Test Everything: Notes on the A/B Revolution

Wired.com • May 9, 2012

Marketers, media and metrics. A/B testing, a tweaking tool that allows sites to display alternate versions of Internet content and track which one gets the most hits, provides solid, real-time feedback in a market known for mushy metrics (eyeballs, anyone?). But author Brian Christian suggests the trend is more than that: " . . . A/B testing is not simply a best practice—it's also a way of thinking, and for some, even a philosophy. Once initiated into the A/B ethos, it becomes a lens that starts to color just about everything—not just online—but in the offline world as well."

I'd heard of this kind of feedback but was unaware of its ubiquitous use. I'm pretty sure our systems don't support this kind of analysis and the levels of traffic are not at the scale that would warrant real-time iteration. Although in the aggregate they are. ( Michalko)

Big Data or Too Much Information?

Smithsonian Magazine • May 7, 2012

Digital kudzu. Corporations and organizations are creating a giant reservoir of Big Data, but very few have employees on staff trained to evaluate and make use of that data. A 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report predicted an impending shortage of up to 190,000 analytic experts and as many as 1.5 million managers capable of using the insights gleaned for strategic decision-making. Read on for a sampling of how Big Data is being used to solve big problems.

Nice to see a contrary voice on the value of "big data" surface in this article. Even better to look at the TED talk by David McCandless on the power of "information maps" referenced in the article. ( Michalko)

Why Publishers Don't Like Apps

Technology Review • May 7, 2012

Great expectations? Publishers who once latched onto mobile apps as The Next Big Revenue Stream have been deeply disappointed. Technology Review publisher Jason Pontin tells his own tale of dashed hopes and explains why the lure of mobility is just a mirage.

A confessional article that showed me a range of complexity in building content for apps that I would not have anticipated. Building six different forms of the same editorial content for all the mode of consumption seems incredible. Hurry up HTML5. ( Michalko)

A Question of Honor

The American Scholar • Spring 2012

You're only cheating yourself. Former university president William Chace's essay takes a fresh look at academic cheating and suggests that instead of policing term paper mills, schools should "let everyone in on the secret about writing: plagiarism is at the heart of prose; it's how it gets done." Just as music mashups are gaining public acceptance as a new art form, "patchwriting" reflects the realities of creating prose—"molding new shapes from preexisting materials," says Syracuse professor Rebecca Moore Howard. "Patchwriting belongs not in a category with cheating on exams and purchasing term papers but in a category with the ancient traditions of learning through apprenticeship and mimicry." Read on for Chace's suggestions on how to use cheating to strengthen schools' moral fiber.

This is a well-crafted article on a topic important to the academy. I'm glad it ended by pointing to honor systems managed by students. Until then it made the sound of a white flag flapping. The word bonus from reading: usufruct. ( Michalko)

To Be More Productive, Limit Interruptions

MIT Sloan Management Review • May 11, 2012

Step away from the iPhone. For years, studies have shown that constant interruptions raise stress levels, but this review of Marshall Van Alstyne's article, Why Strong Ties Matter More in a Fast-Changing Environment, highlights his finding that "allowing yourself to be interrupted all the time, as opposed to focusing on the task and barring interruption, was roughly equivalent to pulling an all-nighter."

I forward this along only because of the remarkable title. It's one worthy of The Onion but comes to us direct from MIT Sloan Management. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, cooperative agreements that are intended to achieve change in the way library print collections are managed should include what?

Get the answer.