Category Archives: Interesting

Patreon or Support Your Local Blogger

Thanks to a thirty minute commute to work I spend at least an hour in the car every work day. Over the last several months I’ve started listening to podcasts more than the radio or songs from my phone, and it’s been an enlightening experience. Some of the podcasts I’ve found most interesting have been those that were spawned by a successful blog and that definitely includes Cool Tools, a blog on which people recommend their favorite tools in a variety of areas and describe in detail why they like the tool.

On one of the recent podcasts the guest recommended a service called Patreon, which is most easily described as a Kickstarter-like service for artists. Patreon allows writers, filmmakers, artists, bloggers, etc. to solicit patrons to support their work. Unlike Kickstarter, which is really a fundraising tool for the development of a specific product, Patreon allows its users to solicit funds for a project or a series of projects. So if you’re a filmmaker you can solicit funds for a specific film project or for your ongoing body of work. It’s totally up to you and your patrons how to set it up.

JonBobbleHeadCroppedI decided to test drive Patreon for this blog. Because I don’t have any specific projects in the works I decided to set it up on the monthly support model. If you decide you like the blog and find it of value you can simply go to my Patreon page and make a donation of any amount. As a “Thank You” I’ve set it up so that a donation of any amount will get you a free copy of a 20-page book (PDF format) titled Best of 2014’s Worthless Info, and if you give $25 then I’ll send you something from my library – a book, magazine or something else I’ve found incredibly useful in my accumulation of worthless knowledge.

This ought to be interesting.

20 Tactics for Paying Better Attention

While this list of “20 Ways to Win the War Against Seeing” came out of a project a professor created for a class on product design, I think all of us could benefit from trying them. Here’s a sample:

Spot something new every day
Another student, Gaïa Orain, focused her solution on a two-block walk she made every day, and that had long since become so routine she could have sleep-strolled it. So she made a conscious effort to “see something new” every day — turning this routine walk into a kind of open-ended game.

Let a stranger lead you
Thinking about strangers reminds me of Vito Acconci’s well-known “Following Piece,” performed over a period of weeks in 1969: Daily, he would pick a random person, and follow her or him around New York. This would continue until his subject entered some space Acconci could not (a residence, for instance, or a car that promptly departs). In one case, this meant sitting through a movie when the person he was following went to the cinema. The exercise could last a few minutes, or hours, depending on what the stranger happened to do. I doubt Acconci would characterize his goals as having much to do with “paying attention,” per se, but borrowing his practice would be an adventure in seeing the new.

Misuse a Tech Tool
This has been another recurring theme. One student used a chat/dating app designed for gay men to (“obsessively”) monitor the number and locations of users within 400 feet. Another used the macro filter on her digital camera to study the textures of street objects on her walks to and from school. A third started using the compass on her iPhone to orient her gaze — wherever she walked, she’d take a look toward true north, and whatever happened to be there, “introducing a degree of randomness into what I saw.”

Social Media, Greensboro Sit Ins, Malcolm Gladwell and Potential Plagiarism

In an extensive piece that explores whether or not Malcolm Gladwell engaged in plagiarism for several articles he wrote for The New Yorker, Our Bad Media cites a 1970 book on the Greensboro sit ins as one of the sources he allegedly copied without attribution. From the Our Bad Media piece:

In his 2010 New Yorker column “Small Change,” Gladwell took a skeptical look at the use of social media as a tool for activists, discussing the often over-hyped impact of Facebook and Twitter’s effects on protests around the world. He drew parallels throughout the piece to the civil rights movement, mostly by recounting the story of the historic 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, when four black college students began a protest at Woolworth’s over its whites-only lunch counter.

Whereas the previous examples may have been limited in scope, the entirety of Gladwell’s description of the Greensboro sit-ins in his column—including quotes, descriptions of the Woolworth’s, and the sequence of events—are lifted from Miles Wolff’s authoritative but obscure 1970 book, Lunch at the Five and Ten.

We double-checked the print versions of The New Yorker to check if the online edition omitted any attributions or citations. It doesn’t. Gladwell again makes no mention of the author or his book despite building an entire column around it.

