Biweekly links for 11/28/2008

Click here for all of my bookmarks.


Biweekly links for 11/24/2008

  • Brad DeLong: Le Citi Toujours Dormer…
    • Informative account of what’s really going on at Citigroup.
  • Structure and Randomness: pages from year one of mathematical blog « What’s new
    • The book based on the first year of Terry Tao’s blog is now out; the book based on year two will shortly start being prepared.
  • Science in the open » Links as the source code of our thinking – Tim O’Reilly
    • Tim O’Reilly: “showing the data behind your argument is a lot like open source. It’s a way of verifying the “code” that’s inside your head. If you can’t show us your code, it’s a lot harder to trust your results!”” Cameron Neylon: “In a sense Tim is advocating the wholesale adoption of the very strong attribution culture we (like to think we) have in academic research. The importance of acknowedging your sources is clear but it also has much more value than that. By tracing back the influences that have brought someone to a specific conclusion or belief it is possible for other people to gain a much deeper insight into how those ideas evolved. Being able to parse the dependencies between ideas, data, samples, papers, and knowledge in an automatic, machine readable, way is the promise of the semantic web, but in the meantime just helping the poor old humans to trace back and understand where someone is coming from is very helpful.”
  • Gnome-o-gram: “Managing the Economy” (Fourmilog: None Dare Call It Reason)
    • From John Walker, founder and first CEO of AutoDesk, on “managing the economy”: “Let me tell you what it’s like to “manage” an enterprise vastly smaller and far more easily directed than these railroad-era continental-scale debt-financed fiat money economies the politicians pretend to steer… In reality, it’s like this. You, Mr. or Ms. CEO, are sitting in your office. Your desk has dozens of levers you can adjust and dials you can twiddle affecting the disposition of financial resources within your organisation. Half of these do nothing; a third of the remaining have results opposite to your expectations; and the balance work in the expected direction, but with disparate and often nonlinear effect. All of these controls, for better or for worse, have no immediate effects upon visible results, but only after a lag which is often unknowable and interacts with the settings of the other controls. And you have no idea which of the controls have what kind of effect upon the results. “
  • The End of Wall Street’s Boom –
    • Informative insider account of more than 20 years of events leading up to the recent crash.
  • Polymeme
    • I’ve been using for a few weeks as a source of news, and it’s pretty good – I’ve spotted a lot of good quality stuff here that I didn’t see elsewhere. Came recommended in a blog post by Ethan Zuckerman.
  • Why the World Needs Quantum Mechanics
    • Appears to be a Chinese translation of my article “Why the World Needs Quantum Mechanics”
  • Official Google Blog: Sorting 1PB with MapReduce
    • Sorting a petabyte: “It took six hours and two minutes to sort 1PB (10 trillion 100-byte records) on 4,000 computers.”
  • Papers Written by Googlers
    • A bibliography of papers written by people at Google. Many very interesting publications in there, including the fundamental papers on MapReduce, the Google File System, and BigTable, amongst many others.
  • Google is Done Paying Silicon Valley’s Legal Bills | Electronic Frontier Foundation
    • “when innovators like Google cut individual deals, it weakens the Silicon Valley innovation ecology for everyone, because it leaves the smaller companies to carry on the fight against well-endowed opponents. Those kinds of cases threaten to yield bad legal precedents that tilt the rules against disruptive innovation generally.”

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Kevin Kelly: “Becoming Screen Literate”

There’s a great piece in the New York Times from Kevin Kelly. Here’s a few quotes, but there’s much more, and I definitely recommend the whole thing:

Rewriting video can even become a kind of collective sport. Hundreds of thousands of passionate anime fans around the world (meeting online, of course) remix Japanese animated cartoons. They clip the cartoons into tiny pieces, some only a few frames long, then rearrange them with video editing software and give them new soundtracks and music, often with English dialogue. This probably involves far more work than was required to edit the original cartoon but far less work than editing a clip a decade ago. The new videos, called Anime Music Videos, tell completely new stories. The real achievement in this subculture is to win the Iron Editor challenge. Just as in the TV cookoff contest “Iron Chef,” the Iron Editor must remix videos in real time in front of an audience while competing with other editors to demonstrate superior visual literacy. The best editors can remix video as fast as you might type.

