🔖 Mapping Uncertainty on the Oregon Trail

Mapping Uncertainty on the Oregon Trail by Anelise H. Shrout
In the early 1840s the American West, though claimed by the United States, was considered by many white Americans to be untamed, wild, and possibly rife with unknown wealth. This was a West that existed largely in the American imagination. In fact, the area west of the Missouri was home to complex Native societies, was divided into political structures, and was intimately known, if not formally mapped. These two competing Wests - that imagined by many Americans and that inhabited by Souix, Pawnee, Snake and Nez Pierce tribes - were mapped both geographically and textually by John C. Frémont between 1842 and 1843. Frémont set out from St. Louis in the summer of 1842, and began to chronicle his journey west, in the wake of "emigrants" who were moving to the Oregon Territory - a route known as the "Oregon Trail." Frémont's first expedition covered the land between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains during the summer and fall of 1842. In the summer of 1843 he set out to write an account of the second half of the Oregon Trail, from the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River in Oregon. The maps contained here are drawn from the Library of Congress's collection "Topographical map of the road from Missouri to Oregon, commencing at the mouth of the Kansas in the Missouri River and ending at the mouth of the Walla-Wallah in the Columbia." They were created using Frémont's journal, and cover his first and second expeditions. I have annotated the maps with accounts of the resting places, flora, fauna, and people Frémont's and his party encountered on their journey west.

You’ve played the game Oregon Trail via DOS (as a child), online, or via app but have you traced the actual trail taken by John C. Frémont between 1842 and 1843? Now you can with this daily interactive map with journal.

Thanks Anelise Shrout!

Topological Map of the Road from Missouri to Oregon

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🔖 SoundCloud Downloader

SoundCloud Downloader(http://scdownloader.net/)
SoundCloud Downloader is a simple online tool for downloading any music tracks from SoundCloud. It's free and very easy to use and you get high quality mp3 for any track. Just paste the track page link in URL field above and hit the download button. It extracts the track uri(hosted on SoundCloud's server) from which you can directly download or save the mp3 track in one click. Make sure you paste only one url at a time, in the above input box.

This fits into the same category of scraper as Ryan Barrett‘s tool that extracts audio from video for bookmarking and listening to via Huffduffer.

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🔖 What is good mathematics? | Terry Tao

What is good mathematics? by Terence Tao(arxiv.org)
Some personal thoughts and opinions on what ``good quality mathematics'' is, and whether one should try to define this term rigorously. As a case study, the story of Szemer\'edi's theorem is presented.

This looks like a cool little paper.

Update 3/17/17

Some thoughts after reading

And indeed it was. The opening has lovely long (though possibly incomplete) list of aspects of good mathematics toward which mathematicians should strive. The second section contains an interesting example which looks at the history of a theorem and it’s effect on several different areas. To me most of the value is in thinking about the first several pages. I highly recommend this to all young budding mathematicians.

In particular, as a society, we need to be careful of early students in elementary and high school as well as college as the pedagogy of mathematics at these lower levels tends to weed out potential mathematicians of many of these stripes. Students often get discouraged from pursuing mathematics because it’s “too hard” often because they don’t have the right resources or support. These students, may in fact be those who add to the well-roundedness of the subject which help to push it forward.

I believe that this diverse and multifaceted nature of “good mathematics” is very healthy for mathematics as a whole, as it it allows us to pursue many different approaches to the subject, and exploit many different types of mathematical talent, towards our common goal of greater mathematical progress and understanding. While each one of the above attributes is generally accepted to be a desirable trait to have in mathematics, it can become detrimental to a field to pursue only one or two of them at the expense of all the others.

As I look at his list of scenarios, it also reminds me of how areas within the humanities can become quickly stymied. The trouble in some of those areas of study is that they’re not as rigorously underpinned, as systematic, or as brutally clear as mathematics can be, so the fact that they’ve become stuck may not be noticed until a dreadfully much later date. These facts also make it much easier and clearer in some of these fields to notice the true stars.

