Two Watchmakers [...]

There once were two watchmakers, named Hora and Tempus, who made very fine watches. The phones in their workshops rang frequently and new customers were constantly calling them. However, Hora prospered while Tempus became poorer and poorer. In the end, Tempus lost his shop. What was the reason behind this?

The watches consisted of about 1000 parts each. The watches that Tempus made were designed such that, when he had to put down a partly assembled watch, it immediately fell into pieces and had to be reassembled from the basic elements. Hora had designed his watches so that he could put together sub-assemblies of about ten components each, and each sub-assembly could be put down without falling apart. Ten of these subassemblies could be put together to make a larger sub-assembly, and ten of the larger sub-assemblies constituted the whole watch. [3] (Source)

Prohibition Was Racialized [...]

No single moment in American history has had more impact on the beer business than Prohibition. As it turns out, the 18th Amendment carried some grim racial undertones.

Temperance found its way into the Constitution thanks in part to the Anti-Saloon League, which trafficked in racially loaded propaganda to cast alcohol as a dangerous pandemic. “Saloons became code for not only drinking and debauchery, but also code for where immigrants and brown people hang out,” explained J. Nikol Beckham, an assistant professor of communication studies at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Prohibition movement was “always racialized,” she said, pointing to political cartoons like this one, in which faceless blacks are portrayed as willing minions of a Germanic beer baroness.
In 1933, Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment, but the beer business quickly developed — or even cultivated — race problems of its own. “[The post-Prohibition] consolidation of most beer brewing in the US into very large corporations probably hurt all sorts of minorities who would have potentially owned breweries,” said Allison McKim, an assistant professor of sociology at Bard College. (Source)

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The Banality of Silicon Valley Evil [...]

It is not enough, then, to mock Silicon Valley. The whole enterprise distracts. If the conmen in the Valley can convince you that they are a new and exceptional kind of evil, you will spend time thinking up new and exceptional ways to fight back, intimidated and a little bit in awe of their bravado. It isn’t necessary.

The rigged contracts, the job insecurity, the abusive management, the racism, the harassment, the investment scamming and hardball, the criminal reaction to dissent — these are old monsters, to be slain with old weapons. They are the same weapons needed across the whole of the economy: regulation, labor laws, newly robust unions, a political apparatus dedicated to questions beyond the fairest way to grow GDP.

If there is to be a rhetorical component, wagging to be done and a book to be written, so be it. Dedicate the wagging and the book to the proposition that there are interests not only outside of but contradictory to the pursuit of wealth, the fastest possible growth of the market. If we have to call it a disruption, fine, but don’t let the cult-talk and the frat parties and the mystique of these new assholes fool you. We’ve beaten them before. We know how. (Source)

Theranos Delusion [...]

Running large batteries of medical tests on people is not an undisputed public good. False positives abound, and without a clear idea as to why we want the test information and what we plan to do with it, bad outcomes can result.

Professor Norman Paradis of the Dartmouth College medical school has also questioned not just the claim that Theranos can produce cheaper, faster, less scary blood tests, but also the assumption that succeeding in this quest would improve public health.

In a piece titled, The Rise and Fall of Theranos, which ran in Scientific American and the online magazine The Conversation, he questioned the value of the Theranos promise to run dozens of tests on a small amount of blood. “From a clinical perspective, this was always concerning, as such a shotgun approach to medical testing is actually very bad medicine.”

It’s not that he’s against blood tests in the right context. “I’m very big on ordering tests,” he said. “But I don’t immediately say we need to start treatments.” What’s needed for better preventive medicine isn’t just more tests, but more accurate tests, and a better understanding of what to do with the results.

If any good comes out of all this, said pathologist Master, it would be a better understanding of the need for thoughtful interpretation followed by careful decision making. “Medicine,” he said, “is more than getting a number out of a box.” (Source)

Testing (and resulting personalization of treatment) must be embedded in a context. In medicine, that testing is usually undertaken to confirm or deny hypotheses, and to look for generally expected problems that occur across populations (e.g. cholesterol testing).

When testing becomes cheaper, there is often an idea that we can now test before we detect or suspect problems. But as a basic familiarity with the Base Rate Fallacy will show you, increasing the variety of things we test for dramatically decreases the specificity of the results. See Sensitivity vs. Specificity

Autopilot Confusion [...]

This isn’t just a theoretical problem — it’s something that has cropped up with the autopilot feature on airplanes. As a 2014 New Yorker article pointed out, a number of crashes have occurred because pilots simply weren’t paying close enough attention as the plan largely flew itself. That caused them to make crucial mistakes when they were forced to take over control.

One study found that with higher levels of automation, “pilots’ ability to make complex cognitive decisions suffered a palpable hit. They were less able to visualize their plane’s position, to decide what navigational step should come next, and to diagnose abnormal situations.”

With the plane doing most of the driving, pilots had more trouble concentrating on the task in front of them. Their minds tended to wander That made them less well-prepared when an emergency required them to exercise good judgment and quick thinking.

Car companies are just starting to introduce partially self-driving cars onto the market, so we don’t yet know if the same kind of problem will crop up on our roads. But it provides a powerful argument for advocates of allowing fully autonomous driving. (Source)

Girl, 12, runs half-marathon by mistake [...]

A 12-year-old girl in New York has mistakenly run a half-marathon after she confused the start of the race with a five kilometre course she was supposed to be running.

LeeAdianez Rodriguez had registered for the 5km race that was part of last Sunday’s Rochester Regional Health Flower City Challenge. She thought she was arriving late at the starting line when the race started, so she began running with the rest of the runners.

She was supposed to run the Wegmans Family 5km, which starts on the same bridge 15 minutes after the distance runners set off.

It turned out she was running with the half-marathoners on the 13.1-mile course and not in the 5km, or 3.1 miles. Rodriguez says she realized about halfway through that she was in the wrong race but decided to finish.

The Shill Rule of Political Communities [...]

Accusations of shilling have always been prohibited. I’m just reiterating that old-standing rule.  It’s fucking obnoxious old-timers are accused of being paid shills, and it’s fucking obnoxious when new users—the way we grow our movement—are accused of being shills. So zero tolerance.  (Source)

Kos Says Worst [...]

With news that a pro-Clinton PAC is spending money to “push back against” online commenters attacking Hillary Clinton, this site has degenerated into the nastiest meta infighting I’ve ever seen. Worse than 2008’s Clinton v Obama battles, and (maybe) worse than 2004’s Dean v Clark v Kerry shitstorm.  (Source)

Ten Friends [...]

Early on, Facebook noticed that to keep people coming back to the site they had to engage with at least 10 friends. By making this a proximal engagement goal they were able to drive broader site engagement.(Source)

Bowling Pin Strategy [...]

Term from Moore on how to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of some products.

The idea is that people won’t use your product until other people are using it. Even for something like Microsoft Word, utility is tied to how many *other8 people have Word.

The solution is to find small, niche market segments where people are interconnected enough in a group small enough that broad adoption of a product is possible.

Network Effects presentation (Link)

Leverage, But for Whom? [...]

The Mizzou protests devastated Mizzou’s financial position. But the loss of revenue came from people supporting both sides of the conflict.

In one instance, a retired professor wrote a prescient note to top university officials, cautioning that “serious backlash could result” and that “students making demands, protests, disrupting events or that kind of thing won’t sell well outstate.”

His prediction proved spot-on. The 7,400 pages of emails, reviewed exclusively by these two publications, reveal how Mizzou overwhelmingly lost the support of longtime sports fans, donors, and alumni. Parents and grandparents wrote in from around the country declaring that their family members wouldn’t be attending Mizzou after the highly publicized controversy. Some current students talked about leaving.

MORE: Emails show safety fears rampant on Mizzou campus

This passionate backlash doesn’t appear to have been a bluff. Already, freshman enrollment is down 25%, leaving a $32 million funding gap and forcing the closure of four dorms. The month after the protests, donations to the athletic department were a mere $191,000—down 72% over the same period a year earlier. Overall fundraising also took a big hit. (Source)

The rest of the article shows the conflicting signals — people not going to Mizzou both because:

  • Mizzou was racist
  • Mizzou was overly tolerant of the protests


Five Biggest Reading Mistakes [...]

  • You read every text in the same way: journal article, seminal book, original source, further reading and tables of data

  • You don’t want to miss anything out

  • You want to remember it all

  • You think skim-reading is cheating

  • You believe speed-reading is the same as close reading, just faster

Underinvesting in New Ideas [...]

Evaluators systematically misconstrued ideas that were outside their established paradigms,” he said. This “bounded rationality” was the most convincing reason for why assessors failed to appreciate highly novel plans, according to the paper, “Looking across and looking beyond the knowledge frontier: intellectual distance, novelty, and resource allocation in science”, published in Management Science.

Novelty was measured using keywords in each proposal. If two keywords rarely appeared together in the existing literature, an idea was considered novel.

The findings have implications well beyond academia, Professor Riedl said.

“We think that the findings generalise to…pretty much any field where we evaluate how to allocate our money,” including companies looking to develop new products, start-ups looking for investment or publishers reading manuscripts of new books, he argued.

The current economy is “systematically underinvesting in new ideas”, he said. (Source)

Black Lives and Local Matters [...]

The trouble for Mckesson—and for other activists who seek to become part of the government they’ve protested—is that he earned tremendous relational currency through his work alongside Black Lives Matter and as a co-founder of Campaign Zero, an effort to eradicate police violence, but he hasn’t been able to cash in that currency on a local level. The overwhelming majority of Mckesson’s online followers across the country won’t be able to cast a ballot for him tomorrow. Those who can vote have shown they want someone they feel has a more intimate and lasting relationship with Baltimore.

Wikipedia’s Core Decoupling [...]

First the core norms are established by the community’s founding members. Gradually, they become more abstract and universal—a way of rationalizing the institution. “They function less to regulate behavior and more to justify the system and give it a sense of legitimacy,” said DeDeo.

So instead of the pragmatic “Don’t type in all caps,” the norm becomes “Be civil.” Eventually these core norms achieve an almost myth-like status. And inevitably, they begin to conflict with each other.

Yet attempts to resolve such conflicts are rare: instead, you get the emergence of tribalism. For some Wikipedia users, the most important aspect of the community is collaboration and mutual respect. Others value providing verifiable neutral information, or view Wikipedia as kind of a “Noah’s ark” repository of information should civilization collapse. Those obsessed with content policy may think the most important aspect of Wikipedia is that it is open and shared freely.

That’s the opposite of what DeDeo expected when he and Heaberlin started the project. He thought that once the initial core norms were established, eventually everyone would come together as a society all at once—a social network nucleation event. Instead, “The early users laid down these seeds, everybody clustered around them, but the seeds were in different neighborhoods,” he said. “And over time, those seeds got pulled apart from each other.” (Source)

Frozen Norms on Wikipedia [...]

DeDeo and Heaberlin identified four central “neighborhoods” loosely organized around article quality, content policy, collaboration, and administrators. All the core norms of Wikipedia users can be found within those groups—things like “Don’t type in all caps” (now associated with shouting), “Assume good faith,” or “Be neutral.”

Their analysis demonstrates that Wikipedia is actually quite conservative from an evolutionary standpoint: it preserves those aspects that worked early on. As the community added new members and grew rapidly, 89 percent of the core norms stayed the same. Nobody ever overthrows an existing norm, and nobody creates a new norm that becomes as dominant as the original core norms. If a particular norm was important in 2001, chances are it was still important in 2015. (Source)

Iron Law of Wikipedia [...]

One of their most striking findings is that, even on Wikipedia, the so-called “Iron Law of Oligarchy”—a.k.a. rule by an elite few—holds sway. German sociologist Robert Michels coined the phrase in 1911, while studying Italian political parties, and it led him to conclude that democracy was doomed. “He ended up working for Mussolini,” said DeDeo, who naturally learned about Michels via Wikipedia.

“You start with a decentralized democratic system, but over time you get the emergence of a leadership class with privileged access to information and social networks,” DeDeo explained. “Their interests begin to diverge from the rest of the group. They no longer have the same needs and goals. So not only do they come to gain the most power within the system, but they may use it in ways that conflict with the needs of everybody else.”

He and Heaberlin found that the same is true of Wikipedia. The core norms governing the community were created by roughly 100 users—but the community now numbers about 30,000.

A January paper published in Physical Review E by physicists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology would seem to support that finding. That study found that a fairly small number of Wikipedia editors exert a major influence on the site. And just as DeDeo and Heaberlin’s analysis predicts, that editing inequality is increasing over time. It’s now quite rare for a newcomer to break into the upper echelons of so-called “super-editors.” (Source)

Created the Opening [...]

Some believe it was inaction of the administration which created the space for Mizzou to fire Melissa Click.

Michael Sykuta, an associate professor of agricultural and applied economics here, believes Ms. Click should have been punished for her actions. But he blames the university for creating an opening for the curators to act. “If the provost had impaneled a group to investigate, if there was a faculty process that could be pointed to, that would have taken away most of the political punch the curators had,” he says. “A big part of why the curators acted is that the university did nothing.” (Source)

Threats Against Ms. Click [...]

“I was in a space where even the chancellor was spending a lot of time,” she says. “There was no reason to think I was doing something that wasn’t sanctioned by the university.”

On the day Ms. Click clashed with Mr. Schierbecker, she arrived home to an email saying her tenure bid had cleared the next hurdle: approval by a college-level committee.

But by that evening, the video had taken off. When the footage of Ms. Click screaming and pointing made national news, friends emailed and called to see if she was OK.

Mixed in with her university email were death threats, and at home, notes appeared about rape. Ms. Click checked in with her department chair, who initially reassured her that the commotion would die down. (Source)

Melissa Click’s inbox. (Link)

Click’s Clashes [...]

That’s when Ms. Click heard some of them arguing with Mark Schierbecker, a senior majoring in history who was filming the protest. Ms. Click grabbed at his small hand-held camera, telling him: “You have to go!” To which he responded: “I actually don’t.” As Mr. Schierbecker recited his right to be in a public place, Ms. Click invoked her authority as a “communication faculty” and made the call for “muscle” to get him removed. All the while, Mr. Schierbecker was filming, capturing what to many seemed to be an out-of-control professor with flaming nostrils and unruly red hair inciting violence against a university student.

These are actions and remarks that, by now, she has apologized for countless times — both formally and informally. Some, however, point out that Mr. Schierbecker wasn’t the only one Ms. Click clashed with on the quad. She told a geology professor that questions he directed to the black students were inappropriate, he says, and asked him to leave. And she told two other cameramen they weren’t welcome, flinging mocking comments at one (“Wow, you’re so scary”) and leading the students in a chant to banish the other (“Hey, hey, ho, ho, reporters have got to go!”). Exactly why, many have asked, was the assistant professor there that day taking on such a lead role? (Source)

Transit Method at Takeoff [...]

Why do lights on the ground seem to flicker when taking off in an airplane at night? I first noticed it when reading an excellent book by David Grinspoon called Lonely Planets.

I read it years ago and don’t have the book handy so I hope I got it right. In the book Grinspoon made the observation that the flickering you mentioned was only noticeable to him when he was taking off or landing at airports in the Northeast like in NYC or DC, but not at airports in the Southwest like in Arizona or Texas.

He realized that the flickering is probably due to the fact that there are more trees around in those areas, and while the chance of a particular streetlight being obscured by a tree branch is pretty low, when you look at blocks and blocks worth of streetlights you are bound to have quite a few of them being blocked by branches at any given moment giving the flickering effect you mentioned.

I believe he was making the analogy to try and explain the transit method of discovering exoplanets. (Source)

Labor Market Fluidity [...]

The new paper, part of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, starts by laying out the trends in fluidity. Labor market fluidity can mean a number of things, including the rate at which workers move into and out of unemployment, switch jobs, and move across state lines. Molloy and her co-authors create a composite measure that combines these kinds of fluidities and find that overall fluidity in the U.S. labor market has fallen between 10 percent and 15 percent since the early 1980s. But for some of the individual flows, the decline has been as large as one-third.Why has that happened? Let’s look first at demographics. The U.S. population has changed quite a bit since the early 1980s as more women have entered the labor market and the labor force has gotten older, among other trends. These demographic changes could be responsible for less fluidity as, for example, older workers are less likely to switch jobs. The authors find, however, that while demographics can explain a decent amount of the decline in fluidity, it can’t explain the “bulk of the decline.” A full accounting needs to look at other potential causes. (Source)

A Golden Age for Digital Media? [...]

Jim VandeHei talks about what he sees as a coming Golden Age.

You see this unfolding already: The New York Times mobile site offers a far more enjoyable and efficient way to read the news than its newspaper—and digital subs are rising. Vice hired one of the smarter minds in journalism, Josh Tyrangiel of Bloomberg, and is throwing 150 people at reinventing the nightly and weekly newscast for HBO.

