INLS 697.001 2006

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What we will be doing

Over the course of this semester, we will read four very recent books that capture and describe some of the broad ideas that are affecting the world of Information Science and the world in general.

As we read and discuss the books, I ask you to select and keep in mind a certain product, service or company that can be viewed through the various lenses presented in the readings -- simplicity, long tale, democratizing innovation and the wealth of networks. As the semester progresses, you will be asked to write a paper on using the readings and other appropriate materials to describe how that product, service or company takes advantage (or fails to take advantage) of the ideas from the readings.

At the end of the semester, you will give a presentation to the class of your findings (a presentation based on your paper).

Questioner role - each class member will be asked to read ahead and prepare at least four questions for class discussion. These questions should be designed to elicit discussion of and reflections on the reading materials. Questions will be added to the Schedule on this wiki at least one class meeting before the discussion is to take place.

Schedule for INLS 697 2007

Thursday January 11 - Welcome to class and overview of the semester. Triangle Linux Users Group Bonus: Your own advance release iPhone

Tuesday January 16 - Discuss The Long Tail (Intro thru Chapter 5 The New Producers) Q: Lawrence Keah

1.) What was meant when venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws said "The biggest money is in the smallest sales?"

2.) Do you believe that the statement put forth that "we are now a nation of niches" is valid?

3.) What factors contribute to the exponential growth of online retail shopping?

4.) Are there any drawbacks to the concept of the wiki and if so are they serious enough to force people to reevaluate the current model?

zefrank's video blog

Thursday January 18 - Discuss The Long Tail (Chapter 6 The New Markets thru Chapter 10 The Paradise of Choice) Q: Eric Kessler

1.) For every decade in the past hundred years we can name a style of music, etc. that defines those years, will the growing tail change this, will our generation or our children’s generation have such unifying cultural definition?

2.) Will the long tail be the down fall of WAL-MART, which bases its profits on selling just the “hits” in music and everything else?

3.) Does a product exist where variety would fail, he attempts to use flour as an example and fails, so is it true that the variety of the long tail is wanted everywhere?

W. Russell Newman's Tensions

Saturday January 20 - Science Bloggers Conference

Tuesday January 23 - Discuss The Long Tail (Chapter 11 Niche Culture thru Coda: Tomorrow's Tail) Q: Philip Fulcher

1) "Crowdsourcing" - Why are consumers so willing to do the hard work of generating new content for companies, especially those jobs with no compensation?

2) What are some other examples of the Long Tail at work?

3) Is the Long Tail generating or revealing these niche cultures? Blogs have revealed that people want to voice their opinion if it is made easy to do so. But there's also a brand new culture of the blogosphere that could not have existed before. The Long Tail may be revealing the interests, but is it generating the culture?

  • Interesting, but not important: How many of the internet phenomena he listed were you familiar with?

Interview with Ellen Feiss

Here's a link to a recent article about Microsoft's paid editing of Wikipedia

Thursday January 25 - Discuss Democratizing Innovation (Intro thru Chapter 3 Why Users Want Custom Products) Q: Sherief Khaki

1) Two characteristics define lead users, what are they? Why are lead users usually those that innovate products? Do any of you consider yourselves lead users for a certain product?

2) Does the concept of user innovation fit along in the long tail of the the market? Could user innovation be more of a niche market phenomenon, or is user innovation not necessarily found in a specific area of a market?

3) The book suggests that companies rather find homogeneity in terms of products, rather than heterogeneity. Why is this so, and why might a company focus on the differing needs of users?

4) Can anybody think of a product or even an interface he/she would like to change or have changed? What are some of the reasons for wanting those changes?

Tuesday January 30 - Discuss Democratizing Innovation (Chapter 4 Users' Innovate-or-buy Decisions thru Chapter 6 Why Users Often Freely Reveal Their Innovations) Q: Crystal Essex

1) Relating things to the niche market concept, does the developer of an innovation (user or manufacturer) have an influence on where an innovation stands in the market?

2) As a user, would you innovate or would you hirer a manufacturer to execute custom development? According to Von Hippel, what are some of the reasons that a user would innovate or use a manufacturer?

