Emerging Technology

Insomnia: don’t blame the screen… How to embrace online collaboration… Widgets look for free placement…

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Insominia: don’t blame the screen

If you can’t sleep and you are blaming television or the internet before bedtime it could be all in your mind.

A new survey published in the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythm reports that many people who spend more pre-bedtime hours using the internet or watching TV are more likely to report they don’t get enough sleep, even thought they sleep almost as long as people who spend fewer hours in front of a screen.

“While many people use electronic media, such as the internet, it should be noted that the longer media use before sleep can trigger (self-perceived) insufficient sleep,” lead researcher Dr. Nakamori Suganuma, of Osaka University, Japan, told Reuters Health.

However, longer internet and television use before bedtime did not correlate with less actual sleep. While heavy users averaged about three more hours in front of computer or television screens than light users, the heavy users averaged only about 12 minutes less pre-workday sleep time than light users.

The findings suggest that although heavy computer and television use before bedtime has a small effect on sleep duration, it may have a more significant effect on “sleep demand and sleep quality”, Suganuma says.

How to make the most of user-generated content: McKinsey

Companies are fast adopting technologies that foster online collaboration and participation, such as blogs that solicit customer feedback and wikis that allow employees to work together on documents. To make the most of them, McKinsey suggests looking to how and why people are using social media.

McKinsey research conducted in Germany finds that motives such as a desire for fame and a feeling of identification with a community encourage collaboration and participation.

McKinsey surveyed 573 users of four leading online video-sharing sites in Germany and then examined the blogs of one of the sites. They saw that users cite a variety of reasons for posting content online. Chief among them, a hunger for fame, the urge to have fun, and a desire to share experiences with friends. While some users were open to the idea of being compensated for their contributions, that wasn’t a primary driver: the people we studied weren’t paid for their contributions.

They found that a few users posted the most popular content. About 3–6% of the membership added 75% of the videos available for download, and videos from just 2% of the member base accounted for more than half of all videos viewed. These findings are typical for social media, where 5–10% of the users contribute half to all of the content.

Visitors under 25 years of age made up the bulk of the video-viewing audience measured, but members in the 25–44 age group contributed equally to postings, suggesting that working-age people would be open to participation in enterprise settings.

A sense of sharing drives these older users, who tend to forward videos to friends even more frequently than do their younger peers. Tools making it easier, increased downloads up to 30%. McKinsey concludes that executives pursuing such projects should start by identifying and nurturing the small percentage of users who post quality content.

Other findings:

At one cable company more than half of the installers who contributed to an internal wiki said that social factors such as reputation building, team spirit, and community identification were the main factors motivating them to contribute.

To encourage well-connected employees to post ideas to the wiki, managers at the company examined its internal e-mail system to identify key staffers with wide social networks within it. They then encouraged these employees – the thought leaders – to post suggestions about improving the company’s processes, which improved the quality of postings.

Other companies strive to make collaboration fun: Google employees place online bets on the likelihood that particular ideas will be adopted.

To improve the quality of internal wikis, companies might look to the quality assurance practices of open-source coding projects, which rely on appointed and self-appointed guardians to police quality issues.

Companies should also create transparent and enforceable guidelines to prohibit unethical or illegal behavior, such as the posting of copyrighted material or proprietary secrets.

Widgets look for free placement

Visits to widgets are on the rise, according to comScore, which monitors widget use. Marketers of the branded, interactive Web tools called widgets are counting on the willingness of small-site publishers and bloggers to incorporate widgets into their sites for free — essentially providing free advertising, according to a report in The Washington Post


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