Sharing links with users – 8 different ways

How do you share links, resources with your library patrons? In the past, the default option would certainly be through email. There is nothing wrong with sharing links through emails, though it seems to me a more structured and organized way would be better.

But today with the rise of social networks, collaborative tools and general web 2.0 love, there are a bewildering number of online sharing options, I thought it would be useful in this post to briefly consider each class of tools and assess their suitability.

To give us something concrete to work on, let us assume you arrange to meet with a graduate student to discuss his research topic. From then, on you want to regularly send his interesting resources you find. You can assume he has the same access to resources you have (so a direct link with ezproxy stem built-in would work) but you cannot assume he has registered for whatever service (including citation managers) you intend to use.

Of course, this scenario is just a smaller scale version of the task of creating subject guides, so many of the same solutions can be used.

The tools that I will cover below will generally generate a list of resources you shared on a webpage (which may or may not be password protected).

Depending on what type of librarian you are, you may be sharing mostly link to free public sites, or to links to academic journals articles in subscribed databases, and this impacts the type of tools you might use.

As an academic librarian who shares mostly links to academic articles the ideal sharing tool for me then would have the following characteristics though

(1) Handles links to password protected pages – In particular many general social bookmarking tools work fine with normal webpages but fall down when you try to handle links from subscribed databases which require logins. This is particularly so for tools that try to archive the page or add annotation overlays (see below).

(2) Allow exporting of citations in several formats – Most of the resources you are going to share are articles, so ideally the webpage that displayed the resources would be formatted in such a way that allows your library patron to easily export the citations in various ways (RIS, text, BIBtext) to whatever citation manager they prefer.

(3) Allows resource lists to be embedded in other spaces – The resource list should be exported as RSS which would allow you to create widgets using external services such as widgetbox to embed in other pages (including wikis, social networks, startup pages etc). Even better would be for the service to provide it’s own widgets such as delicious linkrolls. Diigo offers the very interesting WebSlides.

(4) Allow you to add annotation/comments – This could be an overlay of your comments over the webpage in question, or simply allows you to add comments next to the citation.

(5) Allows collaboration (real time?) – Ideally the user could add comments like “This is good”, “This is not relevant because…” etc. Better yet if the tool has a “like” feature as seen in Friendfeed and copied by facebook, google reader – allows you to get quick feedback what kinds of citations are relevant.

(6) Allows access without registering for a account – While (4) assumes to some extent that users will have to log-in, you can’t assume that the user will want to go through the pain of registering a new account just to view your list of resources. I would add that it is the whole process of REGISTERING (which typically requires that you fill in a long web form) that is annoying, a password protected list, where all the user needs to do is to enter the password you supply might be acceptable.

#1 Social bookmarking tools e.g. Delicious

The most famous of this is of course Delicious.


http://delicious.com/jomcparklib/AdvertisingSpending

Newer and more trendy alternatives with many more features include Diigo, Twine, Google bookmarks and more. (Not sure if “Readitlater” type of tools like instantpaper might be used).

These tools were never designed in mind for academic use, though they can be readily adapted to such uses. Typically, they allow users to access resource lists without authentication, which reduces barriers to entry.

The main disadvantage is that as they are not designed for academic use, they don’t provide various niceties that web-based citation managers have including formatting of citations, links to resources via doi, coins etc.

Many of the older social bookmarking tools like Delicious also provide relatively little social networking functions. Delicious does allow you to add fans and/or export results to rss feeds though which allows you to create link roll widgets to embed on your webpage (see library subject guide created using delicious link rolls), but they definitely don’t provide anyway for the user to add comments to the resources you share.


http://www.lib.unc.edu/parklibrary/subjects/AdvertisingMediaSpending.html

Try Diigo or Twine if you want the ability to add comments.

One can also consider “clipping” software/services like Evernote, Zoho Notebook which can store anything you can imagine, but it’s can’t clear how good the sharing features are.

#2 Web annotation tools/ advanced Social bookmarking tools – e.g. Awesome Highlighter

The idea of annotating webpages goes back to a 1999 outfit Third voice. The idea is that you install a browser plugin of some kind, then you can view comments or annotations left by other visitors of the page.

Comments or annotations are usually overlaid over the existing page, or in some cases, a separate frame opens with comments about that page at the side (some will even pull comments from Twitter, friendfeed about that page).

This is a very crowded space with many alternatives including A.nnotate , Awesome Highlighter ShiftSpace, Fleck, Stickis, TrailFire, SharedCopy, webnotes, Reframeit and more.

