Shared posts

24 May 06:19

What’s Missing In Moderation?

by Richard Millington

If you want a less inclusive debate, let the diehards dominate it.

Soon everyone with a moderate view is a ‘sympathiser/traitor/idiot’ and ‘doesn’t get it’.

Those with opposing views are bullied out of the discussion altogether.

The diehards win because others simply don’t care enough to keep going (hence why they’re not diehards).

Get a group of people with a moderate view together and the most popular members will be those who can express the most extreme form of that view.

Moderators are trained to remove posts and people which violate rules which can be written. They’re rarely trained to spot and tackle diehards who break unwritten rules.

They don’t remove members who violate codes of conduct which can’t be easily transcribed. They’re so rarely trained to stick up and encourage a minority view to have a more inclusive debate.

If you catch members making huge assertions (‘x’ is dead/ ‘x’ is the future) without referencing evidence, you have a diehard problem.

If you spot any variation of the phrase ‘s/he doesn’t get it’, you have a diehard problem.

If you see a discussion which began with opposing viewpoints and is now dwindling into a tiny minority of people discussing the small differences between extreme versions of that viewpoint, you’ve got a diehard problem.

If moderation is about moderation it needs to not just remove the rule breakers but prevent the extreme view drowning out the less engaged or interested moderate view through sheer force of self-assertion.

29 Mar 20:44

the-future-now: This gun is designed to look like a...


This gun is designed to look like a phone

Minnesota gun manufacturer Ideal Conceal’s signature product is a double-barreled, .380-caliber, derringer-style handgun that looks like a smartphone — but with a few quick Transformers-like adjustments it morphs into a handgun. Ideal Conceal CEO Kirk Kjellberg said he came up with the idea after an awkward incident at a local restaurant.

Follow @the-future-now

What a great idea. Transformer handguns!

01 Apr 14:03

Greg Lindsay smart home scenario


“For more than a month now, my house has been haunted. There’s nothing supernatural about it; there are more than 15 million homes infected with the H@untedM@nsion worm, BuzzCNN reported yesterday. Every morning between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.—never the same time twice—my bedroom lights begin to strobe, and Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” kicks in again. I would replace the smart lightbulbs (which were the hackers’ initial entry point into my smart home) with dumb ones, but then I’d lose the tax credits.

“Fortunately, I sleep on the floor of my Amazon Prime kitchen, which hasn’t interacted with my Microsoft bedroom since the acquisition talks broke down in 2019. It’s annoying when I ask for the weather report and both Alexa and Cortana talk over each other trying to answer. Even with my circadian rhythms shattered by the cacophony upstairs, Alexa knows me well enough to have started the coffee ten minutes ago.

“I wish she had stocked the fridge with milk, however. I haven’t had dairy in months, after hackers took advantage of my flirtation with the paleo diet to tweak Amazon’s predictive ordering routine to have racks of lamb and other big-ticket meats delivered. They ship them to me through their referral code; this earns them pennies but costs me a lot more. If I give them away or throw them out, more arrive automatically. All I can do is let them rot in the fridge, pitting the algorithm’s learning function against its zombie programming.

“While the coffee brews, I take a shower. As part of the haunting, my security camera ritualistically snaps a photo while I’m au naturel. When the haunting started, the first picture was accompanied by an automated email threatening to post my less-than-paleo physique to my Facebook account daily, unless I paid up – 300 μBTC, or about $20 US, to their bitcoin wallet.

“There isn’t sufficient power for me to work from home today. A 2022 Supreme Court decision granted power utilities the right to requisition stored electricity in my Tesla Powerwall during “periods of emergency” (i.e., summer), so by around noon I won’t have enough power to both charge the car and run the smart lights. And I’ll have to get back before 7 p.m., when the power normally comes back on. AT&T Cisco’s Smart+ Connected Collection service has started refusing to unlock the door without a pro-rated daily payment to cover the utility bill. It’s a good thing I never upgraded the door to the garage, so I can still hack its Bluetooth lock and sneak into my smart home.”

03 Apr 11:52

"Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity."

“Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity.”

- Barbara Tuchman, The March of Folly
03 Apr 11:54

new-aesthetic: Children form human arrow to help police find...


Children form human arrow to help police find burglary suspects | UK news | The Guardian

Police have released a video of a group of children who formed a human arrow to point a police helicopter in the direction of two suspected burglars on the run.

03 Apr 11:56

"There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

“There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

- John Adams
24 May 09:56

"Heather Lacey: Who was or still is your mentor? Slavoj Zizek: Unfortunately the answer is no one. I..."

“Heather Lacey: Who was or still is your mentor?
Slavoj Zizek: Unfortunately the answer is no one. I mostly considered my professors idiots.”

- The Inventory: Slavoj Zizek
24 May 09:59

Highly educated Dems more likely that those w less education to have liberal political views...

24 May 10:38

"The sign of an organization becoming more creative is the move from processes to projects—projects..."

“The sign of an organization becoming more creative is the move from processes to projects—projects are inherently creative acts.”

- Tim Brown, cited by Lisa Baird in Why High-Skilled Freelancers Are Leaving Corporate Life Behind
24 May 12:41

mapsontheweb: Results of the nationalist parties of Europe in...