In fact, the habits of the mashup are borrowed from textual literacy. You cut and paste words on a page. You quote verbatim from an expert. You paraphrase a lovely expression. You add a layer of detail found elsewhere. You borrow the structure from one work to use as your own. You move frames around as if they were phrases.


On Google SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, you can find insanely detailed three-dimensional virtual models of most major building structures of the world. Need a street in San Francisco? Here’s a filmable virtual set. With powerful search and specification tools, high-resolution clips of any bridge in the world can be circulated into the common visual dictionary for reuse. Out of these ready-made “words,” a film can be assembled, mashed up from readily available parts. The rich databases of component images
form a new grammar for moving images.

After all, this is how authors work. We dip into a finite set of established words, called a dictionary, and reassemble these found words into articles, novels and poems that no one has ever seen before. The joy is recombining them. Indeed it is a rare author who is forced to invent new words. Even the greatest writers do their magic primarily by rearranging formerly used, commonly shared ones. What we do now with words, we’ll soon do with images.


But merely producing movies with ease is not enough for screen fluency, just as producing books with ease on Gutenberg’s press did not fully unleash text. Literacy also required a long list of innovations and techniques that permit ordinary readers and writers to manipulate text in ways that make it useful. For instance, quotation symbols make it simple to indicate where one has borrowed text from another writer. Once you have a large document, you need a table of contents to find your way through it. That requires page numbers. Somebody invented them (in the 13th century). Longer texts require an alphabetic index, devised by the Greeks and later developed for libraries of books. Footnotes, invented in about the 12th century, allow tangential information to be displayed outside the linear argument of the main text. And bibliographic citations (invented in the mid-1500s) enable scholars and skeptics to systematically consult sources. These days, of course, we have hyperlinks, which connect one piece of text to another, and tags, which categorize a selected word or phrase for later sorting.

All these inventions (and more) permit any literate person to cut and paste ideas, annotate them with her own thoughts, link them to related ideas, search through vast libraries of work, browse subjects quickly, resequence texts, refind material, quote experts and sample bits of beloved artists. These tools, more than just reading, are the foundations of literacy.

If text literacy meant being able to parse and manipulate texts, then the new screen fluency means being able to parse and manipulate moving images with the same ease. But so far, these “reader” tools of visuality have not made their way to the masses. For example, if I wanted to visually compare the recent spate of bank failures with similar events by referring you to the bank run in the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there is no easy way to point to that scene with precision. (Which of several sequences did I mean, and which part of them?) I can do what I just did and mention the movie title. But even online I cannot link from this sentence to those “passages” in an online movie. We don’t have the equivalent of a hyperlink for film yet. With true screen fluency, I’d be able to cite specific frames of a film, or specific items in a frame. Perhaps I am a historian interested in oriental dress, and I want to refer to a fez worn by someone in the movie “Casablanca.” I should be able to refer to the fez itself (and not the head it is on) by linking to its image as it “moves” across many frames, just as I can easily link to a printed reference of the fez in text. Or even better, I’d like to annotate the fez in the film with other film clips of fezzes as references.

With full-blown visuality, I should be able to annotate any object, frame or scene in a motion picture with any other object, frame or motion-picture clip. I should be able to search the visual index of a film, or peruse a visual table of contents, or scan a visual abstract of its full length. But how do you do all these things? How can we browse a film the way we browse a book?

It took several hundred years for the consumer tools of text literacy to crystallize after the invention of printing, but the first visual-literacy tools are already emerging in research labs and on the margins of digital culture. Take, for example, the problem of browsing a feature-length movie. One way to scan a movie would be to super-fast-forward through the two hours in a few minutes. Another way would be to digest it into an abbreviated version in the way a theatrical-movie trailer might. Both these methods can compress the time from hours to minutes. But is there a way to reduce the contents of a movie into imagery that could be grasped quickly, as we might see in a table of contents for a book?

