29 Juni 2012

Produkte von Danone und Nestlé: Lebensmittelaufsicht beanstandet Kindermilch

Kindermilch ist einer der Wachstumsbringer der Nahrungsmittelbranche. Das Spezialprodukt ist allerdings nicht so sinnvoll wie behauptet. Jetzt hat die Lebensmittelaufsicht nach Informationen von SPIEGEL ONLINE Unterlassungsbescheide verschickt.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/service/kindermilch-bvl-untersagt-danone-und-nestle-verkauf-a-841709.html

28 Juni 2012

Learned Optimism: Martin Seligman on Happiness, Depression, and the Meaningful Life

What 25 years of research reveal about the cognitive skills of happiness and finding life’s greater purpose.

“The illiterate of the 21st century,” Alvin Toffler famously said, “will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Our outlook on the world and our daily choices of disposition and behavior are in many ways learned patterns to which Toffler’s insight applies with all the greater urgency — the capacity to “learn, unlearn, and relearn” emotional behaviors and psychological patterns is, indeed, a form of existential literacy.

Last week, Oliver Burkeman’s provocatively titled new book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking , prompted me to revisit an old favorite by Dr. Martin Seligman, father of the Positive Psychology movement, who was once elected President of the American Psychological Association by the largest vote in the organization’s history and under whom I studied in my college days. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (public library ), one of these 7 must-read books on optimism, was originally published 20 years ago and remains an indispensable tool for learning the cognitive skills that decades of research have shown to be essential to well-being — an unlearning those that hold us back from authentic happiness.

Seligman begins by identifying the three types of happiness of which our favorite psychology grab-bag term is composed:

‘Happiness’ is a scientifically unwieldy notion, but there are three different forms of it if you can pursue. For the ‘Pleasant Life,’ you aim to have as much positive emotion as possible and learn the skills to amplify positive emotion. For the ‘Engaged Life,’ you identify your highest strengths and talents and recraft your life to use them as much as you can in work, love, friendship, parenting, and leisure. For the ‘Meaningful Life,’ you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.

He then defines optimism and pessimism, pointing out the challenge to self-identify as either, and offers a heartening, heavily researched reassurance:

The optimists and the pessimists: I have been studying them for the past twenty-five years. The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.


I have seen that, in tests of hundreds of thousands of people, a surprisingly large number will be found to be deep-dyed pessimists and another large portion will have serious, debilitating tendencies towards pessimism. I have learned that it is not always easy to know if you are a pessimist, and that far more people than realize it are living in this shadow.


A pessimistic attitude may seem so deeply rooted as to be permanent. I have found, however, that pessimism is escapable. Pessimists can in fact learn to be optimists, and not through mindless devices like whistling a happy tune or mouthing platitudes…but by learning a new set of cognitive skills. Far from being the creations of boosters or of the popular media, these skills were discovered in the laboratories and clinics of leading psychologists and psychiatrists and then rigorously validated.

Seligman, however, also corroborates what’s perhaps Burkeman’s most central admonition — that the extreme individualism and ambition our society worships has created a culture in which the fear of failure dictates all. As Seligman puts it:

Depression is a disorder of the ‘I,’ failing in your own eyes relative to your goals. In a society in which individualism is becoming rampant, people more and more believe that they are the center of the world. Such a belief system makes individual failure almost inconsolable.


Teaching children learned optimism before puberty, but late enough in childhood so that they are metacognitive (capable of thinking about thinking), is a fruitful strategy. When the immunized children use these skills to cope with the first rejections of puberty, they get better and better at using these skills. Our analysis shows that the change from pessimism to optimism is at least partly responsible for the prevention of depressive symptoms.

