The Bifurcated Society

Credit Writedowns • January 13, 2012

Automation nation. Workers today face a dual threat: while computer automation is eliminating a huge swath of mid-level white-collar desk jobs, self-service imperatives are chipping away at lower level professions. "We are not as unemployed as we might think. We just are not being paid for our work," says government policy advisor Rick Bookstaber, who notes that many of our jobs are not being outsourced to India or China—they're being outsourced to us. Read on for Bookstaber's predictions about how future class distinctions will focus on education and intelligence rather than conspicuous consumption.

And, of course, in the US those education and intelligence class markers are conferred by elite universities where attendance is now largely predictable based on income class. ( Michalko)

Retail Isn't Broken, Stores Are

Harvard Business Review • December 2011

Mr. Fix-it. Check out this interview with J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson, who's bringing his expertise as a former Apple Store exec to the task of reviving an old-school retailer. Johnson's insight on the future of department store retailing offers lessons for libraries as they struggle to reinvent themselves as a cross between community centers and big-box bookstores, with a little tech support thrown in for good measure.

I think he's right to say that the expectations we have of a retail experience are now very different because of the e-retailing experience where convenience and speed rule. This allows room for brick-and-mortar retailers to create a different kind of value and renewed reasons for us to make ourselves physically present. ( Michalko)

Too Much Buzz

The Economist • December 31, 2011

Twitter hangover. Now that the novelty has worn off, companies may find that focusing their attention on a handful of noisy tweeters results in missed opportunities to strengthen relationships with non-tweeting customers and build future markets. As social media channels proliferate, it's important to remember that the louder the buzz, the more precious those whispers of useful information.

Yep. Most firms are pretty ham-fisted when it comes to social media and focus an inordinate amount of attention on the loud ones in the twitterverse and blogosphere even when they make it impossible to talk with a real human being. And Glenn Reynolds, who gets a shoutout in the essay for his phrase "Army of Davids," is a clever blogger despite a perspective I don't share. ( Michalko)

There Is No Such Thing as Serendipity

Cog Dog Blog • January 11, 2012

Add this to your vocabulary. A recent spate of articles has focused on the pursuit of serendipity ("happy surprise"), but rarely do we hear about serendipity's opposite, zemblanity—a term coined by author William Boyd meaning "making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design." Blogger Alan Levine describes his strategy for creating the conditions that make serendipity possible while avoiding the zemblanity all around us.

Wow. He worked hard to bring in the neologism but I wondered about that Wikipedia explanation for the origin of the word "serendipity." It seems to be accurate that Horace Walpole made it up and that it was virtually unused, appearing in print only 135 times from 1754 to 1958 at which point its use began rising. Perhaps " zemblanity" will follow a similar pattern? Nah. ( Michalko)

How the Internet of Things Could Make the World Safer and Greener

Giga Om • January 13, 2012

Boomerang. Check out this alternate view of the Internet of Things—a world where even your trash talks back to you: "One of the consequences of digitizing our everyday objects is that the data they capture provides us with new information about the impact of our actions—from what we consume to the waste we discard, and to the things we give away."

What would your trash say? Perhaps "I could have been mongo." Not the planet, not the foot, not the database software, not Alex Karras, not the drummer but mongo. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are two trends that are driving foundational shifts in libraries of the 21st century?

Get the answer.