Monday, June 30, 2014

Finding and Getting Our Way With Google Maps

I have been using Google Maps for years since I switched from MapQuest. In all the years of using Google Maps I never came across a circumstance where any corrections were needed.

Until recently when I noticed my daughter's public school was missing from the map. I thought this was a problem as I had a fair amount of difficulty finding the school for the first time and considering that many people (myself included) rely on Google Maps to find places that I should correct the omission.

Google offers a tool to make these additions and corrections called Map Maker.

It's quite easy to use. There are text-box fields to enter or edit a name, address and contact info - all quite clear. The visual interface to plot locations on the satellite view is also easy to use, particularly if one is  familiar with GIS. It just requires using a simpler drawing tool to outline the shape of sites over Google's satellite view.

So I added my kid's school to the map and also decided to fix other sites in the area.

I did five changes:

  1. public school added (by correcting existing entry)
  2. park/garden added 
  3. public ice rink added
  4. change rooms (for pool and rink) added
  5. variety store's location corrected (it was misplaced on the wrong street)

These changes took me no more than 20 minutes. There usefulness to newcomers or visitors to the neighbourhood would be significant, I'm certain.

So far I'm thinking that the tool and service (to everyone) is a great idea.

But then came their murky, dubious review process...

I appreciate the need for a review process to stop spammers, trolls, and vandals. But Google's review process is unnecessarily opaque and inconsistent.

Google will notify people of the status of changes made via a location's history webpage and email (although I found that email notifications only went out seldom).

Change #2, made it onto the map. It is the only correction that Google accepted.

Change #4 was added to Google Maps as I submitted it, but then removed a few days later.

Change #5 was quickly flagged as needing further investigation (the street address for the store was correct as is but Google had it marked as on a separate step - that is quickly able to see and shouldn't require investigation). Although I do get that with businesses they should check with the business owner to double-check.  About a month later and the wrong location is still on the map.

Change #3 was rejected as needing more information. No details were supplied on the precise or even nature of the required missing info except to a link to a general page about using the tool.

I was given the option to add more info to my change. The only info that I hadn't supplied was the telephone number and opening hours. I gave them our Parks and Rec department. Phone number and indicated it was only open during winter months and then resubmitted.

The second try at the ice rink seemed to have worked - partially. It doesn't appear by default on the map (as the park's seeming pool and off-leash dog areas do), but if you type in the correct name it will come up on the map.  That just raises another murky issue with Google Maps, why do they have locations that don't show up on a map unless you specifically search for them (particularly major public sites)?

Change #1 - the one that started all this - was rejected as the current (incorrect) information was deemed by a Google editor to be "more appropriate". I had provided a link to an official source - the Board of Education - which had the correct info as I entered it. What is more appropriate than the Board of Education?

This begs the question - To what authority does Google recognize?

Even worst Google did not give me the option to change or object to my entry (as I got with the ice rink). And Google removed all record of the change request from the tool's user history - so as to shut of any debate or trace of the issue permanently.

I got the name of the editor who rejected the change but Google provides me no way to examine editors' credentials or record. But it is safe to assume that they are not a Toronto government official or even a local, so why do they get such absolute, unchecked power?

Google does offer a forum that can provide some recourse and further information but it is unwieldy and frankly it is an unreasonable burden to make people use such a cumbersome process.

As a public service and a company and one that relies on user-generated content, Google has a duty to establish more rigorous, consistent, transparent processes.

I'm so put off by Google after this I will start switching to OpenStreetMap, a free, user-generated map. At least their review process appears quite transparent and any effort I put into improving them map doesn't add money to a corporate juggernaut.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Canada's New Anti-Spam Legislation

If you live in Canada, you probably have been receiving a torrent of emails latel from companies and organizations asking you to confirm your intention to receive email news. Canada's new anti-spam legislation (CASL) goes into effect in a few days (July 1, 2014), hence the flurry of emails.

I have got a bunch of emails from organizations that I'm fairly sure I previously expressly consented to be added to their email list, so I have been surprised to receive so many emails asking me to (re) confirm my intention to stay on their mailing list.

I find email newsletters to be an invaluable source of info for me so I have taken the time to respond to my deluge to confirm. But today a friend posted a note about this topic on Facebook that started a fascinating discussion on the issue.

