Monthly Archives: December 2010

Minimalism is not a viable intellectual strategy

The typical creative professional is not a minimalist. They also immerse themselves unapologetically into the messy organic diversity of this world, into things both digital and analog. It is from this chaotic mess that new ideas emerge.

This is a simple consequence of network math. Ideas are combinations and variations of other ideas. The more ideas you ingest, the more you are likely to produce.

A critique of minimalist lifestyle based on selective, anecdotal evidence.

Doing My Dailies: Why I Quit WoW And Started Working Out

She was perfectly nice, and an excellent cook. But it was hard not to notice certain things – no matter how bad I felt for noticing them. It was hard not to notice she lived in a crappy apartment in a crappy neighborhood. It was hard not to notice she was fat. It was hard not to notice that despite her dreams of going back to school and becoming a paramedic, she just worked part-time at a local pizza joint.

She marveled at one point that she’d been playing WoW for four and a half years, ever since the beta. And she’d spent a good chunk of that leading a substantial, successful guild – itself nearly a full-time job.

The post is about quitting World of Warcraft, but it sounds like it’s about a heroin.

Cambridge university refuses to censor student’s thesis on chip-and-PIN vulnerabilities

Second, you seem to think that we might censor a student’s thesis, which is lawful and already in the public domain, simply because a powerful interest finds it inconvenient. This shows a deep misconception of what universities are and how we work. Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton, and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values.

Despite the pressure from banks Cambridge refused to censor its student thesis. Well, it’s heartening.

Is Quora The Biggest Blogging Innovation In 10 Years?

So, what is the innovation here?

First, it learned from Twitter. Ask your users a question and they’ll answer it.

Second, they learned from Facebook. Build a news feed that brings new items to you.

Third, they learned from the best social networks. You follow people you like. But then they twisted it. You can follow topics.

Quora is a big new recently. Scoble explains why.

RIM thought iPhone was impossible in 2007

The iPhone “couldn’t do what [Apple was] demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life,” Shacknews poster Kentor heard from his former colleagues of the time. “Imagine their surprise [at RIM] when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it.”

Interesting peek into an arrogant attitude of big mobile manufacturers when they faced the iPhone few years ago.

Asian Development Bank Meets the Smiley Curve

The Journal illustrated the pattern this way, through costing out the components of an iPhone. Using current counting techniques, in which the phone’s entire value is assumed to be “Chinese,” on its own it accounts for nearly $2 billion of the Chinese surplus with the U.S. But if it is allocated to its real sources, most of the surplus is from Japan (famous for its “failed” economy), and second-most from Germany. The US-China direct exchange is actually a small surplus for the US.

Interesting information on how export deficit is calculated and why it can be so easily misleading.

You don’t really want a million dollars

The sadness of this answer is profound; too many people have come to believe that it will cost them millions to really live the life they want. How many people do you know who wish they had a million dollars? Probably more than you think. But the sad part is that most people don’t even want a million dollars; they want the things they think a million dollars can buy.

For those who still believe that what they really need in life is a pile of money.

How to Write about Africa

Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.
more on granta.com

Very practical guide to writing about Africa. Should work as well for writing about most “exotic” and developing areas.

Students, Don’t Do As I Have Done

Working late nights and weekends made me an unpleasant person. I spent years like that, and in retrospect it held me back more than it propelled me forward. That is, whatever success I have today, I feel like I have it in spite of the unhealthily skewed perspective on the importance of work that I held so tightly. I’d have gotten much further — not just personally but professionally — if I’d taken a bit more time out of the office.

Khoi Vinh shares his view on prolonged overtime work. In short: I’ve done it, but you’ll do better by not taking me as an example. Interestingly, it’s in a direct opposition to recent advice from Michael Bierut. Conclusion: you have to figure it yourself (amazing, isn’t it?).

Open ID Is A Nightmare

People would login successfully once, pay for a subscription, then login later and the sub would be gone. Turns out that Yahoo and Google have a different idea about what Open ID is supposed to do – because the the Identifier used for these users would change based on… some voodoo (sorry, but that’s all I can deduce).

All of a sudden Google (by far our most popular provider) would change the token (the encrypted value on the end of the Open ID) and boom – you’re completely lost to us. We have no other way of knowing who you are – and more than once I’ve had to track people by their PayPal accounts (we track the transaction ids – which we can look up through PayPal to find out who you are).

Open ID was taunted to be a solution to the web authentication hassle. It turned out to introduce its own problems, however, as this story shows.