Moore Tornadoes [...]

Are the four tornadoes that have hit Moore in the past 16 years a coincidence? Or is there something more at work?

Nobody knows how likely it is that a given town would be hit by four violent tornadoes in 16 years; if we knew that, then we’d also know whether Moore really is especially tornado prone, or just suffering a streak of bad luck. But we do know big tornadoes, themselves, are rare. Devastating EF4s made up 1.37 percent of all the tornadoes that hit the U.S. from 1994 to 2012.2 Just 0.14 percent were incredible EF5s.

And that’s enough to make Moore’s recent history turn heads. People who live in the Plains states, as I once did, have a special relationship with tornadoes, wary but familiar, like your grandma’s dog that’ll bite if you aren’t careful. This is a part of the country where little kids dream about growing up to be storm chasers. Where tornado sirens go off every Wednesday at lunchtime, just as a test of the system. It’s a part of the country where art professors like my dad duck outside for a peek at one of the most powerful tornadoes in recorded history. (Source)

Teed Up [...]

Clinton wants legislative and executive action teed up, in case she gets a favorable legislature.

“I want to take everything I’ve said I’m going to work on and be as teed up as possible from the very beginning. I want to give [Congress] every opportunity to move forward on several fronts.” Of course, that plan is somewhat dependent on whether Democrats can take back the Senate, in which case, she says, “I’ve got Chuck Schumer as my partner. And he’s a great legislative strategist and I think we can really try to figure out how to push on several fronts.” (Source)

It’s widely thought that Obama didn’t make as much use of his temporary majorities as he might have.

Mob Justice Is Not a Prevention Tool [...]

Sometimes people claim mob-based shaming of people (on say, Twitter) will make others act better. In reality, mob-based justice has all the hallmarks of ineffective punishment.

The selective, random attention is not how justice is supposed to work. Justice works best when it is swift and certain, the punishment is proportional to the crime, and the defendant gets a chance to make his or her case. That is why our justice system is, in theory, supposed to evaluate someone’s crimes — and the punishment they deserve — with objective factors, and use several checks and balances, such as juries and appeals, to make sure someone is treated fairly.

Mob justice denies almost every aspect of this process. The defendant’s case is almost never heard, or at least not taken very seriously. There is no check to the vicious online harassment that almost immediately takes hold on the internet. And who is targeted is almost entirely random, based solely on what story happens to go viral and trigger the mob.

Mob justice can’t do any of these things, because it’s not supposed to. The goal of the internet mob is to seek vengeance — and that means doing so at whatever means are necessary. (Source)

Term-Talk as Early IM [...]

You sign on to PLATO and arrive at the AUTHOR MODE page. From there, press SHIFT-U, to see what Users are online at the moment. If you see someone you want to talk to, you press the DATA key (a shortcut on this page for pressing the TERM key, and typing “talk” at the “What term” prompt) and then specifying the name of the person you want to talk to. PLATO then pages the person and two prompts appear at the bottom of the screen. One line is for the person you’re talking to, and one line is for you. The conversation is live, character-by-character, in real time. Make a typo? Press the backspace key? The other person sees it all.

And so it would go, people talking day and night, for years and years.

If this isn’t the basis for Instant Messaging, I don’t know what is. (Source)

Talkomatic and Term-Talk [...]

Any competent PLATO programmer can quickly hack together a simple chat program that lets two users exchange typed one-line messages. PLATO’s architecture makes this trivial. A few such programs existed on PLATO before 1973, but they did not get much use, probably because the user community was quite small and most terminals were still in a single building.

In the fall of 1973, Doug Brown designed a program that let several users chat as a group. He wrote a simple prototype to demonstrate the concept and called it Talkomatic.

The real magic of Talkomatic was that it transmitted characters instantly as they were typed, instead of waiting for a complete line of text. The screen was divided into several horizontal windows, with one participant in each. This let all the participants type at once without their messages becoming a confusing jumble. Seeing messages appear literally as they were typed made the conversation feel much more alive than in line-by-line chat programs.

I worked with Doug to expand Talkomatic to support multiple channels and add other features. Each channel supported up to five active participants and any number of monitors, who could watch but couldn’t type anything. (One drawback to the Talkomatic approach is that the size of the screen limits the number of participants in a channel.)

Empty channels were open to anyone, but any active participant in a channel could choose to “protect” it. This prevented anyone from monitoring the channel, and the participants could then decide who else to admit.

Talkomatic was an instant hit. Soon it was logging over 40 hours of use per day. It was not officially part of the PLATO system software, and in fact it was used mostly for what administrators would consider frivolous purposes. There was no way to contact a specific person to let them know you wanted to talk, so it was more like a virtual water cooler than a telephone substitute. People would hang out in a channel and chat or flirt with whoever dropped by.

But Talkomatic was so appealing that it inspired the system staff to create an officially supported chat feature. It became known as “term-talk” because it could be accessed from anywhere on PLATO by pressing the TERM key and typing “talk”. The TERM key was originally meant to provide hypertext-like branching to term definitions. In practice, it was rarely used for terms, but it was handy for instant access to features like “talk”.

A “term-talk” conversation was limited to two people, but had its own advantages: you could page a specific person, and you could use it without exiting from whatever else you are doing. A person receiving a page would see a flashing message at the bottom of the screen identifying the pager, and could use “term-talk” to accept. The bottom two lines of the screen then became a miniature Talkomatic. An unwanted page could be rejected with “term-busy”, or simply ignored until the pager gave up.

A feature was later added to “term-talk” that allowed the participants to switch to “monitor” mode, in which one person could actually view the other’s screen. The person being monitored was free to move about the system normally, editing files, running programs, etc. This was extremely useful for remote consulting: someone who needed help could literally show an online consultant what they were trying to do while maintaining a conversation at the bottom of the screen. To ensure privacy, monitor mode could be initiated only by the person whose screen was to be monitored.

Update, April 2014: Talkomatic has now been re-created on the web.

(Source)

WELL Not a Descendant of PLATO [...]

A lot of things descended from PLATO. WELL didn’t, at least directly.

Among the online services I have seen, the WELL has best succeeded in building a community comparable to PLATO’s. Ironically, the WELL has its roots with EIES and Confer; as far as I know, its founders were unaware of PLATO.

But the WELL is an intentional community. PLATO was an accidental one which emerged spontaneously in an environment that had been created for other purposes. In 1970 few suspected that a human community could grow and thrive within the electronic circuitry of a computer. PLATO demonstrated that this is not only possible, but inevitable. (Source)

Computing Power of Our Nuclear Arsenal [...]

We sometimes compare our phones to older extinct technology. This is a bit more scary.

Your phone has more computing power than the technology powering America’s nuclear arsenal.A new report from the Government Accountability Office found that the system used to relay emergency messages to and from our nuclear forces is run through IBM hardware that dates back to the 1970s. The report characterized the computers used to operate and maintain our nuclear weapons as “museum-ready,” and noted that the people responsible for creating the system are retiring, leaving behind staffs that don’t know how to use the antiquated machines.
Before you applaud the government for saving money by squeezing every last kilobyte out of the old system, the report also found that the Pentagon spent upwards of $60 billion (with a b) to maintain the outdated equipment. Apparently, finding replacement parts for a computer older than Mark Zuckerberg is difficult and expensive. (Source)

Soft Serve Bad Blood [...]

The New York ice cream trade is pretty rough and tumble.

Bad blood has run through the New York ice cream trade for decades. In 1969, a Mister Softee driver was kidnapped by rivals who blew up his truck. In 2004, a cone-selling couple in their 60s were ambushed by competitors who beat them into critical condition with a wrench. In a 2010 brawl caught on video, two drivers near Columbus Circle exchanged punches before one man pushed the other’s face into a planter.

But drivers for Mister Softee, whose cone-headed, bowtied likeness adorns more than 350 trucks across the five boroughs, can play hard, too.

In 2012, a frozen yogurt vendor said that a Softee duo snapped his brakes with a crowbar, and the founder of the Van Leeuwen ice cream company said he had gotten death threats from Softee activity.”)

“Let me tell you about this business,” Adam Vega, a thickly muscled, heavily tattooed Mister Softee man who works the upper reaches of the Upper East Side and East Harlem, said on Wednesday. “Every truck has a bat inside.” (Source)

Ivy League Alienation [...]

Multiple news outlets reported that Kidd was attending Columbia on a full scholarship. All scholarships for undergraduates at Columbia are rewarded based on financial need. In a recent story, The Washington Post’s Nick Anderson chronicled the burdens facing lower-income students in the Ivy League. Despite having their tuition paid for, many are nonetheless stymied by high costs of living and feel socially alienated from their wealthy peers.

Anderson interviewed students who said they often went hungry to save on food. “The reality of a full ride isn’t always what they had dreamed it would be,” he wrote. (Source)

Early AI Cared About the Mind [...]

When AI started, they were some major people associated with it, whom, of course I knew well. Marvin Minsky as interested in people first, machines second. Allan Newell was interested in people first and machines second, Herb Simon wanted to copy chess grand masters, rather than build chess playing machines that won by being fast at search. Even John McCarthy, with whom I never agreed about anything, was trying to copy how the mind worked. I once asked him “how can you believe that the mind happens to work using a logic system invented in the 19th century?” (McCarthy thought all knowledge representation could be done using Predicate Calculus.) (Source)

Searle and Schank [...]

Around that time, John Searle visited my lab for a week, and wrote a somewhat nasty article featuring the Chinese Room problem that I assume was meant to be an attack on me. He was attacking what was referred to then as the strong AI hypothesis that said that if a computer could do smart things, then it was thinking. This was never my position, but Searle talked more to my students during that week then he did to me, so I guess he thought I believed in the Strong AI hypothesis. I do not. (Source)

Venmo Line [...]

The Venmo line describes a supposed generation gap among employees.

If a young co-worker offers to pay you back for lunch with Venmo, and you hesitate, you’ll immediately be declared “above the Venmo line,” and might as well be demanding payment with a Diners Club card.

Venmo is a payment app owned by PayPal that’s virtually ubiquitous among 20-somethings and virtually invisible to anyone older. Hence, the Venmo line. (Source)

What Does It Mean to “Clinch the Nomination” When Superdelegates Are Involved? [...]

When a Democratic candidate hits the magic number of pledged delegates plus superdelegates, are they the nominee? History says yes, and says it unambiguously, even if the losers often disagree.

Here’s how it has gone since the superdelegates were added to the process.

Mondale / Hart / Jackson (1984)

In 1984, the first year that superdelegates were being used, they made a good deal of difference to Mondale. The multiple candidates that early in that season (including Jesse Jackson) gave Mondale a solid lead, but also fractured the vote such that he could not win it with pledged delegates alone.

