Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Businessweek's Coding Manifesto

As if to prove that magazine journalism has broken with all conventions, Bloomberg Businessweek has published “What Is Code?,” a 38,000-word article by Paul Ford. It quickly became one of the most widely mentioned (if unread) things on the Internet, and the author was interviewed about the tome by the Poynter Institute. 

Despite the length, it remains one of the most accessible primers on the back office of the digital economy – as well as the sheer scope of the coding world. One example:

There are 11 million professional software developers on earth, according to the research firm IDC. (An additional 7 million are hobbyists.) That’s roughly the population of the greater Los Angeles metro area…And the Conferences! The website Lanyrd lists hundreds of technology conferences for June 2015. There’s an event for software testers in Chicago, a Twitter conference in São Paulo, and one on enterprise content management in Amsterdam. In New York alone there’s the Big Apple Scrum Day, the Razorfish Tech Summit, an entrepreneurship boot camp for veterans, a conference dedicated to digital mapping, many conferences for digital marketers, one dedicated to Node.js, one for Ruby, and one for Scala (these are programming languages), a couple of breakfasts, a conference for cascading style sheets, one for text analytics.

Some still find Ford’s piece lacking. One interesting dissent is made on Richard Bejtlich’s blog, Tao Security, which blames Ford for making almost no reference to security and breaches, rapidly emerging as the most important problem of software. 

2. Bernanke Rushes to Alexander Hamilton's Defense

The former Fed Chairman lashes out against the calls to remove Hamilton from the $10 bill. No Beige Book was ever so direct:

I was appalled to hear of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's decision last week to demote Alexander Hamilton from his featured position on the ten dollar bill. Hamilton was without doubt the best and most foresighted economic policymaker in U.S. history…Hamilton's demotion is intended to make room to honor a deserving woman on the face of our currency. That's a fine idea, but it shouldn't come at Hamilton's expense. As many have pointed out, a better solution is available: Replace Andrew Jackson, a man of many unattractive qualities and a poor president, on the twenty dollar bill.

3. Portrait of a Venture Capitalist as a Young Man

Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator – the Silicon Valley incubator that helped launch Dropbox, Airbnb, and dozens of other embryonic unicorns – offers some life advice. On his 30th birthday. Should we be worried when the country’s start-up culture starts sounding like a wistful old codger?

Talk to people more. Read more long content and less tweets. Watch less TV. Spend less time on the Internet. Don’t waste time. Most people waste most of their time, especially in business.

4. World Government: A Fiction

What happened to “world government”? On the right, Pat Buchanan predicted that the WTO would create “globe-girdling regime from which there is no escape.” On the left, Strobe Talbot declared that “nationhood” would become obsolete. Yet, as Alasdair Roberts explains, we are living in the “the golden age of the nation-state.” The one-world futurists underestimated the national government’s ability to reassert authority, for both good and bad:

Consider what has happened to the Internet. In the 1990s, this new technology was heralded as a powerful way of circumventing and challenging state authority. The activist John Perry Barlow issued a “declaration of independence” for the Internet in 1996. “Governments of the World,” it began, “You have no sovereignty where we gather…You have no moral right to rule us.” Barlow did not anticipate the Golden Shield Project run by China’s Ministry of Public Security, which today censors content for 600 million Internet users, and is only one part of the “Great Firewall.”

5. Great Forgotten Words

The Guardian asked a bunch of writers to list their favorite obscure words. Lots of good stuff, but nothing tops novelist Nick Laird, who is a walking dictionary of Northern Ireland slang:

One problem is “standard” English is dull in comparison: the Ulster dialect is very good at certain things; drunkenness (stocious, half-tore, half-cut, blootered, lashed), violence and threat (a leathering, a lacing, an oilin, shut your bake, keep your neb out), landscape (gullion, clabber, sheugh), insults (gype, mingin, cipher), insects (clegs, midges, moolies) … Off the top of my head, the words I’m saddest to lose from the tip of my tongue are thrawn (stubborn), thole (bear, put up with), fornenst (opposite), lock (some), cowp (tip over), foreby (besides, as well as), hoke (to rummage), scundered (fed up, disgusted), bap (head), boke (vomit) and hardy (tough, able)..

6. Steph Curry and the Technology of the Three-Point Shot

Tyler Cowen asks why the three point shot, introduced in the NBA in 1979 (!), took so long to become a potent weapon. He uses behavioral economics to understand why basketball was a slow adopter of the technology:

At first the shot was thought to be a cheesy gimmick. Players had to master the longer shot, preferably from their earliest training. Coaches had to figure out three-point strategies, which include rethinking the fast break and different methods of floor spacing and passing; players had to learn those techniques too. The NBA had to change its rules to encourage more three-pointers (e.g., allowing zone defenses, discouraging isolation plays)…Line-ups had to be smaller. And so on. Most of all, coaches and general managers needed the vision to see how all these pieces could fit..



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