OCLC Research  

Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

December 22, 2009
Vol. 2, No. 45
ISSN: 1943-1457

Dear Readers,

We hope you found Above the Fold useful and enjoyable during 2009. Send it on to your colleagues so they can subscribe. We're going to take a hiatus next week in celebration of 2010's arrival. In the meantime, check out the WorldCat list of OCLC Research's favorite holiday things. As a group, it probably reveals more about us than we imagined from such an innocent-sounding exercise . . . We wish you a very joyous holiday and the best greetings of the season.

Jim Michalko and OCLC Research

In this issue:


Does Anyone Own What Universities Teach?  (External site)

The Boston Globe   •  December 13, 2009

Student-sourcing. A crop of upstart businesses offering college students' course notes online is raising hackles among the academic set over what intellectual property professors actually control and what it is universities are selling. "Universities, at least in some sense, are content providers, and the content they provide — the lectures and course materials — is created for a sharply limited audience paying a lot of money. Record labels, newspapers, movie studios and other content providers have been seismically shaken by the Web, and now universities are getting a glimpse of its disruptive potential."

I'm not sure this constitutes the "unbundling" of higher education or " Education 2.0" as described in an article we commented on in our 28 August issue. It may be that the Harvard professors featured in this article represent the class of educators most akin to superstar performers. If that's the case then perhaps they ought to embrace the attention and the diffusion this kind of site creates. The copyright issues associated with class notes is an interesting and rather large sidebar in this arena. ( Michalko)


DIY Book Scanners Turn Your Books into Bytes  (External site)

Wired.com  •  December 11, 2009

Home work. As the e-reader market gains traction, consumers are starting to look for ways to digitize their own hardcopy collections. Most of us will not go to the trouble of building our own scanners, but publishers are raising copyright objections similar to those voiced by record labels years ago when we started taping our vinyl albums to cassettes.

I'm pretty sure that the number of us likely to build our own scanning stations will be small. It's fun to see the photos and videos of the thing in operation. Of course from a library point of view, the designer has uttered fatal words — "as long as you are not demanding archival quality." The mention of a Tulane University project to help determine copyright status was intriguing. I followed the links — pretty much all the functionality is coming soon. If you're doing one-off investigation I'd look at the OCLC Copyright Evidence Registry. ( Michalko)


Pranav Mistry: The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology  (External site)

TEDTalks/TEDIndia   •  November 2009

Gee whiz factor. Watch this 13-minute video for an overview of Mistry's amazing SixthSense technology, which uses a wearable interface controlled by hand and finger movements to interact with information in the physical world. For example, by simply framing a shot with the fingers, Mistry can snap the photo — no separate camera required. And the most amazing thing of all is its price — the current prototype system costs approximately $350 to build.

Watch this TED talk. You will be impressed. I think the entire arena of human computer interaction will be changing dramatically at an increasingly rapid rate. Now that the iPhone has taught millions to gesture we've got a foundation for this kind of radical change. A mouse will likely be as curious an object as a typewriter eraser in another decade. (For those who didn't actually know what a typewriter eraser looked like I was going to link to a photo. All I seem to be able to find, however, are images of Claes Oldenberg's giant sculpture version of one from the 1970s.) ( Michalko)


CollabNet Fosters Group Innovation in the 'Cloud'  (External site)

BusinessWeek   •  December 7, 2009

Cloud seeding. The trend toward cloud services — delegating computer tasks and storage to remote servers rather than in-house systems — is fueling collaboration among disparate groups by helping break down the silos that organizations erect to hold department-specific information. CollabNet, created by the founders of the Apache open-source Web server project, says using its services can boost productivity by 10-50% and slash software development costs by up to 80%.

This marriage of collaboration software and cloud services makes sense. Of course, the most important determinant of collaboration software's success is that the people it supports really have to collaborate. This unarguably applies to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff featured in this article. ( Michalko)


The Content Strategist as Digital Curator  (External site)

A List Apart  •  December 8, 2009

Feeding the Web. Our Web sites are important assets and curating them is an essential part of our overall organizational strategy. Balancing timely and timeless content, using analytics to better understand users' needs and managing the conversation flow are the building blocks for success in any business. Read on for more reasons not to skimp on Web site management when it's budget time.

There's a lot of good sense in this essay that translates well for our environments as the author comes from a library/museum background. I think the most compelling thing said is not the design or curation advice but the admonition to establish a relationship with your audience. I was recently at the Digital Strategies for Heritage (DISH) conference in the Netherlands and there were two keynotes that nicely framed this topic. Review Simone Brummelhuis' keynote that explains the types of communities and Josh Greenberg's on how to use existing tools and staff to build those communities. Both are available on SlideShare. ( Michalko)


Short-Term Memory and Web Usability  (External site)

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox  •  December 7, 2009

"Designing for cavemen." That's how Nielsen describes his approach toward Web design that takes into account human limitations in short-term memory (for instance, the average human brain can hold only seven chunks of information at a time and these fade from memory within 20 seconds). Check out the article for some suggestions on how to create menus that are manageable (too short is almost as bad as too long) and create a common sense Web navigation strategy that makes the most of those precious 20 seconds.

It's worth reviewing that " Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two" paper (or at least the overviews that are readily available — there was a nice Radio Lab piece on it not so long ago). Seven is really the span for digits — it's probably less for words. ( Michalko)


Top 10 Failures of 2009  (External site)

ReadWriteWeb  •  December 7, 2009

Schadenfreude. Scan this compilation of flawed business strategies and dud products and feel good about your own achievements this year.

Everybody will have an opinion. Mine? I kind of like Bing especially now that it's Yahoo Search. ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC 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. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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