It turns out that a lot of businesses are confused about the new legislation and are probably being more cautious than they have to be. Nonetheless, I do think the official communication around this issue from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)could have been better.CRTC's website does a good job in communicating the new legislation, through such things as infographics, FAQ page and even spam quizzes. But there's a lot to weed through. 

Thanks to my friend's Facebook thread, I found a couple clear and succinct articles on the topic:

From a marketing perspective, most of the emails I have received asking me to confirm my intention to stay on the email list have looked rather like spam themselves - i.e. wordy, generic notices that I quickly scanned and ignored. Many organizations had to send me two such notices before I responded - in the meantime I became more aware of CASL so I made the effort to notice such email. But this email from Shoppers was the most effective, I received so I thought I'd share it.


Email from Shoppers notifiying me that I must consent to receive emails from them with a huge yes button for me to click

Visually this is very clear and noticeable. But Shoppers did make a big mistake when they sent this. I don't automatically allow images when I receive emails (except for ones from friends). As almost all the content from the Shoppers email was in an image file, the message was lost until I turned the image on. It's really simple to provide alt text or other text solutions to rectify this.

I'd say it's as important to not look like spam as it is to follow the new rules.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Foursquare Loses Me

After hearing awhile ago that one of my favourite mobile apps, Foursquare, would me splitting into two I was not eager for the changes.  I'm not normally one who hates all changes to their favourite apps. (Every time Facebook makes any change I can anticipate the tiresome complaints from the regular suspects.)

I was an early adopter and continual user of Foursquare and blogged a lot about them. For those not familiar with Foursquare - or who checked it out when it launched and then forgot about it - Foursquare is a leader in location-based services and geosocial networking.  Since its launch, people could virtually indicate their presence at a physically location through the service. Users could also add associated public reviews or share status updates for one's friends.  The app made it easy to see where your friends were and to find nearby places and business of interest.

Earlier this month, Foursquare announced they would be splitting these services into two apps. A new app, Swarm, would be launched for geosocial networking and the Foursquare app would maintain social recommendation features.

I acknowledge that many of the gaming and title features that initially drove usage through novelty - the mayorships of places and humourous badges based on check-ins - were no longer compelling. There were occasional real-world benefits - in my years of using Foursquare I got a free gelato and a 10% discount on concessions from my local cinema. Ben Heyman addresses Foursquare and other app's challenges with pointless gamification, Foursquare Committed Suicide, Signaling the End of the Gamification Fad.

But it wasn't all about that. And, I still believe Foursquare had unique value

It's great as a place diary. I enjoying recording and sharing with my friends any interesting places I was at or any interesting commentary I had. Not everything merits publishing on Facebook or Twitter.

I also liked the ability to explore the world around me. It's great to find out if there are businesses near to me that my friends or other users like. But I enjoy the social and unofficial histories of normal and special places that Foursquare offered. Foursquare also had lists that enabled social, place-based curation that was also great. Granted, the app Findery is doing this better, but they have only recently launched an app (iPhone only) and it has not hit a critical mass that gives it vitality or stickiness.

I liked how Foursquare had all these features in one place. I loved how it was an app where the central feature is place. This allows a different view of the world than other apps entail. It grounds us to our place, while opening up our world to our social network.

I understood why Foursquare needed to change to keep their massive number of users, however. Matthew Panzarino wrote an excellent article on this for TechCrunch, Foursquare’s Swarm And The Rise Of The Invisible App. He argues that as smartphone media have become more mature we have transitioned from replicated prior technology to multi-purpose apps that offerred a plethora of features (such as Foursquare). In the era of people ever-increasing number of apps and ever-dwindling free time, we are now seeing a new era of apps,
These ‘invisible apps’ are less about the way they look or how many features they cram in and more about maximizing their usefulness to you without monopolizing your attention.... A confluence of factors have made these kinds of context-aware apps possible at this point in time. Increasing power efficiency in physical memory and device processors has led to better battery life
 Today, I tried out the new app Swarm and a sneak-peak of the new Foursquare (the old interface is being grandfathered out).

Swarm is definitely easy-to-use and seems great at what it does - geosocial networking. Swarm has features Foursquare didn't have, such as social coordination tools (helps you plan a semi-spontaneous events with your circle), auto check-in options, and better friend geo-tracking displays. The ability to set Swarm to check you into places automatically is key to its utility as Wired has identified. There are also some "sticker" features that I seem like glorified emoticons. But the place check-in is central to the app, as it was with Foursquare. One can check into a place manually in the same way as one did before on Foursquare. Once checked into a place Swarm is linking to Foursquare for friends' and other users' reviews.