Ultimately, Seligman points to optimism not only as a means to individual well-being, but also as a powerful aid in finding your purpose and contributing to the world:

Optimism is invaluable for the meaningful life. With a firm belief in a positive future you can throw yourself into the service of that which is larger than you are.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life was followed by Authentic Happiness and Flourish , which was among best psychology and philosophy books of 2011.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

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Stiftung Warentest: Leitungswasser ist besser als Mineralwasser

Stilles Mineralwasser ist teurer und oft auch schlechter als Leitungswasser. Zu diesem Ergebnis kommt die Stiftung Warentest. Jedes der 29 geprüften Produkte hat demnach eine Schwachstelle: Fast zwei Drittel enthalten nur wenige Mineralstoffe, in jeder dritten Flasche fanden die Tester Keime.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/service/stiftung-warentest-leitungswasser-besser-als-stilles-mineralwasser-a-841374.html

26 Juni 2012

S.P.O.N. - Die Mensch-Maschine: Ein Archiv des Grauens

Es wird ekelhaft: Durch das Web wird immer mehr Kommunikation öffentlich - Skandale in Regierungen und Unternehmen werden so schneller für alle sichtbar. Wir müssen lernen, mit dieser neuen Transparenz umzugehen.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/internet-das-ewige-gedaechtnis-a-841056.html

Drei Herren vom Grill

Die Ingenieure Frank Brenn, Andre von Oehsen und Marc Meinecke wollten mal wieder handwerklich arbeiten. Sie entwarfen und bauten einen riesigen Barbecue-Grill, mit dem sie nun bei Festen und Feiern Fleisch und Fisch zubereiten.

via Nachrichten - WESER-KURIER http://www.weser-kurier.de/Artikel/Bremen/Stadtteile/Bremen-Nord/616334/Drei-Herren-vom-Grill.html

23 Juni 2012

Comic for June 23, 2012

via Dilbert Daily Strip http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2012-06-23/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dilbert%2Fdaily_strip+%28Dilbert+Daily+Strip+-+UU%29

22 Juni 2012

Astrium soll neues Raumschiff entwickeln

Das Bremer Unternehmen Astrium soll ein neues Raumschiff entwerfen. Im Auftrag der Esa sollen zwei Möglichkeiten untersucht werden, wie der in Bremen gebaute All-Transporter weiterentwickelt werden kann.

via Nachrichten - WESER-KURIER http://www.weser-kurier.de/Artikel/Bremen/Wirtschaft/613719/Astrium-soll-neues-Raumschiff-entwickeln.html

21 Juni 2012

Astrium entwickelt Raumschiff der Zukunft

Bremen. Das Bremer Raumfahrtunternehmen Astrium hat von der ESA den Auftrag erhalten, zwei Machbarkeitsstudien für ein Nachfolgemodell des ATV-Raumtransporters zu entwickeln. Sie sollen bis November vorliegen.

via Nachrichten - WESER-KURIER http://www.weser-kurier.de/Artikel/Bremen/Wirtschaft/613510/Astrium-entwickelt-Raumschiff-der-Zukunft.html

RoboCup-WM: Deutschland - Griechenland 10:0

In der Vorrunde der Standard Platform League beim 16. RoboCup besiegten die Bremer von B-Human deutlich das Team Kouretes aus Kreta. Insgesamt überwogen am ersten Spieltag aber noch die Schwierigkeiten.

via heise online News http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/RoboCup-WM-Deutschland-Griechenland-10-0-1622717.html

19 Juni 2012

S.P.O.N. - Die Mensch-Maschine: Das Kuckucksei des Boulevards

Ein Gesetz nicht nur gegen das Internet, sondern gegen den digitalen Wandel: Was das Leistungsschutzrecht mit dem Facebook-Austritt von Verbraucherministerin Ilse Aigner zu tun hat, und warum es ein fatales Signal an die Wirtschaft ist.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/sascha-lobo-zum-leistungsschutzrecht-kuckucksei-des-boulevards-a-839695.html

18 Juni 2012

Eklat in Berlin: Ministerien streiten offen über Betreuungsgeld

Der Zoff in der Koalition über das Betreuungsgeld spitzt sich zu: Jetzt stritten sich Vertreter des Justiz- und Familienministeriums auf einer Pressekonferenz. Grund war eine kritische Äußerung von FDP-Chef Rösler.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/ministerien-zoffen-sich-offen-ueber-das-betreuungsgeld-a-839585.html

17 Juni 2012

Comic for June 17, 2012

via Dilbert Daily Strip http://feed.dilbert.com/~r/dilbert/daily_strip/~3/1ZJUTnFLDTQ/

15 Juni 2012

Charles Eames in 15 Quotes for His 105th Birthday

“Beyond the age of information is the age of choices.”

