- 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)
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
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.
Managing Mistakes, Paying for APIs, Gaming Gmail, and Classy Twitter Engineering
- 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)
Amazon as Vendor, Distributed Tasks, Evolutionary Photofitting, and Basic Physics
- 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)
- Celery Project — a distributed task queue. (via joshua on Delicious)
- 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?”.
iPad Designers, Scientific Cooking, Twitter Psych, Courseware Reach
- 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 Graphs, Charities and Data, Climate Psychology, Data Structure Portability
- 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.