"stuff that matters" entries

Four short links: 1 February 2011

Four short links: 1 February 2011

Stuff That Matters, Philanthropy, Internet Protests, and Healthcare

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. Andrew Mason at Startup SchoolSo 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.
  4. 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.
Comment: 1

Stop Giving the Newspapers Your Advice – They Don’t Need It

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…

Comments: 34
Four short links: 1 September 2009

Four short links: 1 September 2009

Social Investigative Journalism, Mozilla Service, Gov Data, Video Fun

  1. Help Me Investigate — find other people who want to investigate the same things you do (“on which streets in my town are the most parking tickets issued?”, “why is there a giant unused TV screen in the downtown of this city?”, “how much does this city council spend on PR?”), work together to resolve it, and leave a record of the answer for others. It’s a different angle on MySociety’s What Do They Know.
  2. Mozilla Service WeekWe believe the Internet should make life better. Join us the week of September 14-21, 2009, as we take action to make a difference in our communities, our world, our Web. (via MySociety)
  3. Open Government Data: Starting to Judge Resultsmall, tangible, steps that turn published government data into cost savings, measurable service improvements, or other concrete goods will “punch above their weight” : not only are they valuable in their own right, but they help favorably disposed civic servants make the case internally for more transparency and disclosure. Beyond aiming for perfection and thinking about the long run, the volunteer community would benefit from seeking low hanging fruit that will prove the concept of open government data and justify further investment.
  4. Three Frames — small fun. I love that there are still small fun things to do. (via pleaseenjoy on Twitter)
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Four short links: 1 June 2009

Four short links: 1 June 2009

Spymaster, Arsenic, Maps, and Happiness

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
Comment: 1
Importance of Innovation in Finance & BarCampBank

Importance of Innovation in Finance & BarCampBank

“Progress is not the mere correction of evils. Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” -Edward Filene Two years ago, when we were organizing the first BarCampBank in the US, many people found it hard to believe that banks & credit unions could a place for meaningful grassroots innovation. Even crazier was…

Comments: 2

Stuff That Matters: Non-profit to For-profit

I'm planning to publish a series of "Stuff that Matters" posts over the next couple of months, each exploring a particular industry or opportunity in detail, including such areas as education, health care, open government, energy, disaster response, security, manufacturing, supply chain management, and many more. But before I do that, I wanted my next posts, after the Work on…

Comments: 17
Work On Stuff That Matters: Video Interview with Tim O'Reilly

Work On Stuff That Matters: Video Interview with Tim O'Reilly

Over the past few months I have been interviewing various people that are "on our Radar" so to speak. It recently occurred to me that we had never done a video with Tim. So last week Kirk Walter (bless him!) grabbed his camera and Tim and I took a walk behind the O'Reilly offices in Sebastopol. We had a wide-ranging…

Comments: 9

Work on Stuff that Matters: First Principles

I spent a lot of last year urging people to work on stuff that matters. This led to many questions about what that "stuff" might be. I've been a bit reluctant to answer those questions, because the list is different for everyone. I thought I'd do better to start the new year with some ideas about how to think about…

Comments: 91

Waking Up from the 'Nightmare on Tech Street'

Reading Om Malik's Nightmare on Tech Street piece, I wonder if we're actually just waking up from the nightmare. Yes, the abrupt collapse of demand for consumer electronics and their ilk will hurt tech companies–I'm bracing my own for the slowdown–but the icy bath that brings down a killing fever trades pain for gain. In a recent conversation with my…

Comments: 32