as i always suspected…

Mind Hacks post reporting study finding that:

groups select natural leaders on the basis of how much each person contributes to group discussions, even when their contributions have no relation to their actual competence.

In a group solving math problems…

Repeatedly, the ones who emerged as leaders and were rated the highest in competence were not the ones who offered the greatest number of correct answers. Nor were they the ones whose SAT scores suggested they’d even be able to. What they did do was offer the most answers — period.

Feh. The regularity with which I read or hear things that basically say I’m wasting my time trying to do anything of depth and quality starts to become rather depressing and discouraging: “HEY! That’s nice and all but you’d be a lot more successful if you’d just churn out crap.”


In less depressing news, this is the sexiest web thing to really turn my head in a while: TermCloud search

TermCloud Search is a search mashup that generates a “termcloud” to present and navigate a search query. It is built on Yahoo BOSS, the Yahoo Site Explorer API and Google’s RESTful Web Search API. It makes use of the beautiful jQuery JavaScript library and was written by Bernhard Rieder.

TermCloud Search is part of an ongoing research project on the social and political dimensions of Web search. As stated in this blog post, the main idea was to turn the search process into an act of learning in itself instead of just a means for getting quickly to another site. The term cloud (generated from 250 results via Yahoo BOSS’ keyterm feature) is a way to explore a subject area, getting an overview over the central terms surrounding a query. The project is currently beta.

academic papers as spam.

Luis von Ahn writes about two of my current frustrations:

1. The inefficient, bloated, repetitive academic writing formula, or, my recent absolute boredom at having to write the same thing over and over again in slightly different words.

2. The effect of “publish or perish” on the literature of a field: we are spammed with nearly identical papers on the same research project. Or, rather, we are salamied.

I have spent far too much time comparing papers from the same (or similar) author(s) in order to figure out:

– if they are reporting on the same data;
– if one is reporting on the same project after a bit more data has been collected;
– if they are written from different angles on the same project;
– if either makes any important points or reports findings not present in the other one;
– which one to mark as the preferred one to cite

von Ahn writes:

Given the number of people working in computer science and the fact that publishing papers is considered the goal of our work, there is an insane number of papers written every year, the vast majority of which contribute very little (or not at all) to our collective knowledge. This is basically spam. In fact, for many papers (including some of my own), the actual idea of the paper could be stated in one paragraph, but somehow people manage to write 10 pages of it.

Further, the goal of research should be research, not papers. We need to communicate the results of research, but the existing model is not the best way.

via Academic Productivity

good old academic snark.

From: Koschmann, Timothy, Kuutti, Kari and Hickman, Larry. (1998) The Concept of Breakdown in Heidegger, Leont’ev, and Dewey and Its Implications for Education. Mind, Culture, and Activity 5:1, 25 — 41

Indeed, in some cases the authors themselves recognized such links. Leont’ev (1981), for example, made reference to the writings of both Heidegger and Dewey. Dewey also apparently perceived some parallels between his own work and that of Heidegger. When first hearing a description of Sein und Zeit (Heidegger, 1953), Dewey was quoted as observing that “it sounded as if a German peasant were trying to render parts of Experience and Nature into his daily idiom” (Hook, 1962, p. 6).

I figured I should read this recently found article tonight while eating dinner. I haven’t really accomplished anything else today since when I went out to run my early-afternoon errands, my car went “thunk” and quit working as I was driving 45 mph on a busy two lane country-esque road. I was able to get off to the side of the road safely, but had to do the whole tow truck and hang out at the garage thing. Still don’t know what happened with my poor dirty purple car.

But anyway… get it? Breakdown? Breakdown. Har.


As library and information scientists, we do not have a tradition of focusing on normative problems in which we can approach a line of inquiry with some measure of certainty. We cannot be sure that our areas are well defined and that our problems are important. We have no central theory or body of interrelated theories we can view as “middle range.”

In light of this discussion, it would appear we are currently focused on the application of conceptual frameworks rather than on the generation of specific theories. Drawing on bits and pieces from a variety of sources, we construct propositional statements that appear to have some bearing on problems arising from the occupational work we perform.

Chatman, Elfreda A. 1996. The Impoverished Life-World of Outsiders. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 47, no. 3: 193-206.