Swarm is cool, but aimed at the party crowd (which I am not one any more - okay I never was).  There are (or rather were) many apps that did this. Perhaps, Foursquare's large number or users and slick interface will help it succeed where others have failed.

Downloading Swarm is super quick and easy. Foursquare is automatically porting user's data to Swarm. It makes transferring to the new app easy.  So from that standpoint the split is handled well, but some people might not like their data ported to another app without their permission (or knowledge).

The old Foursquare app will become essentially just a social and proximity recommendation app for businesses and sites pretty much just like Yelp or Yellow Pages' app. With the geosocial networking features largely removed from Foursquare, it seems like the only reason to use it would be when one wants to get a recommendation for a nearby business or site with one's friends reviews getting special status. Foursquare long ago buried their lists features to the point that it is impossible to find other users lists.

So now Foursquare becomes a passive tool for searching for proximal info. I get that local search and advertising is a potentially lucrative market for much-needed revenue for the company. It's definitely a useful feature, which I will no doubt use occasionally. But unless I'm travelling, I don't visit very many new areas. And when I do go somewhere new and special, I am not going to use two apps. Foursquare used to be the app that made place a single, pivotal focus. By splitting its focus, it adds up to less than the sum of its original parts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Give MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) a Try

Last week, I finished my first MOOC. No, it is not a sound a sick cow makes, rather it's a Massive Open Online Course  MOOCs are different from other online courses in that they are open. Open in that they are free to take and open to anyone, no perquisites required. Massive in that their free status tends to attract a very large number of students - with diverse backgrounds, locations, and subject-matter knowledge.

My experience is limited, but from talking to others who have taken MOOCs, I have a sense of their structure and purposes.

MOOCs tend to run for a more limited timeframe than traditional university classes (online or offline) - often for four to six weeks, sometimes at a self-study pace. The MOOC I took would require anywhere from 20 to 40 hours to complete (depending on one's prior familiarity with the topic and one's language and technical skills).  The course was pass / fail - which I also believe is common for MOOCs - but credit could be applied to a program at the university offering it (I'm not sure if this is common).

MOOCs use an e-Learning platform. The MOOC I took used Desire2Learn, but Moodle and Coursera are also popular options. All the e-learning platforms are similar in that they offer a web-based interface for the instructor to posts text-based notes or readings, lecture videos,  forum style discussion boards for students to post questions to the instructor or fellow students, and online quizzes.

E-leaning is one of the areas I consult on and I have blogged a lot about this already (see my prior posts on e-learning).  For this post, I'll focus on the differences between MOOCs and online courses generally.

All the challenges I have identified with e-learning are present and often compounded with MOOCs (e.g., lack of presence of instructor and students, minimal interactions, etc.). There are the same benefits too (e.g., distance and time barriers removed), but the benefits are not as many

From an institution perspective, MOOCs are a good marketing opportunity. It is a way to introduce prospective students in a low risk environment to programs and faculty. It is also a great way to disseminate knowledge for altruistic reasons. From a student perspective, the selling point of MOOCs is their price - free. You can't beat free!

Pros
Did I mention free? But there are other advantages beside the price or lack thereof.

Despite attending one of the largest universities in Canada, I haven't taken a lot of courses on my research interests at my home school as there hasn't been courses on my exact subject matter offerred. Considering the large number of universities and colleges worldwide offering MOOCs, one can choose from a large number of schools, which makes it likely you'll find a relevant course for you somewhere.This gives one access to an exciting array of schools and professors not limited by location country or cost.

I also like that the class I took was pass or fail (i.e., no grades) - with the opportunity to redo any tests that were failed. This meant that I could focus on learning for learning sake and not for the primary reason of getting a good grade (which is ruining education at all levels). It was really refreshing and rewarding to take such a class.

I also loved how my course combined the standard e-learning techniques (i.e. online reading and multiple choice tests) with applied projects in applicable software. As so much software in any field is online now, it is great to be able to combine theory with hands-one experience in one course. We used a trial version of the software, so we got access to mainstream, premium software for no cost!