My excerpts are concentrated on material related to remix culture, especially in the visual arts. An important subtheme of the piece, which my excerpts don’t capture so clearly, is the extent to which technology shapes human behaviour. The medium isn’t just the message, it shapes the entire culture.

Categorized as Technology

Biweekly links for 11/21/2008

  • John Doerr sees salvation and profit in greentech | Video on
    • One of my favourite TED talks.
  • Etherpad Shows Google Docs How It’s Done
    • “[Etherpad is] comparable to Google Docs or a wiki, but it’s far more useful. You start off by creating a new workspace. You type basic text on numbered lines at will. Then invite someone else in and have them type as well. Each user’s edits are highlighted a different color. Changes are made in absolute real time, something even Google hasn’t been able to do (Google docs update every fifteen seconds).

      Users can also chat in the sidebar, save versions and make a few tweaks to the settings like removing line numbers. One great feature optionally highlights Javascript syntax (making this a great way to write code collaboratively) And that’s it for now. There is very little bling to the site at this point.”

  • …My heart’s in Accra » Michael Heller and the gridlock economy
    • Another good liveblog of Heller’s talk on the tragedy of the anticommons.
  • Uncertain Principles: Baby Quantization Update
    • Linguists watch babies acquire language. Psychologists watch them as different pieces of cognitive gear gradually switch into place. Experimental physicists make frequency plots of the interval between feeding times. Major geek props to Chad.
  • Marginal Revolution: Outliers
    • A thoughtful review from Tyler Cowen.
  • Charlie’s Diary: “Where do you get your ideas?”
    • “designers are the unacknowledged legislators of the human condition insofar as they design the objects that populate our environment, and we are tool-using, object-wielding, primates. “
  • LIFE photo archive
    • Searchable archive, hosted by Google.
  • Rome Reborn 2.0
    • Very cool project creating a 3d version of ancient Rome. The interesting bit is that in some sense the model will be “peer reviewed”: they’re looking for many scholars to contribute to the model, with the expectation that there will be arguments and resolutions. The friend who pointed me to the project described it as a “peer-reviewed virtual world”, and that seems to capture the spirit.
  • A Blog Around The Clock : Outliers
    • Bora points to various reviews of Gladwell’s new book, all of which seem to take something different away from it.
  • ProfCast
    • From the website promo text: “ProfCast is a versatile, powerful, yet very simple to use tool for recording presentations including PowerPoint and/or Keynote slides for creating enhanced podcasts. ProfCast provides a low cost solution for recording and distributing lectures, special events, and presentations as podcasts. ProfCast offers an integrated workflow that makes creating, recording, and publishing podcasts easy. It’s as simple as Launch, Load, and Lecture!”
  • The Long Tail: The miraculous power of scale
    • “In this talk at UC Berkeley, Google’s Sergey Brin confesses (at minute 1:27) that he thought Wikipedia couldn’t work. Most people wouldn’t contribute, he rightly assumed, and it would never reach critical mass. “
  • wikirage: What’s hot now on wikipedia
    • “This site lists the pages in Wikipedia which are receiving the most edits per unique editor over various periods of time. Popular people in the news, the latest fads, and the hottest video games can be quickly identified by monitoring this social phenomenon. Mouse over items for edit statistics.”
  • Daniel Lemire: Measuring the diversity of recommended lists, at last
    • Daniel blogs about a new approach to recommendation lists that increases the diversity of recommendation lists. I hope this kind of thing is implemented at places like Amazon etc.
  • Peter Turney: A Uniform Approach to Analogies, Synonyms, Antonyms, and Associations
    • “Recognizing analogies, synonyms, antonyms, and associations appear to be four distinct tasks, requiring distinct NLP algorithms. In the past, the four tasks have been treated independently, using a wide variety of algorithms. These four semantic classes, however, are a tiny sample of the full range of semantic phenomena, and we cannot afford to create ad hoc algorithms for each semantic phenomenon; we need to seek a unified approach. We propose to subsume a broad range of phenomena under analogies. To limit the scope of this paper, we restrict our attention to the subsumption of synonyms, antonyms, and associations. We introduce a supervised corpus-based machine learning algorithm for classifying analogous word pairs, and we show that it can solve multiple-choice SAT analogy questions, TOEFL synonym questions, ESL synonym-antonym questions, and similar-associated-both questions from cognitive psychology.”
  • Caveat Lector » John Wilbanks keynote, SPARC Digital Repositories 2008
    • Dorothea Salo’s notes on John Wilbanks’ thoughtful keynote speech about institutional repositories for academic publication.
  • Thingiverse – Digital Designs for Physical Objects
    • A site to share digitial designs for physical objects. In principle, open source techniques could be applied. (“ObjectForge”?)