This Saturday marks the 105th birthday of Charles Eames — legendary furniture designer, deft universe-explainer, celebrated champion of design as a force of culture, creative genius of uncommon sincerity, honesty, conviction, affection, imagination, and humor.

100 Quotes by Charles Eames is a tiny gem of a book, originally published in 2007, full of exactly what it says on the tin. Each of the 100 pearls of Eames wisdom, culled from his articles, books, films, interviews, lectures, notes, and office files, appears in 7 languages — English, Complex Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Spanish. A beautiful, minimalist cover with debossed typography adds a layer of joy to holding and touching the micro-tome.

Here are 15 of my favorite quotes.

Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects.. the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.

Most people aren’t trained to want to face the process of re-understanding a subject they already know. One must obtain not just literacy, but deep involvement and re-understanding.

Beyond the age of information is the age of choices.

If nothing else, a student must get from his training a feeling of security in change.

Innovate as a last resort. More horrors are done in the name of innovation than any other.

Recent years have shown a growing preoccupation with the circumstances surrounding the creative act and a search for the ingredients that promote creativity. This preoccupation in itself suggests that we are in a special kind of trouble — and indeed we are.

To be realistic one must always admit the influence of those who have gone before.

(Because we already know everything is a remix, all art builds on what came before, and creativity is combinatorial.)

We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next.

I don’t believe in this “gifted few” concept, just in people doing things they are really interested in doing. They have a way of getting good at whatever it is.

(Cue in some famous thoughts on finding your purpose and doing what you love.)

Unlike Keats, who said that knowing about the rainbow shatters its beauty, I feel that the knowledge about an object can only enrich your feelings for the object itself.

(Cue in Richard Feynman on the pleasure of finding things out.)

Don’t be like I was. Don’t be afraid of history. Take all of it you can get.

At all times love and discipline have led to a beautiful environment and a good life.

Any time one or more things are consciously put together in a way that they can accomplish something better than they could have accomplished individually, this is an act of design.

Ideas are cheap. Always be passionate about ideas and communicating those ideas and discoveries to others in the things you make.

Take your pleasure seriously.

Amazon seems to be having trouble restocking the book, but Eames Gallery appears to still have some copies left, as do a handful of public libraries.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right. Holstee

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13 Juni 2012

Blockly: Grafische Programmierung im Web-Browser

Mit der von Google entwickelten Programmiersprache lassen sich vorgefertigte Codeblöcke zu einem Programm kombinieren, das ohne Plug-ins im Web-Browser läuft.

via heise online News http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Blockly-Grafische-Programmierung-im-Web-Browser-1616980.html

Gastbeitrag von Ban Ki Moon: Das Konsum-Prinzip ist tot

Wie kann die Erde die Menschheit künftig ernähren? Das werden beim Umweltgipfel "Rio+20" die Staats- und Regierungschefs beraten. Viel zu lange haben sie versucht, unseren Wohlstand durch gesteigerten Konsum zu sichern. Doch dieses Modell ist tot.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/ban-ki-moon-zu-rio-20-das-konsum-prinzip-ist-tot-a-838701.html

Comic for June 13, 2012

via Dilbert Daily Strip http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2012-06-13/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dilbert%2Fdaily_strip+%28Dilbert+Daily+Strip+-+UU%29

12 Juni 2012

Stabile Robotik-Baukästen

Arduino und Aluminium-Bauteile: Das verspricht stabile Open-Source-Roboter. Der Hersteller Makeblock hat mit dem Verkauf seines Baukastensystems begonnen.

via heise online News http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Stabile-Robotik-Baukaesten-1615899.html

S.P.O.N. - Die Mensch-Maschine: Spione, Krieg und Schufa

Für Unternehmen ist die digitale Welt ein Traum, für Datenschützer ein Alptraum: Der Konsument offenbart seine Geheimnisse und wird komplett durchleuchtbar. Die Schufa plante sogar ein Projekt zum Ausschlachten sozialer Medien. Das ist verwerflich. Plädoyer für eine neue Wirtschaftsethik.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/sascha-lobo-die-schufa-und-der-krieg-a-838324.html

