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)
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)
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.
YIMBY — Swedish site for “Yes, In My Back Yard”. Provides an opportunity for the net to aggregate positive desires (“please put a bus stop on my street”, “we want wind power”) rather than simply aggregating complaints. (via cityofsound on Twitter)
Getting People in the Door — a summary of some findings about people’s approaches to the physical layout of shopping space. People like to walk in a loop. They avoid “cul de sacs” that they can see are dead-ends, because they don’t want to get bored walking through the same merchandise twice. Apply these to your next office space.
OpenBricks — embedded Linux framework that provides easy creation of custom distributions for industrial embedded devices. It features a complete embedded development kit for rapid deployment on x86, ARM, PowerPC and MIPS systems.
How to Manage Employees When They Make Mistakes — sound advice on how to deal with employees who failed to meet expectations. Yet again, good parenting can make you a good adult. It’s strange to me that in the technology sector we have such a reputation for yellers. Maybe it’s business in general and not just tech. […] People stay at companies with leaders who rule like Mussolini because they want to be part of something super successful. But it does tend to breed organizations of people who walk around like beaten dogs with their heads down waiting to be kicked. It produces sycophants and group think. And if your company ever “slips” people head STRAIGHT for the door as they did at Siebel. I’d love to see a new generation of tech companies that don’t rule through fear. (via Hacker News)
Information Wants to be Paid (Pete Warden) — I want to know where I stand relative to the business model of any company I depend on. If API access and the third-party ecosystem makes them money, then I feel a lot more comfortable that I’ll retain access over the long term. So true. It’s not that platform companies are evil, it’s just that they’re a business too. They’re interested in their survival first and yours second. To expect anything else is to be naive and to set yourself up for failure. As Pete says, it makes sense to have them financially invested in continuing to provide for you. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a damn sight better than “build on this so we can gain traction and some idea of a business model”. Yet again, Warden reads my mind and saves me the trouble of finding the right words to write.
0Boxer — Chrome and Safari extensions to turn gmail into a game. (via waxy)
Twitter’s New Search Architecture (Twitter Engineering Blog) — notable for two things: they’re contributing patches back to the open source text search library Lucene, and they name the individual engineers who worked on the project. Very classy, human, and canny. (via straup on Delicious)
The Rise of Amazon Web Services — Stephen O’Grady points out that Amazon has become an enterprise sales company but we don’t treat it as such because we think of it as a retail company that’s dabbling in technology. I think of Amazon as an automation company: they automate and optimize everything, and a data center is just a warehouse for MIPS. (via Matt Asay)
Memory Upgrade (The Economist) — a photofit system that uses evolutionary algorithms to generate the suspects’ faces, and does clever things like animated distortions to call out features the witness might recall. Technology going beyond automated sketch artists.
The Particle Adventure: The Fundamental of Matter and Force — basic physics in easy-to-understand language with illustrations, all in bite-size pieces (and 1998-era web design). I’m pondering what one of these would be like for computers, and whether “how do these actually work?” has the same romance as “how does the world really work?”.
10 Essential iPad Apps for Publication Designers — a couple of interesting new suggestions here, including the New Zealand Herald (hated at home for including a bloated intro movie, but with interesting article presentation), and Paris Match (adding interactive features to almost every story). (via Simon St Laurent)
Cooking in Silico: Heat Transfer in the Modern Kitchen (YouTube) — In this talk at the University of Washington, Nathan Myhrvold and Chris Young of Intellectual Ventures show how computationally intense heat-transfer calculations can reveal the subtle factors that influence the success or failure of a cook’s efforts in the kitchen. Explore the virtues of computational cooking, and watch novel techniques and creations made possible when science informs the culinary arts. Mhyrvold has a new cookbook (six volumes!) coming out. (via TechFlash)
Ten Psychological Insights re: Twitter — summary of ten psychological studies about Twitter users. Many but not all of the most-followed Twitter users are, unsurprisingly, celebrities. This top-heavy usage reflects the fact that being interesting is a talent that not everyone can acquire (without relying on the halo effect of being famous that is). Occasionally, though, some manage the trick of being famous and quite interesting, e.g. Stephen Fry. (via vaughanbell on Twitter)
MIT OpenCourseWare: Unlocking Knowledge, Empowering Minds — Ten years later, MIT Open-CourseWare (OCW) […] contains the core academic content used in 2000 classes, presenting substantially all the undergraduate and graduate curriculum from MIT’s 33 academic departments. A selection of courses, including introductory physics, math, and engineering, contain full video lectures. Partner organizations have created more than 800 translations of OCW courses in five languages. The OCW team has distributed over 200 copies of the entire Web site on hard drives primarily to sub-Saharan Africa, where Internet access is limited. OCW has grown into a global educational resource. (via Sara Winge)
Delicious Links Clustered and Stacked (Matt Biddulph) — six years of his delicious links, k-means clustered by tag and graphed. The clusters are interesting, but I wonder whether Matt can identify significant life/work events by the spikes in the graph.
Open Data and the Voluntary Sector (OKFN) — Open data will give charities new ways to find and share information on the need of their beneficiaries – who needs their services most and where they are located. The sharing of information will be key to this – it’s not just about using data that the government has opened up, but also opening your own data.
Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change — At the deepest level, large scale environmental problems such as global warming threaten people’s sense of the continuity of life – what sociologist Anthony Giddens calls ontological security. Ignoring the obvious can, however, be a lot of work. Both the reasons for and process of denial are socially organized; that is to say, both cognition and denial are socially structured. Denial is socially organized because societies develop and reinforce a whole repertoire of techniques or “tools” for ignoring disturbing problems. Fascinating paper. (via Jez)
Blueprints — provides a collection of interfaces and implementations to common, complex data structures. Blueprints contains a property graph model its implementations for TinkerGraph, Neo4j, and SAIL. Also, it contains an object document model and implementations for TinkerDoc, CouchDB, and MongoDB. In short, Blueprints provides a one stop shop for implemented interfaces to help developers create software without being tied to particular underlying data management systems.
The No-Twinkie Database — These are all the Twinkie Denial Conditions described in my “Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!” Designer’s Notebook columns. Each one is an egregious design error, although many of them have appeared in otherwise great games. A collection of “don’t do this” for app designers. (via waxy)
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.
Turning The Page Online — historic science books in high-resolution online. Hookes Micrografia was the first view of the microscopic world, and his astonishingly detailed and beautiful illustrations are there to view and print.
Detailed Psychology of Trolls — You might be surprised to learn that Trolls readily engage in long debates with fellow Trolls – people, that is, whom they know to be perverse and cunning conversation hackers. Apparently, this does not detract them from wasting hours on fruitless debates that are blatantly rigged and full of sophistry. Few Trolls would be happy with debating only fellow Trolls (semi-literate teenagers and hard-boiled fundamentalists are so much tastier – even though they, too, might be trolling you). Yet most of them, every once in a while, enjoy having an absurd argument with another pig-head. Good on the “know your enemy” basis. (via MindHacks)
Theme Issue — a Royal Society publication ran a special open access issue focusing on “personal perspectives of the life sciences”, where top scientists write about what they think is important. It’s good to see more toes dipped into open access, but I’d love to see more journals (particularly those of professions and associations) move to an entirely open access model. (via SciBlogs)
Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python (2ed) — free ebook that teaches how to program in Python, using games as the motivating examples. Nominally for 10-12 year old children, but (naturally) accessible to adults too. I have not read it, but approve of the attempt.