Click here for all of my bookmarks.


Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, “Outliers”, and the 10,000 hour rule

All three of Malcolm Gladwell’s books pose a conundrum for the would-be reviewer. The conundrum is this: while the books have many virtues, none of the books make a watertight argument for their central claims. Many scientists, trained to respect standards of proof above all else, don’t like this style. A colleague I greatly respect told me he thought Gladwell’s previous book, Blink , was “terrible”; it didn’t meet his standards of proof. Judge Richard Posner wrote a scathing review criticizing Blink on the same grounds.

Gladwell’s gift as a writer is not for justification and proof of his claims. What Gladwell does have is an extraordinary gift to use stories to explain abstract ideas in a way that is vivid and memorable, a way that brings those abstract ideas quickly to mind at later need. This shamanic gift is dangerous, for if you read his books credulously, it leaves you open to believing ideas that may be false. It’s also incredibly valuable, for what you learn you internalize deeply. In my opinion, this more than makes up for whatever Gladwell’s books lack in rigorous justification.

I say all this so you know what to expect from Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success. Outliers is a vivid and memorable exploration of a single question: what makes some individuals so successful? It’s not a book that lends itself to a brief summary, for to summarize is to lose the essence of the stories which make it an enjoyable and memorable read. For this reason, I won’t review the book here, beyond saying that I strongly recommend the book, with the caveats above: read sceptically, and check the original literature when in doubt!

Instead, I’d like to zero in on one of the main themes of the book, an idea that has over the past few years become widely known and influential. This is the idea that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to really master a subject area or skill. The idea dates back to work done by Herb Simon in the 1970s. It’s been developed and publicized much further in the decades since, notably by one of Simon’s postdoctoral mentees, Anders Ericsson.

There are, of course, many provisos to the 10,000 hour rule. As just one example, to acquire mastery in an area, it’s not enough to just practice for 10,000 hours; the person practicing must constantly strive to get better. Someone who practices without pushing themselves will plateau, no matter how many hours they practice. I suspect many scientists fall afoul of this proviso, putting in enormous hours, but mostly doing administrative or drudge work which doesn’t extend their abilities.

On the surface, the rule is quite intimidating. We hear of the young Mozart, practising music with ferocious intensity for years, or of Bobby Fischer’s utter obsession with chess. Gladwell describes the similar obsession Bill Gates and Bill Joy had with programming as young men. How can one match this level of devotion? 10,000 hours is a lot of time, and most studies have found that it requires 10 or more years to put in this time, given the other demands of life. Must we commit ourselves to 10 years of deliberate practice in a single area, or content ourselves with mediocrity?

One of the main claims of Outliers is that putting in 10,000 hours of practice is a prerequisite for great achievement. I believe this is the wrong way of thinking about the relationship between achievement and the 10,000 hour rule. A clue to a better way comes from some examples which to some extent disprove the claim.

Consider the physicist Werner Heisenberg. He studied physics and mathematics as a student, from 1920 to 1923, and from 1923 on concentrated all his attention on physics. In 1926, he discovered quantum mechanics, one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. His more famous (but less important) discovery of the uncertainty principle followed not long after, in 1927.

Heisenberg was not even close to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice when he discovered quantum mechanics. Instead, he’d explored a broad range of areas in physics – his thesis, written not long before his great discoveries, was about the completely different area of turbulence – and gradually built up a broad range of basic competencies. Most importantly, his exploration let him figure out what area of physics was most interesting. At the time, that area was atomic physics, a field in turmoil as all the old ideas failed, and it became clear that radical new ideas were needed. This meant that the skills painstakingly acquired by the established physicists of the time – people who were far more skilled than Heisenberg – didn’t do those people much good. Heisenberg could enter a relatively level playing field, and jump ahead of the established experts. Having grabbed the intellectual lead, he was then well placed to make breakthrough after breakthrough, learning his craft in real time, achieving mastery in the crucible of real discovery.

