Archive for August 2007
The Top 10 “Top 10″ books: The editor asked 125 authors to list their Top 10 books of all time.
Some people might think that the lists will be mostly the same, containing among them (say) thirty or forty books, but experience (see The Long Tail) tells us that the lists will be different — a lot.
Indeed, the 125 lists contain 544 books among them.
So each book appears in an average of 4.352 lists out of 125. (Of course not.) (Exercise: What is the expected number of books that two random lists (out of these 125) have in common?)
There are 23 that appear as the greatest work of all time on one author’s list, but are not even present in any of the other 124 lists.
The sad fact is that I have read too few of them.
[Answer to exercise: I'm an idiot, can prove that neither question can be answered without further data.]
Really short ones, I mean.
- Wired 14.11: Very Short Stories
- One sentence stories
- New Times SLO :: Publishing Local News and Entertainment for over 18 years in San Luis Obispo County
- A Very Short Anthology
- The Drabble Project
- Halrloprillalar’s Fan Fiction | Drabble-Matic
- Fanfiction by Halrloprillalar.
- Welcome to 100 Words, a Social Tasking Website
- 100 Words Writing Project, Social Tasking, Collaborative Writing, Collaborative Creation, Art Project, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Experimental Writing
- 100 Word Stories
- 100 Word Stories
The Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest. The 2007 winner… simplicity.
So what kind of thought processes contribute to belief in conspiracy theories? A study I carried out in 2002 explored a way of thinking sometimes called “major event – major cause” reasoning. Essentially, people often assume that an event with substantial, significant or wide-ranging consequences is likely to have been caused by something substantial, significant or wide-ranging.
I gave volunteers variations of a newspaper story describing an assassination attempt on a fictitious president. Those who were given the version where the president died were significantly more likely to attribute the event to a conspiracy than those who read the one where the president survived, even though all other aspects of the story were equivalent.
(Update: The “copy” is down, but you should be able to access the New Scientist. If not, here’s a sentence from the article you can Google for: “How can we account for the link between race, income level and conspiracy theories?”)
Nicholas Somebody has a good analogy on what computer programming is like:
The implementation always sucks, but nonetheless people don’t just put up with it but actually seem to think that what you have produced is innovative and life-enhancing.
It’s sort of like you’re a combination architect / builder, but you’re a really terrible one. Someone asks you to build a new bathroom for their house, so you do, but despite all your careful planning the finished product is just shite. For example, the shower wall is made out of soap, because you thought it would be convenient…
I’m also reminded of this quote:
Weinberg’s Second Law:
If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
A bunch of related things that I have been (coincidentally) encountering:
Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Fooled by Randomness, which I was reading, mentions in passing that the relative performance (how much more did I earn this month than last month) and relative wealth (how richer my neighbours are) matter more to people’s happiness than their absolute counterparts do. Also that the pleasure of “having” things wears away quickly.
Anne Truitt Zelenka says similar stuff in her blog post, and also says “spend your money on experiences. Focus on doing things rather than having things”.
Paul Graham recently wrote an essay saying we overvalue stuff, and that clutter is exhaustive, get rid of it.
And 43Folders ran a series of posts on getting rid of clutter.
Hmm… getting rid of clutter. Maybe I should start with this “blog”.
[And I really mean coincidentally/accidentally: The book I picked up because I was bored, the blog I found while looking at something about a Python module, Paul Graham is on my feed list, and the last one I found while looking at some other random blog.]