Ken Lerer is right: This is the golden age for content creation.

In all likelihood, the revolutions in video and digital will merge into one: with a new generation of media companies producing content we watch at home, listen to in our car and read wherever on the go. And thanks to technology, all your devices will know what you want, where you are and how to serve up content the way you want to consume it at that very moment.

Just like the Web destroyed the newspaper world; mobile will destroy the desktop world and on-demand video will destroy the TV and cable world. But from the rubble will emerge a much better, more eclectic, more efficient way for all of us to watch, read and listen. It will be brimming with content we can be proud of—and happily pay for. (Source)

Pacemaker DMCA [...]

That means that bugs in medical implants can be exploited over their wireless interfaces, too. For example: lethal shocks from implanted pacemakers and defibrillators. It was not for nothing that former VP Dick Cheney had the wireless interface on his pacemaker deactivated (future software updates for Mr Cheney’s heart-monitor will thus involve general anaesthesia, a scalpel, and a rib-spreader).

However you feel about copyright law, everyone should be able to agree that copyright shouldn’t get in the way of testing the software in your hearing aid, pacemaker, insulin pump, or prosthetic limb to look for safety risks (or privacy risks, for that matter). Implantees need to know the truth about the reliability of the technology they trust their lives to.

That’s why today, EFF asked the FDA to require manufacturers to promise never to use the DMCA to attack security research, as a condition of certifying their devices. This would go a long way to protecting patients from manufacturers who might otherwise use copyright law to suppress the truth about their devices’ shortcomings. What’s more, it’s an approach that other groups have signed up for, as part of the normal process of standardization. (Source)

Dropbox as a True Git Server [...]

As far as I know, git-remote-dropbox is the only safe way to host a Git repository on Dropbox. Read about why here.

Once it’s installed, using Dropbox as a Git server is as simple as adding it as a remote: git remote add origin dropbox://path/to/repo. After that, it’s just the usual git pull and git push for interacting with the remote repo. (Source)

Greenland Contagion [...]

Sometimes, suicides can start chain reactions. Psychologists call it the contagion effect or suicidal transmission — after a close family member or friend kills himself, people who are already having suicidal thoughts are at greater risk for suicide. For that reason, suicide clusters or waves are especially likely in small, isolated communities where everyone knows each other. In one study from Greenland, 60 percent of young people who killed themselves did so within four months of another suicide in the same district. (Source)

Behind the Greenland Suicides [...]

Her observations are in line with something psychologists and sociologists think is fundamental to the causes of suicide in Greenland. When communities are disrupted, like Kangeq was, families start to collapse. There’s an increase in alcoholism, child neglect and physical abuse, all of which are risk factors for suicide. Later, people who didn’t get the love and support they needed as children find it difficult to cope with the routine heartbreak of dating, and a breakup becomes the final insult in a lifetime of hurt.

“There are a lot of negative consequences to rapid modernization,” says Greenlandic sociologist Steven Arnfjord. “We’re still dealing with a lot of aftermath from policies of the ’70s and ’80s.”

There’s also something broader — a loss of identity that happens when a culture, in this case Inuit culture, is demonized and broken down. When a culture is largely erased over less than a generation, as it was in Greenland, a lot of young people feel cut off from the older generations, but not really part of the new one. It’s especially difficult for young men, whose fathers and grandfathers were hunters, and who struggle to understand what it means to be an urban Inuit man. Without strong families and communities to help them cope, some of them are so overwhelmed and lost, they take their own lives. (Source)

Greenland Suicide Rate [...]

There was one problem: There were no clear answers to any of Anda’s questions about why people were killing themselves or how to prevent it. Like native people all around the Arctic — and all over the world — Greenlanders were seeing the deadly effects of rapid modernization and unprecedented cultural interference. American Indians and Alaska Natives (many of whom share Inuit roots with Greenlanders) had already seen many of their communities buckle under the same pressures.In Greenland, the problem was only getting worse. Between 1970 and 1980, the suicide rate there quadrupled to about seven times the U.S. rate (it’s still about six times higher). The suicide rate was, and still is, so high that it’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone in Greenland knows someone who has killed himself. Many people I spoke with struggled to explain what that felt like, to live in a place where suicide is so pervasive, and most of them settled uncomfortably on the same word: normal. (Source)

Stream of Consciousness on Tortilla Chip App [...]

The problem with most apps is they have to give you enough information to justify the space and mental bandwidth they consume. People only keep and check apps that send them daily info, and delete the rest. Commentary after the quote.

The smartphone OS we use are still largely based on the assumption of my phone being a mini-desktop, rather than, well, an information nacho, if you will. Consequently, if you’re making one of these apps, your app must give me something new daily (or more), or else it has no reason to live. Its information would be better shown to me via another app I do check often, like a social news feed or a messaging app. The only recourse the OS affords these apps in avoiding such a fate is the rather blunt instrument of push notifications (and things like Today widgets or Android home screen gadgets). (Source)

If you think about this, this is exactly the problem with online pre-Internet. There were different BBS’s with different focuses, and even with a provider like CompuServe you were always locked into a particular package of content.

Usenet was the forgotten solution to this. You had a single interface through which you could interact with dozens of servers. A new group could form anywhere and propagate immediately without central approval and without people having to download yet another application or learn yet another server and login.

That was followed by the Web, which did the same thing for read-only docs. But of course the web never built a standard for identity or interaction into the system the way that Usenet did. That led to the rise of the mega-sites (Facebook being the winner here) which supplied these interactivity platforms, and now it’s happening for apps.

In other words “There’s an app for that!” turns out to be the definition of a massive infrastructure problem, not a solution. “There’s an app for that” is the exact wrong design for anyone that wants to do serious work on a phone.

Maybe people want want they’ve always wanted — a truly two-way web, one that has as robust a spec for interactivity as it does for content delivery. Of course, the way we’ve tended to go about this is have request for documents and media standardized, but everything else is hand coded and different for every server.

Even that’s broken, isn’t it? I have a server called “”. You can ask it “Do you have a page (or response) at this location?” But without knowing that it’s running WordPress I can’t even send a request to the server and say “Do you have a document named ‘Mitra’s Brain Scans’?” Each server search engine using different params, etc.

The New Stream [...]

In addition to more gardens, we desperately need better streams. Dan Grover takes a whack at what a better lifestream might look like:

Indeed, the cornerstone of whole experience is effectively a common, semi-hierarchical stream of messages, notifications, and news with a consistent set of controls for handling them. It’s no stretch to see WeChat and its ilk not as SMS replacements but as nascent visions of a mobile OS whose UI paradigm is, rather than rigidly app-centric, thread-centric (and not, strictly speaking, conversation-centric).

When you think about it this way, the things listed there in my inbox don’t need to be conversations per se. But everything there, most abstractly, is something that can send me updates and notifications, will change in position when it does so, retains a read/unread status, and most essentially, allows me, the user, the aforementioned modes of control.

And if we really run with this idea to its extreme, what actually might appear when I tap on a cell in the inbox doesn’t matter — I could see a conversation, a song or video, news headlines, a map showing me my route, a timer, or a sub-group of other such threads. Anything, really. Though I guess it’d be best when it’s at least something dynamic or based on a service (I certainly wouldn’t want to access my calculator or camera this way). (Source)

16GB is a Bad User Experience [...]

The storage capacities of iPhones aren’t a side effect, they are a choice. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of discussion, research and thought that Apple has put into the capacities of their headline product. I’m sure bumping up the base model to 32GB would cost the company more and so by holding the line at 16GB for another year they will increase their profits. This near term benefit will surely help their balance sheet in their next earnings call but comes at the cost of the day-to-day experience of some of their customers.

In the end Apple has decided to continue offering a product that will almost inevitably fail their customer at some point, and potentially fail them at a moment of deep personal importance. That makes me sad, and as someone who makes my living riding their coattails, worried about the long term effects of this short term thinking. Maybe it is just sentimentality but those aren’t the priorities that I think Apple stands for. (Source)

In Defense of QR Codes [...]