3) We learned that innovators tend to develop innovations that extend from the sticky information that they already have. Does this approach limit the broader success of the innovation?

4) What are some of the reasons why innovators choose not to be protected by copyrights, patents, etc? Do you think this is a logical decision?

CNN provides the top 25 innovations. (dated article)

Chris Anderson's The Top Five Mistakes of Long Tail Criticism

Thursday February 1 SNOWED OUT

Tuesday February 6 - Discuss Democratizing Innovation (Chapter 7 Innovation Communities thru Chapter 9 Democratizing Innovation) Q: Holly Mabry

1) In relation to software debugging, what are the benefits and drawbacks of opening up the problem to a large community of users with some knowledge of how to debug the software over individuals who specialize in one area of software debugging?

2) Define innovation communities, and what they can offer.

3) Using an example relevant to the present day music industry status, do you think that Apple Inc. would benefit more from the iTunes/iPod industry financially by making it free or open source software instead of the highly restricted software that it currently employs?

4) Research indicates that the major reason for the commercial failure of manufacturer-developed products is poor understanding of users’ needs by manufacturer-innovators. How can collaboration with “lead users” help alleviate this problem?

5) What are the benefits of democratizing the opportunity to create, and what role does creativity play in programming?

You Want Innovation? Offer a Prize NYTimes article on how to find innovation communities in a way that Von Hippel hasn't noticed.

Thursday February 8 - Discuss Democratizing Innovation (Chapter 10 Application: Seaching for Lead User Innovations thru Chapter 12 Linking User Innovation to Other Phenomena and Fields) Q: Judd Devault

1) Advanced analog lead users tend to create innovations which are more profitable than conventional innovations. What techniques can be used to differentiate between advanced analog lead users and traditional lead users?

2) Toolkits provided by manufacturers or created by other users can assist in the process of innovation. Can you think of an example from school/work/hobbies where you have used an innovation toolkit?

3) How do information communities make markets more efficient? Have you ever utilized an information community during the transaction process?

4) Innovating users may at some point decide that they want to become manufacturers of their own innovations. What methods can these people use to diffuse their innovations?

About the Sociology of technology: see Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology (Sloan Technology Series) by Robert Pool while originally about nuclear power, Pool saw a bigger picture and presents broader ideas about how the social construction of technology.

About Innovation and the problems keeping involved with it: see The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton Christensen

Tuesday February 13 - Discuss Wealth of Networks (Intro thru Chapter 4 The Economics of Social Production) Q: Peyton Maddox

Step 1) A draft one page proposal describing the product, service or company and possible sources (due February 13)

1) What parallels do you see between this book and others we have read, especially Democratizing Innovation?

2)Benkler frequently uses terms like "nonmarket pricing, redistribution, control of means, etc"--all of which are terms found in socialist/communist rhetoric. Do you feel that the massively collaborative work efforts described in the book are a form of socialism/communism? Regardless, do you think projects like these will have an impact on political thought in democratic states like the U.S.?

3)According to Benkler, intellectual property protection can actually be damaging to industries and most industries feel that things like research and development are more important to them than IP protection. Drug companies do considerable amounts of research and development, why then do you think they go against the trend and are so much in favor of IP protection?

4)With the success of projects like Apache and Firefox, do you think closed-sourced projects could also benefit from changing to a less structured and more loosely controlled development methodology? Or are open-source projects popular simply because they are free of cost?

5)Benkler makes the statement "We feel no need to reconsider the appropriateness of market-based firms as the primary modality for the production of automobiles." , do you agree with this? That is, would an open-source development model be successful for something other than software? If not, why not?

