What Machines Can’t Do (NY Times) — In the 1950s, the bureaucracy was the computer. People were organized into technocratic systems in order to perform routinized information processing. But now the computer is the computer. The role of the human is not to be dispassionate, depersonalized or neutral. It is precisely the emotive traits that are rewarded: the voracious lust for understanding, the enthusiasm for work, the ability to grasp the gist, the empathetic sensitivity to what will attract attention and linger in the mind. Cf the fantastic The Most Human Human. (via Jim Stogdill)
The Technium: A Conversation with Kevin Kelly (Edge) — If we were sent back with a time machine, even 20 years, and reported to people what we have right now and describe what we were going to get in this device in our pocket—we’d have this free encyclopedia, and we’d have street maps to most of the cities of the world, and we’d have box scores in real time and stock quotes and weather reports, PDFs for every manual in the world—we’d make this very, very, very long list of things that we would say we would have and we get on this device in our pocket, and then we would tell them that most of this content was free. You would simply be declared insane. They would say there is no economic model to make this. What is the economics of this? It doesn’t make any sense, and it seems far-fetched and nearly impossible. But the next twenty years are going to make this last twenty years just pale. (via Sara Winge)
nitrous.io — IDE “in the cloud”, as “the kids” say.
smartHeadlight — headlight that tracks raindrops and doesn’t send out light to reflect off them back into your eyes causing you to clutch your head and veer off the road into the parking lot of a Hooters to which your wife will NOT enjoy being called to tow your VERY SORRY HONEY ass home. Thank heavens science can save us from this awful hypothetical scenario. (via Greg Linden)
Knight Funds outline.io — it’s a public policy simulator that helps people visualize the impact that public policies like health care reform and school budget changes might have on local economies and communities. Simulators are hugely underused way to get public to understand policy debate. (via Julie Starr)
The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society (PDF) — education is dangerous to female extended family members. As can be seen in Table 1, when no exam is imminent the family death rate per 100 students (FDR) is low and is not related to the student’s grade in the class. The effect of an upcoming exam is unambiguous. The mean FDR jumps from 0.054 with no exam, to 0.574 with a mid-term, and to 1.042 with a final, representing increases of 10 fold and 19 fold respectively. (via Hacker News)
Internet: 2012 in Numbers — lots of surprising numbers, with sources. Three that caught my eye: 42.1% – Internet penetration in China; 2.7 billion – Number of likes on Facebook every day; 59% – Share of global mobile data traffic that was video.
2013: The Year Ahead in Mobile (Business Insider) — Mobile is already 1/7 of global Internet traffic and growing its share quickly […] on pace to top 25% by year end. Interesting prediction that rich people already have devices, so everyone’s working on low-cost units so they can sell to new customers in “growth markets” aka developing world.
Social Media in China (Fast Company) — fascinating interview with Tricia Wang. We often don’t think we have a lot to learn from tech companies outside of the U.S., but Twitter should look to Weibo for inspiration for what can be done. It’s like a mashup of Tumblr, Zynga, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s very picture-based, whereas Twitter is still very text-based. In Weibo, the pictures are right under each post, so you don’t have to make an extra click to view them. And people are using this in subversive ways. Whether you’re using algorithms to search text or actual people–and China has the largest cyber police force in the world—it’s much easier to censor text than images. So people are very subversive in hiding messages in pictures. These pictures are sometimes very different than what people are texting, or will often say a lot more than the actual text itself. (via Tricia Wang)
Improvisation and Forgiveness (JP Rangaswami) — what makes us human is not repetitive action. Human occupations should require human intellect, and there’s no more human activity than making a judgement call when processes have failed a customer.
Ethics of Brain Boosting, Discussion (Hacker News) — this comment in particular: in my initial reckless period of self-experimentation, I managed to induce phosphenes by accident — blue white flashes in the entire visual field, blanking out everything else. Both contacts were in the supraorbital region. I ceased my experiments for a while and returned to the literature. And you thought that typo where you accidentally took the database offline was bad ….
Things Turbo Pascal is Smaller Than — next time you’re bragging about your efficient code, spare a thought for the Pascal IDE and compiler that lived in 39,731 bytes. This list of more bloated things is hilarious.
The China Startup Report (Slideshare) — interesting to see the low salary comes with expectation of bonuses but little interest in equity (as there are few exits other than IPO, for reasons the presentation goes into).
Shape Method — fun HTML5 challenge that will also expand your appreciation of fonts.
Open Source All The Things! — SparkFun looking aggressively for things to “open source” from their business. I have a lot of time for companies that contribute to the commons above and beyond their legally-mandated minimum, particularly those who aren’t just dumping their unwanted junk there. Google does this well, Facebook is learning. Good on ya, SparkFun.
Guangzhou City Map — Chinese city maps: they use orthographic projection (think SimCity) and not satellite images. A nice compromise for usability, information content, and invisible censorship. (via Hacker News)
Broken Windows, Broken Code, Broken Systems — So, given that most of us live in the real world where some things are just left undone, where do we draw the line? What do we consider a bit of acceptable street litter, and what do we consider a broken window? When is it ok to just reboot the system, and when do you really need to figure out exactly what went wrong?
Android Malware — black hat copied apps, added trojans, uploaded to Android Marketplace. Google were slow to respond to original developer’s claims of copying, quick to react to security guy’s report of malware. AppStores are not magic moneypumps in software form, no more than tagging, communities, or portals were. User contributions need editorial oversight.
The True Cost of Publishing on the Kindle — an article, apparently by a horrified negotiator with Amazon, revealing that magazine and newspaper publishers pay the WhisperNet delivery costs of their editions. That’s not Amazon overhead, it comes out of the publisher’s royalty slice. (via Hacker News)
Fonts in Use — examples of sweet typography and the fonts that were used.
Ffffound — social network for graphic designers (invite only) with a “people who liked also liked” type of recommendation system. Very clever. So as you research “I want to build a cheesy 70s logo”, you thumbs up the images you like and soon the system is suggesting designs with elements of cheesy 70s logos to you. I love that it is invitation-only: you’re trusting the judgement of the other people, so you had better only let in people whose judgement you trust.
China’s Second Wives and Gift Culture — second wives, status, and brand. But any city that has a middle class is going to have Second Wives. […] Even Jiang Zemin, the former President, had a very high profile mistress – a singer called Song Zuying who appears on the Chinese New Year programme every year. And it’s not a scandal. A reminder that if you think you can export your crappy business built on American status symbols, you’re leaping into the Sea of Fail. (via Sciblogs)