QR Codes — When I left the US, QR codes were a joke. Putting them on things was a way to tell people you’re a douche, like using lots of hashtags or wearing a Bluetooth headset. They were once this way in China, too, until WeChat doubled-down on them. Now, they’re used for people, group chats, brands, payments, login, and more. They’re in plenty of other apps as well. In a place where everyone has adopted them and knows how to scan them, they’ve become a wonderful, fast way to link the offline and online worlds that saves untold amounts of time. But they have a few downsides. One is that they look like robot barf. The other is that, at least here, if you scan a code in the wrong app, you’ll get a webpage telling you to go install the right app, if not something totally inscrutable. Something that was once defined as an open standard is now non-inoperable. I predict great things for Facebook and Snapchat’s de-uglified take on QR codes. Still, I wish my phone’s OS could scan any such code (or detect them in photos) and do the right thing, but it seems the window of opportunity has passed for this. (Source)

The Origin Of The iChat UI [...]

Drawn in ClarisWorks, April 21, 1997. This was based on my experiences with MUDs and IRC, having a really hard time keeping track of many-way chats. I think the only IM app available then was ICQ, which I hadn’t heard of. (IIRC, AIM came out later that year, at least for non-AOL users.) This also predates Microsoft Comic Chat, which used speech balloons too, although in a very different UI: theirs was for novelty, mine was for usability. (Source)

Risks of Boredom [...]

Does any of this matter? Research suggests that chronic boredom is responsible for a profusion of negative outcomes such as overeating, gambling, truancy, antisocial behaviour, drug use, accidents, risk taking and much more. We need less, not more, stimulation and novelty. (Source)

Nearly All Diesel Cars Violate NOx Limits [...]

Ninety-seven percent of all modern diesel cars emit more toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution on the road than the official limit, according to the most comprehensive set of data yet published, with a quarter producing at least six times more than the limit.

Experts said the new results show that clean diesel cars can be made but that virtually all manufacturers have failed to do so.

EA found that just one of 201 Euro 5 diesels, the EU standard from 2009, did not exceed the limit, while only seven of 62 Euro 6 diesels, the stricter standard since 2014, did so.

Diesel cars must meet an official EU limit for NOx but are only tested in a laboratory under fixed conditions. All vehicles sold pass this regulation but, when taken out on to real roads, almost all emit far more pollution. There is no suggestion that any of the cars tested broke the law on emissions limits or used any cheat devices.

Mayoral candidates in London, the city with the worst air quality in Britain, have seized on the DfT data to call for tighter controls on polluting traffic – including a ban on diesel cars. (Source)

First-Night Effect [...]

When you sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, only half your brain is getting a good night’s rest.

“The left side seems to be more awake than the right side,” says Yuka Sasaki, an associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University.

The finding, reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology, helps explain why people tend to feel tired after sleeping in a new place. And it suggests people have something in common with birds and sea mammals, which frequently put half their brain to sleep while the other half remains on guard.

Sleep researchers discovered the “first-night effect” decades ago, when they began studying people in sleep labs. The first night in a lab, a person’s sleep is usually so bad that researchers simply toss out any data they collect. (Source)

Hamburger Button [...]

The “hamburger button” is one of today’s more ubiquitous elements in UI design. It is also one of the more debated.


The hamburger button goes back a long way. See the Xerox Star Hamburger Button from 1981, for example.

Xerox Star

Or the Windows 1.0 Hamburger Button from 1985.

Windows 1.01

Benefits of the hamburger include extensibility and a common presentation increasingly understood by users. The hamburger button also can reduce visual noise by hiding lesser used functions, or functions that require more labeling than the screen can accommodate. At least one well-circulated test seemed to indicate that use of the icon instead of links could help focus user attention and increase conversion rates. (Source)


Some people suggest the button does more harm than good, specifically when used with left nav flyouts on mobile (a scheme called Side Drawer Navigation). The alternative proposed is the Tab Bar. (Source)

There is some evidence that use of Side Drawer Navigation reduces engagement, at least when engagement is measured as “time in app”. (Source)

However, time in app is a disputed measure of engagement in many types of applications..

Attention Accounts imagine user attention as a finite resource that is spent down.

Joel’s Two Observations on UI are pertinent here.

The Daily WTF on the history (Source)

@ftrain’s Borland tweet

Windows 1.01 Simulator here

Test One: Simple Fork [...]

This tests a simple card.

You must be able to fork it over to another site. Edit it. Then fork it back, maintaining history.

You should be able to fork it over using the pathways function as well.

Test Two: “Quotes” in the Title [...]

This tests quotes in the title.

You must be able to fork it over to another site. Edit it. Then fork it back, maintaining history.

this is an edit.

Losing Friends to Partners [...]

Starting in early adulthood, our number of friends starts to decrease steadily. Changes in friendships typically happen around life transitions: graduation, parenthood, job switches, divorce or death of a spouse. One study, published in 2015 in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, looked at 540 men and women and showed we lose an average of two friends when we gain a romantic partner.

“We are constantly shedding our friends,” says Irene S. Levine, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and author of “Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.” “We grow in one direction, our friends grow in another, and there isn’t much in common anymore.” (Source)

Pick’s Disease [...]

Pick’s disease, a type of frontotemporal dementia, is a rare neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive destruction of nerve cells in the brain. Symptoms include dementia and loss of language (aphasia). While some of the symptoms can initially be alleviated, the disease progresses and patients often die within two to ten years.[1] A defining characteristic of the disease is build-up of tau proteins in neurons, accumulating into silver-staining, spherical aggregations known as “Pick bodies”.[2] (Source)

Differences from Alzheimer’s disease

In Alzheimer’s disease, all six isoforms of tau proteins are expressed. In addition, the presence of neurofibrillary tangles that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s can be stained with antibodies to basic fibroblast growth factor, amyloid P, and heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan.[12]

Another difference is that in Pick’s disease, a personality change occurs before any form of memory loss, unlike Alzheimer’s, where memory loss typically presents first. This is used clinically to determine whether a patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s or Pick’s.

Christina Ramberg [...]

Christina Ramberg (1946–1995) was an American painter associated with the Chicago Imagists, a group of representational artists—such as Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Roger Brown, and Ed Paschke—who attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1960s. “Taking cues from Surrealism, Pop, and West Coast underground comic illustration, Imagism at its heyday was enchanted with the abject status of sex in post-war America, particularly as writ on the female form.”[1] Ramberg was born in Kentucky in 1946 and died in Chicago in 1995 at the age of 49.[2] (Source)


Ramberg died in 1995 of Pick’s Disease

Houseboat Summit [...]

The Houseboat Summit was a roundtable discussion between Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, Alan Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder. A recording exists below.

The “houseboat” the event took place on was actually an old Portland, Oregon passenger ferry, rendered useless by the creation of the Steel Bridge.

One of the topics was Techno-Pastoralism

Jim Nutt [...]

James T “Jim” Nutt (born November 28, 1938) is an American artist who was a founding member of the Chicago surrealist art movement known as the Chicago Imagists, or the Hairy Who. Though his work is inspired by the same pop culture that inspired Pop Art, journalist Web Behrens says Nutt’s “paintings, particularly his later works, are more accomplished than those of the more celebrated Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.”[1] According to Museum of Contemporary Art curator Lynne Warren, Nutt is “the premier artist of his generation”.[1] Nutt attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to fellow-artist and Hairy Who member Gladys Nilsson.[2] (Source)

No Progress on Economic Diversity [...]

While diversity in American higher education has improved substantially in recent decades, wealthier students still earn the bulk of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in this country, according to new data from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy.
A newly released study from the two groups found that the distribution of bachelor’s degree attainment between family levels has remained relatively constant since 1970. The top two family income quartiles accounted for 72 percent of the total number of bachelor’s degrees earned that year — and 77 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned in 2014. “The bottom two quartiles accounted for 28 percent in 1970 and 23 percent in 2014,” the study found, “a decline of five percentage points over this period.”

Buzzfeed Puts It Everywhere [...]

Buzzfeed is one of the best known brands and destination sites on the net, but Buzzfeed does not post things centrally. Instead it puts them everywhere.


Increased Illicit Fentanyl, 2014 [...]

A note that increases in fentanyl abuse are part of the overdose wave.

