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Above the Fold

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

March 14, 2011
Vol. 4, No. 10
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


The Lure of Lists  (External site)

More Intelligent Life/The Economist

List-mania. Okay, everyone knows that making lists can help improve organizational skills, but Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber uses the "1001 books" list to illustrate a far more compelling argument for lists, including that "they fight a rigorous holding action in the battle against cultural entropy and chaos." Read on for an entertaining analysis of how lists can motivate us to greater intellectual achievement.

I love that "cultural entropy" phrase. As John von Neuman said to Claude Shannon (remember last week's ATF piece about a Mathematical Theory of Communication?): "You should call it entropy, for two reasons. In the first place your uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name, so it already has a name. In the second place, and more important, no one really knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage." And if you want some additional book lists try these compiled by my OCLC Research colleagues. ( Michalko)


Stephen Baker on Watson  (External site)

The Browser   •  February 25, 2011

Baker's bookshelf. The journalist who embedded himself in the IBM Watson project shares his thoughts on the computer's Jeopardy challenge and recommends five books on technology. Check out his list if you're interested in the evolution of artificial and human intelligence, the history of information technology or the neuroscience of information management.

So we go from the reasons for a list to an actual list. The only book on here that I've read is The Soul of a New Machine which I remember as spellbinding. P.S. I agree that it wasn't fair that Watson could press the buzzer so much faster. So does Jon Stewart. ( Michalko)


Living Singles  (External site)

The New York Times   •  February 25, 2011

Novella niche. Amazon is making a business out of selling short ebooks by authors such as Pete Hammill and Mark Greif for $2 to $3 apiece. Could the Kindle Single do for the non-fiction narrative market what iTunes did for music?

I have two words for you: longform.org and instapaper.com. ( Michalko)


Mobile Content is Twice as Difficult  (External site)

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox   •  February 28, 2011

Comprehensive failure. As more people turn to the small screen for information gulps, researchers from the University of Alberta are reporting a 48% lower comprehension score compared to viewing the same (admittedly complex) information on desktop monitors. The researchers used a single-page privacy policy for the experiment, and noted that much of the mobile readers' dysfunction arose from the difficulty of having to remember previous content as one scrolls through a document, taking in one tiny screenful at a time. The takeaway: It's imperative that organizations design a whole new set of content specifically for mobile consumption.

I had no idea what a Cloze Test was. Pretty interesting. Nor did I have any idea how Microsoft Word determined readability via another test called Flesch-Kincaid. Last week's ATF scored a Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 13 and Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 37. You know what Grade 13 might be, but Reading Ease is scored up to 100 which is the easiest. ( Michalko)


Inside the Multimillion-Dollar Essay-Scoring Business  (External site)

(Minneapolis) City Pages   •  February 23, 2011

Recipe for failure. This eye-opening exposé on the standardized test essay-grading industry should set off alarm bells for anyone who's ever known someone who had to endure the current battery of tests that now represent academic achievement. Wince your way through this one.

This is discouraging but also kind of funny in a glad-it-isn't-happening-to-me way. Maybe if you put Watson together with a Flesch-Kincaid test you'd get better scoring. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are the main strands of work proposed in the Greening Events II project?

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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