Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bb Scholar - the development partner's view

This is Bb's social bookmarking tool. Teeside Uni Bb people and Henk van Rijssen from ROC Midden Nederland have been working with Bb to test the product prior to release. The overwhelming message seems to be that it will need a lot more promotion to users before people recognise the purpose and value of it. Surveys at Teeside show that there is currently very little use of social bookmarking. Given it's still a new concept to many academic staff, when asked, they can't say how they're going to use it. Their lack of enthusiasm is probably more related to their lack of understanding of it. At the moment this is a disadvantage, but it could work to Bb Scholar's advantage as it may become their preferred social bookmark tool.

It did strike me that more consultation with library staff could save some agonising, eg the difference between controlled vocabularies and folksonomies ... and their relative merits in the social bookmarking world. There are still people suggesting (albeit in the audience, not so much from the developers or beta testers) that the social bookmarking tagging should be organised and controlled in some way. Teeside feel the lessons they learned were that tagging is not as simple as it first seems and takes time to learn. I'm not sure about this - it's a technology/concept to pick up for sure, but it's not like people will be expected people to learn the Library of Congress subheadings.

There were the often heard concerns over the potential loss of control if students can just tag what they like. Fortunately the developers and testers seemed relaxed about this and felt that it would regulate itself given the purpose of it. My thoughts are that this gives more opportunities for library staff to get involved to stress the importance of developing skills for evaluating information.

There seemed to be some disbelief that this is a technology that Bb are offering to Bb users with the commitment that they will be able to continue using it when they are no longer enrolled in any Bb courses. In a world where everything associated with Bb comes with a price tag on it this seemed too good to be true.

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