In this issue:
A List Apart • May 5, 2009
Wisdom doesn't just happen by itself. It requires gentle guidance and this article offers suggestions on how to get the most wisdom out of your own community. Read on to find out more about the dangers of group-think, "karma whores" and why a little selfishness is a good thing. Solid suggestions for anyone who manages an online community.
We know crowds aren't wise, and Derek Powazek knows it, too. He also has a convincing story about what makes it possible to extract 'wise' behavior from them. If you want to design social software systems, or just understand their power and limitations, this article is worth a read. (People who liked this article, liked Blink—count on it!) of this particular title. ( Weibel)
The Wall Street Journal • May 8, 2009
The Digital Renaissance. Libraries around the world are racing to digitize rare and fragile documents using multispectral imaging and other techniques that allow them to unlock the secrets of damaged or crumbling treasures. Check out this list of what's newly available online and what projects are in the works.
From a black-robed monk from Minnesota setting up scanning stations in Iraq to digitize early Christian texts (and training the locals to run them), to scholars from Michigan, Berkeley, Columbia and BYU utilizing NASA-created technology to digitize papyrus fragments stuffed inside mummified Egyptian crocodiles in the first century B.C., the story of how many of the world's disintegrating ancient manuscripts are being rescued by intrepid travelers taking their gadgets and fervor on the road smacks more than a little of Indiana Jones. And the suspense—Can they possibly get there in time?!?!—is quite real. ( Massie)
Change This • May 6, 2009
Focus on the "white space." Sometimes our lives are so filled with obligations and activities, we forget to contemplate the "emptiness" that Zen philosophy says is a symbol of inexhaustible spirit. To renew our spirits, author Matthew May suggests including a "stop-doing" item on every "to-do" list. Think about what you could stop doing right now to make your life more complete.
You probably never knew that Leonardo da Vinci and In-N-Out Burger had something in common, but Matthew E. May draws the connection in an essay on the power of incomplete ideas. The shared trait is a deft touch for leaving something out: whether the indistinct expression on the Mona Lisa's face, or the limited selection of items on In-N-Out's published menu, both provide a subtle inspiration to consumers of paintings or burgers to use their imagination to fill in the rest. The Mona Lisa's ambiguous expression has stirred centuries of speculation on its appropriate interpretation; In-N-Out's narrowly circumscribed set of "official" menu offerings has led to the emergence of a much larger, "unofficial" menu of customer-inspired variations. In both cases, consumers cultivate a personal engagement by filling in the gaps themselves. These examples suggest that it is not always optimal to spell out ideas in exhaustive, fine-grained detail; instead, there can be value in leaving some fuzziness around the edges on which others can exercise their imaginations. Much discussion has taken place lately about the future of academic libraries, and many ideas on how the library can re-define its role have been put forward. As this discussion proceeds, it may be useful to take a page from da Vinci and In-N-Out Burger and leave a little bit of well-chosen "incompleteness" around these ideas. Doing so may spark the imagination of users and other stakeholders, and encourage them to become personally engaged in thinking about how library collections and services can support their own research and learning endeavors. ( Lavoie)
The Kindle's Assault on Academia
The Christian Science Monitor • May 6, 2009
Amazon targets textbooks. In its drive to take on the academic publishing industry, Amazon announced the revved up Kindle DX, which sports a larger screen, a PDF reader and a heftier pricetag. Textbooks are too expensive and are updated too frequently (or not often enough!). Could Kindle be the answer?
The Kindle DX is Amazon's latest e-book reader. It includes a PDF reader and has a larger screen than previous Kindles and targets the text book and newspaper market. It appears to be an excellent e-book reader but at $489, is expensive for what is basically a single purpose device. Is there room in a student's backpack (or budget) already filled with laptops, netbooks, and iPhones for another device? The Kindle's reliance on Sprint's 3G network could limit its utility in many parts of the country, including this writer's region, where Sprint's high speed network is unavailable. ( O'Neill)
The Christian Science Monitor • May 7, 2009
Feeling over-Googled? Sometimes you need a reminder there are other resources out there--and here's a quick snapshot of four.
Viewzi provides a more graphical interface to Google, but I didn't see any great value to their other takes on Google. Mahalo seems to be focused on pop culture. ChaCha (a cell phone reference service) sounds interesting, but I don't do cell phones so can't say anything about the results. Powerset claims to give answers, but all I got back was a list of citations to the question "annual rainfall in ohio," and I think the list I got back from Google was better. Nothing in this article will cause me to abandon Google, but with enough trial-and-error, I might find one of those Viewzi interfaces useful for some particular types of searches. ( Levan)