Fluid Intelligence


This is an excellent point. I won’t argue with it, not even a bit. Although of course I’m curious what you think.

Chess players who train with computers are much stronger for it. They test their intuitions and receive rapid feedback as to what works, simply by running their program. People who learn economics through the blogosphere also receive feedback, especially if they sample dialogue across a number of blogs of differing perspectives. The feedback comes from which arguments other people found convincing. Do the points you wanted to hold firm on, or cede, correspond to the evolution of the dialogue? This feedback is not as accurate as Rybka but it’s an ongoing test of your fluid intelligence and your ability to revise your opinion. Not many outsiders understand what a powerful learning mechanism the blogosphere has set in place.

Source: Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

(via the always great somethingchanged)

Rediscover Blogs You Love


we love blogs

In the olden days you used to hear blogs being compared to lovers – blogging was perceived to be an intensely personal, sometimes intimate thing, and the relationships between bloggers was pretty intense. Now, of course that kind of romanticizing was somewhat over the top. There was a small number of bloggers in a vast internet, so they stuck together.

However, there is something to this romantic notion. I’ve been noticing that my relationship to blogs has changed. More and more I’ve been perceiving them as something to deal with in a professional context. That’s not to say I’m not as passionate as blogging as ever, but it changed. Also, with so many more blogs around, attention is spread thinner – and many great blogs don’t get the attention they deserve.

I’ve been neglecting a few blogs that I dearly love, and that whenever I visit them, I find most inspiring. Some of them I would even read not in my feedreader but on their own website, for celebration’s sake, so to speak. So I’d like to introduce a handful of blogs that I’ve always liked, and that I’ve been neglecting. And I’d like to encourage you to do the same: a small selection of hand-picked, author’s recommendation-style blogs.

Digitalien This is where it all started for me. The German Sofa/Digitalien was a collection of short stories, not called blog then, but very blog like in it’s overall appearance. (It’s abandoned but archived under the domain sofa.digitalien.org, the blog now lives under arrog.antville.org.) and the authors were some of the first in Germany to actually switch to blogging and to discuss the whole affair as it was emerging. Praschl and Knecht experimented with form and content, interpreted both, applied it in often very personal ways. It was always a joy reading, a glimpse into someone else’s life, an inspiration to be part of this whole blogging thing. They would have never called it a movement.

Jan Chipchase / Future Perfect Jan Chipchase (real name!) is a researcher for Nokia. In his blog Future Perfect he shares some insights on his research on digital lifestyle. Sounds boring? Think again. Chipchase leaves his lab and goes straight to where the real innovation is made this day: the favelas of the world where bootstrapping and improvising and hacking is the default mode. He talks to the folks there who hack their phones to meet the needs of life as an Indian taxi driver or maybe the expectations of a 15-year old in Shinjuku. More companies should be giving budgets to awesome researchers and allow them to blog. Just as I’m typing this the most recent blogpost reads:

Today’s office involves a few hours stopover in Dubai, then a 3am flight to Kabul. The upside of sleeplessness? Watching the dawn over Afghanistan turn from glimmer on earth’s curved surface to the dusty, arid warmth of the mountains below. The next few days an opportunity to map the movement of the city since the last visit, a plethora of interviews and reconnections, Insha’Allah.

This may give you a rough idea of what Jan Chipchase is upt to. It’s always fascinating.

Danah Boyd / apophenia Danah Boyd blogs under the domain Zephoria.org, her blog is call apophenia. According to Wikipedia, apophenia is “the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data”. I’m not sure the blog name is all that convincing – after all, Danah doesn’t really dig around meaningless data but instead blogs about her very concrete scientific findings, mostly around the way youth use social media (in the more narrow sense) or (in the wider sense) how youth construct online identities. (Of course, you surely shouldn’t let the blog name get in your way.)

Like Jan Chipchase (above), Danah Boyd is a scientist who by now is on the payroll of a major corporation to fund her research. She works for Microsoft Research New England and is a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society. That shouldn’t deter you, though, as she still shares a lot of research results. Never dry, always compelling and very often thought-stimulating or even mind blowing. Whenever I go to her blog, I can be sure to spend the next hour or so digging around her site, it’s that good. Definitively a keeper.