Open Cola - used to demonstrate the concept of open source software but sold 150,000 cans before it went out of business. Lucas 18:15, 18 February 2007 (EST)

Yochai Benkler speaking on the Wealth of Networks (with a slightly different subtitle) at the Center for American Progress last Spring Video and transcript.--Pjones 22:41, 12 February 2007 (EST)

Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing US explains the Web using the Web.--Pjones 10:21, 13 February 2007 (EST)

Very cool Web 2.0 that allows comments on the video at Mojiti--Pjones 10:35, 13 February 2007 (EST)

Thursday February 15 - Discuss Wealth of Networks (Chapter 5 Individual Freedom: Autonomy, Information, and Law thru Chapter 7 Political Freedom Part 2: Emergence of the Networked Public Sphere) Q: Robert Cooper

1) The network information economy creates far greater autonomy of expression for users than the former industrial information economy. Are we entering a digital cottage industry? How can traditional media content providers adapt?

2) The industrial information economy promotes homogenized, lowest-common-denominator programming. The network information architecture inherently promotes diversity of content, but its relationship to quality-of-content is unclear. How can the new network information model be used to promote quality?

3) The early radio industry offered the hope of autonomy for users, but it was quickly supplanted by large broadcast interests. Is the Internet likely to face a similar crisis? What must be done if the Internet is to remain a mostly autonomous medium?

Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves By Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford.--Pjones 09:04, 15 February 2007 (EST)

4) As Benkler shows with the Sinclair and Diebold examples, the blogosphere can have a significant reactive and generative effect on the on the formerly mass-media controlled public sphere. These examples hint at the beginning of a synergistic relationship between traditional media and the blogosphere- How do you think the relationship will evolve?

Sinclair Broadcast Group
Stop Sinclair
Black Box Voting--Pjones 09:04, 15 February 2007 (EST)

Tuesday February 20 - Schedule for Kilgour Day - Kilgour Lecture by Michael Tiemann founder of Cygnus Software, President of the Open Source Initiative. Q: Cristobal Palmer. See Cristóbal's blog post with the questions and another one with some answers.

Thursday February 22 - Henry Copeland founder of BlogAds Q: James Mormando

1) What made you come up with the idea of blogads? How did you research the market you were about to enter?

2) In Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail, he writes about niche markets creating a “long tail” for products. Do you see blogads following along with that even though it may not be there quite yet?

3) What does it take to get started and actually host an ad on a site?

4) Blog advertising costs considerably less than a 15 or 30 seconds of advertising during something like the Super Bowl. However, the advertising during a Super Bowl reaches out to millions of people in an instant. Can or will blogads have the same kind of affect? Or will it mainly just affect the specific niches the ad targets?

Thursday February 22 Cory Doctorow "Pwned: How copyright turns us all into IP serfs" 2:00 p.m. Pleasants Family Room, Wilson Library, UNC. Note new location. Note video now linked here.--Pjones 20:15, 4 March 2007 (EST)

Thursday February 22 Cory Doctorow "From Myspace to Homeland Security: Privacy and the Totalitarian Urge" 5:00 p.m. - Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center - MP3 of Lecture Lucas 03:21, 27 February 2007 (EST)

Mentally contaminated: Doctorow and Jones in Red Hat Magazine --Pjones 08:20, 6 March 2007 (EST)

Tuesday February 27 - Bob Young, founder of Lulu and of Red Hat owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Hamilton, Ontario's Canadian Football League franchise. Q: Johnathan Beam

1.) In "Democratizing innovation", Von Hippel believes after the inability for manufacturers to meet their exact needs, users now have begin innovating those products themselves. Do you yourself believe this and if so, how big of an impact do you think this had on the success of your former company, Red Hat, and your current company,

2.) If I was going to open up a company based on a brand new product or service tomorrow, what advice would you give me?

3.) As you know of course, is printing and publishing company that allows authors, artists, etc. to do self-publishing by offering such things as print on demand printing. Do you believe that one day the publishing market will be completely done in a self-published, online format?

4.) I noticed that you are the owner of the Hamilton Tiger Cats. What influenced you to buy the team and to get into that type of business? I was wondering as this seems to me to be a huge leap from your past business experience. Also, was this transition difficult?

