Monday, 7 March 2011

Using Social Media tools for information searches.

We have been exploring social media tools in relation to their use in finding information and gathering data, which for me has had mixed results.

Firstly we were required to find material on ‘effective multimedia presentations on the web’. Beginning with Twitter, I found little when searching on ‘multimedia presentations’ so ditched ‘multimedia’, assuming that many web-based presentations would in fact be multimedia. ‘Presentations’ on its own proved to be too broad, so I tried ‘web presentations’. which was better. I found many examples of specific presentation products, or individual presentations, where the focus is on the topic not the presentation itself. I then found some reasonably useful comparison articles and an example of an effective web presentation which invites interaction from the viewer. I found some useful tips in presenting over the web in a video format in a blog by Elizabeth Kuhnke, and a paper prepared by the 1080 Group. The presentation product ‘Skateignite’ kept coming up in different formats - good marketing I guess.
Unfortunately I did not have much success at all with Facebook, but then I am not sure why this should be an effective search tool. I found a community for multimedia presentations, examples of companies/products, a wikipedia entry, a course on multimedia presentations, and then the most useful part which were web search results, but then I could have done a more effective web search directly.
Using Quora, I typed in ‘multimedia presentations’ and straight away got possible questions relating to this topic. By going through the answers I got seemingly quality responses from people that know the subject (although would need to check them out), and when I tried ‘presentations’ on its own I got more questions and responses, some of which would be valuable in evaluating effective multimedia web based presentations.
SocialMention was less successful, seemingly repeating what I had already found in Twitter, although going further back. I had to wade through a lot of irrelevant material to get anywhere, and I am not sure why it all came up, perhaps when I have more time I will try and work out why this should be.

For the second part of the task I had difficulty finding a subject which social media could cope with easily, and had to reject ‘librarians as teachers’ and ‘indexing’ (only web indexing when I meant back of the book indexing), and ‘Charles Frears’ (relevant tweets but nothing I could bookmark). I settled on ‘library induction’, and found a useful presentation on Twitter. I found nothing much of relevance on SocialMention or Facebook. On Facebook there were references to Charles Frears and a Staffordshire library induction, but no information. I was fascinated to read in Quora about the richest librarian and the most intelligent librarian - but nothing on induction, indexing or Charles Frears.

I had similar problems in setting up RSS and feeds. I found a blog for multimedia presentations and set up a feed in Diigo, although not much has come through. ‘Library induction’ only features as a one off subject on blogs about other library functions and activities, so I subscribed to one with a good article but will not expect anything else to come through.

I think the point is with all these sites that whilst allowing searching they are not sophisticated, and one is more likely to have success with broad topics rather than specific subjects, other than people or products. One then has to manually narrow down, wading through the irrelevant to get to the useful. It is important to not be too focused, to allow for serendipity, and to try alternatives, as these tools have not been structured or designed as search technology, (no classification, no thesaurus, no fixed search terms). For the searches I was doing, Twitter provided the most, Quora had some relevant responses, whilst Facebook was not good and much on SocialMention irrelevant. As already mentioned I would imagine further exploration, understanding and use of more advanced search techniques might reap more useful material, so I will bear this in mind for future searching.


  1. Hi Sharon,

    Good to hear about your searching adventures. As you've experienced, depending on what you are searching for some tools might be more useful than others (horses for courses). Additionally there may be some a tinkering and fine tuning of the tool that can be done.

    I think twitter is always worth a try, as with all these things amending the search terms to get some useful results is always worth a shot.

    I had a look at facebook and 'library' and as you found out nothing obviously springs to mind. I think in time you will find more in facebook. I think the biggest value in facebook is stumbling across an interest group (there did not appear to be a library group that suited your needs) or an individual in the field who can be the gateway to great sources of information or other contacts.

    I am glad you found some value in Quora, as my experience has been very good and suggests this can be a very effective way to get quick and good quality opinions and advice.

    Social Mention theoretically to me should be a good source, but like you i've found a lot of irrelevant noise - worthy of further investigation though (and/or similar websites) - google offers a similar service.

    did find this in diigo - if any good me that an rss feed to this groupo will offer ongoing interesting information with perhaps a serendipitous find on library induction maybe - what do you think?

  2. Thanks Steve - firstly with regards to Diigo - I am already getting an e-mail feed from this group - didn't mention this as already in place and not part of this week's data gathering exercise, and yes I have got useful and interesting articles from it.
    And Facebook, well I have been using this as a social communication tool for a few years now, and use it extensively for communicating with friends and family, sharing photos, chat, messaging etc. so guess I find it hard to consider as an information gathering tool for more serious issues. I do participate in interest groups, including one for our village panto, another for a ladies group I belong to, another for Cheltenham races and another for a local band, so all to do with personal interests but not work or course related. I just don't think of it as a useful source of information of any substance; I can see it being used to find other people to share and collaborate with, but that's it.
    I hope to revisit this exercise at a later date to explore some of the tools further as I can see plenty of potential - but am just conscious of the need to keep moving on with the course!