Bruce Sterling / beyond the beyond Bruce Sterling has been a hero of mine for a long time. (I most recently sung his praise after reboot11.) If there’s any place he outputs regularly besides the WIRED/beyond the beyond blog, I’m not familiar with it – so this is it. In his very particular, weary-yet-wary way he formulates incredibly deep, complex thoughts in a way that usually takes me a few days to process before understanding what he’s even talking about, but when the thoughts eventually sink in, they usually trigger some profound thought process in me in a way few writers do. The blog itself isn’t always so great, but when it shines, it thoroughly does. And it is, as far as I know, the best place to catch a regular dose of Sterling.

Anthony Volodkin / faßcinated Anthony is one of the minds behind the wonderful hypemachine music discovery service. On his personal blog faßcinated, Anthony does just what blogs used to be about: he shares personal thoughts and little snippets of stuff he finds online. It’s not overly deep and often banal, but in the best possible sense of the word: Little glimpes into someone’s day-to-day live, written and shared with a lot of love, occasionally with his take on contemporary Russia. (He was born and raised in Russia, now lives in New York City.) I know Anthony only very superficially, but his blog seems to perfectly capture and reflect his very curious, passionate and open-minded personality in a way that’s, well, just fun to read.

Yay!Everyday! I wasn’t sure if I should include Yay!Everyday! in this list. For one, it’s not technically a blog, but rather a collection of photos. More importantly though, it’s not Yay!Everyday! I wanted to highlight, but Yay!Monday!, which is by now defunct (or so it seems). Yay!Monday! used to be a weekly dose of inspiration a la ffffound, but for Mondays only. (In fact I have to admit I can’t really tell how they’re different, if at all.) So this shouldn’t be part of this list. Then again, this is all about inspiration, so let’s not be too narrow-minded, eh?

What else? This list feels terribly incomplete. But that’s the nature of neglected blog reading lists, by definition important blogs get forgotten. So I’ll take the liberty of updating this list when I remember another blog that I’ve been neglecting and that should be featured here. Until then, I strongly recommend you check out the blogs above. I promise you won’t regret it. Enjoy!


something changed something changed is not even a real blog. It’s a tumblelog. It’s written by a certain Jessica, who doesn’t give away her family name (not even in interviews), or her exact job (she only says she works in advertising, until recently in Sydney, now in Melbourne). In other words: I know practically nothing about the author of this blog. And yet, it’s full of smart, inspiring quotes, thoughts and ideas. I never leave the site without something new and refreshing on my mind. And what more can you possibly ask for?

Photo by kunel, Some Rights Reserved.

The Big Picture: Stories told in photos by Boston Globe


I don’t know how I could have missed The Big Picture, the Boston Globe‘s amazing photo blog. (It has been around since June). The Big Picture tells stories by featuring stunning, awesome, sometimes scary (and always: huge, i.e. 990px wide) photos, put in context by a paragraph of text.

Waxy interviewed Alan Taylor, the programmer and blogger who created The Big Picture in his spare time while working on some community features at boston.com. (Here’s the full interview.) Alan explains how he goes about collecting the images (partly manually, partly automatic) and how he came up with the idea. One core motivation of his was to free pictures and let them speak for themselves, in most newspapers photos are just used as a click farm for ads:

[…] my parents used to always have Life and National Geographic magazines around the house, I fell in love with the visual storytelling way back then. When I was getting my feet wet in the online journalism world as a developer at msnbc.com, I had the good fortune of working alongside Brian Storm and a few others in MSNBC’s photo department, who were just phenomenal as far as selection, editing and presentation. I wondered why other sites didn’t reach that level. Many have by now, but I was still frustrated by the presentation — either far too small, or trapped in click-after-click interfaces that were in Flash or just acted as ad farms.

I won’t even try to put any of the pictures here, it wouldn’t do them any justice. The Big Picture: A must read.

perspctv: Who’s talking about McCain, Obama?


perspectv visualizes who’s being talked about more: McCain or OBama. Or as TechCrunch calls it: “An Election Mashup That Proves Nothing, But Looks Good Doing It“.

And guess what? It’s just that:

This project presents different perspectives in our world, including that of Mainstream media and user-generated content on the Internet. (…) What we think vs. what they say we think — All the chatter on the Internet, all the traditional news media coverage, and all the pollsters (…) and gives a unique “dashboard” picture of the elections at any one given moment in time, totally un-biased.

