You've Won a Badge (and Now We Know All About You)

The New York Times • February 4, 2012

Games people play. One of the hot trends in marketing is gamification—locking in brand loyalty by enticing reward-seeking customers to perform actions that earn them points. But the kind of tracking that games enable can be invasive, and critics warn a backlash may be on the way, noting "the risk of gamification is that it omits the deepest elements of games—like skill, mastery and risk-taking—even as it promotes the most superficial trappings, like points, in an effort to manipulate people." Indeed, one game designer predicts the next marketing mantra may be: "No points. No annoying missions. Just clean services."

At first glance, it's hard to see how "gamification"—the use of game elements applied in a different setting such as an organization's website—could help libraries. But projects such as the National Library of Australia's Newspaper Project demonstrate how providing an incentive system can foster user engagement with a library website. Led by an active OCLC Research Library Partnership participant, Rose Holley, the Newspaper Project highlights and awards the top "text-correctors" of the OCR'd digital images (note the list of their names on the front page of the site). The key is to find the right incentives that will foster user engagement while avoiding the kinds of idiotic requests for the odd virtual item that crop up on one's Facebook page. ( Tennant)

Put Down the Clipboard: Visitor Feedback as Participatory Activity

Museum 2.0 • January 25, 2012

Show and tell. Check out this story about the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History's innovative approach to soliciting visitor feedback for its special "3rd Friday" event. It's a good example of beyond-the-clipboard thinking to get patrons involved in creating and sharing mini-stories about their museum experience.

What's not to like? At a recent hands-on event involving fifty artists helping visitors make things, the museum's community programs director tried out a new method for gathering feedback: setting up a Show and Tell booth where visitors could write a few words about their experience on a small chalkboard and then have their picture taken with the board. The boards contained one of four prompts: "At 3rd Friday I loved___;" "At 3rd Friday I learned___;" "At 3rd Friday I met___;" and "At 3rd Friday I made___." Visitors could then have their photos uploaded to Flickr or keep them private (90% chose Flickr). Afterwards each respondent received a follow-up e-mail with a link to the other shared photos. One could quibble with the lack of opportunity for providing negative feedback (one comment called for a board with the prompt "At 3rd Friday I was appalled by___"), and one could also assert that deeper, more probing user evaluations still have their place. But it is a brilliant marketing practice to entice our patrons into expressing themselves about our collections/services/events/products in fun, creative ways. ( Massie)

The Chart Is a Lonely Hunter: The Narrative Eros of the Infographic

The Millions • February 7, 2012

Picture this. Check out author Reif Larsen's thoughtful essay on the power of visual storytellers, whom he calls "the new meaning makers, the priests of shorthand synthesis." Larsen points out that our brains are prewired to prefer visual information, which, when done well, produces an infogasm—"a familiar, slightly nauseating feeling of delight." Now there's a word to add to your professional vocabulary.

At their best, Larsen says, infographics "help you visualize one particularly illuminating trend that could not be told in any other way. The most successful infographics operate with elegance and restraint, and it is this restraint—this withholding of other information so that you can see a point clearly—that forces you to ask the big questions." While our minds are eager to take in visual information, we have to be vigilant in assessing what the data says—and especially what might be misrepresented by the graphic. For an added bit of amusement, check out infographics gone bad. ( Erway)

The Kodak Moment—Unleashed from Scarcity, Editing Becomes More Important

The Scholarly Kitchen • February 9, 2012

Making good choices. As digital technology breaks down the physical barriers that once limited our creative output, the need for good editing skills is imperative. Check out this reflection on the burden of abundance.

Kent Anderson explores scarcity and abundance in the context of photography, and then considers some parallels in scholarly communication. In the era of film photography, the supply of photos was limited by the physical difficulties in producing them—film had to be loaded into the camera by hand, accidental exposures were common, only a limited number of exposures were available for use at a given time, etc. As a result, the supply of photos was relatively scarce. In the digital era, these constraints on supply have disappeared: a digital camera can store hundreds of photos, mistakes or frivolous photos can be easily deleted, and so on. Because of this, the supply of photos is now relatively abundant. But that doesn't mean we want to share all of this abundance with others; instead, the burden of editing increases as we filter down this abundance of photos to identify the subset that are of highest quality and reflect how we wish to present ourselves to others. Anderson draws a parallel between this and similar trends in scholarly communication, where digital technologies and new publishing models such as Open Access have expanded the opportunity to share scholarly work. But this new abundance in scholarly communication reinforces the need for reliable, trusted editing that identifies high quality work, while filtering out work that does not meet minimum standards. In an age of digital abundance, the value of editing has only increased. ( Lavoie)

Cutting Through the Clutter—Curation and the New 3 Rs of Content

Change the Game • February 5, 2012

Searching for the signal. In an age of Too Much Information, business consultant Jim Love invokes the challenge posed by Sturgeon's Law: "90% of everything is crap." The problem is finding the 10% that's worthwhile, and our automated filtering mechanisms are not yet up to the task.

Using "curation" for what I would call filtering, the 3 Rs of content curation are "reduced, relevant and reliable." Jim Love points out that not only is 90% of everything crap, but there's a whole lot more of it now than when Sturgeon coined the phrase. He is optimistic that content filters that have a rudimentary understanding of the material and are able to learn from your behavior will be able to filter out most of what you don't want, much like spam filters now filter our e-mail. And he has a couple of examples where these seem to help.

Maybe this is true now in limited domains, but my guess is that no matter how imperfect our current methods of curation are, general purpose content filters are still more dream than reality. ( Hickey)


Above the Fold Quiz

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

Get the answer.