Will The Future of Reference…

…Be Found in Social Q&A Sites? 

I think so.  Ask.MetaFilter.com is one of my first stops whenever I'm seeking information – whether it's technology, parenting or pretty much anything else

Jessamyn may not be going quite as far as me on this but she did have a recent post on the topic

“[It] really comes down to an elucidation of one of the first things I
learned in library school: people ask their friends to help them with
their information needs before they ask experts or professionals.”

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    People start trying to answer by asking their friends. Makes perfect sense. Ask someone you know and trust.
    People on-line are not as trusted, but sometimes a neutral party can help, especially if many people think the same thing. Sometimes not. But this is mostly for smaller stakes questions. If this recipe flops, who cares?
    When we have higher stakes questions, we go to someone with expertise. A librarian is only part way up the chain. They have better quality answers if they're worth their salt. E.g., is youth crime increasing like the Conservatives say? Or is it decreasing? StatsCan says it decreasing.
    In the end, we may still need someone with specialized knowledge, like a doctor, for a really high stakes question.
    I think the way forward is think in terms of information ecology, many sources providing different answers for different contexts. The web provides a broader picture, not the complete one.

    Posted 17 Sep 2008 at 3:08 am
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    That's the beauty of Ask.MetaFilter – a community has developed where people know each other – mostly in a virtual sense but occasionally via in-person meet-ups (I organized one in Regina myself.)
    As someone builds a virtual reputation, people know what areas they can look to them for information on. For example, there are a number of librarians on Ask MetaFilter. There are a number of doctors and some lawyers and others with various types of specialized knowledge – either as practitioners or hobbyists.
    Of course, the more serious the question, the less likely you should trust random, anonymous online advice – the doctors and lawyers are usually the first to point that out. But to me, sites like this are not a case of one or the other or another level – it's all a continuum of knowledge.
    I would say that a well-developed online community can do a great job of covering almost all the bases – from “what's a good Mexican restaurant in Saskatoon?” to “Is this lump on my arm something to worry about?”
    Libraries, which have a municipal mandate for the most part, are well-positioned to develop these types of local, tight-knit, virtual communities.

    Posted 21 Sep 2008 at 7:24 pm

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