David Brooks weighed in last week on the books versus Internet debate. Though I had no doubt that he would side with the print camp, I was surprised by the route he took.
He begins by citing one study showing that kids who took books home over the summer did better than those who didn’t, and another demonstrating that broadband penetration seems to correlate with decreased math and reading scores among North Carolina’s 8th graders. Fair enough.
But then he takes an odd turn, citing an unnamed philanthropist’s observation that kids most benefit from the identity that books provide them as “readers.” This identity places them at the bottom of a great hierarchy of knowledge, a subservience to which Brooks celebrates as the only path to “serious learning.” The Internet, on the other hand, encourages rampant and egalitarian “antiauthority disputation” (you can just hear the sneering). It seems that Brooks thinks students should only participate in intellectual conversation when they’ve earned the right. I disagree.
A few months ago, I stumbled upon a post that discussed how some A/B testing of narrative, “Mad Libs” style web forms showed a 25-40% increase in conversion. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you consider that — from a purely “visual” standpoint — the narrative format seems a bit more cluttered and confusing than a traditional, nicely delineated web form.
When checking out Automattic’s new VaultPress service today, I noticed that they are experimenting with this same type of sign-up flow (pictured). This was the first time I had stumbled across this style “in the wild,” and it immediately grabbed my attention.
Two weeks ago, I turned the big ol’ 25. It was a really wonderful day, including a surprise cupcake party at work and a dinner out at Cha Cha Cha (one word: sangria). But perhaps the biggest surprise was from my parents, who told me that an iPad 3G was on the way. As always, they’re too good to me.
I received the device at the end of last week, and have spent the majority of my free time interacting with it. In short, the iPad is extremely impressive and certainly a game changer (or at least a game starter). Magical and revolutionary? A tad hyperbolic, but it does point mainstream consumer computing in a brand new direction.
DeWitt Clinton (a fellow Googler) wrote up an excellent analysis of URL shorteners on Buzz. In short, they suck for users, they suck for publishers, and they suck for the web. My recent Tropophilia post on links got me thinking on this subject a little, and I was thinking about posting something, but nothing I write would approach DeWitt’s level of expertise and insight. A highly recommended read. (Note: Taylor wrote about URL shorteners briefly here).
Side note: Although I find DeWitt’s post a little long for Buzz, it does show off some of the service’s rich editing capabilities. Scoble and Cutts have been talking recently about how nicely Buzz fills the niche between microblogging and regular blogging (what is that, pseudoblogging I guess?). I agree, and I have come to see Buzz more like a social version of Tumblr than I do a new Twitter or a Blogger. Hoping more of my friends will jump back on the Buzz train in the future to check it out.
I was inspired this morning by Danny Sullivan’s recent piece about Yahoo and Microsoft allegedly gaming search share reports. Essentially, they take non-search actions — clicking on pictures in a slideshow, for example — and interpret them instead as search intents, serving up results and counting the entire interaction as a query, which boosts their share. Sullivan is rightly upset with this shady behavior, and calls for reform in how search share is calculated.
This got me thinking, which led to this piece I just posted on Tropophilia. I talk about the rise of intentless search, or what I decided to call collateral search. I also point out some of the implications of this trend as we move closer to the Internet of Things. Hope you’ll give it a read, and let me know your thoughts.