In this issue:
Doc Searls Weblog • November 11, 2009
The truth about Twitter? Current social media platforms—the overhyped darlings of the digerati—present a potential bottleneck to digital communication because the most popular ones, such as Facebook and Twitter, are privately owned. Searls laments that "most of the social action is in silos and pipes of hot and/or giant companies," and suggests, "they may look impressive now, but they are a drag on the future."
I'm not entirely convinced that Searls' thesis that private ownership of some Internet services—specifically, social services such as Twitter and Facebook—are "a drag on the future." I'm old enough to remember the big controversy when the Internet moved out of a largely government environment into one dominated by commercial interests. The predicted destruction of the Internet was far from the case, so I would look on similar predictions with some skepticism. I will allow him the fact that open protocols are better than proprietary ones. But we've always lived in a hybrid world and I doubt that we are any more in danger today than we have been in the past. ( Tennant)
Harvard Business Publishing • November 4, 2009
Copycat innovation. Blogger Bill Taylor touts the benefits of open source innovation, citing the examples of Henry Ford conceiving his automobile assembly line after a visit to a Chicago slaughterhouse and a hospital learning tips on how to successfully hand off patients from a racing car pit crew. As we transition toward e-lending, we might be able to learn a thing or two from businesses such as Netflix, which will be pioneering new all-digital content business models.
As the library community makes the transition from physical to e-resources, we may also seize opportunities to indulge in copycat innovation. Netflix and Amazon are obvious models, but what can we learn from Whole Foods or Southwest Airlines? ( Godby)
ReadWriteWeb/The New York Times • November 5, 2009
Failure to forget. Author Viktor Mayer-Schönberger says that cheap digital storage has made memory the norm and deletion the exception: "With the help of digital tools we—individually and as a society—have begun to unlearn forgetting." His remedy would be a complicated scheme of data expiration dates—is this practical, or is there a better way?
It's true—throughout my own Googling experiments, when my search took the form of a question, a commercial Q&A Web site came up before an authoritative site every single time, no matter what type question I asked. Usually WikiAnswers.com was in the top five. Meanwhile, searching by keyword tends to bring up the not-for-profit Wikipedia first, followed by (relatively) more authoritative sites. What can we infer from this? 1) More is indeed more. User-generated content sites with a gazillion pages will indeed pollute the Web and push more authoritative content to the rear. But... 2) Those who end up on these commercial sites are very much like the tourist who indiscreetly flashes large wads of cash—they seem to be "asking" for it. Literally. One thing that bears watching is the fact that both companies mentioned in the article are utterly dependent upon Google for their livelihood. As revenues for Answer.com soar 40% over last year's pace, would it be evil of Google folks to want to, um, leverage their leverage? ( Massie)
Nieman Journalism Lab • November 6, 2009
By the people for the people. DavisWiki is the busiest local wiki in the world, hosting 14,000 pages of content and 10,000 unique visitors a day. Take a look at what's worked for this home-grown venture and how the lessons could apply to our own efforts to serve a local community.
If you want to go viral, create something useful for a small community of users, and then herd them until they own it. The not-so-subtle moral of the tale is that corporations still haven't managed to bottle the juice which makes 20-somethings turn ideas into grassroots success. The lesson behind the lesson: quirky is approachable, and slick has no street cred. At least in Davis. ( Waibel)
De Nieuwe Reporter • November 9, 2009
Testing 1-2-3. Blogger Eric Ulken gives a brief overview of what he learned at InfoCamp—an "unconference" aimed at information professionals. Check out the part on A/B testing and think about how you could adapt this technique to tweak your Web content. Huffington Post does it every day, slapping two different headlines on news stories, and then going with the one that generates more click-throughs. This exercise could help you avoid the trap of responding to reader surveys because, as Ulken notes, "users don't want what they say they want."
Eric is stepping out of his role of "information gatherer" and looking at online journalism from the "information organizer" perspective. He has noticed domain concepts like "Persona," "Story," "Comment," "Feedback," "Topic" and many others that transcend subject matter. The process of formalizing domain concepts and their names is called " domain modeling." If such a domain model was better developed and broadly adopted, it could infuse information generated by online journalists with the semantic richness needed to interoperate in the Linked Data cloud. ( Young)
The Scientist • November 3, 2009
R2R connection. In an effort to connect researchers with resources, a consortium of nine universities is creating a central catalog of reagents, cell and tissue banks. Founders of the eagle i-Consortium hope that by forming a clearinghouse of scientific and medical resources, they will help accelerate research efforts and eliminate duplicative efforts. "This project is about linking scientists nationally to resources, technologies and opportunities, and about making invisible resources visible to the researchers who need them," says Harvard consortium member Lee Nadler.
This brief update describes a new initiative to optimize the process of connecting researchers to important scientific resources. The eagle-i Consortium will gather the local resources of multiple institutions—cell and tissue banks, antibodies, biological models, etc.—through a single, shared discovery portal. Beginning with nine institutions, the consortium aspires to grow into a national network of hundreds of institutions, each making their research resources visible through a single discovery portal. The eagle-i Consortium illustrates the value and efficiency of leveraging the network through services that bind together a pool of resources diffused over many institutions, thereby lowering the transaction costs—the time and effort—of discovery and access. In the same way that union catalogs and resource sharing networks make the collections of distant libraries available to local users, the eagle-i Consortium promises to make the research resources of distant institutions visible to researchers everywhere. ( Lavoie)