Step 2) An annotated bibiography of sources to be included in the your paper (due February 27)

Thursday March 1 - Jones in DC -- NO CLASS MEETING

Tuesday March 6 - Guest speaker: Fred Stutzman, researcher on social networks (link to reading forthcoming)

A bit of Ronald Burt's Structural Holes illustrated (thanks to Tola Oguntoyinbo for the pointer)--Pjones 22:06, 4 March 2007 (EST)

Thursday March 8 - Discuss Wealth of Networks (Chapter 8 Cultural Freedom: A Culture Both Plastic and Critical thru Chapter 10 Social Ties: Networking Together) Q: Travis Mason

  1. According to Benkler, “culture is not destiny” (p. 282). How else does he think about culture within the framework of liberal political theory?
  2. With respect to Jurgen Habermas’s definition of lifeworld as “background knowledge,” Benkler offers that “culture is revisable through critical examination” (pp. 281-282). When is it appropriate to challenge assumptions in our “common knowledge”? What are some examples of culture revision?
  3. Benkler opens Chapter 9 with a question, “How will the emergence of a substantial sector of nonmarket, commons-based production in the information economy affect questions of distribution and human well-being?” (p. 301). He provides an admittedly pessimistic answer; how would you answer this question as it relates to justice and development?
  4. On pages 311-315, Benkler outlines three types of information-based advantages. What are they and how do they fit into to the Human Development Index (HDI)?
  5. Regarding the networked information economy, some critics argue that a consequence of greater individual autonomy is the breakdown of community. How is the Internet “allowing us to eat our cake and have it too” (p. 375)?

Barbie Liberation Organization newsbit
Public Library of Science
Pew Internet and American Life Project
MIT Open Courseware
--Pjones 21:27, 7 March 2007 (EST)

Tuesday March 13 - Spring Break

Thursday March 15 - Spring Break

Tuesday March 20 - Discuss Wealth of Networks (Chapter 11 The Battle Over the Institutional Ecology of the Digital Environment and Chapter 12 Conclusion: The Stakes of Information Law and Policy) Q: Jesse Carter

  1. What are the resources necessary for a creative communication (p.391)? How were these resources used in the two examples Benkler mentioned (the Diebold e-mails and the "Endless Love" video)?
  2. Do you think that cable companies should be required to treat all packets equally and open up their networks to their competitors ("network neutrality")?
  3. According to Benkler, the use of P2P networks for sharing music and videos would likely put neither musicians nor the movie industry out of business. What are Benkler's justifications for this opinion, and do you agree with him?
  4. What are some of the improvements that have come about because of the networked information economy?

On one guy behind "Net Neutrality" -- Tim Wu Owns the Internet --Pjones 21:13, 18 March 2007 (EDT)

IBM VP for Open Source and Open Standards Bob Sutor speaking at UNC

Gumby on the Moon

George Bush and Tony Blair sing Endless Love

UNC in Second Life: SILS (184, 210, 30); UNC Island (168, 171, 30)

Thursday March 22 - Discuss Laws of Simplicity (Intro thru Law 5 Differences) Q: Justin Alberti

  1. Maeda insists that "simplicity sells", even in advanced technologies. He gives as his examples the Apple iPod and Google Search, both wildly popular, yet simple products. Can you think of any other products that share the idea that "simplicity sells" and if so what is it about these products that likely makes them popular?
  2. Can you think of a modern technological product that could benefit from the SHE (Shrink, Hide, Embody) method that would make the product simpler, yet more attractive to users?
  3. What are some tasks in your day-to-day routine that, if shorter, could make your day more productive and enjoyable?
  4. In regards to the differences between simplicity and complexity, what does Maeda use musical rhythms to represent in his discussion?

Heard on the radio a story about how CD sales have declined dramatically--20% in the last year--so record companies are resorting to interesting CD sale tactics. Cristobalpalmer 23:57, 21 March 2007 (EDT)

IDEO site
Paul Rand on Wikipedia
John Maeda writes on Paul Rand's visit to MIT
Ikko Tanaka site
--Pjones 10:31, 22 March 2007 (EDT)

Tuesday March 27 - Discuss Laws of Simplicity (Law 6 Context thru Law 10 The One) Q: Lucas Rowe

