Networking Online — How to Develop Your Own Knowledge Community

During the Web 2.0 presentation, one of the big questions that came up was:

 Ok.  I understand that the web is changing constantly, and that the way people are accessing information is changing along with it.   I get that, instead of using subject headings, people are using online friends as access points to their information.

But how do I get access to the people who truly know about the things I need to know?  If I am not part of this game, how can I become part of it?  Where do I start?

I felt this was an extremely interesting question, because it is the barrier right now between the early adopters and the rest of the world.   The rest of the world sees Web 2.0 as something for a class of geeks — all of who know each other and share their information.  Web 2.0 people share with Web 2.0 people and learn really quickly, while those outside those circles get nowhere.

In a way, this is not different from the job market, or other areas of inquiry like amateur theatre, clubs and organizations and so on.   The answer, in brief, is “networking” — not computer networking as in cables, modems, routers and protocols, but simple people networking.  Somehow, to be a part of Web 2.0, you have to establish and develop your own network of people with common interests — or at least that’s the perception.

Well, I want to qualify this belief a little.   Even if a person is not a part of the Wikipedia “network” so to speak, does not mean they don’t benefit from Wikipedia.   The Wikipedia network will speak about policies, blocked pages, edit wars, NPOV and the like, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read about these and other things in the encyclopedia.

At the same time, there is this feeling as if you are “left out” of part of the world because you don’t know the basic acronyms, truncations, product names and the like.

So here are some tips and stories on how to build your own Web 2.0 network, based on my experience.

  • Find One Trustworthy Source as Your Starting Point

When I first thought about a tech stream, I knew that technologies were changing in very interesting ways.   For instance, I saw how Newgrounds used ratings and reviews to determine what would and would not “survive” on their flash portal.   However, I also knew that this was just the beginning, and I couldn’t just Google at random to learn more.  I needed a starting point.

In my case, the starting point was Meredith Farkas’ Information Wants to Be Free.   I found her by doing a search for what I later found were called RSS feeds in Yahoo.

  •  Steal from this Person’s Blogroll

A Blogroll is, just simply, a list of links to blogs that a blogger reads.   So, Meredith’s blogroll is the list of blogs that she reads.   She leaves it open for people to preview.   So I stole, and stole, and stole.From Meredith’s site, I found a wide range of other great librarians.   Jenny Levine, the Shifted Librarian was one of my second stops, and I think it was Jenny who forwarded me to other folks like Stephen Abrams, Michael Stephens, the ALA TechSource blog, and a whole lot of other blogs.   If you are reading this now, and have stolen the feeds from these blogs, I say you have plenty  to build your own library innovation in technology network.

  •  Find Trusted Organizations and See What They Say

I found out about one of my favorite blogs, BoingBoing by looking at who won the Webby Awards in the blog category.   I bet going to other organizations’ sites would find other relevant blogs.   For instance, through my local newspaper’s site, I learned that the Government of Nova Scotia had an RSS feed page for their press releases.

  • Meet the People whose Blogs you Read in other formats

This is just a motivational factor, but when you see a person face-to-face, you get a more personal feeling behind reading their blog.   I met Jenny Levine, Michael Stephens and Stephen Abrams at the OLA Superconference in Toronto, which means I can imagine their voices and quoibles (like Michael Stephens’ penchant for saying “hot”) while I read the blog.

I also took an online course from David Lee King, which helped me get be more motivated to follow what he says about websites and the like.   It also made me cheer that much louder when I saw this.

  • Get Into Internet Messaging (IM)

I thought I was going to bug people by IM-ing them.   Well, so far I have IM’d Michael Stephen, Jenny Levine, David Lee King and Meredith Farkas and they were all great to chat with.   They really helped me get my mind around a few problems I encountered here and there and they didn’t appear bugged at all.  Honestly!

Besides these folks, you could always go to the Library Success Wiki’s Librarians Who IM page to see the IDs of people who are willing to chat with you.

  • Try Blogging Yourself

I use WordPress (obviously) and I get to see how many people visit my blog, what they search to find it and so on.   More importantly, I see who links to me and refers to what I say.   This means I can see people who at least have an interest in what I say (even if they disagree with me).    That way, I can see what they have to say, comment on their posts and so on.   So blogging does give you access to other who blog, which can help you build your network as well.

These are some suggestions to gain an online network for professional development purposes.   Another concern came from how to help people on the reference/reader’s advisory desk with these in mind.   If the way to search the web is to find contacts and people, how can you find a trustworthy blogger for such topics as “Sundial making” or “Advanced Knitting.”

I think I’ll approach that topic later on in another post.

4 thoughts on “Networking Online — How to Develop Your Own Knowledge Community

  1. Thanks Joshua!

    I just remembered that I oughta added this no-brainer for establishing networks: Technorati! Duh!

    As I said, I think the Web 2.0 “learn through connections” method has impacts on reference and reader’s advisory. I wonder what strategies reference folks should use to connect people to other online people?


  2. […] As I stated before, Web 2.0 seems to imply new approaches to online knowledge seeking. Instead of searching for subjects, social softwares make it possible to access information through the people who know seem to know it. Ironically, we have learned that the “find a knowledgable person” approach is the favored approach in real life as well. Web 2.0 only brings that experience through a computer. […]


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