“links” Category

Khan’s University

Salman Khan’s university concept is excellent:

In a chapter titled “What College Could Be Like,” Mr. Khan conjures an image of a new campus in Silicon Valley where students would spend their days working on internships and projects with mentors, and would continue their education with self-paced learning similar to that of Khan Academy. The students would attend ungraded seminars at night on art and literature, and the faculty would consist of professionals the students would work with as well as traditional professors.

“Traditional universities proudly list the Nobel laureates they have on campus (most of whom have little to no interaction with students),” he writes. “Our university would list the great entrepreneurs, inventors, and executives serving as student advisers and mentors.”

That’s quite similar to what I wrote earlier this year. Giving students access to leaders in different fields as a key part of the process, and providing seminars on diverse topics, are brilliant ideas. The goal is to get students engaged on their own work, something that’s meaningful to them, and to provide the resources they need to act on them. By doing so, students are actively seeking knowledge they need, and even knowledge that isn’t immediately necessary. When someone’s engaged in creating something of their own, they are much more likely to get something out of seminars on a variety of topics than they would be when sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture to fulfill a general-education requirement.

I don’t think this concept will work for everyone, but I think that’s exactly the problem: we’ve settled on the traditional university as a solution for everyone when it simply isn’t, and due at least in part to political reasons, have made it very difficult for radically different concepts to be explored. We need experiments like this—and many of them—to improve our education system.

December 6th, 2012

RSC Fires Copyright Memo Author

Remember the insightful Republican Study Committee memo on copyright? The Republican Study Committee fired the author:

The staffer who wrote the memo, an ambitious 24-year-old named Derek Khanna, was fired — even before the RSC had decided on other staffing changes for the upcoming Congress. The copyright memo was a main reason.

Absolutely despicable and disgusting.

Here’s a memo to the GOP: firing people for writing intelligently on topics that’s inconvenient to political interest groups isn’t going to help you. Get your shit in order.

December 6th, 2012

Apple to Manufacture Mac Line In U.S.

Apple’s Tim Cook said that Apple will begin manufacturing an existing Mac line in the United States next year. Cook also said that it will not just be final assembly.

Absolutely good news. But what’s better news is, presumably, that Apple believes doing so is efficient enough for their needs.

December 6th, 2012

Shawn Blanc’s Twitterrific 5 Review

Shawn Blanc on Twitterrific 5:

And alas, for me, some of the “missing” elements in Twitterrific are deal breakers. Despite how fast and gorgeous Twitterrific 5 is, I do not want to give up push notifications, mute filters, or the mobilizer web toggle. These 3 features of Tweetbot are so important to how I use Twitter that I won’t be switching to Twitterrific as my one and only Twitter client.

There are no filters or push notifications (push notifications are on the roadmap, though).

It’s a different kind of Twitter client, for sure; my biggest annoyance is not being able to start a new direct message from the direct message view itself (you have to navigate to the person’s profile page).

December 5th, 2012

Twitterrific 5

Twitterrific 5 is out.

The new Twitterrific is simply beautiful. Even if it’s only to study the custom user interface (which you should, if you have any interest in interface design), go get it. It’s stunning.

December 5th, 2012

Igloo Software, wishing you a happy work from home [Sponsor]

Thanks to Igloo Software for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.


Let’s face it, we’re heading into the worst time of year for getting work done. Everyone is getting ready for [insert holiday of choice here].

It seems like Janice is always out of the office. Bob’s coming in late every day. And if Kelly sings [insert holiday song of choice here] one more time, you’re going to go insane. But you can’t work from home – your shared drive is locked down and your VPN is just. so. slow.

This holiday season, ask your boss for a cloud-based collaboration platform. You’ll be able to securely work from home and your coworkers will love the built-in social tools. They can share updates about what they’re working on, and you can ignore the cat videos. Your boss will love your increased productivity.

‘Tis the season for an intranet you’ll actually like. Try Igloo.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

December 4th, 2012

What’s Wrong With the Republican Fiscal Cliff Counteroffer

Josh Barro criticizes the Republican fiscal cliff counteroffer:

The letter says Republicans want to cut $900 billion from mandatory spending and $300 billion from discretionary spending, but they don’t say what or how they want to cut. The letter nods toward a proposal sketched out by Erskine Bowles, the cornerstone of which is a gradual increase in the Medicare age, but it lacks specifics.

On the tax side, they agree to $800 billion in new revenue from “pro-growth tax reform that closes special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates.” But they don’t endorse specific loophole closures or propose a new rate structure.

Nonsense, and not going to cut it. Republicans need to make a serious proposal and go from there. This isn’t it. Obama’s proposal may have been a slap in the face, but at least it has specifics.

My preference would be for Republicans to agree to some combination of rate increases and a reduction in deductions, somewhere around $1 trillion, along with specific entitlement spending reductions.

December 3rd, 2012

It’s But a Coincidence That These Rules Break Our Competition

U.S. city taxi regulators are doing their best to work with Uber while protecting customers:

Taxi regulators from 15 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and Chicago, were on the committee that drafted the guidelines on new rules. One rule would forbid luxury car services from using a GPS device as a meter for calculating fares based on time and distance, which is the method that Uber uses.

Another rule would forbid any driver from accepting an electronic hail through a smartphone while driving. And one says limousines may not accept a request for a ride that is made less than 30 minutes in advance, which would impede Uber’s primary business model of connecting luxury car drivers with passengers immediately.

And by “doing their best to work with Uber,” I mean doing their best to make inane rules that make it almost impossible for companies like Uber to do business. Because, customer safety.

