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Dangers of Thin Slicing July 23, 2010

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Grab Bag, Trends.
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A recent blog post led to a political flap over reported racist comments. The story was in the headlines recently about a Agriculture dept. official whose comments were posted by a blogger. This post got attention for a inflammatory comment. The blog post had legs, went viral and spun out of control at internet speed. The official reaction was swift and conclusive with the Ag. official fired by her  boss for remarks she made in the past before she had her current job.

Of the multiple aspects with this story,  the one that I want to stress here is the importance of proper context. As the thin slice of this story was first reported, the initial reaction from many, including myself, was of outrage and dis-belief. How/why  would she say such a thing? Well, it turns out there is more to the story. In fact, the thin slice of text was part of a learning, a appreciation she gained from working with this man.  And, that was her  point; the opposite of what was quoted. Some bad assumptions that drove our reaction :  that the blogger was right to call out this woman for her racist comments and that the blogger was credible and had a valid point. Not true – blogger was not right nor credible.

In some of the coverage I read about this incident, it also mentioned that the woman had befriended the man. Not only  friends with him, but also with his wife. Reading that, I thought – how odd. Why would they become friends with this woman after what she said? It became clear after hearing the full slice that put it into the correct perspective.

In our short attention span world, we have learned to make assumptions in order to thin slice information quickly. The most basic assumption on our part is that you, as the author, have correctly framed information – it is attributed correctly and supports or proves your point. We need a reference in order to process and sort through decisions, reactions in order to determine our next steps. However, the responsibility to slice it correctly within the proper context is still required. Otherwise, we make bad choices, reach incorrect conclusions.  And, our reaction does an about-face when we have the full story.

A major take-away for me  : Only thin slice from sources you trust.

Otherwise, I want corroboration from another source.

Don’t take my word for it. Check your sources, get it corroborated and let me know what you think.

FaceBook jumps the shark July 19, 2010

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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One thing I’ve noticed with trends and fads is that looking back on them, we usually say “What were we thinking?” With the passage of enough time, it can be difficult to remember what motivated us at the time. The reason(s) why something that was so important changed into the commonplace and then, a drudgery or worse, not cool anymore becomes lost over time. We’ve all seen example of this and the same progression will occur with Social Media. I maybe ahead of the curve of this, but there will come a time when FB will no longer be de rigueur but, instead,  passe. Will you remember where you were at this pivotal future moment? It will happen at some point. Certainly not a question of if, but of when. When it does, will that moment become an indelible memory for you?  One social media statistic I heard recently was that if FaceBook (FB) was a country, it would the 3rd largest in the world with over 500M users, er, ‘netizens’. Will they experience the same future gestalt and log off FB never to return?
Another thing I’ve noticed is that trends based solely on technology have a finite lifetime. We tend to stay with something even when it is past its’ prime. Comfort, resistant to change, the migration effort and learning curve involved all play a part of staying with status quo, the familiar. We accept trade-offs and shortcomings; we settle. Until, of course, a game changer comes along. The bright, new shiny bauble that excites you. Entices you; teases you. You have to have it.

As someone once said ‘Technology is cyclical’, there will be another widget/new thing to displace FB and occupy our time. It will have to be better, more convenient, easier. Also, it will need to make money. At some point in the (not too distant?) future, there will be a seminal moment when many of us will say “FB? I haven’t used it in months. Who does that anymore?”

Predictions invited – what lifetime do you think FB will have? We will still use it in 5 years? 3 years? Next year?  Let me know – if I get enough responses, I update the post with a summary of the feedback.  Thanks in advance, til then see you on FB. 😉

Read any good eBooks lately? July 1, 2010

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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A recent promotion by a well known national bookseller offered ‘5 free eBooks in 5 weeks’. They chose a title and each week, you obtained a voucher to download the book gratis, of course. To obtain the voucher,  you had to show proof of a e-reader on your phone, PDA or laptop. The company didn’t care which e-reader as long as you had one. Going through the process for the 1st title, I dutifully brought my laptop to the store. I was ready to show the own branded reader installed on my machine.

eBook Promotion

They did ask, I happily showed their reader and I obtained the voucher. So far, so good. I then attempted to complete the download process. I was prompted for a ‘verification code’. Code? What do you mean by this code? Did I miss something on the voucher? No, no verification there. A quick call to Customer Service resolved this code business. Turns out ‘verification code’ is way of saying credit card used on the account.

My 1st eBook reading commenced. Content navigation using their reader is OK with options to view in full screen mode, two page view, highlighting in several colors, insert bookmarks and write notes. That last feature is nice – I take notes on books I read to keep the salient point close by for later review. Another viewing features provided is an auto-scroll. That takes some getting used to – not sold on that one yet. There is also a full screen view which I liked best. Switching to that view from the regular two page view was a little confusing as switching view caused the pages to be re-numbered.  Part of the transition to digital format, I guess. I would have expected page numbers to be static, regardless of viewing format. This changed my navigation as I could not simply go to page XX; instead I used the bookmarks.

Each subsequent week during the promotion, the voucher process (no proof required), downloading and verifying was straight forward.  Each download was quick and the eBook includes a personal note with ‘From the library of’ . My eBook library was filling up. I expected a follow-up survey from the bookseller for either Customer Satisfaction or to obtain Voice of the Customer (VOC) type feedback. No invites via email yet (hint, hint). Maybe the goal was to distribute the vouchers. Or, they can monitor traffic views in the eBook library growth among the titles selected. An opportunity to connect and engage with their customers missed.

EBook reading via the laptop took a little getting used to. Minor drawbacks include eye strain on several occasions, pages re-numbered, portability and comfort not the same as with a physical book. Positives include always having access to your notes, taking your library with you, having multiple books open, an auto-scroll to let the content crawl by (also, controls provided to manage scroll rate, size), hotlinks within the book and highlighting in different colors.

As we mature in the digital age, I expect to use eBooks more often going forward.  The eBook experience will improve with use of color, images and hotlinks. I will wait and see what eBook 2.0 looks like. At this time, I prefer the experience with hard copy books. I am more focused, retain more and enjoy turning pages as I read.

I’m looking to build up my eBook library. What  eBooks have you read and would recommend?