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Above the Fold

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

December 17, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 44
ISSN: 1943-1457

My holiday lagniappe to ATF readers:

By now you've bookmarked Readability in your browser so you can comfortably read the long blog posts and articles that we bring you in each ATF issue. However, it doesn't solve the whole problem.

We rarely click through to a piece of long reading and engage with it that very moment. If you're like me you see that it's an interesting piece but you don't have time right then and click out imagining that you'll read it later. To make that more than an empty promise you need Instapaper. I've been using it for a long time as have a million others and I want to especially recommend it to you ATF readers. It's a browser plug-in (as well as phone app) that allows you to click a button and save the article so you can open it later when you have the time for long-form reading. And along the way it strips out all the chuff that surrounds Web text and presents you with a nicely-formatted article that encourages extended reading (ala Readability). And if you choose to you can have the app and the Web folder synch so that you can read in all those smartphone moments. It's simple, incredibly useful and will help you read like you used to. Happy holidays!

Jim Michalko

In this issue:


When Your Core Competency Is No Longer Core to the Business You're In  (External site)

Scholarly Kitchen   •  November 29, 2010

Lost? Michael Clarke says Sears and Blockbuster are two examples of businesses that lost their way by mistaking their core competency—retail sales and DVD rentals—for their real business—distribution. Librarians are really in the validation business—does our organizational strategy reflect that?

Core competency is one of those phrases that can engender agreement in a group until you are forced to be specific and unpack its details. This blog post has the familiar arc about BlockBuster and Netflix. The observation that scholarly publishers are in the validation business is a useful contribution to our discussions. But while the academy has retained the means of validation (our faculty who are the peers in peer review), haven't we outsourced the structures, processes and economy to the commercial publishing sector? ( Michalko)


Books After Amazon  (External site)

Boston Review   •  November/December 2010

Does not play well with others. Writer Onnesha Roychoudhuri details the strong arm tactics used by Amazon to squeeze big publishers and starve small ones. Her cautionary tale does not bode well for the future of independent publishing.

"Selling a book like a can of soup" is now the Amazon way. I was glad to have this catalog of Amazon practices as told from the publisher's perspective. They sound awful. Are those vaunted recommendations we value really for sale as described? Aggregation wins on the net but it seems to bring with it Arrogance, as anyone who has interacted with Web leaders will attest. To the leaders in the aggregated world even the biggest companies in any specific industry are small. ( Michalko)


Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work  (External site)

TED Talks   •  November 2010

Work matters.Collaboration expert Jason Fried calls involuntary distractions the scourge of today's workers, and the top offenders are M&Ms—managers and meetings. He suggests three things we could do right away to make the workplace more conducive to work: instituting no-talk Thursdays; promoting the use of passive communication channels; and canceling the next meeting.

That's pretty much the talk. Of course, he's amusing and compelling. A summary isn't. Jason is the founder of 37signals and the BaseCamp collaboration software of which we are fans. ( Michalko)


Some Data-Minders Ready to Reveal What They Know  (External site)

The Wall Street Journal   •  December 3, 2010

Revelations. The Open Data Partnership, set to launch in January, will for the first time allow online users to view the information collected on them by eight of the most aggressive data trackers. Users will be able to edit their profiles, or even opt out of the whole tracking process.

The Wall Street Journal's series— What They Know—on the industry created around Internet tracking and usage, has raised the general awareness of these ubiquitous practices, caused wonder at the size of the industry and fanned concerns about potential abuses of privacy. Like the movie and music businesses, the industry wants to sort this out before there are congressional hearings and somebody legislates protections and constraints. From my vantage, the industry has a lot of explaining to do. They'd be hard pressed to take the righteous road on behalf of their behavior that Frank Zappa ("I think you should leave it up to the parents, because not all parents want to keep their children totally ignorant.") did back when Congress wanted to legislate the rating of music. ( Michalko)


New York Times Cover Story on "Growing Up Digital" Misses the Mark  (External site)

Huffington Post   •  November 23, 2010

The kids are alright. We've heard much of this before, but Don Tapscott's refutation of a recent Times article assertion that today's kids are "wired for distraction" brings up some good points about how the younger generation's brains tackle work and play. In Tapscott's world, multitasking is a virtue and World of Warcraft is a training ground for the corporate success.

Tapscott serves up a useful rebuttal to the picture painted in the NYTimes "Growing up digital" article. If you haven't read it, click the link. You need to know this. It is now the common wisdom on the topic. The corrective facts in this rebuttal aren't as compelling to me as the author thinks. Knowing that one-third of high school students don't graduate and that half of those leave because classes are not interesting or "boring" seems to confirm that growing up digital has created unreasonable demands on pedagogy. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are the components of the "born digital" landscape?

Click here to find the answer.


News and Views

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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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