Tools for the Coming Chaos

Joi Ito’s nine principles for operating in a chaotic world:

  1. Resilience instead of strength, which means you want to yield and allow failure and you bounce back instead of trying to resist failure.
  2. You pull instead of push. That means you pull the resources from the network as you need them, as opposed to centrally stocking them and controlling them.
  3. You want to take risk instead of focusing on safety.
  4. You want to focus on the system instead of objects.
  5. You want to have good compasses not maps.
  6. You want to work on practice instead of theory. Because sometimes you don’t why it works, but what is important is that it is working, not that you have some theory around it.
  7. It disobedience instead of compliance. You don’t get a Nobel Prize for doing what you are told. Too much of school is about obedience, we should really be celebrating disobedience.
  8. It’s the crowd instead of experts.
  9. It’s a focus on learning instead of education.

via Wired

Steve Brill: “I knew nothing about the subject”

This encapsulates what I love about journalism — it’s as much about writing as figuring out the facts and making sense of it:

“That’s in large part because I knew nothing about the subject, literally nothing about the subject. If I have one virtue, it’s that I’m not intimidated to dive into things that I know nothing about. I’m never afraid to ask really stupid questions at the beginning. When I’m interviewing people and they use acronyms, I always stop them and say, “What does that mean?” even though it’s an acronym that’s branded onto their forehead because they use it every day. I used to teach my reporters that. I remember when Connie Bruck started on her great Mike Milken piece that then became a book, she knew nothing about what a junk bond was. She literally couldn’t have told you in the simplest terms what a junk bond was, and I said, “Well, who cares? You’re smart. You’ll figure it out. Just ask people what a junk bond is.””

via ProPublica

On Management

“Many think of management as cutting deals and laying people off and hiring people and buying and selling companies. That’s not management, that’s dealmaking. Management is the opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.”

via Wired

Me too, Ira, me too

Ira Glass on the one book he’d wish someone else would write:

Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? What a bunch of incompetents the Dems seem like. Most people don’t even understand the health care policy they passed, much less like it. Ditto the financial reform. Or the stimulus. Some of the basic tasks of politics — like choosing and crafting a message — they just seem uninterested in.

I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting? Kurt Eichenwald! Mark Bowden! John Heilemann and Mark Halperin! I’ll pre-order today.


Evgeny Morozov’s latest op-ed, The Death of the Cyberflâneur, reminds me of two separate articles that I’ve read recently: Ian Leslie’s In Search of Serendipity from Intelligent Life and the many many articles on or referencing Susan Cain’s latest book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Some excerpts:

But if today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. […] Besides, isn’t it obvious that consuming great art alone is qualitatively different from consuming it socially? And why this fear of solitude in the first place? […] IT’S this idea that the individual experience is somehow inferior to the collective that underpins Facebook’s recent embrace of “frictionless sharing,” the idea that, from now on, we have to worry only about things we don’t want to share; everything else will be shared automatically. […] Sadly, frictionless sharing has the same drawback as “effortless poetry”: its final products are often intolerable. It’s one thing to find an interesting article and choose to share it with friends. It’s quite another to inundate your friends with everything that passes through your browser or your app, hoping that they will pick something interesting along the way. […] This is the very stance that is killing cyberflânerie: the whole point of the flâneur’s wanderings is that he does not know what he cares about. —Morozov

When the internet was new, its early enthusiasts hoped it would emulate the greatest serendipity machine ever invented: the city. The modern metropolis, as it arose in the 19th century, was also an attempt to organise an exponential increase, this one in population. Artists and writers saw it as a giant playground of discovery, teeming with surprise encounters. The flâneur was born: one who wanders the streets with purpose, but without a map. […] We no longer “surf” the information superhighway, as it has become too vast to cruise without a map. And as it has evolved, it has become better and better at ensuring we need never stray from our virtual triangles. […] Editors with an eye for such things, what Zuckerman calls “curators”, are being superseded by “friends”—people like you, who probably already share your interests and world view—delivered by Facebook. Twitter is better at leading us to the interests of people beyond our social circle, but our tendency to associate with others who think in similar ways—what sociologists call our “value homophily”—means most of us end up with a feed that feels like an extended dinner party. […] But there is a reason why Amazon is successful and bookshops are closing: in a world of infinite choice, efficiency is hard to resist. … Serendipity, on the other hand, is, as Zuckerman says, “necessarily inefficient”. It is a fragile quality, vulnerable to our desire for convenience and speed. It also requires a kind of planned vagueness. Digital systems don’t do vagueness very well, and our patience with it seems to be fading. … But when everyone can get the same information in more or less the same way, it becomes harder to be original; innovation thrives on the serendipitous collision of ideas. —Leslie

To be continued.

A letter to Jackson Pollack from his father

The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life. I do not think a young fellow should be too serious, he should be full of the Dickens some times to create a balance.


On making things with your hands

Two kind of related articles:

In fact, we have shown that when people create objects in the sweet spot of “difficult-enough-but-not-too-difficult,” they not only love those objects more, but also experience greater happiness; it really is fun to create. [Source]

But is it really the act of creating something that increases our sense of its worth? [Source]