Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't Touch That App!

Academic librarians are starting to figure out that maybe students don't want to be bothered on Facebook. Though a few students at my university have added me, I haven't sought out the Facebook profiles of students I know and work with.

Why? Because part of the point of college is finding and defining your own social space, and personally the last thing I would've wanted were professors or librarians sending me e-mail for no reason, or tracking me down on Usenet. What would any of that have had to do with my classes or my research?

That said, I'm all in favor of libraries finding new ways to promote themselves, or promoting themselves at all for that matter, and certainly online tools have a role to play here. And in recent weeks several librarians have pointed out that a Facebook app could be one great way to go. Open Worldcat jumped on board with this; considering what a great search tool Open Worldcat is turning into (with the potential to be an excellent example of what Read/Write Web calls vertical search), any way it can find to embed itself in already popular, highly-trafficked sites is probably to the good.

It's also useful, and that's a good thing too, since (also according to Read/Write Web) Facebook users are starting to develop app fatigue.

Personally, my app fatigue came pre-loaded. I love my friends, but I've ignored every one of your app promotions on Facebook because by and large, the apps have been neither useful nor fun. If it's neither useful nor fun, then it's just annoying.

There's something in this worth learning for libraries. Yes, of course the library is useful. Yes, of course a library Facebook app would be useful, too, as long as it's well designed and works as intended. But apps have the potential to be as intrusive as other ill-conceived entries into online social networks, so it's important to be judicious in their, well, application.

Personally, I wonder when someone's going to come up with the Facebook equivalent of the cellphone novel; that is, if they haven't already. That's the kind of viral content I could go for, personally.

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