It’s fairly simple, according to TechCrunch perspctv just counts how many times the two presidential candidates are mentioned, then creates graphs accordingly. Not too special, but to be fair, pretty cool in a way. Cool: perspctv provides a widget that you can embed in your blogs so you always know who’s twittered about more frequently.

Something that might pop up in the next German elections as well?

What will The Next Newsroom look like?


Mainstream American media have experienced shipwreck and newsrooms need to transform themselves to survive. Sounds harsh? Not if you ask Journalism That Matters (JTM). New media and the Social Web are both the challenge and the solution. How so? That’s the big question and there are no final answers yet.

JTM News Tools 08 (journalismthatmatters.wordpress.com) News Tools 08: The old news story. Image courtesy of Journalism That Matters. (Click the image or here for a larger version.)

Newsrooms face three challenges One thing is already clear, though: Newsrooms face three key challenges which are outlined in JTM’s Next Newsroom plan (PDF):

  • the revenue challenge
  • the technology challenge
  • the community challenge

One proposal of a kind of eco system of participatory and professional journalism (or hybrid participatory-professional news sites, as PhD candidate Sven Engesser of LMU, Munich calls it) is pictured below:

Journalism That Matters - News 08: An Emerging News Ecology. Image courtesy JTM News Tools 08: An Emerging News Ecology. Image courtesy of Journalism That Matters. (Click the image or here for a larger version.)

I’ll try to look into this more in-depth over the next few days, but wanted to share these links first. The picture above was created at News Tools 08, the most current JtM gathering that is focused on innovations for “journalism that matters.”. You can read up on it on the JTM website.

Re:publica 08 #3 (Law)


One of the best panels My favorite panel at re:publica was Henning Krieg‘s panel on law and blogging. At pretty much every other conference I missed out on Henning’s quite famous talks, and it was no surprise to find the room packed to the limits. Relaxed, informal and funny presentation, a lot of value for the regular blogger like yours truly. What about the infamous German imprint (“Impressum”), what kind of content am I allowed to use on my blog, who has rights to this photo, and what will a German judge count as an insult? Plenty of questions from the audience, lots of answers. If nothing else, the audience sure learned that the law can’t quite keep up with technology and common practice.

The slides are already online, but Henning is also planning a series of posts specifically about blogging and law. So keep an eye on his blog, Kriegs-Recht.de. (That is, if you’re interested in German blogging law and are fluent in German, of course.)

Re:publica 08 #2


Today is day 3 of re:publica 08, the last day of this year’s installment of this conference. Re:publica is the biggest and most important blogger & social media conference in Germany, organized largely by the Newthinking Team (i.e. the net activists whose most prominent member is probably Markus Beckedahl, author of Netzpolitik.org. Thanks Markus, and all the others who don’t get the same media attention.)

So far, it’s been a great event – the organization worked pretty much smoothly except for minor wireless outages, although of course the most interesting conversations happen in between session, in the lobby, the hallways, the surrounding bars.

Right now I’m sitting in a panel on video in political communication with pretty harmonic panelists (representatives of the Social Democrats, the Green Party, ver.di as well as social media scientist Jan Schmidt).

Turns out everybody agrees that yes, video plays a more and more important role in online election campaigns, but no, it’s not crucial yet. Also, I’m getting the impression that while the strategists know very well what to expect and how to use online media, but this seems rather detached from their constituencies’ new media expertise. Basically, whenever it’s time for an election campaign, the parties get out their new media toolkit and are surprised their voters don’t really care as much as they expected; maybe it’s because in between election campaigns the parties are not very active in social media?

I know of a few projects that look promising, like the Social Democratic Party’s social network meineSPD. (I’m sure there are others as well that I don’t know off the top of my head.) But generally, there’s hardly a political social media scene in Germany, although it’s growing. This is also what political journalists told me when I interviewed them for my M.A. thesis on the relevance of weblogs for political journalism in Germany. Their conclusion: There are no relevant, i.e. quote-worthy, political weblogs in Germany as of now. The journalists explicitly wished for better political weblogs, though.

Hopefully conferences like re:publica can help establish this kind of political blogosphere in Germany.