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose (poisoning) deaths. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin). CDC analyzed recent multiple cause-of-death mortality data to examine current trends and characteristics of drug overdose deaths, including the types of opioids associated with drug overdose deaths. During 2014, a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, representing a 1-year increase of 6.5%, from 13.8 per 100,000 persons in 2013 to 14.7 per 100,000 persons in 2014. The rate of drug overdose deaths increased significantly for both sexes, persons aged 25–44 years and ≥55 years, non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, and in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southern regions of the United States. Rates of opioid overdose deaths also increased significantly, from 7.9 per 100,000 in 2013 to 9.0 per 100,000 in 2014, a 14% increase. Historically, CDC has programmatically characterized all opioid pain reliever deaths (natural and semisynthetic opioids, methadone, and other synthetic opioids) as “prescription” opioid overdoses (1). Between 2013 and 2014, the age-adjusted rate of death involving methadone remained unchanged; however, the age-adjusted rate of death involving natural and semisynthetic opioid pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids, other than methadone (e.g., fentanyl) increased 9%, 26%, and 80%, respectively. The sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, other than methadone, in 2014 coincided with law enforcement reports of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; however, illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data. These findings indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is worsening. There is a need for continued action to prevent opioid abuse, dependence, and death, improve treatment capacity for opioid use disorders, and reduce the supply of illicit opioids, particularly heroin and illicit fentanyl. (Source)


CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain [...]

This guideline provides recommendations for primary care clinicians who are prescribing opioids for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care. The guideline addresses 1) when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain; 2) opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up, and discontinuation; and 3) assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use. CDC developed the guideline using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) framework, and recommendations are made on the basis of a systematic review of the scientific evidence while considering benefits and harms, values and preferences, and resource allocation. CDC obtained input from experts, stakeholders, the public, peer reviewers, and a federally chartered advisory committee. It is important that patients receive appropriate pain treatment with careful consideration of the benefits and risks of treatment options. This guideline is intended to improve communication between clinicians and patients about the risks and benefits of opioid therapy for chronic pain, improve the safety and effectiveness of pain treatment, and reduce the risks associated with long-term opioid therapy, including opioid use disorder, overdose, and death. CDC has provided a checklist for prescribing opioids for chronic pain ( as well as a website ( with additional tools to guide clinicians in implementing the recommendations. (Source)

Marriage Rates and Suicide [...]

Julie Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers who has studied suicide among middle-aged Americans, said social changes could be raising the risks. Marriage rates have declined, particularly among less educated Americans, while divorce rates have risen, leading to increased social isolation, she said. She calculated that in 2005, unmarried middle-aged men were 3.5 times more likely than married men to die from suicide, and their female counterparts were as much as 2.8 times more likely to kill themselves. The divorce rate has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s, she said. (Source)

Suicides at 30-Year High in U.S. [...]

Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.

The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the study on Friday.

The increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006, double the annual rise in the earlier period of the study. In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999. (Source)

Lonely Heart Attacks [...]

The scientists found that loneliness and social isolation increased the relative risk of having a heart attack, angina or a death from heart disease by 29 percent, and the risk of stroke by 32 percent. There were no differences between men and women.

“People have tended to focus from a policy point of view at targeting lonely people to make them more connected,” said the lead author, Nicole K. Valtorta, a research fellow at the University of York in England. “Our study shows that if this is a risk factor, then we should be trying to prevent the risk factor in the first place.” (Source)

Agnotology [...]

Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

Proctor [who coined the word] found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Another academic studying ignorance is David Dunning, from Cornell University. Dunning warns that the internet is helping propagate ignorance – it is a place where everyone has a chance to be their own expert, he says, which makes them prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.

“While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors,” warns Dunning. (Source)

Notes on the Opioid Epidemic (Introduction) [...]

Back when I lived in New Hampshire I was introduced to the heroin problem. You started to see it in bars, in restrooms, even outside at the local swimming hole with your kid. People said it was a wave, a periodic thing, something that would settle down.

Except it didn’t. It kept getting worse. I now live in Portland, and have multiple acquaintances that have relatives hooked on some form of opioid. Both my wife and I have had, in our respective workplaces, a colleague’s child die from overdose in just the past month. (I am writing this at the end of April 2016).

About two years ago, I started to take notes when I came across anything that spoke to the question of how this epidemic happened and how we might get out of it. These notes are not organized to argue a point, though a story does emerge. I hope if you are looking for answers that they will help you in your own journey.

This is the introduction to a “pathway” through wiki content. If you do not see a “Next” button below, click here to jump into the pathway.

Path:: Notes on the Opioid Epidemic [...]

Notes on the Opioid Epidemic (Introduction)
80% of Heroin Users Started with Painkillers
Opioids, Alcohol, Suicide
Big Data and OxyContin
Route to Heroin Abuse
A 2,000 Percent Increase
Improving the Quality of Pain Management Through Measurement and Action
The Opioid Epidemic Ground View
Perils of a Small Study, Opioid Edition
JCAHO and the Opioid Epidemic
Pain is the Fifth Vital Sign
JCAHO Newspaper Notice
Opioid Increase 1997-2002
Wong-Baker FACES Scale

Bernieland [...]

People are in denial. Why?

But underneath the fun, “feeling the Bern” has taken on a double meaning. Sanders’s supporters feel burned. They believe their candidate is the rightful heir to the Democratic nomination, despite Hillary Clinton’s dominance in votes and in the delegate math. They believe the system is stacked against Sanders, and his expected loss in the New York primary on Tuesday just proves the point.

“I just feel like the polls published by the mainstream media sources are basically advertising in disguise,” Daley says. “In, like, six of the last seven elections, Sanders has been way behind in the polls and won by these super surprising margins because they weren’t publishing honest polls. It’s just so exciting that people aren’t falling for it.”

Daley said she’s “very willing to believe” election fraud is influencing the results of the primary. She recalled reading an article that claimed Sanders was winning by 17 percent where voters’ ballots had been counted by hand, and by only 2 percent everywhere else.

That sounded awfully suspicious. “I’m willing to believe it’s possible that more people voted for [Clinton]. But I will not see her nomination as evidence of that,” Daley says. “The primaries are run by the parties, and the parties have decided who to elect.” (Source)

The disconnect also pushes dissenting voices out of the square:

Within minutes of posting a story to Facebook about Chelsea Clinton coming to campaign in Ithaca, Myrick was inundated with dozens of critical comments. “My simple impression is that you are starstruck and your judgment is impaired,” one person said. “Let us know if you can feel your heart when you are in her presence.”

The attacks don’t go unnoticed. Later on Sunday, I stood in line at Ithaca’s organic grocery store — well, one of them, anyway — when I ran into a prominent local official who quietly confided that she can’t wait for the primary to be over. She said she spent her Sunday morning reading through the angry comments on the mayor’s Facebook feed, and admits the experience made her “incredibly anxious.”

“I’m terrified of people here learning I’m voting for Hillary,” she said, casting a furtive glance down an aisle of kombucha teas. “Please don’t use my name. Seriously.”

2011 Findings on Publisher Lobbying [...]

From a summary of a larger report:

From 2007-2011:

  • The AAP has spent over $3 million while the NACS has spent just around $90,000.
  • The AAP has lobbied 37 different bills while the NACS has lobbied 38 different bills
  • The AAP has hired 3 different outside firms to lobby on their behalf and spent $70,000 on their services while the NACS has done all of the lobbying in house.

Currently (2011):

  • The AAP is represented by 5 lobbyists 3 in-house and 2 form outside firms, including a former member of congress who is an in-house lobbyist for the AAP.

Interesting Finds:

  • In 2010 the AAP spent just over $500,000 on lobbying a decrease of $1 million from their 2007 lobbying expenses.
  • In 2007 the AAP lobbied on 16 bills and in the first half of 2011 has only lobbied 3 bills.
  • The keyword “ebook” or “e-book” does not appear on any lobbying disclosure forms since 2004.
  • A search into our database of the word textbook revealed 19 pieces of legislation 6 of which, have recorded lobbying activity.�
  • Of these 19 bills, 12 were sponsored by democrats and 3 were sponsored by republicans.

From a Google Group summary

The British Library Flickr Account [...]

The British Library has over 1 million historic images (Source)

The Rube Goldberg Future of Work [...]

To begin to see the problem, recall that in previous eras innovations created high value occupations by automating or obviating those of lower value. This led to a heuristic that those who fear innovation do so because of a failure to appreciate newer opportunities. Software, however is different in this regard and the basic issue is familiar to any programmer who has used a debugger. Computer programs, like life itself, can be decomposed into two types of components:

  • Loops which repeat with small variations.
  • Rube Goldberg like processes which happen once.

If you randomly pause a computer program, you will almost certainly land in the former because the repetitive elements are what gives software its power, by dominating the running time of most all programs. Unfortunately, our skilled labor and professions currently look more like the former than the latter, which puts our educational system in the crosshairs of what software does brilliantly.