The Mondale campaign understood this, and not wanting the superdelegates to come in at the last second with a unexpected boost, they began the tradition of immediately reporting superdelegates that were converted to the press’s delegate trackers. When a delegate committed, the Mondale campaign would call news agencies and give them the name of the delegate, then the agencies would call the delegate to confirm and update their tracker. (Source)

Unfortunately Mondale reached the end of the primaries with a spate of losses to Gary Hart, including a loss in California in a close contest. While Mondale’s camp claimed the votes of the last night of primaries put him over the magic number of that year (1,967 delegates, of which 323 were superdelegates), some news outlets agreed and some didn’t. The losses in the later primaries had left him with a fragile one delegate majority in the UPI tracker, and the AP tracker saw him as down a few votes. (Source)

Mondale wanted to win decisively. So he hit the phones and called the remaining unpledged superdelegates. So he made 50 calls in the space of two hours, and secured 40 additional superdelegates.(Source)

The next day, with a 40 delegate lead under UPI and a one delegate lead under the AP tracker, Mondale was able to claim victory.

Hart believed the fact that he had won a number of later contests (including California) might sway some superdelegates to switch, and he tried to woo them. He believed if he could woo even a small number of superdelegates away, he could push the nomination to a second ballot, and maybe get some traction. He greeted reporters the next day with the phrase “Welcome to overtime.”

Hart believed that he could get the superdelegates to turn. He had won seven of the final eleven contests. He had won more total states than Mondale, and not just by a little: Hart had won 26 states to Mondale’s 19. Additionally Mondale’s popular vote lead was very slim, having captured 38% of the vote to Hart’s 36%.°. Hart was also polling ten percent better against Reagan than Mondale was. (Source)

But party leaders were not having it. Mondale had won the plurality of pledged delegates and the majority of pledged and supers. Here’s Tip O’Neill:

Before the convention Hart made a number of bold moves, including attempting to get Jesse Jackson to throw his delegates to him. In another effort, he worked with Jackson to try to get minority delegates to defect from Mondale. On the eve of the convention, if they could have gotten just 100 delegates to defect (supers and pledged combined) they could have denied Mondale a first ballot win.

Ultimately their efforts to win over superdelegates were crushed, setting the precedent that has been followed each year since — the superdelegates will not overturn a pledged delegate plurality. (Source)

Dukakis / Jackson (1988)

The magic number in 1988 was 2,081 delegates. Due to a number of wins by Gephardt, Gore, and Simon early in the campaign and the dominance of Jesse Jackson in the deep south, Dukakis’s superdelegate wooing operation was central to his campaign in order to make the number. The other candidates had dropped out, but Jackson was taking it to the convention, so the Dukakis campaign wanted the campaign to be sealed up after the California primaries.

The delegate wooing campaign, ironically, was led by a young Tad Devine (Sanders’ current campaign strategist):

Mr. Devine, 32 years old, is the director of delegate selection for the Dukakis campaign. His goal is insuring that Mr. Dukakis has at least 2,081 delegates on the morning of June 8, the day after the California and New Jersey primaries, when the long Democratic nominating process will be over. That would insure Mr. Dukakis the nomination on the convention’s first ballot, rule out the possibility of a brokered convention, and make the intense young Mr. Devine and his candidate two very happy men.

”I think the opportunities to put together a nominating majority by then are good,” said Mr. Devine. Indeed, he has begun to predict it with no small amount of confidence; the brinksmanship and the drama of the brokers have given way to the earnest, incremental progress of the delegate hunter. (Source)

Devine and Dukakis hit the target on cue, with the California primary.

In this case, the fact Dukakis was the nominee was undisputed by the press after the California primary. Jackson stayed in the race to garner as many superdelegates as he could, not to win, but to earn consideration as a vice presidential candidate.

Jackson, who said he had earned consideration as a vice presidential candidate, vowed he would continue his presidential campaign until the Democratic national convention opens in Atlanta on July 18. He said he would try to persuade the remaining uncommitted “at-large” and “superdelegates” to support him.

“We’re going to keep our campaign alive to July at the convention,” he said. “(Edward) Kennedy did it in 1980, (Gary) Hart did it in 1984, I will do it in 1988.” (Source)

Jackson managed to put together a respectable second-place showing, but would be rejected by Dukakis as a vice president (Dukakis went with Lloyd “I knew Jack Kennedy” Bentsen).

Clinton / Brown (1992)

The 1992 primary, after Paul Tsongas dropped out, was a relatively undramatic affair. Jerry Brown won some states, but by the end of the primaries, Clinton had 52% of the vote and 3,372 of the delegates.

Still, because of the number of votes up for grabs the first week of June, it was not until June 2nd Bill Clinton officially passed the magic number (2,145 that year) and clinched the nomination. He would come out of June 2 with 2,510 delegates. This allowed him to begin the selection of his vice president in earnest. He’d nominate Gore five weeks later, on July 9.

Gore / Bradley

Gore went up against Bradley in 2000, but defeated Bradley handily in early races. Bradley withdrew on March 9, and by March 15 Gore had enough delegates to be declared the nominee. Gore would go on to enter the convention with the highest percentage of the popular vote in Democratic primary history for a non-incumbent: 75%.

Kerry / Edwards

The magic number in 2004 was 2,162. Dean had been the frontrunner leading up to the primaries, but underperformed in Iowa and tanked in New Hampshire, leaving John Edwards as the only viable opposition. By the time Kerry clinched the nomination on March 12, 2004, John Edwards had already withdrawn the previous Tuesday, leaving no rivals for Kerry, and so the announcement of hitting the delegate target was relatively minor.

Due in part to the quick March wrap-up, Kerry entered the convention with 61% of the popular primary vote, the second strongest showing of a non-incumbent candidate in recent history, after Gore.

Obama / Clinton

The 2008 election brought the issue of superdelegates back into the popular mainstream. Still, when Obama made the magic number, the papers did not hedge. With a combination of supers and pledged delegates putting him just over the number he needed, Obama was considered the nominee as of June 3rd, 2008. It is also the case that on June 3rd it was a “last minute rush of superdelegates” that put him over that year’s magic number of 2,118.

Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday evening, prevailing through an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in Washington.

A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as the results from the final primaries, in Montana and South Dakota, pushed Mr. Obama over the threshold of winning the 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s convention in August. The victory for Mr. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, broke racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just four years ago served in the Illinois Senate. (Source)

Wolf Blitzer broke into a McCain speech to say that Obama had secured the nomination. Obama wins the nomination, incidentally, in part by losing South Dakota, but based on him even placing in that contest it was projected that he would get at least four delegates and win.

Of course, the official convention’s confirmation of that nomination would come in a dramatic fashion. As the convention roll call went through the states, they came to New York to ask what their votes were. Although the roll call votes had not nominated Obama yet, Hillary Clinton called for a suspension of regular rules and moved that in the spirit of unity Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation.

Summary

Most non-incumbent candidates have needed superdelegates to win, and the history of superdelegates is that once a Democrat hits the magic number and becomes the nominee, superdelegates are more likely to flow to the nominee than from them. In the history of the superdelegates, they have always ended up supporting the decision of the pledged delegates, and their most important contribution has been to amplify leads of the pledged delegate winner so that they can be assured success on a first ballot, and avoid the sort of messy convention that harms a general campaign.

Meeting this number also allows the nominee to do the work of campaigning before the convention, establish a message, build capacity on the ground, pick a vice president, etc.

The press, for its part, has always understood this, from 1984 onward, and has named the nominee (or the “presumptive nominee”) the minute the candidate crosses the line with their combination of pledged and supers. They did that when Mondale had won far fewer states than Hart. They did then when Dukakis did not have 50% of the pledged delegates. They did that when Obama had not won the popular vote. None of these situations has been a hundred percent certain (especially Mondale’s win) but you need the engagement before you can plan the wedding. Ultimately we should expect similar this time around.

What Does It Mean to “Clinch the Nomination” When Superdelegates Are Involved? [...]

When a Democratic candidate hits the magic number of pledged delegates plus superdelegates, are they the nominee? History says yes, and says it unambiguously, even if the losers often disagree.

Here’s how it has gone since the superdelegates were added to the process.

In 1984, the first year that superdelegates were being used, they made a good deal of difference to Mondale. The multiple candidates that year gave Mondale a solid lead, but also fractured the vote such that he could not win it with pledged delegates alone.

The Mondale campaign understood this, and not wanting the superdelegates to come in at the last second with a unexpected boost, they began the tradition of immediately reporting superdelegates that were converted to the press’s delegate trackers. When a delegate committed, the Mondale campaign would call news agencies and give them the name of the delegate, then the agencies would call the delegate to confirm and update their tracker.(Source)

Unfortunately Mondale reached the end of the primaries with a spate of losses to Gary Hart, including a loss in California in a close contest. While Mondale’s camp claimed the votes of the last night of primaries put him over the magic number of that year (1,967), some news outlets agreed and some didn’t. The primaries had left him with a fragile one delegate majority in the UPI tracker, and the AP tracker saw him as down a few votes. (Source)

Mondale wanted to win that night, and decisively. So he hit the phones and called the remaining unpledged superdelegates. So he made 50 calls in the space of two hours, and secured 40 additional superdelegates.(Source)

The next day, a 40 delegate lead in his back pocket, Mondale was able to claim victory.

Hart believed the fact that he had won a number of later contests (including California) might sway some superdelegates to switch, and he tried to woo them. But at the convention he was crushed, setting the precedent that has been followed each year since — the superdelegates will not overturn a delegate majority.

The paper makes the headline a tad ambiguous, but in talking about the other candidates sifting “through the ashes of their failed campaigns” affirms the notion that this is really it.

By Dukakis papers had been through the superdelegate process and covered the magic number as magic. Dukakis hits this number after the California primary. Jackson understands that Dukakis is the nominee, but want to garner as many superdelegates as he can, not to win, but to earn consideration as a vice presidential candidate

Jackson, who said he had earned consideration as a vice presidential candidate, vowed he would continue his presidential campaign until the Democratic national convention opens in Atlanta on July 18. He said he would try to persuade the remaining uncommitted “at-large” and “superdelegates” to support him.

“We’re going to keep our campaign alive to July at the convention,” he said. “(Edward) Kennedy did it in 1980, (Gary) Hart did it in 1984, I will do it in 1988.”

Jackson managed to put together a respectable second-place showing, but would be rejected by Dukakis as a vice president (Dukakis went with Lloyd “I knew Jack Kennedy” Bentsen).

