We all know that there are a lot of web 2.0 tools out there. Some, like Twitter, fill a specific niche market. (Seriously, it may be fun, but how many people really NEED a microblog?) Others tools, such as Flickr, have a more widespread appeal that is easy to identify.
At the Library 2.0 Summit, Amanda discussed the issue of multiple information streams and the rise of personal information aggregators to help manage the seemingly endless flow of data. As I thought about this, I started wondering just how many personal information streams we actually need. Do people really need MySpace AND Facebook? Flickr AND Picasa? Twitter AND Tumblr?
Perhaps the analogy here is that of flathead vs. phillips vs. hex screwdrivers. I can accept the fact that people need different tools to do specific jobs. If two similar web 2.0 tools have some key differences in core functionality, then perhaps it makes sense to use both of them. But if you don’t have to, why would you assemble something using flathead, phillips, and hex screws? Most people simply wouldn’t. Pick one type and go to work!
With the increasing number of Web 2.0 tools, people are exploring more and more avenues for communication, but this had led to a situation in which people sometimes have too much incoming and outgoing data. Just trying to manage their own information is already time-consuming. But trying to follow the information streams generated by friends and colleagues takes it to another level.
Some people are now turning turning to various aggregators as a way to consolidate information. An obvious example is Meebo. For those who NEED to have AIM, Yahoo, MSN, and Google Talk, ICQ, and Jabber chat accounts, Meebo bring them all together in one interface. Friendfeed offers an alternative for bringing together more diverse types of social networking tools.
While these are interesting tools, it seems that they are treating the symptoms rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. I think we’re now at the point where we have so much information available that we can’t decide which is the most important. We subscribe to multiple information sources because we don’t want to miss out on something important.. The end result though, is that we have so many information sources that we can’t thorougly digest any of them. As a result, we probably wind up missing out on many important things anyway.
Multitasking is not always a good thing.
In her opening keynote, Sarah Houghton-Jan referred to monolithic library websites. It’s easy to think of some library buildings as monolithic structures – massive, sprawling, cavernous creations that patrons find both intimidating and unnavigable. Are we now creating websites that patrons find just as intimidating and just as unnavigable?
Libraries try to offer more and better services, but are these services that patrons need or want? I’ve seen some library websites that offer a staggering array of services splashed seemingly haphazardly across the screen and ultimately resembling a myspace nightmare with every possible plug-in and add-on known to humankind. In trying to reach out to patrons, do these monstrosities actually push them away?
In some cases, too much information can be just as bad as too little. If a monolithic website frightens patrons away, then there is a problem. In some cases less truly is more.