Archive | April, 2014

E-books: does @page99 approach still work?

21 Apr

I have borrowed several e-books from the local library. It just occurred to me that @Page99 here depends on reader choices. It is thus dependent on such vagaries as:
– size of screen on the device used for reading
– screen orientation: portrait vs landscape
– font size chosen.

My choice is the book I am currently enjoying

“How we invented freedom & why it matters”

by Daniel Hannan.

It has won Paddy Power’s Political Book Awards Polemic of the Year in March 2014 so my views are clearly shared wider. I hasten to add that I do not share Mr Hannan’s political views but I am impressed with his well argued case.

First, finding a page number at all is difficult. In OverDrive (Adobe software used by our lending library) I can see in the summary how many pages I have seen. Every look at a page is counted- thus ‘pages viewed’ counter is of little use. Pages are numbered at the bottom starting with 1 for each chapter. So that counter is not accurate either.

Then it occurred to me to look at the back of the book into the Index. Sure enough I found there a name on p.99.

Page 99 deals with the Norman Conquest battles of 1066. It contains a story of King Harold and his brothers who fought Norman invaders lead by William, later King William I. This page captures the battle that led to crucial changes in England – it was not just that one King was replaced by another but a whole ruling aristocratic layer was also replaced by the knights loyal to new Norman king. What is more, and it is the heart of this book, the next section in this Chapter being THE ROOTS OF OUR RIGHTS.

This page thus depicts one of the crucial events in English history. It could not be more symbolic. The page is at the beginning of the section Yet it introduces what became the turning point in English history and the central tenet of the book as depicted on the book sleeve, which states

This book tells the story of freedom and explains how it is a uniquely ‘British’, rather than ‘Western’ invention.

Reviews reboot

7 Apr

I came across a really interesting site called The Page 99 Test with the subtitle “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” –Ford Madox Ford Definitely sounds intriguing and I will try it out in my reviews.

Above is a quote from my second post here. A good idea I am putting in place now. Subject is

Scaling up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao

Published by Random House Business Books

Page 99 title is CUT COGNITIVE LOAD. There are three paragraphs. Here is most of it:

scaling entails subjecting people to an onslaught of unfamiliar, difficult, and upsetting changes and chores. The sheer volume and complexity often overwhelms the “working memory” of individuals who do it, which produces blind spots and bad decisions and saps (individual’s) willpower.

Researchers call this condition “cognitive overload”, and it’s unfortunate effects are well documented.. An experiment is recounted claiming that extra mental effort required induces people to take the easy way out and gobble down the less healthy cake.

Seven is the “magic number” for memory researchers. In 1956 , psychologist George Miller showed that people could hold “seven, plus or minus two” numbers in short-term memory. Yet organizational designers rarely head the implications of Miller’s Law or thousands of subsequent studies on the hazards of overtaxing our brains. As organizations expand and mature, rather than rationing or subtracting load, leaders and teams often pile on so many metrics, procedures, and chores that people lose the capacity and willpower to do the right things. There follows example of Office Depot where the new president faced clashing facts: “mystery shoppers” evaluations were at all time high, yet store sales were falling. After many visits to stores Peters found that clerks and managers felt so pressured to do tasks like sweeping floors and stocking shelves that they routinely ignored customers’ questions and needs

Summary.. Too much information is bad for you and those who depend on your decisions. Designing systems in organizations to deal with complexity is essential but almost never done. It is no wonder people make choices that turn out to have effects opposite of the intended ones.