Ad Blindness

If you’ve been on the Internet for longer than, like, a half hour, you’ve figured out how to avoid looking at or even noticing the existence of banner ads. But just how tuned out are we? Business Insider found out that, among other things, you’re more likely to get into Harvard (87.8 times more likely, to be exact) than you are to click on a banner ad.

With that, I’m going to go click 10 banner ads. And then I’m going to get into Harvard, but I won’t go because my plane will crash after I summit Everest. Let’s do this.

Google As Our Memory

Ed Yong describes a study done to test out the theory of the day, that Google and the Internet are destroying our memory. There’s a ton of interesting work done, and a number of interesting conclusions drawn, but none more striking than this one:

Next, Sparrow asked 60 students to read 40 trivia statements (such as “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain”) and type them into a computer. Later, they had to write down as many of the statements as they could.

She found that the volunteers remembered fewer facts if they were told that the computer would save their work, than if they thought their words would be erased. If they knew they could look up the statements later, they apparently didn’t make the effort to remember them. “Since search engines are continually available to us, we may often be in a state of not feeling we need to encode the information internally. When we need it, we will look it up,” says Sparrow.

(Via Steve Silberman)

Smartphones Changed Literally Everything

Brian Chen, a writer at Wired, has a book out called “Always On.” He went on the previously-mentioned best radio show/podcast on Earth (NPR’s Fresh Air) to talk about the book, which chronicles how smartphones changed the world. One of the subjects discussed was education:

“Instead of lecturing students and saying ‘Hey, open your textbook and go to page 96,’ the teacher is acting as a guide and saying ‘OK, so here’s the topic we’re going to discuss today. Take out your iPhone and go search on the web or search Wikipedia and let’s have a conversation about where we want to take this discussion,” says Chen.

He explains that students at Abilene are being taught the importance of discerning good data from bad data — and not just to blindly accept the information that would have been presented in a textbook.

How to Meet Girls Online

Mostly, GQ’s advice is about how to meet girls online and not be a sketchy creep who’s probably going to jail. But it’s good advice:

First? If you really want to approach somebody via Internet, try to have met them in person first. Some middle-aged people I was recently partying with because I am very cool told me how scary that first ask was in their times. You had to actually place a call to somebody who had ostensibly seen you in three dimensions (at a malt shoppe, I guess?). The terror of this was compounded by the fact that a parent or sister or roommate could answer. The phones were rotary, and the older sisters were suspicious. Now, what’s to keep you from liking a hot stranger’s months-old photo at 3am? (Aside from dignity and advanced privacy controls.)

Reading with Purpose

For the Boston Globe, Jane Brox takes a look at how reading has changed over time, and what it means. The first installment gets at what reading used to signify and mean, how utterly significant reading was:

The idea of reading something quickly would be incomprehensible to a medieval monk or nun, for reading was sacred. At Lent, each would be given a book, which was to be contemplated throughout the year, not only while reading but also while he or she tended bees, or hoed the garden, or kneaded bread. “Some part of your daily reading should also each day be committed to memory,” instructed William of St. Thierry, “taken as it were into the stomach, to be more carefully digested and brought up again for frequent rumination.” Of course, the murmuring of innumerable readers could be a distraction. In his “Rule’’ St. Benedict urged, “if, perhaps, anyone desireth to read for himself, let him so read that he doth not disturb others.” Generally, in the monasteries each monk retired to his own study in the cloisters – a carrel, meaning a ring, a dance, a song, Stonehenge. A garland made of one’s own voice.

(Via Tim Carmody)

Social Media Makes or Breaks TV Shows

The Guardian looks at exactly how powerful Twitter is in determining the fate of TV shows:

“Producers watch Twitter as their shows are going out with some trepidation,” says Simon Nelson, a former controller of BBC Vision and now an adviser to a variety of media companies. “The influence of the twittersphere can disproportionately impact on a show, so if there is a torrent of abuse, or the other way around, a torrent of love, that shines a spotlight that is definitely a factor in commissioning meetings.”

While Twitter and Facebook are having an impact among those who make and commission programmes, social media is not thought to be changing the way that TV schedules are put together, at least not yet. But it is certainly true that within the world of entertainment programming tweeters and Facebook fans have found a new way to enrich their TV viewing, for instance, by commenting on the latest twist in EastEnders or who is their favourite contestant on The Apprentice. Tens of thousands of people use The Apprentice Predictor with a real-time graph that fluctuates as people register who they think is most likely to win. The X Factor also has a huge social media presence with 2.5m Facebook fans and an average of 250,000 tweets an episode. X Factor recently launched live auditions on Facebook and YouTube.

