Unveiling the Best Magazine Articles Ever and the Mood Swings of America: Three Best Things 7/26/10 - 8/1/1

Thing: The Best Magazine Articles Ever by Kevin Kelly. KK is putting together a list of the best magazine articles ever, spanning from an 1816 article on criticism to a piece from tomorrow’s New Yorker on hospices, and people are voting on them. This is the most obvious instant bookmark you’ve come across in quite some time.

Thing: Your Complete Guide to Bad Burqa Puns by Muslimah Media Watch. For newspaper headline editors, stupid burqa wordplay has replaced meet the new boss, same as the old boss as the cliche of choice.

Thing: Mood, twitter, and the new shape of america by Harvard’s Complexity and Social Networks Blog. Some math people did a Twitter-data thing to map our state-by-state zeitgeist as it changes throughout the day and across the country. You can read about how they did it, or you can watch the mesmerizing video:

Conclusions: people in Florida and California are pretty much never unhappy; Georgia is happy but the relatively grumpiest state in its neighborhood; and the Mississippi delta region and parts of the midwest are pretty much never happy.

America’s favorite time of day: quittin’ time is an obvious favorite, but early birds (people up between 5 AM and 7 AM) tend to be obnoxiously chipper* and have skewed our whole mornings green. America’s least favorite time of day: the post-lunch-pre-quittin’-time death march is pretty bad, but apparently oceans of horror start washing all over Twitter after 1 AM. Except in Florida and California, where they just have oceans of warm water.

* Full disclosure: I’m an early bird.

Three Best Things 6/7/10 - 6/13/10

THING: Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club from Balkinization. Glee might be the most unrealistic show on TV, now that [something something Lost joke]. How is a tiny extracurricular group able to pay $150k copyright fines for releasing videos of their performances? Let us discuss copyright.

THING: Mind Over Mass Media from the New York Times. You may have heard that Twitter is making you dumb. (Yes, you also probably heard the same thing about mime in 450 BCE, and look how smart that’s made you.) Well, Harvard psychology professor and best-selling pop science author Steven Pinker says Twitter isn’t bad for you, which sounds kind of like Harvard psychology professor and best-selling pop science author Steven Pinker says Twitter is good for you to me!

In fact, there isn’t anything — except for, like, helmetless motorcycling — that can make you dumber or smarter at anything else, so to speak:

Music doesn’t make you better at math, conjugating Latin doesn’t make you more logical, brain-training games don’t make you smarter. Accomplished people don’t bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics; they immerse themselves in their fields. Novelists read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science.

THING: Real Gardening vs. American Lawncare from Kitchen Stewardship.

Comment-Free Double Bonus Round

Of Course Your Kids Get More Out Of Facebook Than They Do From School [Three Best Things 4/12/10 - 4/18/10]

  • Thing: Social, Super-Sized by social-creature. “The same technology that allows us to be more connected than ever before imaginable, on its flip side, perhaps even simply through contrast, has increased our capacity for loneliness. We have built up a new tolerance level, and all we do is want more more more. Hence, the compulsion to feel a part of something, something massive, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other people, all experiencing the same trending topic stream together as it scrolls by.” We should feel both comfort and horror when we think of the ways technology is enhancing (taking advantage of?) our prehistoric/biological need for social connection. In other words, how would Genghis Khan have used Foursquare?
  • Thing: 10 Ways to Access Blocked Stuff on the Web by Lifehacker. Now, if a site wants you to pay money for content, and you choose to access that content without paying, you’re stealing — whether you like Rupert Murdoch or not doesn’t change that fact. However, there are plenty of times when we’re unable to get to something, and there’s a perfectly good reason to bypass whatever’s in the way. Whether that means getting around Gmail downage, avoiding an overeager office or university page-blocker so you can get work-related research done, dodging an oppressive government, or watching legally streamed TV from another country, the internet always wins.
  • Thing: Why Teenagers Are Growing Up Slowly Today from Newsweek and Kids Learn Math Easily When They Control Their Own Learning from Psychology Today. The construct that comes to mind when we use the word school has little in common with the ideal learning environment. And it’s not about tweakable elements like student-to-teacher ratio — it’s about the whole concept of school and what we’re really trying to accomplish. You know this. But it’s worth repeating from top to bottom until everyone knows this.

Double Bonus

I swear I’ll do three sets each of Radioheads and Ghostfaces at max weight, max reps for saying this out loud, but CONFESSION TIME: I like two Creed songs. So it’s with only 99% ironic passion that I’m able to join in the LOLETARIAT on mocking this song Scott Stapp recorded for the Florida Marlins.

