Hyperlinks make the Web go round

News organisations are developing increasingly sophisticated websites: many of them display Web 2.0 features such as tags, feeds and numerous buttons to share articles at social networks. Sometimes though, they just forget the basics.

For instance, I’m interested to learn that the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park is now on live webcam. But – where’s the link to the webcam?

I think the answer is here, but that came from Google, not Reuters. There are lessons here for anyone providing information via the Web. It works because we link to each other.

Wikinomics

Interesting article from The Guardian: The Wiki Way. Think “economics” when you read the word, not some form of -omics as I did initially.

Don Tapscott, the author of an eye-opening new book called Wikinomics, says that we have barely begun to imagine how the internet will change the way we live and work. He tells Oliver Burkeman how everything from gold mining to motorcycle manufacturing is being transformed – and why huge companies as we know them may simply cease to exist.

Does the next quote sound familiar?

In the late 1970s, when he worked as a communications researcher, Tapscott and his colleagues hooked some neanderthal computers up to each other – a “network”, you might call it, or even a “web” – and soon realised how this might change working life. He tried preaching this message to senior executives, but, he says, they dismissed computer networks as stupid, too. “The big objection, for years, was that managers would never learn to type,” says Tapscott, who speaks in italics. “I’m not kidding. For years, with all these profundities and great visions, my entire life was reduced to me making the case that you can learn how to use a keyboard.”

This quote from a comic observation on the “wisdom of crowds” put a smile on my face:

“Are you personally affected by this issue? Then email us. Or if you’re not affected by this issue, can you imagine what it would be like if you were? Or if you are affected by it, but don’t want to talk about it, can you imagine what it would be like not being affected by it? Why not email us? You may not know anything about the issue, but I bet you reckon something. So why not tell us what you reckon. Let us enjoy the full majesty of your uninformed, ad hoc reckon, by going to bbc.co.uk, clicking on ‘what I reckon’ and then simply beating on the keyboard with your fists or head.”

Farewell to…

Odile Crick, wife of Francis. Interestingly, the illustrator of the figure depicting the DNA double helix in that Nature paper:

In his memoir, “What Mad Pursuit,” Dr. Crick recalled going home that day and telling his wife of the historic discovery. Only years later, he wrote, had Mrs. Crick told him that she did not believe a word of it, saying, “You were always coming home and saying things like that, so naturally I thought nothing of it.”

Quiet passing of pioneer

I almost missed the news that Stanley Miller, of the famous Miller-Urey experiment, recently passed away.

The experiment has been criticised in recent years for making incorrect assumptions and encouraging an over-simplified view of how life originated. However, I think it’s important to place this work in the context of its time. It showed that the basic “building block” molecules of life could be synthesised via known, understood and relatively simple chemical processes. This means that given the right environment and ingredients, biochemistry goes from being unlikely to almost inevitable, with profound implications for the likelihood of life emerging both on the earth and elsewhere.

Darwin Correspondence Project

Hot on the heels of Emma’s journals come Darwin’s letters – 5000 of them, complete and searchable, including every surviving letter from the Beagle voyage. An excellent website, easy to navigate, nicely designed and informative.

From the BBC News article:

Darwin was a prolific letter writer, exchanging correspondence with nearly 2,000 people during his lifetime…
“Letters were absolutely essential to what Darwin was doing,” said Dr Pearn. “This is how he gathered data, how he gathered ideas, how he discussed ideas.”

Not so different from a 19th century social network of science bloggers, only slower and less interactive. Yes, the man really was ahead of his time.

Wrath of the readership

The Guardian are discovering that there’s nothing like a major website redesign to bring howls of anguish and rage from the readership. Some of the comments are hilarious and for me at least, difficult to comprehend. “I thought my browser was broken”, “I’m never coming here again” and that sort of thing. I liked the guy who pointed out that as he uses the RSS feed, he doesn’t really care.

FWIW, I think their new site is an improvement on the whole, though perhaps a little wide and busy on the right hand side for some people. Change is inevitable in the online world – deal with it.