A second example is the mathematician Gregory Chaitin. As a teenager, Chaitin published a series of seminal papers establishing a new area of mathematics now known as algorithmic information theory. Unbeknown to Chaitin, similar ideas were simultaneously developed and published by two other people: a professional American mathematician named Ray Solomonoff, and by one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, the Russian mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov. Chaitin was a curious and bright teenager, but he had nowhere near 10,000 hours of experience in mathematics. He didn’t need it. He was developing a new field of mathematics from scratch, and what was needed was basic technical competence, lots of imagination, and some chutzpah.

A third example is the discovery of the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs. This is one of the great paleontological discoveries of the 20th century, but it was made by two non-palaeontologists, Walter Alvarez, a geologist, and Luis Alvarez, a physicist, neither of whom had much experience in palaeontology.

A fourth and final example is the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. Watson had only studied biology for 6 years, and Crick for 5 years. Again, it seems very unlikely that they were anywhere near satisfying the 10,000 hour rule.

Given these examples, how should we think about the relationship between great achievement and the 10,000 hour rule?

It’s certainly clear that great achievement is possible without putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that it’s perhaps even relatively common among the greatest discoveries within science, and would not be surprised if this were also true in some areas of technology.

I believe it’s a mistake to focus on building up 10,000 hours of deliberate practice as some kind of long-range goal. Instead, pick a set of skills that you believe are broadly important, and that you enjoy working on, a set of skills where deliberate practice gives rapid intrinsic rewards. Work as hard as possible on developing those skills, but also explore in neighbouring areas, and (this is the part many people neglect) gradually move in whatever direction you find most enjoyable and meaningful. The more enjoyable and meaningful, the less difficult it will be to put in the time that leads to genuine mastery. The great computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra said it well:

Raise your quality standards as high as you can live with, avoid wasting your time on routine problems, and always try to work as closely as possible at the boundary of your abilities. Do this, because it is the only way of discovering how that boundary should be moved forward.

The only exception to this strategy is if your heart is truly set on working in an established field, doing work that builds on that tradition. If you want to become a classical pianist, or a writer, or a string theorist, you probably need to put in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Note: Outliers goes on sale today, November 18, 2008.

Categorized as Books

Biweekly links for 11/14/2008

  • Jamendo
    • Useful resource for finding Creative Commons music.
  • Online Communities: The Tribalization of Business – O’Reilly Radar
    • “Community for community’s sake: most businesses begin planning a community with traditional objectives (lower support costs, drive innovation, increase customer loyalty etc.). On the Social Web this is the equivalent of entering a personal relationship with an ulterior motive (which never works out quite right). Businesses should begin with the question, “how can I satisfy the needs of this community?”- and then follow the community’s lead. Be open to the unexpected.

      In my experience this is one of the hardest things for companies to get behind and relegates this kind of “enlightened” community effort to either top-level leadership or skunk works development. Middle management is typically the most reluctant to deviate from standard practice and place a bet on community for the community’s sake.”

