April 20, 2007

Radical Trust - We're Not Doing It Enough Yet!

Brian Kelly has posted about one of the sessions at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference entitled”Radical Trust: State of the Museum Blogosphere“.

Brian writes that "within the educational and cultural heritage sectors, surely user make engagement is what we’re about". We did it before Web 2.0.

I couldn't agree more - we did. But there are things we didn't do very often and possibilities beyond our imagination available to us if we build on the design patterns and new generation of software available with Web 2.0. We need to shake up our notions of engagement. We also need to remember our roots and values and what we're about as we look at the opportunities in a Web 2.0 world and beyond.

I think that some of the ideas related to engagement and trust are beyond incremental and into the realm of revolutionary.

Kathy Sierra's Chart of Incremental vs. Revolutionary changes

A key piece of Web 2.0 is the way the ingredients weave together: books & stuff, participation, radical trust, people. Participation was intended to capture the notion of scale and contributions by visitors.

When I created the postcard and wrote about "radical trust", I was describing it as the glue in the Web 2.0 world, it wasn't with regard to any commercial connection whatsoever.

I didn't realize that it had been used in that way and I'm not sure that until somewhat later in October 2006, when the blog Brian pointed to started talking about it in this space. It could of course be in several places but I wasn't drinking from that well when I was mulling about libraries and Web 2.0.

In April 2006, I was simply building in a very small way on Tim O'Reilly's article about Web 2.0 from September 2005 where he listed one of the 7 competences of Web 2.0 companies as: "Trusting users as co-developers". I thought about that in terms of libraries and other non profit organizations involved with information. Libraries consult the people we serve, we "engage" and we study their needs but do we let them be co-developers?

At the time (and still), I was pondering about some of the ideas that Howard Reinhold wrote about on cooperation, the commons and the public good, and how some of the Web 2.0 sites work - by designing sites where people create a public good by their joint efforts.

In looking at Tim O'Reilly's Web 2.0 examples, I thought that Wikipedia was a *radical* departure from how things were written and published created by a very high level of engagement with the site visitors. The idea that you could "trust" anyone, the average citizen, to contribute content to an encyclopedia and hope to produce something useful -- not perfect -- but useful, was a remarkable idea. Imagine yourself at a Library conference circa 1994 touting this idea for a moment.

So on the postcard I was simply trying to put the "key ingredients" as I understood them of Web 2.0 that would be the most important to pay attention to when developing Web 2.0 services in libraries (Library 2.0).

I've been humbled by the fact that my postcard and thoughts about radical trust have been added to, elaborated and refracted by others.

In creating Web 2.0 services in libraries, I think means believing in a collective commons that could serve the public good. (And this of course is also what libraries are about.) But I think perhaps there may be room to shift, to apply a different lens or mindset in the development of Web 2.0 services. Is it radically new? Maybe for some libraries more so than others.

I think many libraries are locked into thinking of the people they serve as the audience or their patrons, rather than as Jay Rosen put it "The People Formerly Known as the Audience" when he wrote about media.

I was interested to hear that Andy Carvin from NPR (National Public Radio) picked up on this in his keynote at Computers in Libraries and challenged us to think about the "the people formerly known as patrons!".

Web 2.0 not only introduces a new generation of software but also offers an opportunity for re-designing libraries in ways that we could never imagine.

More on radical trust

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