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November 26, 2013

Technology industry shamed for one technologist's field report

A start-up founder named Peter Shih, listed 10 things he hated about San Francisco. Homeless people, for example. And the "constantly PMSing" weather. And "girls who are obviously 4s and behave like they're 9s."

November 21, 2013

Do my friends make me look fat ?

Stigmatizing female promiscuity -- a.k.a. slut-shaming -- has often been blamed on men, who have a Darwinian incentive to discourage their spouses from straying. But they also have a Darwinian incentive to encourage other women to be promiscuous. Dr. Vaillancourt said the experiment and other research suggest the stigma is enforced mainly by women.

"Sex is coveted by men," she said. "Accordingly, women limit access as a way of maintaining advantage in the negotiation of this resource. Women who make sex too readily available compromise the power-holding position of the group, which is why many women are particularly intolerant of women who are, or seem to be, promiscuous."

Indirect aggression can take a psychological toll on women who are ostracized or feel pressured to meet impossible standards, like the vogue of thin bodies in many modern societies. Studies have shown that women's ideal body shape is to be thinner than average -- and thinner than what men consider the ideal shape to be. This pressure is frequently blamed on the ultrathin female role models featured in magazines and on television, but Christopher J. Ferguson and other researchers say that it's mainly the result of competition with their peers, not media images.

"To a large degree the media reflects trends that are going on in society, not creates them," said Dr. Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University. He found that women's dissatisfaction with their bodies did not correlate with what they watched on television at home. Nor were they influenced by TV programs shown in laboratory experiments: Watching the svelte actresses on "Scrubs" induced no more feelings of inferiority than watching the not-so-svelte star of "Roseanne."

But he found that women were more likely to feel worse when they compared themselves with peers in their own social circles, or even if they were in a room with a thin stranger, like the assistant to Dr. Ferguson who ran an experiment with female college students. When she wore makeup and sleek business attire, the students were less satisfied with their own bodies than when she wore baggy sweats and no makeup. And they felt still worse when there was an attractive man in the room with her.

"Sexual competition among females seems to increase due to circumstances that tend to be particularly common in affluent societies," Dr. Ferguson said.

In traditional villages, people married at an early age to someone nearby, but young men and women in modern societies are free to postpone marriage as they search long and far for better options. The result is more competition because there are so many more rivals -- and there's no longer any scientific doubt that both sexes are in to win it.

November 15, 2013

Arts ok to have opinions, but not science or government ?

One concern about any NPR reporter appearing in another news outlet is whether she or he is put in a potentially compromising position. As NPR's ethics handbook says:

...[W]e refrain from appearing on television discussion shows where the format is designed to produce heated, highly political debates. We go on TV to talk about our reporting and the news of the day, not to offer opinions (with the obvious exceptions of our music, arts and books critics -- and, if any are hired, news commentators). If asked to offer opinions when on the air, we rely on our reporting and offer context -- citing, for example, what public opinion polls signal about how an issue is playing rather than our personal opinions.

November 13, 2013

Tenacity is not the same as persistence -- Seth Godin

Tenacity is not the same as persistence
Persistence is doing something again and again until it works. It sounds like 'pestering' for a reason.

Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn't work.

Telemarketers are persistent, Nike is tenacious.

Seth Godin.

November 11, 2013

Teaching is a value-added activity

Standardize tests suck at measuring the value of a teacher. "Test scores largely reflect whom a teacher teaches, not how well they teach," notes Stanford Professor Education, Linda Darling-Hammond. "In particular, teachers show lower gains when they have large numbers of new English-learners and students with disabilities than when they teach other students."

The LA Times: "Research has repeatedly found that teachers are the single most important school-related factor in a child's education."

False. Parenting, motivation, and IQ are at least as important, if not vastly more important, to the success of a student than a teacher. Teachers can bring out the best in a student, but a child from a broken home and with an abuse parent just isn't going to do as well.

See also: The ballad of Pascale Mauclair, New York City's worst public school teacher.

One way of evaluating teachers, currently the subject of intense interest and research, are value-added approaches, which typically compare a student's scores going into a grade with his or her scores coming out of it, in order to assess how much "value" a year with a particular teacher added to the student's educational experience. The report expresses concern that the department's proposed regulations place excessive emphasis on value-added approaches. Too little research has been done on these methods' validity to base high-stakes decisions about teachers on them. A student's scores may be affected by many factors other than a teacher -- his or her motivation, for example, or the amount of parental support -- and value-added techniques have not yet found a good way to account for these other elements.

