From browser to collector

Of the several new tools under development discussed at ARL’s lively symposium on Managing Digital Assets in Washington last week, none seemed simpler in concept, or more likely to be popular in practice, than “Firefox Scholar,” an IMLS-funded initiative underway at George Mason University (details here).

The idea is to grab metadata for digital resources with a single click in the browser; this metadata can then be stored, annotated, manipulated in whatever way is useful to the user. It’s now a truism that user-driven organization is an important component of what too many people are calling the Web 2.0. Much of this involves using the web as a platform for personally mixed components – bringing recontextualized assets into what 2.0-ers like to call “rich play.”

Firefox Scholar takes it as a given that most research is happening in browsers (that would be less controversial if we amended their claim to most electronic research), and the browers should be the place to grab and store citation metadata and make annotations – rather than standalone applications like MS Word or EndNote. The hope is that converging the spaces of discovery and note-taking will “greatly enhance the usefulness of, and the great investment of time and money in, the electronic collections of museums and libraries.”

What’s particularly promising about this is that all of this metadata harvesting and self-cataloguing happens on the client side. It’s easy to then imagine peer-to-peer interactions, based on similarly tagged items or asset-based subscriptions.


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