Posted by: Steven Harris | January 31, 2008

Coots and Badgers

There has been a funny discussion about controlled vocabulary searching versus keyword and natural language over on the “Next Generation Catalog” list (ngc4lib). It started when one participant was feeding bread to coots and then wondered if that was a good idea (from the coot’s perspective). She then did a Google search and was lamenting the lack of controlled vocabulary, implying that LCSH would have gotten her what she wanted. Whew! All kinds of words flew about whether the question was properly formed, if Google results were useful, whether all the participants were idiots, etc. Some fairly strong words were exchanged. Although things died down pretty quickly after all the hub bub. Someone also suggested that folks do a search for “what badgers eat.” No. Really! Very entertaining and actually pretty educational as well.

The thought occurred to me that “badger” and “coot” pretty well described some of the participants in the discussion. The coots in the library world tend to cling to old ways. Sometimes you can’t blame them. Old ways have proved pretty effective over the years. Badgers, on the other hand, tend to be pretty smug about their views. They latch on to their prey and won’t let go sometimes.

The 2.0 world can be a little cliquish at times, and badger-like. Often you will hear 2.0-lings describe their opponents as people who “just don’t get it.” I find that way of characterizing your adversaries as somewhat repulsive. They might not get it, or they might be someone who just values different things. (Not everybody who disagrees with you is stupid.) There is also a tendency to oneupmanship in 2.0 land. I have a Second Life friend (Hi E!) who often says, when I mention 2.0 things, “2.0 or so 1.0.” Like there is some kind of curve we are trying to be ahead of. It’s not cool to be behind the curve!

Well, let’s just say that the 2.0 nomenclature for the interactive and social concepts we are talking about is a little silly. One of the precepts of Web 2.0, ironically enough, is that the software release cycle (as implied by the numerology 2.0) will come to an end. There will be continuous improvement of the product and an end to waiting for the “next release.” So, 2.0 is something of a misnomer. Ah well. I will continue to use it simply to describe the kinds of interactive and social concepts I want to promote. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s 2.0! But let’s stop saying, “they don’t get it.” And let’s stop being more 2.0 than thou.



  1. Nice thinking Steve. I do like the metaphors. A case of TwopointOupsmanship.

  2. Professionally, I’m looking forward to Web 3.0.

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