11 Juni 2012

Debatte über Betreuungsgeld: Ramsch für Kinder

Ex-Schlecker-Mitarbeiterinnen als Erzieherinnen, laxere Baustandards für Kitas: Die Regierung setzt beim Ausbau der Kinderbetreuung auf Billigmodelle, statt die Qualität zu fördern. Eine Steilvorlage für Fans der "Herdprämie", die ihre düsteren Warnungen vor "Aufbewahrungsanstalten" bestätigt sehen.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/kita-ausbau-hilfskraefte-und-schlecker-frauen-als-erzieherinnen-a-838091.html

09 Juni 2012

Raketenjet "Lynx": Weltraumflieger wollen nach Norddeutschland

Es ist eine ferne Zukunftsvision: Von einem Flugplatz bei Cuxhaven könnten eines Tages Raketenflugzeuge an den Rand des Weltraums vorstoßen. Ein kalifornisches Unternehmen hat dafür nun einen Antrag gestellt.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/technik/xcor-raketenjet-lynx-weltraumtourismus-bald-in-cuxhaven-nordholz-a-837845.html

Comic for June 9, 2012

via Dilbert Daily Strip http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2012-06-09/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dilbert%2Fdaily_strip+%28Dilbert+Daily+Strip+-+UU%29

08 Juni 2012

Hands on with Nintendo's Wii U

Give it to Mii...

First look It's been widely discussed, dissected and generally accepted that E3 2011 was something of a misstep for Nintendo; last year's unveiling of Wii U was met by much scratching of heads as press and public alike tried to fathom what we might expect from the gaming firm's Mario Wii U console.…

via The Register http://www.reghardware.com/2012/06/08/hands_on_with_nintendo_wii_u/

07 Juni 2012

Ray Bradbury on Space, Education, and Our Obligation to Future Generations: A Rare 2003 Interview

“Anything that puts a sense of the miraculous in you… Anything that makes you feel alive is good.”

After this morning’s remembrance of Ray Bradbury through 11 of his most memorable quotes, here comes a rare archival gem: On August 22, 2003, SCVTV news man Leon Worden conducted a short but wide-ranging interview with the beloved author, in which he discusses such timely subjects as future of space exploration, what’s wrong with the education system, and where technology is taking us, exploring ideas as broad and abstract as the possibility of alien life and as specific and concrete as tackling the 40,000 highway deaths that take place every year.

The interview is now available online, mashed up with images from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — highlights below.

In commenting on the cultural impact of mainstream media, Bradbury echoes David Foster Wallace’s lament:

Maybe we can get rid of a lot of lousy TV, I hope. It can look better if we can destroy most bad TV shows and most bad movies, really making more quality movies. And maybe we’ll redo our educational system and begin to teach reading and writing again. We’re not doing it now, and until we do, we’re going to be a stupid race.

But, unlike Wallace, Bradbury doesn’t believe the medium is the problem and instead makes a case for filling it with more substantial messages:

Anything except what’s on there! I watch the Turner Broadcast night after night — the old movies are better, no matter how dumb they are, they’re better what we’re doing now… We have to have more documentaries, more histories of the various countries of the world, more films on the miracles of life under the sea… when you look at the varieties of life that are under the ocean… Anything that puts a sense of the miraculous in you, that we’re living in a very strange element in this time, and we should appreciate the fact that we’re alive. Anything that makes you feel alive is good.

When asked about our obligation is in terms of passing our legacy along to future generations, Bradbury gives an answer that nods to combinatorial creativity and the idea that “you are a mashup of what you let into your life”:

If you don’t read or write, you can’t be educated, you can’t care about anything — you’ve gotta put something in people’s heads so the metaphors bounce around and collide with each other and make new metaphors. That’s the success I’ve had of daring to put different metaphors together, mashing their heads together, saying, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t think of that — how wonderful!’

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right. Holstee

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Remembering Ray Bradbury with 11 Timeless Quotes on Joy, Failure, Writing, Creativity, and Purpose

The literary hero in his own words.

What a tragic season it’s been for literary heroes who defined generations of readers and creators. Last month, we lost Maurice Sendak, and this week, Ray Bradbury — beloved author, champion of curiosity, relentless advocate of libraries — passed way at the age of 91. To celebrate his life and legacy, here are eleven of his most timeless insights on writing, culture, creativity, failure, happiness, and more.

