Google Profiles of libraries

Introduction

In this post, I will talk about a little known service called Google Profiles, why it is becoming important, and I will describe how libraries have being using it, the web 2.0 accounts they are listing on it, and compare it to the accounts listed by libraries on Friendfeed.

Google Profiles

For years, Google had a little known feature/service called Google Profiles, which allowed users of Google accounts to setup profiles of themselves. In many ways they were similar to the lifestreaming accounts like Friendfeed, in that you listed other associated accounts such as Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, which you owned. Despite Google’s brand recognition, they have never being particularly skilled at building social networks and Google Profiles was pretty much ignored.

This was until April 2009, where they placed their trump card. Two changes occured, one minor change, one major. The first change was that they allowed users to use a custom profile url, instead of a long string of numbers. For sure http://www.google.com/profiles/aarontay looks better than http://www.google.com/profiles/104559151215707191902. Below shows an example of a Google Profile set up by E.H Butler Library.

More significantly, these Google Profiles appear at the bottom of Google searches! when you do a search.

You can find out more about Google profiles here.

Libraries on Google profiles- Methodology

In a previous post, I looked at Library accounts on Friendfeed (a popular Lifestreaming service) and studied the web 2.0 accounts that Libraries linked to. A very obvious idea now is to do the same for libraries on Google Profiles as well.

I did a Google Profile search, by searching for the word library in the title. This results in about 162 entries. Unfortunately the vast majority of entries were blank, or had at best a link to their homepage. These I ignored on the admittedly dubious assumption that most libraries had at least a blog and accounts without blogs were Google Profiles that were not properly maintained. Moreover I noticed that one of the libraries, the Unquiet Library had both a Google Profile and Friendfeed with the later having more accounts listed. Of the remaining, I took note of the accounts they listed. Again a Google doc version of the data is available.

Results are as below.

The disclaimers I made for previous post applies here, the data above is not representative of what libraries in general are doing in the web2.0/socialmedia arena . Rather they show what libraries who have custom Google Profiles are doing.

Comparing Libraries on Google profiles and Libraries on Friendfeed


I’ve reproduced the chart showing accounts linked to in Friendfeed above.

The main difference between the two charts is that compared to Libraries on Friendfeed, fewer Libraries on Google Profiles list Twitter accounts.

A minor difference perhaps is that Libraries on Google Profiles tend to list more Picasa accounts for photo sharing compred to Flickr. This can be explained by the fact that Picasa is a Google service can will be autoamatically added.

We also see libraries listing Google Books (example)and more Google Reader (example) accounts. They are quite a few innovative uses of these 2 accounts, see more from data.

Unlike Friendfeed where you can only add specific accounts, or accounts with RSS feeds, with Google Profiles you are free to add any URL, and libraries have exploited this by adding links to subject guides (example), internet archive (example), Yahoo pipes (example) etc.

Another difference seems to be that none of the libraries on Google Profiles list links to delicious . It’s unclear if this is a result of libraries not listing them, or the libraries not having an account in the first place.

So does your library have a Google Profile ? Are you maintaining it?

Aaron Tay

Dipity for libraries

In my last post , I talked about libraries using Lifestreaming to aggregate all their social media/web 2.0 accounts. In particular, I talked about Friendfeed.

Friendfeed is typical of most lifestreaming services in which updates from different sources will be listed one by one in a list, one on top of another.

However a few lifestreaming services are a different breed of lifestreaming service, what Lifestreaming blog calls “time-lined based”

There are several such services, but perhaps the most mature and impressive one is Dipity. Below I show our NUS Libraries’ feeds will look like when fed into Dipity.

As the image above shows , all updates from different sources are displayed along a time line.  Images from Flickr will be shown, Videos from youtube, Twitters, blog comments etc

It is fully interactive, you can embed it in any webpage and users can zoom in, zoom out to see more details etc.

All in all, it is a lot more visually appealing then the average lifestreaming service, which shows updates one after another in a horziontal list.

Dipity also offers users an option to change from “timeline view” to a “list view” . The later will display something that  is similar  to Friendfeed and company (see below).

Another two other modes are offered, one is  “Flipbook view” (see below)

Just flip through each update, like flipping through pages of a book.

Perhaps the most interesting one is the Map view.

Map view is a bit difficult to explain. Basically in one of the blog posts one librarian reviewed a fiction book set in Italy, as a result it appears on the map in Italy, and if you click on it, it will show the corresponding post. This is a simple example of what they call geo-tagging (roughly speaking this involves tagging an item such as blog post, image etc with the geographical location associated with it).

Possibly, the images don’t do full justice to the concept, go to http://www.dipity.com/Nuslibraries/ to play with it.

You can also embed it as a widget on any webpage, blog or even Facebook.

For more cool ideas on how to use this service you can go to their blog or just go to their Dipity homepage to see how other users are creating cool timelines.

Other similar services you can try include allofme Dandelife , Lifeblob etc. Also there is Storytlr which is close enough to fit into this category.

