Personal perspectives on information science, the evolving Internet, delivery of public services online, Web 2.0, the Web of Data, the Semantic Web, communities, folksonomies and more. With an emphasis upon convergence between some or all of the above, and a UK slant.
The existingEnquireservice, which I've talked aboutbefore, is now joined byDiscoverandRead. Of these, Discover is the main topic of this post, but I may come back to the others in future...
The original People's Network rollout saw 32,000 computers installed in libraries, those libraries connected to the Internet, and library staff trained to support the use of ICT by their patrons. It represented an all-too-rare Government IT success, delivered on time and within budget, andused(with 11.7 million sessions in 2003).
The People's NetworkServiceis an attempt to gather a number of resources that users of the equipment might wish to access in order to learn or develop, and to offer meaningful access to them.
The basic search interface is simple, although content sources are currently somewhat limited. It's early days, and more content will presumably be added, but some work may be required to clean up the results screens as the number of hits rises. Using one of the site's example searches, 'festival of britain', returns 1,327 results with no obvious way to sort or rank them.
Alongside search, the site offers a (currently) limited personalisation capability, where a registered user can include web feeds from theBBCor24 Hour Museumon their Discovery Service home page. A demonstration of capability, certainly. But arethoseresources useful inthiscontext?
Also included are an organised set of 'Quicklinks'. These will help some users, no doubt, but I didn't like thehierarchy, and was disappointed that clicking on asubjectsimply returned a list of links to other web sites... without any explanation as to what I might find there. What about theRDN? What about the work the BBC has been doing with its search engine? What aboutYahoo!? Any of these could surely offer a far richer experience in this space. It struck me as no better than the lists of web links that most libraries started hand-crafting during the nineties; exactly the trend that the RDN was established to counter.
The final major function is the “Find a library” capability. As those who've been reading for a while will know, the sector's truly dismal showing in this area has been a long-standinggripeofmine. And, the developers will be pleased to know, “Find a library”canfind the local library in Pocklington, so that's good. Never being satisfied for long, though, can I please have a map to show me how to get there, and maybe a search box into the library catalogue?
So, what do I think overall?
It's a good start, and may very well grow to become a useful service.But, and it's a big 'but', the whole presentation is far too “Destination Site” for my liking.Whydo I have to go there to search across all this stuff?Whydo I have to go there to find a library?Whycan't I find a library, and then easily find the nearest bus stop or car park? Or their doubtless limited opening hours?
The underlying services point to functions that are of value, but they're of value in a whole host of locations (thehome pageorportalof your local library or council, where you're sitting on a People's Network machine, for example - with familiarcouncilbranding and integration withlocalservices and language that mean far more to you than some fuzzy Government organisation in London, of which you've never heard).
Disaggregate, please. There's good stuff here. I just wish it weren'tonlyhere, and that it plugged more easily into similar efforts by others. How many Destinations can a person have at any one time, and why are none of them even close to being comprehensive?