Why Ask Why

The Hub Magazine • March/April 2013

Better branding. Business exec Beth Ann Kaminkow offers a suggestion for any organization striving to enrich its local community and improve its professional image. While most groups use a "what-how-why" storyline to market their products, reversing that order is what's differentiated brands like Apple, Patagonia and Trader Joe's. "Why businesses and brands are galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align and integrate the interests of the brand, the consumers, and the entire community." As libraries and museums seek to expand community support in so many ways, it's important to keep "why" front and center in the transformation process.

Asking why your business or service exists is a great way to find out if you've got a vision of your purpose that is aligned across the organization. If part of your organization thinks they are a "social business" that's mission-led and the other parts thinks it's revenue-driven you’ll have some unmanageable centrifugal forces. See Jim Collins' Good to Great and the Social Sectors (pdf). (Michalko)

Learning Comes First

EDIT Innovation • 2 May 2013

Life lessons. Innovation catalyst Matthew E. May explores the subtle differences between learning and training, beginning with Toyota founder Taiichi Ohno's unique approach to problem-solving, and ending with an intriguing anecdote about the collaboration between the NYPD and the Frick Collection to enhance police officers' powers of observation.

"This is worth scanning for the Ohno examples, the reference to the five "why's" (which I call the Toddler Test; different than the "why" in the previous article), and the observational tutorials at the Frick. Read about that program in this Smithsonian Magazine article.) (Michalko)

Here's How Smartphones, Tablets and Huge Databases Will Upend Market Research

GigaOM • 2 May 2013

Making data work for you. As long as companies are trading consumers' personal data anyway, here are a couple of examples of smartphone apps designed to allow retailers and radio stations to more accurately target individuals' interests based on physical movements and listening habits. If they can get past the "creepy" factor, some consumers might welcome ads for products they might actually want in change for their data.

I am having trouble getting by the creepy factor. For now I find the ads that follow me from site to site or the songs that appear again and again irritating and a jarring reminder of how many are following me. Collusion. (Michalko)

The Crisis in Social Psychology That Isn't

The New Yorker • 1 May 2013

Replication redux. Blogger Gary Marcus says the recent flap over social psychology "priming" research has a bright side: "For years, it was extremely difficult to publish a direct replication, or a failure to replicate an experiment, in a good journal . . . Now, happily, the scientific culture has changed." Read on for more about the Reproducibility Project and the resurgence in replication-based studies now slated for publication.

The drive for reproducibility and replicable experimentation is supercharging the interest in data curation and dataset discoverability—an important opportunity for re-asserting library value. And the other side of the story is The Journal of Irreproducible Results. (Michalko)

Fact of Fiction? The Legend of the QWERTY Keyboard

Smithsonian • 3 May 2013

Myth-buster. Check out this brief history of the QWERTY keyboard, which debunks the theory that the letters were arranged to minimize key-jamming. Despite attempts to introduce alternative models, the QWERTY system has dominated touch typing for the last 150 years. Could the growing popularity of thumb-typing on smaller devices open the market for new designs like KALQ?

I love these kinds of technical histories. The authors are right to point out the strong determinism of path dependency in the persistence of the QWERTY keyboard across many technologies. Who wants to relearn? Of course, you might skip ahead. I marveled at the number personal computers for sale in the legendary Akihabara Tokyo electronics neighborhood that have no keyboard input but use a tethered thumb typing mechanism. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, how can OCLC Research Library Partners participate online in the "Past Forward! Meeting Stakeholder Needs in 21st Century Special Collections" meeting 4-5 June?

Get the answer.