I think time-line based lifestreaming is a very interesting way of  providing a visual record of library activities over a period of time. There are some things to iron out though, like ensuring that your blog post about Library event X, and the photos on the same event X posted to Flickr account should appear on the same day etc.

Libraries on FriendFeed

We recently started a small scale experimental presence on Friendfeed (official announcement) . Friendfeed is one of the most popular life-streaming services out there. I was curious about whether libraries were using such services and did a small survey on it. More on that later.

What is lifestreaming?

In today’s world, one person might be on Flickr, Facebook, Friendster, Slideshare, Youtube, Delicious or a hundred other different web 2.0/Social media accounts at the same time. Lifestreaming services aggregates all these accounts into one central place, for interested people to follow. Wired in Dec 2008 claimed that Lifestreaming is one of the web technologies of 2008 that you should be using now. For a brief description of how typical lifestreaming service work see here. The lifestream blog provides a comprehensive review of the latest state of art in Lifestreaming.

Libraries and lifestreaming?

Given that libraries are currently reaching out to user communities via blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Delicious and a myraid other social networking/media accounts, it seems natural for them to consider using lifestreaming applications to provide a centralized location for all these accounts.

There are many lifestreaming applications out there (see list and comparison), though it is still early days in this new area, Friendfeed (by an ex-googler), is currently the industry leader (though Facebook has recently added similar functions).

Though Friendfeed does not provide support to as many services as say Profilactic, they have a relative intutive interface,  a powerful search engine and relative size, though like most lifestreaming services they currently cater mostly to the early adopter crowd (including most librarians)

I was curious to see how many libraries have started Friendfeed accounts and so I did a small experiment. I searched Friendfeed for accounts with the word “Library” or “libraries”. I filtered out as best as I could accounts that clearly wasn’t Library accounts (for some reason it gives me accounts where library doesn’t appear in the account name?), excluded accounts that had no updates, and left out accounts where the feed was private (still testing)? In the end I ended up with 15 accounts.A couple seemed to be in testing/experimental modes though they all had at least 10 updates.

What are libraries doing with Friendfeed?

It was quite fascinating looking at the friendfeed account of each library. You get a quick snap shot of what web 2.0/library 2.0 activities each library is engaging in and I already see some interesting ideas that I didn’t think of. I also uploaded the data into googledocs here , feel free to edit.

One obvious thing I did was to see what web 2.0 accounts libraries were linking to in Friendfeed (I didn’t check if they actually had updates from those accounts though). Also if they had more than more accounts of the same service (say 2 blogs or 2 Flickr accounts), I counted them once.

Do note that the diagram above is not representative of what libraries are doing in the web2.0/socialmedia arena (for that see this). Rather they show what libraries who have Friendfeed accounts (who are likely to be early adopters) are doing.

Out of 15 accounts,  12 accounts have blogs. 11 accounts Twitter, 10 have Flickr account, 8 Delicious, 5 Youtube, 3 Slideshare, 2 Facebook, Librarything, Gtalk  and a scattering of the rest.

There are few surprises, though I’m mildly surprised Slideshare (and similar services) are not used more to share presentations (think library tutorials).

Though Twitter is getting a lot of press, it is still a technology that libraries are getting grips on (more info here, here , list of twittering libraries), so I suspect the large number of Twitter accounts here only reflects the fact that Libraries on Friendfeed are obviously early adopters.

Using the classification of social media services found here , we can see  libraries are basically using blogs, microstreaming services (Twitter, Plurk etc), photo sharing sites (Flickr, Picasa etc) , social bookmarking services (Delicious, Diigo, Twine etc).

Lesser used are video sharing sites (Youtube, Vimeo etc) , document sharing (Slideshare, Scribd etc) , book services (Librarything, Good reads, Amazon etc), music/movie review services ( Last.fm, iLike)

You can probably write an entire book on how libraries can use each category of social media service to reach out, so I won’t try at least for now.

But viewing social media services in such categories, one can suddenly see a lot of ways in which libraries can creatively use social media that we currently aren’t using.

For example how about using events related services like Upcoming , or calenders 2.0 service to publish library events? Geo-location services like Brightkite to keep patrons updated about your location? Sharing documents via Google reader ?

Lifestream services accept any kind of RSS feed (some might even accept ical format for online calenders?) , so you can add content as long as it is in RSS format.

For example, we currently convert our “new additions to libraries” into RSS format and push it to our Friendfeed account. If the content you want is not in RSS format, you can try using a data/feedscraper to convert a static webpage into RSS. I recommend Dapper.

Conclusion

The lifestreaming arena is still in a state of flux and understandably libraries might want to adopt a wait and see attitude. It is possible that Friendfeed and similar services will die off as standalone services as Facebook adds similar feature . On the other hand, maintenance of Friendfeed accounts is comparative light compared to a Facebook account.

If you are already running several web 2.0 accounts, friendfeed adds very little to the burden, once you set it up and link to your other accounts. Just continue to post pictures to Flickr, bookmarks to Delicious, make blog posts and your Friendfeed account will be updated automatically.

Even if users don’t use it, you can also aggregate all the content through Friendfeed and embed it into your Library portal via a widget.

Until later

Aaron Tay