Cons
As MOOCs are designed, I believe, primarily to be a marketing tool for universities and thus reach a wide and large array of prospective students, the material tends to be at a general level.  The course I completed had students from all levels of academic backgrounds. So one is studying with people with no post-secondary education to PhD students and working professionals in the field to absolute newbies. There are also many students from various countries with differing levels of technical and English skills (from almost none to proficient in both). So to design a course around such divergent skills and backgrounds is difficult. Thus the first few modules in my course was way too basic for anyone at an undergraduate level or above. This wasn't a huge problem as I could breeze through those and by the final few modules the material was much more insightful and helpful.

The diversity of the students would also be a great way to meet and interact with other people interesting in the same topics, yet MOOCs in being "massive" and for a short duration don't provide any feasible means for students to meet and engage with one another.

I also have gripes about people who don't read the FAQs and post stupid questions to the forum, but that's people for you. Because the class was free, there were times when the class felt like it was third-rate - there were lots of typos and  poor quality material at times. I realize one gets what one pays for - but from an institutional, marketing perspective it defeats the MOOCs purpose to be perceived as second or third rate.

Overall,  however, my experience was really good. I'm sold on MOOCs. In fact, I start another MOOC next week!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spam Poetry

A couple years ago, I had to turn off allowing unmoderated comments to this blog as I was getting mostly spam.  I've configured the blog to email me for approval to post any comments. I still get mostly spam, but one I received today was something special - it was downright poetic.

Of course, the "comment" had nothing to do with my blog post. And it appears to have been written by a robot with minimal knowledge of English. In the end, it is a plug  for someone's search engine optimization service (a highly ineffective plug at that). Yet somehow the comment works as thought-provoking free verse on my blog and life in general.

Below is the spam-poem as it arrived to me today, uneditted except to remove the plug and with line breaks as provided by the spam-poet. Enjoy:
I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
The sketch is tasteful, your authored material
stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness
over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more
formerly
again as exactly the same
nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.
I received barely intelligible and bizarre comments before, but this is this one charted new ground.  I think I'll collect other similar spam-poems to compile an online anthology. At least, these "comments" will have demonstrated some worth, however unintentional.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Did You Get That? The Benefits of Collaborative Note-Taking

I recently attended an online conference on the use of mobile devices for libraries. During the associated Twitter back-channel chat, I noticed an open invitation to participate in real-time, collaborative note-taking via Google Docs. I've been an avid note-taker since my undergraduate days, but I've never collaborated with someone before (unless asking "What did she just say?" or "Can I photocopy your notes?" counts).

I'd also never used Google Docs for real-time collaboration - so I was sceptical. But I figured it was an excellent opportunity to experiment.

In the end, I was greatly impressed. The resulting notes were excellent and the experience helped me become better aquainted with fellow attendees. I was surprised on how much less effort it was for me to work collaboratively than alone too.
So I'm sold on the benefits of collaborative note-taking.

But I've only tried it once, so I wanted to learn more about the practice. The notes' organizer Ayla Stein kindly agreed to answers my questions about this practice.

Ayla Stein is a librarian at the University of Houston libraries. Her expertise includes user experience research, metadata, and scholarly communications. She has participated in collaborative note-taking in both educational and conference settings.

Question: What is your experience with collaborative, real-time note-taking?
Ayla: My experience with collaborative, real-time note-taking is ad-hoc, informal, and sometimes for fun instead of study. I had an evening class with a few friends in grad school. The class happened to be at the same time as another class that a few of our other friends were in. We shared a Google doc to take notes on what was going on our respective classes - partially because we wanted to know what the other course was about, but it tended to degenerate into goofing off.

I've also used shared notes (via Google doc) to share notes with a classmate who may have been out sick or had to miss a day for some reason.

The first time I intentionally invited others to take collaborative notes with me was at a pre-conference for ALA Annual 2012. There was a lot of interest in viewing the notes, especially at first since I forgot to set the permissions on the document so that anyone with the link could edit!

Since then, I tend to use collaborative note-taking during professional development opportunities like the Handheld Librarian 9 Web Conference, mainly because I haven't been in a formal face-to-face course since I graduated.

Q: Have you used any other ways to do this than Google Docs? What are your thoughts on Google Docs?
A: I haven't used any other system than Google Docs to do this, unless live-tweeting/live-blogging (via tumblr) counts. I like to use Google Docs, because I only have to sign into one account, and since it's a web application, I can access my notes from any device/computer with an internet connection. I think Google Docs are easy to use and share with others, whether or not they have a Gmail account. Formatting can be a bit unwieldy with Google Docs, but for note-taking it doesn't matter all that much.

