- BERG London Week 328 — we’re a design company, with a design culture built over 6 years, yet we’re having to cultivate a new engineering culture that sits within it and alongside it, and the two have different crystal grains. It’s good that they do—engineering through a design process can feel harried and for some projects that does not lead to good outcomes. And vice versa. But it throws up all kinds of questions for me: do we really want two domains of engineering and design; what is the common protocol—the common language—of engineering culture, and indeed of our design culture; how do these lattices touch and interact where they meet; how do we go from an unthought process to one chosen deliberately; how is change (the group understanding of, and agreement with a common language) to be brought about, and what will it feel like as it happens. I think more and more businesses will have to explicitly confront the challenge of reconciling design with engineering, novelty with constancy, innovation with repetition. Science is doing something once in a way that others might able to reproduce, however long it takes. Business is doing it the same way a million times, as fast as possible.
- Why We Love The Things We Build — psychological research to look at people valuing the things they build. Lots of interesting findings: participants thought others would value their origami creations highly, despite assigning little value to the amateur creations of others and incomplete items were not valued as highly as completed items. (via BoingBoing)
- Gut Flora Social Network (New Scientist) — although there’s real science behind it, I think it’s mostly a callous play to get web journalists to say “this social network is a bit shit”. (via Dave Moskowitz)
- The Unintended Consequences of Cyberbullying Rhetoric (danah boyd) — actual research on bullying and cyberbullying, indicating that those involved in cyberbullying don’t think of what they’re involved in as bullying, because that implies power relationships they don’t want to acknowledge. Instead it’s all part of the “drama” of high-school.
Android Charting, Illusion of Insight, Mapping API, and Science Storytelling
- A Chart Engine — Android charting engine.
- The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight — we are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others.
- Urban Mapping API — add rich geographic data to web and non-web applications.
- Tell Us A Story, Victoria — a university science story-telling contest.
Illusions, Crowdsourcing, Translations, and Favourite Numbers
- Illusion Contest — every year they run an open contest for optical illusions. Every year new perceptual illusions are discovered, exploiting hitherto unresearched areas of our brain’s functioning.
- Citizen Science Alliance — the team behind GalaxyZoo, who help other researchers in need of crowdsourcing support.
- Ancient Lives — crowdsourced translation and reconstruction of ancient papyri from Oxyrhyncus, already found new gospels (in which the number of the beast is 616, not 666).
- Favourite Number — tell a story about your favourite number. Alex Bellos is behind it, and talked about the great stories he’s collected so far. Contribute now, watch this space to learn more about the stories.
Visual Illusion, Newspaper Economics, Native Web Apps, and Document Store Query Language
- The Flashed Face Effect Video — your brain is not perfect, and it reduces faces to key details. When they flash by in the periphery of your vision, you perceive them as gross and freakish. I like to start the week by reminding myself how fallible I am. Good preparation for the rest of the week… (via BERG London)
- The Newsonomics of Netflix and the Digital Shift — Netflix changed prices, tilting people toward digital and away from physical. This post argues that the same will happen in newspapers. Imagine 2020, and the always-out-there-question: Will we still have print newspapers? Well, maybe, but imagine how much they’ll cost — $3 for a local daily? — and consumers will compare that to the “cheap” tablet pricing, and decide, just as they doing now are with Netflix, which product to take and which to let go. The print world ends not with a bang, but with price increase after price increase. (via Tim O’Reilly)
- Phonegap — just shipped 1.0 of an HTML5 app platform that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and get access to APIs and app stores.
- UnQL — query language for document store databases, from the creators of CouchDB and SQLite. (via Francisco Reyes)
Tech predictions focusing only on technology miss a key component: people.
If you comment on new technology, you should get to know as many of the quirks and biases of human behavior as you can. That's because you're modeling people first and technology second.
Gender on Forms, Glitch Gets God, Predictably? Irrational Web Sites, and Successfully Open
- The Gender Question — a clever solution to the vexed question of asking users for their gender. (via Luke Wroblewski)
- Katamari Damacy Creator Joins Glitch — an amazing coup for Stewart Butterfield’s new game.
- How Online Companies Get You to Spend More and Share More (Wired) — Dan Ariely (“Predictably Irrational”) tackles Amazon, Netflix, Groupon, etc. and shows how their web design ties into studies of our cognitive biases. This is great post-hoc analysis, but I’d love to know whether it’s predictive: can you say “do X, in line with study Y” and conversions always increase?
