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Above the Fold

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

June 4, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 19
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


What Ever Happened to the Book?  (External site)

The Human Network   •  April 16, 2010

"Impossibly alluring." Media consultant Mark Pesce expounds on the question of what makes an ebook an ebook, and dismisses those that simply deliver a hard copy's identical text on a screen as "publishing in light." "If an electronic book does not offer a new relationship to the text, then what precisely is the point? Portability? Ubiquity? These are nice features, to be sure, but they are not, in themselves, overwhelmingly alluring. This is the visible difference between a book that has been printed in light and an electronic book: the electronic book offers a qualitatively different experience of the text, one which is impossibly alluring."

Media consultant Mark Pesce explores ebooks; what is an ebook and how is it distinct from other books? He argues that delivering linear text on a screen is simply "publishing in light" and such publications are not real ebooks. With hypertext, ebooks open new options that are ideal for many publications. However, the demise of the traditional book is less certain. Would extensive hyperlinks improve a John Grisham novel? It seems likely that, in the digital world, a wide variety of electronic publication types will coexist and the publication type will be selected to match the requirements of the genre. ( O'Neill)


John Hagel on "Invisible Innovation"  (External site)

Bloomberg Businessweek   •  May 18, 2010

Modular management. John Hagel talks about management practices common in Asia that have paved the way for business process innovations. In many of these companies, management looks at the big picture, divides it up into steps (modules) and leaves it to the employees to figure out how best to complete the module. Management exerts quality control on either end of the module, but workers can experiment with ways to achieve optimal results in their area of responsibility. This approach is a reminder of the power of empowerment and why it's important to delegate.

The idea that Asian business innovations are moving beyond technology to new ways of managing their businesses is becoming conventional wisdom. In the interview, Hegel talks about building long term relationships, and managing by goals rather than direction. I have to admit that what came to mind was that this is how protein-test enhancers get into milk products, but that may be unfair. In terms of building long term relationships, maybe our for-profit sector could learn some lessons from the not-for-profit sector. ( Hickey)


Can Social Networks Be Generated Automatically?  (External site)

Technology Review   •  May 14, 2010

Data mining 2.0. Much of our work revolves around our online communities and networks, and this short article provides a little insight into the algorithms that some businesses are using to automatically generate social networks based on communications patterns. The idea has some merit, especially as we strive to leverage our connections to provide added value for our support base.

This piece does more to point out the difficulties and dangers of trying to algorithmically determine who someone may wish to be friends with than it does convincing us that it works. That's just as well, since the recent controversies over Google Buzz and Facebook privacy settings seem to point out that people want to be in control of their social networking. This places libraries right where we want to be, since we have a legacy of guarding our user's privacy. Data mining can be a powerful tool, but when applied to the social lives of individuals, it's likely best to leave the bucket-wheel excavator in the shed. ( Tennant)


How Group Dynamics May Be Killing Innovation  (External site)

Knowledge@Wharton   •  May 12, 2010

Hybrid brainstorming. Brainstorming sessions have become a regular agenda item in many organizations, and a recent Wharton study suggests that a small change in how it's done could yield big results. Wharton researchers advocate a hybrid approach, where the participants are asked to spend some time alone, thinking of ideas, before joining a group free-for-all. The results were impressive—the average quality of ideas generated in this manner was ranked about 30% "better" than the conventional team efforts.

Innovation is to systems what leadership is to organizations, and it's lonely at the top of each. The Knowledge@Wharton blog recently highlighted the tension between group dynamics and innovation, pointing towards a hybrid approach that combines ideas conceived in isolation but vetted by a group process. GroupThink on its own (according to researchers Terwiesch and Ulrich) tends to spawn ideas limited by consensus, political correctness, and sometimes, simply office politics. ( Weibel)


How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking  (External site)

Harvard Business Review   •  May 20, 2010

Multitaskers Anonymous. We all know by now that our brains do not effectively multitask, even though we think they do. This blog reminds us of the bliss of doing one thing at a time and offers some suggestions for weaning ourselves from this compulsive behavior.

While reading this article, Outlook helpfully popped up little snippets of several incoming messages in the corner of my screen. As this article points out, it isn't all that easy to rid yourself of distractions. We've probably all found ourselves using early-morning or late-night hours for concentrated attention given the unbidden interruptions we're subjected to all day. I'll give this single-focus idea more effort. A group effort could include checking our iPhones and Androids at the door for any meetings we attend. ( Washburn)


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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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