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  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 16:20:02 on 2016/07/03 Permalink
    Tags: analysis, analytic, analytical, analytics, authenic, authenicated, authenicity, , , , , counterfeit, , , , engaging, , , Google, , , imposter, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , qualitative, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Sign My Guestbook + The Rationality of the Written Word 

    I enjoy following Chloe Thurlow’s writings and musings very much. Whenever I start reading, then I am quite sure that my time will be well spent. I am sad that her chloethurlow.com website is sometimes blocked when I am at work or at some other public computer, because writing on my phone is a truly laborious task which I would rather not engage in at all.

    Recently Chloe asked whether I might be willing to write something – meaning: for the chloethurlow.com audience. Obviously, yes! But it turns out willing and able are two very different things. What I immediately came up with was nothing less than „Painfully empty“ – at least that’s how I like to describe it.

    I have had other people ask me whether I might consider writing for „their“ websites. I usually decline, though, for several reasons. One reason is usually meant ironically – I use this when the person asking is a fan of Google: „they can just search“ (LOL)… and then of course the fans are forced to admit that would be logical, and perhaps they also realize how bogus the whole notion of Google is (though in some cases, I think that part whooshes right by above their heads).

    Another reason is that I would feel like an impostor. If people visit chloethurlow.com, wouldn’t they be disappointed to hear me preaching from that pulpit? As soon as I opened my mouth I would half expect my face to be pelted with tomatoes and rotten eggs. Cake wouldn’t be bad, as long as it tasted good.

    This brings me to the way I see and use „the web“. This is rather complicated, so if you don’t care then now would be a good time to stop reading. 😉

    In the early days of the web, there was this notion of „please come over to my place – and when you visit, then please sign my guestbook, post a comment“ … which was all more or less the precursor of: „please like my crap“. About a decade ago, Google made a quite significant change to the way they viewed content on the web. They introduced the concept of meaningless, insignificant blather. Of course they would probably say something like „we gave you a tool to deal with comment spam“. At the time, I was shocked that people would be willing to point out that the information on their own websites was insipid, useless, insignificant and probably a waste of your time (and certainly not worth the time for Google’s robots to scan it at the rate of fractions of a penny per pentillion). I knew then and there that this would be the end of comments. At the time, I was flabbergasted.

    Today, I look back and think: What a good thing! I don’t want to host your content. If you have something meaningful to share, then host it yourself. If you don’t have a dime, see if you can post it on some website that is willing to accept your thoughts for nothing (but don’t be so naive to think they won’t sell your private, personal parts to make money on it).

    When I want to share ideas, I see no reason to submit them to „other“ websites.

    What is an „other“ website?

    An other website is a site that I have very little or no control over. People need to get over thinking in black and white terms. You do not own your own website. People don’t own land. They use it. You don’t own me. If I feel like typing in chloethurlow.com rather than facebook.com that is entirely my decision. It is nothing other than my own rational behavior which motivates me to type in „weather“ when I want to learn about the weather. If I wanted romance, I would type in romance. I rarely type in Google.

    When I write, I expect people to be similarly rational. When Ella and Louis sang „Let’s call the calling off off“, they were declaring how relationships and meaning intertwine on a level that has little or nothing to do with individual pronunciation but everything to do with shared engagement with shared ideas. While I might seek to engage with romance, I might avoid engaging with brand names… and a big part of such a decision has to do with participating with people who perhaps think like I do, or perhaps think different – but in any case who care enough to become engaged.

    One important takeaway from this view of the web is an orientation towards language over a brand name orientation. Another – which is actually sort of a corollary – is that saying something like „you can contact me at so-and-so“ becomes meaningless. You can contact me at many locations, because I am engaged with many topics. I am not just here or there, I am almost everywhere.

