Nick Bilton’s recent NYT article ‘Controlled Serendipity’ Liberates the Web struck a responsive chord for me and for many other, as evidenced by its viral spread on Twitter – What especially struck me about the article and its spreading on Twitter was the virtual ignoring of the coiner of the catchy term “controlled serendipity” — Maria Popova, who is certainly well-known on the Web for her blog Brain Pickings, and her Twittering (@brainpicker) — The article came out early in the day on Friday, Jan 22. Before I tweeted it several hours and many tweets later, remarkably, not a single tweet about it mentioned either Popova or @brainpicker. So I decided then that I would emphasize “Popova’s brain” in my talk about the ideas in the article.

In thinking about a tweet and blog article title that would emphasize Popova’s contribution, I settled upon the word “creative.” Before I chose that, though, I did some thesaurus searching to find other possibilities. None seemed better than “creative,” but I did discover an intriguing word that’s new to me – Deviceful - Wow! What a great word! … Note the dictionary definition for Serendipity: “Making desirable discoveries by accident” …

Deviceful — A Middle English word notable for its use in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, not commonly used now … Surprising, in this age of devices, but a Google search shows little indication that the Ad-makers have discovered it, even those deviceful minds at Apple! (The top 10 hits in Googling deviceful are all, except one Photography site, either dictionary definitions or Middle English-related) … So, I think, such a striking word is worth building an article around — I think about using it in the title of an article I planned on Popova … but … even better: I realize what’s just a few days away, the Climax of the iPad Hype, the long-awaited Launch! In following this interesting story, unavoidably, I hear a lot about Steve Jobs, but I also learn about the quieter, but vital, role of designer Jonathan Ive, and I write an article on the two of them — Deviceful Minds.

… So … A nice little example of “Controlled” Serendipity? — “Serendipity with a purpose” or “Serendipity that turns into a story” … Having the knack of knowing when an interesting path is going to lead to something useful — In this example, following the path from creative … to … deviceful … led to writing an article.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

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