Friday Four

Friday, February 17, 2012

1.  Although I'd heard of a few of his books, author Malcolm Gladwell had himself mysteriously escaped my notice until I bumped into the article I blogged Wednesday. That article was a long read, but his TED video on spaghetti sauce, clocking in at just over a quarter hour, gives an accurate impression of both the kind of material he covers and the enjoyable way he presents it.

2. There is nothing quite like welcoming a baby into your home to make one completely rethink organization and time management... Along those lines, I recently closed out part of an ancient  to-do list that had mentioned possibly linking from here to a photo essay on "The Ruins of Detroit" that someone had recommended on HBL. From its intro:

For the first time of history, affluence was within the reach of the mass of people. Monumental skyscapers and fancy neighborhoods put the city's wealth on display. Detroit became the dazzling beacon of the American Dream. Thousands of migrants came to find a job. By the 50's, its population rose to almost 2 million people. Detroit became the 4th largest city in the United States.
The state of dilapidation of the buildings displayed at the site is a shame, but it is still possible to appreciate how grand many of them were, in their time.

3. The folks at fetchnotes recently discovered the unintended consequences of swearing at their users. They also drew several interesting lessons from their email fiasco.
But we noticed something weird in the responses. Out of 500+ emails, tweets, Olark chats, Facebook comments, etc., 95% of them weren't negative. Sure, we had some people that were offended (to whom we apologized profusely, just as we did to everyone else), but these were pretty typical (and allowed us to use their name)...
As with all things, the context of the swearing -- the fact that it was clearly in jest, to begin with -- makes all the difference.

4. Fellow Linux users might enjoy this account of the "bin, sbin, usr/bin, usr/sbin split". Ancient hardware constraints and inertia appear to have shaped the operating system more than many fans would care to admit.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

I like that Gladwell spaghetti sauce TED talk and have recommended it as well. His explanation of the Aeron chair's dismissal by focus groups and eventual success anyway is my favorite Gladwell anecdote: "Now think about the Aeron chair. [The focus group participants] say they don’t like the chair, of course they don’t. The chair is nothing they’ve ever seen before, but that was the whole plan in designing the chair. But that’s what’s wonderful about it, that’s why this chair will make billions of dollars for Herman Miller, but it’s also what dooms that chair in the focus group, because people don’t have the language."

Gus Van Horn said...

Gladwell points to the interesting (yet also frustrating) problem any inventor confronts. (Many inventions even get ridicule.) I'll have to look that anecdote up some time.