January 2008 Archives

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Amazon reviewers and Web 2.0

I had imagined Amazon's customer reviews as a refuge from the machinations of the publishing industry: "an intelligent and articulate conversation ... conducted by a group of disinterested, disembodied spirits," as James Marcus, a former editor at the company, wrote in his memoir, Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut.

Given Amazon's lack of greater transparency, it's hard to judge the merits of the vote-swapping claims. What is clear is the corruptibility of democracy, Web 2.0-style.
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This is not to say that a Top 10 ranking doesn't come with some sub rosa incentives for the reviewer. Free books, first and foremost; in an e-mail, Grady Harp told me he was "inundated with books from new writers and from publishers who know I love to read first works." This fall, when it invited select Top Reviewers to join its Vine program--an initiative, still in beta-testing, to generate content about new and prerelease products--Amazon extended the range of perks. "Vine Voices" like Mitchell and Harp can elect to receive items ranging from electronics to appliances to laundry soap. As long as they keep reviewing the products, Amazon's suppliers will keep sending them.

"Who Is Grady Harp? Amazon's Top Reviewers and the fate of the literary amateur." By Garth Risk Hallberg, Slate, January 22, 2008


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Posted January 31, 2008 09:27 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Technology   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBacks (0)


Ollie is digital: On or OFF, no in between.

Baxter is analog: a mix of hot and cold. Maybe it's the lousy haircut I gave him....

Useful Yorkie stuff

Posted January 29, 2008 12:57 PM  ·  Permalink   ·  Dogs   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

May your worst enemy....

Moral: May your worst enemy have a lawsuit in which he knows he is right.

"The Perfect Case," by Jacob Stein, The Washington Lawyer, February 2008

Legal Spectator & More, by Jacob Stein
Legal Spectator & More, by Jacob Stein

Posted January 28, 2008 03:37 PM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

Detroit Public Schools Book Depository

Sweet Juniper’s photos show the ruins of the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository.

"Abandoned hope," Joanne Jacobs, January 21, 2008

"It will rise from the ashes," Sweet Juniper! November 26, 2007

"Rotting textbook warehouse in Detroit," boingboing, January 19, 2007

flickr photos: sweet juniper, flickr search

Detroit Public Schools

Posted January 23, 2008 09:07 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)


Gratuitous Yorkie pics


Baxter - embarrassed by a recent trim; it will grow back

Useful Yorkie stuff

Posted January 20, 2008 09:27 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Dogs   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

"Humanity, thou art sick"

"In my mother’s generation, shy people were seen as introverted and perhaps a bit awkward, but never mentally ill."

So writes the Chicago-based research professor, Christopher Lane, in his fascinating new book Shyness: How Normal Behaviour Became a Sickness. ‘Adults admired their bashfulness, associated it with bookishness, reserve, and a yen for solitude. But shyness isn’t just shyness any more. It is a disease. It has a variety of over-wrought names, including “social anxiety” and “avoidant personality disorder”, afflictions said to trouble millions’, Lane continues.

Lane has taken shyness as a test case to show how society is being overdiagnosed and overmedicated. He has charted - in intricate detail - the route by which the psychiatric profession came to give credence to the labelling of everyday emotions as ‘disorders’, a situation that has resulted in more and more people being deemed to be mentally ill.

"Humanity, thou art sick: Shyness is now ‘social phobia’, and dissent is ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’. How did everyday emotions come to be seen as illnesses?" a review by Helene Guldberg of "Shyness: How Normal Behaviour Became a Sickness," by Christopher Lane, in spiked, December 2007

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Posted January 19, 2008 08:57 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

"Wi-Fi Users, Beware"

Next time you are sitting in a hotel lobby checking email on your laptop, be careful: The "businessman" in the next lounge chair may be tracking your every move.

Many Wi-Fi users don't know that hackers posted at hot spots can steal personal information out of the air relatively easily. And savvy criminal hackers aren't settling for just access to credit cards, bank accounts and other personal financial information; they love to sneak into your company's network, too.

Whether you're using a Wi-Fi hot spot at a hotel, airport or cafe, "you've got to assume that anything you are doing is being monitored," says Shawn Henry, deputy assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cybercrimes division.

"Wi-Fi Users, Beware: Hot Spots Are Weak Spots. That Guy Across the Lobby May Be Invading Your Laptop; How to Go Online More Safely," by Joseph de Avila, The Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2008 ($ - subscription required)

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Posted January 16, 2008 09:47 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Technology   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)


Two happy little campers...


Sir Barks A Lot (soon to be Sir I Used To Bark A Lot), aka Baxter, aka Mr. B


Sir O I Love You I Love You Yes I Do, aka Ollie

Baxter and Ollie at rest

Baxter and Ollie at rest

Baxter and Ollie at work

Baxter and Ollie at work

Posted January 14, 2008 12:27 PM  ·  Permalink   ·  Dogs   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

The shopping mall

[Victor] Gruen got an extraordinary number of things right first time [with his first shopping mall, Southdale in Minnesota]. He built a sloping road around the perimeter of the mall, so that half of the shoppers entered on the ground floor and half on the first floor--something that became a standard feature of malls. Southdale's balconies were low, so that shoppers could see the shops on the floor above or below them. The car park had animal signs to help shoppers remember the way back to their vehicles. It was as though Orville and Wilbur Wright had not just discovered powered flight but had built a plane with tray tables and a duty-free service.

"Birth, death and shopping: The rise and fall of the shopping mall," The Economist, December 19, 2007

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Posted January 6, 2008 09:37 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Shopping   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

Girl Band - Minority Orchestra

Hat tip: Astronaut Love Triangle

Posted January 5, 2008 07:47 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Music   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)

"People are generally happier with decisions when they can't undo them"

In 2002, Jane Ebert and I discovered that people are generally happier with decisions when they can't undo them. When subjects in our experiments were able to undo their decisions they tended to consider both the positive and negative features of the decisions they had made, but when they couldn't undo their decisions they tended to concentrate on the good features and ignore the bad. As such, they were more satisfied when they made irrevocable than revocable decisions. Ironically, subjects did not realize this would happen and strongly preferred to have the opportunity to change their minds.

Now up until this point I had always believed that love causes marriage. But these experiments suggested to me that marriage could also cause love. If you take data seriously you act on it, so when these results came in I went home and proposed to the woman I was living with. She said yes, and it turned out that the data were right: I love my wife more than I loved my girlfriend.

"The Benefit of Being Able to Change My Mind," by Daniel Gilbert, Edge World Question Center, 2008

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Posted January 3, 2008 09:27 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Caught Our Eye   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)