Dear Readers,

This week's issue is shortened due to our efforts to staff the FutureCast meeting, held in Washington, D.C.  If you're interested in the meeting, we hope you'll take a look at the Web page, where specific outcomes and recordings will be available soon. We've included some articles below that we believe warrant a brief skim and can stand on their own without further commentary.


Our Data, Ourselves

The Boston Globe • May 22, 2011

What's yours is ours. The instinct to guard one's personal information closely is deeply ingrained but there are good arguments for making your (anonymized) data available for public interest research purposes. Read on to find out more about the proposed "data commons" and how it could contribute to the collective good.

I think a lot of us would be glad to have our data exhaust flow into a data commons IF we could be confident that it would not be "re-identified." Most of us now appreciate and expect the convenience and other goods that flow from the ability to mine massive amounts of data representing small behaviors and choices as reflected in our Web behaviors. Reassure me and I'll give it over. ( Michalko)

Readers of the Pack: American Best-Selling

Book Forum • Summer 2001

Trash talk. Enjoy a spin through literary history with this engaging article by senior editor Ruth Franklin, who took on the task of reading through a century's worth of best-selling novels. Her observations on the allure of what George Orwell called "bad good books" will bring back memories of losing yourself in a low-brow page-turner while wiggling your toes in the sand. Check out Franklin's reading list and think about how the concept of a "bestseller list" is evolving with the addition of eBook titles.

This is a great flyover of decades of book taste as revealed in sales. It would have been more fun if more of the books had been read. Good excuse: there are 1150 books that have reached the top ten. This recalled for me a wonderful piece in which Anthony Lane of the New Yorker reported on his experience reading his way through the 1994 Top Ten list replicating what Gore Vidal had done in 1973. The summary is here with the full article only for subscribers. For those who are not, some of the gems from the essay are captured here. ( Michalko)

It's Not the Technology, Stupid! Response to NYT "Twitter Trap"

HASTEC • May 23, 2011

The brain R us. Author Cathy Davidson says technology is not robbing us of our capacity for sustained attention or deep concentration—we're doing it to ourselves when we spend hours clicking through Web sites and "doing idiotic things." Davidson calls on Nicholas Carr et al. to "stop whining and start thinking in creative and innovative ways about how we can remake and redesign our habits and practices, our schools and workplaces, for the world we inhabit now—not the one that some of us, of a certain age, were born into." She has a point.

If you can read through the repeated worrying of Carr, Lanier et al. you can take five minutes to read this reasoned call for responsibility. It's not the technology (always). ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what is one situational criterion in people's choices and actions during all stages of the information-seeking process?

Get the answer.