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Notes - EthicShare presentation at CNI Spring 09

CNI Spring 2009 Meeting



Intro -

Helping Hands and others (CLIR, NSF & U of Minnesota) came together to collect Bioethics information and they hope the model will it work for other ethics areas.  They have a Mellon planning grant. 

Early 2007 - presented social networking features while on site visits

Looked at organization, tag, Cite, ULive, YouTube ratings, how these were being used.

  • “Star” ratings were not of interest to the community
  • Social features weren't very important but rated well when the top three categories were combined 

Engage and evaluate - iterative design - tests with scholars to make sure it meets their needs

Demo:  Ethics Research Community website

  • Emphasis was put on the search feature (positioned right at the top)
  • Tabs were used to show site features
  • Right column was used to highlight content


  • User’s homepage comes up and includes your preferences and recent searches
  • Users can check citations and save to their personal folders
  • User terminology said to use keywords instead of tags thus reframing for the audience
  • Users can easily add citations to a posting tool
  • Users can set their preferred library (by campus)


  • "Groups" and “threads” were found to be confusing so they simplified and also put the actions of a group right up front for easy access
  • Users wanted/needed private spaces and those were built in
  • Users knew "post" and "comment" terminology so that terminology was used.
  • The system includes a calendar which is not automated now but will be in the future.

John Riedl described research he has been doing looking at altruism, selfishness, and contribution on the social web - GroupLens Research group at U of Minnesota.

Starting research was based on the pivotal ideas studied by Bob Putnam and discussed in his 2000 book:  “Bowling Alone.”   This was a study of the decline in American public activity and what is replacing it - we're watching more TV or browsing Web and playing online games.  Communities with less social bonds are less healthy and have more crime. How can technology bring people back together?

Community-maintained artifacts of lasting value are important.  They looked at tagging and anthropology (users enter information about books they have read) Users tagged 22 million books in 3 years, where as LOC has tagged 20 million in 200 years.  Of course, LOC’s tagging is much more thorough but does not necessarily provide tagging of higher value to the vast majority of people - drawing relevance from the "wisdom of the crowds" is valid.

Aside- You should read “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson if you want to know what techno-nerds think about the future of the library

Different communities tag differently - esp. across time – so this needs to be taken into account

They did a tag prediction study on implicit features - number of applicants, number of users, number of searches for a tag.

  • Moderation-based features - You could comment on tags with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”
  • Hybrid combinations with logistic regression also
  • Folksonomy?  Motivating participation by displaying the value of contribution - if you can double the usage you can get more out of it for everyone.
  • Social loafing - if lots of people can do it - no one will
  • Collective effort model - effort is important, if they like the group


  • Smaller is better - People feel more concern when the reference group is smaller
  • Also specificity is important

Research via “Movie Lens” ( - tells you who you are helping - your ratings will help others who like the same kind of movies


Self report –on why they are doing it – for self and for “all” is highest

  • Self = 1 high
  • All = 2 all
  • Similar = 3 same
  • Dissimilar = 3 same
  • Control

True results – based on seeing what they do at MovieLens was to help others like themselves

  • Self = less important
  • All = about the same as self
  • Similar = was 1 high
  • Dissimilar = was low
  • Control

Adoption & Sustainability

  • Time is required to develop and engage the community and so they are thinking of sustainability models
  • To frame this area –started with “If they build it will they come” –   (“it” = system)
  • Now past this to the “If we build it and they do come” they are now scrambling to say “what now?”
  • But if they build it with our help and they come, then the process is easier.
  • Community engagement fosters a level of adoption

 Looking at:

  • Community/user engagement
  • Economic structure and strategies
  • Technology

Adoption model (bell curve chart) innovators, ->early adopters, ->early majority, ->late majority, ->laggards.  The chart shows a chasm in the middle of early adopters.  - showed a high level of adoption and engagement with few resources - 91K users, 1598 resources, 141 tools, 388K simulations – built by the nanoscience and technology community.

Sustainability - economic framework

  • Recognition of benefits-> articulate benefits-> cultivate sense of value-> willingness to pay->
  • Selection-> Effective/reliable delivery-> predictability

Appropriate models

  • Hosting & supporting focus area for libraries - foster virtual research communities by partnering with professional societies for support
  • Technology framework can be forgotten is the community is engaged -
  • Sources - citations, images, videos
  • Collections, expand index, capture fugitive content, digital collections, media, curricular materials and learning objects

Site features:

  • Recommenders
  • Classic lists
  • Bioethics policy development support

Release the VRC technology stack and development model - must coordinate with other institutions so that there is no duplication


Now looking at affinity to tags in predicting appropriateness of other materials

Parallels in Bamboo community - very big - shared technologies for the humanities (Mellon funded) and must bring faculty along - not just techies - creating a scholarly connection but this project is much further ahead -

EthicShare does not want to become too monolithic - open enough so it can be easily adopted by other communities

What resources to sustain over time?  They hope to have additional funding - but at minimum two half time people are needed to sustain it.  Work in the policy development arena would take additional staff and resources

AgEcon ( has been going for 15 yrs.  Its value has been assigned by the world wide community.   Q-how many can any of us reasonably support?  These may become "our work" but we need to collaborate with others to make it more comprehensive. 

Reidl said the community should provide the content or at least tell us what should be in the repository.  As said before - Collections - expand, capture fugitive content, get literature contributions, digital collections, media, curricular materials -

What is the participation?   Success measured:   they have been doing quiet launches and will have a better sense from their presence at community related conferences.  They want to get center directors on board first.

Tags from the EDUCAUSE Library