But you’re telling me you’re serving up “One-strike-two-strikes, swing aweey-ahhh/ A Diving Catch-hh! A stohe-len beeaase-ahh/ A perrfec game-uh! A trih-pul play-ahh!/ Anoe-tha playhoff ra-ace, YES?/ WORL SEE RIES CHEIMPS WELL [CRACK!] BEE!”, all over Friday Night Lights guitars run through the NASCAR-mosh filter? Oh, it’s summertime, friends:

Ambitious dunk contest participant somehow, someway winds up with half his leg submerged in the basket. You want to talk about mainlining social media — note the immediate cameraphones-to-ladders ratio once everyone realizes what’s happened.

The citizen journalism impulses of today’s youth? Flourishing.

Three Best Things 4/5/10 - 4/11/10: WikiLeaks Publishes Conan O'Brien's Tweets On Billboards?

  • Thing: Conan O’Brien’s tweets on billboards by Everything Conan bangs out on Twitter immediately appears on billboards around the country. There’s not a syllable I can add to this that would make it any greater.
  • Thing: Inside WikiLeaks’ Leak Factory by (Drupal-powered) Mother Jones. However you feel about WikiLeaks’ video release from earlier this week, it’s worth reading up on the site’s founder. The type of cat who claims his Facebook fan page is run by Noam Chomsky when it actually isn’t, this guy chides a pair of assassinated potential sources for not acting “anonymous” enough. WikiLeaks has an amazing public ideal and has certainly mixed lots of very good work in with all its weirdness, but this article just offers up too many really revealing and hilarious quotes to pass up.
  • Thing: What Makes NPR and the Economist So Special? by the Washington Post. The answer, if you want the short version, is that they’ve found the sweet spot between news and opinion. Newspapers are dying because it’s too easy to get news the moment it happens, rather than waiting to read about it the next morning. Think about the blogs you read — chances are they include very little straight-up no-frills news content. Something anyone who writes, speaks, or creates can ponder… how can you tell the story-of-the-week in such a way that people will listen? [Via Rafi Kam]

Bonus Bonus Bonus

SEOmoz shows how to use the psychology of choices to improve your site’s conversion rate. In their example, a nonprofit was able to gain more newsletter subscribers by altering their call-to-action. Instead of just asking users to subscribe, they began asking users to either subscribe or link.

Think about how many times this could happen in a day: Mary Internet is on the fence about subscribing. She’d like to pitch in, but doesn’t feel like committing. But there’s another option — a link? Sure, that’s a one-time way to help.

There’s no data on this part, but it’s not hard to imagine subscriptions would increase too, making the new call to action a double success. Brilliant! We’ve been working with more nonprofits lately, and we’d love to try out something like this.

Please Rob Johnny Cash's Letterhead [Five Best Things 2/22/10 - 2/28/10]

In our weekly link rundowns, I usually try to present three great links you may have missed.

But this week was strong internet.


  • For your next love letter or grocery list or PUT DOWN MY SANDWICH note, wouldn’t you like to use the actual letterhead of Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Johnny Cash, or whatever Robot Salesmen Ltd is? Thing: Letterheads of famous people
  • Most articles about How Google Works are actually about How Much The Author Likes Google. Leave it to Wired to dig into how Google’s system of algorithms, basically a machine made of robots made of math, learned that when a human types hot dog, the goal is almost certainly to see something like this, not something like this. Thing: Exclusive: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web
  • You’ve already made your mind up on how you feel about this link from Reason. Thing: Everyone Who Knows What They’re Talking About Agrees with Me
  • The way people freaked out about Napster, claiming it would end the music industry, is similar to the way people freaked out about VCRs killing the movie industry. Similarly, the way people freak out about sharing personal location information on Foursquare/Twitter is similar to the way people used to freak out about answering machines and listing wedding notices in the local newspaper. Thing: Regarding Foursquare and PleaseRobMe (SIDE NOTE that proves how NEVER SCARED we are: In all the PleaseRobMe hysteria, I up and joined Foursquare myself, and so did Ben. You ain’t a crook, son.)
  • Recently the Guardian ran a series of writing advice lists by successful writers. NY Mag distills them all into a single top ten. Thing: The Best Writing Advice of the Best Writing Advice

Also, regarding this post’s stupid, stupid title: here’s proof Johnny Cash would’ve loved Foursquare…