All posts for the month July, 2010

Interesting analysis from John Udell of Excel and Google Spreadsheets from a web publishing perspective.

Still hard to beat the spreadsheet for human readable organization of data (*), but the flexibility of format and use makes automation problematic. (*) And not just presenting and organizing data, also as a mark-up and mapping UI, adding adjacent columns is so natural. I’ve been heard to voice the idea (based on no evidence) that the Egyptians probably used the approach on slates of tabula when building the pyramids.

Unlearning (or relearning) communication habits through the experience of social media is the topic of this brief observation from Euan Semple. (I happen to agree – I believe that is a major effect of the overload of communications we all seem to participate in these days – basic social rules are really tied to the pace of evolution of human nature, not the technology cycle – the good news is that if we’re alert, the speed of light participation can help us find the rules very quickly.)

” … wearing a tie and talking funny. Spouting stuff about “process” and “strategy” and “empowerment”. Thankfully I grabbed hold of myself, pulled myself back from that slippery slope and ditched the tie.”

I happen to believe in process and strategy (and governance) …. the real challenge is to rescue them from buzzword devaluation by the funny tie brigade. (See this earlier Dilbert link.)

I’ve blogged a few comments recently about non-freedom of information in the communication (verb) sense of information … in the public domain in connection with government, economy, science, business, etc. Not all information should be publicly communicated just because it can be. A moral issue affecting the quality of decision-making that affects us all.

Here is a piece in The Atlantic on the freedom of information … in the free-of-cost sense. Also a moral issue. A reaction to naive internet ideology that “Information wants to be free” and “attempts to constrain it are immoral”, because information also really needs to be expensive … ie valued, if it is to have any real quality. Will comment further. Thanks to Johan for the link on Facebook.

It is mostly about Apple vs Google vs Murdoch media pricing and licensing, but the moral ideology is central

“the core gospel of an open Web was upheld with such rigor that when one of its more prolific members, Time magazine’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt, published a scare-the-old-folks cover story in 1995, which carried the implication that some measure of online censorship might not be a bad thing, he and his apostasy were torn to pieces with breathtaking relentlessness. At the time, the episode was notable for being one of the first examples of the Web’s ability to fact-check, and keep in check, the mainstream media—it turned out that the study on whichTime’s exclusive report was based was inaccurate, and its results were wildly overstated. In retrospect, what seems notable is the fervor with which digital correctness—the idea that the unencumbered flow of everything must be defended—was being enforced.”

[Post Note – spooky that this article should turn up today too – The Internet Kill Switch.]

Interesting set of links spinning out of a Ben Goldacre piece on “judging quality” in scientific “evidence”.

Cialdini’s “Influence”.
Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
Ben’s piece with
My original comment, plus comments by
JDC at Stuff & Nonesense, and
Keith Douglas the philosopher-animal.

The cognitive “short-cuts” people use – heuristics – to make complex decisions pragmatically, and importantly use to justify and persuade others of decisions. Wise practitioners know they are using them and why they need to use them – memetic arms race again. Judgement is embedded in the choice of logic, not in the logic itself, and one can be seen to be using logic, being scientific, without apparently being judgemental. It’s a necessary (?) game of rhetoric in science.

Disguises, outwardly denies, the place of judgement in science, whilst actually sneaking it in under the radar. Use with caution, hence wisdom.

Another to add to the collection: Spherical-Scalar-Wave-based Matter. So simple – action at a distance explained, no multiverses to hide in.
Milo Wolff and
Geoff Haselhurst
(Thanks to Adrie over on MD)

[Post Note : Got an interesting cross-hit on Hillary Lawson’s “Closure” that reminded me of the “aetherial” monism inherent in this kind of physics is exactly the post-modern metaphysics about which Geoff seems to have such strong negative opinions …. this is an integrative solution surely ?]

As a footie fan I have to say that was a great World Cup Final. Webb had a great game. 9/10 says Graham Poll too. Both teams got what they deserved. Only one reff’ing mistake – the free-kick massively deflected off the wall but given as a goal-kick. Plenty of judicious application of the rules – great efforts to preserve the game, avoiding sending-off half the Dutch. Suspect he must have missed the de-Jong foot in Alonzo’s chest – I did from that viewpoint at normal speed.

The Spanish showed how despite the Dutch tactics they could really play the game; control, turns and passing. Don’t believe those tactics were as callously pre-meditated as some pundits suggest, just their natural abilities leading to their natural style, faced with a better team. “Top class” football is generally pretty dull, professional celebrities going through the motions, but this was anything but. A great showcase for the game. Well done Spain, South Africa and Howard Webb. Firm control, whilst “having a ball”.

Talking of professional celebrities, kudos to pundit Alan Hansen, who told it straight. The whole of football needed Spain to win that game.

(Only criticism of the Spanish team …. their tendency to demand cards, and other unsporting remonstrations …. so unnecessary with a good ref. Still even with these non-play tactics, their actual play was always excellent – they can tell the difference between playing-the-game and gamesmanship, and fortunately don’t see one as a substitute for the other.)

[Post Note : Glad to see I’m not alone in my opinion of Webb’s game.]

[Post Note : Howard Webb reflects on a great final performance.]

I was digging up the Hunter S Thompson quote on living life to the full …. you know the one … “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

When I came across this one close to my heart:

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
— Hunter S. Thompson

From the Slate, a piece by Kathryn Shulz interviewing ex-astronaut James Bagian on relative risks and relative attention to risks in bleeding edge exploration and business-as-usual.

[Post Note :  I have since read the complete article and it is really very good, on the human psychology side of “error” and risk, and between error and harm, proximate individual causes and fixable systemic causes, etc. One side connection – Bagian mentions the little appreciated fact that the Challenger crew hearts were still beating when their cockpit escape module hit the ocean – reminded me of a comment I made recently on the F111 Wikipedia page, where the crew escape module was mis-captioned – since corrected on the main page.]

[And whilst we’re here : That Kathryn Shulz post is just one of a series of blogged interviews on the subject of “wrongology”.]