ST 9/12: From sites to streams


The IFLA conference in Helsinki demonstrated that communication patterns on the web are changing. Ordinary blogging is strongly down – compared with earlier conferences, while twittering is way up.

Less than fifty blog posts (with the wlic2012 tag) were published from April 1 till August 15.  More than fifty tweets were published (or republished) during the last four hours, from 11.30 AM to 3.30 PM (Helsinki time).

This year’s IFLA Express was nicely designed, with main articles in the middel and RSS streams from both channels on the side: blogs to the left and tweets to the right.

The normal way of keeping up to date with the news flow is now to follow the relevant hash tag(s). Using Flipboard – or similar aggregators –  I can select any hashtag and scan the global web for input. The results are presented in a magazine format, with a nice mix of pictures, text and tiny information boxes.

The official conference tag was #wlic2012. Some related tags are

  • #cyc4lib – the bubbling cycling for libraries unconference
  • #faife – which belongs – surprise, surprise – to FAIFE
  • #stronglibraries – referring to the theme of the new President Elect
  • #ifladial – tag for the new Division 4 working group – to give advice on IFLA communications (we hope for views in all directions)

Stop publishing web pages …

As Anil Dash wrote a couple of days ago,

  • Most users on the web spend most of their time in apps. The most popular of those apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and others, are primarily focused on a single, simple stream that offers a river of news which users can easily scroll through, skim over, and click on to read in more depth.
  • Most media companies on the web spend all of their effort putting content into content management systems which publish pages. These pages work essentially the same way that pages have worked since the beginning of the web, with a single article or post living at a particular address, and then tons of navigation and cruft (and, usually, advertisements) surrounding that article.
  • Users have decided they want streams, but most media companies are insisting on publishing more and more pages. And the systems which publish the web are designed to keep making pages, not to make customized streams.
  • It’s time to stop publishing web pages.

IFLA has largely moved from paper to the web. But the organization is still emphasizing site management and improvement. The problem is the user. We get accustomed to streaming media – and start to produce our own RSS feeds. The competition for attention is fierce, so we try to be brief, pertinent and immediately useful.

Sites feel safe

Librarians, on the contrary, tend to like web sites. Sites feel safe. They can be structured hierarchically, layer by layer and facet by facet.    They replicate the Gutenberg universe on the web. They provide a feeling of control.

But they do not work as intended. Studies of user behavior on the web shows that visitors typically spend two or three minutes on each site they visit. They move like mosquitoes: fast and fickle.

I support better web design. But the IFLA web should learn from the results of many user studies. Most vistors want a quick shower rather than a long bath.

IFLA could also conduct its own user studies. There are simple, cheap and quite effective ways of doing that: read Anil Dash, Steve Krug, Jakob Nielsen or any other recognized usability author for suggestions.


3 Responses to “ST 9/12: From sites to streams”

  1. Susanna Leberman Says:

    I thought this was really interesting and informative the way you connected IFLA with I forwarded this post to one of my library directors for us to discuss and we had a nice brain storming session.

  2. PL 33/12: From San Juan to Helsinki « Plinius Says:

    […] ST 9/12: From sites to streams. Site centric communication becomes less important […]

  3. P 51/12: Blogging i august « Plinius Says:

    […] ST 9/12: From sites to streams. Site centric communication becomes less important […]

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