A fine example of how much inspiration you can get from randomly talking to the people who are actually engaging with customers was given to me by our Research Guide last week.

She wants a video-tagging tool that includes chat functionality, some kind of interactive “pointing” facility, and plenty of metadata fields for adding and describing tags. When she is helping a customer to find the perfect bit of footage, she often finds herself in quite detailed discussions trying to explain why she thinks a shot meets their needs or in trying to understand what it is they don’t like about a particular scene. If they could both view the same footage in real time linked by some sort of online meeting functionality, they would be able to show each other what they meant and discuss and explain requirements far more easily and precisely.

This struck me as exactly how we should as information professionals be seizing new technologies to “re-intermediate” ourselves into the search process. Discussing bits of video footage is a particularly rich example, but what if an expert information professional could have a look at your search results and give you guidance via a little instant chat window? You could call up a real person to help you when you needed it without leaving your desk, in just the same way that online tech support chats work (I’ve had mixed experiences with those, but the principle is sound). I’m thinking especially of corporate settings, but wouldn’t it be a fantastic service for public libraries to offer?

It seems such a good idea I can’t believe it’s not already being done and would be very pleased to hear from anyone out there who is offering those sorts of services and in particular if there are any tools that support real time remote discussion around audio visual research.