As a reminder for later, I’ll include these scenarios about research fields:

  • A field which becomes increasingly ornate and baroque, in which individual
    results are generalised and refined for their own sake, but the subject as a
    whole drifts aimlessly without any definite direction or sense of progress;
  • A field which becomes filled with many astounding conjectures, but with no
    hope of rigorous progress on any of them;
  • A field which now consists primarily of using ad hoc methods to solve a collection
    of unrelated problems, which have no unifying theme, connections, or purpose;
  • A field which has become overly dry and theoretical, continually recasting and
    unifying previous results in increasingly technical formal frameworks, but not
    generating any exciting new breakthroughs as a consequence; or
  • A field which reveres classical results, and continually presents shorter, simpler,
    and more elegant proofs of these results, but which does not generate any truly
    original and new results beyond the classical literature.
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🔖 Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction by Parke Wilde

Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction by Parke Wilde(Routledge, 2013)
This book offers a broad introduction to food policies in the United States. Real-world controversies and debates motivate the book’s attention to economic principles, policy analysis, nutrition science and contemporary data sources. It assumes that the reader's concern is not just the economic interests of farmers, but also includes nutrition, sustainable agriculture, the environment and food security. The book’s goal is to make US food policy more comprehensible to those inside and outside the agri-food sector whose interests and aspirations have been ignored.

The chapters cover US agriculture, food production and the environment, international agricultural trade, food and beverage manufacturing, food retail and restaurants, food safety, dietary guidance, food labeling, advertising and federal food assistance programs for the poor.

The author is an agricultural economist with many years of experience in the non-profit advocacy sector, the US Department of Agriculture and as a professor at Tufts University. The author's well-known blog on US food policy provides a forum for discussion and debate of the issues set out in the book.

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🔖 How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb

How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb(Crown Business, February 2, 2016)
In How to Have a Good Day, economist and former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb shows readers how to use recent findings from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience to transform our approach to everyday working life.

Advances in these behavioral sciences are giving us ever better understanding of how our brains work, why we make the choices we do, and what it takes for us to be at our best. But it has not always been easy to see how to apply these insights in the real world – until now.

In How to Have a Good Day, Webb explains exactly how to apply this science to our daily tasks and routines. She translates three big scientific ideas into step-by-step guidance that shows us how to set better priorities, make our time go further, ace every interaction, be our smartest selves, strengthen our personal impact, be resilient to setbacks, and boost our energy and enjoyment. Through it all, Webb teaches us how to navigate the typical challenges of modern workplaces—from conflict with colleagues to dull meetings and overflowing inboxes—with skill and ease.

Filled with stories of people who have used Webb’s insights to boost their job satisfaction and performance at work, How to Have a Good Day is the book so many people wanted when they finished Nudge, Blink and Thinking Fast and Slow and were looking for practical ways to apply this fascinating science to their own lives and careers.

A remarkable and much-needed book, How to Have a Good Day gives us the tools we need to have a lifetime of good days.

— Fortune.com - 5 Business Books to Learn From
— Forbes - 16 New Books for Creative Learners

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🔖 Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini(Simon & Schuster, September 6, 2016)
The author of the legendary bestseller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? Using the same combination of rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to capitalize on the essential window of time before you deliver an important message. This “privileged moment for change” prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

His first solo work in over thirty years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini draws on an array of studies and narratives to outline the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.”

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🔖 Confessions of the Pricing Man: How Price Affects Everything by Hermann Simon

Confessions of the Pricing Man: How Price Affects Everything by Hermann Simon(Springer, 2015)
The world’s foremost expert on pricing strategy shows how this mysterious process works and how to maximize value through pricing to company and customer.

In all walks of life, we constantly make decisions about whether something is worth our money or our time, or try to convince others to part with their money or their time. Price is the place where value and money meet. From the global release of the latest electronic gadget to the bewildering gyrations of oil futures to markdowns at the bargain store, price is the most powerful and pervasive economic force in our day-to-day lives and one of the least understood.

The recipe for successful pricing often sounds like an exotic cocktail, with equal parts psychology, economics, strategy, tools and incentives stirred up together, usually with just enough math to sour the taste. That leads managers to water down the drink with hunches and rules of thumb, or leave out the parts with which they don’t feel comfortable. While this makes for a sweeter drink, it often lacks the punch to have an impact on the customer or on the business.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though, as Hermann Simon illustrates through dozens of stories collected over four decades in the trenches and behind the scenes. A world-renowned speaker on pricing and a trusted advisor to Fortune 500 executives, Simon’s lifelong journey has taken him from rural farmers’ markets, to a distinguished academic career, to a long second career as an entrepreneur and management consultant to companies large and small throughout the world. Along the way, he has learned from Nobel Prize winners and leading management gurus, and helped countless managers and executives use pricing as a way to create new markets, grow their businesses and gain a sustained competitive advantage. He also learned some tough personal lessons about value, how people perceive it, and how people profit from it.