  • » Do we suck at the basics?
    • “The longer I’m on this planet, the more I think the problem with everything is someone’s failure to get the basics right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been invited to companies or to talk about projects going on here or there, only to hear some basic, fundamental principle being violated without anyone screaming or raising the red flag. First. Am I right? Do most people, most of the time, suck at one of the basics of what they’re supposed to be professionals at? And if so, why is this?”
  • Kevin Kelly — The Origins of Progress
    • Kelly’s extended mediation on what, exactly, the origin of progress is.
  • Planning to Share versus Just Sharing at EdTechPost
    • The “just do it” approach to openness.
  • Preparing presentations: from mindmap to storyboard | sacha chua :: enterprise 2.0 consultant, storyteller, geek
    • A fun workflow for preparing presentations.
  • Web Conference: October 24-26, 2008
    • A hybrid online / real-world conference. Interesting list of speakers; lots of talks to watch!
  • Google Reader Now Auto-Translates Stuff. Read Anything You Like
  • Wikinomics » Blog Archive » – A new take on Social Search
    • Very interesting: a new collaboration market: “The traditional knowledge markets like Yahoo! Answers do little active work in matching a question with a resident subject expert, instead relying on the community to keep an eye on the topics they’re best equipped to answer. A new social search service (still in beta) called from the folks at The Mechanical Zoo aims to actively feed questions to self-proclaimed “subject authorities” who take it from there. As you pose and answer questions you build your “knowledge network”—a social network of your conversation participants. The question routing is done via Aardvark’s algorithm, which according to a VentureBeat article, will involve favouring “friends-of-friends” as the first-line recipients, but does the expert finding for you.

      The cool element about Aardvark is that it’s a seamless merger of a knowledge market (a la Yahoo! Answers) and real-time conversation tools (Twitter). “

  • The Case of M. S. El Naschie | The n-Category Café
    • John Baez: “Now, I get crud like this in my email every day. I delete it without comment. What makes this case different is that El Naschie gets to publish these papers in a superficially respectable journal that he actually edits.

      The fact that Elsevier would let Naschie edit this journal and publish large numbers of papers like this in it shows that their system for monitoring the quality of their journals is broken.

      The fact that this journal costs $4520 per year would be hilarious, except that libraries are actually buying it — at a reduced rate, bundled in with other Elsevier journals, but still! “

  • Latest Earthquakes: Feeds & Data
    • RSS feeds for earthquakes in the US.
  • synthesis: iGEM 2008: Surprise — The Future is Here Already.
    • “Here’s the short, pithy version: There is presently no vaccine for H. pylori. Between June and October this year, seven undergraduates built and tested three kinds of brand new vaccines against H. pylori. (They also put a whole mess of Biobrick parts into the Registry, which means those parts are all in the public domain.)”
  • A bit more on the economics of happiness at John Quiggin
    • “Within a given country, people with higher incomes are more likely to report being happy. However, in international comparisons, the average reported level of happiness does not vary much with national income per person, at least for countries with income sufficient to meet basic needs. The same is true over time – average happiness levels don’t change much even as incomes rise. This is often taken to mean that it’s relative rather than absolute income that determines happiness, so an increase in everyone’s income won’t make anyone happier. Hence, we shouldn’t worry so much about increasing income, but should focus more on factors likely to contribute to happiness. The point that struck me was that, given Easterlin’s data, the paradox is almost certain to apply whatever potential source of happiness we consider, in one form or another. “
  • BBC NEWS | Woolly writing creates new poetry
    • “”So I decided to explore randomness and some of the principles of quantum mechanics, through poetry, using the medium of sheep.”… A spokesman for Northern Arts called the scheme “an exciting fusion of poetry and quantum physics”. “

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Woolly quantum poetry

I love the BBC:

A North East writer has been given a grant of £2,000 to use sheep to create random poems, which also utilise the deepest workings of the universe.

The money has been provided by Northern Arts for Valerie Laws to create a new form of “random” literature.

Each of the animals has a word from a poem written on their backs and as they wander about the words take a new poetic form each time they come to rest.

But the exercise is not just an attempt to create living poems, it is also, according to the poet, an exercise in quantum mechanics.

The animals being sprayed belong to farmer Donald Slater of Whitehouse Farm Centre, Morpeth, in Northumberland.

Mrs Laws, 48, said: “I like the idea of using living sheep to create a living poem, and creating new work as they move around.

“Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics which a lot of people find hard to understand, as it seems to go against common sense.

“Randomness and uncertainty is at the centre of how the universe is put together, and is quite difficult for us as humans who rely on order.

“So I decided to explore randomness and some of the principles of quantum mechanics, through poetry, using the medium of sheep.”

Mrs Laws created a poem for the project, based on the traditional Japanese haiku form of poetry.

Each sheep had a word from the poem sprayed on their back, and when they came to rest a new text was created.

