“The beauty of science”

In a wonderful piece on the limits of science, Robert Krulwich concludes with this bit of excellence:

… that’s the beauty of science: to know that you will never know everything, but you never stop wanting to, that when you learn something, for a second you feel crazy smart, and then stupid all over again as new questions come tumbling in. It’s an urge that never dies, a game that never ends.

I’d extend that line of thought to anything that’s tough, tricky, confounding, ambiguous and important: You may never get there, but you always have to try.

Kevin Spacey knows what’s up: The audience won, so knock off the nonsense

“Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”

   — Kevin Spacey, James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

That’s a single quote from this fantastic compilation of Spacey’s recent speech:

The full text from Spacey’s speech is here.

Via Gawker

IBM: Relevant in 2000 and relevant in 2013

This market value graphic is floating around the Internet:

People are focusing on the Microsoft orbs, and for good reason: Gawking is warranted when you “lose” $313 billion.

But let’s put that aside and focus on a different part of the image.

Take a look at IBM:

  • 2000: $209 billion
  • 2013: $203 billion

I find IBM’s staying power far more impressive than the blobby expansion and contraction of other firms. It’s hard to build something that adapts, reinvents and perseveres across long stretches of time.

The clockwork behind the Quartz Daily Brief

I read the Quartz Daily Brief almost every day. This is notable because I’m not all that interested in international business or politics. Yet there I am, each morning, scanning through the latest Quartz has to offer.

I appreciate the elegance of the thing. It’s a simple, well-written lineup that starts with the important stuff and concludes with a handful of weird/interesting/notable links that I often have yet to encounter. The tone of the email is smart, but not off-putting, funny, but not snarky. And it has never — not once — been twee.

After reading this case study, I appreciate the Daily Brief even more. Turns out Quartz produces three editions every day, each timed to serve a particular part of the globe at precisely 6 am.

Quartz senior editor Zach Seward explains how it all comes together:

“Typically, one of our reporters in the United States—it’s a different writer each week—pulls together the first draft of the email in the afternoon on, say, Tuesday. That’s edited in the U.S. as well, and sent to our readers in Asia, where it’s already Wednesday morning. (We aim to hit inboxes by 6 am in Hong Kong, London, and New York, respectively.) About six hours later, reporters and editors in Asia update the email to reflect any new information and send out the Europe edition. Finally, the Americas edition is sent from Asia or Europe about 12 hours after the whole process began in the U.S. It’s a lot of work, but our readers seem to think it’s worth the effort, which is all that matters.”

The socialbot arms race

From the New York Times:

Christian Rudder, a co-founder and general manager of OkCupid, said that when his dating site recently bought and redesigned a smaller site, they witnessed not just a sharp decline in bots, but also a sudden 15 percent drop in use of the new site by real people. This decrease in traffic occurred, he maintains, because the flirtatious messages and automated “likes” that bots had been posting to members’ pages had imbued the former site with a false sense of intimacy and activity. “Love was in the air,” Mr. Rudder said. “Robot love.” Mr. Rudder added that his programmers are seeking to design their own bots that will flirt with invader bots, courting them into a special room, “a purgatory of sorts,” to talk to one another rather than fooling the humans.

[Emphasis added.]

Why BuzzFeed is winning

The New Republic’s Marc Tracy explains why BuzzFeed’s version of the Reza Aslan / Fox News interview captured so much attention:

As I reported in a New Republic story about the site [BuzzFeed] a year ago, its presence on social media, its clean layout, and its editorial philosophy of shearing most context from tidbits of news and giving readers just the thing itself—all make the site immaculately positioned to capitalize on the new news economy, in which readers increasingly find things like this video not by subscribing to or regularly visiting specific blogs or websites, but by happening upon independent articles shared via social media like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. Indeed, more than half of BuzzFeed’s pageviews have come from people clicking on links to the post that their friends shared on Facebook. (And don’t sleep on [BuzzFeed writer Andrew] Kaczynski’s headline—headlines being something that I would bet BuzzFeed spends a substantial amount of time thinking about. Kaczynski’s headline was, “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” Don’t you want to click and find out?) [Emphasis added.]

How to win Atari’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

I remember playing Atari’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” as a kid. I was fortunate because my friend knew the ins and outs — how to avoid the wells, how to find phone pieces, how to get to the landing site, etc. I didn’t encounter the frustrations that caused many others to revile this game (nor did I realize E.T. game hate was so strong).

Today, in one of those serendipitous click trips (see the “via” segment, below), I was reintroduced to the E.T. game by way of this VHS-era tutorial:

I understand the frustration now. Marching E.T. through dull screens in search of pixellated doodads feels like an exceptional waste of time. And the sound. My God, the sound.

Yet, the thing I always enjoyed about this game is that it had an ending. That appealed to me much more than gathering points or setting a new high score (much of this is due to my complete incompetence as a gamer — I’m really quite horrible).

Via O’Reilly Radar > ASCII > “Fixing E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600” > “E.T. (Atari 2600) (How To Beat Home Video Games 2)

The Financial Times shows how data-driven is done

The Financial Times launched its metered model years ago, which puts it way ahead of the current paywall curve.

After reading through this Mashable piece, it’s clear that all of the FT’s paywall experience — and, importantly, all of its related data — has made the organization quite savvy. For example:

Looking through some of the reader data — the FT’s data team now numbers more than 30 across three groups — the FT was able to recognize the kinds of patterns readers display before purchasing subscriptions. “We would see the sort of articles they were reading and the frequency they were reading those articles, for instance, and we began to map those,” [CEO John] Ridding explains. “People do behave in predictable ways.”

“… the FT was able to recognize the kinds of patterns readers display before purchasing subscriptions.”

That, right there, is how you put data to use.

The full article is worth a read.