Results of the nationalist parties of Europe in the most recent national elections.

Populist nationalism on the rise as Europe grapples with economic, climate, and war refugees. You haven’t seen anything yet. Many others sympathize with the anti-immigrant nationalism of these parties.

24 May 13:07

mturro: “If, on the contrary, we have our minds set in the future, where we are sure that climate...


“If, on the contrary, we have our minds set in the future, where we are sure that climate change is going to play hell with the environment, we have entered into a convergence of abstractions that makes it difficult to think or do anything in particular. If we think the future damage of climate change to the environment is a big problem only solvable by a big solution, then thinking or doing something in particular becomes more difficult, perhaps impossible.”

Excerpt From: Wendell Berry “Our Only World”

On the iBooks Store:

24 May 13:07

"I know you are right, but my gut tells me you are wrong."

“I know you are right, but my gut tells me you are wrong.”

- (via clientsfromhell)
24 May 13:07

interesting-maps: Nearly 40% of NYC buildings are taller,...


Nearly 40% of NYC buildings are taller, bulkier or more crowded than zoning laws allow.

24 May 00:00

Reinventing Research


Michael B. Horn, EducationNext, May 26, 2016

Making the same point again (and I'm going to keep bringing it up until something changes): "The traditional gold-standard approach to research— a randomized control trial (RCT)— is not worth its weight as we move to a student-centered education system that personalizes for all students so that they succeed," writes  Michael B. Horn. As  AltSchool's  Max Ventilla says, "Something that’ s better for 70 percent of the kids and worse for 30 percent of the kids— that’ s an unacceptable outcome." Right now, in my opinion, reserachers don't even have a structure or mechanism for studying personal learning, much less any research base that is built upon that. 

[Link] [Comment]
24 May 00:00

Improvise for complexity


Harold Jarche, May 26, 2016

It's interesting how often metaphors from the world of performance and theatre creep into our dialogue about learning. The IMS Learning Design specification, for example, explicitly draws  on the metaphor, invoking roles and direction. We often read about the 'orchestration' of learning activities. In this post from Harold Jarche we read (and can view a video) about improvisation as an ensemble in order to adapt to complexity and change. It's a useful metaphor in that it speaks a lot about developing team skills and dynamics through a process of deliberate rehearsal along with processes that appear drawn from an agile methodology. As for myself, always the outlier in the group, I have turned repeatedly in the past to the metaphor of the stand-up comedian, easily my favourite form of theatre. 

[Link] [Comment]
24 May 11:00

Capitalism (still) Serves White People

by jennydavis


Redlining refers to the racist policy and/or practice of denying services to people of color. The term was coined in the 1960s by sociologist John McKnight and referred to literal red lines overlaid on city maps that designated “secure” versus “insecure” investment regions, distributed largely along racial faults such that banks became disproportionately unwilling to invest in minority communities. In turn, realtors showed different, more desirable properties to White clients than those they showed to clients of color, thereby reinforcing segregation and doing so in a way that perpetuated White advantage. Redlining was outlawed in the 1970s but its direct effects were intergenerational and versions of redlining continue to persist.

Versions of it like this:


Over the last few weeks, the story of Gregory Selden went viral. Selden attempted to book an Airbnb and was rejected. Noticing that the space was still available, he created two fake profiles using images of White men. Both fake guests were accepted. He confronted the host and the company, to little actionable effect.

Selden’s case, though compelling, is not exceptional. The hashtag  #AirbnbWhileBlack emerged in response to Selden’s viral experience, validating the patterned nature of discrimination through the home-sharing site. The stories shared on Twitter fall directly in line with the academic research,which shows that Black guests are 16% less likely to be accepted than their White counterparts, even at a financial cost to Airbnb hosts. In short, many Airbnb hosts do not want Black people to stay in their homes, just as White homeowners and White bankers wanted to keep Black people in separate neighborhoods.

To be sure, the stakes for Airbnb customers who struggle to find vacation accommodation are not so high as families of color who could not purchase homes and were relegated to poorly funded regions and ghettoized into poverty. In this way, discriminatory patterns on Airbnb are more fairly categorized in the hospitality sector than the housing sector and are more akin to the Whites Only lunch counters and hotel policies than mortgage lending practices.

But even the lunch counters and hotels of Jim Crow don’t quite capture what is going on here. Those were explicit forms of discrimination, announced and therefore debatable only in their righteousness, not their existence. People disagreed about whether or not people of color should be admitted to the same establishments as Whites, but all were clear about the fact that people of color were not admitted to these establishments. On Airbnb, the racism itself is an unsettled reality. Indeed, Airbnb tried to explain away Selden’s experience of racism, claiming that the initial rejection was not due to race, but due to Selden booking different dates. They claim that he booked only one night with his real account but booked 2 nights with the fake accounts, and that lots of Airbnb hosts will not rent their space for just 1 night  (Selden says Airbnb’s assessment is erroneous, and that he booked the exact same dates and number of nights).

