Is group studying more effective? – No, just the opposite. You’ll remember less of what you learned in a study group than you would remember if you studied alone. For me, that’s worth the tradeoff if the group helps me study more consistently.
Building a Better Teacher – NYTimes.com – “Teachers working in the same building, teaching the same grade, produced very different outcomes. And the gaps were huge. Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist, found that while the top 5 percent of teachers were able to impart a year and a half’s worth of learning to students in one school year, as judged by standardized tests, the weakest 5 percent advanced their students only half a year of material each year.”
Via Seth Roberts.
Latest MacHeist bundle brings even more software on the cheap – How can a company make money by bundling 5 applications together and selling the package for $19.95, when each app individually would cost more than that? They “make it up through volume”, as the saying goes. Of course it only works if the price is higher than your marginal cost, which is easy for downloadable software where your marginal cost is essentially zero.
Bottom line: there are occasions where a bundle will be better for consumers than only having a la carte options. On the other hand, consumers in this case have the option of choosing whether to buy a bundle or an individual app. That’s not generally true of cable television, for example, which regulators regularly threaten to unbundle.
When should sexting be illegal? – By Emily Bazelon – Slate Magazine – Attention parents, legislators and the local news: the sky is not falling. The most important sentence in this story is saved for the last paragraph. “We’ve been keeping consistent records in the U.S. since the 1960s, and they show that teens now are less violent, use drugs less, smoke less, and drink less. They stay in school more and take more AP classes. Their suicide rate is lower, and so is the teen pregnancy rate.”
Olympics 1, AIG 0: Why Forced Ranking Is a Bad Idea – Quick tip for management: If your company is so big that you have to give up individualized assessments of performance in favor of a system that makes you boil every employee down to one notch on a four point scale, then your company is just too big. Quick tip for employees: If your company does that, leave.
The Hungry Metropolis – Saveur.com – Food critic Jonathan Gold calls LA the best place in the world to eat right now. He makes a compelling argument. I lived there for three and a half years and only tried a small slice of the cuisines listed. I didn't like Chinese noodles until I had the real thing in LA.
Ian Bicking: a blog :: Why toppcloud will not be agnostic – The creator of Python's "pip" and "virtualenv" tools has now created a Django deployment solution. His resistance to the pressure to make the system more generic shows great wisdom: "So I feel very resolved: toppcloud will hardcode everything it possibly can. Python 2.6 and only 2.6! (Until 2.7, but then only 2.7!). Only Varnish/Apache/mod_wsgi. I haven’t figured out threads/processes exactly, but once I do, there will be only one way! And if I get it wrong, then everyone (everyone) will have to switch when it is corrected! Because I’d much rather have a system that is inflexible than one that doesn’t work."
The death of Phoebe Prince – By Emily Bazelon – Slate Magazine – Everyone has a story about how they were bullied once, but how often do you hear stories about people who were bullies themselves? Just as everyone thinks they are good drivers and have good senses of humor and style, no one seems to think that *they* could be bullies. Obviously that can't be true.
Groups define themselves by who they exclude, and that doesn't change when you reach adulthood. The same group-defining nastiness that is called "bullying" when you're young manifests as sports fan one-upmanship or online snark when you're older. Adults, though, have more perspective, confidence, and freedom to distance themselves from groups that exclude them.
Stories about bullying are pretty clear evidence that our factory-modeled education system isn't the right thing for everyone. Some people worry that home-schooled kids don't develop socially like they should, but surely Phoebe Prince would have been better off without the "high school experience".
The Making of an Expert – Harvard Business Review – Extensive research shows that expert performance is not inborn, it's something you build. The ingredients: intensive practice, study with devoted teachers/coaches, and enthusiastic family support. Do all those for about ten years, and you can perform at the expert level. Via Penelope Trunk's blog, which is also highly recommended.
I surrender, Comcast – In case there was any doubt, Comcast service is still an epic fail. Especially if you just want internet.
Language Log » Modal deafness – Not everyone hears music in the same way. Many people, even musically trained ones, can't reliably tell the difference between a major and minor chord when they're played side by side. Stick the same chords into a sequence though, and they're able to tell them apart again.
Exploding Term Sheets Prompt Y Combinator To Sync Acceptance Dates With Competitors – Does the startup world need its own NALP? For the non-lawyers out there, NALP is the organization that sets rules for law school recruiting, basically telling firms interviewing at participating law schools when they can start interviewing, and how long they have to hold offers open. This article from TechCrunch points to a similar problem in the VC world, with competing firms moving their offer dates earlier and earlier, and using exploding offers ("accept in 48 hours or we withdraw it") in order to force the offerees' hands. Entrepreneurs: Just say no. A firm that gives you an exploding offer is not the kind you want to sell your soul to. This is NOT your one and only chance to make it. Investors: Beware of selection effects. The companies most likely to accept your exploding offers are the ones least confident in their ability to get funded elsewhere. Is that what you intended?
