Dec 09

Daily Links for December 7th

All excerpts are quoted from the respective link(s).

  • The Major Works of Counterintuitive Thought From the Past Decade- The 00’s Issue– New York Magazine – In the aughts, the shocking hidden side of everything became the only side of anything worthy of magazine covers and book deals. Social scientists applied their techniques to the problem of climate change; liberals who wanted to be taken seriously had to come up with arguments for conservative policies and vice versa. Everywhere in the media, the former creators of mass consensus devoted themselves to contradicting the conventional wisdom. Here, a selection of the most unlikely ideas in a decade that was always looking to blow your mind.
  • Winners and Losers as the Dollar Falls – Experts argue about the many effects of the dollar's fall and what it says about confidence in the American economy, with its decades-old trade deficit and mounting national debt. But there are also more predictable effects replayed in each decline.
  • How Will You Die? – While you may be worried of catching of an obscure disease you heard about on the news, the truth is that we are far more likely to die of a small range of illnesses, nearly all of which are tied in some way to your lifestyle choices, like the food you eat or how much exercise you get. But you can lessen—sometimes dramatically—the likelihood of succumbing to the most common causes of death by knowing your risk factors and making informed choices. This is a look at your most likely cause of death (excluding uncontrollable events like accidents and homicide), given your race, sex, and age. Use this information to make choices that will keep you healthy.
  • The Biggest Lie In Social Media – Weather we want to believe it or not, investing in social media takes time, money, and resources. Companies and people need to have a means for evaluating their investment in social against other areas of focus. When the bean counters and CMOs are weighing their options, I can guarantee you an argument of “the numbers don’t matter” won’t hold water and will have you laughed out of the room.
  • Why Social Media Purists Won’t Last | Social Media Explorer – No, I’m not turning my back on the social media community or mindset. But I am trying to make a point all the social media evangelists out there need to grow up and face: If you don’t stop selling the fluff and start driving the bottom line, you’re going to have to go back to whatever you were doing in 2005. It’s not about convincing the curmudgeon. It’s not about waiting it out until digital natives are calling the shots. It’s about making social media drive business for your clients or companies. If you don’t, you’ll soon hear, “You’re fired,” and it won’t be from Apprentice reruns.
  • Three Tweets for the Web – Many critics of contemporary life want our culture to remain like a long-distance relationship at a time when most of us are growing into something more mature. We assemble culture for ourselves, creating and committing ourselves to a fascinating brocade. Very often the paper-and-ink book is less central to this new endeavor; it’s just another cultural bit we consume along with many others. But we are better off for this change, a change that is filling our daily lives with beauty, suspense, and learning.
  • Business Week Social Media Article Misses The Point – They frame it as if social media (which in reality is just one part of the digital marketing mix) is this new scary thing, and that companies and professionals are gullible enough to be usurped by snake oil types. At this point, the opposite is true: any marketer worth their salt understands digital marketing by now. At least enough not to be sold snake oil.

    Executing on the correct digital strategy can accomplish the same business objectives as strong traditional marketing/PR strategy. The web and the real are no different in my eyes: this article might as well have been called “Beware The Consultant Snake Oil,” sans-social media. What does the web have to do with it?

  • Continue reading →

Jul 09

Daily Links for July 29th

All excerpts are quoted from the respective link(s).

  • Economist’s View: "Why had Nobody Noticed that the Credit Crunch Was on its Way?" – So where was the problem? Everyone seemed to be doing their own job properly… And according to standard measures of success, they were often doing it well. The failure was to see how collectively this added up to a series of interconnected imbalances over which no single authority had jurisdiction. This, combined with the psychology of herding and the mantra of financial and policy gurus, lead to a dangerous recipe. Individual risks may rightly have been viewed as small, but the risk to the system as a whole was vast.

    So in summary, Your Majesty, the failure…, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole. …

  • 7 High Tech Products And Their Cheap Ass Ingredients | Cracked.com – Every day you are bombarded with commercials for things you have to buy to avoid ending up bitter and alone in a pile of your own, reeking filth. You trust these products, because they are state of the art and one of a kind, and because you are an idiot.

    Or at least, that's what the advertisers think. It turns out a lot of these amazing, cutting edge products are really bullshit. Not just bullshit, but bullshit you could make on your own, for next to no cost.

  • Choking : The Frontal Cortex – The sequence of events typically goes like this: when people get nervous about performing, they become self-conscious. They start to fixate on themselves, trying to make sure that they don't make any mistakes. This can be lethal for a performer. The bowler concentrates too much on his action and loses control of the ball. The footballer misses the penalty by a mile. In each instance, the natural fluidity of performance is lost; the grace of talent disappears.
  • Why Do Doubts About Obama’s Birthplace Persist? : NPR – There is no single explanation as to why psychologically normal people attach themselves to disproved conspiracies. Some may find comfort in contemplating a cabal: It provides a sense that they know the truth about how the world is organized — and others don't, experts say.

