Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes more is better - some long stories you should read

A lot of my time on the web is spent zooming through content. Twitter and Facebook encourage that sort of consumption, especially if you're using a new device, like the iPad or something similar.

But while you can pick up a lot of information that way, nothing really replaces, for me, sitting down with a well-written article about an interesting subject. It's why I still buy magazines, although not that often. And weekend newspapers still feature longer in-depth items in their weekend sections.

This past weekend, in between day-long strategy sessions with one of my volunteer groups, sorting through the mess in my office and watching the Riders lose another Grey Cup (arghhh!) I came across a couple of interesting articles. So I thought I'd share them with you. I recommend both of them as long-form pieces that are worth the time to read them.

The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of George W. Bush’s Memoir
By Dan Froomkin
The Huffington Post
November 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — These days, when we think of George W. Bush, we think mostly of what a horrible mess he made of the economy. But his even more tragic legacy is the loss of our moral authority, and the transformation of the United States of America from global champion of human rights into an outlaw nation.

History is likely to judge Bush most harshly for two things in particular: Launching a war against a country that had not attacked us, and approving the use of cruel and inhumane interrogation techniques.

And that’s why the two most essential lies — among the many — in his new memoir are that he had a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and that he had a legitimate reason to torture detainees.

Neither is remotely true. But Bush must figure that if he keeps making the case for himself — particularly if it goes largely unrebutted by the traditional media, as it has thus far — then perhaps he can blunt history’s verdict. -- Read the rest of the article
The second article I'll recommend - this one from the Globe and Mail weekend edition:
The Algorithm method: Programming our lives away
By Ira Basen
The Globe and Mail
November 27, 2010

Here are two stories about love in the age of the algorithm.

The first one is from the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which features a cast of science geeks trying to navigate through the non-geek world.

In one episode, the nerdiest of the nerds, Sheldon Cooper, is trying to score a piece of lab equipment from a colleague. He needs to befriend the colleague, but he has no idea how to make a new friend. So he does what he does best: He draws up an elaborate flow chart, which he calls a “friendship algorithm,” to help guide him through the phone call.

“Perhaps we could share a meal together?” Sheldon asks. If the answer is yes, he moves on to negotiate a time and a place. If the answer is no, he defaults to the next question, “How about a hot beverage?” followed by, “Perhaps we share a recreational interest?”

“I believe I've isolated the algorithm for making friends,” Sheldon gushes to his friend Leonard.

“Sheldon,” Leonard replies, “there is no algorithm for making friends.”

Not so fast, Leonard. Fortune magazine recently featured a story about the 10-year-old matchmaking site eHarmony, which has recently embraced the age of the algorithm. It has developed a formula that looks at hundreds of factors to determine whether two people might be compatible, including the way they use eHarmony: For example, it collects data on how long a user takes to respond to an e-mail about a match, presuming that procrastinators will be attracted to other procrastinators and vice-versa.

Algorithms are turning up in the most unlikely places, promising to assert mathematical probability into corners of our lives where intuition, instinct and hunches have long held sway. -- Read the rest of the article
What are your thoughts about either of these pieces? I'd be interested in hearing your opinions in the comments.

No comments: