Links May 2010

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AdRevenge is an interesting concept to pay for Google Adsense adverts about how companies suck [1]. If a suitably large group of people pay to warn you about a company then it’s a good signal that the company is actually doing the wrong thing.

A guest post by Mili on Charles Stross’ blog has an interesting analysis of the economcs of “Intellectual Property” and concludes that content is a public good [2].

New Age Terrorists Develop Homeopathic Bomb [3], an amusing satire of medical fraud and security theatre. The sit has a lot of other good satire too.

Mark Shuttleworth wrote an interesting post about new window management changes that will soon go into Ubuntu [4]. He points out that the bottom status bar in applications is a throw-back to Windows 3.1 and notes that a large part of the incentive for removing it (and using the title-bar for the status) is the work on the Netbook version of Ubuntu. This is really ironic given that the resolution of current Netbooks is quite similar to that of desktop systems that were current when Windows 3.1 came out.

Omar Ahmad gave an insightful TED talk about the benefit of using a pen and paper to send a letter to a politician [5].

Sebastian Wernicke gave an amusing and informative TED talk about how to give a good TED talk [6]. His talk gives some useful ideas for public speaking that are worth considering.

Catherine Mohr gave a brief and interesting TED talk about how to build an energy efficient house with low embodied energy [7]. Her blog at has the details.

Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica fame) gave an interesting TED talk [8]. He covers a lot of interesting things that can be done with computers, primarily based on the Wolfram Alpha [9] platform which allows natural language queries of a large data set. He also talks about the search for a Theory of Everything.

Esther Duflo gave an interesting TED talk about using social experiments to fight poverty [10]. She describes how scientific tests have been used to determine the effectiveness of various ways of preventing disease and encouraging education in developing countries. One example of the effectiveness of such research is the project which was founded after it was discovered that treating intestinal worms was the most cost effective way of getting African children to spend longer at school.

David L. Rosenhan wrote an interesting research paper “On Being Sane In Insane Places” about pseudo-patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals [11]. It seems that psychiatric staff were totally unable to recognise a sane person who was admitted even though other patients could do so. It also documents how psychiatric patients were treated as sub-human. One would hope that things had improved since 1973, but it seems likely that many modern psychiatric hospitals are as bad as was typical in 1973. It’s also worth considering the issue of the treatment in society of people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, it seems likely that the way people are treated in the community would have similar bad results to that which was documented for treatment in psychiatric hospitals – even the sanest people will act strangely if treated in an insane manner! Also it seems to me that there could be potential for using a panel of patients assembled via the Delphi Method as part of the psychiatric assessment process as it has been demonstrated that patients can sometimes assess other patients more accurately than psychiatrists!

Simon Sinek gave an inspiring TED talk about how great leaders inspire action [12]. Of course the ideas he describes don’t just apply to great leaders, they should apply to ordinary people who just want to convince others to adopt their ideas.

Stephen Collins write a good article summarising the main reasons why the proposed great firewall of Australia is a bad idea [13].

Lenore Skenazy who is famous for letting her 9yo son catch the metro alone during broad daylight on a pre-planned route home has created a web site about Free Range Kids [14]. She seems to be starting a movement to oppose Helicopter Parenting and has already written a book about her ideas for parenting. The incidence of crime has been steadily increasing, as has the ability of the police to apprehend criminals and recover abducted children. There’s no reason for children to be prevented from doing most of the things that children did when I was young!