The report also cautions against using the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal assessment that helps measure overall U.S. progress in education, to evaluate programs funded by the Race to the Top initiative. NAEP surveys the knowledge of students across the nation in three grades with respect to a broad range of content and skills and is not aligned with the curriculum of any particular state. Although effective at monitoring broad trends, it is not designed to detect the specific effects of targeted interventions like those to be funded by Race to the Top.

More: NAP.

WIX cohort analysis

The $1 million it dropped on marketing in Q1 2010 has already generated over $11 million in realized and deferred revenue from that cohort:


November 9, 2013

r a day #1: ls() lists datasets in the workspace

Q #1. What data do I already have in my r workspace ?

A #1.


r - r in a day.

November 8, 2013

Toronto the good

Toronto is the city of Rob Ford now, an expanding hot mess, fueled by dark secrets, inarticulate desires and inchoate fury. Overcoming nearly 200 years of sensible decisions and ingrained humility, Toronto is starting to get interesting. It has become a city making a spectacle of itself.

-- Stephen Marche is a novelist and a contributing editor for Esquire.

November 6, 2013

Merging and aggregating quantified self data

The first step is to collect the data in one app, so that the weight you're measuring on the Withings connected scale and the stats on the 30-mile bike ride you tracked using MapMyRide, as well as your blood pressure, all appear in the same app and on the same interface.

Which app or website that should be is still up for grabs. A diverse group of fitness and vital-signs device makers, as well as app developers, are trying to figure it out. And the aggregation of monitoring data has turned into a spider's web of possibilities, with the functions captured on one app or hardware device able to be viewed on scores of others.

So now not only can you track Withings' weight data on Fitbit's app, but you can track Fitbit's activity data on Withings' app.

The MyFitnessPal weight-loss app shares information with Fitbit, Runtastic, BodyMedia, Jawbone and the Withings scale, among others. Fitbit shares its information with over 30 partners, including Lose It!, MapMyRun, and SleepDebt, as well as Withings and MyFitnessPal. Visit the site of your favorite fitness and health device or application, and you'll find similar partnerships.

Brian Dolan, editor of MobiHealthNews, an online publication, said the way for fitness data aggregators to differentiate themselves "is to win on the software's user experience."

¶ He explained, "I may just like the look and feel of one particular user interface."

¶ But bringing in fitness data to one location to make it easily accessible is just the beginning. Once the data is available, the next step would be to make connections between, for example, your sleep history and what you ate the night before. Then, if processing is sophisticated enough, the app would analyze the connections and make suggestions for improving your life, or even predict the possibility of a coming disease.

¶ The technology for such analysis is not quite there yet, except for some fledgling efforts. Several additional services, though, say they hope to be able to offer that kind of analysis in the coming months.

¶ "It's very important to do analytics," said Cédric Hutchings, chief executive of Withings. "We are developing services that will understand the data and provide coaching advice and services."

¶ If you want to get started using an aggregator, a few that get high marks from the fitness industry are CarePass, RunKeeper, Argus and Tictrac.

¶CarePass, developed by the health insurer Aetna, is free. It enables users to connect with more than 20 fitness data providers, including Fitbit, FitSync, iTriage, RunKeeper and Withings. Users set goals, and Aetna offers some templates, like "Fit into my favorite jeans" or "Kickstart my weight loss."

November 5, 2013


Earlier that morning at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Chade-Meng Tan, a veteran engineer, was laughing about the demand for an in-house course he created called "Search Inside Yourself." The seven-week class teaches mindfulness, a loose term that covers an array of attention-training practices. It may mean spending 10 minutes with eyes closed on a gold-threaded pillow every morning or truly listening to your mother-in-law for once. Google naturally sees it as another utility widget for staying ahead. "Whenever we put the class online, it sells out in 30 seconds," Mr. Tan said.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist leader who introduced mindfulness to Westerners (Google got first dibs on him as a guest speaker), once said, "The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention." Yet for the majority of sentient beings today, simply getting through an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" without tending multiple screens is a quasi-mystical triumph. Naturally, the architects of our electronic age approach the situation as if it were an engineering problem.

At the Wisdom meet-up in September at the Hub, a smiley young man with a nametag that read "Walter Inward" was showing off a new smoking-cessation app he had created for the iPhone. On one wrist, he wore a Buddhist mala bead bracelet; on the other, a high-tech Basis band that uses skin conductivity to record heart rate, sleep and steps.

