Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Living in Limbic Limbo

Did you know that just being aware that you have an unread e-mail  message can reduce your IQ by up to 10 points?  That texting can be addictive?  That we store information in a different, less permanent part of our brains when we divide our attention?  A thought-provoking article in The Guardian sheds new light on the allure of multitasking: The part of our brain we need to stay on task is itself easily distracted, and actually rewards us for getting sidetracked.  But there is a price to pay for trading “the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort” for such frequent empty rewards: not only are we not getting as much done, we are compromising our own well-being with metabolic costs, anxiety, and diminished decision skills.  I’d tell you more, but I just got a text…

Your Brain on the Internet

When’s the last time you sat down to immerse yourself a nice long novel?  If you are regular internet user, it may have been a while.  Cognitive studies show that what many have long suspected is true: the way we surf the net is rewiring our brains.  This was reported in the Washington Post last April, and I was reminded again yesterday in this article in the San Jose Mercury News.  Reports on the shortening of the national attention span are nothing new; we’ve all read about how children of the computer age have brains that have been wired differently from the get go.  These two articles, however, focus on the changes in adults that used to enjoy a good long read but no longer do.  Even when we do force ourselves to sit down to read, we don’t read the same way: our brains are skimming, processing, and retaining information in a different way.  Food for thought — if you have time for that.

Numbers, numbers

How many Google searches are performed every minute?  2,000,000. That and other interesting statistics from the sublime to the ridiculous were listed in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of  Information Today magazine. Other tidbits? 34% of college students report downloading course materials from “unauthorized” Web sites, while  $110 is the typical price for a print textbook ($58 for a digital one). The number of open access journals that accepted a ‘spoof paper’ from a journalist working for Science was 157. Warren Buffett has forked out $344 million the past several years to acquire 28 newspapers, while print newspaper advertising revenue declined by $1.8 billion in 2012. 84% of Pinterest users are female, 70% of Google+ users are male. 100 minutes is the average number of minutes per day spent online by people who report spending “leisure time” on the Net.  28% of Facebook’s 128 million daily users access it via mobile devices, while 190 is the average number of ‘friends’ among Facebook users. There are 231.7 million “monthly active” users of Twitter; the number of hard-boiled eggs consumed weekly at Twitter headquarters is 1,440. And finally, in a survey 90% of Americans 16 and older said that closing of their public library would have “an impact on their community”. That is one statistic worth remembering.

What Happens in an Internet Minute?

Love all things data? Check out Intel’s Internet Minute Infographic. For more infographics, check out Daily Infographic, which features the best information design and data visualization from the internet. Still craving more tech and data visualization? Here’s a short list of other tech websites.


Of the People, For the People

Libraries continue to serve The People, especially in this age of hyper-connectivity. This article  in today’s New York Times highlights the need for better services in libraries, as more Americans turn to them for help in navigating the high seas of today’s oceanic information. As a librarian in Maine is quoted as saying, “When people can’t apply for jobs or access government services because they don’t have access from home, public libraries must be there for them.” Often forgotten is the key role libraries play (and have played) in facilitating socio-economic mobility in America. Citizens also come for other types of guidance. During the recent enrollment period for Obamacare, over a thousand Nebraskans came to Omaha public libraries to learn about their insurance options and sign up. The executive director of the Omaha system enthused. “This is a wonderful example of how people come to libraries. Not just for computers and not just for Internet access. They came to us for support.” Once again, libraries prove to be a keystone in the foundation of American democratic life.

Big Data, Big Mistake?

Tim Harford explores the brave new world of Big Data in the March 29/30 Financial Times Weekend edition. In ‘Big Mistake?’, Harford ruminates on the claims and the pitfalls of what some are calling a new panacea for all past deficiencies of marketing, statistical gathering, government programs and more. He examines and challenges four major claims advanced by the proponents of Big Data, in the process recounting now-classic anecdotes, such as the famous example of Google Flu Trends, and the case of the father who discovered his daughter was pregnant when Target started targeting her with baby products. Is Big Data just the latest media darling — or does it have the potential to rock our world?

Free data? Free data!

Looking for websites on a business topic or industry?  Consider the Library’s Business Web Sites  —  nearly 140 different sites on a fantastic range of topics. Coverage includes accounting, baseball, biotech, commodities, housing, international statistics, marketing, mutual funds, patents, private equity, real estate, supermarkets, video games and much more. All of these sites should have free information but, since Stanford is not paying for access, at some point you might run up against some restricted material. Of course at that point you might choose to purchase the data, if it suits you. But there is so much free information on industries and financial topics that you may be satisfied with what is readily available. And as always, if you are not finding what you need, just ask a librarian for help.


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