In short, what today’s flexible software is threatening is to “free” us from the drudgery of all repetitive tasks rather than those of lowest value, pushing us away from expertise (A) which we know how to impart, toward ingenious Rube Goldberg like opportunities (B) unsupported by any proven educational model. This shift in emphasis from jobs to opportunities is great news for a tiny number of creatives of today, but deeply troubling for a majority who depend on stable and cyclical work to feed families. The opportunities of the future should be many and lavishly rewarded, but it is unlikely that they will ever return in the form of stable jobs. (Source)

Watermelon [...]

But the stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure. Few Americans in 1900 would’ve guessed the stereotype was less than half a century old.

Not that the raw material for the racist watermelon trope didn’t exist before emancipation. In the early modern European imagination, the typical watermelon-eater was an Italian or Arab peasant. The watermelon, noted a British officer stationed in Egypt in 1801, was “a poor Arab’s feast,” a meager substitute for a proper meal. In the port city of Rosetta he saw the locals eating watermelons “ravenously … as if afraid the passer-by was going to snatch them away,” and watermelon rinds littered the streets. There, the fruit symbolized many of the same qualities as it would in post-emancipation America: uncleanliness, because eating watermelon is so messy. Laziness, because growing watermelons is so easy, and it’s hard to eat watermelon and keep working—it’s a fruit you have to sit down and eat. Childishness, because watermelons are sweet, colorful, and devoid of much nutritional value. And unwanted public presence, because it’s hard to eat a watermelon by yourself. These tropes made their way to America, but the watermelon did not yet have a racial meaning. Americans were just as likely to associate the watermelon with white Kentucky hillbillies or New Hampshire yokels as with black South Carolina slaves.

A Creative Act [...]

Maybe! I think the big idea underneath my book is that listening to music is a really creative act. It’s not just passive. Listening to music is one of the things that helps you discover your humanity. Through listening to music you learn how to walk and talk and move and have relationships and speak different languages. You pick up things from music that really increase your humanity. Music is mysterious. And I don’t want robots completely in control of my sense of discovery. (Source)

Finding What You Like Should Take Effort [...]

An argument that algorithmic discovery of music takes away the important process of self-discovery.

I do feel pessimistic about the whole project. I do feel that if the great push of the smartest minds in this business is moving towards efficiency in curating for you, in delivering you what it knows you will like from the great abundance, well, something’s being lost, isn’t it? Isn’t the thing that’s being lost you and your efforts to figure out what you like and you respond to? (Source)

Least Recently Used [...]

When search for efficiency of access, putting the least recently used thing into storage ends up being the best rule of thumb.

We could just try Random Eviction, adding new data to the cache and overwriting old data at random. One of the startling early results in caching theory is that, while far from perfect, this approach is not half bad. As it happens, just having a cache at all makes a system more efficient, regardless of how you maintain it. Items you use often will end up back in the cache soon anyway. Another simple strategy is First-In, First-Out (FIFO), where you evict or overwrite whatever has been sitting in the cache the longest (as in Martha Stewart’s question “How long have I had it?”). A third approach is Least Recently Used (LRU): evicting the item that’s gone the longest untouched (Stewart’s “When was the last time I wore it or used it?”).

It turns out that not only do these two mantras of Stewart’s suggest very different policies, one of her suggestions clearly outperforms the other. Bélády compared Random Eviction, FIFO, and variants of LRU in a number of scenarios and found that LRU consistently performed the closest to clairvoyance. The LRU principle is effective because of something computer scientists call “temporal locality”: if a program has called for a particular piece of information once, it’s likely to do so again in the near future. Temporal locality results in part from the way computers solve problems (for example, executing a loop that makes a rapid series of related reads and writes), but it emerges in the way people solve problems, too.

If you are working on your computer, you might be switching among your email, a web browser, and a word processor. The fact that you accessed one of these recently is a clue that you’re likely to do so again, and, all things being equal, the program that you haven’t been using for the longest time is also probably the one that won’t be used for some time to come. (Source)

LRU teaches us that the next thing we can expect to need is the last one we needed, while the thing we’ll need after that is probably the second-most-recent one. And the last thing we can expect to need is the one we’ve already gone longest without.

Unless we have good reason to think otherwise, it seems that our best guide to the future is a mirror image of the past. The nearest thing to clairvoyance is to assume that history repeats itself—backward.

Why the S.E.C. Didn’t Hit Goldman Sachs Harder [...]

In our conversations, Kidney reflected on why that might be. The oft-cited explanations—campaign contributions and the allure of private-sector jobs to low-paid government lawyers—have certainly played a role. But to Kidney, the driving force was something subtler. Over the course of three decades, the concept of the government as an active player had been tarnished in the minds of the public and the civil servants working inside the agency. In his view, regulatory capture is a psychological process in which officials become increasingly gun shy in the face of criticism from their bosses, Congress, and the industry the agency is supposed to oversee. Leads aren’t pursued. Cases are never opened. Wall Street executives are not forced to explain their actions.

Kidney still rues the Goldman case as a missed chance to learn the lessons of the financial crisis. “The answers to unasked questions are now lost to history as well as to law enforcement,” he said. “It is a shame.” (Source)

Birth of the Z-Degree [...]

Building upon these and other initial efforts, in 2012 David Wiley, who is an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University and the co-founder and chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, held an open-textbook training in Virginia for others looking to implement OER in their classrooms and on their campuses.* Lumen Learning—an organization founded to help K-12 and higher education institutions implement OER—aims to increase the use of “free, high quality open content … to make education more affordable, while at the same time improving student success.” This presentation would serve as inspiration for several new, larger initiatives to eliminate the cost of textbooks for students.

In the audience that day was Daniel DeMarte, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Tidewater Community College in Virginia. He took the idea back to Tidewater, where he and his colleagues expanded upon it. Their goal wasn’t just to use open textbooks in a few courses: Tidewater wanted to create the first degree program that would have zero associated costs for textbooks. They began calling it the “Z-Degree” option.

Tidewater rolled out its “Z-Degree” for an associate’s degree in business administration (one of the school’s most popular programs) in 2013, just one year later. But it didn’t simply move from a proprietary textbook to the same thing in an open, digital form. Professor Linda Williams says that the move to OER has allowed professors to refocus on teaching to intended learning outcomes, rather than simply teaching the textbook. “At some point we allowed the publishers to control what we teach, and how we teach it,” she said at a recent convening held in Washington, D.C., organized by the Hewlett Foundation. “And they certainly aren’t better suited than we are to do it.” (Source)

Procrastination and Forgiveness [...]

Self-forgiveness may be the key to breaking cycles of procrastination.

But while the tough love approach might work for couples, the best personal remedy for procrastination might actually be self-forgiveness. A couple years ago, Pychyl joined two Carleton University colleagues and surveyed 119 students on procrastination before their midterm exams. The research team, led by Michael Wohl, reported in a 2010 issue of Personality and Individual Differences that students who forgave themselves after procrastinating on the first exam were less likely to delay studying for the second one.

Pychyl says he likes to close talks and chapters with that hopeful prospect of forgiveness. He sees the study as a reminder that procrastination is really a self-inflicted wound that gradually chips away at the most valuable resource in the world: time.

“It’s an existentially relevant problem, because it’s not getting on with life itself,” he says. “You only get a certain number of years. What are you doing?” (Source)

Lifestyle Procastination [...]

A little later, Tice and Ferrari teamed up to do a study that put the ill effects of procrastination into context. They brought students into a lab and told them at the end of the session they’d be engaging in a math puzzle. Some were told the task was a meaningful test of their cognitive abilities, while others were told that it was designed to be meaningless and fun. Before doing the puzzle, the students had an interim period during which they could prepare for the task or mess around with games like Tetris. As it happened, chronic procrastinators only delayed practice on the puzzle when it was described as a cognitive evaluation. When it was described as fun, they behaved no differently from non-procrastinators. In an issue of the Journal of Research in Personality from 2000, Tice and Ferrari concluded that procrastination is really a self-defeating behavior — with procrastinators trying to undermine their own best efforts.

“The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort than lacking ability,” says Ferrari. “It’s a maladaptive lifestyle.” (Source)

The Smug Style [...]

Is American liberalism too smug? Too willing to believe that disagreements are about a knowledge and intelligence gap? Perhaps.

I have been wondering for a long time how it is that so many entries to the op-ed pages take it as their justifying premise that they are arguing for a truth that has never been advanced before.

“It’s an accepted, nearly unchallenged assumption that Muslim communities across the U.S. have a problem — that their youth tend toward violent ideology, or are susceptible to “radicalization” by groups like the Islamic State,” began an editorial that appeared last December in the New York Times. But “after all,” it goes on, “the majority of mass shootings in America are perpetrated by white men but no one questions what might have radicalized them in their communities.”

