I’ve been really interested in BlogShares for the past couple of months. (Okay, obsessed, but I think this is the kind of thing librarians need to be paying attention to).
For the uninitiated, BlogShares is an online fantasy game which mimics the stock market. The stocks are based, not on companies, but on blogs. You start out with $500 in B$ currency and see how well you can do. The game can be played for free, but you are only allowed a limited number of transactions. Premium members who pay a nominal fee per year, have no such limits. Essentially, the blogs’ worth are based on how many incoming links they have, but buying and selling can result in higher or lower prices.
The truly fascinating part of the game for me, with very real library implications, has to do with the directory that they have created. The rules of the game define what makes an active blog. Players can gain and chips for correctly reporting errors for inactive blogs, spam blogs, non-blogs, etc. They can also gain chips and karma for correctly voting blogs into industries. Players with a certain level of karma, and presumably more experience/accurate votes, then moderate the initial votes before the blog is finally assigned to those categories. Moderators who are too quick or players who make consistently incorrect votes are often reported so the controls are pretty good.
So let’s say, someone looks at my blog. Demographically, by clicking on my profile, they could immediately vote for Americas, USA, New York, Buffalo, female. As I have only posted in one language, they could vote for English. If time goes by and I start posting exclusively in French (unlikely to happen), someone could come along and vote against English and pick French. Reading the content, they might then look at the industry organization and determine that the blog covers primarily libraries, and specifically university libraries. Arguably the case could be made that it also concerns a lot about education and what they term special interest libraries. Or not. (Players do get docked for incorrectly voting so they may leave the more complicated content categories to others. There is also strategic voting and how it relates to rare ideas, but that’s another post).
There’s a search interface, which admittedly could be better, as could the directory they’ve established. However, as this is meant to be a game, that’s understandable. I could, however, go out there, and search for blogs from Buffalo and get a decent enough list.
It’s not really tagging. The categories are not arbitrary. I don’t think they think in these terms, but the creators of the game have set up their own folk taxonomy. New industries come along, old ones are reorganized, it all works out in a fairly organized fashion and it’s fascinating to watch. Players are acting a lot like catalogers and they’re paying for the privilege.
I’m not suggesting that we fire all the catalogers and charge patrons to reorganize our monographs. Certainly this is nothing to fear. Just as Yahoo! Answers or Google Answers were never any threat to reference librarians. I’ve been a librarian long enough to remember the lectures on how the World Wide Web was some vast uncharted ocean that would be impossible to ever organize. Well, here are users–untrained, non-MLS-possessing users–organizing blogs. For fun.
Something to think about.
And now back to the depths of evidence based practice, from which I may never emerge…