A few libraries have started to use TrailFire to guide users. Below is an example from Central Pennsylvania College library which they use to annotate pages to guide users through their webpages.


http://trailfire.com/Lopez/marks/89275

More traditional social bookmarking tools like Diigo, Iterasi, Qitera, also incorporate archiving of the existing page with comments/annotations and images captured. Diigo in particular has an interesting WebSlides feature.

Being able to add annotations seems useful. Imagine not only linking to a specific article, but also highlighting sections that you find relevant or interesting. Imagine being able to engage in a conversation with a user about an online article, by scribbling in the margins.

The main problem with almost all web annotation tools is that they don’t really work with links to subscribed databases as they are typically accessed behind a password with the added complication of ezproxy links, and as such web annotation/archiving features fail.

Iterasi seems to be the only one that is capable of doing so, though I’m not sure of the copyright implications.

#3 Web based citation Managers – Citeulike, Zotero

Since we are typically sharing articles, why not use a tool designed for it? While desktop based citation managers are still popular, in recent years, many web-based citation managers have began to appear, and desktop managers have added web-based versions or at least allow sharing to users who are using the same citation manager.

In addition, designers of citation managers have become inspired by the success of social networking sites and have began to mimic such sites by adding features that encourage collaboration, finding people in similar fields etc.

Another crowded field such products/services include Citeulike, Mendley, 2collab, Wizfolio, Connotea , Labmeeting, ResearchGate, Nature Network, Zotero, plus huge list here

It’s hard to characterize these services as a whole and I have minimal experience with all but 3. There seems to be several classes

1) 100% web-based, delicious-like tools (e.g. Penntags, Connotea, Citeulike, 2collab, refworks) , these generally focus on uploading your citations and to varying degrees sharing with users but don’t have “cite as you write” features to aid writing of your thesis.

2) Citation managers in web-based form (e.g Wizfolio, Refworks)

3) Citation managers in desktop form but also include web-based versions (e.g. EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero)

An excellent discussion about such tools can be found here and here

The main thing I’m looking for here in such services is the ease at which you can share resources, typically links to articles.

Connotea, Citeulike and Zotero, Mendeley are either completely web-based or allow you to push lists of resources to a web-based site, which does not require users to login to view.

Typical examples would be Mendeley’s public collection or Zotero’s groups. Note: If you want to share pdfs or full-texts you can use Mendeley’s shared collection option instead.


http://www.mendeley.com/collections/23204/Valuation-of-library-services/


http://www.zotero.org/groups/library_valuation/items

Citeulike is probably even better since it’s web-based page allows exporting of citations in various formats including RIS, txt, RSS etc. RIS is particularly important to support since most citation managers support that.


http://www.citeulike.org/user/aarontaycheehsien

Somewhat less ideal is EndNote, which allows sharing only between users of EndNote web. Of course, you could just export selected Endnote citations into txt and then email the list to the user.

#4 RSS feed readers – Google reader etc

I have written quite a bit about using rss feed reader as a discovery tool. You can use Google reader to share with users, or post to a shared item page for those who don’t have a account. Added plus, users can give feedback by liking it.

One disadvantage is that you run into problems when you are trying to share to more than two persons. You can have a public page of (1) Your starred items (2) Things you shared (and (3) specific folders) but what if you need to share to more than 2 users?

#5 Collaborative tools – wikis, google docs etc.

Of the tools managed above, most of them have few collaborative capabilities.

If you intend to collaborative on a long term basis, chances are you might want to go with either tools that are designed along such lines.

The first major class would be wikis of course.

In addition, there are collaborative tools such as etherpad, google docs, Zoho Office, Buzzword etc. Then there is the possible game changer Googlewave. These are web-based word processors that allow several people to collaborate on at the same time, changes can be seen in real-time or near real-time.

The chief disadvantage of such tools is that the input is unstructured.

#6 Blogs – e.g. Posterous, Tumbler.

Anyone tried using blogs to share resources? One could use widgets to pull in data from any one of the earlier classes of services and then allow users to comment.

“Light blogging” platforms like Posterous, Tumbler might also be used, due to the ease in which you can bring in data from various sources (including just emailing it!) and to push them to other sources.

Odd ideas, use the email options in databases, to post straight to Posterous?

#7 Social networks, life aggregation services – Facebook, Friendfeed etc

I have never heard of anyone trying this, but in theory you could set up special facebook pages, or Friendfeed rooms to share resources. Both services, make it easy for users to comment, “like” entries and provide real-time updates.

Friendfeed is similar to Posterous and provides half a dozen ways to bring in information, and to export the stream.

Another interesting feature about Friendfeed , you can share files!

