Repositories everywhere

Some people may think from comments I’ve made that I am against repositories, or don’t see their value. Not so, and quite the opposite in fact. I see repositories everywhere, or at least places that store content in a format that’s available for others to discover and use. Only most people, me included, probably wouldn’t call them as such. I think the reason is because a ‘repository’ suggests something or a service you have to visit or go to to find content. However for many people that are using content produced by others, the content comes to them. By previously identifying what I’m interested in and by setting up the right kinds of subscription service more of the same can come to me without any effort on my part via RSS content syndication. RSS is shifting the point of engagement with repositories away from the remote site and more on to the desktop. It’s a bit like having the paper boy delivery your Sunday paper rather than you having to go and collect it (it’s Sunday morning now so excuse the weak analogy).

One of the desktop apps that I uses most days is a very good RSS aggregator, NetNewsWire. By using NNW stuff comes to me. Not just the latest lolcats and posts from my buddies’ weblogs, but all kinds of stuff. A snap shot this morning includes the latest publications from a couple of dozen academic journals (thanks to the excellent Zetoc), a half dozen ‘proper’ academic repository saved searches (including JORUM), a dozen saved searched from a bibliographic database (thanks to PubMed), PodCasts containing interactive multimedia e-learning content (not just video/audio) the latest discussion amongst the students from my course module’s discussion forum, and loads more useful information before even getting to weblog entries (which are mini repositories, or at least content management systems in their own right). In short much of what I’m interested in comes to me rather than me having to go and fetch it.

So I see repositories everywhere, but I seldom think of them as such. I just know what content I’m interested and when I find it, increasingly I can register my interest in getting more of the same by subscribing to an RSS feed. The smart academic repositories are already wise to this and offer content syndication via RSS. Are these web 2.0 repositories? Really, who cares, but the others will ignore this shift in what it is to be a repository at their peril.