- Billion Prices Project — rather than wait for official inflation figures, the BPP from MIT scans online retailer prices from around the planet. (via The Economist)
- Readings in Education — Dan Meyer has linked to some of the best papers he’s been reading at grad school. If you have opinions about education, or are thinking of doing something to “fix education”, you have to read Public Goods, Private Goods (PDF). It brilliantly, concisely, and clearly sums up the reason that conversations about education are so broken. The other papers Dan linked to are equally wow. Another paper (PDF) on the difference in mindsets between educational researcher and practicing teacher says: The initial [teacher] impulse is still to intervene and ﬁx the problem, or critique the actions of the teacher who made the mistake. It also often leads students to frame their own research around educational success stories. The idea is to pick an intervention that promises to improve education—a new teaching technique, curriculum approach, instructional technology, reform effort, or administrative structure—and study it in practice. The desired outcome is that the intervention works rather well, and the function of the study is to document this and suggest how the approach could be improved in the future. This often leads to an approach to scholarship (and eventually to a kind of scholarly literature) that is relentlessly, unrealistically, sometimes comically optimistic—one that suggests that there is an implementable answer to every educational problem and that help is always on the way. He could be writing about every educational startup.
- Truthy — a research project that helps you understand how memes spread online. With our images and statistics, you can help identify misuse of Twitter. (via Pete Warden)
- Hackers Are Being Radicalised By Government Policy (Guardian) — As long as it seems that direct action is more effective than democratic engagement, it’s clear that the former will appear a more attractive option to many. The official line that the internet is a dangerous territory to be subdued is responsible for an alarming radicalisation. This is not just an issue for the tabloids’ oddballs and nerds, it’s an issue for everyone who believes in the fundamental importance of freedom. The Internet uprising is not causing bad regulation; bad regulation caused the Internet uprising. (via Gabriella Coleman)
Crowdsourced Economics, Education Gold, Meme Analytics, Hacktivism
Poor Economics, Shrinking Web, Orphans Put to Work, Realtime Log Monitoring
- Poor Economics — this is possibly the best thing I will read all year, an insightful (and research-backed) book digging into the economics of poverty. Read the lecture slides online, they’ll give you a very clear taste of what the book’s about. Love that the website is so very complementary to the book, and 100% aligned with the ambition to convince and spread the word. Kindle-purchasable, too. Sample boggle (one of many): children of children born during the Chinese famine are smaller, and children who were in utero during Ramadan earn less as adults.
- The Web Is Shrinking (All Things D) — graph that makes Facebook look massively important and the rest of the web look insignificant. It doesn’t take into account the nature of the interaction (shopping? research? chat?), and depends heavily on the comScore visits metric being a reliable proxy for “use”. I’d expect to see other neutral measures of “use” decreasing (e.g., searches for “school holidays”) if overall web use were decreasing, yet they don’t seem to be. Nonetheless, Facebook has become the new millennium’s AOL: keywords, grandparents, and a zealous devotion to advertising. At least Facebook doesn’t send me #&#^%*ing CDs.
- Orphan Works Project (University of Michigan) — library will digitize orphaned works for researchers. Lovely to see someone breaking the paralysis that orphaned works induce. (via BoingBoing)
- log.io — node.js system for real-time log monitoring in your browser. (via Vasudev Ram)
Fibre Horse, Forced Gold Farming, Google Correlate, Internet GDP
- Draft Horses Bring Fibre to Remote Locations — I love the conjunction of old and new, as draft horses prove the best way to lay fibre in remote Vermont. (via David Isenberg)
- Chinese Political Prisoners Gold-Farming (Guardian) — “Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour,” Liu told the Guardian. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.”
- Correlate — Google Correlate finds search patterns which correspond with real-world trends. You upload your time series or geographic data, they find search terms that correlate. Very cool!
- McKinsey Internet Matters Report (PDF, free registration required) — Internet responsible for 3.4% of GDP in the countries they studied, 21% of GDP growth in last 5 years in mature countries, 2.6 jobs created for every one lost, and 75% of the Internet’s impact arises from traditional industries. Lots more like this in here. The United States captures more than 30 percent of global internet revenues and more than 40 percent of net income.
Google Price Index, The High Cost of Freemium, Literate Programming, Results Clustering
- Google Creates New Inflation Measure (The Guardian) — The Google Price Index will be based on the cost of goods sold online and could use real-time search data to forecast official figures. Clever use of unique data, but can the GPI findings be reproduced by another agency? I do like the idea of moving national statistical measures into real-time.