December 3rd, 2012

Keith Hennessey On President Obama’s Fiscal Cliff Proposal

Keith Hennessey on President Obama’s fiscal cliff proposal:

The Super Committee failed, so the spending sequester is scheduled to begin one month from now.

The President, most Democrats and many Republicans in Congress want to reduce or delay the sequester.

The President proposes a one-year delay, which would increase the deficit by $109 B in 2013. He wants to enact (in December) mandatory savings of an equal amount, but he proposes no specifics.

In this offer he promises Republicans that the tax reform and entitlement reform that they so desire will be backed up by the threat of, wait for it, the sequester that will begin in early 2014.

See anything wrong with this logic?

Taxes now, spending cut negotiations later.

December 3rd, 2012

Marcia Angell’s Mistaken View of Pharmaceutical Innovation

Alex Tabarrok responds to Marcia Angell’s claim on Econtalk that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t drive much innovation:

Notice that Angell first claims the pharmaceutical companies do almost no innovation then, when presented with a figure of $70 billion spent on R&D, she switches to an entirely different and irrelevant claim, namely that spending on marketing is even larger. Apple spends more on marketing than on R&D but this doesn’t make Apple any less innovative. Angell’s idea of splitting up company spending into a “budget” is also deeply confused. The budget metaphor suggests firms choose among R&D, marketing, profits and manufacturing costs just like a household chooses between fine dining or cable TV. In fact, if the marketing budget were cut, revenues would fall. Marketing drives sales and (expected) sales drives R&D. Angell is like the financial expert who recommends that a family save money by selling its car forgetting that without a car it makes it much harder to get to work.

And by the way, if you have any interest in the economy or economics, or public policy, I would highly recommend listening to Econtalk. It’s consistently interesting and, in many cases, insightful. You could do a lot worse for things to listen to while commuting.

December 3rd, 2012

The President’s Offer: We Get Everything We Want, and You’ll Like it

While the president campaigns, the White House made their “offer” to Republicans to avert the fiscal cliff:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.

The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.

Also part of the offer: cuts in farmer subsidies.

The White House’s offer is $1.6 trillion of tax increases, $50 billion more in spending, and a promise to negotiate entitlement spending cuts next year. Oh, and they want to give the executive branch the power to raise the debt ceiling without any Congressional involvement, too; Congress can only override it with a two-thirds majority. No wonder McConnell laughed off Geithner’s “offer.”

In other words, the president’s offer to Republicans is for Democrats to get everything they want and Republicans to get absolutely nothing, the nation’s fiscal mess be damned. Because apparently in Obama’s mind, getting everything he wants is “balanced.”

This isn’t an offer. If he wanted to start negotiating from a strong position and come to some middle ground on entitlement reform—if he wanted to fulfill his role as president and be a leader—he would have offered some (too small) amount of actual entitlement spending cuts to start from. That isn’t what he did.

The Republicans started negotiations by acknowledging that tax revenue must go up, and that they would support doing so by limiting deductions. That’s a more-than-fair place to start in good-faith negotiations, because from there they could agree to some mix of limiting deductions and raising rates in exchange for entitlement spending cuts.

Obama took that olive branch, snapped it in two and tossed it in their face.

November 30th, 2012

U.S. Birthrate Plummets

The U.S. birthrate dropped significantly between 2007 and 2010:

The U.S. birthrate plunged last year to a record low, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The overall birthrate decreased by 8?percent between 2007 and 2010, with a much bigger drop of 14?percent among foreign-born women. The overall birthrate is at its lowest since 1920, the earliest year with reliable records. The 2011 figures don’t have breakdowns for immigrants yet, but the preliminary findings indicate that they will follow the same trend.

The poor economy played a significant role in explaining why it dropped so much, so it should recover along with the economy, but if even a small part of the decline continues, that’s not good.

November 30th, 2012

Jeff Hawkins’ Real-Time Big Data Bet

Jeff Hawkins’ new company focuses on analyzing streaming data for patterns, rather than mining old datasets:

Data storage companies like EMC and Hewlett-Packard thrive on storing massive amounts of data cheaply. Data analysis companies including Microsoft, I.B.M., and SAS fetch that data and crunch the history to find patterns. They and others rely on both the traditional relational databases from Oracle, and newer “unstructured” databases like Hadoop.

Much of this will be a relic within a few years, according to Mr. Hawkins. “Hadoop won’t go away, but it will manage a lot less stuff,” he said in an interview at Numenta’s headquarters in Redwood City, Calif. “Querying databases won’t matter as much, as people worry instead about millions of streams of real-time data.” In a sensor-rich world of data feeds, he is saying, we will model ourselves more closely on the constant change that is the real world.

Interesting premise. I think this sort of thing is going be one of the next big frontiers for the technology industry.

November 29th, 2012

Fantastical for iPhone

Fantastical for iPhone is out, and it looks, well, fantastic.

Fantastical for Mac is my favorite way to enter new calendar events or to see what’s happening soon, and now it’s on the iPhone. Lovely app.

November 29th, 2012

Colugo [Sponsor]

My thanks to Colugo for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.


Colugo is the easiest way to share photos privately with your friends and family.

Colugo is a simple solution to a simple organization and communication problem. Colugo doesn’t use gimmicks like other apps do. No “magic” albums or location based sharing or other features that may sound cool in theory, but when you actually use them you find they are not very useful (at best), and a privacy nightmare (at worst). Colugo is private photo sharing done right.

Want to share some of your photos publicly and others privately – in a single app?

With Colugo you can! Make one album for the world to see, and “publish” it. Keep your other albums private, viewable by only those you invite.

Tired of returning from a party and having to contact all your friends for pics?

With Colugo you won’t have to. Partygoers can take pictures directly into a party album you create and you all share.

Colugo. Simple.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

November 27th, 2012