You could import links into Friendfeed using various methods, from sending emails, to the use of bookmarklets (either the built-in one or generic ones like kwout), or importing results from RSS feeds (e.g. Citeulike ,Zotero, Mendeley’s public collection)

Below, I experiment with pushing rss feeds from Citeulike and Mendeley’s public collection


http://friendfeed.com/researchshared

Many libraries are experimenting with Facebook pages. I have limited experience in this area, but I wonder if one could use facebook pages as a sort of subject guide, or more specifically to share resources to specific users.

#8 Startup pages – e.g. Netvibes, Pageflakes

Startup pages is another topic I have written a lot about, though I have typically written about it in terms of being a general subject guide, rather than being a specific resource list for a specific user.

Conclusion

I’ve probably left out, several other ways you can share resources, feel free to leave comments on how you share resources.

Viewing research alerts – full text within Google reader

Summary

Google reader has introduced two interesting features, “share” which allows uers to share interesting feed items to users who follow you on Google reader (or to the shared item page) and the newer “Send to” feature which allows you to send interesting feed items to be posted on various services including delicious, facebook and citeulike.

These features are useful, particularly when reading full feeds of normal blogs where all information on the feed item is available within Google reader and the decision whether to share can be made immediately. But this isn’t the case for feeds of research alerts from say sciencedirect or a typical journal table of content feed. In most cases, you would need to go to the vendor site to read more before deciding to share.

Even if one could tell just from the research alert rss feed item that the item is interesting enough to share, one would still typically need to click on the feed item to go to the vendor site to download the full-text, and to export to citation manager.

So one would need to vist the vendor page anyway.

I suggest that one can install Better GReader which loads the vendor page in Google reader itself. This allows you to work within Google reader all the time. You can download full-text, import citations into your citation manager, share with users all without leaving Google reader!

Introduction

In a prior posts, I talked a lot about use of RSS feeds for research alerts, particularly in “Aggregating sources for academic research in a web 2.0 world“. The idea here was to use your RSS feed reader has a discovery tool, before importing it into your citation manager.

The workflow would be as follows.

1. Click on rss feed to view what’s available.
2. If article appears to be interesting, click on it to go to the article on the vendor’s site, eg. ScienceDirect, Web of Science etc to see full details.
3. Download the full-text. If you have not treated the RSS feed using the method I described here, you will need some method to handle ezproxy links (see post here showing 5 different methods).
4. Import the citation into your reference manager.

This work-flow requires that you leave your rss feed reader to visit the vendor site and then carry out steps 3,4 there.

But is it possible to actually do all that without even visiting the vendor site?

Using Better GReader to view all contents in Google reader

Yes! You can handle all this within your rss feed reader without even visiting the vendor’s site if you happen to be using Google reader to read your feeds and in addition install Better GReader.

Normally you would click on the title “Financial Market Volatility and Primary Placement” and a new window/tab would open and you would be brought to the vendor page.

But with Better GReader installed, this would be shown instead as the page loads within Google reader

From there you can download the pdf directly (I’m assuming you are using the method described here or are using Zotero’s auto-proxy function)

You can also export citations normally. Incidentally this works fine with Zotero’s normal citation export as well (click on icon in the url address bar).

Google reader’s send to feature

But what if you want to share the item with friends using other methods? You might want to share it on a bookmarking site like delicious, send to social networks like Facebook, or even to blogs like Blogger, Posterous etc. Normally you would use a bookmarklet, but as you might expect it doesn’t work here using this method.

This is where Google reader’s new send to feature becomes useful. “Send to” feature allows you to send selected articles to various places from social bookmarking services like delicious, to blogs like Blogger, Posterous, to social networks like Facebook, MySpace, to microblogging platforms like Twitter and more.

As the send to feature is customizable, there has being an explosion of ideas, with people using the feature to send stuff to Evernote, rememberthemilk addtoany, google bookmarks , sharethis and more here and here.

But possibly the most exciting is the ability to send to Citeulike – a free web-based citation manager. The instructions are here.

As Citeulike and Mendeley (another free citation manager which has both web-based and desktop versions) are collaborating this means it will link to Mendeley as well.

So if you use either of the two has your citation manager, you have a quick way to send articles to them as well.

Somewhat related is that you can share/share with note interesting articles with users who follow you on Google reader.

Whether it’s a librarian sharing with a patron, or researchers sharing between colleagues, or a student sharing with his supervisor, this can come in handy. What if the person you are sharing with does not use google reader? No problem point him to the google shared list page
which is a webpage that lists all your shared items.

