Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pertinence and quality in an (Inter)networking environment

Over the years, quality of services both in terms of content and usefulness has been a recurrent issue for debate at meetings of development information professionals. It proved to be a difficult issue to come to grasp with, in particular because of the changes that the sector has gone through and – by consequence – the new challenges created by the rapid technological and organizational evolution.

IDS Knowledge Services has recently released a “how we” guide about upholding editorial quality. It is the result of extensive internal reflection and debate at IDS, with the aim to share its experiences and good practices with external parties. And in fact the guide is a nice condensation of the discussions on quality management that were high on the agenda of the information and communication sector.

It is interesting to see that the criteria that were applied in the traditional libraries are still valid in an online electronic setting. And maybe even they have become more critical since the Internet has provided the world with open and accessible channels to publish and share information.

Individual Euforic members may very well draw lessons from this interesting guide. It addresses information providers that produce their own content and want to assume the final editorial responsibility for the broadcasting of it. It does focus strongly on organizations that deliver information services to specific audiences. Particular emphasis is given on information services in an academic/research environment. Useful tips, definitions and lessons center around a series of questions about the elaboration of editorial policies and the management of services. At first sight some of these questions may seem a bit obvious, but they go to the heart of the matter and can be applied as a useful methodology in various types of settings.

What are the lessons that Euforic can draw from this guide? Euforic serves primarily as a ‘relay hub’ for the content produced by its members. Nevertheless, the guide offers useful tips for defining the editorial scope – which may evolve overtime in line with the changing interests of the membership – and suggestions for assessing the quality and relevance of the services.

One of the important lessons is that the information intermediary needs to maintain a strong and intense relationship with its network, content providers and clients. Information doesn’t flow by itself but requires a dynamic and pro-active ‘promoter’. Another valuable lesson for Euforic is that as an information provider the level of ambition definitely needs to match your resources and vice versa.

by Jacques van Laar

See also Euforic's newsfeeds on information, knowledge and communication and on IDS