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Above the Fold

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

February 7, 2011
Vol. 4, No. 5
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Games That Launch Companies, Games That Heal: Q&A with Jane McGonigal  (External site)

TED blog   •  January 21, 2011

Games people play. Gaming evangelist Jane McGonigal describes her efforts to design games that help improve lives, such as harnessing the placebo effect to lift depression: "We need to stop thinking that just because something is digital that it doesn't have a real impact on our minds and bodies and hearts." Check out how McGonigal and others are using virtual activities to achieve real-world goals.

I am always fascinated by the passion of gamers and the intellect of those who design them. They are exotic because I am not one of them. McGonigal has an interesting TED talk and some strange videos. Here she encounters Stephen Colbert. ( Michalko)


Personal Data Mining to Improve Your Cognitive Toolkit  (External site)

Wired.co.uk   •  January 18, 2011

We are what we mine. British journalist David Rowan says rather than surrendering our personal data to cyber-marketers, "We need to think more about mining our own output to extract patterns that turn our raw personal datastream into predictive, actionable information." As data visualization technology becomes increasingly available, the idea of identifying patterns in our lives to improve our health, relationships and efficiency makes sense.

Be sure to click on the Edge QuestionCenter link in the first paragraph. The personal data mining concept put forward here is the author's response to their big question of the year "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?" I've often thought that the tools for this kind of mining and visualization are going to be made consumer-friendly and consumable ala Excel. Consider Google's BigQuery system. ( Michalko)


Findability and the Information Paradox  (External site)

I'd Rather Be Writing   •  January 12, 2011

Less is more. When compiling a help index, "There's a point at which help topics start to break down under a mass of information," says technical writer Tom Johnson. "When help reaches this threshold, going beyond it actually becomes detrimental to the user because the information starts to lack continuity and focus." As information junkies, it's easy to fall into the trap of over-documentation—Johnson reminds us that a truly useful help index usually follows the 80-20 rule.

And one of the answers to the Edge big question of the year about scientific concepts was from Clay Shirky who volunteered the Pareto Principle, often known as the 80-20 rule. ( Michalko)


Pandora Pulls Back the Curtain on Its Magic Music Machine  (External site)

Fast Company   •  January 21, 2011

Secret sauce. Pandora founder Tim Westergren talks about the important role that human music analysts play in evaluating and classifying musical works. "It's true that the algorithms mathematically match songs, but the math, all it's doing is translating what a human being is actually measuring," says Westergren. "You need a human ear to discern." What a refreshing change from techno-driven Amazon affinity marketing . . .

And speaking of data mining here's one of my favorite services suggesting the limits of data manipulation. I'm an avid Pandora listener who constantly discovers new things via their very nicely tuned engine, but didn't know the extent to which they relied on human scoring and judgment. Check out the slideshow of Pandora People. ( Michalko)


You've Been Verbed  (External site)

Intelligent Life Magazine   •  Winter 2010

Grammar policing. Who knew that "impact" was used as a verb as long ago as the 17th century? For those who cringe at the current trend toward rampant verbing (or denominalization, in grammarian-speak), this article provides a quick history and some amusing examples that may help defuse your annoyance.

Okay. This is just fun. All of us get irritated or surprised by verbings. I still recall the first time someone told me about how they incentivized their staff. But there are good historical ones out there. My favorite— burke. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, who are the three 2011 OCLC/ALISE Library & Information Science Research Grant awardees?

Click here to find the answer.


News and Views

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