Sharing items and the ability to transfer items to citation managers etc within Google reader are very useful features, but as mentioned before the research alerts received via RSS are partial feeds, in other words, they show only some minimal information, and you would definitely have to visit the vendor page itself to get full information.

Certainly you can’t download the full text from within your RSS feed reader, so you would definitely need to visit the vendor site. Similarly, chances are you would like to read the article first, before you shared with others.

So ideally to take advantage of the two latest google reader feature, you would need some way to read the article (or at least look at the full details) on Google reader , without leaving google reader.

And I just showed you how.

Credits

The idea of using Better GReader came from “sphoke” posting in the zotero forum.

Does your library have a Firefox add-on collection?

Libraries that are big on Library 2.0 tend to offer a bunch of browser plugins/addons in the effort to reach out to the users who don’t feel the need to visit the Library Portal.

They offer custom toolbars, some prefer Libx, others are big on Conduit toolbars. Many progressive libraries are big fans of the firefox addon Zotero for citation management, many more offer opensearch plugins. All of these are available as Firefox add-ons of course.

Even Librarians who just use the standard add-ons, tend to have a list of add-ons that they can’t live without and love to recommend these to their patrons.

While submitting new Firefox addons to the official http://addons.mozilla.org web site isn’t a particularly new thing, there was no way to group all your favourite add-ons together and offer them in one place.

Until recently that is when Firefox revamped their website, allowing “developers” (all you need to do is register, no programming required!) to offer customized Firefox Add-on collections.

What libraries could do is to upload their unique firefox addons onto the Mozilla addon site and then bundle them together with other useful standard addons as a collection and offer them together to users.

As always I checked to see if any libraries had this idea and indeed some had (It’s hard to have a really original idea, librarians are really creative!).

As of writing these collections include the “Law Librarian recommended Add-ons” (University of Wisconsin-Madison) , “Swem Library“(Earl Gregg Swem Library), “Copenhagen Digital Library” , “Recommended for Library staff” (Ada Community Library) .

Of them all, the first is probably the most interesting and many of the ideas here is owed to that collection. They don’t have many subscribers yet though.

Managing the collection is quite simple particularly if one uses the Mozilla Firefox Add-on Collector , as you can add to your collection add-ons that are installed in your browswer(See feature list and video demos of creating a collection and setting up a collection that updates based on your installed addons).

Below is a screenshot of how you can select add-ons that have already being installed in your browser to be added to your custom collection.

Users can subscribe to a collection via RSS feed or better yet if they install the Mozilla Firefox Add-on Collector, they will be notified whenever the collection updates.

The last is a interesting feature, particularly if you are offering your own custom add-ons and constantly update them. Do note that add-ons you offer in the collection must be hosted on the Mozilla add-on site, so you will have to submit to them first.

So what can you add to your library collection? Some ideas

Opensearch plugins

I was looking at the Law Librarian recommended Add-ons and to my surprise I noticed that opensearch plugins (known as search engine add-ons in Firefox such as this) could be added to the collection as well.

If your library supports opensearch plugins for your library catalogue and subscribed databases (customized using the necessary ezproxy link), you can submit them to be added on the Firefox add-on site then add them to your collection. See this example

Custom toolbars and search related toolbars

Many libraries offer custom toolbars such as Libx, Conduit toolbars as well as other custom toolbars for download (see examples here, here ). Those can go into your collection.

How about a Book Burro toolbar? Or maybe OCLC’s Openurl referrer? Some libraries have add-ons that display availability of items listed on Amazon. You can also add ezproxy related addons

I’m playing with a pilot/experiment WebMynd add-on that includes library catalogue results alongside the default results whenever the user searches Google.com, Yahoo.com etc and that could be added as well.

There are also quite a lot of unique custom made for library add-ons being demoed at various “Library Labs” that could conceivably be added for those libraries.

Citation related addons

Zotero is the obvious choice here. Law Librarian recommended Add-ons collection also includes many interesting Zoterio plugins I was not aware of including Zotero Plugin for MONK Project , SEASR Analytics for Zotero , Zotz .

There are also sticky note/web annotation/scrapbook related add-ons like Diigo which I favour.

Others

There’s a ton of other addons you can add to your collection, that can help making research easier or are just so useful you can’t leave them out (e.g Adblock, Autopager), see for example this list.

Definitely add greasemonkey if you are offering greasemonkey scripts.

Conclusion

One thing I’m curious about is whether it would be possible or even legal to upload add-ons that are slightly customized. E.g A Zotero add-on
with specific options setup for your institution users (e.g. Openurl resolver settings set to the correct url).

Are there any more libraries creating Firefox Collections? What do you add? I’m interested to hear from you.