Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Google, stupid, reading, writing

This article in the Atlantic "Is Google Making Us Stupid" resulted in a lot of random thoughts:

1. The ability to quickly search and scan items I find makes it less likely that I will concentrate for a long article. Then again the sheer number of links sometimes makes it joyful to jump from page to page. (I like IMDB for this.)

2. Reading on screen is hard, especially academic articles where I like to skip pages or move back and forth through them. Perhaps there is a reading software (that reads PDF) that allows me "rip" pages off and set them aside to look at them later.

3. The same issue of the Atlantic has an article on Rupert Murdoch's purchase of WSJ and the future of print newspapers in general. It made me think that with shortened attention spans the future is not in dailies but perhaps in weeklies or twice weeklies (unless there is real breaking news). Dailies will be the similar to the Washington Post Express but the more substantially weeklies will provide the detail. Alternatively, the online versions will provide more detail. One random thought is here.

The problem is declining ad revenue and subscriptions (and costs). The above addresses the print costs of dailies. Ad revenue could potentially be boosted with the free express versions and subscription could increase if I didn't have to deal with newspapers piling up to be read. (For instance, I did not get to my July/Aug issue of Atlantic until just recently.) Unfortunately, this approach threatens the business of Time/Newsweek but the styles could be different enough that there is some differentiation.

4. The short attention span also translates to writing. Without a word processor it seems that I am unwilling to write using a pencil/pen and paper. Andrew Gelman explores how different writing software have affected his writing. I am interested in how the medium (electronic etc. affects style and abilities). I for one would like to write more technical articles but the thought of firing up an application to write out equations is enough to make me procrastinate.

After being out of grad school for such a long time I have also seem to lost the ability to use a pencil and paper to work out equations and derivations.

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