In this engaging and practical narrative, Simon leaves nothing out of the pricing cocktail, but still makes it go down smoothly and leaves you wanting to learn more and do more―as a consumer or as a business person. You will never look at pricing the same way again.

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🔖 Linear Operator Theory in Engineering and Science

Linear Operator Theory in Engineering and Science by Arch W. Naylor and George R. Sell(Springer, 2nd printing 2000 edition (October 4, 2013))
A unique introduction to the theory of linear operators on Hilbert space. The author presents the basic facts of functional analysis in a form suitable for engineers, scientists, and applied mathematicians. Although the Definition-Theorem-Proof format of mathematics is used, careful attention is given to motivation of the material covered and many illustrative examples are presented.

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60db and audio discovery

60db: Your World. Story by Story.(60dB)
60dB brings you today's best short-form audio stories – news, sports, entertainment, business and technology, all personalized for you.

I just ran across a recommendation for an audio discovery app via Mathew Ingram at the end of This Week in Google #389.

60db seems like the start of what could be an interesting podcast/audio discovery app/engine. It has the appearance of wanting to be like Nuzzel for the audio space based on their announcement, but isn’t quite there yet based on my quick look through their site. On first blush it doesn’t seem much better than Huffduffer and doesn’t have a follower model of any sort, but perhaps that could change. Folks watching the podcasting and audio discovery space should keep an eye on it though.

Sadly, at least for now, the app appears to focus on short form audio (3-8 minutes in length) from major media content producers who are already syndicating audio in podcast format. I haven’t used the iOS (no Android app yet) app, but the web interface allows one to pick from a list of about 20 broad category options (news, sports, politics, kids, etc.) to “customize” one’s feed.

Hopefully in the future it may build itself out a bit more like Nuzzel by requesting data from one’s Facebook or Twitter feeds to better customize an algorithmic feed for better general audio discovery. Maybe it will allow a follower model based on social graph for improved discovery. One might also like to see custom settings for podcast story length, so one could choose between short hit audio, which they currently have in abundance, and longer form stories for lengthier commute times.

For the moment however, they seem to have recreated a slightly better and more portable version of news radio for the internet/mobile crowd. Perhaps future iterations will reveal more?

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🔖 "Opposite-of"-information improves similarity calculations in phenotype ontologies

"Opposite-of"-information improves similarity calculations in phenotype ontologies by Sebastian Koehler, Peter N. Robinson, Christopher J. Mungall(bioRxiv)
One of the most important use cases of ontologies is the calculation of similarity scores between a query and items annotated with classes of an ontology. The hierarchical structure of an ontology does not necessarily reflect all relevant aspects of the domain it is modelling, and this can reduce the performance of ontology-based search algorithms. For instance, the classes of phenotype ontologies may be arranged according to anatomical criteria, but individual phenotypic features may affect anatomic entities in opposite ways. Thus, "opposite" classes may be located in close proximity in an ontology; for example enlarged liver and small liver are grouped under abnormal liver size. Using standard similarity measures, these would be scored as being similar, despite in fact being opposites. In this paper, we use information about opposite ontology classes to extend two large phenotype ontologies, the human and the mammalian phenotype ontology. We also show that this information can be used to improve rankings based on similarity measures that incorporate this information. In particular, cosine similarity based measures show large improvements. We hypothesize this is due to the natural embedding of opposite phenotypes in vector space. We support the idea that the expressivity of semantic web technologies should be explored more extensively in biomedical ontologies and that similarity measures should be extended to incorporate more than the pure graph structure defined by the subclass or part-of relationships of the underlying ontologies.
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Checkin UCLA Store (Ackerman Union)

UCLA Store (Ackerman Union)

This looks like fun: Signals and Boundaries: Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems by John H. Holland

Ackerman Union, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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Buzzfeed implements the IndieWeb concept of backfeed to limit filter bubbles

The evolution of comments on articles takes a new journalistic turn

Outside Your Bubble

This past Wednesday, BuzzFeed rolled out a new feature on their website called “Outside your Bubble”. I think the concept is so well-described and so laudable from a journalistic perspective, that I’ll excerpt their editor-in-chief’s entire description of the feature below. In short, they’ll be featuring some of the commentary on their pieces by pulling it in from social media silos.

