Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Cost of Getting Information

Nick Rowe wrote a spot on piece regarding JSTOR. He clearly was using this as a metaphor for many other things so I thought I would throw in my two pieces, shilling, pence, whatever. Here goes.

1. Microsoft: If you think you have problems with JSTOR try and figure out what is wrong with your operating system if you have to go to Microsoft. The only way to find out how Microsoft works is to use Google. Does that tell you something.

2. MIT: Now I am not an economist, but I have a pile of degrees from MIT in EECS, that means computer science. Now MIT decided to put on this on line open course. I wrote about my travails, but for clarity I used to be in charge of the course many decades ago. Has not really changed much so I thought I would give it a whack. Now like Nick I have a real life, namely I do other stuff besides trying to find out how the software works. Thus when I came upon a question which required me to enter an equation, there being no directions on how to do so, and after 5 or 6 tries, I said to myself, this is not me, it is them. I stopped, and apparently so did 119,000 other people. Tell you something? To me yes, to the MIT programmer whiz, no, it was my stupid fault. Well there went a few years of alumni donations. If Google had designed the interface then when I ran into an entry problem they would have nicely directed me to directions, example, user groups, emails, whatever. I would have solved the problem near instantly. Not MIT, too much like Microsoft. Was I ever that bad?

3. Google: Now that is the way to do things. If you make a mistake they suggest how to solve it, then they try again, it is never your fault, they try again. Now that is truly Google's future if they recognize it. Why is Google this way? The answer may be quite interesting.

4. Open Access: I just gave up peer review publications. You see when you get over seventy you keep wondering if there will be enough time to get through a review cycle. Also, the only thing you really do is make some up and coming Associate Prof happy that they got you to dot or cross something. Thus open access, open access everything. As for peer reviews, send me an email, yell, scream, even use that old device called a phone, and I have video if you insist on using facial responses.

Thus, as usual, Nick has keen insight into the obvious. I have learned that "if all else fails listen to the customer" is a powerful aphorism with a great deal of insight. Google listens, Microsoft does not, nor did MIT in its first attempt. JSTOR may be just an artifact of an older generation, like a FAX machine, just kick it once and a while Nick, it will make you happy!