An Introduction to Books, Bytes and Blogs

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been passionate about collections of all sorts—books, coins, sports cards—and as I grew older, I worked hard to keep my digital music collection organized and find the most effective ways to keep up to date with my favorite websites.

Andrew WalshIn my junior year of college, I started to realize that library and information science was right in line with this passion. The impact of new technologies on the ways we seek, locate, evaluate and use information in all forms makes it a crucial field for just about everyone, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Now I’m working and studying at the University of Illinois, which brings me to this blog.

Combination of Perspectives

My graduate program’s interdisciplinary nature exposes me to a wide variety of literature on the creation, organization, regulation, distribution and use of information. These topics have vital applications in diverse arenas ranging from libraries to businesses and even our own personal web-surfing behavior. I first and foremost want to share some of these ideas I’m learning about in a way that’s directly relevant to other people’s lives.

About a year ago I became a serious blogger. I have created several of my own blogs, most notably Tickle City Award and Bowling Alleys USA, and I’ve also worked with a variety of clients writing articles, promoting via social media and improving on- and off-page SEO. I became active on Twitter and through conversations and hashtag chats got introduced to some amazing people with great ideas.

This combination of experiences has given me an interesting take on online search and navigation, dealing with information overload, social media and similar topics.

I see many of these things from one perspective when I’m in class during the day, then from a very different one when I return home and interact with other bloggers online. These two worlds naturally have some very different values, but I think they’re more similar than you’d initially think.

Adapting to a Changing Information World

I believe Google’s innovations are a great benefit to society and blogs and social media are incredible new ways to share ideas, but I also stress that we can’t completely forget about human organization and cataloging and the importance of expert authority.

A big question arises: How do we best integrate our values of authority and categorization in a world that is increasingly digital, automated and mobile? And who exactly are the true “experts” today?

It gets much more complicated than merely tradition versus technology. Traditional methods of proving qualifications are inadequate, as experts aren’t just found in books, universities and major media outlets anymore. They can now opt to fly solo and build their following exclusively through a personal blog and self-publishing. Over the past couple months I’ve met quite a few of them.

But in an era where everyone can publish, who should you listen to? Who can you trust? And how should you find and keep track of them all?

On the other side of things, organizations and businesses are steadily coming into every online community they think their audience might frequent, sparking a whole range of reactions from people who were introduced to the social web as a place for personal, private communications.

Mission for the Blog

I hope to discuss these and related questions on this blog. The information landscape has never had as much potential as it does today, but it’s also never been so complicated. As I’m only beginning to study these topics myself, I would love for others to chime in and share what they think, especially if they have different ideas.

I’m busy working on my first batch of posts, and I’ll give you an idea of the kind of topics I’ll be covering:

  • How well you can “trust” Google, Wikipedia, etc.
  • How to best organize your blog for better navigation
  • Comparing writing a guest post to trying to publish an article
  • Criteria for evaluating websites
  • Contrasting with library catalogs and what they tell us about how humans search
  • Understanding the information cycle, and how it is changing
  • Most useful Google searching tips

Although my main goal is to reflect on the state of information today and spark a discussion, not provide quick and dirty “hacks,” I still hope you will get some practical use out of my posts.

If you’d like to connect with me, follow me on twitter @walshandj and drop me a line. I’d love to hear any ideas or comments!

One Response to An Introduction to Books, Bytes and Blogs
  1. young-eun
    February 3, 2011 | 10:05 pm

    I think this is a great idea.

    the bulleted ideas at the end is even great for middle school, high school aged groups, since this is a big issue that teachers deal with in terms of validity on the net
    also this generation of kids are growing up increasingly in a digital age, with books online or on their ipods and itouches.

    you could do a lot with this blog, because all the info that you are exploring are changing constantly. so you’ll obviously have tons of new material all the time and a chance to evaluate and re-evaluate previous topics.

    definitely a good call!

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