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Why Web 2.0 Projects Fail

For every successful blog, wiki, or social networking attempt, there are many abandoned projects. During the ACRL Virtual Conference last weekend, Meredith Farkas shared some great points about why Web 2.0 projects in libraries fail and what can be learned from those failures.

Use of social software is not seen as furthering the library’s mission and is not part of strategic planning.

Technology is a means to and end, not an end in itself. Successful technology projects are closely tied to the organization’s service priorities. Do not jump into a Web 2.0 project just because “all the other libraries are doing it.” Experiment first (see #3), look for successful examples, then make informed decisions about where Web 2.0 tools are likely to work best within the context of your organization. Do jump in, though! Part of what makes Web 2.0 tools so useful is their relative ease of implementation.

Before you decide to abandon a Web 2.0 project, take the time to find out why it didn’t work. Was the service not marketed well enough? Was the technology you chose a bad match for the information-gathering habits of your target audience? Failure is not the end of the world, and if you can articulate the reasons for failure, you will be more likely to design a successful project the next time you try.

Social software is treated as someone’s “pet project.”

Do not automatically assign full responsibility for Web 2.0 projects to the youngest person on your staff. A project is much more likely to succeed if several staff members have the knowledge necessary to keep it going.

Of course, if you are a solo librarian, every project is your pet project. Think about ways in which Web 2.0 tools  could help you complete existing tasks more efficiently. For example, could you use blogging software to produce an online newsletter with less hassle?  Could you use RSS to assemble table of contents alerts, or to feed fresh content to your web page automatically?

Staff are not given time to develop ideas about how to use social software.

Experimentation and “play” are critical to understanding how social software works and why it is appealing. Google famously encourages its employees to spend 20% of their time on creative projects. Libraries are not Google, and one- or two-person health sciences libraries are definitely not Google.  How, then, does one find the time to develop ideas? Have an open mind about experimenting with social software in your life outside of work. Start small. Use Facebook or Twitter to connect with family and long lost friends. Start a blog about your favorite hobby.  Share photographs on Flickr. Contribute to the Wikipedia page for your hometown or favorite vacation spot.  Once you understand how Web 2.0 tools work, you will begin to see possibilities for using them to enhance library service.

Take a look at Meredith’s blog and slides for additional points and pointers. If you are registered for the ACRL Virtual Conference, you may access the recorded presentation here.

One Response to “Why Web 2.0 Projects Fail”

  1. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, Alison. Excellent discussion. Thanks for the link to Meredith’s slides.