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Four short links: 8 Apr 2009

Bias, RFCs, virus batteries, and a glimpse at life beyond record labels (the last item features profanity, beware):

  1. Bias We Can Believe In (Mind Hacks) — Vaughn asks the tricky question about the current enthusiasm for Behavioural Economics in government: where are the sceptical voices? As he points out, It’s perhaps no accident that almost all the articles cite a 2001 study that found that simply making the US’s 401(k) retirement savings scheme opt-out instead of opt-in vastly increased participation simply because it’s a hassle to change and employees perceive the ‘default’ as investment advice.
    But it’s probably true to say that this example has been so widely repeated but it’s one of the minority of behavioural economics studies that have looked at the relation between the existence of a cognitive bias and real-world economic data from the population.
    And it’s notable that behavioural economists who specialise in making this link, a field they call behavioural macroeconomics, seem absent from the Obama inner circle.
  2. How The Internet Got Its Rules (NYTimes) — about the first RFCs, which became IETF. The early R.F.C.’s ranged from grand visions to mundane details, although the latter quickly became the most common. Less important than the content of those first documents was that they were available free of charge and anyone could write one. Instead of authority-based decision-making, we relied on a process we called “rough consensus and running code.” Everyone was welcome to propose ideas, and if enough people liked it and used it, the design became a standard. (via Glynn Moody)
  3. Viruses Could Power Devices (Science News) — Ions and electrons can move through smaller particles more quickly. But fabricating nano-sized particles of iron phosphate is a difficult and expensive process, the researchers say. So Belcher’s team let the virus do the work. By manipulating a gene of the M13 virus to make the viruses coat themselves in iron phosphate, the researchers created very small iron phosphate particles. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Amanda Palmer’s Label-Dropping Game — interesting email from Amanda Palmer to her fans about trying to get dropped from her label. i had to EXPLAIN to the so-called “head of digital media” of roadrunner australia WHAT TWITTER WAS. and his brush-off that “it hasn’t caught on here yet” was ABSURD because the next day i twittered that i was doing an impromptu gathering in a public park and 12 hours later, 150 underage fans – who couldn’t attend the show – showed up to get their records signed. no manager knew! i didn’t even warn or tell her! no agents! no security! no venue! we were in a fucking public park!
    life is becoming awesome.
    and then the times they are a-changing fucking dramatically, when pong-twittering with trent reznor means way more to your fan-base/business than whether or not the record is in fucking stores (and in my case, it ain’t in fucking stores).
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  • http://ginkgobioworks.com Jason Kelly

    RFC article is great, a similar effort is under way in the biological engineering community inspired by internet RFCs, see here:
    http://blog.ginkgobioworks.com/

    and here:
    http://openwetware.org/wiki/The_BioBricks_Foundation:RFC

    thanks,
    jason

  • http://brooksjordan.name Brooks Jordan

    God, the Amanda Palmer email is hilarious . . . and a great example of art/products/services and people finding each other and interacting directly.

    I tweeted it to participate in the irony.

    Love the “four short links” posts, Nat. Almost always find something enlightening in them. Thx.