Tag Archives: Cognition

The Financial Crisis in Charts

Thought I’d offer a brief history of the financial crisis as seen through Google Insights, which measures the popularity of a search term over time.

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Interest in the word subprime spiked a couple of times in 2007 (above) before we figured out it was all about toxic debts (below):

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and credit crunches:

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Then we realised suddenly we had to learn a bit more about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:

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and even basic terms like liquidity:

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Useful information. And it wasn’t just an economics lesson. We had to gen up on countries that we had recently given little attention to, like Iceland:

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Although it’s worth keeping it all in perspective. Search for the word meltdown, a commonly used term to capture the excitement of the past few weeks, and you get this. Clearly rising interest, but that spoke in 2005? It’s linked to Ice Age: The Meltdown, which grossed $70 million at the box office in its debut week:

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The Financial Crisis in Charts

Thought I’d offer a brief history of the financial crisis as seen through Google Insights, which measures the popularity of a search term over time.

image

Interest in the word subprime spiked a couple of times in 2007 (above) before we figured out it was all about toxic debts (below):

image

and credit crunches:

image

Then we realised suddenly we had to learn a bit more about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:

image

and even basic terms like liquidity:

image

Useful information. And it wasn’t just an economics lesson. We had to gen up on countries that we had recently given little attention to, like Iceland:

image

Although it’s worth keeping it all in perspective. Search for the word meltdown, a commonly used term to capture the excitement of the past few weeks, and you get this. Clearly rising interest, but that spike in 2005? It’s linked to Ice Age: The Meltdown, which grossed $70 million at the box office in its debut week:

image

Hollywood still trumps global financial disaster, I guess.

Directory of Attention

This week’s WSJ column (subscription only, I’m afraid) is about attention:

If you feel the Internet has both blessed you with an abundance of information and cursed you by drowning you in it, I have one word which might help make sense of it all: attention. (And, if you give me enough of your attention, I promise to give you a tip about how to cope.)

It’s beginning to dawn on people who ponder these kinds of things that it’s attention, not information, which lies at the heart of the new online world. In a world full of information, the scarcest commodities are your eyeballs and ears.

Here are some links to find out more. Suggestions very welcome, as ever.

Attention, according to The Attention Trust, is the substance of focus. It registers your interests by indicating choice for certain things and choice against other things. Any time you pay attention to something (and any time you ignore something), data is created. That data has value, but only if it’s gathered, measured, and analyzed.

A definition of Attention Data from Chris Saad. And I like this one from, again, The Attention Trust:

When you pay attention to something (and when you ignore something), data is created. This “attention data” is a valuable resource that reflects your interests, your activities and your values, and it serves as a proxy for your attention.

Wikipedia’s entry on the Attention Economy, and The Attention Economy: An Overview from the excellent Read/Write Web, are also well-worth a read (as well as the comments.) A look at Google’s role in all this from Sam Sethi, who asks: Is Google building the Attention Economy?

I quoted liberally from Anne Zelenka, who is writing a book on this kind of thing. Check out her blog here, and a great piece she wrote on where attention fits into the whole Web 2.0 thing.

Stuff to play with:

  • Particls, formerly Touchstone, which is a ticker that tries to understand you or tick you off. (My description, not theirs.)
  • I didn’t have a chance to write about Attensa for Outlook, but it’s trying to do something a bit similar.
  • Or the AttentionMap, which “helps you keep track of your attention on a daily basis.”

See also my Directory of Lifestreams

Sudoku’s Secret: Open Source Collaboration

Great piece in the NYT/IHT on the company behind Sudoku and similar games. Their approach — no trademarking, harnessing users to help develop and perfect games — all sounds very Open Source:

clipped from www.iht.com

Nikoli’s secret, Kaji said, lay in a kind of democratization of puzzle invention. The company itself does not actually create many new puzzles — an American invented an earlier version of Sudoku, for example. Instead, Nikoli provides a forum for testing and perfecting them. About 50,000 readers of its main magazine submit ideas; the most promising are then printed by Nikoli to seek approval and feedback from other readers.

The Wandering Mind

Piece from AP about how the mind wanders. Towards the end it gets interesting: to what extent is a mind wandering at its best? I’m sure I’m not alone in consciously seeking out places and situations in which my mind can wander unfettered — a hike, a jog, a swim, a lie by the pool, even going to sleep.

clipped from www.usatoday.com

Schooler is exploring the idea that mind-wandering promotes creativity. “It’s unconstrained, it can go anywhere, which is sort of the perfect situation for creative thought,” he said.

