- James Burke at dConstruct — transcription of his talk. EPIC. I love this man and could listen to him all day long. (via Keith Bolland)
- Mechanism Design on Trust Networks (CiteSeerX) — academic paper behind the Ripple Bitcoin-esque open source peer-payment digital currency.
- What If Money Was No Object (YouTube) — about finding your way to stuff that matters, and worth it just for the last lines. (via Rowan Simpson)
- photobooth-js (GitHub) — BSD-licensed html5 widget that allows users to take their avatar pictures on your site.
ENTRIES TAGGED "stuff that matters"
Etsy did something significant. I’m not talking about funding scholarships to Hacker School, though kudos to Etsy, 37Signals, and Yammer for putting money into it. And serious respect to Marc Hedlund for putting it together—he didn’t just submit a bug report on the world, he submitted a patch. Marc’s Ignite talk at Foo about this was incredibly moving: he accomplished something at scale, something beyond a single hiring decision.
What I find truly significant is the stark quantification of the untapped (previously uninvited) interest: 661 women applied where 7 had applied before. The number of scholarships and the size of the programming class were dwarfed by the number of women who wanted in, and jubilation at the success of the Etsy campaign has to be accompanied by serious thought about how to tackle the next order of magnitude in scale. And because it’s a problem worthy of your cleverness, I’ve made this the only short link today. Use the time you would have spent reading about Map/Reduce and devops to solve this scaling problem instead—you’ll truly be working on something that matters.
Lagging Latency, Don't Take the Extra Cookie, Amazon's Print Plans, and Maker Schools
- Why Latency Lags Bandwidth (PDF) — across disk, memory, and networking we see bandwidth growing faster than latency comes down. This paper covers why and what we can do about it. (via Ryan Dahl)
- Michael Lewis’s Princeton Commencement Speech — a subtle variation on “work on stuff that matters” that I simply love. Commencement speeches fly around this time of the year, but this one is actually worth reading.
- The Amazon Effect (The Nation) — Readers of e-books are especially drawn to escapist and overtly commercial genres (romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction), and in these categories e-book sales have bulked up to as large as 60 percent. [...] Amazon swiftly struck an alliance with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to handle placing its books in physical stores. In a transparent subterfuge aimed at protecting its tax-avoidance strategies, Amazon intends to publish many of its books under a subsidiary imprint of Houghton’s called New Harvest, thus keeping alive the increasingly threadbare fiction that it has no physical presence in states where it does business online. I did not know these things. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Learn by Doing (Slate) — Dale Dougherty’s excellent call to arms to turn away from zombie-producing standardised test classes to learning by making real things. The empty campus on test day horrified me.
Stuff That Matters, Web Waste, Learning Analytics, and Thoughtful Quotes
- SoupHub — NZ project putting a computer with Internet access (and instruction and help) into a soup kitchen. I can’t take any credit for it, but I’m delighted beyond measure that the idea for this was hatched at Kiwi Foo Camp. I love that my peeps are doing stuff that matters. (See also the newspaper writeup)
- Bandwidth of Pages — view a 140 character tweet on the web and you’re load 2MB of, well, let’s call it crap.
- On The Reductionism of Analytics in Education (Anne Zelenka) — Learning analytics, as practiced today, is reductionist to an extreme. We are reducing too many dimensions into too few. More than that, we are describing and analyzing only those things that we can describe and analyze, when what matters exists at a totally different level and complexity. We are missing emergent properties of educational and learning processes by focusing on the few things we can measure and by trying to automate what decisions and actions might be automated. A fantastic post, which coins the phrase “the math is not the territory”.
- Quotes Worth Spreading (Karl Fisch) — collection of thought-provoking quotes from recent TED talks. Be generous by graciously accepting compliments. It’s a gift you give the complimenter (John Bates) is something I’m particularly working on.
Steve Jobs shifted Apple's motivation to great products, not profit.
Profit in a business is like gas in a car. You don't want to run out of gas, but neither do you want to think that your road trip is a tour of gas stations.
Mobile Gambling, Science Copyright, Failure of Advertising, and Data Businesses
- Mobile Gaming Device — Cantor Gaming (division of Wall St’s Cantor Fitzgerald) has released a Windows Mobile device to make live bets during a game. Real-time isn’t just for trading, it’s also for sports gambling too.