Clinton clinched the nomination while Jerry Brown was still in the race, on June 2nd.

Gore went up against Bradley in 2000, but defeated Bradley handily in early races. Bradley withdrew on March 9, and by March 15 Gore had enough delegates to be declared the nominee.

By the time Kerry clinched the nomination on March 12, 2004, John Edwards had already withdrawn the previous Tuesday, leaving no rivals for Kerry. As this headline indicates, passing the magic number made Kerry the nominee.

This article does not hedge. With a combination of supers and pledged delegates putting him just over the number he needed, Obama was the nominee as of June 3rd, 2008.

Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday evening, prevailing through an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in Washington.

A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as the results from the final primaries, in Montana and South Dakota, pushed Mr. Obama over the threshold of winning the 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s convention in August. The victory for Mr. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, broke racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just four years ago served in the Illinois Senate. (Source)

Wolf Blitzer broke into a McCain speech to say that Obama had secured the nomination. Obama wins the nomination, incidentally, by losing South Dakota, but based on him even placing in that contest it was projected that he would get at least four delegates and win.

Of course, the official convention’s confirmation of that nomination would come in a dramatic fashion. As the convention roll call went through the states, they came to New York to ask what their votes were. Although the roll call votes had not nominated Obama yet, Hillary Clinton called for a suspension of regular rules and moved that in the spirit of unity Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation. It’s still one of the most simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting moments in recent convention history.

I had only become a firm party Democrat in 2004. I was not a Clinton fan, and in fact had mocked her through much of the early race. I ran an influential progressive online community, and her staff of that campaign will tell you they hated us. But watching her on the convention floor that day — it was stunning. It was when I first learned what it truly meant to be a Democrat.

Bar Conversations in a Church Service [...]

The big struggle on the web is that people want to go to one place, but they want to have many identities and varieties of discourse.

I was thinking about this in terms of the election the other day. On of the reasons this primary seems more vicious and personal to people is that the online spaces are somewhat differently formed. In 2008, I could go to my own political community, Blue Hampshire (RIP, 2015) or go to DailyKos. And in those places I could be the political person I was.

But most of us have only room for a couple habits. So people become political in the other spaces. Twitter. Facebook.

Of course, neither Twitter or Facebook is set up to be a political space the way that DailyKos or Blue Hampshire was. In both those cases the algorithms and the interfaces were refined over time to minimize the sort of trolling, abuse, and flame wars political sites tend to produce.

An unremarked effect of going to a small number of general purpose sites is they must push all types of discourse through the same interface, and more or less the same algorithms. Nearly all political sites have affordances which average community-produced comment ratings and autohide trolling comments — you need that to run a large community. But Facebook and Twitter don’t have comment ratings, they have mechanisms to report individuals, which don’t work, because the whole point of hiding trolling comments is to get them hidden before they cause community damage. On DailyKos, a trolling comment will be hidden sometimes, in less than a minute. Try that on Facebook.

This is just one example

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Textbook Reps [...]

Textbook reps are like Big Pharma salespeople.

In the academic world, professors and faculty often meet with representatives of textbook publishers. These book reps like to stop by, or send an email, every so often to ask what my colleagues and I are using. My university uses a textbook rental system, which locks us into a particular book for a few years. When a book comes up for new adoption, you will surely see a book rep encouraging you to pick one of their textbooks.

Let me be up front and say I like these book reps. They are nice people and I enjoy talking to them. Even after adopting a publisher’s textbook, book reps often help out with extra material (like online supplemental material or instructor resources). However, I don’t always agree with the sales pitch. Let me go over a few. (Source)

Street Sharks [...]

People had memories of a show named Street Sharks that never existed.

The same thing happened with Minor’s Street Sharks endeavor. After TV Tome was merged into the website TV.com in 2005, the information from its Street Sharks entry began to spread. If you’ve ever run an internet search for a phrase cited on Wikipedia or another open source wiki site, you’ve undoubtedly learned that the web is full of garbage rip-off sites that lift whole passages from wiki pages without actually bothering to fact-check or confirm any of their content.

Sometimes pages that provide information without citing any sources or including any disclaimers are eventually passed around as factual. Other times, the sources provided are themselves completely bunk.

And so Minor’s Street Sharks fibs and falsehoods became fodder for the completely deteriorated current state of the internet’s collective memory of the show. Minor writes, “I’ve found forum posts of people saying [the character he invented named] Roxie was their favorite character, and read IMDB reviews of people fondly remembering episodes that don’t exist.” (Source)


See also False Memories are Common

Van Dam’s Exhibit-Making Project [...]

These stories and the context from which they arose are the subject matter of an exhibit (“Thousands of Little Colored Windows: Brown University’s Stamp Collections”) that will be on display at the John Hay Library from February 10 through May 13, 2016. Hours are listed at http://library.brown.edu/hay/. The website for the exhibit, which features TAG, is http://library.brown.edu/stamps/.  

The exhibition was developed by students in Professor Steve Lubar’s course, AMST 1510 Museum Collecting and Collections, which focuses on the ways that museums care for their collections, make them available, and use them for research and education. In particular, students worked with approximately 675 stamps from Brown University Library’s historic and extensive set of stamp collections, researching their history, cataloguing them, and then creating the exhibition.

Each student chose 30 stamps to ingest into TAG, creating and assigning metadata to each stamp to fill TAG with educational information. Then, some students developed narrative tours with their stamps. “In the case of the Bhutan stamp,” explains Teaching Assistant Sarah Dylla, “student Anna Meyer used the tour as a platform to allow visitors to access the audio contained in these unconventional stamps. The tour plays audio from two versions of the stamp: a brief history of the nation of Bhutan, and the Bhutanese national anthem. There is transcribed text and a selection of images of Bhutan to accompany the audio.”

The principle focus for TAG in this exhibition was on how stamps reflect political change over time. Students had many sessions discussing the classification issues behind the types of metadata that would be appropriate in this context, learning the hard lessons about the terminology constraints of a targeted exposition versus the development of a resource base whose purpose is general exploration. The final metadata categories provided topics about the countries, stamp colors, and subject matter that are used for search in the collection.

“The project gave the students a good taste of the complications of creating a digital interactive device for a museum,” says Professor Lubar. “There’s creating the metadata and thinking about how people think and search. Then there are the constraints of the platform itself: what can we put in this and how will our categories and content (i.e. stamps) actually align with how TAG functions. How will that work in the gallery space? Online you often want to have many different ways of exploring.  In an exhibit space you want to narrow it down, to present specific experiences: here’s the point we’re trying to make, here are some objects to look at.” (Source)

The Economics of Long Airport Lines [...]

The TSA does not pay for your time, so it can spend it irresponsibly.

Interminable lines at airport security checkpoints have caused a great deal of unnecessary misery.

Many people have missed their planes, and some flights have been delayed because too few passengers made it to the gate on time. A video of a two-hour security delay at Chicago’s Midway International Airport generated millions of views.

There are many explanations for what has been happening at the airports, but, as economists, we naturally prefer a basic, economic one: When something is free, it is likely to be wasted. (Think about food left on your plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.) In this case, the Transportation Security Administration has been acting as if there were no cost to tying people up for hours in security lines. In effect, all that time on line is “free” to the T.S.A. (Source)

Open Vocabulary Analysis [...]

Open-vocabulary methods of language analysis are newer within social science, but are common within computational linguistics and related disciplines [28]. These methods offer a data-driven alternative to the researcher-dependent category definition typically used in linguistic studies. Unlike closed-vocabulary methods, open-vocabulary methods use statistical and probabilistic techniques to identify relevant language patterns or topics. An example of an open-vocabulary method is topic modeling, which uses unsupervised clustering algorithms (i.e., latent Dirichlet allocation or LDA; [29]) to find potentially meaningful clusters of words in large samples of natural language (for an introduction to topic models, see [30]).

In a recent example, Schwartz et al. [31] applied LDA to a large collection of social media messages and identified 2,000 clusters of words, or topics. For example, one topic included the words “love”, “sister”, “friend”, “world”, “beautiful”, “precious”, and “sisters”, and a second topic included “government” “freedom”, “rights”, “country”, “thomas”, “political”, and “democracy”. These topics are generated in a data-driven, “bottom-up” way, as opposed to the theory-driven, “top-down” methods used in closed-vocabulary approaches.

Open-vocabulary methods may reveal new, unexpected patterns of gender similarities and differences. However, a challenge with language topics derived through open-vocabulary methods is how to infer their psychological meaning. Consider the two topics above: the first contains generally positive, relationship-related words, while the second appear to be words related to political discussions. The first topic has some salient social and emotional references, but the psychological meaning of the political topic is less clear. While we may have intuitions about the characteristics of the people who use each topic, the psychological meaning of a topic is not obvious. To this end, psychological theory can provide a framework for understanding and interpreting automatically derived topics. (Source)

Closed Vocabulary Analysis [...]

Most work on language differences by gender, including those above, have relied on closed-vocabulary analyses. These methods define categories of words a priori, based on common psychological or linguistic functions determined by researchers. The most popular implementation of closed-vocabulary analysis in psychology is LIWC, which automatically counts words belonging to over 60 predefined categories, such as positive emotion (e.g., “love”, “nice”, “sweet”), achievement (e.g., “earn”, “hero”, “win”), articles (e.g., “the”, “a”), and tentative words (e.g., “maybe”, “perhaps”, “guess”).

Closed-vocabulary methods depend on researchers at two levels: category definition and psychological labeling. Category definition refers to the creation of coherent groups of words, phrases, and other features (i.e., given a category, which words belong?). For example, word categories may be formed on the basis of a common syntactic function, such as first person singular words (e.g., “I”, “me”, “mine”) or prepositions (e.g., “in”, “on”, “with”), or by semantic content (e.g., positive emotion words such as “happy”, “joyful”, “excited”). (Source)

Use of “Slut” and “Whore” on Twitter [...]

Researchers found that the use of the words “slut” and “whore” on Twitter we’re used 50% of the time by women. But there are reasons why this does not support the headline given it (“50% of trolls are women”)

Researchers tracked the words “slut” and “whore” on social media site Twitter over a three-week period and found that 10 000 messages contained the slurs in Britain alone.

Worldwide, 50 percent of the 213 000 aggressive tweets containing these insults were sent by women, with 40 percent sent by men. The rest were sent by users or groups whose gender could not be classified. (Source)

So why is this not evidence of troll percentages? The biggest reason is it is a Closed Vocabulary Analysis. By choosing these specific words to look for, researchers likely influenced the results.