So Maybe it’s more like trying to hail a cab while Black, in which one’s skin becomes conspicuous making services difficult to obtain, but also difficult to prove a racially motivated reason on the part of the service provider. Only with Airbnb, the judgment isn’t so snap. Hosts have time to think about why they elect one customer over another, meaning that hosts have to confront their own racial bias in a way cab drivers may be able to effectively suppress.

Ultimately, the model of Airbnb, and of the share economy in general, is qualitatively different from a hotel or restaurant or even taxi service. In a share economy, financial transactions have a distinctly personal bent.  The challenge of regulation is in monitoring lots of individual contractors, who hold little connection to the companies under which they operate, and who have an interest not just in profit, but in maintaining interactional comfort. How does one regulate who people will allow to sleep in their homes?

Racial discrimination on Airbnb is therefore not so much a parallel to historical patterns of racism, but a continuation. This is how racism manifests in today’s version of capitalism. The system looks different, but does the same thing. This is the racism of Google’s photo identification software that identified Black people as “gorillas” and Apple’s racially diverse emojis that not only came after years of White-only options, but appeared as aliens on phones that did not have the latest software running. This is the racial bias of online dating.

As long as race organizes interaction, and does so in a hierarchical way, the goods and services of market capitalism will have racism built in. A sharing economy sounds warmer than the cold tradition of corporate capitalism, but sharing implies a choice on the part of the “sharer,” one that, apparently if unsurprisingly, excludes and marginalizes the “sharees” who have long been pushed out of public and civic life.

Jenny Davis is on Twitter @Jenny_L_Davis

24 May 14:00

Pebble launches Kickstarter for Pebble Time 2, Pebble 2 and Pebble Core

by Patrick O'Rourke

With the help of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Pebble has revealed plans to launch three new products, the Pebble Time 2, Pebble 2 and Pebble Core.

The most interesting of the three devices is the Pebble Core, a 3G connected wearable Pebble says is designed to allow runners to track their fitness without carrying a smartphone. The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are “fitness-focused smartwatches” according to Pebble, and both devices are set to feature built-in heart rate monitors.

“Pebble has a rich history of giving people simple devices that do a few things really well and make life a bit easier. Health and communications is at the heart of how people use wearables today,” said Eric Migicovsky, CEO and co-founder of Pebble in a recent statement sent to MobileSyrup. “Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 combine the power of a fitness tracker with the awesome smartwatch features that we’ve developed over the last four years. With Pebble Core, we’re launching off the wrist and taking wearables to the next level.”

Pebble Time 2


The Pebble Time 2 is constructed of stainless steel, which could indicate the company is planning to phase out its current upgraded “steel” premium brand. The device features an e-colour display that is 50 percent larger and has 80 percent more pixels (specific resolution specs haven’t been released), when compared to the original Pebble Time.

Battery life comes in at 10 days, the same amount of time as the Pebble 2. Interestingly, the new version of the Pebble Time also features a built-in heart rate monitor and microphone.

The Pebble Time 2 is available on Kickstarter right now for $184 CAD (depending on the fluctuating dollar value) and will reportedly start shipping this coming November.

Pebble 2


In its new product line, Pebble has also revamped the classic Pebble with the Pebble 2. It’s unclear what Pebble has specifically upgraded with the Pebble 2 beyond a sleeker form factor, especially in terms of display quality. From the recently release promo images, the Pebble 2 seems to adopt the same black and white e-colour display as the original Pebble.

According to the company’s press release, the Pebble 2 will feature an anti-scratch screen coating. It’s also water resistant up to 30 metres, and features a built in microphone for voice replies and notes. And just like the Pebble Time 2, the Pebble 2 features a built-in heart rate monitor.

The Pebble 2 is currently on Kickstarter and is available for $114 CAD and will start shipping to customers in September.

Pebble Core

The 3G-enabled Pebble Core is able to stream music via Spotify, as well as track location via GPS, and has the ability to send out an emergency SOS indicating your location.

According to Pebble, fitness stats can be synced via Runkeeper, Strava, MapMyRun, Google Fit and Under Armour Record running on your smartphone. The device also has the ability to take voice notes and quickly activate Pebble apps with the press of a button, like ordering an Uber.

Pebble Core battery life reportedly measure in at 9 hours and the device also features wireless Qi charging functionality. What is most interesting about the Core, however, is its ability to use 3G data and compatibility with standard sim cards. While the company hasn’t made it clear yet, it seems Pebble’s concept behind the Core is for users to remove the SIM card from their smartphone and put it in the Narrative Clip 2-like Core, removing the need to take a bulky smartphone on a run or bike ride.

The Pebble Core is available on Kickstarter for $84 CAD and will start shipping in January.

A new direction for Pebble


With these new product launches, Pebble seems to have pivoted its focus slightly by placing more emphasis on the growing fitness wearable market. Late last year the company launched Pebble Health, a somewhat limited fitness app designed to track distance and steps on its various Pebble devices. Pebble does however emphasis that both the Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 retain the same phone, text and information notifications the devices have become known for.

All of Pebble’s products, excluding the Pebble Time Round, which doesn’t seem to be getting an update (yet), initially launched on Kickstarter, with the company’s Time device amassing $4 million USD from backers in just four hours.