On doing what you love, in this wonderful 2008 video interview from the National Endowment for the Arts:

Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.

On art, in Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You :

We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.

On reading as a prerequisite for democracy, from the same 2008 NEA interview:

If you know how to read, you have a complete education about life, then you know how to vote within a democracy. But if you don’t know how to read, you don’t know how to decide. That’s the great thing about our country — we’re a democracy of readers, and we should keep it that way.

On creativity and the myth of the muse, in Zen in the Art of Writing :

That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.

On creative purpose and perseverance in the face of rejection, in Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life :

[S]tarting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn’t realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn. Then, during the late forties, I actually began to sell short stories and accomplished some sort of deliverance from snowstorms in my fourth decade. But even today, my latest books of short stories contain at least seven stories that were rejected by every magazine in the United States and also in Sweden! So … take heart from this. The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

On signal and noise, in Zen in the Art of Writing :

Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures.

On curiosity and stimulating work, in his fantastic 2001 speech at The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea:

I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…,’ you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.

On joy in one’s work, in the same 2001 speech:

I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.

On symbolism and self-consciousness, in a lovely 1963 project by a high school student asking famous writers to weigh in on symbolism:

I never consciously place symbolism in my writing. That would be a self-conscious exercise and self-consciousness is defeating to any creative act. Better to get the subconscious to do the work for you, and get out of the way. The best symbolism is always unsuspected and natural. During a lifetime, one saves up information which collects itself around centers in the mind; these automatically become symbols on a subliminal level and need only be summoned in the heat of writing.

On the beauty of life’s ephemeral nature, in his final piece in the New Yorker:

Even at [age eleven], I was beginning to perceive the endings of things, like this lovely paper light. I had already lost my grandfather, who went away for good when I was five. I remember him so well: the two of us on the lawn in front of the porch, with twenty relatives for an audience, and the paper balloon held between us for a final moment, filled with warm exhalations, ready to go.

On legacy, through a character in Fahrenheit 451 :

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right. Holstee

via Brain Pickings http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/07/rip-ray-bradbury-quotes/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+brainpickings%2Frss+%28Brain+Pickings%29

06 Juni 2012

Legendary sci-fi fantasy author Ray Bradbury exits planet Earth

Author of influential post-WWII novel Fahrenheit 451 dies at 91

Ray Bradbury, a master of fantasy fiction and author of the classic dystopian sci-fi novel Fahrenheit 451, has died at the age of 91.…

via The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/06/06/rip_ray_bradbury/

Zum Tode Ray Bradburys: Ganz von dieser Welt

Er war der Moralist und Poet unter den Science-Fiction-Autoren: Ray Bradbury verstand es, in höchst unterhaltsamer Form menschliche Grundfragen zu behandeln - unter den Sci-Fi-Schreibern machte ihn das zu einer Ausnahme. Jetzt ist er im Alter von 91 Jahren gestorben.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/mit-ray-bradbury-ist-der-moralist-unter-den-science-fiction-autoren-gestorben-a-837408.html

S.P.O.N. - Die Mensch-Maschine: Da ist kein Gott im Netz

Auf Süddeutsche.de und im SPIEGEL schreiben zwei Journalisten dem Internet quasi-religiöse Eigenschaften zu - dabei ist dem Netz das Spirituelle fremd. Es ist eine von Menschen gemachte Riesenmaschine der Aufklärung. Eine notwendige Widerrede.

via SPIEGEL ONLINE - Schlagzeilen http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/sascha-lobo-da-ist-kein-gott-im-netz-a-836904.html


I *do* hear that they're the most comfortable thing to wear on your feet since sliced bread.

via xkcd.com http://xkcd.com/1065/

05 Juni 2012

But how do you keep track of everything?


Here's an interesting paradox for you: Despite the fact that there's a slow and steady pull away from RSS and Atom news feeds, it seems that there's more people than ever who are actually reading 'feeds' in one form or another. People who, just a few years ago, you'd never expect to be scrolling through a river of news, can't wait to log in to Twitter or Facebook, scrolling and clicking on links shared by their friends or pushed by custom news 'apps' right into their stream (which they then turn around and share with all their friends). Mobile apps like Flipboard or Pulse then collect all these social links, plus custom feeds from magazines and newspapers and create a good-looking booklet full of current news. It's all so seamless and amazing. Honestly, it's the most efficient way possible to see the latest amusing cat videos ever invented.

