I don't have one of those. Sorry.
But, hey, it's Labor Day weekend, and so a post of silly or unusual links, and open-threadedness for all!
This first one you just have to trust me on: A Periodic Table Of Visualization Methods. This sounds incredibly dull, but is immensely cool. Check out the interactivity that a screen shot could barely hint at.
Don't like that one? Use The Periodic Table Of Swearing. (Should not be viewed by anyone offended by naughty words. Really.)(UPDATE: link fixed. Originally from Modern Toss.)
How about an actually useful Table Of Condiments and their spoilage?
Want your own Homebrew Cray-1A supercomputer?
What is this bad boy running? The original machine ran at a blistering 80 MHz, and could use from 256-4096 kilowords (32 megabytes!) of memory. It has 12 independent, fully-pipelined execution units, and with the help of clever programming, can peak at 3 floating-point operations per cycle.
From 1976-82, the fastest computer in the world.
Font design matters a great deal more than many people think.
As Cavs owner Dan Gilbert can attest, using Comic Sans leads to people not taking you seriously. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have discovered that the loopy font also helps to get people to let down their privacy guard online.
To encourage students to loosen up and be more forthcoming about their substance abuse, sexual activity, and illegal acts, all the researchers had to do was replace the Carnegie Mellon University seal with a cartoon devil and use a Comic Sans font…
By changing the title of the page from “Carnegie Mellon University Executive Council Survey on Ethical Behaviors” to “How BAD Are U???”, adding some stock art and using Comic Sans as the font, the researchers got much more candid answers:
But when the Web site was colorful and blurry, and the survey was introduced by a red devil’s head and the words “How BAD Are U???”, the students were far more likely to say they had taken part in nefarious activities. The students, however, conceded that the unprofessional Web site seemed to be a far less safe place to give revelatory information.
Apparently, because the “How BAD Are You?” site was goofy, the college students assumed that the people behind it were equally goofy and would not abuse the data (or look askance at it the same way that university researchers would).
Design always matters. It can even make us talk to our computers.
[...] To have Clippy learn about his users would have required advanced artificial intelligence technology, along with a great deal of design and development time. An alternate approach is to use a social strategy. The simplest and most effective way for dislikable people to become more accepted is for them to find a scapegoat.
In an experiment, we revised Clippy so that when he made a suggestion or answered a question, he would ask, "Was that helpful?" and then present buttons for "yes" and "no." If the user clicked "no," Clippy would say, "That gets me really angry! Let's tell Microsoft how bad their help system is." He would then pop up an email to be sent to "Manager, Microsoft Support," with the subject, "Your help system needs work!" After giving the user a couple of minutes to type a complaint, Clippy would say, "C'mon! You can be tougher than that. Let 'em have it!"
The system was showed to 25 computer users, and the results were unanimous: People fell in love with the new Clippy. A long-term business user of Microsoft Office exclaimed, "Clippy is awesome!" An avowed "Clippy hater" said, "He's so supportive!"
Without any fundamental change in the software, the right social strategy rescued Clippy from the list of Most Hated Software of all time; creating a scapegoat bonded Clippy and the user against a common enemy.
Since this is not a political post, I naturally make no comment about contemporary political scapegoating.
From the same article, though, observations on how to comment on blogs:
[...] During one demonstration, the participant exceeded the speed limit and made a turn a little too sharply. "You are not driving very well," the car said. "Please be more careful."
The driver was not delighted to hear this valuable information from an impartial source; instead, he became somewhat annoyed. He started to over-steer, making rapid, small adjustments to the wheel; the system reported an increase in driving speed and a decrease in driving distance from the next car. "You are driving quite poorly now," the car announced. "It is important that you drive better."
Was the driver now appropriately chastened? No. His face contorted in anger as he started driving even faster, darting from lane to lane without signaling. He swerved back and forth from one side of the lane to the other at a frightening pace, tailgating the cars in front of him. This spiral of negative evaluation, anger, worse driving and more negative evaluation escalated until, in a rage, he smashed into another car in the simulation.
Trying to cheer up unhappy drivers by giving a car an enthusiastic voice, on the theory that "misery loves company," doesn't work either. It turns out that the correct saying is "misery loves miserable company." When you're angry, there are few things worse than having someone bounce in and say, "Let's turn that frown upside down!" A much better strategy is to sound negative and subdued, thereby being sympathetic while reducing the driver's arousal.
Sorry, did I write "blogs"? This advice on feedback from cars couldn't possibly apply to how we might choose to give feedback in blog comments!
Clifford Nass's conclusion includes this:
We now see software that is superior to all but the most suave people with respect to effective praising and criticizing [....]
I find this plausible.
I also find it plausible that the following works for blogging, as well as in academia: An analysis of over 50,000 Science papers suggests that it could pay to include more references.
Refer, and be referred back to.
You could even make a game out of it in social media.
I could have told you that when I was 12, doing science fiction fanzines. Speaking of which, here are your Hugo Awards, freshly baked.
And if you like science fiction remotely, you may wish to read William H. Patterson's Robert A. Heinlein In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve, which explores not just Heinlein, but his effect on our world, with immense biographical detail. A review. Michael Dirda. John Clute.
I should disclose that Bill and I have been good friends since 1978, and I read several thousands of pages of earlier draft of this book, giving Bill hundreds of notes on it, in 2006-7, so I am not without -- what's the word? -- bias.
But I guarantee you that no matter how much you think you know about Robert Heinlein, you'll find much to surprise, if not astonish, you in this terrific biography. And, no, if you hate him, don't read it.
Happy Labor Day, if you're an American.
And if you fear at any time an al Qaeda or Iranian nuclear attack, find a bank vault. Because at the very least, you can get good, tasteful, advertising out of it.By Gary Farber, guest-blogging for Eric Martin.