The conclusion of the Ask4Stuff experiment
The experiment was a success... in that we learned about many things, including:
- Creating this new type of social search has a measurable positive impact on search engine ranking
- Getting library services to work and play nicely with mainstream consumer applications can be done
- The switch to Twitter's OAUTH authentication from their basic authentication was painful and time consuming
- The usage of a social media service linked to library materials needs more thought
- Users outside the library community participated in the experiment with as much vigor as those inside our community
- Some natural language processing mapped through classification systems such as Dewey produce improved results
This kind of "failure," though, is just the kind of project the Innovation Lab is set up to run and observe. We hope for successful adoption in every project but we don't go into experiments like this one thinking, "This will take the world by storm!" We go into it thinking, "This sounds interesting; but we have more to learn before we commit to a direction." Which is exactly what happened. one of the goals for the Innovation Lab: "Go out there and learn from everything you do, even when it fails." As long as we're honest about our goals, and scrupulous about transparency, we really can't fail. We just kind of succeed... sideways ;-)
To conclude: as of April 1, 2011, we won't be supporting the Ask4Stuff Twitter account/service. We'd like to very much thank all the folks who tried it out, provided feedback and linked-to/friended/followed the project. One of the most pleasant things we learned from this is that there are a *LOT* of people who like to play with things like this. We'll be counting on that for future Innovation Labs projects.
If you can think of any interesting uses for the service that we didn't touch on, or want to know more about how we did the experiment or what our specific results were, please feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com. One of the other things we're dedicated to at the Innovation Labs is sharing our work. If you think you've got a home for Ask4Stuff (or a related step-child application), don't hesitate to let me know. We are continuing to incubate ideas for libraries' participation in social services.
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