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.
Optimal Starting Prices for Negotiations and Auctions –Mind Hacks discussion of a research paper on whether high or low initial prices lead to higher price outcomes in negotiations and online auctions. Many negotiation books recommend waiting for the other side to offer first. However, existing empirical research contradicts this conventional wisdom: The final outcome in single and multi-issue negotiations, both in the United States and Thailand, often depends on whether the buyer or the seller makes the first offer. Indeed, the final price tends to be higher when a seller (who wants a higher price and thus sets a high first offer) makes the first offer than when the buyer (who offers a low first offer to achieve a low final price) goes first.
WiFi Science History — Australian scientist studies black holes in the 70s, has to develop a way of piecing together signals that have been distorted as they travel through space. Realizes, when he starts playing with networked computers in the late 80s, that this same technique would let you “cut the wires”. A decade later it emerged as a critical part of wireless networking. As Aaron Small says, it shows the value of basic research, where you don’t have immediate applications in mind and can’t show short-term deliverables or an application to a current high-value problem.
Business Advice Plagued by Survivor Bias — “Burying the other evidence: [...] Doesn’t most business advice suffer from this fallacy? Harvard Business School’s famous case studies include only success stories. To paraphrase Peter, what if twenty other coffee shops had the same ideas, same product, and same dedication as Starbucks, but failed? How does that affect what we can learn from Starbucks’s success? (via Hacker News)
A Bestiary of Algorithmic Trading Strategies — insight into the algorithms used by quant traders. Statistical arbitrageurs are a sort of squishy area, similar to arbs, but distinct from them. They find “pieces” of securities which are theoretically equivalent. For example, they may notice a drift between prices of oil companies which should revert to a mean value. This mean reversion should happen if the drift doesn’t have anything to do with actual corporate differences, like one company’s wells catching on fire. What you’re doing here is buying and selling the idea of an oil company, or in other words, a sort of oil company market spread risk. You’re assuming these two companies are statistically the same, and so they’ll revert to some kind of mean when one of the prices move. (via Hacker News)
s3cmd — commandline tool for moving files into and out of Amazon S3.
DIY GSM Network — wow. How to build your own GSM network. Bit by bit, the telcos are getting pressured by the hobbyists. This barbarian is looking forward to the day when the walled gardens are sacked. (via Slashdot)
Endogenous steroids and financial risk taking on a London trading floor (PNAS) — We found that a trader’s morning testosterone level predicts his day’s profitability. We also found that a trader’s cortisol rises with both the variance of his trading results and the volatility of the market. Our results suggest that higher testosterone may contribute to economic return, whereas cortisol is increased by risk. Our results point to a further possibility: testosterone and cortisol are known to have cognitive and behavioral effects, so if the acutely elevated steroids we observed were to persist or increase as volatility rises, they may shift risk preferences and even affect a trader’s ability to engage in rational choice.
The Origin of Universal Scaling Laws in Biology — eye-opening paper that blew my mind. Highlight of Sci Foo was meeting the author and shaking his hand. Relates metabolic rate, size, heart rate, and lifespan by applying physics to biology.
Ushahidi — open source software for managing disasters. The Ushahidi Engine is a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.