[Web4lib] Thought experiment: crowd-sourced academic website voting

Cindy Harper charper at colgate.edu
Fri May 6 16:31:54 EDT 2011

Looking at topics for strategic planning next week, I focus on the idea that
libraries need to do more to help undergraduates sort out what's good and
what's not on the non-academic Internet.  I first thought what we needed is
a delicious that only faculty and librarians could contribute to, that would
draw from faculty at a wide range of institutions.  But now I envision a
browser plug-in that would be distributed thruogh the academic libraries
only to faculty and librarians. It would notice when a user left a website,
and would present a Like/Don't Vote/Don'tLike choice to the fac member, the
question being if this site is a good source for academic work. It would
have to maintain an internal history of what the facmember had already voted
on in order to prevent asking about a site that had already been visited.  I
think we could possibly keep the history on the server if we anonymized it
by encrypting a MAC address, or something.

Now I know that most faculty would quickly become irritated by too many
popups and wouldn't want to participate, so I would start collecting at
4-year-institutions where the main focus of faculty is teaching, not

I wonder if we could then use automated means to provide a broad LC
classification for each site, based on the noun phrases in their first page
- that's a pie-in-the-sky idea, but something to shoot for.  The result
would be lists of the top Like'd websites in various subject areas, and the
ciorresponding Least Like'd lists.

Ah - I now remember that Google has started its +1/-1 service.  I in fact
had emailed my ideas for a voting system limited to the group of your choice
to Google feedback before that service appeared, so if they heard it from
other people, they also heard it from me. But I think the crucial part of
the academic implementation of such a system is limiting input to trusted
contributors.  I don't know if each institution making a private group of
its faculty and librarians could be rolled into a meta-Google group of
combined instituions, but I'd be willing to talk to anyone who thinks this
is an idea worth pursuing.  Is any site looking at +1/-1 for academic

Cindy Harper, Systems Librarian
Colgate University Libraries
charper at colgate.edu

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