Think clusters, not websites


Adam Tinworth thinks that Google Authorship’s evolution could be

another major step in Google stepping away from the website as the core unit of the web, towards the page and its author – with authorship and author reputation a core part of how search works.

This is something my friend James Byford drummed into me. The web wasn’t designed to connect websites, but individual things – information, pages, paragraphs, people, objects . 

This is how we experience and use the web, for the most part. In bits.

Clusters and hubs and collections are important on the web, in terms of making things findable, their reputation more readily understood. But when thinking about online presence, a website isn’t always the best model to be thinking about. 

We nod when people talk about content ecosystems, but I’m not sure we always think about what that really means. The overlapping and interdependent complexities of reputations and networks are befuddling. We retreat to manageable, quantifiable metaphors. 


This, I did not  know:

UK drones have been used in almost 350 attacks in Afghanistan since 2008 (that’s a drone strike every four days), and recently moved to double the size of its fleet of reaper drones.

James Bridle thinks it is something more people should know about and has created an  Instagram profile called Dronestagram where he posts Google Maps satellite images of the places where recent attacks have happened.

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Social commerce only works when it goes native

Fred Wilson shares a powerful insight about social media and e-commerce – or social commerce, as its often known:

When users start in a social system that is divorced from the e-commerce platform, I believe the conversion rates are significantly lower, often by an order of magnitude or more. This, to me, suggests that the overhead of multiple systems reduces the effectiveness of the experience for users and is suboptimal.

Fred’s perspective is born from his experience of working with lots of ecommerce and social start ups.

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Lazy narratives and how to be wrong

Apple-bashing is a game a lot of people these days.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball is challenging the emerging narrative of the company’s inevitable decline after the death of Steve Jobs. 

Apple was far from perfect under Steve Jobs. But in hindsight, critics and skeptics of the company now see fit to deem his reign flawless or nearly so. Here’s a guy on Yahoo Finance telling Henry Blodget that “Steve Jobs wasn’t wrong about anything ever.”

What you want is to be (1) right more often than wrong; (2) willing to recognize when you are wrong; and (3) able and willing to correct whatever is wrong. If you expect perfection, to be right all the time, you’re going to fail on all three of those — you will be wrong sometimes, that’s just human nature; you’ll be less willing or unwilling to recognize when you’re wrong because you’ve talked yourself into expecting perfection; and you won’t fix what’s wrong because you’ll have convinced yourself you weren’t wrong in the first place. The only way to come close to being right all the time is to be willing to change your mind and recognize mistakes — it’s never going to happen that you’re right all the time in the first place.

There’s some wisdom for us all in that…

Hoax-busting: Self-correcting Twitter streams

Is crap-detection, as Howard Rheingold calls it, something Twitter’s crowd is increasing doing for itself? 

Mike Orcutt, writing on MIT Technology Review thinks it may be:

Around 9 PM Eastern last night, my Twitter feed lit up with messages from respected journalists and bloggers declaring that NBC News had projected Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren the winner of the closely-watched Senate race in Massachusetts, in which she was running against Republican Scott Brown. That’s funny, I thought. I had been watching NBC News, and I couldn’t recall the anchors announcing Warren as the winner.

During Hurricane Sandy, one user was the source of several potentially dangerous false rumors. A message claiming the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange was flooded by three feet of water fooled even CNN and the Weather Channel.
However, that night, like last night, skeptical Twitter users helped the network self-correct fairly quickly.

The social screen

Image: just an act of florid self-expression…

Musing on Instagram, Adrian Chan has a great insight about the nature of “the social screen”:

The image, as an act of expression, inherits from the medium. The social screen has three modes: mirror, surface, and window. In its mirror mode, we see our image. In its surface mode, we can “consume” content rendered onscreen. In its window mode, what’s onscreen disappears and we see others and communicate with or to them.

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Tricking yourself out of information overload

According to Oliver Burkeman, informational overload is “suffused with irrationality”: 

There are millions of information sources we could, in theory, keep up with, but only a few that we tell ourselves we must – and the distinction’s pretty arbitrary. I try to answer all personal emails, but I don’t worry about answering all personal Twitter messages. 

The way to deal with our irrational, modern malady may be to make choices and use tools that trick us into thinking we are in control: 

When Google launched Priority Inbox, which sifts email into “important” and “everything else”, I was sceptical: prioritisation systems mainly involve pointlessly reordering your to-do list. But friends who swear by it don’t really use it to prioritise: they use it as a guiltless way to ignore the non-important emails entirely, and thus feel more in command.

….I capture a page in the note-taking application Evernote, label it with the tag “to read” and file it away. Frequently, I never read it. But it works: the information feels tamed. The tug is gone. I’m in control, so I’m happy.

Funnily enough, Instapaper fills this role for me right now and I feel terrible about it.

I used to love Instapaper – the simplicity of the layout, the focus on reading longer form pieces. Now I just throw everything in there that I think I should read, but in reality I never get round to reading it much. Now it feels like a grim box where I have locked away all of my procrastination and I never really fancy opening it much. 

Team GB Cycling and the magic of marginal gains


Over the summer I developed a bit of an obsession with Team GB Cycling, like a lot of people.

How did they become so successful? So successful that the game for a lot of the other athletes became how to stop Team GB winning, the spiteful whelps

Dave Brailsford cuts an interesting figure as a leader and is a good place to start trying to answer that question. Look at his obsession with detail, but resistance to becoming a micromanager.  His philosophy was – and is –  ask: “how do we get people to be the best that they can be?”, and then apply the answer to cycling.

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