I also like the comments feature in Google Docs that allows you to ask questions or make observations on a specific piece in the notes that someone else can then address.

The main issue I've had with Google Docs is the default privacy settings - anyone with a link can view but not edit, so if I forget this, a lot of people will close the document without telling me that they can't edit.

Q: What have you found to be the benefits of collaborative note-taking?
A: For me, the benefit of collaborative note-taking is comprehensiveness - if I miss what a speaker said, chances are decent that someone else did hear, and can add it to the group notes. I also like it as a way to still see what's being covered in a conference session or workshop that I wanted to go to but was unable to attend.

Q: What are the challenges?
A: I think the main challenge is human group effort. I take very detailed notes (probably too detailed) because it's a way for me, as someone who has issues staying attentive for long periods of time, to better focus on the speaker and what is happening. I think that often others feel as if they don't have anything else to add, or maybe they figure that whatever is already on the page is good enough.

From a user experience it can also be confusing if you have several people taking notes or editing at the same time because you can see what others are typing as they type it. Another issue is when there are a lot of people on one document, any interactions on the document can become very slow.

Q. Any overall comments on the experience or future of this practice?
A: I'm not sure about the future of this practice - I enjoy it as a way to not miss anything important, but I can definitely see where it could be distracting.

I want to keep doing it but I would also like to see how it would work in an asynchronous setting. I take a lot of professional development courses that operate asynchronously - the content is available but every student works through it at his or her own pace. I am interested in knowing if people would contribute their own personal notes to a group notes document or if this would prove too distracting.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Social Georeferencing - Bring Content Into the Field

I recently presented at the conference Handheld Librarian 9. (No, the conference is not about lilliputian librarians who you carry around to help your daily information-seeking needs with obligatory hushing panache - it's about the use of mobile devices in public and academic libraries).

I presented on social georeferencing - a term I may have coined years ago - to denote online, collaborative efforts to identify relevant location(s) contained in information objects. It would be tremendously useful if more content was not available via mobile devices, but also accessible via location-based services as I will discuss.

Summary:
My survey and ethnographic research has shown people value geographically relevant information. Yet the current mechanisms of libraries to georeference information through automation or manual effort are often not sufficient. Current projects, however, provide a model of online, collaborative tools to allow average people to georeference material. This crowdsourcing model of social georeferencing is not only scalable but also allows people to determine the places of information that they find meaningful.

My short presentation introduces core concepts and presents examples of existing social georeferencing. Recommendations and caveats to launch such projects are offerred. The goal is to engage the public in helping make existing digital information available in the field.

Slide deck:



Geographic relevance and location-based services
Locative functionality is the killer app of smartphones and tablets. According to a Pew 2012 study, ¾ of Americans have used a location-based service (LBS). Location-based services, (a term sometimes used interchangeably with locative media) are mobile apps that deliver content and customizes user experience based on a user’s physical location. (For more definitions of key terms, see my post on geo-terminology.)

The concept of geographic relevance is crucial as it is the ability of mobile devices to provide this that delivers the value proposition of LBS. Geographic relevance is a type of information relevance. There are various types of geographic relevance, but the one that users really care about is proximity - that is the degree to which the locations referenced in the information objects match the physical location of the user. Generally, but not always, the more precise the match, the better.


Over the past couple years, I've conducted two studies – a survey and an ethnography – on people's use of LBS. In the survey, I found many respondents (86%) reported using their device to access at least one locative functionality in the past month. The results are dated now, so I expect these figures would be higher. At the high end, 84% reported finding proximal businesses or services, reading local news (74%), finding nearby sites (67%), reading information about their location (66%), and 20% reading the history of the location they were in. Overall, I found that users appreciated the geographically relevant info they could get via LBS but wanted more information and more types of it.

To achieve this though, there are several challenges. Digitizing content and licensing is not the least of them. So assuming the content is digitized and available via mobiles, it needs to have geographic metadata indicating its target location – normally done by providing longitude and latitude coordinates. (There are fields for geographic metadata in the Marc and Dublin Core standards).

Georeferencing
When you create content in an LBS, such as Foursquare, Waze or Google Local, the location coordinates are automatically appended. But for non-native info, it needs to have the geographic coordinates added to be able to be positioned via an LBS. From my experience, the geographic metadata available in a lot of library records refers to the source geography – such as the publisher's location – or has classifications often at a country or region level, which is too broad for LBS.