What is interesting is that this isn’t a new concept and even more intriguing, there’s some great off-the-shelf technology that helps people move towards doing this type of functionality already.

The IndieWeb and backfeed

For the past several years, there’s been a growing movement on the the internet known as the IndieWeb, a “people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.” Their primary goal is for people to better control their online identities by owning their own domain and the content they put on it while also allowing them to be better connected.

As part of the movement, users can more easily post their content on their own site and syndicate it elsewhere (a process known by the acronym POSSE). Many of these social media sites allow for increased distribution, but they also have the side effect of cordoning off or siloing the conversation. As a result many IndieWeb proponents backfeed the comments, likes, and other interactions on their syndicated content back to their original post.

Backfeed is the process of pulling back interactions on your syndicated content back (AKA reverse syndicating) to your original posts.

This concept of backfeed is exactly what BuzzFeed is proposing, but with a more editorial slant meant to provide additional thought and analysis on their original piece. In some sense, from a journalistic perspective, it also seems like an evolutionary step towards making traditional comments have more value to the casual reader. Instead of a simple chronological list of comments which may or may not have any value, they’re also using the feature to surface the more valuable comments which appear on their pieces. In a crowded journalistic marketplace, which is often misguided by market metrics like numbers of clicks, I have a feeling that more discerning readers will want this type of surfaced value if it’s done well. And discerning readers can bring their own value to a content publisher.

I find it interesting that not only is BuzzFeed using the concept of backfeed like this, but in Ben Smith’s piece, he eschews the typical verbiage ascribed to social media sites, namely the common phrase “walled garden,” in lieu of the word silo, which is also the word adopted by the IndieWeb movement to describe a “centralized web site typically owned by a for-profit corporation that stakes some claim to content contributed to it and restricts access in some way (has walls).”

To some extent, it almost appears that the BuzzFeed piece parrots back portions of the Why IndieWeb? page on the IndieWeb wiki.

Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | BuzzFeed

A new feature on some of our most widely shared articles.

BuzzFeed News is launching an experiment this week called “Outside Your Bubble,” an attempt to give our audience a glimpse at what’s happening outside their own social media spaces.

The Outside Your Bubble feature will appear as a module at the bottom of some widely shared news articles and will pull in what people are saying about the piece on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, the web, and other platforms. It’s a response to the reality that often the same story will have two or three distinct and siloed conversations taking place around it on social media, where people talk to the like-minded without even being aware of other perspectives on the same reporting.

Our goal is to give readers a sense of these conversations around an article, and to add a kind of transparency that has been lost in the rise of social-media-driven filter bubbles. We view it in part as a way to amplify the work of BuzzFeed News reporters, and to add for readers a sense of the context in which news lives now.

And if you think there’s a relevant viewpoint we’re missing, you can contact the curator at bubble@buzzfeed.com.

Source: Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | Ben Smith for BuzzFeed

Editorial Perspective and Diminishing Returns

The big caveat on this type of journalistic functionality is that it may become a game of diminishing returns. When a new story comes out, most of the current ecosystem is geared too heavily towards freshness: which story is newest? It would be far richer if there were better canonical ways of indicating which articles were the most thorough, accurate, timely and interesting instead of just focusing on which was simply the most recent. Google News, as an example, might feature a breaking story for several hours, but thereafter every Tom, Dick, and Harry outlet on the planet will have their version of the story–often just a poorer quality rehash of the original without any new content–which somehow becomes the top of the heap because it’s the newest in the batch. Aram Zucker-Scharff mentioned this type of issue a few days ago in a tweetstorm which I touched upon last week.

Worse, for the feature to work well, it relies on the continuing compilation of responses, and the editorial effort required seems somewhat wasted in doing this as, over time, the audience for the article slowly diminishes. Thus for the largest portion of the audience there will be no commentary, all the while ever-dwindling incoming audiences get to see the richer content. This is just the opposite of the aphorism “the early bird gets the worm.” Even if the outlet compiled responses on a story from social media as they were writing in real time, it becomes a huge effort to stay current and capture eyeballs at scale. Hopefully the two effects will balance each other out creating an overall increase of value for both the publisher and the audience to have a more profound effect on the overall journalism ecosystem.