It is possible, for example, that much misogyny on the internet does not use these words — and these words may simply be words that are more utilized by women.

Men, for example, often belittle women by making remarks that imply they have a psychological disorder (“Go back to shock treatment” etc.). They might also gravitate to other words, such a “bitch” etc. The closed vocabulary approach cannot catch these issues.


An alternative to closed vocab approaches is Open Vocabulary Analysis.

Divulging Medical Details on Yelp [...]

This is likely coming to higher education as well:

Burned by negative reviews, some health providers are casting their patients’ privacy aside and sharing intimate details online as they try to rebut criticism.

In the course of these arguments — which have spilled out publicly on ratings sites like Yelp — doctors, dentists, chiropractors and massage therapists, among others, have divulged details of patients’ diagnoses, treatments and idiosyncrasies.

One Washington state dentist turned the tables on a patient who blamed him for the loss of a molar: “Due to your clenching and grinding habit, this is not the first molar tooth you have lost due to a fractured root,” he wrote. “This tooth is no different.”

In California, a chiropractor pushed back against a mother’s claims that he misdiagnosed her daughter with scoliosis. “You brought your daughter in for the exam in early March 2014,” he wrote. “The exam identified one or more of the signs I mentioned above for scoliosis. I absolutely recommended an x-ray to determine if this condition existed; this x-ray was at no additional cost to you.” (Source)

Speed vs. Frequency [...]

It’s finally here. But no one ever gets it in this silly country. Frequency is much more important than speed. People hate to wait much more than they hate to ride. And of course too low frequencies can dramatically increase the average total trip time. Run them often enough, and 50 minutes from downtown LA to the beach is fine. (Source)

Curse of Automatic Pilot [...]

The driver blames the car, both for not spotting the van and for the automatic braking system failing to trigger. However, as YouTube commenter Shaimach points out, the Model S manual calls out this exact situation as something drivers need to be aware of:

Warning: Traffic-aware cruise control may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h) and a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you instead. Always pay attention to the road ahead and stay prepared to take immediate corrective action. Depending on TrafficAware Cruise Control to avoid a collision can result in serious injury or death.
The driver concedes: “Yes, I could have reacted sooner, but when the car slows down correctly 1,000 times, you trust it to do it the next time to. My bad.” As I discovered after spending a week with a Model X, its automation systems are really, really good — but far from perfect. So, stay vigilant, Tesla owners. (Source)

Roentgenizdat (or, X-Ray Pressed) [...]

The Russian black market bootlegged records using discarded X-ray film.

Someone soon figured out that x-ray film was a good medium for making records. It held up to the initial groove cutting as well as playback, making it ideal for producing large quantities of bootlegs. It just so happened that medical x-ray films were discarded en masse by hospitals and so they were liberated from trash bins by opportunistic bootleggers. The recordings cut into these x-ray films were gritty, crackling reproductions of the originals, but they were nonetheless highly sought after. A large market opened up for these flexible records. They were easily stowed up the sleeves and under the coat flaps of the street dealers who sold them for a few rubles each or a bottle of vodka.

These bootlegs were fittingly referred to as “bones” or “ribs” by those in the know. In Russian, they are called roentgenizdat, loosely translated as ‘x-ray pressed’. The practice of record bootlegging became widespread. Eventually, the Russian government cracked down on the distribution rings and sent the leaders to jail. The practice continued until about 1966, when the black market was taken over by reel-to-reel tapes. (Source)


“Heartbreak Hotel” as heard on an x-ray press. From Russia, 1950s. mp3

Unearthing Russia’s X-ray Records. (Link)

Abortion Geofencing [...]

A Boston advertising executive named John Flynn realized the technology could be used to target women seeking an abortion, and to send information on crisis pregnancy centers and adoption agencies straight to their smartphones. Rewire reports that Flynn began marketing his presentations on the technology to anti-abortion groups such as RealOptions, a Northern California crisis pregnancy center network, and Bethany Christian Services, an evangelical adoption agency, and they quickly saw the potential. (Source)

MN Model: Lower Cost of Attendance by One Percent Through OER [...]

The recently passed higher education bill orders the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system to find a way to use free and low-cost teaching materials to lower students’ overall college expenses by one percent.

Those materials, known as “open educational resources,” are essentially electronic versions of textbooks, study guides, academic journals, and even lectures.

The aim is to give students relief from rising higher-ed costs, especially those tied to textbooks. It’s an area that has generated a lot of discussion in the last few years — but little concrete relief. (Source)

Winona SOTL OER [...]

Winona State University

Grant Amount: $20,000

Winona State University will establish and moderate a system-wide research community focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) with open curricular materials. (Source)

Riverland Astronomy OER [...]

A project is underway at Riverland.

Riverland Community College

Grant Amount: $25,000

An astronomy faculty who teaches at three MnSCU institutions will create an entirely digital, universally accessible, open educational astronomy resource for web devices. This resource will be developed at Riverland Community College and then be openly shared with other astronomy faculty across the MnSCU system. (Source)

Writing in Professions OER [...]

Southwest Minnesota State University – English 251: Writing in Professions.

Grant Amount: $24,868

This project will result in the creation of an open textbook for English 251: Writing in professions. This course is taken by nearly every student at SMSU. During a typical year there are 18 sections are taught, with 486 students enrolled. (Source)

Minnesota State’s OER Tablet [...]

One more barrier to a college degree is falling on the Detroit Lakes campus of Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Students who enroll in fall 2016 business courses on that campus will receive a 7-inch tablet computer already loaded with their assigned textbooks – at no cost.

Business students will be the beneficiaries of a $10,000 grant awarded to marketing instructor Bryan Christensen by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. While he has used free online or “open” textbooks in his courses in the past, Christensen said the grant allows him to go one step further and provide students with a tablet for accessing the books. In the past, students needed a personal laptop to download the books.

“This fall my students will have zero cost for books,” he said. “We wanted a better way to increase access to both textbooks and to college, and this takes away another obstacle. My students don’t have to spend $175 to $200 for business textbooks.” (Source)

Performance-based Funding Increases Educational Disparities [...]

Performance based funding of institutions may in fact create the opposite of its intended effects.

Author Nicholas Hillman, an assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, argues that financial incentives are blunt policy instruments that fail to take into account the complexity of educational outcomes. Students can be derailed from graduating for many different reasons, including a lack of academic preparation or money. Colleges with ample resources can readily address those needs to raise graduation rates, but schools with limited means often struggle.

Tying funding to performance favors state flagships and other well-heeled schools to the detriment of institutions that could use the most help, the report said. Rather than exacerbate existing inequalities, states should target resources to schools serving the most underrepresented and needy student populations, which are often the institutions with the greatest financial need, the report said. (Source)

Digital Value [...]

Repositories are often dependent on images that their providers—primarily museums and libraries—insist need to be locked down (and this even includes work in the public domain). Why?  William Noel cites one reason, “The policymakers…don’t like the idea that reproductions of these images can be available for free. It feels to them like you are denigrating your greatest asset.” If this is true, then museum policy betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of digital culture, where scarcity is no longer equated with value. (Source)

Resilience and Antifragility [...]

Martin Weller and Terry Anderson discuss the relationship of Taleb’s antifragility to resilience.

Taleb (2012) has argued that the perspective should move beyond resilience, and consider ‘anti-fragility’, stating “The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.” This is to equate resilience with resistance. Indeed, a high resistance is not necessarily a benefit to an ecosystem, as Holling observed, for example some insect populations fluctuate wildly depending on environmental factors, but over time prove to be resilient. Resilience requires adaptation and evolution to new environmental conditions, but retains core identity. In ecosystems this means the species persists, although it may be adapted, and in organisational terms it means the core functions remain, although they may be realised in newer (and in Taleb’s view), better ways. (Source)


Antifragile systems get stronger under more pressure.

Wiki Hosting Is Fragile applies Taleb’s insights to the problem of centralized hosting.

Huffington Without the Resources [...]

But former staffers almost uniformly disagree, and they attribute Salon’s current editorial quality to Jeffers’ goal of getting big traffic numbers and paying little attention to the site’s editorial side.

“We adopted a Huffington Post model, but we didn’t have the resources to scale in a way that would’ve allowed for that kind of a model to actually work. We had 20 people, not 300,” one former staffer said. “I don’t think Cindy ever realized that, and instead of modernizing within reason, while protecting the integrity of the brand — which was Salon’s most valuable asset, by far — she decided to go full tilt for traffic, and it destroyed the brand.” (Source)

Smart Tabloid [...]

Salon, which Talbot originally conceived of as a “smart tabloid,” began as a liberal online magazine and was quickly seen as an embodiment of the media’s future. For a while, particularly ahead of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, it even looked as though it might be a success story. It lured famous writers and tech-company investors and went public in 1999. At the time, Salon was valued at $107 million.

“I think it’s very similar to what a Vox or a Buzzfeed seems today,” said Kerry Lauerman, who joined Salon in 2000 and would serve as the site’s editor in chief from 2010 to 2013. “There was, at first, a lot of money and excitement about Salon. There was no one else, really, in that space. … It was kind of a brave new world, and Salon was at the forefront.” (Source)

Tragedy of the Public Park [...]

That conviction, he says, has roots in the 1960s, in places like the Berkeley People’s Park. And cities eager to reanimate abandoned public parks that had become dangerous in an era of urban decline encouraged people to come and use them however they pleased.

“So people got used to the idea that you could do whatever you wanted in a park,” he says. “If you wanted to play soccer, you could play soccer. If you wanted to have a barbecue, you could have a barbecue. Except nothing kills grass faster than soccer — except when someone spills a hibachi full of hot coals on the grass.”

This do-whatever-you-want attitude can spoil a park, he says, for the same public it’s supposed to serve. Parks are a scarce and fragile resource. And so cities began to do what most do today: They have rules for when you can be there, and what you can do, and how you should play nice with others. They set up the kind of permit systems San Francisco has to manage competing claims to scarce space. They have to balance the demands of people who want an off-leash dog park with the demands of people who don’t want off-leash dogs running through their picnics.

Chinese Test-Taking Industry [...]

“Test-taking services. Paper-writing. Take Online Courses for you,” says the social-messaging profile of one Chinese coaching outfit used by Iowa students, UI International Student Services. A pitch emailed by another business ended with this reassuring claim: “Your friends are all using us.”

Today, the University of Iowa, one of the largest state universities in the American Midwest, says it is investigating at least 30 students suspected of cheating. Three sources familiar with the inquiry say the number under investigation may be two or three times higher. (Source)

Git Workflows [...]

The array of possible workflows can make it hard to know where to begin when implementing Git in the workplace. This page provides a starting point by surveying the most common Git workflows for enterprise teams.