Release dates for Pebble’s upcoming devices, according to the company’s recent press release revealing the Pebble 2, Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core, are pegged for “later this year and early 2017.” All Kickstarter pricing is in U.S. dollars. Pebble says all Kickstarter pricing is currently in U.S. dollars.

24 May 14:01

Adding images or videos to Tweets no longer counts towards Twitter’s 140 character limit

by Patrick O'Rourke

It looks like the rumours were true.

Twitter has announced a variety of changes related to its standard 140 character limit, a restriction that has existed since the social media platform launched back in 2006.

First, when replying to a Tweet, the usernames of the account a user is Tweeting no longer count towards Twitter’s character limit. This means that “@handles” will no longer be in the body of a Tweet and will instead become a display element.

Other changes include that adding attachments to tweets, whether a photo, GIF, video, poll or quoting a tweet, don’t count towards a Tweet’s character limit. Twitter is also adding the ability to Retweet or quote your own tweets, instead of using the “.@” message users have used for years.

“Sharing images, video and news content is a big part of the Twitter experience. With these updates to our platform, Canadian users will have more chances to share the best content on Twitter,” said Rory Capern, the head of Twitter Canada, in a recent interview with MobileSyrup.

One of the most significant changes in this update is that using “.@” is no longer necessary. Any Tweet with the @ sign in it will immediately be sent to all followers. It’s worth noting, however, that adding links to stories will still count towards Twitter’s character limit.

According to the social media platform, these changes will roll out gradually over the next few months.

Related reading: Twitter Canada gallery: A tour of the social network’s Toronto outpost

23 May 06:00

Death of a Language Dilettante

by James Hague

I used to try every language I came across. That includes the usual alternatives like Scheme, Haskell, Lua, Forth, OCaml, and Prolog; the more esoteric J, K, REBOL, Standard ML, and Factor; and some real obscurities: FL, Turing, Hope, Pure, Fifth. What I hoped was always that there was something better than what I was using. If it reduced the pain of programming at all, then that was a win.

Quests for better programming languages are nothing new. Around the same time I started tinkering with Erlang in the late 1990s, I ran across a site by Keith Waclena, who was having a self-described "programming language crisis." He assigned point values to a list of features and computed a score for each language he tried. Points were given for static typing, local function definition, "the ability to define new control structures" and others.

There's a certain set of languages often chosen by people who are outside of computer science circles: PHP, JavaScript, Flash's ActionScript, Ruby, and some more esoteric app-specific scripting languages like GameMaker's GML. If I can go further back, I'll also include line-numbered BASIC. These also happen to be some of the most criticized languages by people who have the time for that sort of thing. JavaScript for its weird scope rules (fixed in ES6, by the way) and the strange outcomes from comparing different types. Ruby for its loose typing and sigils. PHP for having dozens of reserved keywords. BASIC for its lack of structure.

This criticism is troubling, because there are clear reasons for choosing these languages. Want to write client-side web code? JavaScript. Using GameMaker? GML. Flash? ActionScript. Picked up an Atari 130XE from the thrift shop? BASIC. There's little thought process needed here. Each language is the obvious answer to a question. They're all based around getting real work done, yet there's consistent agreement that these are the wrong languages to be using.

If you veer off into discussions of programming language theory (PLT), it quickly becomes muddy why one language is better than another, but more importantly, as with Keith's crisis, the wrong criteria are being used. Even something as blatantly broken as the pre-ES6 scoping rules in JavaScript isn't the fundamental problem it's made out to be. It hasn't been stopping people from making great things with the language. Can PLT even be trusted as a field? And what criteria do you use for choosing a programming language?

Does this language run on the target system that I need it to? If the answer is no, end of discussion. Set aside your prejudices and move on.

Will I be swimming against the current, not being able to cut and paste from SDK documentation and get answers via Google searches, if I choose this language? You might be able to write a PlayStation 4 game in Haskell, but should you?

Are the compiler and other tools pleasant to use, quick, and reliable? Once I discovered that Modula-2 was cleaner than C and Pascal, I wanted to use it. Unfortunately, there were fewer choices for Modula-2 compilers, and none of them were as fast and frustration-free as Turbo Pascal.

Am I going to hit cases where I am at the mercy of the implementors, such as the performance of the garbage collector or compile times for large projects? You don't want to get in a situation where you need certain improvements to the system, but the maintainers don't see that as important, or even see it as against the spirit of the language. You're not going to run into that problem with the most heavily used toolsets.

Do I know that this is a language that will survive the research phase and still be around in ten years? Counterpoint: BitC.

Here's an experiment I'd like to see: give a language with a poor reputation (JavaScript, Perl) to someone who knows it passably well and--this is the key--has a strong work ethic. The kind of person who'd jump in and start writing writing a book rather than dreaming about being famous novelist. Then let the language dilettante use whatever he or she wants, something with the best type system, hygenic macros, you name it. Give them both a real-world task to accomplish.

As someone who appreciates what modern languages have to offer, I really don't want this to be the case, but my money is on the first person by a wide margin.

