October 31, 2008

Books I'd like to read

Some more interesting-looking books for your reading and collection development pleasure. Apologies for such a long list, but I wanted to clear out all the stuff that's been accumulating for a while.

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business
by Jeff Howe

Jeff Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing. How were a bunch of part-time dabblers in finance able to help an investment company consistently beat the market? Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year? The answers lie within these pages.

The blueprint for crowdsourcing originated from a handful of computer programmers who showed that a community of like-minded peers could create better products than a corporate behemoth like Microsoft. Jeff Howe tracks the amazing migration of this new model of production, showing the potential of the Internet to create human networks that can divvy up and make quick work of otherwise overwhelming tasks. One of the most intriguing ideas of Crowdsourcing is that the knowledge to solve intractable problems—a cure for cancer, for instance—may already exist within the warp and weave of this infinite and, as yet, largely untapped resource. But first, Howe proposes, we need to banish preconceived notions of how such problems are solved.

Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet by Ian F. McNeely, Lisa Wolverton
Here is an intellectual entertainment, a sweeping history of the key institutions that have organized knowledge in the West from the classical period onward. With elegance and wit, this exhilarating history alights at the pivotal points of cultural transformation. The motivating question throughout: How does history help us understand the vast changes we are now experiencing in the landscape of knowledge?

Beginning in Alexandria and its great center of Hellenistic learning and imperial power, we then see the monastery in the wilderness of a collapsed civilization, the rambunctious universities of the late medieval cities, and the thick social networks of the Enlightenment republic of letters. The development of science and the laboratory as a dominant knowledge institution brings us to the present, seeking patterns in the new digital networks of knowledge.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (Import edition via Amazon US)
How do we know if a treatment works, or if something causes cancer? Can the claims of homeopaths ever be as true – or as interesting as the improbable research into the placebo effect? Who created the MMR hoax? Do journalists understand science? Why do we seek scientific explanations for social, personal and political problems? Are alternative therapists and the pharmaceutical companies really so different, or do they just use the same old tricks to sell different types of pill? We are obsessed with our health. And yet – from the media’s ‘world-expert microbiologist’ with a mail-order PhD in his garden shed laboratory, via multiple health scares and miracle cures, to the million pound trial that Durham Council now denies ever existed – we are constantly bombarded with inaccurate, contradictory and sometimes even misleading information. Until now. Ben Goldacre masterfully dismantles the dodgy science behind some of the great drug trials, court cases and missed opportunities of our time, but he also goes further: out of the bulls---, he shows us the fascinating story of how we know what we know, and gives us the tools to uncover bad science for ourselves.

The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World by Ralph Benko (Via Lessig Blog.)
The Websters' Dictionary examines the work of people and groups that reach millions online. In clear and simple terms, it shows you how it's done. Download a free eCopy of the complete work here by taking the Websters' Oath.

This also will sign you up for breaking news of the Web advocacy sector. (You can safely and completely unsubscribe with a click. There's no obligation -- except to use your powers only for Good.) And join the Websters' Bar and Grill, a social network for web-advocates, to hang out with other Websters and get the latest gossip. (No cover charge.)

The Websters' Dictionary lays it out from the basic to the sophisticated. How to get a domain name? What domain name to pick or to avoid? How do you create a great website or select someone to do it for you? How to harness the power of Web 2.0. (In fact, what the heck is Web 2.0?) What style gives you impact? What content works? How much should you spend? What kind of team do you need? It lays out best practices briefly, clearly, picturesquely, and above all accurately.

This is the dawning of the Age of the Internet. Be part of that. Become a Webster -- an activist, an operative, or a wonk who is using the Web to transform the world.

The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind
by by James Boyle
In this enlightening book James Boyle describes what he calls the range wars of the information age—today’s heated battles over intellectual property. Boyle argues that just as every informed citizen needs to know at least something about the environment or civil rights, every citizen should also understand intellectual property law. Why? Because intellectual property rights mark out the ground rules of the information society, and today’s policies are unbalanced, unsupported by evidence, and often detrimental to cultural access, free speech, digital creativity, and scientific innovation.

Boyle identifies as a major problem the widespread failure to understand the importance of the public domain—the realm of material that everyone is free to use and share without permission or fee. The public domain is as vital to innovation and culture as the realm of material protected by intellectual property rights, he asserts, and he calls for a movement akin to the environmental movement to preserve it. With a clear analysis of issues ranging from Jefferson’s philosophy of innovation to musical sampling, synthetic biology and Internet file sharing, this timely book brings a positive new perspective to important cultural and legal debates. If we continue to enclose the “commons of the mind,” Boyle argues, we will all be the poorer.

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer
What time of year do teenage girls search for prom dresses online? How does the quick adoption of technology affect business success (and how is that related to corn farmers in Iowa)? How do time and money affect the gender of visitors to online dating sites? And how is the Internet itself affecting the way we experience the world? In Click, Bill Tancer takes us behind the scenes into the massive database of online intelligence to reveal the naked truth about how we use the Web, navigate to sites, and search for information--and what all of that says about who we are.

As online directories replace the yellow pages, search engines replace traditional research, and news sites replace newsprint, we are in an age in which we've come to rely tremendously on the Internet--leaving behind a trail of information about ourselves as a culture and the direction in which we are headed. With surprising and practical insight, Tancer demonstrates how the Internet is changing the way we absorb information and how understanding that change can be used to our advantage in business and in life. Click analyzes the new generation of consumerism in a way no other book has before, showing how we use the Internet, and how those trends provide a wealth of market research nearly as vast as the Internet itself. Understanding how we change is integral to our success. After all, we are what we click.

1 comment:

Ginger said...

Glad you've picked up on Ben Goldacre. 'Bad Science' is still on my 'to read' list, but excerpts on The Guardian website suggest that it should be full of well written, no-nonsense dismissal of waffle and affirmation of fact. I have a feeling that it's going to be one of those books I try to make other people read.