But here's the thing, what if you actually want to keep track of important information without relying on your social network to find it for you? What happens if you want to see EVERYTHING? It seems right now there's very few options - mostly just Google Reader, really, which relies on ever-harder-to-find RSS feeds to keep it going.

I mean, imagine you're at one of the analyst firms, or at Engadget, or in the marketing department of a large multinational corporation - technical or not - and your job is to keep track of all the news, all the conversations and anything else that happens in your particular area of interest, how do you do it? Flipboard, as pretty as it is, really isn't going to help a manager of a large dentist's office keep track of the latest amazing developments in the world of oral hygiene, and a business analyst isn't going to use Google Reader to keep track of the news concerning the various Fortune 500 companies in their watch list. Well, I hope not, anyways.

How do people keep track of everything? Are there any tools that I don't know about? Do they pay the thousands of dollars a month for those custom 'news tracking' services which send market summaries of every product or brand mention? Is there such a thing as a Bloomberg Terminal for tech and industry news? Is there something else I'm missing?

You know what I think? I think the vast majority of information workers out there are simply winging it. I think they browse the web randomly, read Yahoo's home page (in secret of course) or browse Google News, maybe check out a newspaper every other day, a magazine now and then, have 5,375 unread items in their Google Reader, and otherwise hope someone emails them interesting links, or pray they happen to be online at the right time when one of their Twitter contacts posts a relevant link to what they do for a living.

Because unless I'm missing something, and I'm pretty sure I'm not (as I do, in fact, read everything) they really don't have many other options.

Over the past several years, I've been continually developing and tweaking a personal news reader web app for exactly this reason. At first it was just hosted under /feeds on this site but eventually I decided to give it it's own domain, which was flip.io first (before Flipboard launched) and has wavered between xs.io, maven.io and the latest, magnet.io since. If you've ever seen one of those three domains in your server logs and wondered WTF it was, that was me.

Now this is one of those projects that is simply about scratching an itch. Though I'm always thinking about ways to transform it into some sort of money-making commercial effort, it really is simply an app that I want for my own use. I'm continually tweaking it and have a list of things I need to polish here and there, but even in it's continual work-in-progress state it's surprisingly effective at what it's supposed to do. At first, what I wanted a web-based news-reader that was cross platform, mobile-enabled and was not Google Reader for various reasons. But as soon as I had written the basic crawler, database and river of news pages, I immediately started adding features to help me deal with a deluge of information out there.

Here's just a few features:

24 hour expiration of news items. Why was I constantly going in and marking a huge list of backlogged items as 'read'? You know that massive number of articles and posts that you'll never, ever, ever get to? Why give myself an ulcer. If I'm not able to get to it, then they're just automatically out of my main feed. They're not deleted, or marked read, they just sort of fall off the end. I've adjusted the hours back and forth from 12 hours back to a week, but decided that, for me, 24 hours is good. It's not the exact number that's important, it's just the functionality.

Duplicate detection. Oh, I'd love to tell you I found some magic way of grouping and deleting items from multiple blogs that are basically the same summary of a news item in yet another site, but I haven't done that. I tried various ways, but none seemed to work for me. I know it's possible (look at Techmeme), but I haven't been able to get it yet. Some day. What I *did* do was stupid, basic and *incredibly* noticeable - which is simply look for the same exact damn item title and wack the second or third version in a day. You know how Engadget or TechCrunch have their mobile-focused sub-blogs? But then they end up linking to the same thing half the time? Well, they always use the same title, so I just filter that crap out. Simple, yet oh-so-effective.

Thumbnails. I've had this for years, and I'm starting to see that some of the iPad news reader apps are starting to get the idea. Every tech blog out there - including the best like Ars Technica - seems to REQUIRE that they have some obnoxious, huge, usually stolen, image accompanying every single item they post. I'd say 75% of the time, the image has absolutely nothing to do with the article and is usually nothing more than some stupid clip art, web meme, or upside-down brand logo (WHY?!??). It's very annoying. So the easiest thing to do is find the first image in every blog post and make a thumbnail out of it. If it's valuable, I'll be able to click and expand it, if not I can easily ignore it.