  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 18:49:07 on 2016/06/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , citation analysis, , , , , few, Google, , , , , , , many, , , sample, sampling, , , ,   

    Don’t Listen to One Single Piece of Good Advice — Listen to Many 

    Several months ago, I mentioned on one of my other blogs that I enjoy listening to Gretchen Rubin’s „Happier“ podcast. I still do, even though I think content sponsored by advertising is by and large fake.

    Recently, Gretchen (and Elizabeth) asked her (their) listeners what the best piece of advice was that they ever got. I responded (they asked for people to phone in their comments – I think my remarks may have arrived a little too late for episode 70, but perhaps they might appear in episode 71(?).

    This was the gist of my message: Don’t Listen to One Single Piece of Good Advice — Listen to Many!

    This is also something Jason Calacanis mentioned in a recent episode of his „This Week in Startups“ podcast, but I can’t remember which one – that you should never rely on just one source of information. I remember thinking as I listened to Jason (and of course I had heard such advice decades before from many of my school teachers): „does that mean if you search for information you will not only listen to Google?“ Stange as it may seem, my hunch is that for the vast majority of the population, this is not the case. Indeed, my experience has been that most people will only search for information using Google’s algorithms – if they do not see anything that appeals to them via Google, they will assume that no such thing exists.

    Incidentally, there is also another kind of parochialism that I feel is closely related to this fanatical belief in Google’s scoring algorithm. In a recent episode published by HBR’s „Ideacast” podcast, Todd Rose was interviewed about a book he had recently written (” The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World That Values Sameness”) about measurement and statistics. His argument echoes something I have long held to be true (and I think I recall that one of my comments regarding this matter also appeared on a German radio program – perhaps 5 or more years ago).

    Oddly, Google fan-boys (and fan-girls, too, of course) often overlook the fact that Google also ranks results according to such „cooked“ statistics. In fact the situation is even worse: when Google calculates its metrics for websites, then those metrics are applied regardless of how relevant they are (or aren’t). So while SAT scores attempt to measure both mathematical ability and verbal ability, Google’s statistical measurement for quality (which was shown to be totally bogus decades ago) is applied whether or not the source is reliable for the search query. It is essentially a „one-size fits-all“ metric (which also happens to be totally unreliable). Yet very few people really care, because most people use Google mainly to search for domain names anyways (in other words: they „search“ for ebay because they are too lazy to type in ebay.com. I bet if people stopped doing that, then the reduction in energy required might actually reduce global warming significantly! 😉

  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 16:58:00 on 2016/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , celeb, celebrities, , celebs, , dictators, , , , , , , Google, , , mesmerization, mesmerize, mesmerized, , politician, politicians, , , quantitative, , , , , , , , , ,   

    The Big Data Rationality of Large Numbers: Quantitative Statistics + Fanatical Delusions 

    There are virtually innumerable fans of so-called „big data“. Countless fanatics of this quasi-scientific method will swear on a stack of bibles that if you count anything – it really doesn’t matter what, as that minute detail will certainly „emerge“ from the data itself – you will be rewarded with insights beyond your wildest dreams. Such descendents of bean-counters from previous centuries have moved on to grains of sand, dust particles, the colors of a beautiful sunset, whatever.

    These people may strongly believe in science – without actually understanding much about scientific methods.

    There seems to be a link between such lacking understanding and fanaticism. Let’s go back to one of the greatest leaders of fanatical movements ever: Adolf Hitler was probably one of the most (if not even the most) quintessial dictators of all times. I think what many people overlook, though, in this example is not that he was able to mesmerize such humungous masses, but rather how the masses let themselves become mesmerized.

    Fans follow leaders (perhaps they should instead watch the parking meters 😉 ). There is a sort of quirky rationality to this behavior: When fans follow their leader, they apparently feel they no longer have to think themselves… – they simply accept whatever their leader says (i.e., dictates). This saves energy, because thinking can be quite difficult. Not thinking is easier than thinking.

