We’re living in an April Fool’s joke

To comprehend the absurdity of 2016, just think how it would appear to an observer from 2000. I remember 2000 — it was an intense five years into my tenure as an analyst. We could see where things were going. The Web had vanquished walled gardens like AOL and was about to become universal. People were … Continued

When infographics pass the point of diminishing returns

Infographics are supposed to have two related qualities: they’re useful and you want to spread them. Putting a whole bunch of stuff together in a graphic, no matter how cleverly, doesn’t necessarily qualify. When people do this, I’m left scratching my head. For example, Scott Brinker made this graphic that attempts to show all the vendors … Continued

How is North Carolina’s Roy Cooper different from Kentucky’s Kim Davis?

North Carolina’s new law enables and protects people who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The state attorney general, Roy Cooper, has refused to defend the law in court. Should he? This is an uncomfortable question because it’s so similar to another recent case. Read both of the descriptions below and … Continued

A browser extension for truth: Verytas

Lies masquerading as truth on the Web are a real problem.  Now Sam Mallikarjunan is going to try to solve the problem. Mallikarjunan and his partner Andrei Oprisan are creating a browser extension called Verytas that changes the background color of stories you read: green for true, red for false, purple for satire. How does Verytas know? The … Continued

Interpreting non-answers from Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren

Politicians (and other people) often can’t or won’t answer a question. How they respond says a lot about who they are. If they were honest, they would say “I won’t answer that” and then say why. But instead, they just take the airtime and answer some other question they’d rather talk about. For example, Mediaite recently … Continued

The passive blame game: “mistakes were made” in Brussels

Now that the bombing stories are done, it’s time for the blame stories — and the passive voice that inevitably accompanies them. Like the LA Times story titled: ” ‘Mistakes were probably made,’ Belgian official acknowledges after Brussels attacks.” Ya think? People performed these acts. Belgian and European police and intelligence agencies, obviously, missed something. That’s … Continued

How to use a thesaurus to name stuff creatively

I use an online thesaurus frequently in my work. It’s certainly not because my vocabulary is limited. It’s because it shakes loose new ideas when I’m trying to name things. The cliche of the thesaurus user is the desperate paper-writer who doesn’t want to repeat the same word endlessly (for example, “war,”), even though they are … Continued

The price of terror

There’s still blood on the ground in Brussels, a city I’ve spent time in with people I’ve befriended. I’d rather not look. But I must. Because this is when we make the worst mistakes. A friend sent me this observation yesterday: The optimal level of terrorist attacks is probably small, but not zero, just like the optimal level … Continued