-- from information today, april 2007 --
The London Library is a rare and different thing in the modern age of information management. Essentially, the institution stands very much apart from many of the mainstream pressures and concerns of similar-sized sites. As a self-funding charity, it is completely free of what its head librarian Inez Lynn calls âtrendsâ in library science, such as replacing the entire stock every 5 years or responding to the latest governmental âdiktatâ about the role of the library. Instead, she said, the focus is on knowledge, not information.
Users can look in vain for any Dewey system here. The library uses its own idiosyncratic cataloging technique, based firmly on the principle of serendipity. âWe try to have all the major works in the field on show but also in the same place things that might also be of interest,â according to Lynn.
Users like the fact that there just might be something on the shelf other than what they thought they wanted.
Lynn, who became librarian in 2002, outlined what can happen. âWe are primarily about the arts and humanities,â she said. âSo we donât really have a science section. What we do have though is a science and miscellany place, where among other things we have lots of books on camels: camels in California, camels as means of transport, lots of different camel-related material. Writers who want to research camels love thisâthat section is one of our most visited, in fact.â
> the story...
A few local stations around here in the Bay Area have been running heavy rotations of commercials for HD Radio - a new digital broadcast method for radio that allows "CD-quality" sound. While HD radio does require purchase of new equipment, it does not require a subscription fee, as does satellite radio (XM, Sirius), which make the same sound-quality claims. HD Radio has additional benefits over analog radio in that text streams can be embedded into the signal, such as sports scores and news tickers.
As a counterpoint to my earlier post on inconsistency as a design strategy, here's a billboard in SF for, well, you know who:
What your online profile says about you may not be what you expect. Psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas, Austin, has found that while profiles on social networking sites like Facebook present a generally accurate portrait of their owners, this is often at odds with the impression they think they are putting across.
> more of the story..., from the new scientist, march 31, 2007
This article transcribing a moderated discussion between Ted Schlein (a partner at KPCB) and Andrew Metrick (a Wharton professor) about venture capital in China is worth a full read.
Ted Schlein makes the point that innovation in China is a misguided concept -- that it not real innovation; it's more about "me-too"-style business models (e.g., Baidu and Google, Alibaba / DangDang and Amazon) that simply seek to acquire more local market share. These business models often require an offering that understands the local market and user needs, and so the offering may be different from what exists in the west, but he doesn't call this innovation. Real innovation (in which a company has core IP that is unique) will take 5-7 years.
I suppose it's a matter of semantics. Developing a product that acknowledges the local market (e.g., see my previous post about Dell's new PC) is innovation, just not sustainable on its own to support a long-term strategy. Schlein is approaching his argument from a US VC lens (i.e., operating a company vs finding an exit strategy), so he correctly should be thinking about the long-term. But long-term strategy is enabled by short-term steps, and there's plenty of room for innovation within these steps.
One of the elements lauded in flickr's interface is it's general goofiness with the written word. Each time you log in, it greets you in a different language then the last time.
When you click a button, it doesn't say "submit" it says "get in there!" These interface tweaks personalize the system, make it seem more friendly to the user. Such decisions are absurdly easy on the technical end but can be difficult to make from a business standpoint. Does it make our brand too lackadaisical, not serious enough? Personally, I really appreciate the small touches, which is why I really enjoyed finding this gem from Google on Digg today.
If you look at step 20 in the driving directions, you will find "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean." Now that's funny.
-- from the center for media research --
A new report by Media-Screen finds that, although more than 60 percent of U.S. broadband users currently own an Internet-enabled mobile device, only five percent of them, approximately five million, use the mobile Internet. The report concludes that they are reluctant to partake in online mobile activities due to extra fees and difficulties establishing and maintaining Internet connections.
>more of the story...
It's now official - frog design has just opened a studio in Shanghai, China. The press release provides more details. This development is the primary motivation behind this blog's evolution from "Business Design" to "Evolution in China." Keep watching this space for more China observations from onsite...
First John Edwards' Second Life campaign HQ was smeared with e-excrement. Then there was the whole Hillary 1984 thing on YouTube. It's been a rough few weeks for those in that very, very long jog to the White House. What's glaringly apparent in all this is just how far we've come since the last election when Dean was heralded as the first candidate of the Internet just for using Meetup. Barack Obama has his own social network. Edwards has his own Twitter page (and a huge cleaning bill to pay in Linden dollars). Every candidate is trying to harness the power (TM), but the web is a tiger you mostly cling to loosely by the tail. These people, trained to operate within a system of government designed to guard against the volatility of public opinion, need to ask whether they are ready to weather the web's unique, unfiltered, and often very brutal version of democracy. And we should ask whether we really want the person who comes out on top.
Of course, the reality is that the web is not unique as an unruly democracy. Democracy is unruly by definition. Going back all the way to the Federalist Papers, James Madison described it thus:
... there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. (The Federalist Papers, #10)
Which is why we are theoretically a nation ruled by laws (a constitutional republic), instead of a nation ruled by the people directly (a democracy). While there are laws that pertain to campaigns, the worst aspects of democracy are in full effect: mob rule, demagoguery, Fox News. The volume on these has been turned up significantly since the advent of the web. I'm not referring to the actual election mind you, but the war for weekly opinion polls that dominates the campaign season. The campaign is a little democracy that is designed to self-destruct and remake itself anew with each election. It has no care for self-preservation. The ability of even more people to participate online makes for even greater instability, not to mention the sheer unregulated meanness.
On one hand, it's easy to by cynical about the kind of person who could win at this game. The candidate with the loudest voice and the biggest warchest traditionally has come out on top. And this has been reasonable preparation for the kind of partisan screaming match that the government has largely become. These qualities, unfortunately, have very little to do with the kind of qualities I'm hoping for in a leader.
Fortunately, media was easier to manipulate before we were all making it. It's possible that the demands of Campaigning 2.0 are actually good preparation for life as a public servant. Ideally, only the most transparent candidate will survive. I have little doubt that the run for the 2008 White House will be the among the most volatile and nasty on record. I wouldn't want to be in any of the candidates' shoes as they are flayed bare by YouTube and the blogosphere. But whoever limps in in 2008 will be someone we know very well, and hopefully have every reason to trust.
-- from fiercewireless - March 27, 2007 --
CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent released the latest figures from CTIA's polls, which provide some metrics as an introduction to each CTIA show. Of the 1,000 polled wireless users, 93 percent of subscribers said they were satisfied with wireless services, which is up from 80 percent last year.
> more of the story...