Love this flower! But what kind is it?
Josh Miller, founder of the novel conversation outpost Branch raised an important question that I took a few moments to consider today. I encourage you to consider it too: What are the limitations of an invite-only conversation? What do you gain and what do you lose?
How and where thoughtful conversations take root on the Internet are important. Our attention is finite and can, as a practical matter, only be directed to a limited number of forums. If Branch is one of them, its invite-only nature deserves scrutiny.
My contribution to the conversation:
What an invite-only conversation brings to the table is a nice parallel to the real world construct of conference panels. The quality of the conversation has everything to do with who’s invited and who’s not. Bringing non-gratuitous controversy to the stage to break new ground with constructive people is the job of a good panel moderater and, I’m gathering, the job of good Branch-makers too. Invites give us a tool to shape the conversation and guard it against bickering and chaos. What’s great about Branch (or, for that matter, Quora) is that online we get great opportunities to both extend the reach of important conversations and add and modify new features as we go: highlighting, voting, sharing, etc.
Upon further reflection, I realized that many of us take part in massive invite-only conversations everyday by posting and commenting on Facebook. The invited parties are our Facebook friends and, sometimes, the people they have invited as their friends. The trade-off there is that the very existence of our conversations is filtered by Facebook’s algorithms. Unless we gain traction quickly with “Likes” or comments from close friends, our posts never really surface among our broader network. Talk about exclusion! I think Branch is onto something with it’s approach. Considering that I walked into the invite-only conversation months after it was initially started and found it still fresh and appealing, maybe we could call it a modern home for slow conversation. I’m looking forward to exploring it more.
Big Data: water wordscape by Marius B, on Flickr
I’ve been thinking a lot about Big Data today as I work on a story about its role in personalized medicine. The quote below is part of danah boyd‘s response to Pew Internet’s latest Big Data survey.
The Internet magnifies the good, bad, and ugly of everyday life. Of course these things will be used for good. And of course they’ll be used for bad and ugly. Science fiction gives us plenty of templates for imagining where that will go. But that dichotomy gets us nowhere. What will be interesting is how social dynamics, economic exchange, and information access are inflected in new ways that open up possibilities that we cannot yet imagine.
In setting up this blog quickly one night, I cribbed a lot of ideas (not to mention the template) from danah’s excellent blog. Thanks, danah!
I drink a lot of coffee in a lot of places. For that reason, having the best travel coffee mug is more than a little important to me. Let’s call it an imperative. If you feel the same, buy a Thermos Nissan 12-Ounce Stainless-Steel Tea Tumbler with Infuser.
I often tell my wife and children that coffee is my second love only after family, and that even then it doesn’t rank far behind. But as much as I love coffee, I haven’t always had good luck carrying it with me. Sometimes my mugs have been too big, making them difficult to fit in cup holders or conveniently carry in bags. Sometimes my mugs have been too leaky, losing drips of precious brew when jostled because of poorly sealed tops. The worst offenders drip coffee as I drink, usually on my white shirt. Sometimes they’re just gratuitously weird, like every Starbucks mug I’ve come across in my entire life.
What makes the Nissan 12-Ounce perfect is that it avoids all these faults. It’s as svelte as a soda can, as airtight as a mason jar, and as sleek and plain as can be, with simple contouring near the top for easy gripping. It’s never hot to the touch and never spills (except when tipped over without its rubber-gasket-sealed screw top in place.) The two-part lid makes it both easy to seal and easy to drink from. Once uncovered, the inner lid offers a deep-set well for sipping that is second to none. It features two holes, one large hole for drinking and one smaller one for aeration. A slanted panel directs any excess coffee directly back into the mug, so coffee never pools in the lid. Best of all, because it has no moving parts, it never fails.
I have lost only one of these mugs in 10 years and, should I lose another, I have a plan: I’m going to order another one right away.
I’m enjoying Diana B. Henriques‘ book “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff
and the Death of Trust” this weekend. While it has always been on my reading list, I’m lucky enough to get a chance to enjoy a short seminar with her next week, so I’m reading what I can now. The level of detail she captured and conveys is remarkable. I can’t wait to learn a bit about how she approaches her reporting and writing.
I don’t like heat. So, I was pretty much thrilled about this opportunity to wear my XtraTufs at the beach in July.
Here’s a quick rundown of my latest stories in The Burrill Report:
- U.K. Drug Pricing Talks Approach
Negotiations over renewal of a key branded drug pricing agreement in the United Kingdom will begin later this year with a new emphasis on value-based pricing.
- As Drugmakers Turn to Global Trials, Politicians Seek Greater Transparency
Congressional Democrats are seeking to tighten clinical trial reporting requirements and bolster the massive online clinical trial registry data bank, Clinicaltrials.gov, by closing perceived loopholes that they say put trial participants at risk.
- Innovation Bank Proposed
Legislation supporting creation of a new “American Innovation Bank” to fund competitive grants and loans to institutions of higher education, nonprofit research institutions, individual investigators, and private companies has secured fresh backing from New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).