But this contention — that Muslims possess superlative violent tendencies — has been challenged countless times, hasn’t it? It was challenged here, and here and here as far back as 9/11. The president of the United State challenged it on national television the night before this editorial was published. The Times itself did too. The myopic provincialism of anybody who believes that Muslims are a uniquely violent people is the basis of a five-year-old Onion headline, not some new moral challenge.

The smug style leaves its adherents no other option: If an idea has failed to take hold, if the Good Facts are not widely accepted, then the problem must be that these facts have not yet reached the disbelievers. (Source)

Path:: Recently Added [...]

Prime Vietnam Directive
To Boldly Colonize
Borg Complex
Star Trek Greenlit By Lucille Ball
Biological Basis for Lonlieness
Party Affiliation Bubble
Flatness and Gender Bias
Student Halo Effect
Paper Is a Saw
Reverse Network Effects
Doors to Productivity
Death and Dishonor
Technology as Practice
The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect
Redemptive Technologies
The Luddite Problem
Drone Feminism
Technological Imperialism
“Broken Windows” Policing
Papert on Teaching Computer Skills
Test Two: “Quotes” in the Title
Attention Accounts
Five Biggest Reading Mistakes
Frozen Norms on Wikipedia
Five Biggest Reading Mistakes
Threats Against Ms. Click
Attention Accounts
Underinvesting in New Ideas
Reintegrative Shaming
Script Theory
Flynn Effect
Cai Lead Study
Reputation Traps
Lead Blood Levels Against Unleaded Gasoline

Path:: Empathy and Social Media [...]

The Believing Game
Analytics of Empathy
Against Empathy
Shame, Guilt and Social Media
Reducing Abuse on Twitter
Tolerance Beats Understanding

Dannemiller’s Formula for Change [...]

The Dannemiller version of the formula for change is:

D x V x F > R

There are three factors and they are multiplicative — if all three do not exist, the product is zero, and change cannot happen. (Multiplicative formulas in organizational theory are opposed to additive formulas).

Here are the factors:

  • D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
  • V = Vision of what is possible;
  • F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;

The product of these three elements must exceed the resistance to change (R).

From Wikipedia:

To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership ideas, best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change. (Source)

APA Title Case [...]

We use APA title case on this Wikity. Here are it’s rules:

Here are directions for implementing APA’s title case:

  • Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  • Capitalize all “major” words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report); and
  • Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

“This boils down to using lowercase only for “minor” words of three letters or fewer, namely, for conjunctions (words like and, or, nor, and but), articles (the words a, an, and the), and prepositions (words like as, at, by, for, in, of, on, per, and to), as long as they aren’t the first word in a title or subtitle. You can see examples of title case in our post on reference titles.” (Source)

Anger Is a Secondary Form of Sadness [...]

When you see anger, think of it as a “secondary expression” of an underlying sadness.

Brandel: A helpful view I keep returning to is from this epidemiologist Gary Slutkin who works to prevent gun violence through treating it like a disease. He says when people feel anger, it’s actually a secondary form of sadness. The primary emotion is sadness, but it presents as anger. I can’t help but think that if you unpack the anger news folks can have toward their audience, you’d uncover sadness. It’s sadness that the public doesn’t understand or respect how much work and consideration goes into good reporting, sadness that they can’t always do their best work with ferocious daily demands, sadness that someone who they’re ultimately trying to help and serve thinks they are terrible at their jobs, or a terrible person. Regardless if you’re a journalist in the state of sadness or anger, changing the relationship with a person or a group you see as adversarial takes a great deal of perspective. (Source)

Overview (Tool) [...]

Overview is an open-source platform that helps you read and analyze thousands of documents super quickly. It includes full text search, visualizations, entity detection, topic modeling, and more. All in an easy-to use, visual workflow. (Source)

Promises Kept [...]

In recent years, the fact-checking website PolitiFact has been paying close attention to this question, and its numbers are largely in line with what scholars find. Examining more than 500 promises President Obama made during his two presidential campaigns, PolitiFact finds that he has fully kept or reached some compromise on 70 percent of them. Similarly, Republican leaders made, by PolitiFact’s count, 53 promises before taking over Congress in 2010; 68 percent of these have been partially or fully kept.

This pattern isn’t unique to America. Scholars in Canada and Europe have examined the phenomenon and found their politicians to be, if anything, even more trustworthy. (The gap probably reflects added incentive — and increased opportunity — politicians have to carry out their policies in a parliamentary system where one party controls both the legislative and executive branches of government.) Across both time and borders, then, the data in this case is fairly clear. (Source)

The Best Is the Last [...]

The development of technologies tends to follow an S-Curve: they improve slowly, then quickly, and then slowly again. And at that last stage, they’re really, really good. Everything has been optimised and worked out and understood, and they’re fast, cheap and reliable. That’s also often the point that a new architecture comes to replace them. You can see this very clearly today in devices such as Apple’s new Macbook or Windows ‘ultrabooks’ – they’ve taken Intel’s x86 and the mouse and window-based GUI model as far as they can go, and reached the point that everything possible has been optimised. Smartphones are probably at the point that the curve is starting to flatten – a lot has been optimised but there’s still work to do, especially around cameras and battery life, and of course GPUs for VR. That curve will probably flatten out just at the point that AR starts to start shipping. (Source)

Amazon Same-Day Delivery and Algorithmic Rascism [...]

There’s no evidence that Amazon makes decisions on where to deliver based on race. Berman says the ethnic composition of neighborhoods isn’t part of the data Amazon examines when drawing up its maps. “When it comes to same-day delivery, our goal is to serve as many people as we can, which we’ve proven in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.” Amazon, he says, has a “radical sensitivity” to any suggestion that neighborhoods are being singled out by race. “Demographics play no role in it. Zero.”

Amazon says its plan is to focus its same-day service on ZIP codes where there’s a high concentration of Prime members, and then expand the offering to fill in the gaps over time. “If you ever look at a map of service for Amazon, it will start out small and end up getting big,” he says.

This is a logical approach from a cost and efficiency perspective: Give areas with the most existing paying members priority access to a new product. Yet in cities where most of those paying members are concentrated in predominantly white parts of town, a solely data-driven calculation that looks at numbers instead of people can reinforce long-entrenched inequality in access to retail services. For people who live in black neighborhoods not served by Amazon, the fact that it’s not deliberate doesn’t make much practical difference. “They are offering different services to other people who don’t look like you but live in the same city,” says Rasberry. (Source)

Office of Technology Assessment [...]

At its peak, the OTA had an annual budget of about $20 million and around 140 permanent staffers who were supplemented when needed by subject-matter experts from outside. All of them together provided detailed research on everything from acid rain and sustainable agriculture to electronic surveillance and anti-ballistic missile programs.

The reports the OTA produced over the years were known for their rigor. “There was a lot of effort to make sure that the reports were really solid and had been vetted,” says Andrew Wyckoff, who managed the OTA’s Information, Telecommunications and Commerce program before the OTA’s demise. The OTA was so revered that the Washington Times once called it “the voice of authority in a city inundated with statistics and technical gobbledygook.” Other countries, such as the Netherlands, even sent representatives to DC to learn how it worked so they could replicate it back home.

There’s another reason lawmakers may not want to resurrect the OTA: A panel of independent experts, producing facts that contradict a lawmaker’s position, make it hard for a politician to deceive and sway the public.

To avoid politicization, the OTA was overseen by a bi-partisan board of 12 lawmakers—drawn equally from both parties in the House and Senate—who decided which projects OTA would tackle. Although the OTA occasionally proposed a research project on its own, the majority were requested by individual lawmakers or congressional committees. (Source)

The Eliza Disconnect [...]

Turkle’s “Eliza Effect” predicts we will assign more intelligence to computers which talk to us conversationally. But ultimately that sets us up for failure, because we attribute a level of intelligence to the bot or other agent that it can’t match, leading to frustration.

Almost certainly not. The arguments against a chatbot future are legion, compelling, and backed by both common sense and history. Chatbots are as old as modern computing. The first, Eliza, written at MIT in the 1960s, simulated psychotherapy so effectively that some interlocutors mistook it for human; its very simple software, which mostly just asked open-ended questions while matching a few words and phrases to make it seem like they were logically connected to the user’s previous answer, could be construed as eerily searching and sympathetic.