Summaries. Here's another one that some iPad readers are starting to grasp just now. Google Reader - like pretty much every other reader ever made - has two views: Titles or Full Posts. That's it. You either have to slog through every single massive image and lengthy text, or you get the bare information and usually a favicon (which I've decided are nothing but visual noise). What I do is detect the first paragraph (or a reasonable number of words) and use that in my main view - it allows you to fly through items, still grasping the main idea of each post, without having to slog forever. I also have the option of marking some feeds as 'default full', which I do for some link feeds like from Reddit, which don't have useful summaries. This is a no-brainer feature, that I don't understand why Readers don't have.

Visual Sparseness. There's no reason to have 'chrome', buttons, favicons, outlines, shading, colors, etc. bombarding your eyes as you're trying to work through a few thousand news items every day. As time has gone by, I've continually stripped down what my main stream shows me so that I can suck in as much information as possible without having to deal with a lot of crap. The side-benefit of this is there's nothing you have to worry about when you adapt the same interface to the phone, tablet or web, without a lot of extraneous crap in the middle of your feed, it makes an incredibly useful and light interface.


Logical and prioritized grouping. This isn't much of an innovation, just a note that after playing with various ways of sorting the items, I decided that having them organized into folders, and displayed in the by their published date, but within the order of the folders, was the most efficient. I keep the 'work' stuff up top, like my feeds for mobile-specific news items, and then I have the news, and link feeds like Y-Combinator down at the bottom. If I've made it down there, I'm most likely looking for novelty by that point. :-)


Integrated bookmarks. At one point I thought, "Why re-create the wheel? Use Delicious, or Pinboard to keep track of your links...", but the speed and efficiency of keeping stuff I want to read later in the same interface is worth the loss of the extra features a full-fledged link tracking app would give me. Also, to make sure I don't ignore the links I've saved, I automatically forward the main feed to the Links page once I'm done with my daily feeds. You know how it is, sometimes you save links that you think you should read, though you never seem to be in the mood to actually read it. Getting reminded of it every time you're jonesing for another good thing to read is quite useful.


Social Network Grouping. I subscribe to Twitter and Facebook by using their APIs in a different script than the main RSS crawler (which just uses SimplePie to grab the feed into my database before I process it). I don't just dump the entries from social feeds directly into my feeds though, as they'd overwhelm the rest of the links, or be so disorganized as to be incomprehensible. I'd say 90% of the people who post links and thoughts to Twitter or Facebook, do so in bursts. So, I run the scripts every hour, collect all the tweets, and then group them together by poster. Four or five tweets together looks, and reads, pretty much like a short blog post. It makes keeping track of everyone in your social network muuuuuch easier. Note, I used to actually keep appending tweets until I got around to reading them, but that was too much. The current system I have now means I still end up missing a few tweets now and then that hit the expiration limit, but chopping everything up is a bit more manageable - and can also lets me respond within a reasonable time as well.


Filters. This is a biggie, and not really finished yet. But the general idea is that I want to be able to 'mute' certain keywords for 24 hours if I've seen way too frigin' much of that topic that day. For example, today is E3 and it also seems to be a slow news day, so I've seen the same news about the XBox 30 times. If I thought this was going to continue (as it sometimes does when Apple launches something), I'd mute it. Also, I want to be able to auto-expand items that have keywords I want to keep track of.

But here's a lesson I learned from this so far about filtering - there's no magic. The corpus just isn't big enough. What I mean is, I've yet to find a way to train the news reader to highlight things I'm interested in. The total number of news items and the signals that you give the app (both positive and negative) never seem to make enough of a difference to actually hone future results. I absolutely *suck* at this sort of thing (aka 'math'), so I could be, and probably am incredibly wrong, but I've tried and tried again to get something working. In my reader, in addition to the links that I can explicitly mark with a star, *every* link I click on is recorded. So if I click on a link in the middle of an post, I record that URL, link title, and the parent item's full text in a history table. I've then used that and my explicit favorites to try and train a Bayesian filter, but even with thousands of clicks and hundreds of thousands of example items (which is about 6 months or so of feeds), I can't seem to get the damn thing to give any sort of reliable results. My goal was sort of a reverse SPAM filter - items that matched the Bayesian training would get marked - either displayed as a full post (instead of a summary) or getting a colored title bar, or whatever. But I've yet to get it working.

