Six Degrees of Aggregation

Columbia Journalism Review • April 16, 2012

X-treme curation. Michael Shapiro's history of the Huffington Post recounts its humble beginnings as a left-leaning alternative to Matt Drudge and its meteoric rise fueled by the power of networking, stickiness and the "bored people at work" constituency. "It's not that we want to be the cool dinner party," says HuffPo journalist Travis Donovan, "we want to be the table itself." Check out the lessons learned on leveraging social networks and content curation.

This is really fun and informative. It's a slightly longform history that calls out the most unlikely people—Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and most intriguingly Duncan Watts and his book, Six Degrees . ( Michalko)

The Kindle Index

Priceonomics • April 18, 2012

Reality check. It turns out the biggest market for Kindles isn't in trendy East or West Coast metropolitan areas—it's in mid-sized cities across the South and Midwest. Check out this market research, which shows areas with good weather have lower e-reader penetration and the link between e-reader ownership and a college-educated population is weaker than you'd think.

I would not have guessed. I find their explanations for the distribution and the heavily saturated areas less than compelling. My colleagues, Brian Lavoie and Constance Malpas, are close to publishing a paper about book distribution in the USA that takes off from Richard Florida's mega-regions work. I note that the saturated places are outside the mega-regions. ( Michalko)

Raskally Fellows: Are Copyright Infringers "Pirates" and "Thieves"?

Ars Technica • April 19, 2012

Watch your language. The words "piracy" and "theft" are not found in the current U.S. copyright statute language, although the inflammatory terminology, which dates as far back as a 1704 essay by Daniel Dafoe, has become common parlance in today's legal and legislative deliberations. We should all demand an end of polarizing language when discussing issues surrounding copyright infringement.

Words matter. I sat through a good presentation yesterday about the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use For Academic and Research Libraries which was championed by the Association of Research Libraries which I commend to you. Four speakers and not a one uttered the p or t words. ( Michalko)


Hub Magazine • March/April 2012

Improvement vs. game change. One-upping the competition can drain resources and energies that could better be put toward changing the game. Rather than focusing on glitz, brand expert David Aaker cites the game-changing appeal of Japan's Muji enterprise, which has made a success of "non-branding"—offering customers plain vanilla design with green undertones that signals "just-enough" consumption. "Muji delivers several 'must-haves,' including anti-brand, anti-glitz values; a calm, relaxing shopping experience; and an environmentally sensitive, outdoors lifestyle. In doing so, it has defined a new and hard-to-match subcategory that delivers both self-expressive and emotional benefits." Never underestimate the impact of an understatement.

Seems to me that this is relevant to the way research libraries re-invent their campus "brand." At an institutional level they can own subcategories even while the specifics will vary from place to place. ( Michalko)

Ann Blair on the History of Information

The Browser • April 18, 2012

Everything you always wanted to know. History professor and author Ann Blair ( Too Much to Know) shares her recommendations for five books on the history of knowledge, information management, reading, timelines and card catalogs. Although Blair's choices focus on Western European history, the issues transcend geography, including the relationship of information to knowledge; the spread of reading from the ecclesiastical realm to popular culture; and the evolution of information visualization and retrieval.

I sheepishly admit I have read none of the books she has chosen. I am pleased to say we called your attention to her book in an earlier ATF issue. ( Michalko)

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012

Chicago Tribune • April 19, 2012

So true. This tongue-in-cheek obituary mourns the death of Facts, a result of "injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists." Read on for a brief history of Facts, which have been in decline ever since the advent of the 24-hour-news-cycle. "Anybody can express an opinion on a blog or any other outlet and there's no system of verification or double-checking, you just say whatever you want to and it gets magnified. It's just kind of a bizarre world in which one person's opinion counts as much as anybody else's," says Mary Poovey, author of A History of Modern Fact .

Cute. Any longer and it wouldn't qualify for that adjective. Facts frequently get lost because of one of the underlying dynamics of the web— "Why wasn't I consulted?" as Paul Ford said in his famous essay. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, how can you help make it easier for researchers to discover materials in special collections?

Get the answer.