Today we’re focusing on alternative online communities – places like Reddit, Wikipedia, and Github. All have things to offer researchers in terms of discussion, learning, and sharing their research outside traditional spaces such as conferences, journals or institutional websites.
Although I’ve been a participant in various types of online communities over the years – ranging from old-school forums and blogging communities to spaces like Twitter and Tumblr, I’ve never spent much time in Reddit and Github, and I’ve used Wikipedia only passively (checking a date here, looking up the publication order of a series of books there). As such the three as communities are somewhat opaque to me. In my other life as a researcher I did occasionally follow links from Wikipedia to texts and translations in my field of study, since these tended to be fairly reliable. I have colleagues from my former field who are Wikipedia editors and heavily involved with ensuring there is accurate information and relevant sources for the various topics on which they research and write.
In my own field of librarianship it’s always stressed that a library professional should go where the conversation is happening and not force library users onto platforms they don’t use and don’t feel are appropriate for their needs. However, because as a librarian I need to be following two conversations at once – the one happening between fellow library professionals about developments in the field, and the one going on between researchers who I teach and support – I need to be aware of two sets of platforms which don’t always overlap. The librarian conversation is happening (at least as far as I can tell) very much on Twitter. The researcher conversation happens on Twitter too (and I do try to follow academics and professionals working in my library’s field), but if it’s going on on Reddit as well, I may have to follow researchers there. At the moment, I feel that simply being aware of these alternative spaces (and relevant subreddits and other communities) so that I can point researchers in their direction is enough. However, if I feel in the future that I need to be more actively involved in the conversation taking place on those platforms, I may need to reassess my current decision.