28 Jul

BBC News – Obama: ‘Nothing new’ in Wikileaks Afghan records leak

Barack Obama has said that the leaking of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan is a concern, but that it had not revealed any new information.

In his first public reaction to the leak, the US president said the data justified his decision to overhaul the US military strategy in Afghanistan.

via BBC News – Obama: ‘Nothing new’ in Wikileaks Afghan records leak. Wait a minute, it’s three things at once, a security concern, no new information and allows the public to have a justification for a past decision? Anybody follow the logic behind all of those?

28 Jul

FiveThirtyEight – Politics Done Right: Cap-and-Trade is Dead; Long Live Cap-and-Trade

But my premise is that tax increases are inevitable: it’s a question of who bears those taxes and how they bear them. And at some point Congress — which is surely headed for some massive showdowns over the budget at some point in the next several years — might conclude that cap-and-trade is a more acceptable way to raise revenues than an omnibus tax increase. In fact, cap-and-trade actually polls rather well. That might change as the public learns more about policy and comes to grips with the fact that they’re going to have to bear some of the costs personally. But other than increased taxes on the very wealthy, and some gimmicky stuff like sin taxes and windfall profits taxes that don’t have all that much revenue-generating potential, it polls a lot better than other types of tax increases, and may be a more politically palatable compromise.

via FiveThirtyEight – Politics Done Right: Cap-and-Trade is Dead; Long Live Cap-and-Trade. If I could I would just re-quote the whole article word for word.

27 Jul

52 Weeks of UX – Time to Delight

How long does it take for a new visitor/customer to be delighted using your product or service?

via 52 Weeks of UX – Time to Delight. Probably the most important and hardest metric. The most important because that is the real job of a product or service to delight the customer. The hardest because you have to go out and ask your customers one by one and find out how to replicate that awesome experience or that one thing that wowed your customers for all of the others.

One of the things missing from Texas Tech’s Computer Science degree is a course in Human & Computer Interaction, or along similar lines. We learn a lot about how to write good software but nothing of how to make people experience delight in using it. And the real key behind good software isn’t how bug free it is, but does the customer absolutely love using that application, if they do you’ve made a customer for life. Apple is the obvious and perfect example of this.

27 Jul

BBC News – US border violence: Myth or reality?

In the past two years, more than 5,000 people have been murdered in Juarez as drug-related crime has soared.

A few hundred yards away across the river in El Paso, local authorities have recorded just two murders this year. In 2009 there were 11.

Yet politicians including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tend to portray border towns as being pushed to crisis point.

via BBC News – US border violence: Myth or reality?. BBC News on truth versus perception in terms of violence on the border.

27 Jul

Skepticblog – The Reasonableness of Weird Things

In my experience, the top reasons people believe weird things are not only understandable, but identical to the reasons most skeptics believe things: they are persuaded by personal experiences (or by the experiences of a loved one); or, they are persuaded by the sources they have consulted.

via Skepticblog – The Reasonableness of Weird Things. A both interesting and important point for getting quite possibly at why it can be so hard for people to dis-believe an other wise irrational belief.

27 Jul

Electronic Frontier Foundation – EFF Wins New Legal Protections for Video Artists, Cell Phone Jailbreakers, and Unlockers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won three critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anticircumvention provisions today, carving out new legal protections for consumers who modify their cell phones and artists who remix videos — people who, until now, could have been sued for their non-infringing or fair use activities.

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – EFF Wins New Legal Protections for Video Artists, Cell Phone Jailbreakers, and Unlockers. Not only do the new rules include the ability to unlock your cell phone, but also includes the ability to break copy protection on a DVD for either educational or parody purposes.

27 Jul

bluesmoon – Handling Date/Times and timezones

  • Always store time in UTC
  • Convert to local time on display (local being defined by the user looking at the data)
  • When storing a timezone, you need the name, timestamp and the offset. This is required because governments sometimes change the meanings of their timezones (eg: the US govt changed DST dates), and your application needs to handle things gracefully… eg: The exact timestamp when episodes of LOST showed both before and after DST rules changed.

via bluesmoon – Handling Date/Times and timezones. The three basic rules of storing date/times in a web application.

25 Jul

Drawar – Sometimes A Grid Can Save You

The idea by some web designers that a grid isn’t necessary goes to show how silly some people in our industry can be. Sure sometimes you can simply get by with a design by "eyeing" it, but a grid helps to keep the chaos under control with a bit of structure. Even the best effects and elements won’t carry a design if the grid isn’t there to prop it up.

via Drawar – Sometimes A Grid Can Save You. A grid creates structure to an otherwise unstructured document.

25 Jul

Scientific American – The New Normal? Average Global Temperatures Continue to Rise

This trend reaches back further than a couple of years. There have been exactly zero months, since February 1985, with average temperatures below those for the entire 20th century. (And those numbers are not as dramatic as they could be, because the last 15 years of the 20th century included in this period raised its average temperature, thereby lessening the century-long heat differential.) That streak—304 months and counting—was certainly not broken in June 2010, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Last month saw average global surface temperatures 0.68 degree Celsius warmer than the 20th-century average of 15.5 degrees C for June—making it the warmest June at ground level since record-keeping began in 1880.

via Scientific American – The New Normal? Average Global Temperatures Continue to Rise. But of course climate change is a made up fiction of scientists bent on ridding the world of oil, or something?

25 Jul

Marco.org – School grades are hopelessly broken

I saw this very clearly when I was in school. Grades don’t reflect your aptitude, intelligence, or understanding of the subject matter. You don’t need to actually learn much useful material to get good grades. (And many of those who learn exceptionally well don’t get good grades.)

via Marco.org – School grades are hopelessly broken. Yet another in the long list of people for whom grades don’t matter and are worthless measures of ability. The larger problem isn’t that grades as they exist are a broken system, but that we don’t have any good concept of something that can scale to deal with millions of students and yet still capture exactly how much knowledge a single student actually captured and is able to apply years later.