Working at a large, successful company lets you keep your isolation. If you choose, you can just ignore all the inconvenient facts about the world. You can make decisions based on whatever input you choose. The success or failure of your project in the market is not really that important; what’s important is whether it gets canceled or not, a decision which is at the whim of your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, who, as your only link to the unpleasantly unpredictable outside world, seems to choose projects quasi-randomly, and certainly without regard to the quality of your contribution.
For years, poor sleep has been linked to a host of medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders and even alcohol dependency. Now a new study published in SLEEP suggests there may be an even bigger problem to worry about: a shrinking and weakening brain.
The study, conducted by researchers from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, focused on a group of 66 Chinese adults. Every two years, the participants were asked to take a sleep questionnaire, as well as MRI scans and neuropsychological assessments. The result: People who had trouble sleeping had “greater age-related brain atrophy and cognitive decline” than those who rested well every night.
"Great ideas are Obvious in retrospect.”
- Biz Stone
Obviously. (Like what I did there?) The problem is great ideas are not obvious in the present. Often times it can actually be the opposite. Great ideas are very obscure in the present.
Take Twitter for example. In it’s early days it was met with enormous skepticism. Just check out the comments on this TechCrunch article from 2006:
(Actually, just check out the original title of the article in the URL - “Is Twttr Interesting?”)
Clearly people didn’t get it. I’m not even sure the founding team got it at that point. But they were dedicated to an idea. That idea was the ability to share oneself in an informal and real time manner.
This got me thinking about the concept of an idea. Maybe an idea isn’t a product or service you can visualize in your mind. Instead, maybe an idea is more like a commitment. A commitment to investigating a concept further.
Even the creator struggles to fully conceptualize a yet-to-be-formed idea. This can make it difficult to discuss and share the idea with others. However, it is here that the value lies. Forcing yourself to verbalize and communicate the concept can add tons of value.
To this end, I was selected to take part in the Orbital NYC bootcamp this summer. Myself and 25 others have committed to flushing out our ideas. I believe very few of us actually have a solid grasp on what we’re creating. But we all have an idea that we’ve committed to investigating further.
We’re embarking on this journey in a very public manner. We’re blogging and sharing our paths publicly. We meet as a class once a week to share our statuses and receive feedback from our cohorts. At the conclusion, we will be hosting a public talk on the lessons we’ve learned.
I expect it to be a fantastic journey.
Follow us at #orbitalnyc on Tumblr and Twitter.
I get the anger. I personally loathe Facebook and I have for a long time, even as I appreciate and study its importance in people’s lives. But on a personal level, I hate the fact that Facebook thinks it’s better than me at deciding which of my friends’ posts I should see. I hate that I have no meaningful mechanism of control on the site. And I am painfully aware of how my sporadic use of the site has confused their algorithms so much that what I see in my newsfeed is complete garbage. And I resent the fact that because I barely use the site, the only way that I could actually get a message out to friends is to pay to have it posted. My minimal use has made me an algorithmic pariah and if I weren’t technologically savvy enough to know better, I would feel as though I’ve been shunned by my friends rather than simply deemed unworthy by an algorithm. I also refuse to play the game to make myself look good before the altar of the algorithm. And every time I’m forced to deal with Facebook, I can’t help but resent its manipulations.
The challenge that Facebook has is that the root cause of having a cluttered feed is really the underlying social network that one constructs—it’s the core of their product.
They’ve made small attempts to address that, like introducing asymmetric following, but I can’t imagine that has been all that effective given their size. (Overhauling your product when you’re at the scale of Facebook is incredibly hard, and they’ve succeeded in many cases, which is an impressive feat.)
In Facebook’s mission to connect everyone, the product doesn’t allow the individual to control their proximity to people in the way that we naturally do in real life. The answer isn’t to give users more control, since having knobs (i.e. Google+ Circles) is too onerous (most people won’t customize). And since they’re too big to re-architect the product (probably not a good idea) they’re understandably left playing whack-a-mole with the symptoms, instead, which is suboptimal.
Thus, we’re stuck with this socially awkward dinner party host who is trying to make sure everyone is only talking to the people who they’re likely to want to talk to, resulting in an overly socially sterile environment that feels more like a chaperoned dance than a party.
Outside of defensive reasons, it makes a ton of sense that the company is splitting out its service into discrete apps, and buying up anyone who is exhibiting growth, especially on mobile and especially systems like chat that have a different social network architecture.
You make an ass out of u and me." -Oscar Wilde
At this Monday’s Orbital class we went over our projects’ assumptions, which was a helpful exercise in gaining a perspective on where I’m going with vrban and what I need to do to get there. As Gary mentioned, it can be dangerous to buy into a big vision and build it without tackling the small assumptions supporting your vision. Before we even had time to think about our assumptions I already knew the biggest bet I was making… that VR will gain the traction necessary for vrban to thrive.
This is certainly one of the assumptions I’ve thought about a lot since beginning this project and likely what keeps me up at night sometimes. It’s a difficult one to test because all VR is in a development stage right now and it’ll be a while before consumers have access.
Luckily, I was able to visit the Oculus Rift HQ in Irvine, CA this weekend and get a sense for where they’re going and the steps being taken to ensure there is content by the consumer release. I also came across this recently: First Steps for VR on the Web, which reassured my philosophy (and assumption) of sticking to VR via the web to provide a “plug-n-play” experience. They also discuss VR on the web as the first steps toward the metaverse… and what better way to start building another universe than having cities for people to thrive in?
For now, I can only show people what I’m doing with urban environments and VR and get their feedback on the value of this method of visualization. There are also other assumptions to test and NYC is a great place to do it. Do urban designers really need this tool? And would they pay for it? Is my primary audience even city governments? How will consumers use vrban and do they actually need it?
In a week I’ll also be at the Esri User Conference as part of their Startup Zone where I’ll get a chance to meet people interested in geo visualization and hearing their thoughts on VR and vrban. It’ll be a good place to test some of my assumptions with an interested audience.
If only I could test assumptions in virtual reality…
America’s National Security Agency gathers unfathomable mountains of Internet communications from fiber optic taps and other means, but it says it only retains and searches the communications of “targeted” individuals who’ve done something suspicious. Guess what? If you read Boing Boing, you’ve been targeted. Cory Doctorow digs into Xkeyscore and the NSA’s deep packet inspection rules.
This is one of the biggest NSA stories yet. Please reblog!
The biggest obstacle to creativity is attachment to outcome. As soon as you become attached to a specific outcome, you feel compelled to control and manipulate what you’re doing. And in the process you shut yourself off to other possibilities.
I got a call from someone who wanted me to lead a workshop on creativity. He needed to tell his management exactly what tools people would come away with. I told him I didn’t know. I couldn’t give him a promise, because then I’d become attached to an outcome — which would defeat the purpose of any creative workshop.’
It’s hard for corporations to understand that creativity is not just about succeeding. It’s about experimenting and discovering.