“We find users prefer one answer.” This was the comment of Google’s Behshad Behzadi when presenting Google’s new Ultimate Assistant. In case you don’t already know, Google’s Ultimate Assistant will answer your questions, whether you key them in or (in Google’s opinion the most likely) you speak to the device. Most of Behzadi's presentation was based around his smartphone, not using the desktop at all. What kind of questions?
My first response when looking at hypothes.is was uncertainty. I've seen quite a bit of publicity, lots of mentions in discussion forums about hypothes.is, but it wasn’t very clear to me on looking at the website just what was proposed. “Annotate with anyone, anywhere” doesn’t really explain very much to me. I have visions of researchers sitting in a circle and annotating together – not very likely.
It is common knowledge that sales of compact digital cameras have fallen in recent years. A fascinating graphic on PetaPixel shows clearly how digital cameras first replaced the analogue camera market, but then in turn have seen sales falling since around 2009 – by some accounts falling by two thirds between 2009 and 2014. Most likely this was caused by the dramatic rise of the smartphone during the same period. Why did Smartphones eat into the market for digital compact cameras?
"Users’ expectations are different for these two. When you search books you expect an answer; when you search journal articles, a scholar expects a list of things to read. A book represents late-stage work, not the early-stage work of journal articles."
Thus Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, on different kinds of reading, at the ALPSP Annual Conference in October 2015 (a presentation helpfully summarised by John Sacks in a Scholarly Kitchen post).
“You can easily see the difference between these two modalities. Do a search in Google for “San Francisco weather” and the answer pops up: the current temperature and conditions, and the forecast. But for the “weather scholar” there is also a list of sites below the forecast that you can go to if you want to study the topic by reading web pages about San Francisco weather.”
At around one joke or witty rule per page, this is a wonderfully entertaining read. Any book that gathers 1994 ratings on Goodreads is worth looking at. In fact, The Secrets of Consulting gets a higher rating on Goodreads than Moby-Dick or Wuthering Heights (This may tell you something about the folk who rate things on Goodreads). So it this 1985 classic title still a good read?
Perhaps we shouldn’t expect the Times Literary Supplement, to give the TLS its full original name, to keep us informed about digital publishing. But the TLS clearly feels it is well-placed to comment, and the latest review of several in the past few years on digital publishing is no different to the rest.
This is the latest in a series looking at classic technology titles. For another example click here.
Don’t Make me Think! That title! There are few examples in publishing of a book title catching your attention and at the same time summarising what the book is all about. If books can be reduced to one big idea, then this is the perfect example. Essentially, if you want to build a website, don’t make me think when I use it. Now, fifteen years and a third edition after the book was first published (in 2000), is it still as relevant? Well, Steve Krug helpfully points out the original book’s limitations himself, in the introductory section to the latest edition. Most importantly the book was written before mobile became common. Nonetheless, the basic principle, that a user’s interaction with a website should be based on simplicity, is admirable and of course holds true for hand-held devices as for desktops and laptop PCs.
This is a book that displays its principles admirably. Krug is a great believer in using graphics, cartoons, and diagrams to explain his point. The book is very short (I read it in under three hours, and the original edition must have been even shorter).
It is commonplace nowadays to predict the inexorable decline of print as it is steadly replaced by online information. Without wishing to be a luddite, I an intrigued when there are examples of print surviving and even prospering in the face of digital competition, especially when dealing with the display of information in a typical situation where users are seeking an answer. A recent Financial Times article pointed out that TV listings guides are not losing circulation – which is not what many commentators predicted. One common argument is that TV print magazines sell to an ageing audience who prefer print to online; but in fact, TV listing guides comprise three of the top five UK magazine circulations, with the top spot held by TV Choice – a print magazine that has increased its circulation by 63% since 2000, the very period when you might expect its circulation to be falling. What is it that people find so compelling about print TV guides?