    The important takeaway is this: If people feel able to let someone else do the thinking, they seem very willing to do so. One way they feel able to enable a dictator to think for them is if / when other people seem to approve of the dictator. Other people’s approval of a dictator seems to make it „OK“ to let the dictator do as he / she pleases… – whether the dictator is a politician, a celebrity, a brand name, or anything anyone happens to be a fan (i.e., a fanatical follower) of.

    When popular brand names such as Google or Facebook sell „big data“, of course they tell naive and innocent consumers a story about how important big data is in order for consumers to be able to find leaders. What they don’t tell such consumers (as those people who are willing to believe this story) is that the „big data“ plans are actually all about tracking consumer behavior. What they don’t tell advertisers is that the consumer behavior they track actually isn’t actually a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but merely a fanatical delusion hardly worth any more than a single grain of sand.

  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 13:58:37 on 2016/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Google, Gustav Le Bon, impression, impressionability, impressions, influence, Law of large numbers, , , , , , , , , repitition, , , , , ,   

    The Rationality of Large Numbers 

    This is a huge topic – I will not be able to cover it in a single post, not even in just a few posts. What I want to do here and now is to introduce the topic, and to describe why I feel it is so immensely important.

    First: What do I mean by „large numbers“. Oddly, I am not even exactly sure myself. I think I mean at least two things. Most directly and obviously, I mean the statistical and research methodology that is a cornerstone of the scientific method which has been used with such resounding success for hundreds of years already. Basically, this has to do with large populations (whether of people, of atoms or of other things), and how there seem to be quite predictable relationships between characteristics of populations and characteristics of individual members of such populations. Although I do not mean to diminish the importance of the insights gained from such statistical analysis, one point that often seems to get overlooked is that it is nonetheless a belief system – much like a religion, we believe that atoms (and similar properties of phenomena we refer to collectively as „the hard sciences“) behave in accordance to such laws (as „the law of large numbers“) throughout the universe. Nonetheless, to call the entire scientific method into question because of this one intriguing point would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Let me turn to a much more disconcerting issue with respect to the notion of large numbers. In the scientific approach, it seems quite clear that the aim is to be able to make predictions about populations which basically result from the way a large number of individual members of these populations function. There is, however, also a much more controversial matter – namely, that large populations may also have an impact on individual members. Although this may not be obvious when talking about atoms or similar „inanimate“ phenomena, one would be quite hard pressed to maintain that one single bird is not influenced by actions of the flock, or that one single human is not affected by actions of a mob of people which he or she is a member of.

    Beyond that, over the past century or so it has become blatantly obvious that individuals are not only influenced by actual mobs, but that are even prone to change their behavior on the basis of merely a percieved influence of mobs. The groundbreaking insights of Gustav Lebon at the close of the 19th Century were used with amazing „success“ throughout the 20th Century, and they are still being used today. In many – no: in the vast majority of – countries today, the vast majority of the population believe that the „top result“ for any search using google.com are validated by the vast majority of the population worldwide. Similarly, advertisements shown on facebook.com or on the screens of smartphones are assumed to be backed „by the numbers“.

    In this sense, one can quite reasonably argue that „belief in Google“, „belief in Facebook“, etc. are on par with belief in other religious organizations and/or belief in some kind of infallible oracle.

    At the same time (over the past century or so), there have been significant advances in the scientific approaches used to measure and improve the effectivity of propaganda and manipulation. Today advertising has become something akin to the gold standard of validation with respect to new ideas, innovation and anything modern, successful and/or technologically advanced. I remember seeing billboards advertising apple products nearly everywhere about 10 years ago, and such overwheming repitition was a nearly everpresent and constant reminder that apple was „where it’s at“, plain and simple because apple was everywhere. Today, „everywhere“ has also even eradicated the traditional distinction between „editorial“ and „advertising“ once used in „traditional“ publishing. Today, the „newsfeed“ is populated with many advertisements and product placements, and the vast majority of news consumers view this as a sign of success.

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