"As a ColdFusion developer, I also want to say that CF in this case is clearly a misused tool, not a problem in and of itself."
There were also many complaints about the lack of redirects and the insouciant referral to a search engine that was not remotely up to snuff, and even more complaints about the father-knows-best response from ALA staff.
Within a day and a half of the unveiling of the new site, the site, and ALA's response to initial criticisms, had been thoroughly dissected by the knowledgeable techies on Web4Lib. Without question, the leading voice in the discussion was LII.org's director, Karen G. Schneider; her posts were immediately reprinted and/or linked on all-purpose librarian blogs, including Gary Price's Resource Shelf, LIS News, and Librarian.net. Both Chris Zammarelli and Steven Cohen linked to T.J. Sondermann's wonderfully sarcastic T-shirt about the web site [http://www.librarystuff.net/new_archives/000196.html].
I'd read about the controversy in Librarian.net, and followed it up by testing all the ALA URLs in my book manuscript, which had mostly been rendered inoperative, and by searching for them on the %&(*&^( so-called search engine. That led me to write a piece on April 10, called "How NOT To Redesign a Web Site," [http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib174.html], which began: "I have two words for the American Library Association: beta test."
This piece was then subsequently referred to in numerous places: LIS News (where it prompted some small discussion and was picked up by other bloggers), Library Link of the Day, and subsequent postings by Karen Schneider and Jessamyn West.
By April 11, it's fair to say that at least within the internet librarian community, an understanding of all the problems with the ALA web site had been fully formed by April 11, though we gained a better understanding of the process that led to the web site when on April 17 Rory Litwin published a piece in Library Juice explaining how the ALA advisory committee for the new web site had submitted their specifications and then been left out of the process, not so much as invited to test the new site before it was unveiled.
There's no question but that the traditional print resources, even in their online versions, are less nimble at picking up on fast-developing issues. Not until April 14 did Library Journal online post a news item about the controversy. On April 15, American Libraries Online finally posted a news item -- a chirpier, more upbeat one suggesting that some people actually liked the new design. [Was it deliberate satire that the URL for the news item was http://www.ala.org/al_onlineTemplate.cfm?Section=
The listservs, blogs and zines spread a common body of knowledge among librarians. But influencing other librarians was nowhere near as important as influencing the ALA staff and getting them to understand how disastrous the web site was. What's remarkable here is that the folks at ALA were actually following the discussion on Web4Lib. On April 10, Robert Carlson of ALA said that he had been following the Web4Lib discussion all that week. On June 9, Karen Schneider reported on the the meeting of the ALA staff with the Web Advisory Committee.
The best part of this discussion was that ALA get a healthy lesson on the necessity of keeping its members informed. As a result, not only are there ongoing improvements being made to ALA's site, but there is now a page charting the status of the improvement process, at http://www.ala.org/webstatus/.
But that's just the results of tracking one issue. I have no doubt that on other topics, the key players would be somewhat different. For instance, on the issue of information disappearing from government web sites, I'm sure that GOVDOCS-L drove the discussion. I'm equally sure that when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on library filters, the discussion was in all likelihood driven by PUBLIB-L and law librarians' listservs and blawgs (law weblogs).
The question is whether there's a more general pattern for the spread of knowledge among us? I believe there is. Essentially, I think what happens is this: initial discussion is driven by the listservs, because that's where the people who care most passionately about the broad subject and are most knowledgeable about it, hang out.
Then the news spreads to the more general librarians' resources, bloggers who draw on the greater expertise of the specialists on the listservs and publicize the issue to a broader range of librarians.
The most prominent of these is probably Gary Price's Resource Shelf, which has an unusually wide and varied audience. I'd guess LIS News is second, both because the range of topics covered there is broad, and because a variety of people, with differing knowledge bases and interests, contribute to it. Other key sources are Jessamyn West's Librarian.net, Steven Cohen's Library Stuff, Rory Litwin's Library Juice, Library Link of the Day, and Walt Crawford's Cites and Insights. On occasion, though not necessarily routinely, my own ExLibris helps advance the discussion as well.
That's my theory of how the news spreads, anyway. I'd be happy to have someone else do the research to test it out on other topics. Me, I have a Movers and Shakers issue to write, so I'm retiring from this particular issue.
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Journalism traditionally assumes that democracy is what we have, information is what we seek. Whereas in the weblog world, information is what we have ó itís all around us ó and democracy is what we seek.
Jay Rosen. PressThink: What's Radical about the Weblog Form in Journalism? http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/
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Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2003.
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