Friday Four

Friday, November 22, 2013

1. Here's a new word for you:

phytonugget -- n. A small filament of gold that collects in the leaf of a tree that grows over a gold deposit.
Following links will take you to the story that explains where the word came from, as well as indicating why cheap helium balloons look soon to be  a thing of the past.

2. My daughter decided to sit in the barber chair "all by myself" for the first time yesterday during her bang trim. As I paid, she then amused herself by giggling and chasing a young boy that another couple had brought with them. One of the nice things about raising young children is that they often do such a great job of entertaining themselves.

That would have been the highlight of an otherwise drab day: I had a cold, as did both kids, and it rained the whole time. I was also feeling a little bad for Pumpkin due to the fact that the baby had needed much more attention than usual all day. But the best of the day came last for me: As we were coming inside from picking Mrs. Van Horn up from work, I was telling her what a good girl Pumpkin had been all day. I was carrying her to the door, and after I said that, she reacted by saying, "You're my friend," and giving me a nice hug.

3. Is there a journalistic analogue to the "Uncanny Valley" when it comes to predicting whether something will "go viral" on the Internet? Annalee Newitz of io9 thinks so, and she calls it the "valley of ambiguity":
More than anything, the fear of a smeared reputation is what creates that dip in virality. Sharing a story means that in some sense we stake our reputation on it. That's why sharing a story is not the same thing as enjoying a story, reading a story, or even learning from a story.

I know for certain that there are plenty of stories that get read, but not shared. I have seen the statistics on io9's back end. But when we measure a story's success by virality, which is what we must do in the age of social media, the content of our popular culture changes. We measure success by what people aren't afraid to share with their neighbors, rather than what people will read on their own. [bold added]
I am not sure I agree that we must measure the success of a story by "viralty" (or at least that that should be the main or only criterion of success, if that's what Newitz means), but I think her analysis is worthwhile. It certainly seems to explain some things I have seen become popular even as I have wondered, "How can anyone buy that?"

4. A young science blogger comments on a photograph of a sunset on Mars:
Take a moment to realize that this is the result of a robotic motor vehicle travelling millions of kilometres of space, successfully landing on the surface of another planet and communicating with Earth from there. [link in original]
Our age of powerful, hand-held computers and seemingly routine robotic space exploration is something of a victim of its own success: We do need to remind ourselves from time to time of how truly amazig it all is.

-- CAV

No comments: