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Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve recently developed a Facebook page where I work and some of the discussions I’ve had with colleagues have prompted me to write this post.

It’s very easy to just jump on a bandwagon as an academic library and start-up a Facebook page, Twitter feed, Youtube site, Flickr page etc etc and before long you’ll need a dedicated Social Media professional to keep it all up-to-date. Actually I don’t think it’ll be long before this is a familiar role for academic libraries, it’s already the case in many commercial companies.

But what’s the point? What’s it all for? And do students really want you invading their social spaces with details on the latest books and resources you have?

Well my response to it would simply be adapt or die. Facebook is the most visited site on the internet. End of. Anyone who works in an academic library will be used to seeing students log-in to a machine and then, almost by way of habit, log-in to Facebook. If you can at least put something about your services into that omnipresent medium you are improving your promotion of library resources and improving student’s access to information – which is surely what we’re here to do?

Other social media sites like Twitter and Youtube are worth considering but I would say Facebook is the one you need to nail first.

 

English: Google China

Image via Wikipedia

In his rather good book about the mighty Google Ken Auleta said that one of Google’s strengths was that it was a platform to the rest of the web and that it wanted users to spend as little time on the Google search page as possible. He was comparing it to portal sites like Yahoo! and AOL which rapidly fell out of favour at the turn of the century while Google grew from strength to strength. When Google first appeared in 1998 the difference between it and other search engine sites was stark. The minimal feel of Google was liberating and allowed users to be in control of the information they viewed rather than suggesting it like Yahoo! or the like.

Step forward nearly 15 years (I know it’s been that long) and things have changed. Although Google is still unequivocally the king of search in most developed countries (with China and Russia notable exceptions) it has had to change its strategy to deal with a new kind of enemy – the social network, and particularly Facebook. Recent research has shown American’s spend five times as much web time on Facebook than any Google site. This is why when you compare Google today to how it was even a few years back it has become far more concerned with how long you spend on its site. Nowadays through search personalisation, Google+, Gmail, Blogger and so on Google wants to keep you right where they can see you.

What does this mean for the future? Well with Google+ going live this week there’s no going back, Google is now slowly becoming a portal and in doing so is a long long way from its roots.

Ever seen Minority Report? You know it has that mad little fella who used to be a bit of a sex symbol and is now a scientarianist or something. It’s an okay film but not as good as the book and it has a little something to do with the subject of this post which isa rather funky visual search engine called Search-cube.

Powered by Google Search-Cube takes your search query and presents your search engine result pages as thumbnails grouped together in a three dimensional cube. And it isn’t just full pages. As the image below shows it groups together images, videos and pages.

Search-cube results page

It is essentially a visual re-imagining of cluster search engines like Carrot2 and the now defunct wonder wheel which was an option for displaying search results in Google. Unlike those and other clustering search engines though this has the added visual factor enabling you to preview your results holistically before you click through. This negates the need for scrolling with the user only having to move the cube around. The preview thumbnails are a bit rough round the edges at the moment but this is likely to improve.

And so back to the start of this post and Minority Report where the characters used gloves to navigate the internet through literally grabbing images and pages and looking at them. Search-cube feels like a small step in that direction…oh yes and it’s powered by Google (nothing slips past them does it!).

Over and out.

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