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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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« Seminar update | Main | Guy's got a blog »

Stuck systems

A young friend of mine needed to create a bibliography for a school project this weekend.

I had forgotten how annoying this task was. I was also pretty sure it was obsolete.

Why, exactly, does a teacher or reader need to know the city a book publisher is based in?

If your goal as a reader (or someone checking for plagiarism or quality of research) is to get to the books that the writer used, you need exactly one piece of data: the ISBN.

A quick online search didn't turn up what seemed obvious to me: a free service that would allow a writer to type in all the ISBNs used in creating a paper and then generate two things:

1. a bibliography based on looking up the data onlline and
2. a web page that would allow the reader/teacher to see the books, their covers, links to Amazon, libraries, online references, etc.

Then, when the student hands in the paper, she appends the bibliography created by the site, and there, right on top, is the web address with all the links.

Now, the typical middle-school teacher is going to explain that kids need to learn to write biographies because it's part of literacy. And a college professor is going to want to keep the tradition going because no one wants to be the first to end it. And an entrepreneur is going to hesitate to build the site I described because she's worried about how hard it will be to spread this idea and how much effort will go into making it the standard resource.

And no student wants to risk a grade by breaking the system.

So, the marketer faces a challenge similar to the disruption challenge that most marketers face--how do you take a system filled with an inefficient, annoying, time-consuming, wasteful and yes, even stupid task and make it better in a way that serves all sides?

If it were me, I'd focus on being cheap and fast and viral. And the more you break the system, the better your upside.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Stuck systems:

» Getting rid of the bibliography from A Journey To The End Of Time
If you know me just a little bit, youll notice that Im not a big fan of the establishment (the system, the accepted way to do things, whatever you want to call it). In fact, I get my kicks out of telling all my friends tha... [Read More]

» It's the whole system that's obsolete from Peter T Davis's Small Business Blog
Seth Godin writes an interesting blob post on an irrelevant task given to a student. Certainly doing a bibliography such as the one he describes is obsolete, and will add absolutely nothing, other than frustation and a feeling of accomplishing nothin... [Read More]

» Reducing change can accelerate change from Breakfast Bytes
Seth Godin wants a world in which students simply provide a list of ISBNs with every essay, and readers... [Read More]

» Automating the Bibliography from Agrestic
Today Seth Godin wrote about the antiquated concept of the bibliography. In particular, he wondered why it is that students still create bibliographies when the only piece of information anyone needs to verify a source is an ISBN number. Based on ... [Read More]

» Stuck systems from expound.com
Link: Seth's Blog: Stuck systems. Seth's Blog mentions what a pain it is to pull together a bibliography for many students. For the researcher looking to organize and track documents, try RefWorks. The service is not free, but it is [Read More]

» Hey Seth! from Virtual Dave
Seths Blog doesnt seem to have a comment button on it, but Id like to point out to him that LibraryThing is close to what he wants, and in fact demonstrates that many ISBNs can be looked up automatically. So it woul... [Read More]

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