This is what Sherry Turkle christened the “Eliza effect”: humans unconsciously assume that software which communicates conversationally has much more intelligence and sophistication than is actually present. Inevitably, the software eventually fails to match that assumption, disappointing and frustrating the user who unconsciously expected more. Think of it as a linguistic Uncanny Valley, the notorious effect wherein, when simulated human faces look almost real, they provoke a deep unease, unlike less accurate representations. (Source)

Microsoft’s Tay seemed to have emotions, but could not comprehend them. See Eliza From Hell

Lost In the Stream [...]

Unfortunately it didn’t work. The allure of the always on nature of Slack and instant gratification was just too strong to resist.

And even if we had been successful in changing people’s behaviour, the lack of threading made it very difficult to have meaningful, deep conversations about complex subjects anyway. Before you could even fully understand the problem being discussed (let alone find a solution), someone would invariably start a new conversation or reply to a previous discussion that happened earlier in the channel.

Effective communication requires a lot more than amazing connectivity. The fact many ‘Bits complained they had no idea what was happening in the company or why certain decisions were made proves this point. (Source)

Channel Inflation [...]

A writer introduces a new term to describe the tendency of Slack conversation to fragment into too many channels.

These integrations added a lot of noise for some of the team, while others felt the notifications were important to their workflows. So we created more channels, allowing people to choose what worked best for them.

In each case we would add more channels in a desperate attempt to allow people to find the important information they needed while avoiding the noise.

Often we would hear jokes about having too many channels, so we created #too-many-channels to help people find the channel that they needed.

You would think adding all these channels would be an administrative burden, but that wasn’t the case. Slack allows anyone in the company to create a new channel so if you need one there’s no need to wait for anyone—simply create it and invite everyone you want. The sky’s the limit!

Our limit ended up being 81 channels. And this did not include private channels nor archived ones. (Source)

One question might be whether Slack is antifragile.

Conviction Integrity Units [...]

But not all prosecutors have buried their heads in the sand when it comes to cases of actual innocence. In the last five years, the number of prosecutors who created so-called “conviction integrity units”, or “a division of a prosecutorial office that works to prevent, identify and correct false convictions”, have quadrupled. Some have set up screening committees to vet certain types of cases, like a prosecutor in New York state who decided that any case that relied on single eyewitness identification automatically warrants special attention. (Source)

Actual Innocence [...]

Actual innocence is a legal concept which means, simply, that a defendant did not commit the crime of which he or she is accused. It is usually invoked when a prison inmate is attempting to appeal his sentence, but Kelly wanted to bring the spirit of the concept to the pre-conviction level.

“That’s distinct from ‘I didn’t get treated fairly’,” says Kelly, a Navy veteran who became the county’s top law enforcement officer in 2010 when he was only 34 years old. “It’s not, ‘Some of the evidence was obtained unlawfully, there was an incorrect ruling by the court, on the trial level some error by the defense’ – no, you actually have the wrong person here…they’re actually innocent.”

Since Kelly implemented the policy two years ago, nine defendants – including Lashonda Moreland – have had their charges dropped before trial. Those cases include a reckless homicide by vehicle, four armed robberies and one murder.

To the best of his knowledge, no other prosecutor in the country is attempting anything quite like it. Even the US Department of Justice has taken an interest in what is happening in St Clair County. (Source)

Making Making a Murderer falls prey to the very certainty it critiques.

Earthquake Marriages [...]

Two days ago marked the 110th anniversary of a 7.8 earthquake that struck northern California. 3000 people died. 80% of San Francisco was destroyed due to the quake and fires that followed. Today, it still remains one of the worst natural disasters in US history.

But something strange happened following the disaster. People got married. Like crazy.

Between April 18 and May 18, 1906, more couples were married than any other same length period of time in San Francisco. 180 couples were married in the first 10 days after the earthquake — 4 times the normal rate.

According to the Oakland Tribune, even though City Hall was a disaster zone, they saw: Young couples scrambling about among the ruins trying to find where marriage licenses were issued. (Source)

The Wound of Education’s Narcissism [...]

Which brings me back to Mr. Bond’s e-mailed comment. He writes that Mr. Srigley “wasn’t shaming students. He was sympathizing with them no longer knowing what education is about…” This is the wound of education’s Narcissism: that Professors — and not administrators, not “innovators”, but most importantly not students — are the guardians of education. In this scenario, students need to be protected from administrators and innovators and themselves by those guardians of learning. And while under Mr. Bond’s and Mr. Srigley’s guardianship, students must be okay with being sympathized with for their lack of understanding. In much the same way as the academy would have us respect Mr. Žižek despite his clear lack of regard for the rest of us. (Source)

Death of the Early Voting Time Capsule Theory [...]

One argument that has been made by Sanders supporters is that the wins Hillary has been getting are actually remnants of previous popularity. The theory goes like this:

  • Many people used to be for Hillary, and they voted early, locking in their votes.
  • As the race evolved more people became Sanders fans.
  • By election day, he actually had a majority of people on his side. But all the people who had already voted early skewed the results. If they could have voted day-of they’d vote for Sanders!
  • In this way, the early voting results are a “time capsule”, a snapshot of the race before Bernie-mentum. (Interesting to note that this is yet another creative way to tell us why a set of Democratic votes don’t count, but leave that aside).

Here’s Huffington Post Blogger Seth Abramson in a well-circulated post, explaining that the reason caucuses go for Bernie is not because they are vote-suppressing events designed to multiply activist influence, but because, you know, the time capsule effect:

That’s right — in each state, most of the early primary voting occurs before the candidates have aired any commercials or held any campaign events. For Bernie Sanders, this means that early voting happens, pretty much everywhere, before anyone knows who he is. Certainly, early voting occurs in each state before voters have developed a sufficient level of familiarity and comfort with Sanders to vote for him.

But on Election Day — among voters who’ve been present and attentive for each candidate’s commercials, local news coverage, and live events — Sanders tends to tie or beat Clinton.

In fact, that’s the real reason Sanders does well in caucuses.

It’s not because caucuses “require a real time investment,” as the media likes to euphemistically say, but because caucuses require that you vote on Election Day rather than well before it.

It’s so simple, right?

He goes on to show that early voting favors Clinton, which basically proves it, right?

Consider: on Super Tuesday 3, because early voting is always reported first, Clinton’s margins of victory were originally believed to be 25 points in Missouri, 30 points in Illinois, and 30 points in Ohio. Missouri, which doesn’t have conventional early voting, ended up a tie. Illinois ended up with a 1.8% margin for Clinton (after being a 42-point race in Clinton’s favor just a week earlier) and Ohio a 13.8% margin.

Any one of us could do the math there. And yet the media never did.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to “do the math” — you actually have to do the right math. And as we say in statistics, the problem is that early voters almost certainly differ from average voters in more than one dimension. The alternate explanation for early votes favoring Clinton might simply be that the sort of people that would vote for Clinton are also the sort of people who vote early.

In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to support this second, non-time-capsule theory. Early voters tend to be older. They tend to be female. In fact, voters under thirty comprise only 7 percent of early voters whereas over-65 voters comprise over 40 percent of early votes.1 For all these reasons it’s likely that there is no “time capsule” at work here, just demographics.

But that’s statistics, and most people have a hard time evaluating intersecting predictors. What I wanted to call people’s attention to is a much clearer nail in the coffin of the time capsule theory: New York did not have early voting, and it was a blowout.

I think we can safely put this theory to bed now.

Path:: Readings on Empathy, Part 1 [...]

Against Empathy
Analytics of Empathy
Tolerance Beats Understanding
Reintegrative Shaming
Reducing Abuse on Twitter
Fair Process Effect
Why Shame Doesn’t Work

Rockefeller’s Pivot [...]

Toward the end of Prohibition, John D. Rockefeller Jr., the powerful businessman who supported the US ban on alcohol, admitted defeat. Seeing the effect Prohibition had on America, he concluded that the policy was doomed. So in the 1930s, he underwrote a study that laid out how to legalize alcohol while strictly regulating it. The study shapes alcohol policy to this day, as Garrett Peck explained for Reason. (Source)

Finding Your Missing Mac Horizontal Scroll [...]

  1. Launch System Preferences, either from the Dock or from the Apple menu.
  2. Once the System Preferences window opens, select the General preference pane.
  3. The middle section of the General preference pane controls when scroll bars appear and a few additional scroll bar options.
  4. To return the scroll bars to their pre-Lion functionality, select “Always” from the Show Scroll Bars options. The scroll bars will now always be visible, even when you’re not scrolling.