As you read through, remember that these workflows are designed to be guidelines rather than concrete rules. We want to show you what’s possible, so you can mix and match aspects from different workflows to suit your individual needs. (Source)

Dahlia Sells [...]

The day after Short’s body was found, the Los Angeles Examiner sold more copies than it had any other day, except when it announced the allied victory in the second world war. Sales were fueled by the tawdry way the tabloid press covered Short – as a streetwalking, sexualized young thing (the rumors that she was a prostitute were untrue). As a childhood friend later recalled, “It was just horrible, the way she was portrayed.” (Source)

Breakfast Confound [...]

Wrinkle in “kids who eat breakfast do better in school”: many results are based on participation in breakfast programs, where the students are quite literally starving.

One of the reasons that breakfast seems to improve children’s learning and progress is that, unfortunately, too many don’t get enough to eat. Hunger affects almost one in seven households in America, or about 15 million children. Many more children get school lunches than school breakfasts.

It’s not hard to imagine that children who are hungry will do better if they are nourished. This isn’t the same, though, as testing whether children who are already well nourished and don’t want breakfast should be forced to eat it.

It has been found that children who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight than children who eat two breakfasts. But that seems to be because children who want more breakfasts are going hungry at home. No child who is hungry should be deprived of breakfast. That’s different than saying that eating breakfast helps you to lose weight. (Source)

‘America Was Never Great’ Hat [...]

Ms. Lake said she had gotten tired of hearing Mr. Trump’s slogan from his supporters and thought America “was never great.” She said that Mr. Trump’s slogan did not make room for bigger aspirations beyond the past and that he was dismissive of groups that did not fit his ideal demographic.

Ms. Lake said the hat arrived on Saturday, and she wore it the next day to work at the Home Depot on Forest Avenue on Staten Island.

Photo

Donald J. Trump at a rally in Lynden, Wash., this month. Credit Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
She surmised that a photo of her wearing the hat had been taken by a customer. But she did not specifically see anyone snap a picture and heard no complaints from customers, co-workers or managers, describing Sunday as “just a regular day.”

That sense of normalcy was shattered on Wednesday, however. At first, she said, she was unaware of how much attention she was getting. But in short order, Ms. Lake said, she was bombarded with negative comments, including death threats, on social media. (Source)

Hamilton Won [...]

What America actually did while industrializing is not what we tell ourselves about industrialization today. Consumer welfare took second place; promoting production came first. A preference for domestic industries did cost consumers money. A heavy tariff on imported British rails made the expansion of the American railroads in the 1880s costlier than it would otherwise have been. But this protectionist policy coincided with, and arguably contributed to, the emergence of a productive, efficient American steel industry. The United States trying to catch up with Britain behaved more or less like the leaders of Meiji (and postwar) Japan trying to catch up with the United States. Alexander Hamilton, dead and unmourned, won. (Source)

Government Spending and the Invention of Mass Production [...]

Just before Thomas Jefferson took office as President, the U.S. government began an ambitious project to pick winners. England surpassed America in virtually every category of manufacturing, and so, to a lesser degree, did France. Wheels turned and gears spun throughout Europe, but they barely did so in the new United States. In 1798 Congress authorized an extraordinary purchase of muskets from the inventor Eli Whitney, who was at the time struggling and in debt. Congress offered him an unprecedented contract to provide 10,000 muskets within twenty-eight months. This was at a time when the average production rate was one musket per worker per week. Getting the muskets was only part of what Congress accomplished: this was a way to induce, and to finance, a mass-production industry for the United States. Whitney worked round the clock, developed America’s first mass-production equipment, and put on a show for the congressmen. He brought a set of disassembled musket locks to Washington and invited congressmen to fit the pieces together themselves—showing that the age of standardized parts had arrived.

“The nascent American arms industry led where the rest of manufacturing followed,” Perret concluded. “Far from being left behind by the Industrial Revolution the United States, in a single decade and thanks largely to one man, had suddenly burst into the front rank.” America took this step not by waiting for it to occur but by deliberately promoting the desired result. (Source)

List and Hamilton [...]

The “traditional” American support for worldwide free trade is quite a recent phenomenon. It started only at the end of the Second World War. This period dominates the memory of most Americans now alive but does not cover the years of America’s most rapid industrial expansion. As the business historian Thomas McCraw, of the Harvard Business School, has pointed out, the United States, which was born in the same year as The Wealth of Nations, never practiced an out-and-out mercantilist policy, as did Spain in the colonial days. But “it did exhibit for 150 years after the Revolution a pronounced tendency toward protectionism, mostly through the device of the tariff.”

American schoolchildren now learn that their country had its own version of the Smith-List debate, when Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton squared off on what kind of economy the new nation should have. During George Washington’s first term Hamilton produced his famous “Report on Manufactures,” arguing that the country should deliberately encourage industries with tariffs and subsidies in order to compete with the mighty British. Jefferson and others set out a more pastoral, individualistic, yeoman-farmer vision of the country’s future. As everyone learns in class, Hamilton lost. He was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, he is not honored on Mount Rushmore or in the capital, as Jefferson is; he survives mainly through his portrait on the $10 bill. Yet it was a strange sort of defeat, in that for more than a century after Hamilton submitted his report, the United States essentially followed his advice. (Source)

Capitalism Won, But Which Capitalism? [...]

From 1992(?):

After the World Bank’s meeting in Bangkok in 1991 an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that “with a few sickly exceptions, such as the decaying Communist holdouts of China and Vietnam, it seems that the ideas of Adam Smith, of Alfred Marshall, of Milton Friedman, have triumphed. We are all capitalists now.”

This is true only if we accept the most vulgar and imprecise statement of what being a capitalist means. The economies that have grown most impressively over the past generation—from Germany to Thailand to Korea to Japan all certainly believe in competition. Toyota and Nissan grow strong fighting each other. Daewoo and Hyundai compete on products from cars to computers to washing machines. But it would be very hard to find a businessman or an official in these countries who would say, with a straight face, that these industries grew “automatically” or in a “natural” way. (Source)

Listian Nationalism [...]

Still, the assumption behind the Anglo-American model is that if you take care of the individuals, the communities and nations will take care of themselves. Some communities will suffer, as dying industries and inefficient producers go down, but other communities will rise. And as for nations as a whole, outside the narrow field of national defense they are not presumed to have economic interests. There is no general “American” or “British” economic interest beyond the welfare of the individual consumers who happen to live in America or Britain.

The German view is more concerned with the welfare, indeed sovereignty, of people in groups—in communities, in nations. This is its most obvious link with the Asian economic strategies of today. Friedrich List fulminated against the “cosmopolitan theorists,” like Adam Smith, who ignored the fact that people lived in nations and that their welfare depended to some degree on how their neighbors fared. In the real world happiness depends on more than how much money you take home. If the people around you are also comfortable (though, ideally, not as comfortable as you), you are happier and safer than if they are desperate. This, in brief, is the case that today’s Japanese make against the American economy: American managers and professionals live more opulently than their counterparts in Japan, but they have to guard themselves, physically and morally, against the down-and-out people with whom they share the country. (Source)

List and the Process Focus [...]

These are all ways of ensuring that the market will “get prices right,” as economists say, so that investments will flow to the best possible uses. Beyond that it is up to the market to decide where the money goes. Short-term loans to cover the budget deficits in Mexico or the United States? Fine. Long-term investments in cold-fusion experimentation? Fine. The market will automatically assign each prospect the right price. If fusion engines really would revolutionize the world, then investors will voluntarily risk their money there.

The German view is more paternalistic. People might not automatically choose the best society or the best use of their money. The state, therefore, must be concerned with both the process and the result. Expressing an Asian variant of the German view, the sociologist Ronald Dore has written that the Japanese—”like all good Confucianists”—believe that “you cannot get a decent, moral society, not even an efficient society, simply out of the mechanisms of the market powered by the motivational fuel of self-interest.” So, in different words, said Friedrich List. (Source)

The Tree on Which Wealth Grows [...]

The German school argued that emphasizing consumption would eventually be self-defeating. It would bias the system away from wealth creation—and ultimately make it impossible to consume as much. To use a homely analogy: One effect of getting regular exercise is being able to eat more food, just as an effect of steadily rising production is being able to consume more. But if people believe that the reason to get exercise is to permit themselves to eat more, rather than for longer term benefits they will behave in a different way. List’s argument was that developing productive power was in itself a reward. “The forces of production are the tree on which wealth grows,” List wrote in another book, called The National System of Political Economy.

The tree which bears the fruit is of greater value than the fruit itself…. The prosperity of a nation is not … greater in the proportion in which it has amassed more wealth (ie, values of exchange), but in the proportion in which it has more developed its powers of production. (Source)

Listian Centralization [...]

Friedrich List and his best-known American counterpart, Alexander Hamilton, argued that industrial development entailed a more sweeping sort of market failure. Societies did not automatically move from farming to small crafts to major industries just because millions of small merchants were making decisions for themselves. If every person put his money where the return was greatest, the money might not automatically go where it would do the nation the most good. For it to do so required a plan, a push, an exercise of central power. List drew heavily on the history of his times—in which the British government deliberately encouraged British manufacturing and the fledgling American government deliberately discouraged foreign competitors.

This is the gist of List’s argument, from The Natural System of Political Economy, which he wrote in five weeks in 1837:

The cosmopolitan theorists [List's term for Smith and his ilk] do not question the importance of industrial expansion. They assume, however, that this can be achieved by adopting the policy of free trade and by leaving individuals to pursue their own private interests. They believe that in such circumstances a country will automatically secure the development of those branches of manufacture which are best suited to its own particular situation. They consider that government action to stimulate the establishment of industries does more harm than good....

The lessons of history justify our opposition to the assertion that states reach economic maturity most rapidly if left to their own devices. A study of the origin of various branches of manufacture reveals that industrial growth may often have been due to chance. It may be chance that leads certain individuals to a particular place to foster the expansion of an industry that was once small and insignificant—just as seeds blown by chance by the wind may sometimes grow into big trees. But the growth of industries is a process that may take hundreds of years to complete and one should not ascribe to sheer chance what a nation has achieved through its laws and institutions. In England Edward III created the manufacture of woolen cloth and Elizabeth founded the mercantile marine and foreign trade. In France Colbert was responsible for all that a great power needs to develop its economy. Following these examples every responsible government should strive to remove those obstacles that hinder the progress of civilisation and should stimulate the growth of those economic forces that a nation carries in its bosom.  [<small>(Source)</small>](http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1993/12/how-the-world-works/305854/)

Breaking the Union with the Mold shows how mechanization is not always adopted to increase output.

