Monthly Archives: October 2012

Beware the Alan Turing fetish

Sure, Turing was damned important (I wouldn’t have campaigned for recognition if I didn’t think so), and his contributions to computer science, AI, code-breaking and morphogenesis were massive. But to think his death is somehow why Silicon Valley isn’t in Britain is a mistake.
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It’s good to know that there are more places than Poland and Berlin afflicted with the Silicon Valley complex.

How I automated the boring parts of life

Self-discipline and Willpower. Two words that aren’t the solution. You only have a fixed amount of self-discipline and after it’s been used up, you need to wait for it to recharge. If you “fix” a personality defect by brute-forcing with self-discipline, you’ll be back in the same boat a week later.

I broke the cycle of procrastination and willpower exhaustion by automating the things I was putting off. Yup, I threw money at the problem, and it was cheaper than you think.

The article planted a seed my head.

Pandora: Pandora and Artist Payments

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For over two thousand artists Pandora will pay over $10,000 dollars each over the next 12 months (including one of my favorites, the late jazz pianist Oscar Peterson), and for more than 800 we’ll pay over $50,000, more than the income of the average American household. For top earners like Coldplay, Adele, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Aldean and others Pandora is already paying over $1 million each. Drake and Lil Wayne are fast approaching a $3 million annual rate each.

Meanwhile on Spotify Lady Gaga earned a dozen hundreds dollars.

How a Google Headhunter’s E-Mail Unraveled a Massive Net Security Hole

Harris wasn’t interested in the job at Google, but he decided to crack the key and send an e-mail to Google founders Brin and Page, as each other, just to show them that he was onto their game.
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A mathematician exploits a major and apparently widely spread vulnerability, allowing him to send emails from domain. The whole situation illustrates clearly that we’re still in an innocent age of non locked doors when it comes to computer security.

Death to the Reading Class.

We don’t find reading terribly pleasant, but we do find watching and listening generally enjoyable. If you doubt that people strongly prefer watching and listening over reading, consider this: for the past half century books and television have been competing for people’s attention. We all had (and have) a choice: read a book or watch/listen to the tube. The results of this “natural experiment” are in: people would much rather watch/listen than read. This is why Americans sit in front of the television for three hours a day, while they read for only a tiny fraction of that time.

The article that apparently offends avid readers, but to me it just honestly presents the truth. It also makes it very clear that we haven’t scratched the surface of what’s possible with new media when it comes to teaching.

How Long Will Programmers Be So Well-Paid?

My theory that if it’s sheer economics, the lure of a better paycheck, that initially draws you into software engineering, then you’re much less likely to master it. Instead you’ll advance to the point at which you’re reasonably happy with your paycheck, which studies indicate is about $70,000/year in America. (But much less in Chiang Mai or Bangalore.) So my theory is that there are many more software engineers out there — but the ones drawn in by economic forces are content to compete with each other for mediocre (but happy-making) jobs, rather than put in the thousands of hours of mentally gruelling work required to become really good at what they do.

The article starts with an Interesting question it doesn’t really answer. On one hand it’s a remainder how lucky programmers are compared to the rest of the world. On the other, it implies that the flood of cheap and VERY good programmers is still very unlikely, given the enormous amount of time required to reach the above-the-average levels.

Nokia’s price for exclusivity

The public execution of Symbian (and any other alternative being developed inside Nokia) will probably be a classic case study in disruption management. To wit: even if a platform needs to be led out to pasture, there are ways of managing decline other than suicide. Nokia’s failure is not so much having chosen the wrong alternative to Symbian, but having chosen exclusively.
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Another installment of Nokia disaster story.

Hollywood Accounting: How A $19 Million Movie Makes $150 Million… And Still Isn’t Profitable

A studio funds A Movie with a production budget of $100 million. It sets up AMovieCo Inc. and gives it the production budget money. The studio then spends another $50 million on marketing and puts that down as an expense as well — though, with some of the big studios, some of this money involves paying itself for advertising on its own properties. Still, even if we assume that’s real money spent, you might think that AMovieCo now needs to make back $150 million to be profitable. But… the studio (which, again, controls AMovieCo completely) then tacks onto all of that, say, a $250 million “distribution fee.” Now, while there may be some money spent on actually distributing the film, the number is almost completely bogus, and much higher than the actual expense for the studio. Very little actual money needs to change hands here — it’s just a fee on the books (a fee they are effectively charging to themselves). And it’s not just “distribution” but a variety of additional charges. On top of that, the studio may then charge “interest” on that money, even though it’s really just lending money to itself. What it all means is that rather than becoming profitable at ~$150 million (the actual money spent), AMovieCo now needs to earn over $400 million before anyone with a cut of the profits sees an additional dime from the movie, thanks to completely imaginary accounting entries on the books.
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Interesting story of how Hollywood studios make sure that they’re the only ones making real money from movies, at the expense of other stakeholders, like directors.

Economics Says The Revenge of the Nerds Is a Lie

“We estimate that moving from the 20th to 80th percentile of the high-school popularity distribution yields a 10 percent wage premium nearly 40 years later,” reads the abstract to the work of Gabriela Conti (University of Chicago), Gerrit Mueller (Institute of Employment Research), Andrea Gaeotti (University of Essex) and Stephen Pudney (University of Essex). Simply put, being popular pays dividends.

Scientists discover shocking fact: people with social skills benefit from them.