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Above the Fold

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

May 2, 2011
Vol. 4, No. 17
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science  (External site)

Mother Jones   •  April 18, 2011

The irrational mindset. It is extraordinarily difficult to dislodge a mistaken belief—in fact, people will sometimes cling to their beliefs even more strongly when presented with facts to the contrary. Read on for an explanation of why so many Republicans dismiss global warming concerns and why so many Democrats are still convinced there's a link between autism and childhood vaccines. The bottom line is that changing minds is a complex and difficult process, but choosing a "messenger" who reflects a mis-believer's personal value system can help.

This is relevant to our "industry" challenges as the need for radical change and redefinition of the library seems obvious to some and backed by plenty of empirical evidence, while others read the evidence and imagine we just need to do a better job of getting clients to appreciate us c.f. Robert Darnton's " 5 Myths about the Information Age." As a person with what has been called "a rigid delusional system" I am sympathetic to the problem and appreciate that "If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn't trigger a defensive, emotional reaction." Upton Sinclair put the dilemma succinctly: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." ( Michalko)


You Don't Need Permission to Innovate  (External site)

Blogging Innovation   •  April 22, 2011

Rogue innovation. University of Queensland professor Tim Kastelle espouses the "it's easier to apologize later than ask permission first" school of innovation management theory. He points out that some innovations cost nothing but chutzpah, and the gains can be substantial. The bottom line: "How much can you get away with?"

This short homily is a good preface to the next article suggesting that innovation is actually hard work even when permission is given and motivation is high. ( Michalko)


Why Great Designers Steal—and Are Proud of It  (External site)

UX Matters   •  April 18, 2011

Steal this idea. Most creative breakthroughs are not the products of "lone geniuses." Rather, they are the result of close observation and leveraging others' creative output. Author Traci Lapore cites Steve Jobs, Twyla Tharp and Miyamoto (Mario Brothers designer) as examples of successful innovators who "have developed good habits of observation, maintained them through discipline, and supplemented their creative thinking with a range of inputs, leading them to have an empathetic understanding of customers, users, other creators and culture." Read the article and think about Pablo Picasso's advice: "Good artists copy; great artists steal."

I think this article joins up with the first one. At the heart of current good design is contextual inquiry—watching what people do rather than what they say. It would be interesting to see some real evidence from the faculty who extol the extent to which their thinking and careers have been enabled by the serendipitous crawl through the book stacks. This article offers up this spot-on quotation from Jack Truemper: "users will often say something that is immediately contradicted by their actions, and any good user researcher knows to pay greater attention to what the user does than what they say. It's also the researcher's responsibility to try to understand the disparity." Indeed. ( Michalko)


University Professor Researches Use of Links in Online Articles  (External site)

Diamondback Online (University of Maryland)   •  April 19, 2011

Less is more. Too many hyperlinks can impede readers' understanding of scientific subjects, says University of Maryland journalism professor Ronald Yaros. His findings on when and how to use links are derived from a study involving two New York Times articles, but could apply to the way we organize information for all types of audiences.

A different kind of user experience study that acknowledges we come to "news" stories with a particular reading approach which needs to use hypertext in different ways than conventions might dictate. This article tantalizes but doesn't say much about the findings. There's more about those here. ( Michalko)


An iTunes Model for Data  (External site)

O'Reilly Radar   •  April 20, 2011

Commodity pricing? Gil Elbaz, CEO and co-founder of data platform Factual, suggests that taking an iTunes approach to marketing big data would allow affordable access for users and spur entrepreneurs to develop value-added data services. iTunes worked for music because it was easy, cheap and transparent—buyers understood beforehand exactly what they were getting for their 99 cents. Can the same model really work for large data collections and where do libraries fit in all this?

An intriguing idea that links up to our concerns with data curation and re-use. I've said before that big data analysis tools seem to be making their way towards the consumer space, i.e., folks like me might soon be empowered with tools that are as easy to use as Excel. Consider Google Refine. If that's the case, then the expectations set by a consumer distribution and marketplace like iTunes point to the need to consider how newly enabled users will easily get their data. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, who will be the President of the Society of American Archivists for 2012-2013

Click here to find the answer.


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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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