I’ve been building a web library since 1975, even before I had any idea about the Internet. Of course, it wasn’t a web library then. It was a few metal file cabinets and shelves, where I shared printed reports and books about poverty, tutoring, volunteering, etc. with the 100-plus volunteers who were part of the tutor/mentor program I was leading in Chicago.
I used a duplicating machine in the 1970s to make copies of a printed newsletter that I handed out to volunteers every week, offering ideas for activities with their students, information about upcoming events, and encouragement to visit the “library” and get more informed.
In 1998 a volunteer launched my first www.tutormentorconnection.org web site, and in one section I posted links to all of the people who had been publishing the printed material in my library. As I did that I continued to use printed newsletters to encourage people to look at the information online, and also began to use an email newsletter.
I’ve added information to this library on a regular basis and now it links to more than 2000 external sites. I’ve also created several blogs where I share my own ideas and where interns have provided their own interpretation of the information shared on my sites. If you search Google for the words “tutor mentor” my web sites come up on the first page or two for most searchers.
Or do they?
Over the weekend I read this article from The Guardian, title “How Technology Disrupts the Truth“. Among the many scary items in the article were those that talked about how Facebook and Google algorithms influenced what results you received on web searches. Thus, while I may be seeing my pages on the first page of the search, do others?
That’s a problem for all of us who have been creating content-based web sites, but don’t have massive advertising budgets to draw people to our sites on a daily basis.
I’ve used this graphic in previous articles, showing the role of intermediaries such as myself in connecting people “who can help” with “places” in Chicago and other city where help is needed to build and sustain great tutor/mentor programs, and other services, that serve people living in poverty.
What I want you to think about, is this space in the middle. This represents not only my web sites, but the entire universe of web sites found on the Internet.
I’m constantly humbled by how many organizations and social enterprises I find that are doing work related to what I do…and in most cased, do it with much more sophisticated technology, graphics and writing.
In many cases I add links to these sites to my own web library, to bookmark them so I can visit later and learn more. However, once I do that, the links are also available to anyone else going through my web library to find ideas.
The problem is, with so much information, a network of facilitators needs to emerge, to help people navigate the information.
Furthermore, such people need to be “trusted” guides. They may not have the depth of credentials that traditional journalists have had, but they need to be able to guild people through the network of information whenever people are looking for help.
Finally, others need to be taking on a similar role, so that while I’m pointing to them, they are pointing to me, and we’re all trying to create navigation tools that show visitors how to find what they want, when they want it.
This page is from this PDF essay. Each triangle represents a library like mine, linking to other sites with related information. By connecting hubs to each other, it creates a larger network of information.
If we connect with each other on social media, in cMOOCs, on Google Hangouts and in place-based conferences and events, we can generate much more attention and traffic-flow through the network, than we can if we depend only on our own resources.
One set of links I point to focuses on process improvement, collaboration, mapping, knowledge management and innovation. The ideas shared in these sites represent some of the best thinking on “how we do our work better”.
As more of us are looking at these sites, and talking to each other, and attracting donors and investors into our conversations, my goal is that we find ways to apply some of these ideas and tools to our own efforts, helping the intermediaries constantly improve how they help everyone else enter the information highway and find road maps that help them go to places where they can have a positive impact on the world and themselves.
What do you think?