24 May 14:15

Deals: Our wide lens pick in our Fujifilm lenses guide, the Fujinon XF 14mm F2.8 R, is down to $500 (from $900)

by WC Staff

Best Deals: Our wide lens pick in our Fujifilm lenses guide, the Fujinon XF 14mm F2.8 R, is down to $500 (from $900) [Amazon]

24 May 14:15

Airfoil for Mac 5.1 Brings Many Improvements

by Paul Kafasis

Airfoil IconIt’s been just over three months since we unveiled Airfoil for Mac version 5, which includes the new ability to send audio to Bluetooth speakers, many advancements in the companion Airfoil Satellite applications, and much more. Of course, we’re not stopping there when it comes to updating our whole-house audio streamer. Airfoil 5.1 has just been released, and it includes its own wealth of improvements. It’s a free update for all current owners of Airfoil 5, and owners of Airfoil 4 and lower are still eligible for a discounted upgrade.

What’s New in Airfoil 5.1

The most noticeable change in the new version is the updated Effects window, seen here:

Airfoil's new Effects window

We’ve improved the layout and labels for Effects, and made the window properly remember its state between launches. Couple this with the ability to save custom Equalizer presets that we added in version 5.0, and you’ve got a greatly enhanced Effects window for fine-tuning your audio!

We’ve also improved Airfoil Satellite, the remote control and audio receiving companion to Airfoil. With the latest version, Airfoil Satellite will receive and display Retina-quality album art whenever possible. As well, we’ve improved the way Airfoil Satellite works when controlling iTunes remotely.

Airfoil Satellite receiving Retina art

This update also includes some small improvements to our audio capture engine, and squashes a handful of rare but annoying bugs, including an issue where communicating with password-protected speakers could incorrectly fail. Finally, several spots where visuals weren’t quite right have now been polished to a fine sheen. We’re always working to sand down rough edges in our software, and this update is no exception.

Chromecast Support

In March, Quentin wrote about our plans to include support for sending audio to the Chromecast. That’s not part of Airfoil 5.1, but we’re still hard at work on that, so fear not. We’re making good progress, and encourage you to watch for more news on that in the coming months.

Update Now

For now, just make sure you grab the latest Airfoil for Mac by selecting “Check for Update” from the Airfoil menu, or downloading it from our site. If you’ve never used Airfoil, you can check it out with a free trial, then purchase online.

24 May 15:06

Pebble reaches $1 million funding goal in 1 hour for Pebble Time 2, Pebble 2 and Pebble Core

by Ian Hardy

Earlier this morning, Pebble added three new products to its arsenal: Pebble Time 2, Pebble 2 and Pebble Core.

Pebble started its Kickstarter goal at $1,000,000 USD for all three devices and has blown past this milestone within an hour after launching its campaign.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.05.07 AM

When the Pebble Time was announced last year it crushed the same dollar amount within 20 minutes and went on to raise a total of $20,338,986 USD from 78,471 backers, making it the most funded Kickstarter product of all time.

The original Pebble smartwatch, the company’s first product, was backed by 68,929 for a total pledge amount of $10,266,845 USD.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.56.08 AM

Pebble’s founder, Eric Migicovsky, was not only born in Vancouver, but he also graduated from the University of Waterloo systems design engineering program. Migicovsky first founded Allerta, which created a watch for Blackberry devices. He then went on to start Pebble, which in 2013 raised over $26 million in funding from various investors, including Charles River Ventures. The company also has an office in Waterloo, Ontario.

The Pebble Core is expected to be available January 2017 and costs $84 CAD. The Pebble Time 2 is $184 CAD expected to ship to backers November 2016, and the Pebble 2 costs $114 CAD with a ship date set for September 2016 (prices will change based on the fluctuating Canadian dollar).

Related reading: Pebble launches Kickstarter for Pebble Time 2, Pebble 2 and Pebble Core

24 May 14:59

Deals: Our budget zoom pick in our Fujifilm lenses guide, the Fujinon XC 50-230mm F4.5-6.7, is down to $200 (from $400)

by WC Staff

Best Deals: Our budget zoom pick in our Fujifilm lenses guide, the Fujinon XC 50-230mm F4.5-6.7, is down to $200 (from $400) [Amazon]

24 May 15:57

The problem with ‘grit’

by Doug Belshaw

If you’re an educator, parent, or in any way interested in the development of young people, it’s been impossible to escape the term ‘Grit’ in the past few years. The Wikipedia article for Grit defines it in the following way:

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.

The article goes on to mention the origin of the term:

The construct dates back at least to Galton, and the ideals of persistence and tenacity have been understood as a virtue at least since Aristotle.

Finally, and tellingly:

Although the last decade has seen a noticeable increase in research focused on achievement-oriented traits, strong effects of Grit on important outcomes such as terminal school grades have not been found.

So why is this such a buzzword at the moment? I’d argue that it’s an advanced form of victim-blaming.

Almost all of the research cited by proponents of Grit was carried out by Angela Duckworth. As this post by Iowa State University points out, “an analysis of 88 independent studies representing nearly 67,000 people shows that grit is really no different than conscientiousness.”

