Sure, Obama came of age in the dawn of the internet, but it still feels like he's leaned forward on social media more than the average President would have. I'll always think of him as our first intentionally viral President (Bush having been more “unintentionally” viral).
4. Witholding praise is immoral.
While I’ve long thought that organizational feedback systems were broken, I had never really thought about it in this way before.
Children are accustomed to a continual stream of criticisms and praise, but adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery, and sucking up), you realize that withholding it borders on immoral. If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise.
Shane Parrish lists ten things he learned from Scott Adams' book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I also enjoyed this quote from Adams' book.
[O]ne should have a system instead of a goal. The system-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavours. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In the exercise realm, running a marathon in under four hours is a goal, but exercising daily is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system.
Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction. …
What I found in the metro and crime sections of these papers was a different quality of everyday life. It was life in the raw, as one might find in the Daily News or the New York Post, but not so much in the New York Times.
A lot of this material does not have direct bearing on the book I am working on. It is too brief, too odd, and certainly too sensational for the kind of writing the book requires. The material needed another outlet. That outlet turned out to be a form of writing for which there is no exact English term: fait divers. This is a French expression, in common use for centuries, for a certain kind of newspaper piece: a compressed report of an unusual happening. What fait divers means literally is “incidents,” or “various things.” The nearest English equivalent is “news briefs” or, more recently, “news of the weird.” The fait divers has a long and important history in French literature. Sensationalistic though it is, it has influenced the writing of Flaubert, Gide, Camus, Le Clézio and Barthes. In Francophone literature, it crossed the line from low to high culture. But though a version of it was present in American newspapers, it never quite caught on in the English language as a literary form.
This is what a fait divers looks like:
Raoul G., of Ivry, an untactful husband, came home unexpectedly and stuck his blade in his wife, who was frolicking in the arms of a friend.
Here is another:
A dishwasher from Nancy, Vital Frérotte, who had just come back from Lourdes cured forever of tuberculosis, died Sunday by mistake.
These examples show what the fait divers is about: an event, usually of a grim nature, animated sometimes, but not always, by a certain irony. A fait divers is not simply bad news. It is bad news of a certain kind, written in a certain way.
I love this piece on “small fates” by Teju Cole.
These pieces are generally not events of the kind that alter a nation’s course. They are not about movie stars or, with exceptions, famous politicians. They are about the small fates of ordinary people. The idea is not to show that Lagos, or Abuja, or Owerri, are worse than New York, or worse than Paris. Rather, it’s a modest goal: to show that what happens in the rest of the world happens in Nigeria too, with a little craziness all our own mixed in. In this odd sort of way, bad news is good news because these instances of bad news reveal a whole world of ongoing human experience that is often ignored or oversimplified.
Reminds me of one complaint about the phrase “first world problem” which is that it assumes that people who don't live in the “first world” don't have higher order problems. I'm not so sure I agree—a lot of so called “first world problems” are indeed absurd—but I love that Cole locates some measure of immortality in these turns of phrases which might otherwise be reduced to the trivially tragic.
Amazon is selling The Complete Seinfeld on DVD for $59, or 60% off. I don't buy many DVDs anymore, but this is a series that likely won't be licensed by any of the big guys (Netflix, Hulu, etc) anytime soon given the likely exorbitant price tag. Sony puts a handful of episodes online at Crackle, but that's not much of a strategy that leads anywhere.
I grabbed a set.
When I was a kid, I loved playing with the Aerobie, a frisbee with a a giant hole in the center, resembling more a ring of Saturn than a disc. The Aerobie would fly for days. I loved having enough time to run and run to chase it down in flight, a feeling I enjoy even today even though I haven't seen an Aerobie in years. Instead, I satisfied my love for chasing down flying objects playing the outfield in little league and later in recreational softball.
It's perhaps testament to how much we pigeonhole our inventors that I was shocked to discover that the inventor of the Aerobie Alan Adler was also behind the popular coffee-making device the AeroPress. Today the success of the AeroPress seems self-evident, but this wasn't an overnight sensation. One might say it falls into the category of slow burn hits.
Despite a great showing, initial success didn’t come easily for the AeroPress. Tennant recalls pleading with one prominent sales rep group not to drop the product due to low sales. As Adler recalls:
“Aerobie spent over 20 years establishing distribution for sporting goods, and all of a sudden, we were confronted with creating distribution for kitchenware. We didn’t leap into this lightly.”
The AeroPress struggled over the next few years; at one point, 2007 sales were even lower than 2006 sales and it appeared as if the product would fizzle out and flop. After years of familiarizing himself with the sporting goods market, Tennant was tasked with convincing house-ware distributors and retailers to sell “an odd looking, completely new kind of coffee maker made by a toy manufacturer.”
Spritzing presents reading content with the ORP located at the specific place where you’re already looking, allowing you to read without having to move your eyes. With this approach, reading becomes more efficient because Spritzing increases the time your brain spends processing content without having to waste time searching for the next word’s ORP. Spritzing also enhances reading on small screens. Because the human eye can focus on about 13 characters at a time, Spritzing requires only 13 characters’ worth of space inside our redicle. No other reading method is designed to help you read all of your content when you’re away from a large screen. But don’t take our word. The following video compares traditional reading to Spritz and is a real eye-opener when it comes to the efficiencies that are gained by placing words exactly where your brain wants them to be located.