He turned out to be Walter Roth, 30, chief executive of a tech start-up called Inward Inc. Mr. Roth said he had attended every Wisdom 2.0 event since 2009. Mindfulness has made him more competitive, he said. "Not only do I put fewer things on my to-list but I actually get them done and done well. It's like I've learned that to be more successful and accomplish more, I must first slow down."

The paradox of profit-minded techies engaging in the realm of nonattachment is not lost on those shepherding these wired flocks. Marc Lesser wore the black robes of a Buddhist priest as director of the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near Big Sur in the 1980s. "I literally didn't know what to do with the $60 monthly stipend I used to get," he said. Today, as an M.B.A. and chief executive of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, he is comfortable integrating money with mindfulness. "All business is about helping people in some way and you can't do that without focusing on success," he said. "The hope is that turning a profit can be done more wisely and compassionately."

Collaborating with neuroscience and psychology researchers at Stanford, Berkeley and Yale, Mr. Bejar made significant changes to the ways communication happens on Facebook. This year, the company introduced emoticons to capture a broader range of human feelings, along with a gentler formula for settling tension between users. Previously, someone tagged in an unfortunate Facebook photo could flag the image as offensive and hope the other person would remove it. Now, a form pops up with options like, "It's embarrassing," "It's inappropriate" and "It makes me sad," along with a polite request to take the photo down.

November 4, 2013

Give it away, Give it away, Give it away, Give it away now

So I'm writing this not only in the hope that everyone will cross me off the list of writers to hit up for free content but, more important, to make a plea to my younger colleagues. As an older, more accomplished, equally unsuccessful artist, I beseech you, don't give it away. As a matter of principle. Do it for your colleagues, your fellow artists, because if we all consistently say no they might, eventually, take the hint. It shouldn't be professionally or socially acceptable -- it isn't right -- for people to tell us, over and over, that our vocation is worthless.

Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:

Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I'm flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it's how I make my living, and in this economy I can't afford to do it for free. I'm sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.

Feel free to amend as necessary. This I'm willing to give away.

Tim Kreider is the author.

Next: Gary Vaynerchuk's Jab jab jab jab, right hook.

November 3, 2013

Portfolioprobe's investment performance measurement vs calculation

Measurement as a call to action.

I said "measurement". My dialogist heard "calculation" but wanted "measurement". We went dizzy in the chase.

A calculation is what computers do.

A measurement is an assessment. It is a comparison with an ulterior motive.

I'm not going to weigh myself unless there is the possibility of a change in behavior. If there is no value of my weight that is going to affect the way that I act, then weighing is pointless -- the scale does the calculation but there is not actually a measurement.

Look at these on 4 schemes:

a performance statistic relative to a benchmark
a peer group
a performance statistic relative to no trading
random portfolios


November 2, 2013

Help ! Video

With live, one-on-one video, a yoga teacher could instruct a student to hold her arm at a different angle or a lactation consultant could suggest that a mother position her infant in a different way.

Yet for the kind of questions the search engine can't answer, Google already has an alternative: YouTube, where how-to videos, like tying a bow tie or installing a car seat, are one of the most popular types for viewers and advertisers.

Live Helpouts videos are different, Mr. Manber said, because the expert can see exactly what a person is doing wrong, and the user can ask questions.

Other companies, like Quora, try to connect people with experts to answer questions, and some use video, like Joyus for shopping, American Well for health care and Wello for fitness training.

Helpouts is also part of a trend in tech to bridge offline and online commerce, including Square for payments, TaskRabbit for hiring people and Airbnb for renting homes.

If Helpouts succeeds, Google hopes it will provide experts with a source of income, so retired doctors or guitar players could teach people online. Experts charge a fixed rate or by the minute (a Helpouts session from Kitchit on making Thanksgiving stuffing costs $20). They keep 80 percent and Google takes 20 percent.

Helpouts is an obvious venue for marketers (Sephora is offering free one-on-one make-up tutorials, for instance) and Bridget Dolan, Sephora's vice president for digital marketing, said she could imagine eventually selling products from a Helpouts session.

November 1, 2013

David Ogilvy: How to Write

Original "Mad Man" David Ogilvy. On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all agency employees, titled "How to Write" and found in the 1986 gem The Unpublished David Ogilvy (book):

People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally.

5. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

6. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

7. Check your quotations.

8. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning -- and then edit it.

9. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

10. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

If you want ACTION, don't write. Go and tell the guy what you want.