Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains

by Nicholas Carr

The Atlantic, July/August 2008

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfort­able sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, re-rnapping the neural cir­cuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going - so far as 1 can tell - but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think.

I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the nar­rative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentra­tion often starts to drift after two or three pages. .I get fidgety; lose the thread, begin looking for some­thing else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

 I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the internet. The web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and  I’ve got the tell-tale fact or pithy quote I was after.
Even when I’m not working, as likely as not to be foraging in the web’s Info-thickets, reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike foot­notes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.) For me, as for others, the internet is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Write your headlines to speak directly and only to your prospective buyers.

The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you want to interest. Whether they are bedwetters, home-owners, car buyers, or whatever. You care only for those people, so make your headline say so.
People refuse to be bored in print. In print, they can choose their own companions, their own subjects.
There may be products which interest them more than anything else in a magazine. But they will never know it unless the headline or the picture tells them.
The vast difference in headlines is shown by keyed returns and measurable sales responses. The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. A carefully targetted change to a headline can multiply responses from five to ten times over.
Don’t think that those millions of readers will study your ads to find out if your product interests them. They will decide by a quick glance -- mainly by your headline or your pictures. Address your sales message directly, clearly, to the people you seek, and them only.

An advertisement with 100 words should make the reader think 5000 words – which is the most valuable secret of ad copy. It is not just what you say that counts; what’s more important is the chain of thought that your ad creates in the prospect’s mind.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Letter To The Editor, The Financial Post, May 4, 2011.

Some years ago, I discussed with a colleague the question of how many undergraduates belong and deserve to be in our classrooms. My colleague suggested that perhaps 25% of students are properly qualified and sufficiently motivated. I found my colleague's estimate overly optimistic, as I believed most university students possess no intellectual curiosity, but just feel entitled to higher education and do not know what else to do.
We decided to test at least one aspect of our contention: the lack of intellectual curiosity. It was decided I would announce in my second-year child psychology class that the next lecture would be mostly a debate and not cover anything that would be tested in any examination. Students were advised to come only if they were interested in a better understanding of some particular issues.
The class was attended by 18 out of 120 students (15%). According to most participants, and myself, it was one of the best classes of the year.
It is regrettable that no political party in the recent election took up the problem of our crowded universities, which cater to unqualified, unmotivated, semi-literate and parasitical students.
Characteristically, our universities "advertise" like soap sellers. The University of Western Ontario brags about the "Western experience" (number 4 on Playboy's party list!). Other universities lure students with pretentious and dishonest slogans claiming to offer "excellence" in education.
I see no solution other than to insist, at the very least, on admission exams.
            Heinz Klatt, professor emeritus of psychology, London, Ont.