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Betas & widgets - OLD KEEP FOR ARCHIVE: Beta graveyard

Guide to experimental tools that make accessing and organizing information easier.

About the beta graveyard

While many beta tools and services of the MIT Libraries are great successes, others haven't been as fruitful.  Some criteria that we use to take a beta out of service include:

  • No way to support it
  • Superseded by another tool or service
  • Unproven user need for the service

As Henry Ford said, "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." We've learned something from each of the tools that we've tried and have used the knowledge in planning future services.

Edirne Graveyard 7345 Nevit

"Lunch & Learn" demos in Stata Center

Stata Center Information IntersectionThe MIT Libraries have a space in the Stata Center, called the Information Intersection. Typically, it's a place where you can sit and eat lunch, take or leave a book on the community bookshelf, or return library books.  

We tried something new by offering 10 minute demos of library tools and resources in the Information Intersection. There were scheduled times where we talked about variety of topics, including patents, online music resources, and making Google Scholar work better with MIT resources.

The beta was discontinued due to low attendance.  

- Originally posted March 22, 2012; Retired September 4, 2012

Kindles & Nooks in Hayden Library

When e-book readers started to become popular, many people didn't have one and wanted to try one before they committed to buying one. We offered users a chance to test-drive the technology.

Hayden Library owned 2 Amazon Kindle e-book readers and 2 Barnes & Noble Nook Colors that were available to borrow for one week. Each device came with a few books already installed.

This beta was extremely popular for a while, but as e-readers became cheaper and more ubiquitous, fewer people had the desire or need to borrow one.

- Originally posted October 8, 2009; Expanded July 11, 2011; Retired September 4, 2012

Vera journal search for Firefox

The MIT Vera search was a Firefox add-on that enabled users to add a search box to their browsers to search Vera, the collection of online journals and databases in the MIT Libraries.  Special thanks to John Hawkinson for developing the plug-in!

Vera Firefox search

When the tool first came out, search plug-ins for browsers were popular, because browsers didn't allow users to search from within the address bar.  We have a hunch that most users of the MIT Libraries no longer use search plug-ins, and instead Google for journals from within the address bar.  Statistics aren't available for the tool, so use is unproven.

-Posted February 19, 2008; Retired February 8, 2012

Humanities DVD collection tagged in Delicious

To provide a fun and flexible way for users to browse our growing Humanities DVD collection in the Hayden Library, we asked student workers to tag each DVD in Delicious.  Users could browse the collection by clicking on tags for characteristics including genre and subject matter.

Although this tool seemed useful, it was impossible to gather statistics for it, and we couldn't assess how much it was being used in order to justify staff time to support it.  It remains possible to search for DVDs owned by the MIT Libraries by doing an advanced search of the Barton catalog by limiting the format to "DVD."

screenshot of Delicious website

- Posted March 31, 2009; Retired June 27, 2011

MIT Libraries Tour on SCVNGR for iPhone & Android

SCVNGR screenshot

What’s SCVNGR?

It’s a scavenger hunt game using an app called SCVNGR. iPhone or Android users could choose to check-in and complete challenges at various MIT Libraries. During orientation week 2010, there was a special incentive for playing.

The MIT Libraries tour in SCVNGR was discontinued due to low usage, little user feedback, and unjustifiable cost.

- Posted August 30, 2010; Retired December 10, 2010

MIT Libraries Google homepage search

Retired due to low usage, the Google Gadget allowed users to search Barton and Vera directly from their personal Google homepages.

iGoogle screenshot

Thanks to Amy Stout and Nicole Hennig for developing the gadget.

- Originally posted September 7, 2007; Retired April 20, 2010

Facebook application

The MIT Libraries Facebook application contained search boxes for the Barton web catalog and for Vera, the collection of online journals and databases, along with links to Your Account and Ask Us for research help.

Facebook app screenshot

The app was taken out of service due to low usage and lack of support for updating the tool. Special thanks to Rob Wolfe and Todd Rautenberg for developing this application.

- Originally posted September 7, 2007; Retired April 20, 2010

Humanities Virtual Browsery

book cover

The Humanities Virtual Browsery highlighted a selection of new books acquired by the Humanities Library. The beta also offered:

  • an RSS feed
  • the ability to comment on books, and discuss them with the rest of the MIT community
  • information about the availability of the book in the Humanities Library
  • links to other books in the MIT Libraries by the same author

The Virtual Browsery was retired due to a lack of a way to maintain it.

- Created 2006; Retired June 2009