Mason points out that just because the human brain wanders doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a good reason for it. Maybe, she said, the mind wanders simply because it can.

But even she sees an upside.

“I can be stuck in my car in traffic and not go absolutely crazy because I’m not stuck in the here and now,” she said. “I can think about what happened last night. And that’s great.”

The Mind Mapping Software Weblog

For mind mapping fans, there’s a new Mind Mapping Software Weblog:

The Mind Mapping Software Weblog is designed to provide businesspeople with a focused collection of resources related to visual mapping – its applications, its benefits, and how you can use it to increase your productivity and creativity.

It’s early days. but looks promising. If nothing else, there’s a good list of mind mapping software, which includes some not in my own list.

India Embraces Blogger Reporters

The Indian government, The Times of India reports, is planning to open doors to blogger reporters:

India is in the process of framing rules for granting accreditation to Internet journalists and bloggers for the first time, taking a reality check on an evolving world of net writers who could shape opinion and who have already been granted access to official corridors in countries such as the US.

“We are framing the rules for giving accreditation to dotcom journalists, including bloggers,” Principle Information Officer Shakuntala Mahawal said.

Good news, and is it worthwhile for other blogger reporters to try to get together to offer guidance to governments and would-be blogger reporters about how to convince officials on this kind of thing? Getting a journalistic visa is a nightmare in a lot of places, requiring extensive documentation and sponsorship. How can bloggers fit into all this?

Another Mind Mapper

Here’s another addition to the directory of mind mapping software I’ve been building: Mind Pad, launched today by AKS Labs. I haven’t played very much with it, but while it starts out as a straightforward mind-mapping program, it offers more:

Creating and linking text blocks is easy with Mind Pad. But it can do more. Mind Pad allows you to organize in mind map objects with any properties set. With Mind Pad scripting you can create your own rules for data management and representation.

Mind Pad suggests a new approach to mind mapping. Now, mind map is not just a lot of linked text blocks. Mind Pad allows to create your own frame objects with unique properties that are most suitable for your business. You can organize those objects into some hierarchy or map.

For instance, with Mind Pad Model Editor you can easily create an object called “Contact Person” and assign to it some really useful properties, such as Person name, Company name, Next time to contact date. Then you can create a mind map using “Contact Person” frame object and link new objects with each other showing the relation between your contacts.

Check it out. There’s a trial version, a full copy costs $60.

Gadgets That Are Stupid, #1

I thought I would start a fresh series of Gadgets That Are Stupid: gizmos that seem to do things right but suffer a design flaw that renders them hazardous to one’s health, or peace of mind, or that of one’s partner. Here’s the first entry: An alarm clock.

On the surface an excellent purchase: It even tells you the temperature. But get this: To turn on the backlight you have to press the alarm sleep button, which beeps when you press it. So you wake up in the middle of the night, want to see what the time is, slide carefully across the bed so as not to wake your beloved, press the alarm sleep button, only to set off a (relatively) deafening beep. How dumb is that?

I’ve looked hard in the manual and on the back to see whether the beep can be disabled. As far as I can see, it can’t. So I have a very sophisticated piece of gadgetry on my bedside table, that can tell me the temperature, the time in Lima and how to build a nuclear power plant out of old USB cables, but which I have to carry off to the bathroom so I can read the display without marital disharmony. Winner of this week’s Dumb Gadget Award.

More submissions gratefully received.

How To Solve Crosswords

Italian computer engineers have come up with software that will crack crossword puzzles, according to Nature.

The program, called Web Crow, reads crossword clues, surfs the web for the answers and fits them into the puzzle. Computer engineers Marco Gori and Marco Ernandes at the University of Siena in Italy say a prototype should be available by the end of the year.

It’s not the first program to solve crosswords, Nature says. That was Proverb, developed in 1999 by researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, which uses a variety of databases to solve puzzles. Web Crow is the first to solve crosswords in any language.

The way it does this is analyse “the crossword clue and turns it into a simple query. Then it plugs the query into the internet search engine Google and uses a certainty score to rank the possible solutions in a candidate list,” according to Nature. It then “uses an algorithm to figure out which candidate words provide the best fit for the grid as a whole”.

Some of the technology behind this could be used for extracting information from the web, or organising schedules and shifts, Nature quotes Gori as saying. And of course he’s careful to stress that he’s not trying to take away the fun of solving a crossword.