10 Things I Learned In 2016

1) NARP: Nonathletic Regular Person. From this conversation between Jason Kottke and his niece about her usage of Snapchat.

2) Nae-nae: ‘a hip-hop dance that involves planting one’s feet, swaying with shoulder movement, placing one hand in the air and one hand down, and incorporating personal creativity’ (Wikipedia). From Sophia DeJesus’ college gymnast routine, as described by Time.

3) LIGO: Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. From this New Yorker story about how scientists finally found gravitational waves. Also, the ‘interferometer’. What a brilliant word!

4) Zero-day exploits: ‘an undisclosed computer-software vulnerability that hackers can exploit to adversely affect computer programs, data, additional computers or a network. It is known as a “zero-day” because it is not publicly reported or announced before becoming active, leaving the software’s author with zero days in which to create patches or advise workarounds to mitigate its actions’ (Wikipedia). From this blog post by Ben Thompson discussing the dispute between Apple and the FBI over hacking an iPhone earlier this year.

5) Mario and Luigi: the names of the two robots created by the MIT Senseable City Lab to crawl underground sewers in Cambridge, MA and collect virus samples. From this Forbes article explaining the project.

6) This Noah Chomsky quote, which can be applied to 2016 in general, from this Medium post by Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab on why she left the University of Wisconsin-Madison for Temple University.

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”

7) The cellphone reception area between DC and Baltimore was called the ‘dogbone’ because it represents the shape of the area served by the same tower. From Sarah Koenig’s day 3 update to Serial Season 1. 

8) The longest artist name recorded on Songkick is The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (61 characters). From this Songkick post on designing with data. 

9) Prosopagnosia: Face blindness (Wikipedia). From this TED talk by Nancy Kanwisher, ‘A Neural Portrait of the Human Mind.

10) Qualia: The way things seem to us. Read this PDF for more. First spotted in this Aeon article about how AI can shed new light on literary texts.

Bye-bye 2012

A few things to round off the year.

Best music app of the year: This Is My Jam

Why: Because it takes the hassle out of trying to find interesting music and it keeps its focus squarely and constantly on one thing.

Best reinvented platform of the year: Yahoo!

Why: The changes to Instagram’s ToS might have been the main cause, but I think the newly-designed Flickr iPhone app was a major factor in people migrating from Instagram to Flickr over the last couple of weeks. For the record, I’m a Flickr Pro user. While I agree the UX isn’t quite there yet, it’s a vast improvement from the Flickr of yore. Having all your photos in one place in the cloud just makes sense. The new Yahoo! Mail has also been drawing admirers, and rightly so. MySpace’s new look isn’t bad, but I’ve never been a user of the platform so my vote goes squarely for Yahoo! Marissa Mayer is definitely changing the business for the better.

Best new platform for advocating women’s talents: Articulate.

Why: They’re building a database of talented women who are open to speaking so that no conference organizers can hide behind the ‘but I couldn’t find any women to speak’ excuse. I hope this is soon replicated across the world, specifically India. I’m looking at you, Medianama.

Most underutilised resource of the year (for me): Google’s Think platform.

Why: Amongst other things it has some excellent tools for media planners. Most recently, I thought their Smartphone Launch Predictor was ace. Their Think Quarterly always makes for a good read and I hope to wade through more of their stuff in the new year.

Favourite abbreviation of 2012: TIJABP from Dave Winer.

Why: It’s something I should do more of – and I’ll endeavour to do more of that kind of writing in 2013. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been hindered by a blogger’s block of some sort, which the TIJABP philosophy should help get rid of.

Best seasonal gimmick of the year: First Round Capital, with this video.

Why: Watch this! Hands down, they win.

Here’s looking forward to 2013!

Concepts

Just a few concepts that I’ve come across lately, and/or that I’ve been thinking about a fair bit. I’m jotting them down here in the hope that something more concrete comes of them in the near future.

Cultural latency:

In gaming, and network based computing in general, the term that describes the lag between a cause and effect, between the moment when something is initiated and the moment one of the effects, can be perceived is called latency.

The lower the latency, the faster the distant computer responds, the faster you see an effect and can respond and so on. This is a good thing–it means you don’t get killed in the game because your character didn’t move when you told him to.

As communication technologies become faster and more pervasive, the latency of culture is actually decreasing.

Hatesurfing:

“HateSurfing” is a term that describes the act of going online specifically to read as many negative comments, blog posts, tweets and messages as possible to generate insights that can help you run your business better.

The Stroop effect:

When the name of a color (e.g., “blue,” “green,” or “red”) is printed in a color not denoted by the name (e.g., the word “red” printed in blue ink instead of red ink), naming the color of the word takes longer and is more prone to errors than when the color of the ink matches the name of the color.

Performative utterance:

…it is a sentence which does something in the world rather than describing something about it. For example, the statement “I now pronounce you man and wife,” is not true or false but instead ‘happy’ or ‘unhappy’, depending on whether or not it is performed properly (by an ordained minister, before a single man and woman, etc.).

Generation labels

Recently, I was discussing with a friend the labelling of people belonging to different generations in popular culture. Turns out that according to Wikipedia, Generation X (those born between 1960 to 1982) and Generation Y (people born between the mid-1970’s to the early 2000’s) have an overlap. In addition, Generation Y and Generation Z (those born between the early 1990’s and early 2000’s) have an even bigger overlap. Amidst all this, it is very easy to get confused – when someone mentions ‘GenX’, they may actually mean ‘GenY’ and so on.

So I was fascinated to read this article by Joshua Glenn that clearly categorizes people according to when they were born, and labels them in rather amusing ways as well: ‘hardboileds’, ‘retrogressivists’, ‘anti-anti-utopians’, anyone?!

Nice UX touches in Copenhagen

I was in Copenhagen last weekend and noticed a couple of nice user experience touches in public areas:

These railway ticket machines were covered with plastic sheets to leave no room for confusion as to whether they were in use or not. A common problem I see in London is machines that do not operate, with people going up to them every now and then to check.

This board in Copenhagen airport clearly says how many minutes it is likely to take to clear security. Informed passengers are relaxed passengers, which mean less chance for Airline-type incidents featuring irate passengers.

Very Special Episodes

Very Special Episodes:

Very special episode” is an advertising term originally used in American television commercials to refer to an episodeof a situation comedy or television drama that deals with a serious or controversial social issue.[1] The usage of the term peaked in the 1990s.

Reminds me of an era so long ago. Like something out of The Wonder Years. The traditional American family who lives in a suburb in a house with white picket fences, gathering around a TV in the evening. Today, we’re all educated enough to know what they are without having to be told, I assume.

Or are we?

Technology and the Humanities

Interesting piece in the New York Times about the slow but increasing adoption of technology in research and analysis by academics and others involved in art and humanities:

Members of a new generation of digitally savvy humanists argue it is time to stop looking for inspiration in the next political or philosophical “ism” and start exploring how technology is changing our understanding of the liberal arts. This latest frontier is about method, they say, using powerful technologies and vast stores of digitized materials that previous humanities scholars did not have.

These researchers are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand what role topography played in victory, using databases of thousands of jam sessions to track how musical collaborations influenced jazz, searching through large numbers of scientific texts and books to track where concepts first appeared and how they spread, and combining animation, charts and primary documents about Thomas Jefferson’s travels to create new ways to teach history.

Reminded me of this talk I attended at the LSE a while ago.