Annotated Current Awareness?

I have a question for Slaw…

I need to alert certain people when certain publications arrive, encourage them to read them, and then collect them when the readers have finished with them.

I also want to collect their thoughts on the contents of these publications, so how about a tool that notifies people about new items and lets them have fun adding comments. I thought BB, but I’m hoping to find something more graphical… any suggestions, thoughts?


  1. Well, assuming that the publications are physical journals or books and not pdf files, for instance… it seems to me that a weblog with an RSS feed is hard to beat: it lets you post your announcements, which those subscribing will get, and your encouragements, which can be as graphical as you like — posting graphics to a blog isn’t hard — and then your readers can respond using comments. You might simply use Blogger — take you ten minutes to set it up.

    This is one possibility at least.

  2. Or perhaps a wiki and blog combination, so you can keep a list of the books visible on top with links to the related blog posts? I bet Steve has an even better idea, though….

  3. Hmm. that’s pressure! … these are all great ideas – BB (forums), Blogs, RSS, Wikis – and there really isn’t a definitive answer. The biggest issue with any of these tools is the concept of notification. If everyone’s comfortable with RSS then go ahead in that direction, but if not, you’ll need email alert functionality built in there. RSS is built into most blog, wikis, and BB products these days, so that part’s a wash.

    Maybe set up your BB as a reading list, with one product per forum topic. And then replicate the email notification group. As each new Title gets added, the group would be notified, and you would also have an index to chronologically list the titles. Group members could take turns being the discussion leader (listing them as moderators for each Title). Any way you go though, give the product a brand that people can associate with it – eg. an online reading club. Selling it is way more important than functionality.

    A group blog would work well here too. Not much to add beyond what Simon said.

    If you think it will sell better with the group involved, you could go with a collaborative 2.0 environment. I know it’s difficult to get a Writely account these days, but maybe check out ZohoWriter or Ajaxwrite.

  4. Michael, take a look at JotSpot — — which is a wiki but in a more pleasing Web 2.0 form. I think that this might be something that you could turn to your purpose fairly easily. The question might be how much you can do with the free version, but from my brief examination I think you could make it work.

  5. I love the concept of an annotated current awareness list with users having the opportunity to comment.

    My question is this: Where is the one spot you want your users to find information? It is really neat to incorporate interesting bytes and pieces into our workspaces, but remember that every thing you add to your service list requires refreshing content and staff time. Since I know you work alone, that is a big deal.

    I think the best ‘answer’ to the how can I do this is a question…where are you pointing your users now? This might be a time when an additional page on your CMS driven Intranet is the best choice. Using some tool behind your firewall will also potentially let you post digital materials in a licensed form.

    Thanks for the concept…it is something for us to ponder here too! Cheers.

  6. Michael, good question. In a perfect world … NEVERMIIIIND!

    First of all, it sounds like you’re trying to circumvent the usual “routing” process which usually takes care of the notifcation, the actual reading by the routee and the return of the item. Mostly. In a perfect world.

    As for getting users to contribute annotations, it’s probably easier outside the law firm environment and away from the billable hour.

    Even though I wish lawyers and staff could add comments right in our library catalogue, I don’t believe most of them would bother even if they could. It takes valuable time. I do encourage lawyers to comment to me about new (and old) publications and I make an effort to include their comments, opinions, reviews in the notes field in the catalogue. I think it’s helpful.

    I also post announcements about new publications on our internal blog. Everyone at the firm is able to contribute to the blog but most won’t take the time to comment on a new title. I will sometimes add a note to the entry if they feed me something of value.

    Our internal blog is maintained by me but most of my lawyers have not embraced RSS yet despite my encouragement. I recently made some enhancements to the blog “categories” that, I think, have been very helpful in keeping the lawyers on top of their areas of practice. Now, instead of having to check the blog regularly (for the ones not using RSS), they can click on their practice area (Family law, for example) and see what new articles, books, commentaries, legislative changes, etc. have happened in that area of law, listed in reverse chronological order so they can catch up as they please and they can still add comments to any entries. I think they’ll like it even more when they’re all using RSS.

  7. Is this in a Library context? If so, check out the OPACS + WordPress combination.

  8. Don’t dismiss the library catalogue as a source for this information! Depending on your library software, you may be able to set up RSS feeds for new materials and allow web based comments and ratings. This may not be part of the default functionality of the software but investigate if it is possible. It can certainly be set up with Inmagic products. You might also want to check out RapidFeeds or FeedDigest to allow you to post your feeds directly into your website pages thus eliminating the need for an aggregator.