The Chess Master and the Computer – The New York Review of Books – A fantastic article from Garry Kasparov about the interactions of humans and computers in the world of chess. Favorite quote: "The moment I became the youngest world chess champion in history at the age of twenty-two in 1985, I began receiving endless questions about the secret of my success and the nature of my talent. Instead of asking about Sicilian Defenses, journalists wanted to know about my diet, my personal life, how many moves ahead I saw, and how many games I held in my memory.
I soon realized that my answers were disappointing. I didn't eat anything special. I worked hard because my mother had taught me to. My memory was good, but hardly photographic. As for how many moves ahead a grandmaster sees, Russkin-Gutman makes much of the answer attributed to the great Cuban world champion José Raúl Capablanca, among others: "Just one, the best one." Via Tyler Cowen.
New World Notes: Wanted: an SL World Trust for Great Builds in Jeopardy – Hamlet Au argues that we need some kind of preservation society to prevent virtual world content from disappearing forever when the servers power down. I think of it as an archive.org for virtual worlds. The problem: anytime someone comes up with a tool for making something like this possible (like Rezzable's tool for saving an entire region state), people get all up in arms about the possibilities for "content theft". The fact is that archive.org doesn't ask for permission before making copies of sites across the web. Technically, what they do is almost certainly copyright infringement. It's also a valuable public service.
The Polygamists — National Geographic Magazine – An outstanding article. It even quotes Warren Jeffs' personal journal: "The Lord directed that I go to the sun tanning salon and get sun tanned more evenly on their suntanning beds." Via Brooke Adams' blog "The Plural Life."
Complaints Paint Snackable Media As A Scamville For Mobile Phones – This sounds just like the scammers we investigated when I interned at the FTC: "What makes all of this even worse is that Yechezkell has a history of running similar scams under different company names and has settled with at least one state (Florida) who brought complaints against him. For example, he ran a service called Email Discount Networks which allegedly would charge people’s home phone number $14.95 a month for an email account which they either didn’t authorize or didn’t realize they were signing up for."
Massachusetts: Dem attacks on Coakley get personal | Washington Examiner – Until today I had only been peripherally aware of the Senate race in Massachusetts to fill the seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy. The Democratic candidate doesn't sound too popular: 'The strategist … quoted a fellow Democrat who said, "'I'd rather have Scott Brown for two years than Martha Coakley for the rest of my life."' Inevitably, most of the articles on it that have popped up in the last few days have focused on the horse race: who's ahead in the polls and how a loss will break the Democrats' supermajority in the Senate. I hate horse race stories.
Language Log » Ludicrous, even derogatory? (Gendered occupation names) – In old legal opinions you often run into terms like "executrix" and "prosecutrix" to be the female equivalents of "executor" and "prosecutor." I think English is poorer without these words. The only place where the "-trix" suffix seems to have survived is "dominatrix." Is that progress? The use of "actor" to mean both males and females also bugs me. I'll agree to it when the world's female actors also agree to have just one "Best Actor" category at the Oscars, and eliminate "Best Actress." Anyway the article reports how Spain and Italy handle these issues differently from each other. Italians think it's demeaning and/or ridiculous to stick a feminine suffix on a traditionally masculine noun (eg ministra in place of ministro), whereas the Spanish do it all the time.
Dinosaur Comics Compressed Song Lyrics – Lady Gaga – I like to think that Dinosaur Comics is a new form of haiku. The images in the 6 panels never change. The text rarely has anything to do with the images. But there's something very Zen to me about dinosaurs having esoteric conversations while stomping things.
Hypocrisy, Same-Sex Marriage, and Televising Public Interest Litigation – I was unconvinced and disappointed by Slate's coverage of the Supreme Court's decision to prohibit broadcast of the Perry v Schwarzenegger gay marriage trial. Both Dahlia Lithwick's and Emily Bazelon's pieces seemed one-sided, argumentative, and shallow. Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy gives a more balanced take here.
McAfee® – threat_center – Operation Aurora-Consumers – Some glaring omissions in McAfee's report on the recent chinese hacking incident: 1) China is never mentioned, and 2) the "How do I protect myself?" page mysteriously fails to mention that Internet Explorer is *not* the only browser in the world, and that those who use alternate browsers like Firefox are not affected by the exploit used by the Chinese hackers.