Planned Obsolescence of Light Bulbs shows naturally occurring inefficiency.

1943 Knowledge of Civil War [...]

As way back as 1943, a survey revealed that only 25 percent of college freshmen knew that Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War. (Source)

Combating Dunning-Kruger [...]

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains why people with little knowledge have more confidence about their answers than experts. But there are also ways to combat it.

Here is more evidence. In a telling series of experiments, Paul Fernbach and colleagues asked political partisans to rate their understanding of various social policies, such as imposing sanctions on Iran, instituting a flat tax, or establishing a single-payer health system.

Survey takers expressed a good deal of confidence about their expertise. Or rather, they did until researchers put that understanding to the test by asking them to describe in detail the mechanics of two of the policies under question. This challenge led survey takers to realize that their understanding was mostly an illusion. It also led them to moderate their stances about those policies and to donate less money, earned in the experiment, to like-minded political advocacy groups. (Source)

Unfairly Linked by LinkedIn [...]

LinkedIn publicizes news about you without your permission.

After all, if LinkedIn’s algorithms had functioned properly, what would have happened? Would the company have emailed an actual white supremacist’s professional contacts to inform them about these exciting happenings in his career? The racist LinkedIn community would have been abuzz. Did you hear about William? I just endorsed him for his skills at “praising Nazis” and “terrorizing immigrants”!

As it turns out, LinkedIn doesn’t even pretend its “Connections in the News” feature is reliable. There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the emails, in very small print, that reads, “LinkedIn does not guarantee that news articles are accurate or about the correct person.” And the LinkedIn site sheepishly acknowledges that its “Mentioned in the News” emails are generated by an algorithm that is “not perfect.” It even requests that members check the identities of people named in their emails and “please report” any errors. (Source)

Safe Spaces for Dangerous Discussions [...]

The Attack Mode

Matt Bruenig is a well known blogger, a writer widely praised for his writing on poverty. He’s also considered by many to be a “brocialist” — a man on the left who believes that issues of gender and race are a distraction from the “real” issues of class.

He’s read by many, but has developed a following of young, rabid white male followers who quickly swarm to and attempt to overwhelm any criticism of him on the web (they may end up here as well). A big attraction to his writing, at least to this demographic, is the absolute freedom that comes from taking gender and race off the table. Bruenig quite often says horrible things to well-respected women of the progressive community, and to him this is not a bug but a feature. As Michelle Goldberg writes in Slate:

For women and people of color who have tangled with Bruenig, his righteously wielded personal invective comes on top of the online abuse they already suffer. He does not appear to be bothered by this. “Identitarianism is … heavily intertwined with certain discourse norms demanding deference to (even bourgeois) members of various demographic groups,” he wrote in April. “And the last thing someone interested in class politics should ever do is hesitate to harshly criticize any bourgeois discourse participant with bad arguments and opinions, especially when those arguments and opinions concern class issues.” (Source)

In practice, this is not only a license to engage in horrible behavior, but an imperative. One gets to have fun calling people all sorts of things while believing it’s for the greater good. So it really wasn’t a surprise to many people when Bruenig called Neera Tanden, the female Indian American head of the Center for American Progress, a scumbag, in an exchange that started out by calling her and Joan Walsh “geriatrics”.

Bruenig: It’s fun when the geriatrics who worked to starve my mother of cash assistance get going. https://t.co/ugXi9qH7lx

Tanden: @MattBruenig @joanwalsh having been on welfare myself, don’t need lectures on this topic from you. Thanks though.

Bruenig: @neeratanden @joanwalsh Scumbag Neera uses welfare when she needs it then takes away from others when they need it. Disgusting.

Bruenig: @neeratanden @joanwalsh But hey I understand the hustle. You don’t get to be president of CAP without starving some poor mothers.

Bruenig: @AntBejarano @neeratanden @joanwalsh Neera tried to starve me and my mother because she wanted to be in Democratic politics.

Everything Bruenig said is patently false. Tanden has ties to the Clinton adminstration, but did not work in the administration when welfare reform was signed, and of course the other statements are nonsensical. But aside from his day job as a lawyer, Bruenig blogs for a political advocacy group called Demos, which rather uncontroversially decided that having a blogger running around calling political allies scumbag child starvers was probably not a great deal.

They talked to Bruenig, and apparently asked him to stop calling people scumbags on Twitter. Bruenig refused, citing the value of the “Attack Mode” on Twitter. So they parted ways.

Fury erupted from the brocialists, to whom the firing of Bruenig (who remember, has a well-paying day job as a lawyer) was fascism incarnate. Bruenig put up a GoFundMe page which called The Bruenig Bailout which raised almost $25,000 dollars in four days. Other women and POC began to tell their own stories about the harrassment they endured at the hands of Bruenig’s followers. Here’s Sady Doyle in a letter to Desmos on that:

I’ve been dealing with Bruenig and his followers for some time. I blocked him early, but an early incident — in which I praised an article criticizing something he published — led me to receiving several hundred harassing Tweets a 24-hour period. That was in October. Seven months and several thousand Twitter blocks later, I’m still dealing with the remainder of the harassment campaign, which has included Tweets about my genitalia, men sending images of themselves kissing the camera (it’s a lot creepier to receive unexpectedly than it is to read about), accusing any man who is kind to me online of being “horny” for me, and multiple comments calling me a “murderer,” questioning my sanity, accusing me of fabricating whole pieces or events in my lifetime, and calls for me to be forcibly locked up and given electroshock therapy.

Bruenig did not send all these Tweets himself, obviously. (Here’s a record of our brief direct interaction, in which he’s certainly aggressive, but not nearly as over-the-line as he was with Tanden and has been with others; I blew him off, and blocked him to prevent further confrontations). But he was highly encouraging to the committed community of toxic followers and friends who did send them. As I see you’re experiencing on your own Twitter account, Bruenig is not only directly aggressive, he is a ringleader who inspires people to be aggressive and commit harassment in his name. Reports of being stormed after Bruenig points his followers at people are ubiquitous, and they most often come from women and people of color.

This, by the way, is why women and people of color get so frustrated with coverage of shaming and bad behavior being identified with people like Justine Sacco of #HasJustineLandedYet fame. This is what life is like for any woman expressing opinions about public policy (or sports, or tech) on the internet, and we’re worried about Justine or the lion-killing dentist? It kind of misses the point. There are flukes, and there is the systematic elimination of voices from the web. Which of these should we be looking at?

Because while Bruenig did not send the tweets, the tweets do exactly what Bruenig wants the “attack mode” to do. The idea is to use ridicule, harsh words, and orchestrated twitter mobs to make Twitter as unsafe a place as possible for people who have the audacity to claim that race and gender have a place in political discussion that is equal to class. In fact, it was Joan Walsh’s attempt to say something to this effect that led to the whole incident. Here’s the tweet that spawned the event:

Walsh was arguing that there is something a bit disturbing about Sanders’ predominantly white coalition of voters claiming that the expressed will of black, latino, and women voters was fraudulent. (For those living under a rock, Sanders’ coalition is both much younger and whiter and more male than the average Democratic voter).

The point of the Bruenig’s initial response (which argued that Walsh was ignoring age as a factor) was to argue. But the point of the subsequent hostility and the mobs was not to win the argument, but to make the space unsafe for Walsh and her ilk. You don’t want to win an argument, you want to remove certain opinions from Twitter. And all it takes for you do do that, at least marginally, is for you to introduce a bit of fear into Neera or Joan’s mind each time they tweet or write.

You start asking yourself “is tweeting this worth the abuse that will follow?” The answer for each individual tweet is surely “No.” So over time certain opinions and voices disappear from the web, or at least from Twitter.

The Anti-Learning Virus

Trolls know this, and have known it forever. You can try to win arguments with others, which involves some risk. You might lose the argument, or, even more tragically, you might change your own mind.

The easier way to win, from a tactical perspective, is to create an environment where learning about certain things is impossible. Above all, learning requires a safe space to happen; remove the safety and you can block the learning. It’s not particularly hard and it doesn’t require a whole lot of finesse.

What you start to realize when you look at this long enough is that it forms a sort of anti-pattern. If denying safety to discourse participants can lock people into their previous beliefs, and can do so to such a dramatic extent, is it possible that the opposite approach might supercharge learning?

I’m not proposing something novel here. We’ve known for a long time that safety and learning are linked. What I’m curious about is how much.

The answer, according to some recent research by Google, appears to be “Quite a lot”.

Google spent quite a lot of money and time trying to figure out what separated its top performaing teams from its bottom performing teams. Being Google, they looked at this from every dimension and particularly from a lot of Google dimensions. But what made teams good was not smarts, or diversity, or lack of diversity, or special management techniques.

What made teams good was psychological safety.

Psychological safety is the feeling participants have when they believe that

Revolution of Rising Expectations [...]

In “The Old Regime and the Revolution,” a study of political ferment in late-eighteenth-century France, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that, in the decades leading up to the Revolution, France had been notably prosperous and progressive. We hear a lot about the hunger and the song of angry men, and yet the truth is that, objectively, the French at the start of the seventeen-eighties had less cause for anger than they’d had in years. Tocqueville thought it wasn’t a coincidence. “Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable, become intolerable when once the idea of escape from them is suggested,” he wrote. His claim helped give rise to the idea of the revolution of rising expectations: an observation that radical movements appear not when expectations are low but when they’re high, and vulnerable to disappointment. (Source)

Bruenig Brocialism [...]

For women and people of color who have tangled with Bruenig, his righteously wielded personal invective comes on top of the online abuse they already suffer. He does not appear to be bothered by this. “Identitarianism is … heavily intertwined with certain discourse norms demanding deference to (even bourgeois) members of various demographic groups,” he wrote in April. “And the last thing someone interested in class politics should ever do is hesitate to harshly criticize any bourgeois discourse participant with bad arguments and opinions, especially when those arguments and opinions concern class issues.” (Source)


Brocialism is associated with the harrasment of women. See The Brocialists Know Where You Live

Vulgarity as Ethos [...]

A writer argues that vulgarity is necessary to “revolution”. But perhaps the problem is that the French Revolution is a lousy model for social change?

Vulgarity has always been employed in revolutionary rhetoric, perhaps most notably in the propaganda leading up to Jacobin’s own beloved French Revolution. Forget snark, the pamphleteers of France were all too happy to satirize and smear the upper class with the utmost malice. Clergy, royals, and anyone else in power were slandered and depicted visually in all manner of crass and farcical political cartoons.

