Research Publications Newsletters Above the Fold Above the Fold - 19 January 2016

"Where has ATF been?" asked a few readers. Actually two…

Well, it went on hiatus when life things demanded full attention. August—a wedding (mine), September—a long-anticipated trip to the Czech Republic with my daughter seeking our roots (found) and October—deciding, scheduling and announcing my intention to retire (29 February 2016). Now I've made a few resolutions:
  • to give ATF attention until that happens,
  • to work out a plan for its future after I depart,
  • and to ensure that the items I share are worth your attention.
Jim Michalko


The End of Corporate Computing (10th Anniversary Edition)

Rough Type • Nicholas Carr • 26 July 2015

So that's how Amazon makes its money. This is a re-run of the article Carr wrote ten years ago for MIT's Sloan Management Review in which he argued (presciently) that computing was fated to become a utility, with big, central data centers feeding services to customers over the internet's grid.

Carr was motivated to reprint this article on his blog by Amazon's quarterly earnings report in which they revealed that their Web Services (AWS) business is a 1.8 billion dollar line with a twenty-one percent profit margin. Were it not for AWS Amazon would have lost lots more than it has. It's an extraordinary success.

Carr's article is worth your time. It's very germane given the trend towards shared services in the library domain. His arguments for what kinds of infrastructure become a shared asset—a utility—and ideas about when that transformation occurs likely describe the trajectory for various library services that are in the early offering stages. Consider, for example, research data management and re-use. I was pleased to see that in describing the growth pattern of infrastructure he refers to the very nicely done brief histories of infrastructure in America written by Amy Friedlander when she was with the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (before CLIR and DLF). They should be required reading for every library manager who is guiding a consortia or cooperatively-managed entity. (Michalko)



Science Isn't Broken • Christie Aschwanden • 19 August 2015

It's just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for. Aschwanden spent months investigating the problems hounding science, and learned that the headline-grabbing cases of misconduct and fraud are mere distractions. The state of our science is strong, she concludes, but it's plagued by a universal problem—it's hard. Really hard.

he author does a great job of explaining why it's hard and the kinds of social and psychological obstacles that are almost inevitably encountered when doing science. Some are the types of personal biases with which we are all familiar—confirmation or belief bias—while others may only be familiar to working scientists. I learned for instance about p-hacking, researcher degrees of freedom, and my favorite new acronym HARKing. If you haven't read the Nature article that made the state of science fraud a public discussion you should. (Michalko)



The Research We've Ignored About Happiness at Work

Harvard Business Review • Carl Cederström & André Spicer • 21 July 2015

I always thought it was overrated. The authors looked closely at the research and decided "it's actually not clear that encouraging happiness at work is always a good idea. They agree there is evidence to suggest that happy employees are less likely to leave, more likely to satisfy customers, are safer, and more likely to engage in citizenship behavior. However, they also discovered alternate findings, which indicates that some of the taken-for-granted wisdoms about what happiness can achieve in the workplace are mere myths."

I enjoy these kinds of contrarian articles. Find out all the reasons why happiness at work may not be the best thing for you or your career. The authors rightly point out how difficult a thing it is to define or measure. They also have a clever take on why the happiness "myth" has such persistence in management thinking. It's partly aesthetics and partly ideology. A convenient idea that lets us glide over the hard workplace issues. P.S. The authors were inspired to write this after enduring a workplace motivational speaker who insisted that everyone get up and dance. Yeesh. (Michalko)



18F's Best Practices for Making Distributed Teams Work • Melody Kramer and Michelle Hertzfeld • 15 October 2015

This is smart practice even if you don't work remotely. According to their website, "18F is a team of top-notch designers, developers, and product specialists inside the General Services Administration, headquartered at 18 and F streets in Washington, D.C. 18F is a civic consultancy for the government, inside the government, enabling agencies to rapidly deploy tools and services that are easy to operate, cost efficient, and reusable." In this article the authors describe how they make their virtual teams work.

I vaguely knew about this group that was begun in March 2014. You have to applaud the intention and what they've been able to accomplish. Having worked in a regional office with a distributed team I can vouch for how sensible their best practices are. I wish somebody had outlined these for me some years ago. Some we arrived at by trial-and-error, e.g., think of yourself as a remote employee even when you are in the office. Some we should start doing, e.g., describe all visual designs using words. I now have their blog in my feed. (Michalko)



Grooves, Greetings, Grace

Behold the Groovy Music
Mental Floss • 27 December 2015

Watch Terry Gilliam's Animated Short, The Christmas Card (1968)
Open Culture • 24 December 2015

President Obama Delivers Eulogy at Charleston Shooting Funeral of Clementa Pinckney
YouTube • 27 June 2016

The first because it's a visualization of some great music that teaches and delights.

The second because it is curmudgeonly without being mean; fresh enough 47 years on.

The third because it is eloquent, elegant, heartfelt, honest and hopeful. The best way to step into 2016. (Yes, he sings Amazing Grace at about minute 37 but it's the entirety that uplifts.) (Michalko)



Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what can help to bring insights into the life of the user outside the library that can help us to think about providing more meaningful support

Get the answer.