Below are the side-by-side comparisons of all Greensboro-related passages from the print edition of Gladwell’s article (in order) and the relevant passages from Wolff’s book.

If you follow the link to the post you’ll find close to a dozen excerpts from Gladwell’s article that match passages from the book. Methinks he might be in some hot water.

How We Think About Charity is Wrong

This is a fantastic TED presentation by Dan Pallotta on why the non-profit industry is perpetually hamstrung by its inability, among other things, to break out of a structure that limits compensation, suppresses risk-taking, prohibits access to capital markets, imposes frugality at the expense of future growth potential and tags all overhead as negative.  It’s a must-watch for anyone in the non-profit sector, but the charitable arm of the non-profit sector in particular.

Here’s a link to the full transcript and a couple of excerpts that really hit home:

So in the for-profit sector, the more value you produce, the more money you can make. But we don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social service. We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interesting that we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people. You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself…

Businessweek did a survey, looked at the compensation packages for MBAs 10 years of business school, and the median compensation for a Stanford MBA, with bonus, at the age of 38, was 400,000 dollars. Meanwhile, for the same year, the average salary for the CEO of a $5 million-plus medical charity in the U.S. was 232,000 dollars, and for a hunger charity, 84,000 dollars. Now, there’s no way you’re going to get a lot of people with $400,000 talent to make a $316,000 sacrifice every year to become the CEO of a hunger charity.

Some people say, “Well, that’s just because those MBA types are greedy.” Not necessarily. They might be smart. It’s cheaper for that person to donate 100,000 dollars every year to the hunger charity, save 50,000 dollars on their taxes, so still be roughly 270,000 dollars a year ahead of the game, now be called a philanthropist because they donated 100,000 dollars to charity, probably sit on the board of the hunger charity, indeed, probably supervise the poor SOB who decided to become the CEO of the hunger charity,and have a lifetime of this kind of power and influence and popular praise still ahead of them…

So we’ve all been taught that charities should spend as little as possible on overhead things like fundraising under the theory that, well, the less money you spend on fundraising, the more money there is available for the cause. Well, that’s true if it’s a depressing world in which this pie cannot be made any bigger. But if it’s a logical world in which investment in fundraising actually raises more funds and makes the pie bigger, then we have it precisely backwards, and we should be investing more money, not less, in fundraising, because fundraising is the one thing that has the potential to multiply the amount of moneyavailable for the cause that we care about so deeply…

This is what happens when we confuse morality with frugality. We’ve all been taught that the bake sale with five percent overhead is morally superior to the professional fundraising enterprise with 40 percent overhead, but we’re missing the most important piece of information, which is, what is the actual size of these pies? Who cares if the bake sale only has five percent overhead if it’s tiny? What if the bake sale only netted 71 dollars for charity because it made no investment in its scale and the professional fundraising enterprise netted 71 million dollars because it did? Now which pie would we prefer, and which pie do we think people who are hungry would prefer?


Be Part of the Smithsonian Crowdsource

Here’s a pretty cool volunteer opportunity with the Smithsonian:

The Smithsonian Institution has followed the crowdsourcing crowd, with the opening of an online transcription center allowing members of the public to help decipher thousands of digitized pages of Civil War diaries, botanical labels, correspondence and other documents that cannot be easily read by a computer.

Over the past year of beta testing a team of volunteers has transcribed more than 13,000 pages of documents, including personal correspondence of the so-called Monuments Men; the 1948 diary of Earl Shaffer, believed to be the first man to hike the entire Appalachian Trail; a 19th-century ballooning scrapbook; and a significant portion of the tiny labels in the National Museum of Natural History’s collection of nearly 45,000 bumblebee specimens.

Now the Smithsonian is hoping the broader public will help transcribe, among other highlighted projects, the field notebooks of the Virginia bird-watcher James W. Eike; the research notebooks of Joseph Henry, a physicist and the Smithsonian’s first secretary; and a collection of letters from American artists to be included in the coming book “The Art of Handwriting.”