Though I work to manage it well, I spend a good bit of time in email. Specifically, I use Gmail, both personally and for work.
One nit-picky interface detail that has always bugged me is Gmail’s handling of highlighted text. It’s useful on face value, but if you copy and paste text from any email that has highlighted search terms, the highlighting will be included when you paste that text into a new message or draft.
I’ve been creating content personally and professionally for over a decade. That’s not a presumptuous statement—I’ve always enjoyed writing personally and every job I’ve had has required me to produce content, both written and visual.
One thing that’s always bothered me about creating content, whether for myself or my job, is that I’ve never found a really good workflow for publishing. I’ve used multiple blogging platforms personally, from iWeb (yes, iWeb) to Tumblr, WordPress and more nerdy solutions like Jekyll and Octopress. There are advantages and disadvantages to each tool, but the common denominator is that actually pushing content onto the web through each is at best mildly frustrating and at worst a project management nightmare.
One of my major frustrations with publishing platforms is that many relegate you to a web interface (or web and mobile interfaces). That’s understandable from a user-experience standpoint: managing multiple platforms, including native apps, can be a nightmare and requires a massive engineering team. For me, though, content creation is best done with complete focus and a web browser is not the ideal environment. (Self-control has much to do with this, of course, but to some extent “the medium is the message,” and we use our browsers for information discovery a significant amount of the time.)
Recently I’ve written two posts about changes technology is driving in libraries1. One of the articles I mentioned2 from Wired included a small snippet about books—the traditional medium available at libraries—and how these technological advances have affected how people interact with them.
But what about books? Public Library Association research shows that people have checked out slightly fewer materials in recent years. And Pew found that about a third of patrons are opposed to makerspaces if they displace books.
I haven’t checked a book out in ages, so I was really interested to know how behavior across all library patrons is trending.
Unfortunately the article didn’t actually reference that research, so I went out looking for it. After some digging I found a report from the American Library Association that confirms Wired’s claim about people checking out reference materials3. Here’s a chart that displays the changes visually:
Here’s a summary:
1. You can read my first post about bookless libraries here and my second post about consumption VS creation in libraries here.2. You can read the Wired article about makerspaces in libraries on the Wired website.3. You can read and download a full PDF of the American Library Association report here.
Last week I wrote a post about bookless libraries4. I ran across another library trend that will be just as fascinating to watch: the transition of emphasis from consumption to production.
Wired explains in a description of Chattanooga’s downtown public library5:
A few recent articles have made the democratization of information—and the ‘arrival of the future,’ as some call these advances—hit much closer to home. First on display is the advent of the bookless library. That sounds like an oxymoron because of what we have known libraries to be for so long (shelves of books).
The Verge recently published an article reviewing Florida Polytechnic University’s new bookless library6. Granted, the school’s curriculum focuses heavily on STEM material and the library has a book-borrowing program set up with other libraries. That isn’t the most interesting thing to me about the bookless phenomenon, though, it’s the way the concept is shaping the inventory and distribution of content:
Instead of books, the library has a deal with publishers that lets students access a title once for free. If any other student “takes out” the ebook of that title, the library automatically purchases it for its collection.
Instead of purchasing inventory, libraries can buy ebooks on-demand as needed. The efficiency brought about by that model alone will drive more libraries to adopt similar models. What’s more, as mobile devices become more and more integrated into education, we’ll see seamless ‘checkout systems’ in which students can access a school’s bookless library without even stepping foot in the physical space.
This will certainly be a fascinating transition to watch.
1. You can read about Florida Polytechnic’s bookless library on The Verge.
This week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association’s yearly Summit7. MIMA happens to be the oldest interactive marketing association in the US.
I’ve already learned great things from the smart people here, but one thing I really appreciate about some of the content is that it’s honest. For example, in a session focused on the Internet of Things, Liz Presson8 said this:
It’s a healthy exercise to think about the way people who aren’t like me experience things differently than I do (even if the raw material of those things are the same).
In August I wrote about how much of the world’s access to the Internet looks different from the typical American’s connection to the internet9:
Our own experiences always influence our view of things. As a result we tend to think about accessing the internet as common when that isn’t necessarily the case. For example, over 60% of phones in the world are ‘dumb phones,’ or ‘feature phones.’ Still, those users can connect to services like Facebook and Twitter via a text-only interface.
In that same vein, our view of things can tint how we perceive our influence on those things. A recent article in Quartz offers a fascinating look at how a massive new group of Internet users coming online in India will actually shape what the web looks like10.
1. You can read my post about how many people in the world access the internet here.2. You can read the original article about the massive number of Indians gaining access to the Internet on Quartz’s website.
Recently I researched Calendly11, a scheduling tool similar to Google’s Appointment Slots12.
When I signed up for the service, they provided me with two options:
- Watch really short new user video
- Skip it
Because I travel a good bit, blocks of down-time in airports have become coveted chances to knock work out and clear my inbox. Sometimes, though, I choose to take a break from productivity and simply observe the world around me. That’s a fancy way of saying I enjoy walking around and looking at displays, marketing campaigns and, of course, people-watching.
Yesterday in the airport I observed several people, who were waiting to board flights, simply staring at their smartphones. I happened to be close to several of them in the context of boarding and could see their screens, on which were apps. These individuals were staring at apps on their phone. What a curious behavior. It’s even more strange when repeated—one gentleman stared at his phone for a bit, locked it, put it in his pocket, then pulled it back out again in a few minutes and performed the same staring ritual, this time swiping back and forth a few times between screens.
A significant portion of the reading I do is digital. I would suspect the same of many people today—afterall, there are now bookless libraries13.
There’s are plenty of opinions about the differences between reading on screens versus reading print on paper. I’ll save my opinions on the good and bad of both mediums for another post.
Today I want to point out one difference that is consistently noticeable and makes the online reading experience more difficult for me in some ways.
1. Read about Florida Polytechnic University, a school that has no paper books in its library, on The Verge.