Personally and from a user experience perspective, I’d like to have the ability to subscribe to an article I read and enjoyed so that I can come back to it at a prescribed later date to see what the further thoughts on it were. As things stand, it’s painfully difficult and time consuming as a reader to attempt to engage on interesting pieces at a deeper level. Publications that can do this type of coverage and/or provide further analysis on ongoing topics will also have a potential edge over me-too publications that are simply rehashing the same exact stories on a regular basis. Outlets could also leverage this type user interface and other readers’ similar desire to increase their relationship with their readers by providing this value that others won’t or can’t.

Want more on “The IndieWeb and Journalism”?
See: Some thoughts about how journalists could improve their online presences with IndieWeb principles along with a mini-case study of a site that is employing some of these ideas.

In some sense, some of this journalistic workflow reminds me how much I miss Slate.com’s Today’s Papers feature in which someone read through the early edition copies of 4-5 major newspapers and did a quick synopsis of the day’s headlines and then analyzed the coverage of each to show how the stories differed, who got the real scoop, and at times declare a “winner” in coverage so that readers could then focus on reading that particular piece from the particular outlet.

Backfeed in action

What do you think about this idea? Will it change journalism and how readers consume it?

As always, you can feel free to comment on this story directly below, but you can also go to most of the syndicated versions of this post indicated below, and reply to or comment on them there. Your responses via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ will be backfed via Brid.gy to this post and appear as comments below, so the entire audience will be able to see the otherwise dis-aggregated conversation compiled into one place.

If you prefer to own the content of your own comment or are worried your voice could be “moderated out of existence” (an experience I’ve felt the sting of in the past), feel free to post your response on your own website or blog, include a permalink to this article in your response, put the URL of your commentary into the box labeled “URL/Permalink of your Article”, and then click the “Ping Me” button. My site will then grab your response and add it to the comment stream with all the others.

Backfeed on!

H/T to Ryan Barrett for pointing out the BuzzFeed article.

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🔖 Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions and Income Inequality

Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions and Income Inequality by Dominik Hartmann, Miguel R. Guevara, Cristian Jara-Figueroa, Manuel Aristarán, César A. Hidalgo(arxiv.org)
A country's mix of products predicts its subsequent pattern of diversification and economic growth. But does this product mix also predict income inequality? Here we combine methods from econometrics, network science, and economic complexity to show that countries exporting complex products (as measured by the Economic Complexity Index) have lower levels of income inequality than countries exporting simpler products. Using multivariate regression analysis, we show that economic complexity is a significant and negative predictor of income inequality and that this relationship is robust to controlling for aggregate measures of income, institutions, export concentration, and human capital. Moreover, we introduce a measure that associates a product to a level of income inequality equal to the average GINI of the countries exporting that product (weighted by the share the product represents in that country's export basket). We use this measure together with the network of related products (or product space) to illustrate how the development of new products is associated with changes in income inequality. These findings show that economic complexity captures information about an economy's level of development that is relevant to the ways an economy generates and distributes its income. Moreover, these findings suggest that a country's productive structure may limit its range of income inequality. Finally, we make our results available through an online resource that allows for its users to visualize the structural transformation of over 150 countries and their associated changes in income inequality between 1963 and 2008.

MIT has a pretty good lay-person’s overview of this article. The final published version is separately available.


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🔖 Post filtering fixes at Homebrew Website Club | Colin Devroe

Post filtering fixes at Homebrew Website Club by Colin Devroe(cdevroe.com)
Last night Tucker Hottes, Den Temple and I held the first Homebrew Website Club at The Keys in Scranton, PA. I really appreciate that HWC will force me to set aside some time to work on my personal site since it is often neglected for more pressing projects.

Nota bene: Colin is dogfooding his IndieWeb friendly WordPress theme on Github! It’s a beautiful, simple, and very clean theme for a personal website/blog.

Colin, do you mind if we provide a link to your theme on https://indieweb.org/WordPress/Themes for others to potentially use and/or improve upon? (See also discussion at https://indieweb.org/WordPress/Development#Themes.)

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