I use the term georeference to refer to the practice of adding geographic metadata to information objects, whether the objects are visual (e.g., maps, photographs) or text. I use the term geotagging to refer to users applying a folksonomy tag to an information object – which I'll talk about later. Others use these terms in different ways, however.

Coming from a city with a notorious mayor who has been less than supportive of public libraries, I'm aware of the financial pressures on libraries, so proposing any project requiring significant labour costs is not a great idea. There has been some excellent work on creating automated solutions to georeferencing textual content ( see research on the topic. I'm not convinced, however, that machines can not only detect locations in text with all its associated challenges of resolving place ambiguity (which Springfield, U.S.A.?), homographs (e.g. mobile device vs. Mobile, Alabama), and fuzzy boundaries (where precisely is "downtown" in any city), but more importantly determine which locations mentioned are used in a meaningful or relevant manner. For this, there really is no substitute for human involvement as people are best able to determine meaning.

I believe social georeferencing can provide a suitable and scalable method to achieve this goal.

Social georeferencing
Googling the term "social georeferencing", I didn't find any other websites using the term. I realize that the tech industry doesn't need yet another neologism, but in this case I think it does offer a new way to think of an emerging practice. I define social georeferencing as collaborative efforts using digital media methods to identify the pertinent locations contained within information objects. It is a form of social media and shares a focus on users creating digital content.

I'm aware of two main ways people can currently georeference information online: 1) geotagging or 2) plotting on map. The photo website Flickr provides an example of both map plotting and tags (links go to my photo collections).

Geotagging
As I mentioned earlier, I use the term geotagging to mean the practice of users adding place-specific tags, which are user-generated keywords or short phrases that describe or summarize content. Geotags may better capture the place-names people actually use when searching for information. Tags, however are not without problems as I have previously written about issues related to folksonomies.

Plotting on a map involves either pinning a digital object onto a map or indicating boundary lines via an online map interface. An example of this type of project was recently conducted by the British Library. They asked the public to contribute by georeferencing some of their collections of old maps. (When maps are digitized they are just an image file, they need to have coordinates identified.) The British Library used an online tool developed by Klokan wherein users correlated parts of the historic maps with points on an online map. In seven weeks ending January 2014, a round of the project was completed with 2700 maps georeferenced. The library elaborates on the project:
Through georeferencing, the selected map images were spatially enabled, making them geographically searchable and able to be visualised using geospatial tools and combined with other maps online. All georeferenced maps are added to the portal Old Maps Online, which uses a geographic search interface to identify and view historic maps from numerous collections online. The output of this work may also be viewed using the BL Georeferencer interactive map and directly from the Online Gallery map pages.


Determining and discussing locations
I encountered another online way of involving the public in georeferencing with the OurOntario project. OurOntario was a collaborative project with libraries and museums across Ontario. It helped organizations digitize and share local history collections. Each information object (such as a photograph, newspaper article, or artifact) has their own webpage, which enables the public to add their comments. I saw users on this site using the comments to discern the specific location of old, historic photographs (often not an easy task). Once a location has been established via the public, the administrators could then add the geographic metadata to the record.

Integration with existing online interfaces
Providing a method for the public to directly edit the online catalogues may not be viable or recommended. But there are ways to combine the public's efforts with existing catalogues as has been done with user data created from user of the book website LibraryThing. LibraryThing is example of easy-to-use, social tool people use to describe, tag, rate, and share information.  Existing projects have successfully combined LibraryThing’s user-generated content with library catalogues - see LibraryThing for Libraries page.
Caveats
  • Quality and accuracy of public’s work
  • Malicious hijacking
  • Exploitation of free labour
  • Creating and managing an online, collaborative system is time-consuming 
  • Maintaining public (and internal) interest in project
Encouraging Participation
  • Offer incentives and prizes
  • Determine and reward “super users” (i.e. normally a handful of users who create the bulk of content)
  • Give credit for contributions
  • Promote with social media
  • Engaging user experience (including gamification) 
Conclusion
Naturally, with any such projects there are costs and concerns related to the setting-up and maintaining the necessary infrastructure and to overseeing and encouraging people's efforts. The benefits of social georeferencing include providing an affordable and scalable solution, resolving toponym problems related to accuracy or ambiguity, and it provides a social, viral project to engage one's community. Once completed, such efforts will help make static information accessible in the field where and when it is relevant and useful to people.