Of all the public figures subjected to such vicious derision and gossip (often highly inaccurate gossip at that), Marie Antoinette was singled out for especially inventive and vicious taunting. True to French tradition, the slanderous pamphlets, called libelles, were fond of wordplay. For the Austrian-born Antoinette, they coined Austrichienne, meaning “Austrian bitch,” but also resembling the French word for “ostrich.” Thus, layering a visual pun upon a verbal one, one artist actually portrayed Antoinette stroking a massive, ostrich-like penis, complete with legs and a saddle. Mounted upon the penile steed was progressive royalist Marquis de Lafayette, who sympathized with the peasants but was eventually denounced as a traitor by Robespierre (revolutionaries tend not to be terribly fond of diplomatic fence-straddlers). In another of the ostrich-themed cartoons (it was evidently a series), Marie actually bared her own genitals to the phallic beast and its rider. It’s a stunningly vulgar image, and without a doubt, quite nasty and mean. One couldn’t imagine a Beltway professional depicting the ruling class so crudely today; even the most offensive of right-wing political cartoonists haven’t yet dared to explore the satirical possibilities for giant ostrich-dicks. (Source)

The Brocialists Know Where You Live [...]

Supporters of Matt Bruenig threaten women who disagree with him.

He is widely admired for his work on poverty, particularly his refutations of the so-called success sequence, which holds that a person can avoid economic immiseration by finishing high school, getting a full-time job, and delaying child-bearing until after age 21, and then only within marriage. On Twitter, however, he has a reputation, particularly among liberal women, as a relentless bully with a nasty online entourage. As the feminist writer Sady Doyle wrote in an email to Demos, “Bruenig is not only directly aggressive, he is a ringleader who inspires people to be aggressive and commit harassment in his name. Reports of being stormed after Bruenig points his followers at people are ubiquitous, and they most often come from women and people of color.” In the wake of fights with Bruenig, both Walsh and the feminist writer Jill Filipovic have seen photographs of the insides of their apartments, taken from real estate websites and Airbnb, circulated online. The message Walsh took from this was “we know where you live.” (Source)

$2,700 [...]

For months, the Federal Election Commission has been writing to the Sanders campaign with warnings that hundreds of his donors have exceeded the $2,700 contribution limit and that hundreds more may be foreign nationals illegally giving Sanders money. The most recent, and by far the longest, letter came on Tuesday and flagged more than 1,500 questionable donors. (Source)

Identity More Than Policy [...]

Supporters of Sanders, on the whole, were not to the left of supporters of Clinton on policy. Instead, there was something more presentational about the divide — how they chose to express belief more than belief itself, a feeling about how policy should be discussed and in what terms.

Perhaps for that reason, the generational difference in ideology seems not to have translated into more liberal positions on concrete policy issues — even on the specific issues championed by Mr. Sanders. For example, young Democrats were less likely than older Democrats to support increased government funding of health care, substantially less likely to favor a higher minimum wage and less likely to support expanding government services. Their distinctive liberalism is mostly a matter of adopting campaign labels, not policy preferences. (Source)

Data Wall of Shame [...]

“Data Walls”, which display student achievement in relation to others, are said to motivate students. Instead, they often single students out for shame.

“Diving Into Data,” a 2014 paper published jointly by the nonprofit Jobs for the Future and the U.S. Education Department, offers step-by-step instructions for data walls that “encourage student engagement” and “ensure students know the classroom or school improvement goals and provide a path for students to reach those goals.” The assumption is that students will want to take that path — that seeing their scores in relationship to others’ will motivate them to new heights of academic achievement. They are meant to think: “Oh, the green dots show my hard work, yellow means I have more work to do, and red means wow, I really need to buckle down. Now I will pay attention in class and ask questions! I have a plan!”

How efficient it would be if simply publishing our weaknesses galvanized us to learn exactly what we’re lacking. (Source)


Why Shame Doesn’t Work explains how shaming is counterproductive.

Imagined Audience and Micro-celebrity [...]

This article investigates how content producers navigate ‘imagined audiences’ on Twitter. We talked with participants who have different types of followings to understand their techniques, including targeting different audiences, concealing subjects, and maintaining authenticity. Some techniques of audience management resemble the practices of ‘micro-celebrity’ and personal branding, both strategic self-commodification. Our model of the networked audience assumes a many-to-many communication through which individuals conceptualize an imagined audience evoked through their tweets. (Source)

Imagined Audience on Social Network Sites [...]

The findings reveal that even though users often interacted with large diverse audiences as they posted, they coped by envisioning either very broad abstract imagined audiences or more targeted specific imagined audiences composed of personal ties, professional ties, communal ties, and/or phantasmal ties. When people had target imagined audiences in mind, they were most often homogeneous and composed of people’s friends and family. (Source)

Filter Bubble Pushback [...]

Facebook has published research claiming that user’s feeds are not homogenous.

Eli Pariser parsed all of this in his 2011 book “The Filter Bubble,” noting how every tap, swipe and keystroke warps what comes next, creating a tailored reality that’s closer to fiction. There was subsequent pushback to that analysis, including from scientists at Facebook, who published a peer-reviewed study in the journal Science last year that questioned just how homogeneous a given Facebook user’s news feed really was. (Source)


When what our friends like is different from what we like, we undergo Anxiety of Peer Influence

Sugar Added [...]

New nutrition labels are coming, and they will highlight added sugar, among other things.

First lady Michelle Obama Friday unveiled the country’s first update to nutrition labels in more than two decades — a move that helps cement her campaign to encourage Americans to eat healthier.

The new Nutrition Facts labels, which will take effect in two years and appear on billions of food packages, for the first time require food companies to list how much sugar they add to their products and suggest a limit for how much added sugar people should consume — two changes vehemently opposed by many food companies. (Source)

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon [...]

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (also called the frequency illusion) describes the common experience of learning about something new (a trend, a fact, a band, a word) and suddenly finding it is everywhere.

People who experience the Baader-Meinhof effect become convinced that the new thing they are aware of has become an overnight success.

Your friend told you about that obscure bluegrass-electro-punk band yesterday morning. That afternoon, you ran across one of their albums at a garage sale. Wait a minute — that’s them in that Doritos commercial, too! Coincidence … or conspiracy? More likely, you’re experiencing “frequency illusion,” somewhat better known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Stanford linguistics professor Arnold Zwicky coined the former term in 2006 to describe the syndrome in which a concept or thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.

Bartlett’s Remembering [...]

This is why, as Sir Frederic Bartlett demonstrated in his book Remembering (1932), no two people will repeat a story they have heard the same way and why, over time, their recitations of the story will diverge more and more. No ‘copy’ of the story is ever made; rather, each individual, upon hearing the story, changes to some extent – enough so that when asked about the story later (in some cases, days, months or even years after Bartlett first read them the story) – they can re-experience hearing the story to some extent, although not very well (see the first drawing of the dollar bill, above).

This is inspirational, I suppose, because it means that each of us is truly unique, not just in our genetic makeup, but even in the way our brains change over time. It is also depressing, because it makes the task of the neuroscientist daunting almost beyond imagination. For any given experience, orderly change could involve a thousand neurons, a million neurons or even the entire brain, with the pattern of change different in every brain. (Source)

Rap Was Skillful Appropriation [...]

Kurtis Blow
Early rapper

Click for biography

Those breakbeats . . . we would listen all day to music trying to find one beat that was good enough for us to rap on. We loved [“Walk This Way”] because it was rock-and-roll. There were DJs in the early ’70s. When Flash came out, he took it to the next level. He understood that when you played the song, the greatest part of the song was the break, when it came down to the drums. So he decided to play just the break.
Chuck D
Public Enemy, rapper

Click for biography

They were unbiased when it came to finding the beat. The beat could have been from Stravinsky. Out of that psychology comes this idea that music is music. That was an oversight by the critics and the journalists and an awful lot of the people who were trying to make judgment calls on what rap was and wasn’t. They would try to say it was an urban culture. They just knew the DJ was doing something and the rapper was on top of it and the dancers were on top of it. A lot of them didn’t delve into the alchemy of what was used by the DJ. (Source)

Fry-scraper [...]

A London skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street also known as Walkie Talkie because of its shape acts as a concave mirror and focuses light onto the streets to the south. It has been nicknamed as the ‘Walkie Scorchie’ and “Fryscraper” by those who work nearby and the media.

(Source)

Fryscraper [...]

> A London skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street also known as Walkie Talkie because of its shape acts as a concave mirror and focuses light onto the streets to the south. It has been nicknamed as the ‘Walkie Scorchie’ and “Fryscraper” by those who work nearby and the media.

(Source)

Notion and SlimWiki [...]

I’ve found 2 easy-to-use beautifully-designed wiki platforms recently: Notion and SlimWiki. (Source)

Notion describes itself as a collaborative document editor while SlimWiki describes itself as beautiful wikis for teams. I just got emailed by both of them today asking for my feedback, but I haven’t used them extensively to provide any. But I do want to love the direction they’re taking collaborative digital publishing.

Nuclino [...]

Have a look at Nuclino. It’s a modern alternative to Confluence:

It supports real-time collaboration in the editor
You have wiki-style organization with instant linking between pages
It’s built as a modern single-page-application, making search/navigation/etc. faster than with server-side software (Source)

TED Claim Doesn’t Replicate [...]

Paul Zak at the Centre for Neuroeconomic Studies in Claremont, California, made his moral molecule hypothesis famous in 2011 when he memorably squirted a syringe of the hormone into the air while delivering a TED talk. When people sniff oxytocin before playing a money-lending game, it increases how much they trust each other, he explained.

But several teams have been unable to replicate his finding. Last November, Gideon Nave at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his colleagues reviewed studies of oxytocin, and concluded that the effect of nasal squirts of the hormone on trust are not reliably different from zero. (Source)

Demos on College Cost [...]

This brief attempts to pinpoint the cause(s) of spiraling tuition by taking a deep dive into public university revenue and spending data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Delta Cost Project Database.9 In the brief, we split public 4-year universities into two categories: research institutions—schools that have a high level of research activity and award a significant number of doctorates—and master’s and bachelor’s universities—schools that primarily award master’s and/or bachelor’s degrees. (Source)

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant [...]

United States Supreme Court Justice Louis
Brandeis famously remarked that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” when arguing that opening up the policymaking process to public scrutiny is the best way to remove corruption and restrain self-dealing by politicians.

Public Records and Social Media [...]

In the age of social media and Web 2.0 technology, state governments are connecting with citizens in new ways, particularly through the use of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
However, state agencies maintaining social media sites are faced with the task of ensuring such action adheres to public records and open meetings laws. As a result, some governments have taken preventative measures to safeguard themselves from violations. (Source)

Brady’s Delegation [...]

