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Above the Fold

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

May 23, 2011
Vol. 4, No. 20
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Why You Need to Ask Why  (External site)

The Heart of Innovation   •  May 5, 2011

The heart of the matter. Asking the right questions is key to finding the right answer, and this brief article illustrates that adage with an insightful example involving the Jefferson Memorial and bird poop. Check out The Five Whys Technique and make it a part of your problem-solving practice.

We start with this short admonitory article that illustrates a technique I've long advocated—ask why three times in a row. In this case the author presses for five and unlike my technique insists the questioning be done out loud. A lot of the discussions I am in wouldn't welcome that ; ) ( Michalko)


Sleep, Friends, Work—All Victims of Data Overload  (External site)

Fast Company   •  May 1, 2011

Digital downer. Check out the results of the Digital Lifestyle Information Survey 2011: respondents report shortchanging family, friends and sleep to keep up with the digital deluge. At the same time, they increasingly rely on their digital identity for validation: "Individuals managing and sharing content no longer consider it a hobby, but part of how they define themselves in the digital and social web world."

We know this but these are still stunning statistics. How many of the behaviors that get an exclamation point from the author will you admit to? I have pretty much all of them including the reading e-mail in the middle of the night. That said the notion that we will be saved by social curation (that word again) seems a bit wishful, although I have used the multiple reference technique—once an item has been forwarded to me by more than one person it goes on my list to read. I've never missed anything important playing it that way. ( Michalko)


Eli Pariser: Beware Online "Filter Bubbles"  (External site)

TED Talks 2011   •  May 2011

Algorithms rule. We know that social sites like Google and Facebook use algorithms based on our Web browsing activity to personalize ads and search results, but the downside is that these invisible gatekeepers filter out potentially interesting or useful information without giving us a choice about it. That's not only creepy—it's dangerous for democracy, warns Eli Pariser in this nine-minute TED talk.

Pariser has been getting a lot of attention lately. Here he is on why the kind of social curation mentioned above, or at the least the increasing personalization of the Internet, is bad for you. ( Michalko)


Jared Spool: The Secret Lives of Links  (External site)

Adactio   •  May 2, 2011

Beware back buttons and pogo-sticking. The surest way to lose a Web visitor is to make her hit the back button—even worse is making her hit it twice, says designer Jared Spool, who's studied clickstreams at hundreds of sites over 15 years. Spool pegs the clickstream failure rate across sites at 58%, but once a back button is hit, the failure rate rises above 80%, and if it happens again it goes to 98%. These are sobering statistics—read on for advice on how to avoid common mistakes that can frustrate users and kill a clickstream.

There're some nice examples here and even those of us not responsible for Web site design (or a Web site's success) will recognize our own behaviors with the Web sites we use. I should never have to resort to a site map to discover whether the site has what I want somewhere but I find myself looking at site maps more often these days. Forward this to your UI and Usability folks. ( Michalko)


In the Era of eBooks, What Is a Book Worth? (I)  (External site)

An American Editor   •  April 25-May 4, 2011

Compared to what. Blogger Rich Adin argues that there's no good reason to pay premium prices for Stephen King or P.D. James, when similar authors' works are available for much less. This three-part series ( see part II and part III) explores the idea of author interchangeability and what it might mean for acquisition strategies and your own reading habits.

Mr. Adin takes quite a beating for suggesting that except for the highest tier, literary fiction authors have credible substitutes. Genre fiction as a commodity. Don't quite see this as central to the eBook pricing question as he makes it, but the observation does seem true to me and seems like it underpins the power of the "if you liked x you may like y" recommender systems. Other people's choices identifying the substitute good. These are three shortish blog posts that are worth scanning. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, how were the FAST subject headings developed?

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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