Friday, December 12, 2008

New-media adapters: photo sharing

With the wealth of online resources available to you, do you ever go to a library? If you're visiting the nation's capital, do you put the Library of Congress on your list? Maybe not--so the Library of Congress has taken steps to meet you where you play online, and this week, early results of that experiment are in.

The Library has been using photo-sharing site Flickr to good business advantage. We told you here about the Library's posting of historic photo collections--most free of copyright restrictions--along with a request to help identify people, places and events depicted in the photos. Today, the Library released a report on its experiment, showing these results:


  • Some 10.4 million views of LOC photos on Flickr in just 10 months;
  • Almost 80 percent of the LOC photos have been made "favorites" by users, and more than 15,000 Flickr users have added the Library as a contact to stream LOC images into their own accounts;
  • More than 7,100 comments were made on some 2,800 photos, and a whopping 67,000-plus tags were added to LOC photos by users; nearly all of the photos were tagged at least once by the Flickr community;
  • For those who fear inappropriate comments, fewer than 25 "instances of user-generated content were removed as inappropriate" out of all those thousands of tags and comments;
  • More than 500 records in the Library's prints and photographs online collection were enhanced with new information provided by users; and
  • Average monthly visits to all prints and photographs web pages increased 20 percent in five months, compared to the previous year.
The report measures all sorts of useful data about its pilot effort, such as staff time spent each week in maintaining the experimental site, and shares this tidbit about letting the publicity develop virally, without a news release:
The decision to publicize this pilot solely via the Library and Flickr blogs rather than by the usual method of a press release tested a new model for getting the word out on Library initiatives. The reaction by the blogosphere was astonishing and resulted in thousands of blog posts picking up the story, prompting coverage in the mainstream media: newspapers, magazines, online news services, even television and radio began to cover the pilot (see Appendix C for a bibliography of the coverage). Most posts linked to the Flickr and Library of Congress blogs, which unexpectedly translated into significant visibility for the Library’s blog, in existence for less than a year at the time of launch.
What's useful and stunning here: The Library's full report details the mechanics of what it considered going into the experiment, what happened -- with data -- and what they intend to do next. At the same time, the report captures concrete examples of how ordinary citizens expanded its collection's depth, adding comments like "my grandfather took that photo" or details about who, what, when, where, why and how the scene occurred. In some cases, highly expert discussions took place online about makes and models of equipment--or users posted new photos to show what a site looks like today.

To learn more, read the DCist blog reports on the results of this experiment, the Library's news release about the results here, and the full report here -- the latter should be part of your "making the case for social media" file.

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