Joho the BlogAugust 2014 - Page 2 of 2 - Joho the Blog

August 8, 2014

The gasp of combined

“Prescription Painkillers Kill More Than Heroin and Cocaine … Combined” [Liberty Voice]

“The U.S. spent more on defense in 2012 than the countries with the next 10 highest budgets … combined.” [NBC News]

“Apple Now Worth More Than Microsoft, Google … Combined” [Time Business]1

Just when you’ve been impressed by how much bigger something is than two other things we already think are big, there’s a short pause, then: “combined!”

Gasp.

We love the “more than ___ … combined” trope. How could we not? It exists to surprise us. Are you impressed that the U.S. solar industry employs more people than the gas industry? You are? How about that it employs more than the coal industry? Even more surprised? Excellent! But wait’ll you hear this: It’s bigger than the coal and gas industries combined! Combined!! I bet you didn’t see that coming! Boom!

“More than … combined” is structured like a joke. No wonder we love it so.


1Three dots added to each for comic timing.

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August 2, 2014

Douglas Sturm, RIP

I read in my alumni magazine today that one of my old teachers, Douglas Sturm, died on May 6.

The freshman seminar I took with Prof. Sturm modeled for me what intellectual discourse could be like. It set me on my course.

Prof. Sturm was sharp as a tack but never used his analytic skills to make things smaller. Rather, he modeled a way of inquiring into big ideas by asking careful questions, and then asking more questions. He was a brilliant teacher.

Only after I graduated did I learn that he was a committed community peace activist. That side of him did not show up directly on campus. But I would have been very glad to have him as a neighbor.

Thank you, Prof. Sturm. As with all the great teachers, you taught me more than you know.


By coincidence a couple of days ago I wrote this poem. (Remember, we are required to forgive one another’s bad poetry.)

Dead Weight

If the death of each we knew
were stored as we do corn,
we each would have to buy a mule
and load it every morn.

Poor mule it is who in our wake
clip-clops uphill and back.
Poor mule it is who for our sake
stays hidden in its track.

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August 1, 2014

Time to invoke the Streisand Effect?

The Register just posted one of the most ridiculous pieces of clickbait trolling I’ve ever seen. They’re claiming that by posting the parody video below, the UK’s Open Rights Group is comparing people who defend their copyright to Hitler:

It helps to know a few things:

First, the movie the clip, taken from Downfall, has been used for this sort of re-titling parody well over a hundred times, with Hitler fulminating over everything from Miley Cyrus twerking to spam. (Here are seven recent parodies, and 25 from an article in 2009.) Note that the video above was created and posted by Brad Templeton in 2009.

Second, a few years ago, the producers of Downfall apparently got fed up with their movie becoming so well known and started issuing DMCA takedown notices for the parodies.

Third, two days ago the House of Lords protected parodies against copyright infringement suits — covered in the US by our policy of Fair Use. ORG linked to the Downfall parody to celebrate this victory for free speech.

So, it hurts my head how many ways The Register’s trolling gets things wrong. It’s as if someone were accused of violating Godwin’s Law because she invoked Godwin’s Law. [I am taking Godwin’s Law as normative. Sue me.]

Here is the link to The Register article but I encourage you not to go there, just so they won’t feel that this sort of ridiculous trolling is profitable. Instead, we could perhaps invoke a version of the Streisand Effect by posting the video widely.


[A few hours later:] The Register just appended the following to their post:

Since the publication of this story, the ORG has contacted The
Register with this comment: “Earlier this week, the Open Rights
Group tweeted a Downfall parody about copyright on the day that
parody exceptions for copyright were approved by the House of
Lords. Downfall parodies are widely recognised and have been used
to great satirical effect about a wide range of subjects. It is
wilful ignorance to portray a Downfall parody as a direct
comparison with Hitler and Nazism.”

Yup.

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[2b2k] Ethanz on Steve Jobs, genius, and CEOs

Ethan Zuckerman has a great post that begins with a recounting of his youthful discomfort with the way the CEO of his early social media company, Tripod, was treated by the media as if he had done it all by himself.

Hearing me rant about this one too many times, Kara Berklich, our head of marketing, pulled me aside and explained that the visionary CEO was a necessary social construct. With Bo as the single protagonist of our corporate story, we were far more marketable than a complex story with half a dozen key figures and a cast of thousands. When you’re selling a news story, it’s easier to pitch House than Game of Thrones.

This leads Ethan to discourse on the social nature of innovation, and to a brilliant critique of Steve Jobs the person and the book.

My personal TL;DR: Geniuses are networks. But, then, aren’t we all?

Bonus: Ethan includes this coverage from Nightline, 1997. This is what the Internet looked like — at its best — to the media back then. (Go to 2:36 for Ethan his own self.)

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