However, Grit is far from a neutral term, and no mere synonym. It has been appropriated by those on the political right with books such as Paul Tough’s How children succeed : grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character effectively saying poor kids just need to try harder. This is obviously incredibly problematic, and the reason I see Grit as a form of victim-blaming. The attitude from proponents of Grit seems to be that poverty is a self-education problem.

Fascinatingly, a recent Washington Post article digs further than just the etymology of the term to discover why the term was popularised:

My longitudinal analysis shows that the conversation originated in the late 19thcentury, and was never focused on “at-risk” children. Instead, grit was understood as an antidote to the ease and comfort of wealth, which produced spoiled children who lacked the vigor of their ancestors. The remedy was to toughen them up. While some families took this cause seriously (elite boarding schools in the early 20th century proudly advertised their Spartan living conditions), the easiest way to impart grit was through literature. The celebrated Horatio Alger books were written and sold as instructive tools to teach middle and upper class children about the virtues that came from struggling against hardship.

Now, of course, society is all too quick to embrace the grit narrative and apply it to poor and minority children. The irony is that these kids were traditionally seen as already having grit! It was the louche upper classes who needed a kick up the backside.

The clincher for me, and the final nail in Grit’s coffin, is that the data supplied as ‘evidence’ for the importance of Grit is fundamentally flawed. Returning to the first article:

The most well-known data source on grit is based on West Point cadets who complete basic training at the United States Military Academy. According to one paper describing these cadets, those with above-average levels of grit are 99 percent more likely to finish the training than cadets with average levels of grit. However, Credé says the original data were misinterpreted. His analysis shows the increase in likelihood is really closer to 3 percent, rather than 99 percent.

“It’s a really basic error and the weird thing is that no one else has ever picked it up. People just read the work and said, ‘It’s this massive increase in people’s performance and how likely they are to succeed.’ But no one had ever looked at the numbers before,” Credé said.

Given that schools (in the US at least) are now measuring ‘Grit’ and ‘Joy’ levels in their cohorts, I think it’s time to push back on such blunt instrument. Let’s stop poorly-researched, damaging buzzterms being used as a stick with which to beat the under-privileged.

Image CC BY Daniel X. O’Neil

24 May 14:24

Pebble is not folding its tent

by Volker Weber


Pebble just announced three new devices starting to ship from September:

  • $129 Pebble 2. It's the original Pebble design, refined and now with a heart rate monitor. High contrast b/w display, 7 days battery.
  • $199 Pebble Time 2. Metal body, significantly larger color screen, heart rate monitor.
  • $99 Pebble Core. Connected to mobile, GPS, Spotify streaming.

Pebble asks for Kickstarter funding ($99/$169/$69) and will ship starting in September/November/January. Great lineup. However, I think that Pebble has just osborned their existing products.

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24 May 14:39

She just passed a thousand likes

by Volker Weber

A photo posted by @sonos on

I don't think any other photo that Sonos posted on Instagram ever got so many likes so quickly. It's all her fault of course. Thanks for liking her.

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24 May 12:44

Why I name names

by Josh Bernoff

If you submit something to me and request anonymity, I will protect your identity. But nearly all of the material I critique comes from public news articles, people’s social media feeds, and mass emails that a company or agency sends to an individual. And in those cases, I don’t mask people’s identity. Here’s why: The corporate … Continue reading Why I name names →

The post Why I name names appeared first on without bullshit.

24 May 15:26

Peak Millennial?

by pricetags

From BC Business, by Frances Bula:



As the people born between 1980 and 2000 move into their household-forming, baby-having years, those who study how cities work are floating the idea that North America may have reached “peak millennial.” … members of this group—renowned for their love of urban living, craft breweries and alternative modes of transport—may undergo a significant shift in behaviour as they get older.

That could have a direct impact on commuting—a complex part of contemporary city life that affects everything from the economy to the environment to our emotional well-being. The economic factor is critical in Vancouver, which has to contend with an exceptionally challenging housing market. “If Vancouver wants to grow economically despite ballooning house prices, higher-density living will require more public transit—more capacity in Vancouver, more expansion geographically into suburban areas,” says Werner Antweiler, a UBC business professor whose research focuses on the connections between transit and the economy. “With denser public transit systems, workers gain time, which in turn can be used to produce more output at work and provide more services at home.” …



In a survey done exclusively for BCBusiness by Insights West, it’s clear that people would like a different commuting life than the one they have now. More than three-quarters of those surveyed say living close to where they work is important and they’d work from home if they could to reduce their commutes. They also dream about other types of commuting: twice as many people in Metro Vancouver say they’d prefer to commute by bike as actually do.

The thing they’re not willing to do is pay the price to get there. The survey showed only a minority would accept less money for a job closer to home or would gladly pay tolls to produce a shorter commute. That was evident in the spectacular failure of the Lower Mainland plebiscite last year, where regional mayors proposed a $10-billion plan to improve transit (and even some roads and a bridge) if residents would agree to a half per cent sales tax. They said no by a two-to-one margin.


