Improv Nation

The New York Times • 26 October 2012

Following their bliss. Jack Hitt's book, Bunch of Amateurs, celebrates American DIY culture, from Ben Franklin's shrewd coonskin cap politicking to the Daily Show's transition from spoofer to news source. Amateur research has a history of rewriting serious science and is challenging the foundations of today's academic environment. In reviewer Amy Finnerty's words, academia's "cautious, glacial methods are being challenged by 'open-source wiki-ism,' what Hitt calls 'amateurism on steroids.'"

There are interesting threads here that connect with the rise of the personal brand on social media, the emergence of crowd-validated experts who could only have emerged in a post-Internet world, and the relative rarity of academia-sanctioned discourse and publication on the web. I went looking for an image of Ben Franklin in a coonskin cap. Found this—The Coonskin Library in Amesville, Ohio (about 100 miles southeast of OCLC headquarters). (Michalko)

Meet the Climate Change Denier Who Became the Voice of Hurricane Sandy on Wikipedia • 2 November 2012

Who's in charge here? Check out this story of an over-the-top editorial tussle, which pitted a lone amateur Hurricane Sandy enthusiast against a chorus of climate change scientists. Amateur Ken Mampel eventually gave up his crusade to remove all mention of "climate change" and "global warming" from the entry, but this story of editorial struggle illustrates a major weakness of Wikipedia, which is that the "truth" can change from edit to edit.

This is a good story about an important contemporary Wikipedia article that nicely exposes the processes that turn a crowd of amateurs into (mostly) reliable factual editors. If you don't know about the Wikipedia rules and processes this article will help you understand them in action. If you don't know about how Wikipedia works then check out these videos by Max Klein, OCLC's Wikipedian in Residence. Or this very nice explanatory presentation about Wikipedia and Libraries from Max. And if you want to learn how to begin writing and editing in Wikipedia Max has a nice eight-part online class here (2 hours for the whole thing). It's fun having him here at our offices. (Michalko)

Let's Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can't Eliminate Them • 1 November 2012

Free ideas. Free Software Foundation president Richard Stallman calls for a change in patent law that would reduce the ability of "patent trolls" to lock up the rights to abstract computational ideas. Rather than rewriting patent law and struggling to determine the fate of thousands of existing software patents, Stallman suggests limiting their effect, citing precedent set by a law passed to shield surgeons from lawsuits. Current patent law stymies innovation—check out one person's idea for fixing it.

Yep. You have to respect Stallman for the persistence of his vision and the unrelenting vigilance he brings to the cause. It changes things. And sometimes irritates. (Michalko)

Innovation Isn't Tied to Size, but to Operating Rules

HBR Blog Network • 31 October 2012

Size doesn't count. Corporate veteran Nilofer Merchant debunks the theory that smaller companies can forge a quicker path to innovation than their bulkier counterparts. Comparing the innovation histories of IBM and HP, Merchant demonstrates it's not the size, it's the corporate mindset that determines an organization's ability to capitalize on innovation opportunities.

The IBM and HP comparison seems accurate to me. Here in Silicon Valley the fall of HP over the last two decades has been disappointing and difficult to watch. For those who worked there it's been devastating. When both companies were industry leaders I would have picked HP as the one that would thrive long-term. The HP way was people and innovation-oriented while IBM seemed intent only on sales. Wrong. For some really interesting and occasionally touching reminiscences by early HP staffers check out the HP MemoryProject site. (Michalko)

Busy and Busier

The Atlantic • November 2012

Productivity alert. Productivity expert David Allen says, "Information overload is not the issue. If it were, you'd walk into the library and die." Instead, the key to raising productivity and lowering stress is to transfer your mental juggling act to a trusted system, paper or electronic. Otherwise, " . . . we walk around with what I call the GSA of life—the Gnawing Sense of Anxiety that something out there might be more important than what you're currently doing." Read on for more ways to avoid "the busy trap."

Read the extended interview which is linked to in this summary article. I think Allen is on to something with his comments that flatter organizational structures and the percolation of executive functions down to many more individuals are major contributors to the ubiquity of feeling overwhelmed and overloaded. (Michalko)

Why Do Readers Cheat Content Paywalls in Online Journalism?

Smithsonian Magazine • 2 November 2012

Telling tales. A recent study indicates that people are more open to paying for digital content if they believe their contribution helps out a financially needy company. In this case, The New York Times was the financially needy entity and it turned out that "justifying to potential subscribers why content can't be free is important in convincing them to pay." Read on for lessons in creating a compelling case for fee-based content.

Younger and more frequent visitors were much more likely to choose circumvention than subscription. That's not a hope-giving observation. It may be that explaining the consequences of non-payment creates an inclination to consider paying but I have a feeling that works only with content properties with which you have achieved some familiarity and experience. Thus the freemium model or maybe a NYTimes membership structure. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, the OCLC Research Library Partnership, a global alliance of like-minded institutions that focuses on making operational processes more efficient and shaping new scholarly services, has how many Partners?

Get the answer.