Monday, April 15, 2013

MediaWeek (V7, N15): Digital Minds, Mendeley, Cal State Edx, Le Carre, + More

Fun to experiment - View this in Flipboard:

From the digital minds pre-conference at London Book Fair over the weekend this summary from The Bookseller:
Author Neil Gaiman, in a wide-ranging and complex talk, said people in the book business needed to become more like 'dandelions', experimenting by spreading numerous seeds around and accepting that most would fail. "The model for tomorrow is try everything, make mistakes, fail, fail better."
Gaiman took his analogies back to prehistoric days saying that print books could be like sharks, an animal that evolution has never bettered, but that there were still some dinosaurs in the business, for whom digital could be the end. "Books (some) may be sharks", but "home libraries" and "encyclopedias" were not, with both displaced by the web and portable reading devices. He said he recognised that the e-book was here when he daughter started reading off an early version of the Kindle on a trip to Hungary where printed English-language books were not available. For older readers he said the ability to increase font-size was the "killer app".
Gaiman said we were moving from a world where gatekeepers were necessary, to one where guides were essential. Gaiman said he would "sign anything", and said discoverability was best achieved not through a commercial transaction. "We don't normally find the people we love most by buying them, we discover them." Gaiman said he never wanted to go "to war" over this, instead he promoted "word of mouth".
From The New Yorker a view on the Mendeley/Elsevier tie up:
Elsevier has two reasons to buy Mendeley. One is to squash it—to destroy or coƶpt an open-science icon that threatens its business model. Many critics fear that’s the case. The other reason is to possess the aggregated data that Mendeley’s users generate with all of their searching and sharing. Mendeley is still growing, with two million three hundred thousand users sifting through over a hundred million references. Their use patterns reveal who is reading what, which papers are popular, what lines of research are surging, which disciplines and journals are crucial, and a lot of other extremely valuable information.
No one has that kind of data at the scale of Mendeley. Mendeley had been selling access to segments of that data to publishers and other institutions, including Elsevier, as part of its business model. Now Elsevier owns all of that data. But if it wants users to continue generating streams of data, the company will have to play nice, which leaves it with something like the Facebook model: create software and a huge social network in which people share information that it can profitably harvest, and be just conciliatory enough about privacy, anyway, to repel fewer people than it attracts.
And Salon thinks about the data:
One common link is obvious: powerlessness in the face of corporate greed. But there’s another, slightly more subtle connection. When we use online services to gather together and share information, whether it be about our favorite romance novels, or most useful sets of bibliographic citations, we create persistent and accessible agglomerations of data. The more popular such services become, the more valuable that data becomes, and sooner or later, a big fish is going to come around and gobble it up. We personally may have never intended to sell out, but together we managed to create something that was bound to be sold. Inevitably, that data will be used to target us.

Techcrunch reports that Cal State is aggressively expanding their MOOC style offerings:
It appears that San Jose edX course is experiencing results similar to when universities switch from boring old lecture-style teaching, to a more interactive form. For instance, one University of California, Los Angeles biochemistry class experiment found a roughly 18% pass rate boost when it ditched lectures [PDF].
But, one-off experiments can often seem much more promising than reality, once they are brought to scale. When new-age pilots are broadened to environments with less-than-enthusiastic teachers and students, things can fall apart.
In the Guardian John LeCarre speaks about the genesis of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold but thinking who Leamas may have been in today's world:
The merit of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, then – or its offence, depending where you stood – was not that it was authentic, but that it was credible. The bad dream turned out to be one that a lot of people in the world were sharing, since it asked the same old question that we are asking ourselves 50 years later: how far can we go in the rightful defence of our western values, without abandoning them along the way? My fictional chief of the British Service – I called him Control – had no doubt of the answer:
"I mean, you can't be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government's policy is benevolent, can you now?"
Today, the same man, with better teeth and hair and a much smarter suit, can be heard explaining away the catastrophic illegal war in Iraq, or justifying medieval torture techniques as the preferred means of interrogation in the 21st century, or defending the inalienable right of closet psychopaths to bear semi-automatic weapons, and the use of unmanned drones as a risk-free method of assassinating one's perceived enemies and anybody who has the bad luck to be standing near them. Or, as a loyal servant of his corporation, assuring us that smoking is harmless to the health of the third world, and great banks are there to serve the public.
From my Twitter feed:
Publishers May Pay To Preserve Saturday Delivery
Google Death: A Tool to Take Care of Your Gmail When You're Gone - Rebecca J. Rosen - The Atlantic  
Massive Volunteer Collective Proofreads 25,000 Public-Domain Books  
BBC News - 'Pompeii of north' being unearthed in London  
MOOCs and Libraries: Introduction,by Merrilee Proffitt /HangingTogether

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