Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Parable of the Drill

About 5 years ago Craig Kanarick, co founder of marketing consultant Razorfish, was interviewed in Wired magazine. (The article was titled "Brattitude Adjustment" and can be found in issue 8.09.) During the interview he recited his "Parable of the Drill" and it jumped out at me. This is what he said:

"Nobody in the world needs a drill.

They need a hole.

So you’re not in the drill business. You’re in the hole business.
And, actually, nobody needs a hole, they need to hang art.
And nobody needs to hang art, they need a better-looking room.
And nobody needs a better-looking room, they need to be happier.
So Black & Decker is in the happy business.
And so is every other company!"

To keep perspective whenever we're considering a new program or computer course, I think about the parable. Does anyone need this course? What will they learn? How will it make their lives better?

I do this by substituting the word "drill" with whatever it is that I'm currently working on. For example, "Nobody in the world needs a blog." Exactly. Nobody needs to read a blog. They need some information. And they need the information to answer a question or they want to stay informed. Getting the answer and staying informed will make their lives better and, consequently, make them happy. Let's bring this right into libraryland; "Nobody needs a book." Again, they need some information to answer a question or they need some entertainment. This will make them happy for the same reasons.

But using only the Parable, we could justify almost anything. Surely someone would be happy with whatever we did. So I combine it with yesterday's post about Joe Janes' "How to Think About Technology".

The library publishes a biweekly e-mail newsletter. Rather than formatting it using html, we decided to make it text-based so that anyone could read it no matter which e-mail program they used. Html newsletters were less secure as well because executable programs could be hidden in them. Recently we debated whether to make the switch. I argued that the usefulness of the newsletter would not be increased by adding graphics and fancy fonts. It makes peoples' lives better and happier just as it is. There was no added benefit to the user that would justify the cost of a system that would produce and distribute the newsletter. Not to mention the increased workload on the newsletter's authors to find and add the graphics. We would also want to allow each subscriber the option of text or html. Then we'd be producing two newsletters! It's also possible that an html newsletter might not display correctly in some e-mail programs, which would make people less happy.

So....our newsletter stays in text and everyone's happy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I rearranged my workspace today...then rearranged it again. It's a long story but essentially the IT department was trying to use its space more effectively. When we were done my desk was exactly as it had been before, with one exception. I had misplaced the note on my wall outlining Joe Janes' rubics for thinking about technology. Whenever we plan a new program, consider a suggestion from a patron, or start to spend money, I consult this note. It's an excerpt from an article that was published in Library Journal. To recreate the note, I had to find the article, How To Think About Technology, on the Library Journal web site. It's well worth reading, although my note consists only of his list of questions to consider.

Is there a benefit to the user?
Is it accessible, affordable, and worth the cost?
Does it help uphold the values of the profession?
Does it play to our strengths?
Is it likely to endure?
Does it feel right?

I hung this note right next another that helps keep me focused. It's "The Parable of the Drill", a quote from Craig Kanarick in Wired magazine. I'll post it tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I see that it's been over a week since my last post. Coincidentally, today I ran across this comment by Walt Crawford; "Life trumps blogging. At least it does for most sane, balanced people." This quote came from his monthly newsletter, Cites & Insights 5, Number 13: Mid-Fall 2005. This newsletter is a 'must read', especially if you're interested in library technologies. (He also has a blog titled, Walt at Random, containing musings he says are "not quite ready for Cites and Insights".) One of the things I especially like about him is that he gives everyone a fair shake, even those he doesn't agree with. An example is his entry on whether the Google Library Project can be considered as fair use or not.

Right now life is trumping my blog. I blog when necessary. The pace at the library is slow and I'm doing life things, such as mailing greeting cards, reading, walking the dog, and planning for the holidays. And while I've tried to expand the scope of this blog, those activities are not going to show up here - aside from this brief mention.

Just trying to stay sane and balanced.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Saturday, December 10, Daveman will be at Panera Bread in Clay on Route 31 from 8:00 - 10:00 AM. Using their wireless network and my tablet PC, I'll be answering any and all questions faster than you can spell focaccia. I can show you how to find articles from Consumer Reports and hundreds of other magazines for free. Enter the raffle for a tote bag full of Liverpool Library stuff. You can sign up for a library card, too.

Monday, December 05, 2005

As a follow-up to the 12/2 posting about the Wikipedia "biography", here's an article from CNET News about changes to Wikipedia.

" avoid future problems, (Wikipedia founder Jimmy) Wales plans to bar anonymous users from creating new articles; only registered members will be able to do so. That change will go into effect Monday, he said, adding that anonymous users will still be able to edit existing entries."

This may help, but I still have reservations about Wikipedia as an authoritative source. I've used it, but I try to find a second source for confirmation about what I find there.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is this for real?

Here are some articles that point out the need to be cautious about what we read online.

Attack of the Blogs

A false Wikipedia 'biography'

Along the same lines, recently a student brought in a printout from a web site on deciduous forests. She wanted more information about the trees and animals described in it. Although it was published by California State University, something didn't seem quite right about the site; the fauna had odd names. After some nosing around on the site, I discovered that this page was part of a teacher instruction program that uses software to design imaginary worlds. This forest didn't exist! I was able to point her to a more reliable site.