Farmer Donald Slater said: “After last year’s devastation (of foot-and-mouth) we all needed cheering up and this might just do it.”

A spokesman for Northern Arts called the scheme “an exciting fusion of poetry and quantum physics”.

One of the poems created by the sheep reads:

Warm drift, graze gentle, White below the sky, Soft sheep, mirrors, Snow clouds.

Quoted here in its entirety, because I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out. (In the strange event that anyone feels moved to point it out, no, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot that’s quantum here.)


Biweekly links for 11/10/2008

  • Science in the open » My Bad…or how far should the open mindset go?
    • Cameron Neylon on some of the challenges of being open.
  • Wikinomics » Music Goes 2.0 — Sorry Paul Anka, You’re Not Invited
    • Wiki-like collaboration for music: “Sonoma Wire Works has announced the launch of RiffWorks T4, an online music-collaboration application. With RiffWorks T4, musicians can record ideas, use drums and guitars, and add effects to quickly create songs. Most importantly, users do this online, and can easily collaborate with peers around the world — all for free! When finished, their tunes can be broadcast on”
  • Victoria Stodden: Benkler: We are collaborators, not knaves
    • “[Benkler] sets out to show that there is a sea change happening in the study of organizational systems that far better reflects how we actually interact, organize, and operate. He explains that the collaborative movements we generally characterize as belonging to the new internet age (free and open source software, wikipedia) are really just the instantiation of a wider and pervasive, in fact completely natural and longstanding, phenomena in human life.

      This is due to how we can organize capital in the information and networked society: We own the core physical means of production as well as knowledge, insight, and creativity. Now we’re seeing longstanding society practices, such as non-hierarchical norm generation and collaboration more from the periphery of society to the center of our productive enterprises. Benkler’s key point in this talk is that this shift is not limited to Internet-based environments, but part of a broader change happening across society.”

  • disambiguity – » Ambient Intimacy
    • “Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.”
  • Warnock’s Dilemma – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • “Warnock’s Dilemma, named for its originator Bryan Warnock, is the problem of interpreting a lack of response to a posting on a mailing list, Usenet newsgroup, or Web forum. It occurs because a lack of response does not necessarily imply that no one is interested in the topic, and could have any one of several different implications, some of which are contradictory. Commonly used in the context of trying to determine why a post has not been replied to, or to refer to a post that has not been replied to.”
  • Lawrence Lessig Web 2.0 Presentation
    • Excellent presentation on the role of lobbying and money in the US Government. One of many remarkable facts is a remarkable graph showing that members of the US Congress have, over time, become essentially 100% likely to retain their seats.
  • Ben Franklin on error
    • “It is perhaps the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, that is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow; it constantly exists and does not seem to require so much an active energy as a passive aptitude of soul, in order to encounter it.

      But error is endlessly diversified. It has no reality but is the pure and simple creation of the mind that invents it. In this field, the soul has room enough to expand herself to display all her boundless faculties and all of her beautiful and interesting extravagances and absurdities.”

