we're looking for something pretty specific. Maybe not an exact item, book, movie, shoe, etc., but something within a specific set of boundaries. Browsing is more... serendipitous. You go into a store -- let's say... a book store, shall we? -- and you wander around, picking up stuff that catches your eye... moving somewhat aimlessly... following a trail or two or not.
It's fun. And we find unexpected things this way. In many cases, though, the freedom we feel due to the unspecific nature of our quest is somewhat illusionary. Whomever is creating the space in which you browse has had a lot to do with what you find and how. "Staff Recommends" shelves, end-caps, bargain tables, posters, positioning... all these things combine to guide your browsing experience. Of course you still are in control; that's not the point. But neither are you randomly choosing from among an infinite number of materials in a random, uniform vacuum.
I'll give you an example. For a couple months, a couple years ago, I ended up buying a number of books that all had only one major thing in common: they all had bright, almost neon green covers. This was a fashion in cover design at the time, and after reading one that was good, I somehow was attracted to that color. And while the books in question weren't related... neither were they entirely dissimilar. Only certain kinds of authors and stories will be comfortable with a cover the color of radioactive lime.
Online, browsing is both more unfettered -- you can follow links from page to page and site to site very easily -- and less free. You can't jump as easily, let's say, from a page about sketching to one that has blank sketchbooks, unless the link is built in. In a live store environment, there is a greater chance for serendipity, because the "links" only have to be provided by physical proximity.
So... how to build interesting, serendipitous browsing experiences online? One way is to create a set of materials that don't, on the surface, have anything in common... like my electric green books (though, I guess, they only had something on the surface in common).
For example, the American Book Review recently created an awesome list of the "100 Best First Lines from Novels." They're all novels, yes... and many of them would probably make a list of "best novels" in general. But it's very interesting to move from book-to-book based on a criteria like "best first lines." You don't browse the same way as you do when you go by subject, author, time period, etc.
It's a way to induce directional browsing... an opportunity for planned serendipity.
I liked this particular list so much, I added it as a WorldCat.org list:
Fun stuff. Happy browsing.