- How To Break The Trust of Your Customers In Just One Day — some horrifying revelations about how freemium worked for Chargify and their customers: Over the past year, we discovered that the customer that never paid had the highest support load. […] Everyone’s always talking about freemium, but very few people actually use it, and we discovered this in looking at our customers for the past year. The reality was that less than 0.4% of customers had any sizeable number of free customers on their accounts. (via Hacker News)
- Annotated Backbone.js — very readable literate programming. (via Simon Willison)
- Carrot2 — open source results clustering engine.
Economic Growth Without Copyright, Ebook Numbers, Hypothesis Analysis Tool, Who Pays for Open Data?
- Germany’s Industrial Expansion Fueled by Absence of Copyright Law? (Der Spiegel) — fascinating article about the extraordinary publishing output in 1800s Germany vs other nations, all with no effective and enforceable copyright laws. Sigismund Hermbstädt, for example, a chemistry and pharmacy professor in Berlin, who has long since disappeared into the oblivion of history, earned more royalties for his “Principles of Leather Tanning” published in 1806 than British author Mary Shelley did for her horror novel “Frankenstein,” which is still famous today. Books were released in high-quality high-price format and low-quality low-price format, and Germans bought them in record numbers. When copyright law became established, publishers did away with the low-quality low-price version and authors complained about the drop in revenue.
- Cheap Ebooks Give Second Life to Backlist — it can’t be said enough that dead material in print can have a second life online. Here are numbers to make the story plain. (via Hacker News)
- Competing Hypotheses — a free, open source tool for complex research problems. A software companion to a 30+ year-old CIA research methodology, Open Source Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) will help you think objectively and logically about overwhelming amounts of data and hypotheses. It can also guide research teams toward more productive discussions by identifying the exact points of contention. (via johnmscott on Twitter)
- Economics of Scholarly Production: Supplemental Materials — scholarly publications include data and documentation that’s not in the official peer-reviewed article. Storing and distributing this has been the publication’s responsibility, but they’re spitting the dummy. Now the researcher’s organisation will have to house these supplemental materials. If data is as critical to science as the article it generates, yet small articles can come from terabytes of data, what’s the Right Thing To Do that scales across all academia? (via Cameron Neylon)
Health, Profit, Policy, and Semantic Web Software
- The Men Who Stare at Screens (NY Times) — What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting. (via Andy Baio)
- Caring with Cash — describes a study where “pay however much you want” had high response rate but low average price, “half goes to charity” barely changed from the control (fixed price) response rate, but “half goes to charity and you can pay what you like” earned more money than either strategy.
- Behavioural Economics a Political Placebo? (NY Times) — As policymakers use it to devise programs, it’s becoming clear that behavioral economics is being asked to solve problems it wasn’t meant to address. Indeed, it seems in some cases that behavioral economics is being used as a political expedient, allowing policymakers to avoid painful but more effective solutions rooted in traditional economics. (via Mind Hacks)
- Protege — open source ontology editor and knowledge-base framework.
The power of the App Store is defined by more than direct revenue.
The App Store has exposed incumbents in the mobile industry to the same sort of asymmetric competition that has reshaped the media industry over the past decade. Developers are responding in droves to the economic incentives that lower barriers to entry create, as well as the fact that the App Store has generated $1 billion in royalty payments in just a few years.
Open source advocate Marco Fioretti has just announced the start of a
study on open data for the European Union, with a focus on economic
benefits for local businesses. Related surveys are also mentioned.
European Economic Crisis, Scaling Guardian API, Cheerful Pessimism, and Science Mapping
- Lending Merry-Go-Round — these guys have been Australia’s sharpest satire for years, filling the role of the Daily Show. Here they ask some strong questions about the state of Europe’s economies … (via jdub on Twitter)
- What’s Powering the Guardian’s Content API — Scala and Solr/Lucene on EC2 is the short answer. The long answer reveals the details of their setup, including some of their indexing tricks that means Solr can index all their content in just an hour. (via Simon Willison)
- What I Learned About Engineering from the Panama Canal (Pete Warden) — I consider myself a cheerful pessimist. I’ve been through enough that I know how steep the odds of success are, but I’ve made a choice that even a hopeless fight in a good cause is worthwhile. What a lovely attitude!
- Mapping the Evolution of Scientific Fields (PLoSone) — clever use of data. We build an idea network consisting of American Physical Society Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) numbers as nodes representing scientific concepts. Two PACS numbers are linked if there exist publications that reference them simultaneously. We locate scientific fields using a community finding algorithm, and describe the time evolution of these fields over the course of 1985-2006. The communities we identify map to known scientific fields, and their age depends on their size and activity. We expect our approach to quantifying the evolution of ideas to be relevant for making predictions about the future of science and thus help to guide its development.