Thursday, June 22, 2006

Back to basics

I've been swamped in Web2.0 stuff recently - between workshops I've attended and the blog workshop that Steve & I ran. So I was feeling hopelessly behind the curve - frustrated at my slow progress and the fact that - despite all of the info that does float around in my head - I'm so far behind the code4lib folks and the Web2.0 gurus.... then Steve sent me a link to Marshall Breeding's Systems Librarian column: "Web2.0? Let's get to Web1.0 First" (May 2006, Computers in Libraries - available through InfoTrac).

At first, I'll admit it, I bristled in reaction to the title, hoping that this wouldn't be another Luddite diatribe about how impractical innovative technologies are for libraries (as if many in our field need further dissuasion from trying new things), then I read it. I'm happy to report that it was not.

Although I'm not as into the orthodoxy of XHTML Strict encoding as Mr. Breeding is [and further, I wouldn't necessarily take XHTML Strict validation as the measure of a website's success - it's only a measure insofar as it provides a foundation for meeting the users' needs...], the bigger point he's trying to make is right on. We need to get our basic web functionality in order before leaping into Web2.0 technologies.

Mr. Breeding's article was timely for me, because it validated all of the boring, tedious, nearly invisible behind-the-scenes prep work that I've been engaged in so much of my time since beginning here... I would love to redo everything and immediately give the website more of a Web2.0 look and feel, but part of my work is to fix what already exists. In getting it in shape, of course, I'm "shoring up the infrastructure" to ready us for Web2.0, as Marshall puts it.

The other article I recently read that made me feel ok about the behind-the-scenes work I've been doing (and thus my slow evolution, slow inroads into Web2.0) is Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox from March 20, 2006, entitled "Growing a Business Website: Fix the Basics First". Nielsen reminds us of the importance of getting the user what they need quickly. We need to make navigation intuitive and keep our writing brief, for example. (I know that this is my personal weakness; I need to use fewer adjectives, adverbs, and meaningless prepositions...)

We can't forget or completely discount Web2.0 tech - we just need to be aware that we're running on 2 tracks (at least) - both doing the tedious but necessary shoring up of our Web1.0 sites and starting to get into Web2.0.

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