What Ryan and others have never seemed to grasp, one of Brady’s former teammates explains, is that Brady has always been smart enough to accept that it’s impossible to know everything. That’s why he’s the best postseason quarterback of all time. (Brady holds the record for most playoff wins, yards and touchdowns.) That’s why he obsesses over the simple fundamentals of playing catch, drilling for hours and hours in the offseason with guys like Edelman and former teammate Wes Welker on stuff as basic as ball position and splits. A player can study film and look at 10,000 formations on an iPad for as many hours as the eyes and the brain will allow. But ultimately, the human mind is not a computer. Overthinking in tense moments, trying to decode a defense like it’s a sudoku puzzle, is the perfect recipe for hesitation and panic.

“You know, Brady probably doesn’t watch as much film as Manning, and that’s OK,” said Brady’s former teammate. “You know why? Because he’s got coaches that are watching just as much film as [Manning] is. What Brady gets is that he’s the only guy who understands exactly what’s going on down on the field. So when Josh McDaniels calls a certain play, Brady is thinking: ‘I know exactly why he called that play. I know exactly what my read is on this.’ Brady’s genius is that he understands delegation. He trusts the people around him.” (Source)

No Slacking for VICE [...]

Slack has been an indispensible tool. However, we noticed that more and more time was being diverted to Slack. It wasn’t just joking around, although there was plenty of that. We’d find ourselves spending 30 minutes in a spirited debate about a story we all seemed interested in, but then… no one would write something for the site. It was as if the Slack discussion had replaced the blogging process. Talking about a topic with our colleagues fulfilled the urge to publish. (Source)

Tenuous Balance [...]

Asked their opinions of three separate scenarios for the future of Obamacare, 58 percent to 37 percent said they would like to see the 2010 health care law replaced with care for all, as advocated by Sanders. As far as flat out repealing the Affordable Care Act, which Donald Trump has vowed to do, 51 percent to 45 percent expressed support. And in terms of keeping the health care law as it is, just 48 percent said they would support that, while 49 percent said they would oppose. Hillary Clinton has by and large advocated for the law to remain in place as it currently exists.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/poll-health-care-bernie-sanders-223206#ixzz48pUJRoyK

$400 Emergency [...]

In a recent poll, 47 percent of the population said they would have to borrow money to cover a $400 emergency. Is this why otherwise economically well-off populations feel precarity?

Part of the reason I hadn’t known is that until fairly recently, economists also didn’t know, or, at the very least, didn’t discuss it. They had unemployment statistics and income differentials and data on net worth, but none of these captured what was happening in households trying to make a go of it week to week, paycheck to paycheck, expense to expense. David Johnson, an economist who studies income and wealth inequality at the University of Michigan, says, “People studied savings and debt. But this concept that people aren’t making ends meet or the idea that if there was a shock, they wouldn’t have the money to pay, that’s definitely a new area of research”—one that’s taken off since the Great Recession. According to Johnson, economists have long theorized that people smooth their consumption over their lifetime, offsetting bad years with good ones—borrowing in the bad, saving in the good. But recent research indicates that when people get some money—a bonus, a tax refund, a small inheritance—they are, in fact, more likely to spend it than to save it. “It could be,” Johnson says, “that people don’t have the money” to save. (Source)

A related insight — it may not be that America has an income problem — it may be a wealth problem.

Safe Space Petri Dishes [...]

But guess what? The first concrete movement toward gender-neutral bathrooms started at universities. Now it’s becoming mainstream. Good work, idealistic college kids! This is why we should think of universities as petri dishes, not a sign of some future hellscape to come. They’re well-contained areas for trying stuff out. Some of this stuff dies a deserved death. Some of it takes over the world if the rest of us think it makes sense. Stop worrying so much about it. (Source)

A Constructive Alternative [...]

From Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: don’t attack the status quo without having an alternative in hand.

The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his suddenly agreeing with your demand and saying “You’re right – we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”

Asymmetric and Pew [...]

But the asymmetric polarization has reached the voting public as well and is now a critically important component of our polarized politics and dysfunctional government. In fact, the Pew report itself presents nuggets that support it, particularly if one focuses on the politically engaged members of the public. Here are a few of the takeaways from the Pew report:

Reducing Papers [...]

An author makes an argument that we should be publishing less research in the form of papers, and more research as mundane data.

The only practical solution is to take a more differentiated approach to publishing the results of research. On one hand funders and employers should encourage scientists to issue smaller numbers of more significant research papers. This could be achieved by placing even greater emphasis on the impact of a researcher’s very best work and less on their aggregate activity.

On the other they should require scientists to share all of their results as far as practically possible. But most of these should not appear in the form of traditional scholarly papers, which are too laborious for both the author and the reader to fulfil such a role. Rather, less significant work should be a issued in a form that is simple, standardised and easy for computers to index, retrieve, merge and analyse. Humans would interact with them only when looking for aggregated information on very specific topics.

Too Many Blood Tests [...]

The assumption at the heart of personal health profile companies like Theranos may be completely wrong. More tests for more things don’t necessarily make us healthier. In fact, they can make us very sick:

It seems obvious: Finding a disease as early as possible would lead to fewer deaths than finding it late. But as more and more research is showing, it’s not as simple as going exploring in healthy people to see what turns up, then treating what you find. “The reservoir of abnormalities is bottomless,” said Dr. Brenda Sirovich, co-director of the Outcomes Group at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt. “And we don’t know anything about what those things mean in an asymptomatic vacuum.” (Source)

This idea of the asymptomatic vacuum seems important.


Collecting more data on pain in cases where patients were not complaining of pain was one cause of the opioid epidemic. See Wong-Baker FACES Scale

More on the Theranos problem in the Theranos Delusion

Less is sometimes more in data. See Instead of Big Data Try Basic Data and Datensparsamkeit

Experts at Communication [...]

Deaf people are actually more expert at communication than those who can hear.

The ironic part of all of this to me is that after this type of interaction, the hearing person usually ends up pitying me—because I am not proficient at the one solitary communication strategy that they value above all the other options. Deaf people are viewed as a liability in terms of communication, when in reality, the opposite is true. We are the experts at communication. From living in a society that constantly demands observation and improvisation of us, we have learned how to communicate in countless ways.

Writing With the Machine [...]

The goal is not to make writing “easier”; it’s to make it harder.

The goal is not to make the resulting text “better”; it’s to make it different — weirder, with effects maybe not available by other means.

The tools I’m sharing here don’t achieve that goal; their effects are not yet sufficient compensation for the effort required to use them. But! I think they could get there! And if this project has any contribution to make beyond weird fun, I think it might be the simple trick of getting an RNN off the command line and into a text editor, where its output becomes something you can really work with. (Source)

Letting Humans Talk to Machines [...]

Skeumorphism is a phrase primarily used to described the way designers mimic the look of natural objects in their design. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan argues that it’s not just a design aesthetic, but also a way in which we design perceived affordances, a term coined by Don Norman.

So skeuomorphism isn’t a trend or a binary. It’s not Forstall against Ive, or shadows versus flatness.

It’s more like a spectrum, or a color palette, that designers have at their disposal. At one end, we have gross misuse: Fake wood, fake leather, fake shadows. At the other, we have thoughtful use of perceived affordances: A digital clock face that looks a lot like a normal watch, because it’s easier to read. Great design assumes users are smart enough to do without the fakery—but it also knows how to use existing cultural references to its advantage. (source)

Campbell-Dollaghan also says for human-machine interaction to take place, we must continue to explore perceived affordances as a useful design tool

It’s the language that human designers have written to let humans talk to machines. That’s not something we should hate. If anything, its return marks the settling of new technological frontiers, unexplored territories that we need a little help to navigate.

Steve Jobs is known for his love for skeumorophism. It has been described by one former Apple designer who worked closely with jobs as “visual masturbation.” Article.


Techno-Pastoralism seeks to hide technology behind the pastoral.

WSU Course Materials Cost Post [...]

Because students cite financial struggles as their biggest barrier to academic success, WSU faculty, students, staff, and administrators are working together on solutions to reduce the cost of classroom materials at WSU.

The Course Materials Cost Reduction Presidential Task Force has been collaborating on a report soon to be submitted to the Interim President Dan Bernardo that will identify challenges and potential solutions for WSU students and faculty tackling the cost of books and other instructional materials. There are many nuances to this issue, but many opportunities exist to reduce costs for our students. (Source)

Conscious Agents All the Way Down [...]

Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split. I didn’t expect that, the mathematics forced me to recognize this. It suggests that I can take separate observers, put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s conscious agents all the way down. (Source)

The Internet and Confirmation Bias [...]

Google makes confirmation bias worse, not better.

There are plenty of explanations about why conspiracy theories exist. These range from a decreasing amount of trust in leaders and institutions to proportionality bias (a belief that big events must have big causes) to projection and more. The most predominant factor—confirmation bias, the tendency to use information to confirm what you already believe—is in many ways made worse, not better, in a world where more, not less, information is available, thanks to Google and the Internet.

(Source)


Personalized Results are part of the filter bubble. Consider also that Google Results Influence Independents

No Pro-Vax Twitter [...]

The other finding from observing anti-vax network graphs is that despite the vast majority vaccinating—national vaccination rates remain above 90 percent—there is no offsetting pro-vaccine Twitter machine; most parents simply vaccinate and move on with their lives. People don’t organize in groups around everyday life-saving measures; there is no pro-seatbelt activist community on Twitter. The recent emergence, lack of central coordination, and weak connections seen among pro-vaccine Twitter users, who often use the hashtag #vaccineswork, means that the pro-vax message (in green) is not amplified to the same degree.

“Tweetiatrician” doctors, lawyers, and pro-vaccine parents often do attempt to join the conversation around the antivax hashtags. Unfortunately, many of the most active accounts experience the same attention received by the legislators: They become the target of harassment that includes phone calls to their places of employment, tweets posting identifying information or photos of their children, or warnings that they are being watched. Pro-vaccine activists and legislators alike often encounter paranoia when they attempt to engage the anti-vax community. They face accusations of being shills paid by Big Pharma to sway the narrative and keep “vaccine choice” activists from spreading The Truth. (Source)

Vaccine Asymmetry [...]

Last month, for example, a study looked at the relative percentages of pro-vaccine vs. anti-vaccine content on Pinterest and Instagram; 75% of the immunization-related pinned content was opposed to vaccines. This was a dramatic shift from studies of social networks in the early 2000s, when the percentage of negative content was estimated at around 25%. (Source)