- MacroBase — Analytic monitoring for the Internet of Things. The code behind a research paper, written up in the morning paper where Adrian Colyer says, there is another story that also unfolds in the paper – one of careful system design based on analysis of properties of the problem space, of thinking deeply and taking the time to understand the prior art (aka “the literature”), and then building on those discoveries to advance and adapt them to the new situation. “That’s what research is all about!” you may say, but it’s also what we’d (I’d?) love to see more of in practitioner settings, too. The result of all this hard work is a system that comprises just 7,000 lines of code, and I’m sure, many, many hours of thinking!
- Survey of Commenters and Comment Readers — Americans who leave news comments, who read news comments, and who do neither are demographically distinct. News commenters are more male, have lower levels of education, and have lower incomes compared to those who read news comments. (via Marginal Revolution)
- The Empathizing-Systemizing Theory, Social Abilities, and Mathematical Achievement in Children (Nature) — systematic thinking doesn’t predict math ability in children, but being empathetic predicts being worse at math. The effect is stronger with girls. The authors propose the mechanism is that empathetic children pick up a teacher’s own dislike of math, and any teacher biases like “girls aren’t good at math.”
- Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read (NYT) — On average, fewer than half of the books tested were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5% of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75% of readers. Sixty percent of books fell into a range where 25% to 50% of test readers finished them. Business books have surprisingly low completion rates. Not surprisingly low to anyone who has ever read a business book. They’re always a 20-page idea stretched to 150 pages because that’s how wide a book’s spine has to be to visible on the airport bookshelf. Fat paper stock and 14-point text with wide margins and 1.5 line spacing help, too. Don’t forget to leave pages after each chapter for the reader’s notes. And summary checklists. And … sorry, I need to take a moment.
It's time to place a moratorium on negativity and start working toward book publishing's bright future.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared on Medium; it is cross-posted here with permission. The writer is an O’Reilly employee, but he is expressing his personal views. We love his optimism about the future and wanted to share it with the Radar audience.
“THAT COMPANY is destroying my P&L, the entire book industry, and the fabric of civilized society.”
“I really like their free, two-day shipping, though.”
There’s a lot of tsoris in the publishing community right now over ebooks. Much of it has something to do with THAT COMPANY WITH THE WEBSITE THAT SELLS ALL THE THINGS, how THAT COMPANY has a stranglehold on the book market, how it’s devaluing our literary canon, how it has publishers right where it wants them.
But we’re not just cranky about THAT COMPANY. Other jeremiads include — but are not limited to — the painfully slow adoption curve of EPUB 3, the demise of beloved sites like Readmill, the failure of “enhanced” ebooks to gain traction, sundry ereader feculence, stagnating ebook sales, and sideloading.
I’m a cynic by nature, and count wallowing among my favorite hobbies, but after half a decade as a software engineer in the digital publishing space, even I’ve had enough and am issuing a moratorium on the negativity! Instead, I want to talk about some of the promising trends I’ve seen develop over the past year that foretell a bright future for the digital book. Forthwith: Five reasons for optimism about the future of ebooks.
Mature Engineering, Control Theory, Open Access USA, and UK Health Data Too-Open?
- On Being a Senior Engineer (Etsy) — Mature engineers know that no matter how complete, elegant, or superior their designs are, it won’t matter if no one wants to work alongside them because they are assholes.
- Control Theory (Coursera) — Learn about how to make mobile robots move in effective, safe, predictable, and collaborative ways using modern control theory. (via DIY Drones)
- US Moves Towards Open Access (WaPo) — Congress passed a budget that will make about half of taxpayer-funded research available to the public.
- NHS Patient Data Available for Companies to Buy (The Guardian) — Once live, organisations such as university research departments – but also insurers and drug companies – will be able to apply to the new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) to gain access to the database, called care.data. If an application is approved then firms will have to pay to extract this information, which will be scrubbed of some personal identifiers but not enough to make the information completely anonymous – a process known as “pseudonymisation”. Recipe for disaster as it has been repeatedly shown that it’s easy to identify individuals, given enough scrubbed data. Can’t see why the NHS just doesn’t make it an app in Facebook. “Nat’s Prostate status: it’s complicated.”
NSA Crypto, Web Traps, Learn by Doing, and Distributed Testing
- On the NSA — intelligent unpacking of what the NSA crypto-weakening allegations mean.
- Overview of the 2013 OWASP Top 10 — rundown of web evil to avoid. (via Ecryption)
- Easy 6502 — teaches 6502 assembler, with an emulator built into the book. This is what programming non-fiction books will look like in the future.
- Kochiku — distributing automated test suites for faster validation in continuous integration.
Location Data, Online Science, Mythbusting for Education, and Cheap Music For All
- Reading Runes in Animal Movement (YouTube) — accessible TEDxRiverTawe 2013 talk by Professor Rory Wilson, on his work tracking movements of animals in time and space. The value comes from high-resolution time series data: many samples/second, very granular.
- Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Amazon) — edited collection of the best blog posts on science from 2012. Some very good science writing happening online.
- Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education (PDF) — Derek Muller’s PhD thesis, summarised as “mythbusting beats lectures, hands down”. See also his TED@Sydney talk.
- Melomics — royalty-free computer-generated music, all genres, for sale (genius business model). Academic spinoff from Dr. Francisco J. Vico’s work at UMA in Spain.