Except for residents of the principality of Vancouver—a little piece of Amsterdam dropped into our local equivalent of Los Angeles—the majority of people in the region are wedded to their wheels. Two-thirds of working adults in Metro Vancouver, outside the city proper, drive to work compared to less than a quarter in the city itself. According to TransLink, the percentage of Metro residents who commute in cars for all of their trips—work, school, shopping, entertainment—is 57 per cent, exactly where it was in 1994.

The car remains king, and nothing—not non-driving millennials, not transit additions (including the popular Canada Line), not bike lanes—has made a noticeable difference. The proportion of transit commuters has increased over the years, from a low of nine per cent in 2004 to the current 14 per cent. However, that appears to be at the expense of carpooling, which has declined as work schedules and commuting patterns have become more complicated.

The greatest achievement that transit nerds can point to is that the proportion of transit commuters has kept pace with the region’s growing population. But so have the numbers of cars and drivers. People in B.C. bought 77,000 cars in each of the last two years—that’s 13,000 more per year than the level in 2011. Total vehicle registrations in the province are now around 3.5 million, almost 800,000 more than in 2000—and nearly half, 1.5 million, are registered in the Lower Mainland. …


…  changing patterns are especially relevant in the Lower Mainland, where the emphasis on developing a regional plan with multiple town centres has produced a metropolitan region that’s distinct from Calgary or Seattle. In those cities, all the blood is sucked into the beating heart of downtown during the day and released at night. The Lower Mainland, by contrast, is increasingly polycentric—with transit patterns that look more like a bunch of chopsticks that fell on the floor than a simple conveyor belt. “Every municipality is trying to have a one-to-one ratio for jobs, but it creates a challenge when people are living in one suburb and working in another,” says Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore, who led the charge on the mayors’ transit plan. Even in the city of Vancouver, fully 39 per cent of residents commute out of the city to their jobs—including 30 per cent from that bastion of urban living, the West End. …

According to Geoff Cross, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy, the average mileage in the region is currently 6,500 kilometres per person a year; the rejected transit plan aimed to bring that number down by a third, to about 4,400 kilometres—a difference of 2,100 kilometres per person per year.

Making the big improvements to transit that were outlined in the plebiscite was only going to reduce the mileage by about 500. The next 1,600-kilometre reduction would only come from making it more expensive to drive—specifically through mobility pricing. Sophisticated mobility pricing, like the kind Singapore has, charges people based on how much they drive per year, how many bridges they cross and whether they make their trip during high-congestion periods. And neither will work alone. Both have to be in place to get the full reduction. …



Throughout all these deliberations, smart planners don’t have any delusion that they’ll get everyone out of their cars—even though some politicians, like the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, have thundered righteously about the war on the car. “I worked in Copenhagen for a while,” says Geoff Cross, “and the idea there was just to keep the young people on transit for two or three years more. It’s the equivalent of a mode shift, even if they eventually go to a car.” Instead, they’re focused on those incremental changes that will nudge different categories of nudge-ready groups to make more efficient choices, be it moving closer to work, shopping or good transit.

Full article here.


24 May 16:57

Going deeper with Project Infinite

by Damien DeVille

Last month at Dropbox Open London, we unveiled a new technology preview: Project Infinite. Project Infinite is designed to enable you to access all of the content in your Dropbox—no matter how small the hard disk on your machine or how much stuff you have in your Dropbox. Today, we’d like to tell you more—from a technical perspective—about what this evolution means for the Dropbox desktop client.

Traditionally, Dropbox operated entirely in user space as a program just like any other on your machine. With Dropbox Infinite, we’re going deeper: into the kernel—the core of the operating system. With Project Infinite, Dropbox is evolving from a process that passively watches what happens on your local disk to one that actively plays a role in your filesystem. We have invested the better part of two years making all the pieces fit together seamlessly. This post is a glimpse into our journey.

Starting from first principles

Our earlier prototypes around solving the “limited disk-space problem” used something called FUSE or Filesystems in Userspace. FUSE is a software interface that lets non-privileged users create their own filesystems without needing to write a kernel extension. It is part of the kernel itself on some Unix-like operating systems and OS X has a port that is available as a dedicated kernel extension and a libfuse library that needs to be linked by a program in user space.

FUSE is an incredible technology, but as we gained a deeper understanding it became clear that it didn’t fully satisfy the two major constraints for our projects—world-class performance and rock-solid security. Here’s why:


Since FUSE filesystems are implemented in large part in user space, any file operation usually requires an extra user-kernel mode switch (one context switch between the application issuing the system call and the VFS in the kernel and an extra one between the FUSE kernel extension and the libfuse user space library). There’s quite a lot going on, as you can see in the illustration below.
Filesystem in Userspace
While context switches are usually quite inexpensive, this extra overhead for every file operation unfortunately leads to a degraded performance that we didn’t want our users to experience when interacting with their files in Dropbox.


We take security seriously. We do everything we can to protect our users and their data. This includes having internal Red Teams, running a bug-bounty program, and hiring external pen-testers on a regular basis to help us discover vulnerabilities in our products.

The various FUSE libraries on OS X are implemented as kernel extensions and introduce too much complexity and risk for us to feel comfortable with distributing as part of our Desktop client.