Five Reasons to Switch to an iPhone

Taylor Martin, at PhoneDog, switched from an Android-based HTC Thunderbolt to an iPhone 4, and gives five reasons why. Here’s “stability”:

One area the ThunderBolt has always struggled has been with software stability, and that could easily be said about most other Android devices, especially HTC-made phones. Sense UI is bug-ridden and known to be the culprit for lag and battery drains. The likes of custom ROMs proved to be no better as development for the ‘Bolt has hit quite a few road blocks over the months.

For a PCMag story, I’ve been using an iPhone as my primary phone for a week, and though there are a million things I don’t like about the iPhone this is the one I can’t disagree with. The iPhone just, simply, works better than any Android phone. When you tap something, something always happens. When you press a button, it always registers. There’s little lag, little crashing (and the crashes that do happen are always single-app, not the Earth-shattering everything-crashes that Android is prone to), and it works as it’s supposed to. That’s a big deal.

(Via Daring Fireball)

Angry Birds: Friend to Science Classes Everywhere

GOOD reports on a teacher in Atlanta that figured out how to make Angry Birds into something educational:

“What are the laws of physics in the Angry Birds world?” John Burk, a ninth-grade physics teacher at the private Westminster Schools in Atlanta, put that question to his students and gave them the chance to “be among the first to find the answer.” Burk became interested in using Angry Birds in the classroom last winter, and began blogging about teaching with it. Given that the birds are catapulted into the sky, it was the perfect tool for teaching students the laws of projectile motion. In about 30 minutes, the teens were able to thoroughly understand, as Burk wrote on his blog, “the two big ideas of projectile motion: the horizontal component of motion is constant velocity, while the vertical component is constant acceleration.”

I can only assume that this was all a ploy by Burk to make Angry Birds super lame by making it all educational and stuff, so students would stop playing it in class. Either way, though, it’s a win.

The Once and Future News

The latest Economist has a wonderful section on the future of news, and one of the points it makes repeatedly is that the future of news isn’t that different from the past. Here’s what news looked like in the wooden-teeth times:

THREE hundred years ago news travelled by word of mouth or letter, and circulated in taverns and coffee houses in the form of pamphlets, newsletters and broadsides. “The Coffee houses particularly are very commodious for a free Conversation, and for reading at an easie Rate all manner of printed News,” noted one observer. Everything changed in 1833 when the first mass-audience newspaper, the New York Sun, pioneered the use of advertising to reduce the cost of news, thus giving advertisers access to a wider audience. At the time of the launch America’s bestselling paper sold just 4,500 copies a day; the Sun, with its steam press, soon reached 15,000. The penny press, followed by radio and television, turned news from a two-way conversation into a one-way broadcast, with a relatively small number of firms controlling the media.

Fast forward to 2011, change the terms and the buzzwords, and here’s what you get:

Over the past decade, throughout the Western world, people have been giving up newspapers and TV news and keeping up with events in profoundly different ways. Most strikingly, ordinary people are increasingly involved in compiling, sharing, filtering, discussing and distributing news. Twitter lets people anywhere report what they are seeing. Classified documents are published in their thousands online. Mobile-phone footage of Arab uprisings and American tornadoes is posted on social-networking sites and shown on television newscasts. An amateur video taken during the Japanese earthquake has been watched 15m times on YouTube. “Crowdsourcing” projects bring readers and journalists together to sift through troves of documents, from the expense claims of British politicians to Sarah Palin’s e-mails. Social-networking sites help people find, discuss and share news with their friends.

The coffeehouse is back. It worked then, who says it won’t now?

Phone Calls, Just With Facebook

David Kirkpatrick sees the story behind and beyond the Skype/Facebook integration:

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz used to rant against something he calls “representational identity”—associating people with numbers, for example, instead of their names. Why should I have to keep track of someone’s home number, cell number, work number, Skype address, email address, IM account, Twitter name, and all the other ways they have to label themselves? Why shouldn’t we instead be able to simply click on our friend’s name and connect to them? That is the breakthrough today’s Facebook-Skype announcement points toward, though it by no means gets us all the way there.

After today’s announcement, representatives of Skype gave Business Insider the news that the next move for the Skype-Facebook partnership will be to enable you to dial any offline phone number from inside Facebook. This again will make unnecessary the downloads of Skype software and setting up of accounts, which has been required up to now and which surely deterred many millions from trying this useful service. And here Skype will begin to see a financial benefit from its partnership with Facebook. While the new video chat feature is free and is not even branded “Skype,” it will cost money to dial a regular phone from inside Facebook, just as Skype today charges a few pennies a minute for dialing outside numbers using its regular service. Facebook will likely require users to pay with the internal Facebook currency it calls Credits, bolstering that product’s usefulness.

Kirkpatrick is careful to note that Facebook, Skype, Microsoft, and Nokia are now deeply in league, and ever more deeply embedded in one another’s products. If that doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of any Facebook competitor, who doesn’t want to see Facebook as the communications hub of the Internet (which it kind of already is) and the “offline” world, I don’t know what would.