Exploding the "Influentials" Myth

Digital Tonto • November 16, 2011

Toppling the "tipping point." Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, touted the power of "influentials"—knowledgeable opinion leaders who help drive markets with their choices. It turns out that it's influential ideas, rather than people, that wield the power. Read on for a quick look at the research on how ideas go viral and what it means for political movements and marketers.

All my acquaintances who have an interest in their Klout scores or actively managing their Google Scholar Citations profiles are going to be disappointed. ( Michalko)


The Fortnightly Review • October 28, 2011

Truthiness alert. The "defactualization" of the news to fit preconceived opinions and political aims has become common practice among some media outlets. Roger Berkowitz, director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Ethical and Political Thinking, summarizes Arendt's experience with defactualization during her coverage of totalitarianism under the Stalin and Nazi regimes, and calls on universities to play a pivotal role in fostering free thinking and "truthtelling."

This long piece should go into your Instapaper or Read Later account. It's dense but helped me think about the stunning ability of people to turn science into opinion. If you can't read the piece you might want to see Mr. Berkowitz lecturing on the same topic. ( Michalko)

It Knows

London Review of Books • October 6, 2011

Feedback loop. This critique of Google's data-mining capabilities focuses on the value the company derives from user feedback, which it not only uses to tweak its algorithms and boost ad sales, but also to undermine competitors by offering for free what they're trying to sell. It's a lucrative cycle: "The more data it gathers, the more it knows, the better it gets at what it does. Of course, the better it gets at what it does the more money it makes, and the more money it makes the more data it gathers and the better it gets at what it does . . . " The question is, what will happen to Google's vast data deposit if the government eventually decides to take antitrust action?

This is really an essay based on a review of three different books about Google and it's a good summary of what Google does and why. It's not so much about the disposition of their data deposit but what is currently done with it and why Google doesn't actually do more of what it is capable. (Partial answer: because you'd be upset.) ( Michalko)

The Whole World is Watching

Democracy Journal • Fall 2011

Private matters. Ubiquitous collection of personal data by government agencies and corporations is escalating the American public's privacy concerns. With the Patriot Act controversy still fresh in our minds, it's important to focus on ways that libraries can responsibly safeguard the information they collect. Read on for more on the politics of public surveillance.

And this essay asks why all the data mentioned in the previous essay couldn't be used on behalf of consumers and citizens. (Partial answer: because it's proprietary.) ( Michalko)

The Rise and Fall of the Columbia House Record Club—and How We Learned to Steal Music

The Boston Phoenix • November 18, 2011

Pushing vinyl. Back in the days when LPs ruled, Columbia House pioneered an ingenious marketing promotion to create a lifelong customer base, patterned after the success of the Book of the Month Club. For as little as a penny, unsuspecting kids signed up for their free 12-pack of records and locked themselves into monthly servitude—either pay up or return the unordered merchandise. Read on for a reminder that the music business has always had its dark side.

For those who remember this phenomenon and all the other copycat "Clubs" it spawned, you will enjoy the quick history. For those who never experienced this, the essay is a short way to compare and contrast the changed dynamics that underpin an individual’s connection to "their" music. And while I hadn't ever thought about it, of course, someone did have to invent "negative option billing." ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, libraries can leverage the positive feelings people have for libraries in a crowded online space by transforming virtual reference services into what?

Get the answer.