So Instead…

After exploring the option of using FUSE, we realized that there are many benefits to writing our own custom kernel extension: we are able to achieve minimal performance overhead while also ensuring that we understand 100% of what we’re serving to our users. And when we control the interface boundary, we can do our best to push as much non-performance critical machinery up into user space, further improving security.

But wait! There’s more!

As we’ve been building out our kernel extension, we have also begun to look at what other long-standing user problems we can solve. It turns out there’s a lot we can do.

We’ve seen the number of companies that rely on Dropbox Business soar past 150,000 since we launched it just three years ago. With so many teams on Dropbox, we increasingly hear about a scenario we call the “untrained intern problem.” Imagine you are working with a bunch of other people on a project and collaborating through a Team folder on Dropbox. Summer is quickly approaching and you’ve brought on an intern. The intern, never having used Dropbox before, moves a folder from inside their Team folder to their Desktop, not realizing that they’ve simultaneously removed access to this folder for everyone else in the company. Now of course this folder could be restored, but don’t you wish there was a better way so this could have been prevented from even happening?

Rolling out today, starting with Dropbox Enterprise customers, is a better way. Now, in order to protect the organization and shared content, when someone performs such an operation, they will be warned with a dialog that looks like this:
How does this work? On Windows, we use Copy Hooks, but on Mac we had to dig a little deeper. We use the Kernel Authorization (or Kauth for short) kernel subsystem in our kernel extension to manage file authorizations within the BSD portion of the kernel. By listening to actions on the KAUTH_SCOPE_VNODE scope, we can detect and deny actions that happen in the Dropbox folder. In the examples cited above, for example, we are interested in the KAUTH_VNODE_DELETE and KAUTH_VNODE_ADD_FILE actions since they allow us to check whether a file or folder in a user’s shared folder is being deleted or moved. From there, it’s just a matter of checking with the user whether the operation was in fact intended and inform them of the consequences of the operations for other members of the folder. As you can see below, this solution is much simpler than a FUSE implementation would have been, and involves no third-party dependencies.

So if you’re someone who compulsively monitors the list of loaded kernel extensions on your system (there are dozens of us, dozens!) and you see com.getdropbox.dropbox.kext  you now know why!

Stay tuned for more about Project Infinite as we continue to test and ultimately roll it out to a broader set of users.
24 May 17:00

Dealing With Difficult Stakeholders

by Ashwini Talasila

This story is a version of my talk “Managing Difficult Stakeholders,” given at ProductCamp Portland in 2016.


When you’re managing a valuable product, working with difficult stakeholders becomes crucial and can make or break your product. As a product manager, I interact with over 20 people a day; each person is unique, with different backgrounds, roles, industries and stories. My job revolves around having tough conversations, kindly saying no, and getting alignment. It’s easy to get stressed, distracted, and develop tunnel vision.

My fellow product managers and I came up with tool kit that helps us get through tough negotiations and ensures we stay focused on the end goal.

1. Focus on the Story

Every stakeholder has a story or problem they are trying to solve. Spend time figuring it out, or, better yet — ask them directly what motivates, frustrates and blocks them.

2. Don’t React

Sometimes emotions are triggered and buttons get pushed. When this happens, practice writing your thoughts down and not reacting. When you listen and take stock without reacting during difficult conversations, you can have a measured / strategic reaction at a later time with all the facts at hand.

3. Practice Deep Listening

managing difficult internal stakeholders
We see the world through our lens, so when we hear someone speak, we hear what we want to hear and ignore the rest. Take notes during the conversation and let them tell their story. Hear without judgment.

 4. Form a Support Group

Talk to a buddy or co-worker about the problem. Strategize and gather feedback. Sometimes outsiders help us discard our lens and look at the problem differently — ask them how they would tackle the situation if they were in your shoes.

5. Delegate the Problem

Sometimes it’s great to outsource the problem or issue to someone else. If you have this secret weapon — use it! Partner with SMES and coworkers to help brainstorm and strategize.

6. Prioritize

Prioritize feedback and problems you are going to deal with and have a plan of action. Sometimes it’s better to pick your battles.

7. Acknowledge the Mistake, Fix It, and Move On

If there was a misstep, apologize, acknowledge and move on to the next thing.

8. Take One Step at a Time

“Rome wasn’t built in a day…” When tackling a big problem, remember to breathe and take it one step and one day at a time.

9. Develop a Mantra

dealing with difficult stakeholders
Develop a word or phrase to get you through the difficult moments; remember that this too shall pass and you’ll get through it. Roll with the punches during difficult times.

10. Take a Break

You don’t have to solve the problem on the spot. Take time to think, get counsel or find other people who can help find a solution. Taking a break sometimes helps you see the issue from a different perspective.

Final Thoughts

When I pitched “Managing Difficult Stakeholders” at ProductCamp Portland 2016, I didn’t expect it to be such a popular topic. This session helped me connect product managers, designers, and customers in Portland community. It also helped me understand that I was not alone and the diversity of perspectives I encountered helped me add more negotiation tools to my toolkit.

Pitching this session also helped me get over my fear of speaking in front of 300+ people. I would encourage you to not only attend next year’s ProductCamp but also to be brave and pitch a topic, too.