I suspect though, it might not be me. I think the amount of effort you'd need to make to mark items as like/dislike, and the amount of items you'd need to have as an example to compare against aren't practical. For SPAM, for which there are already massive examples of both, and highly tuned keyword filters, etc., it works (though for anyone who's managed their own SpamAssassin server, not always particularly well), but the meager numbers a personal news reader pulls in? I don't think it's going to happen. Then again, I visit Techmeme, and see all the automatically grouped, prioritized and filtered articles and I think I must be doing something wrong - even with the human editors, there's a lot of automated categorization as well. That's basically the same problem I'm trying to solve, so it must be possible with the same sort of inputs, or at least more feasible than I think.

Okay, so that's just some of the stuff. There's more: Full-text search, a JSON-based API and Javascript front-end with infinite scrolling which works on pretty much every smartphone I've tried it on, auto-marking read-items in batches, so when the iPad's Safari crashes (as it does quite often) or I'm on my phone and reading an item and get interrupted, I never actually lose those items as they're not marked read until they've scrolled well past that spot.

Anyways, the end result to all this is a custom-focused web application which allows me to keep track of hundreds of news feeds, social items, and even 'firehose' feeds without losing my mind or dedicating 20 hours a day to reading. My 24 hour timeout rarely gets used, as I'm able to zip through the feeds very efficiently - but I also don't have to fear opening up my reader after I spend a weekend out and about with my kid either. I can happily say it's the perfect news reader for me (because of course I made it for me.).

I think the next steps will probably be more focus on the filters - I imagine a full set of "If This, Then That" style item filters like you can create using an email client. Figuring out how to enable more intelligence - not necessarily magic, but at least automation - to the filtering process is key. Also, I see a time shortly when web scraping, rather than just feed parsing, will be something I'll need to add, as well as more API integration, as it's pretty obvious RSS is going away. (Though I'd love to see it replaced with something like a JSON version, that had added bits for requesting deltas - sort of like PubsubHubbub, but easier.).

Could this ever be a business? It depends - I'm not sure it'd be a consumer-level offering, but I bet there'd be a lot of info worker professionals who'd be willing to pay a few bucks - Pinboard.in style - to leave Google Reader behind for something more customizable and efficient. We might be coming full circle on a cycle of feed aggregators. It started with the original ones like Amphetameme and Radio Userland, then Newsgator and FeedDemon and Bloglines, then Google Reader came and seemed to suck the air out of the whole area. Now maybe after a break, there's another wave coming. Honestly, it doesn't seem like anyone has ever figured out how to make any real money from a feed reader though, which is probably why they all seem to fade away over time. This makes sense in a way, as the core focus of an aggregator is someone else's content. Even if you think of a feed reader as akin to a full web browser in its functionality, again, when's the last time anyone made any money making a web browser? Still, there's value there, you can feel it. It's just a matter of figuring out what it is.

So if you made it this far, now you know what I do in my spare time. I'm either reading everything I can, or figuring out ways I can read more. (Yes, I probably need help... Is there an info-junkie's anonymous? Sign me up.)


via Russell Beattie http://www.russellbeattie.com/blog/but-how-do-you-keep-track-of-everything

04 Juni 2012

Is Pluto a Planet? An Animated Explanation Sets the Record Straight

A brief history of why the word “planet” isn’t very helpful.

Since the dawn of time, mankind has sought to order the heavens, our models for the universe and the Solar System constantly evolving. The latest celestial body to ride the roller coaster of categorization is Pluto, which seems to fall in and out of planetary favor far too frequently for anyone to understand — or remember — whether or not it is indeed a planet. From the invariably edutaining C. G. P. Gray, whose fast-paced animations have previously set the record straight on everything from why the color pink doesn’t exist to the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England to several historical misconceptions, comes this short illuminator on what to make of Pluto after all:

As we increase our knowledge of the universe, the category of “planet” will probably continue to evolve or, possibly, fall out of favor entirely.

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