“Outsourcing your memory”

Interesting findings about our perceptions of what we really know when we have access to the Internet for finding out.

Does Google Help Students Learn (or Just Think They Do?) by Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week (May 26)

There’s no question that in the era of the smartphone, the Internet has become a go-to place to find out something in a hurry, but does “outsourcing your memory” actually help students learn new concepts, or does it just make people think they are smarter than they are?

– people are “outsourcing memory” – they remember where they found it rather than the information itself.
– people after researching a topic assess themselves as being more knowledgeable than they actually are. “While people can find very in-depth information quickly on the Internet, Fisher argues that something about the act of searching online boosts students’ confidence in their understanding. ”
– people remember better when they look something up – but these studies found that students did better online than with print.

Meeker on Internet Trends

Mary Meeker’s annual report about Internet trends always has analysts agog. This year’s show is 197 slides long. Better to use a summary – such as Tech Crunch’s posting: The Most Important Insights From Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report  – only 24 slides.

Of interest:

  • Top Internet companies are: Apple, Google, Alibaba, Facebook, and Amazon.
  • Next areas of opportunity for entrepreneurs with new products are education, healthcare, government.
  • Average American adult spends 5.6 hours a day on the Internet – mostly mobile.
  • “Vertical video ads”  is the term for ads shown on mobile devices – turns out people watch them.
  • Six of the top ten apps on mobile devices are for messaging. (oh oh – means companies will tack on ecommerce etc)

Pew Internet’s study on social media

New study from Pew Internet found increasing use of social media by online adults in the US. Facebook still leads by far , but Linkedin, Pinterest, Tweitter, and Instagram are strong.

Social Media Update 2014 BY Maeve Duggan, Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Amanda Lenhart, and Mary Madden,  Pew Research (Jan 9)

Of interest:

  • 52% of online adults use two or more social media services
  • 70% of Facebook users check daily
  • 31% of all seniors use Facebook
  • Instagram is most popular with people aged 18 to 29 – 53%
  • 42% of online women use Pinterest – way outnumbering men at 13%

Archiving the Web – a very big job

Tremendous article about archiving efforts to preserve Web content in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore – The Cobweb: Can the Internet be archived? .

First point – “The average life of a Web page is about a hundred days. ” Pages disappear for many reasons: sites die with their hosts – MySpace as an example; organization purposely deletes the pages – as British Conservative Party did with 10 years of speeches; website is reconfigured and content isn’t moved or is impossible to find. This is a plague of link rot for footnotes.

Internet Archive is the largest program to save Web content – archive.org. It has captured 425 billion pages. There are associated services to help it – Archive It, and “Save Page Now” at archive.org. Also a new Perma.cc to be used to create permalinks for articles referenced in footnotes.

There are other initiatives – Europeana as a digital library in Europe, and Digital Public Library of America.

Biggest issue is copyright – and the right to save.

Internet Archive blogged about this article also – The New Yorker: The Cobweb–Can the Internet be archived?. We hope they archived it.

Article does not mention the work Internet Archive has done to save other media and digital books.

News sources that people trust

A recent survey of trust in news sources showed that search engines (mostly Google) are now ahead of traditional media (TV, radio, and newspapers). In fact trust in traditional media has fallen from 65% in 2014 to 62% in 2015; and trust in social media risen to 48%.

Google Overtakes Traditional Media To Become Most Trusted News Source by Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Jan 20)

I suppose this is because people find it easier to run a quick search for breaking news or general information than scan a newspaper or wait for the 10 pm news program. Mostly it’s indicative of how deeply entrenched search is now in our information gathering habits.

Worry about these instead

“Right to be forgotten” is “dangerous”, observes Tim Berners-Lee. There are much more serious concerns – threats to net neutrality,  the power of corporations, and emergence of separate operating systems like iOS and Android.

Web founder: Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten’ rule is dangerous, by Stephen Shankland, CNet (Dec 10)

In a wide-ranging discussion at the conference, Berners-Lee said it’s appropriate that false information should be deleted. Information that’s true, though, is important for reasons of free speech and history, he said. A better approach to the challenge would be rules that protect people from inappropriate use of older information.


Berners-Lee, though, said losing Net neutrality could mean one company could encourage you to watch particular movies or discourage you from visiting a particular political party’s website. “For a company to be able to control your Web experience is hugely powerful. For a government to do that is hugely powerful. So we have to fight very strongly.”

The Growing Importance of Mobile

Google gives sites that are mobile friendly a ranking boost in search results.

Google Is Experimenting With Special Ranking For Mobile-Friendly Sites, Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (Nov 18)

Google already penalizes sites that provide a bad experience to mobile searchers. Now the company has confirmed that it’s testing with what seems like a boost for those providing a great experience.

This is good, but it is also part of the trend that makes mobile access to the web more important than desktop. Wall Street Journal has noted that The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It by Phil Foster (Nov 17)

Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending time in apps that we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.