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Above the Fold

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

June 25, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 22
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


The Problem with Great Ideas  (External site)

Business Week   •  June 9, 2010

Cannibalize yourself. Microsoft Research Chief Scientist Bill Buxton says the minute you implement a great idea, you need to start working on your next one, even if it cannibalizes your current success. Too many companies focus on wringing every last dollar out of each innovation, while in the meantime their competitors are busy coming up with ways to sabotage you. But that's not all—great success also breeds discontent among your customers, who expect ever-increasing improvements based on—you guess it—your success. Time to get back to the drawing board!

This is a short exhortation you may have heard before. Read it through and look for the "alarm bell" sentence. Hint: It's not "We've always done it that way." ( Michalko)


Closing the Digital Frontier  (External site)

The Atlantic   •  July/August 2010

Information just wants to be paid for. Michael Hirschorn says a major mindshift is underway as media companies target new platforms and begin "pushing their best and most timely content through their apps instead of their Web sites." Consumers have proven willing to pay for smartphone apps, so marketing content there rather than the Web, where people expect "freebies," might give old media a new lease on life.

The author explicates a pattern shift and the underlying dynamics. I think he's right, although it is disappointing to consider that all the Internet revolutionary freedom emerging global brain, etc. excitement follows old-time robber baron economics. Sigh. When will I learn? ( Michalko)


Mind Over Mass Media  (External site)

The Edge   •  June 11, 2010

Is Google making us smarter? Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker says the new media are helping us tame the information explosion and the recent kerfuffle about our brains getting rewired is poppycock: "Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it's not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience." Read on for a refreshing refutation of Nicholas Carr's most recent essay.

In the last ATF we featured a Nicholas Carr and Clay Shirky fencing match. This is a nicely measured short op-ed antidote. Maybe the technology is the only thing that keeps us from getting dumber. I liked my colleague Lorcan Dempsey's characterization of Carr in a recent blog post: "Carr is always suggestive. However, there is also a Kulturkritik gloominess about some of his writing. In talking about change, he quite often focuses on what we have lost, not on what we have gained." ( Michalko)


The Memory Doctor  (External site)

Slate   •  June 4, 2010

Rewriting history. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus pioneered the field of false memory implantation and detection, and William Saletan's comprehensive coverage of her career provides fascinating insight into how easy it is to manipulate the human brain. This is a long article, but by the time you've finished reading, you'll be questioning your own fondest childhood memories . . .

Save this until you have a bit of extended time to read it through. It's engaging on its own terms but also interesting to contemplate the role that documentation and documentation sources play in convincing and in reinforcing our beliefs. ( Michalko)


Your Book as a Database (Part 2)  (External site)

Publishing Perspectives   •  June 11, 2010

Making the connections. In Part 2 of a 3-part series, Neverend Media founder Chris Kubica continues his discussion of books-as-database and by extension your-book-collection-as-database. Some of the potential applications sound annoying, but some could be interesting (if a little troubling from a privacy perspective), such as "Show me all the readers geographically near me who've indicated shared interests that also have book 'y' on their bookshelf." As we think about our role in the community, connecting readers with similar interests is important.

Apropos the previous article, here's and essay in defense of the online book—the "neverending" book that the author can constantly update, correct and revise. Imagine the way that reshapes our notions of documentation. ( 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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