- Copyright Isn’t Just Hurting Creativity, It’s Killing Science (Video) — Larry Lessig tackles science. I’ve been grappling with technology transfer and the commercialization of academic research for a while, and most scientific discoveries aren’t immediately useful. Some, a rare few, are eventually useful, but even then only after a long time and lot of money spent making repeatable, efficient, and scalable processes from those discoveries. Most science is useless in this sense, never leading to product, so perhaps the general advance of knowledge would happen faster if we worried less about universities doing the commercialization and instead let them get back to focus on discovering more about the world around us. (via BoingBoing)
- This Tech Bubble is Different (BusinessWeek) — notable for this killer quote: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he [Hammerbacher] says. “That sucks.”
- How US News Abandoned Print and Learned to Love Its Data — now has multiple revenue streams including advertising, lead generation, special-edition print, and licenses, all keyed around its data.
Stuff That Matters, Philanthropy, Internet Protests, and Healthcare
- The New Calculus of Competition (Umair Haque) — Don’t just lower the lowest common denominator. Elevate the numerator. Make it worthier: more meaningful, enduring, significant. A strong call to work on stuff that matters.
- The Troubled History of Google.org (NY Times) — it’s hard to measure “good”, which is one reason it’s difficult to know who’s doing good in philanthropy. Couple that with a product-first measurement mindset, rather than customer-first, and it’s no wonder Google.org struggled. The reported management flapping is gravy. (via Tim O’Reilly on Twitter)
- Andrew Mason at Startup School — So the Internet came along, and the Internet should solve all the problems of organizing people and changing collective action. But the problem is, all we’ve done is we’ve taken the old world tactics that we used offline and ported online. We haven’t really changed the way we think about things. So, for example, here is a protest against the Iraq war that people held in Second Life. [laughter] I call these tactics the tactics of inconveniencing yourself, because all these things, signing a petition or going to a protest, they’re all like mini versions of lighting yourself on fire. [laughter] They’re saying, I will sacrifice a small part of my life to show you how much I care, and that just feels so futile and not very exciting to get to be part of. And the weird thing is if the tactic you’re using is inconveniencing yourself, all the Internet does is make it easier to sign petitions, so by making it easier to inconvenience yourself, you’re making your effort more and more meaningless, right. So, if it only takes one click to write a letter to your congressman, then it takes an order of magnitude more letters for them to actually care. Pay attention, would-be government influencers.
- Why is Medicine Often Not Evidence-Based (Ben Goldacre) — If we assume, fairly generously, that you’ll be 80% successful at each step in this chain – which really is pretty generous – then with 7 steps, you’ll only manage to follow the evidence in practice 21% of the time (0.8^7=0.21). Healthcare needs interaction designers, not just programmers.
Speculation about the demise of the news business and advice about what they should do about it is everywhere. It makes for great, self-congratulatory sport but it won’t help the news industry. Why? Because the news industry doesn’t suffer from a shortage of ideas or possible revenue models, it suffers from a different but more acute malady: being an institution…
Spymaster, Arsenic, Maps, and Happiness
- Spymaster — a faux-spy game on Twitter: Each player becomes a master of a spy ring based upon their Twitter followers list. The more people that follow you and are playing characters in Spymaster, the more powerful your network will be. As a spymaster, you can perform tasks or attack other spymasters on Twitter. With each successful attempt, you will gain virtual currency and points that allow you to grow even stronger. I’m nervous that it’s a project of a classified ads company, but intelligent friends appear to be enjoying it, but that may just be be the jaded eye of a world-weary veteran of pyramid schemes and spamalots.
- Getting Arsenic Out Of Water — MIT Technology Review piece about the IBM discovery that a chemical used to pattern chips also acts as a membrane to remove arsenic. More stuff that matters. (via roterhund on Twitter)
- Mapumental — MySociety folks making maps useful. It’s the continuation of time travel maps, where bus, train, tram, tube, and ferry timetables are mashed with real estate prices to show you where you can live for what you can afford and how long a commute you want. A new twist is crowdsourced “how scenic is this area?” data, so you can choose other dimensions for where you might want to live. New dimensions on transportation data and travel planning.
- What Makes Us Happy? (The Atlantic) — the real world is a lot more complex than trivial “get happy fast!” self-help books would have you believe. This longitudinal study shows how complex happiness and misery are. Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” (via timoreilly on Twitter)