May 18, 2009    |   Vol. 2, No. 16    |   ISSN: 1943-1457
Above the Fold
A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

In this issue:

Reinventing the Book in the Age of the Web  (External site)

O'Reilly Radar   •  April 29, 2009

When is a book not a book? When it's The Twitter Book by Tim O'Reilly. And even if the thought of working your way through a narrative that's been chopped up into 140-character tweets sends a chill through your soul, O'Reilly makes some good points about how the online medium "changes the presentation, narrative and structure of the book, not just its price or format." It's time to take a fresh look at the e-book and try to imagine how publishers could use the new medium to make the reading experience "richer, more accessible and more powerful."

I think he's on to something although I'm not certain that his points amount to much more than observing that the conventions and expectations of reading on the Web will now transfer to the concept of the 'book'. By the way, I just installed the Kindle app for the iPhone and bought my first book ( Freakonomics). The experience is pretty nice but I think that's because of the 'modular' nature, as O'Reilly dubs it, of this particular title. ( Michalko)

Innovation: How Your Search Queries Can Predict the Future  (External site)

NewScientist   •  April 30, 2009

Google-gazing. It turns out that real-time Web search information not only provides insight into what people are thinking about at any given moment—it's also a surprisingly powerful predictor of recent trends such as economic downturn and the flu outbreak. Google researchers found that adding data from Google Trends to trend prediction models used by economists amplified the results, delivering "better forecasts in almost every case." This is just one more example of collective intelligence trumping conventional wisdom.

I think this is yet another example of the inherent value of aggregated 'intentional' data, as Lorcan has dubbed it. We're seeing various uses emerge in our domain, e.g. the bX scholarly recommender service that Ex Libris offers is based on what they gather from SFX, their open URL resolver, while EasyBib seems to have been built simply to gather this type of data almost certainly for leveraging in other circumstances. ( Michalko)

Facebook Is More Than a Fad – And Museums Need to Learn From It  (External site)

Museum Marketing   •  April 2009

Everyone is a curator. Social network users spend a lot of time selecting and sharing content—"curating" their online space. This article suggests that museums are well positioned to leverage these activities by providing access to rich and interesting content that can be shared with others or "mashed up" as part of a user's creative outlet. MoMA's recent move to link its Web site to Facebook and Twitter is a start, and more museums should follow suit.

Well, maybe. You really have to have the kind of staff who will do this right and have the right things on offer for the network to use c.f. the Smithsonian Gift Collection application in Facebook that allows you to "send your friends various items from the Smithsonian Institution's vast collection of interesting artifacts." P.S. They need more items... ( Michalko)

Kill Your RSS Reader  (External site)

Slate   •  May 1, 2009

Are you bogged down in blogs? Slate pundit Farhad Manjoo says RSS Readers make it too easy to subscribe to any blog that catches your fancy—and then you're stuck with it for eternity, or at least until you unsubscribe. He suggests a way of organizing blog reading that does not clog up your inbox.

I think you'd have to be really, really (no, really) bogged to invest in implementing this admittedly clever system. Even if this doesn't appeal to you, read the last paragraph for "one of the best, least-known shortcuts built into modern Web browsers." It's very useful. I didn't know it. ( Michalko)

Web Tool 'As Important As Google'  (External site)

BBC News   •  April 30, 2009

Natural language Q&A. Wolfram Alpha, named after creator Stephen Wolfram, is the latest "computational knowledge engine" that responds to sentence querying, rather than keywords, and delivers the answer directly, rather than in a Web page results display. "Like interacting with an expert, it will understand what you're talking about, do the computation, and then present you with the results," says Wolfram. Alpha is free and will be launched sometime in May—check it out.

My favorite characterization of this work was in the NYTimes technology blog, Bits, where Jonathan Zittrain from the Berkman Center calls it a "computable almanac". ( Michalko)

Anthropology: The Art of Building a Successful Social Site  (External site)

ReadWriteWeb   •  May 2, 2009

Is your Web site anthropologically correct? The subject of this article is another social Q&A site— Stack Overflow. Intriguing are the founder's list of mistakes that many Web sites make (hint: registration is a click-through killer) and the "nine building blocks of social engineering" that include things like Karma (people are willing to do for free what they're not willing to do for small amounts of money).

The goal here is to have people contribute. These building blocks make that easier and more meaningful for participants. There's a nice article in the Harvard Business Review about "The Contribution Revolution" that parses the motivations of contributors very nicely. This will take you to a summary (those HBR folks still sell by the drink). ( Michalko)

OCLC Programs and Research advances exploration, innovation and community building for libraries, archives, and museums.

Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Programs and Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Programs and Research items are supplied by staff in RLG Programs and OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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