Feb 09

Daily Links for February 15th through February 16th

  • PsyBlog: Leaders Emerge by Talking First and Most Often – Crucially, though, the study showed that not only did a leader's dominant behaviour of itself encourage others to see that person as competent, but this was true even though their suggestions to the group were no better, or even worse than others. In reality the leaders did not always make the best contribution to the task, but their voices were usually heard first and most often.
  • Economist’s View: "Cognitive Hierarchy Theory" – Camerer notes that cognitive hierarchy theory can be used by people and businesses to forecast more accurately what other people are likely to do in various situations; they can then use those forecasts to make better choices. "For instance," he says, "the data about cold openings could be used by the movie industry to retrospectively forecast whether they should have held a movie back from the critics." It could also help them to decide what to do in future cases to maximize their profits.
  • FRAMESHOP: How Obama Frames ‘Success’ – In other words, the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act is a critical first investment in the future of the middle class, but it is also the beginning of a new way of talking and thinking about the economy. To understand what 'change' means from this point forward, we must pay attention not only to the legislation President Obama passes through Congress, but also how he defines the essential terms of the debate.
  • The Odds on America’s Collapse | Open Culture – Jared Diamond became a household name with his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs & Steel (2003). Later, the UCLA geographer climbed the charts again with Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005). Now, based on this last book, he’s putting odds on whether the United States will survive this crisis, and he’s putting them only at 51-49. Not too great. And he goes on to say that our best chance of surviving is if America’s wealthy elite suffers far more than it already has.
  • Nate Silver Predicts the Winners of the 2009 Oscars — New York Magazine – After spending most of 2008 predicting the success of political actors—also called politicians—it’s only natural that Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight.com) would turn his attention to the genuine article: the nominees in the major categories for the 81st Annual Academy Awards (Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC). Formally speaking, this required the use of statistical software and a process called logistic regression. Informally, it involved building a huge database of the past 30 years of Oscar history. Categories included genre, MPAA classification, the release date, opening-weekend box office (adjusted for inflation), and whether the film won any other awards. We also looked at whether being nominated in one category predicts success in another.
  • Cool Tools: The Deniers – Throughout its history, science usually advances from the edges. Heretics should be cherished for forcing edges to the center. The most respected scientific global warming heretics have been rounded up in this very readable book, The Deniers. Significantly, many of the eminent scientists included here don't call themselves deniers at all. They say, "I believe global warming is evidenced in all these other fields; Except in the field that I am expert in, the evidence is totally bogus." One by one the field-specific heretics make their case. And a number of them are rather persuasive. But at the moment there is no unified alternative theory of climate change, so the critique of global warming amounts to exposing holes in the current science. Any good scientific theory will have holes.
  • How the Crash Will Reshape America – The Atlantic (March 2009) – How might various cities and regions fare as the crash of 2008 reverberates into 2009, 2010, and beyond? Which places will be spared the worst pain, and which left permanently scarred? Let’s consider how the crash and its aftermath might affect the economic landscape in the long run, from coast to coast—beginning with the epicenter of the crisis and the nation’s largest city, New York.
  • Evolution and Facebook’s "25 Random Things About Me" craze. – By Chris Wilson – Slate Magazine – The idea that culture spreads in biological ways has been around for a while. Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in 1976's The Selfish Gene to describe how ideas propagate according to evolutionary principles of mutation and selection. A quantitative study of the "25 Things" letter seems to ratify that.
  • The Recession: Fuzzy Thinking Delays A Recovery | Newgeography.com – If we were to engage in the same sort of fuzzy thinking as the “average recession” analysis applied to “financial Panic” recessions, and assuming we use the NBER recession start date of December ‘07, the current recession could be expected to end 31 months later in July 2010. Is that too long for you? You could use the average 20th Century recession accompanied by a financial panic length. That is 28 months, so maybe the recession will end in April 2010.
  • Tracking the Household Balance Sheet « The Baseline Scenario – The picture you get is surprising. From 2004 to 2007, the typical family only took on $4,900 more debt – mainly in mortgages, but some for installment loans (primarily for cars and education) – but its assets grew by slightly more, a little bit because of home values but more because of increased retirement savings, presumably due to the rise in the stock market. (For those wondering at that small increase in home values: the median value of all homes increased from $175,000 to $200,000, but the median homeowner is not in the 50th percentile in income; he or she is somewhere in the 60-80th percentile range, so he has a more expensive house than the typical family.) In this picture, the typical family looks reasonably prudent, although taking on 4% more debt with no increase in income is not necessarily recommended.
  • Former Gitmo Guard Tells All—By Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine) – Neely’s account demonstrates once more how much the Bush team kept secret and how little we still know about their comprehensive program of official cruelty and torture.