  1. Maeda describes this law as a tradeoff between how directed a user can stand to feel versus how directionless he or she can afford to be. He cites an example of the dots painted on trees as being just enough information to give him freedom without getting entirely lost. What products can you think of that have either struck this balance or tipped too far in one direction? Have you ever been "comfortably lost" when using a new program and what characteristics facilitated this?
  2. Maeda explains that Aichaku is the Japanese term for loving an object for what it is and not for what it does. He says acknowledging Aichaku "helps us aspire to design artifacts that people will feel for, care for, and own for a lifetime." What examples of Aichaku can you think of? Are these objects merely sentimental or is the attachment caused by good design?
  3. The Eighth Law: Trust touches on two important aspects of trust -- a user's trust in him or herself (UNDO example) and the user's trust in the product (Omakase sushi). He points out the convenience that trusting a company provides, such as one click shopping, while acknowledging that we may not want a company to know everything about us. How much trust are you personally willing to put in a company for added convenience and functionality? What products or systems do you have a lot of trust in?
  4. Maeda describes some of the failures of his book in the Ninth Law: Failure (Ackronym Overload, Bad Gestalts, Too Many Laws). What did you like and dislike about Maeda's writing approach and message?

  Bang & Olufsen "lean back" Lucas 17:13, 26 March 2007 (EDT)

Thursday March 29 - Discuss Laws of Simplicity (Key 1 Away thru Life) Q: Jonathan Stotts

  1. ‘Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” Occam’s Razor, anyone? However, what about when the meaningful doesn’t make sense to the user, and they need the obvious?
  2. In presenting Key 1, AWAY, Maeda writes that the model of remotely running applications is increasing in popularity. What are the benefits of doing so, and what are some problems that might be faced if remote apps are relied on entirely?
  3. In the final chapter about life Maeda writes that technology can be an "exasperating disabler" (, Power Point). A middle school teacher told my class once that email and IM has made students' grammer noticably worse. While this may be extreme (and inaccurate), it is an example of the potential disabling effect that technology can have on us. What are some other examples of this disabling effect can you think of? Is this a bad thing?
  4. Key 2, ‘Openness simplifies complexity’, and Key 3, ‘Use less gain more’ sounds a lot like themes found in Wealth of Networks and The Long Tail (just say it fast). Heck, it’s what Democratizing Innovation is all about. Is Paul trying to tell us something?
Mentioned in class today
Absolute Powerpoint Ian Parker in New Yorker 2001
Powerpoint Does Rocket Science Edward Tufte
Powerpoint is Evil Edward Tufte
In Praise of Powerpoint David Byrne
Creating Passionate Users Kathy Sierra's blog
Black Sheep
Costs of Privacy: Surveillance and Reputation in America by Steven Nock

Step 3) An outline of the paper (due March 29)

Tuesday April 3 - Jonathan Stotts, Robert Cooper

Thursday April 5 - Judd DeVault, Cristobal Palmer

Tuesday April 10 - Philip Fulcher, Johnathan Beam

Thursday April 12 - Travis Mason, Crystal Essex, Lawrence Keah

Tuesday April 17 - Jamie Mormando, Peyton Maddox (Download Slides)(some info on patents)

Thursday April 19 - Jesse Carter (Download my PowerPoint), Holly Mabry

Tuesday April 24 - Lucas Rowe (Lucas's Powerpoint and Presentation Media), Sherief Khaki Broken iPod on eBay

Thursday April 26 - Eric Kessler, Justin Alberti

Step 4) The final paper of between 2,500 and 5,000 words (due April 26).

Readings for INLS 697

Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Hyperion (July 11, 2006). Also Anderson's blog, The Long Tail.

Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale (April, 2006). Also see Benkler's wiki where the book is free for download or purchase in several formats.

Maeda, John. The Laws of Simplicity. MIT (2006). See also Maeda's blog and his Laws of Simplicity website.

Von Hippel, Eric. Democratizing Innovation. MIT (2005). See von Hippel's website where the book is free for download or purchase


  • contribution to class discussions (in session, on wiki and on e-mail) - 20%
  • questions raised in questioner role - 25%
  • timely and appropriate responses to the first three steps of the paper preparation - 20%
  • major paper - 35%
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