More here from Spritz Inc. on their speed reading technology. It's worth looking at a demo of the Spritz speed reading aid in action in this article. By placing each word of the text you're reading in a position so that the key letter of each word is located at the same point, your eye doesn't have to move across words on a page. It turns out that eye movement in traditional reading is inefficient. Allowing your eye to stay fixated in one spot increases your reading throughput (though it sounds lazy; don't make my eye have to move even a few millimeters, it's so taxing!).
I took a speed reading course when I was in 6th grade, I was taught that the key to speed reading was to consume blocks of words at a time and to stop yourself from subvocalizing (that is, sounding out the words silently in your head as you read). You can try a number of tricks to cure yourself of that habit, one is to hum to yourself while reading. That blocks your ability to subvocalize.
Spritz's approach to speed reading is a bit different. Rather than scanning groups of words at a time, you're reading one word at a time. I can't imagine reading that way, but everything new seems odd, and every time I find myself rejecting the new I feel like Grandpa Simpson so I'm curious to try this out.
UPDATED: Professor John Henderson is skeptical of Spritz's claims.
So Spritz sounds great, and even somewhat scientific. But can you really read a novel in 90 minutes with full comprehension? Well, like most things that seem too good to be true, the answer unfortunately is no. The research in the 1970s showed convincingly that although people can read using RSVP at normal reading rates, comprehension and memory for text falls as RSVP speeds increase, and the problem gets worse for paragraphs compared to single sentences. One of the biggest problems is that there just isn’t enough time to put the meaning together and store it in memory (what psychologists call “consolidation”). The purported breakthrough use of the “ORP” doesn’t really help with this, and isn’t even novel. In the typical RSVP method, words are presented centered at fixation. The “slightly left of fixation” ORP used by Spritz is a minor tweak at best.
Two other points are worth noting. One is that reading at fast RSVP rates is tiring. It requires unwavering attention and vigilance. You can’t let your mind wander, ponder the nuances of what you’re reading, make a mental note to check on a related idea, or do any other mental activity that would normally be associated with reading for comprehension. If you try, you’ll miss some of the text that is relentlessly flying at you. The second point is that the difficulty of comprehension during reading changes over the course of a sentence, paragraph, and page. Our eyes engage in a choreographed dance through text that reflects this variation in the service of comprehension. RSVP makes every step in the dance the same. Or, to stretch an analogy, imagine hiking along a forest trail. Each step you take determines your overall hiking speed. Some steps require a longer pause to gain footing on loose stones, and others require a longer stride to step over a protruding root. Would it be effective to run on the trail? Worse, would it be a good idea to tie a piece of rope between your ankles so that each step was constrained to be exactly the same length? Surely this would lead to some stumbling, if not to a twisted ankle or catastrophic fall!
Cool interactive visualization of the plot structure of the six Rocky movies. Dragging the sliders across the timeline of each movie allows you to see a thumbnail frame from the movie at that moment.
There are, in fact, only a few basic narrative elements that make up the formula for all six Rocky films. Using empirical data collection (i.e. watching the six movies over six days straight), Rocky Morphology analyzes the Rocky series in order to identify its key narrative elements.
It’s interesting to see the battle between dialogue, montage and fighting throughout each film. Dialogue beats out training and fighting in the first two Rocky films, but fighting and montage occupy the most time in Rocky III and Rocky IV. Rocky V favors dialogue over fighting — undisputedly slowing its pace next to the previous films. In the final round, Rocky sticks with dialogue over fighting but — “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over” — Rocky delivers one last montage and fight scene to close out the series and complete the Rocky Morphology.
Amazon has X-ray for movies powered by IMDb, but it's still largely metadata about actors. Eventually perhaps they'll have a version of X-ray for video that is more like what they have for books. That is, you'd be able to tap a character and get a visual timeline of every moment of the movie that character is onscreen.
It was once a truism in pro tennis that you were over the hill at age 30. Consider, though, Roger Federer (32) and Serena Williams (33), to take two recent pro tennis players still competing at the highest levels.
Analysis indicates they are not anomalies.
In this paper, I investigate aging patterns among top ATP singles players between 1991 and 2012 and consider how surface effects, career length, and age at peak performance have influenced aging trends. Following a decade and a half of little change, the average age of top singles players has increased at a pace of 0.34 years per season since the mid-2000s, reaching an all-time high of 27.9 years in 2012. Underlying this age shift was a coincident rise in the proportion of 30-and-overs (29% in 2012) and the virtual elimination of teenagers from the top 100 (0% in 2012). Because the typical age players begin competing professionally has varied little from 18 years in the past two decades, career length has increased in step with player age. Demographics among top players on each of today’s major surfaces indicate that parallel aging trends have occurred on clay, grass, and hard court from the late 2000s forward. As a result of the changing age demographic over the past decade, the age of tennis’s highest-ranked singles players is now comparable to the age of elite long-distance runners. This evolution likely reflects changes in tennis play that have made endurance and fitness increasingly essential for winning success.