- The Power of Open — a collection of success stories around creators releasing Creative Commons-licensed works. Examples range from movies to TED talks to photos to music to books to education. High quality PDF for download for free, or pay for a print copy. (via Gabriella Coleman)
Eliza Aftermath, Open Textbook, Crowdsourcing Music Fingerprinting, Singularity Skepticism
- Eliza pt 3 — delightful recapitulation of the reaction to Eliza and Weizenbaum’s reaction to that reaction, including his despair over the students he taught at MIT. Weizenbaum wrote therein of his students at MIT, which was of course all about science and technology. He said that they “have already rejected all ways but the scientific to come to know the world, and [they] seek only a deeper, more dogmatic indoctrination in that faith (although that word is no longer in their vocabulary).”
- Computer Vision Models — textbook written in the open for public review. (via Hacker News)
- Echoprint — open source and open data music fingerprinting service from MusicBrainz and others. I find it interesting that doing something new with music data requires crowdsourcing because nobody has the full set.
- Three Arguments Against The Singularity (Charlie Stross) — We clearly want machines that perform human-like tasks. We want computers that recognize our language and motivations and can take hints, rather than requiring instructions enumerated in mind-numbingly tedious detail. But whether we want them to be conscious and volitional is another question entirely. I don’t want my self-driving car to argue with me about where we want to go today. I don’t want my robot housekeeper to spend all its time in front of the TV watching contact sports or music videos. And I certainly don’t want to be sued for maintenance by an abandoned software development project.
Historic Debt, Historic Naming, Autonomous Quadcopter, and Entrepreneurial Thought
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years — Throughout its 5000 year history, debt has always involved institutions – whether Mesopotamian sacred kingship, Mosaic jubilees, Sharia or Canon Law – that place controls on debt’s potentially catastrophic social consequences. It is only in the current era, writes anthropologist David Graeber, that we have begun to see the creation of the first effective planetary administrative system largely in order to protect the interests of creditors. (via Tim O’Reilly)
- Know Your History — where Google’s +1 came from (answer: Apache project).
- MIT Autonomous Quadcopter — MIT drone makes a map of a room in real time using an X Box Kinect and is able to navigate through it. All calculations performed on board the multicopter. Wow. (via Slashdot and Sara Winge)
- How Great Entrepreneurs Think — leaving aside the sloppy open-mouth kisses to startups that “great entrepreneurs” implies, an interesting article comparing the mindsets of corporate execs with entrepreneurs. I’d love to read the full interviews and research paper. Sarasvathy explains that entrepreneurs’ aversion to market research is symptomatic of a larger lesson they have learned: They do not believe in prediction of any kind. “If you give them data that has to do with the future, they just dismiss it,” she says. “They don’t believe the future is predictable…or they don’t want to be in a space that is very predictable.” […] the careful forecast is the enemy of the fortuitous surprise. (via Sacha Judd)
Engineering Management, Open Source Escrow, Media Immunity, and Small-run Production
- Five Google Engineering Management Mistakes — interesting to see informed criticism, because Google’s style is often presented as a winning model. TLs [Tech Leads] were still evaluated as individual contributors. Leads to poor management practices: Grabbing all the sexy work for themselves; Providing negative evaluations for team members so they look good in comparison; Not paying attention to team member needs or requests; Confrontational relationships between team members and TLs (in some dysfunctional cases).
- Community Escrow (Simon Phipps in Computerworld) — interesting take on open source as a way of protecting against the interests of a vendor changing to no longer be aligned with those of the customer. The kicker: If the product was “open core” – with the key commercial features kept proprietary – it will be very hard for anyone to provide continuity. This is especially true if you are using the software as a service, because the critical know-how to make the software reliably run in the cloud is unlikely to be included in the open source project. Hear, hear. Cloud and open core are new enough that we still blow kisses every time we meet, but that honeymoon will pass and before long it’ll be hostile cold stares and long contemplative silences spent gazing out the window, musing on their shortcomings.
- Data Story Telling (Pete Warden) — Pete nails something I’ve been chewing on: in this model, a new form of media is like an infection hitting a previously unexposed population. Some people figure out how it can be used to breach the weak spots in the audience’s mental ‘immune system’, how to persuade people to believe lies that serve the propagator’s purpose. Eventually the deviation from reality becomes too obvious, people wise up to the manipulation and a certain level of immunity is propagated throughout the culture. The same is true for advertising: we’re in an arms race, novelty against neuroplasticity.
- Whimsy (and Clothes) For Sale (NY Times) — “We could never afford to make product in volume, so we adopted kind of like a Beanie Baby approach: we’d create small collections that supremely rabid buyers would end up buying,” Mr. Lindland said, noting that some customers own more than 20 pairs of his signature pants. “They’re a collectors’ item, oddly enough.” Small-run manufacturing embraced as a differentiating advantage, rather than as a competitive disadvantage.