  • Of word clouds and speaker bios : business|bytes|genes|molecules
    • Deepak Singh shows a beautiful seminar announcement created using Wordle. Now, if only we could replace all speaker bios this way…
  • Kevin Kelly: Web 10.0
    • “…I decided to skip Web 3 – Web 9 and just speak about the upcoming Web 10.0 and what I think will happen in the next 6,500 days. ” MN: About deaggregating data on the web, and then restructuring it in multiple ways.
  • Barack Obama’s photos from election night
    • CC licensed.
  • The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry: Don’t Mind Your Language
    • “For me, it is a cause of some upset that more Anglophones don’t enjoy language. Music is enjoyable it seems, so are dance and other, athletic forms of movement. People seem to be able to find sensual and sensuous pleasure in almost anything but words these days. Words, it seems belong to other people, anyone who expresses themselves with originality, delight and verbal freshness is more likely to be mocked, distrusted or disliked than welcomed. The free and happy use of words appears to be considered elitist or pretentious. Sadly, desperately sadly, the only people who seem to bother with language in public today bother with it in quite the wrong way. They write letters to broadcasters and newspapers in which they are rude and haughty about other people’s usage and in which they show off their own superior ‘knowledge’ of how language should be. I hate that, and I particularly hate the fact that so many of these pedants assume that I’m on their side. “
  • Last Saturday – Eva Amsen
    • Wonderful post from Eva, capturing poignantly what it’s like to do science, and what it’s like to leave behind.
  • New York Times College: Books: The Harvard Guide to Happiness
    • Interesting study correlating what undergraduates did with how fulfilled they felt.
  • Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog: And the Survey Says…Publishers Ignoring eReaders
    • “60 percent of publishers who answered a questionnaire neither use e-readers themselves nor download the e-books which can be read on the devices or on computers.”
  • Wired Campus: Students Watch Lecture Videos in Fast Forward –
    • “Some professors report that when their students are reviewing class materials, the students speed up online recordings of lectures and zip through hour-long presentations in as little as 30 minutes.” MN: I’ve often wanted this facility while watching YouTube or listening to my ipod. It’d be even nicer if you could easily change the speed.
  • Crowdsourcing and Gift Economies |
    • “Explaining open source is sometimes a little tricky… Depending on who I’m talking to I’ll explain that working on an open source project is a little bit like volunteering to sing with the church choir. Even if the person isn’t religious, they can usually appreciate the beauty of a group that sings in unison. They also understand the more the choir practices together, the better they sound.”
  • Inmates conduct ecological research on slow-growing mosses
    • Crowdsourcing is popping up all over the place: “Nalini Nadkarni of Evergreen State College currently advises a team of researchers who sport shaved heads, tattooed biceps and prison-issued garb rather than the lab coats and khakis typically worn by researchers. Why is Nadkarni’s team composed of such apparently iconoclastic researchers? Because all of her researchers are inmates at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a medium security prison in Littlerock, Washington.

      …Nadkarni has guided her unlikely but productive team of researchers since 2004, as they conduct experiments to identify the best ways to cultivate slow-growing mosses. Nadkarni’s so-called Moss-in-Prisons project is designed to help ecologists replace large quantities of ecologically important mosses that are regularly illegally stripped from Pacific Northwest forests
      … One member of Nadkarni’s research team, who was released from Cedar Creek, enrolled in a Ph.D. program in microbiology at the University of Nevada”

  • Joho the Blog » Innovation and the Open Internet: Joi Ito
    • Paraphrasing Ito, on the benefits of Creative Commons as another layer of abstraction: “Way back when, it was difficult to connect computers. Then we got Ethernet, then TCP/IP, and then HTTP (the Web). These new layers allow participation without permission. The cost of sending information and the cost of innovation have gone down (because the cost of failure has gone down). Now we’re getting another layer: Creative Commons. “By standardizing and simplifying the legal layer … I think we will lower the costs and create another explosion of innovation.” “
  • The Quantum Pontiff : The DiVincenzo Code
  • Time Management For Anarchists – Stepcase Lifehack
  • Cosma Shalizi: Economics
    • Cosma’s wonderful list of recommend reading.
  • Intrade gets California Prop. 8 completely wrong.
    • A good example of a prediction market getting something completely wrong – Intrade’s estimate probability hovered around 30% for Prop. 8 being passed. I wonder what information people were using to price the likelihood? Was the market simply too thin?
  • Wisdom of the markets: climate change | vox – Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists
    • In December, 2007, “, the Irish prediction market company, started trading in a range of financial contracts whose payoff depends on specific outcomes of a post-Kyoto climate change agreement. The contracts, which were designed together with the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) at the London School of Economics, capture which countries will participate in a post-Kyoto agreement as well as how stringent any pollution reduction targets might be.”

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A simple experiment in cognitive enhancement: what effect does the web and Google have on IQ?

A psychology experiment I’ve long wanted done is to give a group of people an IQ test where they have web access, and to compare the results to a control group without web access. I suspect those with web access would do quite a bit better, but it’d be interesting to see just how much better. “The web raises your IQ x points”, where x = … I’ve heard of a few experiments vaguely in this vein, but nothing seems to be quite like it. It could be run pretty cheaply on a University campus.