London Online Information 2013
The Collins Dictionary defines ‘Information’ as’ knowledge acquired through experience or study’ and after two days at the London Online Information Conference – @OnlineInfo_13 – it became very apparent that what is important is not just the information itself but how we acquire it and what we are able to do with it. While this sounds daunting, it is actually very simple: all we need to do is ask questions.
Asking questions became a strong theme across the two days: we must interrogate our data, we must discover what our users do with our products, we must find out if our team has the necessary skills to use the data, we must query which information to focus on and which to filter out and we must ask what is possible and what is next?
From the initial keynote, we were encouraged to face up to the future and ask what we can do next. Mark Stevenson reminded us of the three types of technology: that which was invented before we were born, that which is invented between birth and the age of thirty-five and that which is invented after the age of thirty-five. While we are despondent to the first, we often get a job in or using the second and we are often terrified by the third. The Digital Revolution is not a new age to be scared of but rather a part of a continuing change in technology; a Digital Evolution. London Online exposed some fantastic responses to the possibilities that new technologies have posed by innovative businesses who are asking the right questions.
Something on everyone’s lips was: what is the role of the library in this Digital Evolution? Ellyssa Kroski, from the New York Law Institute, gave some great examples such as having a library card in the ‘mobile wallet’ and on demand services such as Hoopla, not to mention renting out the roofs as air space to generate extra revenue stream! Heini Oikkoonen from Helsinki City Library explained how asking questions of the users influenced their product development of the Pocket Library, an app which enables users to renew loans, loan from a friend and research the collection. Research showed that actually user to user lending was the least popular and people still enjoy the community atmosphere of the library. However new functions such as dating based on reading habits came out as something that users wanted to see! Innovative start ups such as Antigo seek to answer the question of the library’s new role through creating a platform for libraries to access publishers’ eBooks easily. Jonas Lennermo, CCO of Publit and founder of Antigo , explained how questioning why and how people consume digital content and the values they place on this as distinct from print, you can get closer to the answers and solutions you need.
Asking the questions isn’t always simple and sometimes a lot of work needs to go on behind the scenes before we can do this. For example, if we type a question into Google, a huge amount of coding has happened so that we can have the answer. If we ask a user what they think of a product, a vast amount of tech work needs to take place for that product to be in prototype stage. Therefore, as a team we need to have technical understanding, market understanding and user understanding. With this blend of skills we can achieve real success and ride the wave of the Digital Evolution into the future. We’re not always going to get it right first time, after all information is knowledge gained through experience and some of the best learning experiences are from mistakes.
Be bold, face the future and ask!
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