I took the Pew News IQ Test, and got one wrong.
Where Scientists Fail, Gamers Succeed
For 15 years, scientists struggled to figure out the molecular structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys. Deciphering the structure, they believed, could lead to an HIV/AIDS cure.
As they hit dead ends, a few began to think differently, crowdsource the issue and created a multiplayer game within Foldit, a science-based gaming engine.
Ten days later, non-scientist gamers discovered the key researchers had long been looking for.
Via MSNBC’s Cosmiclog:
The problem is that enzymes are far tougher to crack than your typical lock. There are millions of ways that the bonds between the atoms in the enzyme’s molecules could twist and turn. To design the right chemical key, you have to figure out the most efficient, llowest-energy configuration for the molecule — the one that Mother Nature herself came up with.
That’s where Foldit plays a role. The game is designed so that players can manipulate virtual molecular structures that look like multicolored, curled-up Tinkertoy sets. The virtual molecules follow the same chemical rules that are obeyed by real molecules. When someone playing the game comes up with a more elegant structure that reflects a lower energy state for the molecule, his or her score goes up. If the structure requires more energy to maintain, or if it doesn’t reflect real-life chemistry, then the score is lower.
Writes Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington, and his colleagues in a paper published in Nature Structual & Molecular Biology (PDF):
Although much attention has recently been given to the potential of crowdsourcing and game playing, this is the first instance that we are aware of in which online gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem.
- Pablo Boczkowski, cited by Megan Garber in Professor Pablo Boczkowski on news consumption — and how when you read affects what you read
I used to read the paper — the paper kind — at the kitchen table years ago, in the morning. And I would talk about it with people at work, family, etc.
When I was transformed by blogging into a ‘public intellectual’ things changed. I began to read the news online, and write about nearly everything that interests me, which is a fairly broad spectrum of things. That’s why I started writing Underpaid Genius originally: to write about things that weren’t primarily about technology.
But things have blurred for me, since everything is so connected. The revolt in Libya is simultaneously about politics, social media, and food prices. Everything is connected.
And as I have progressed (or blurred) from being almost exclusively an analyst/consultant for social technologies into more of a web anthropologist and futurist, it is more sensible to talk about how everything is connected. There are no externalities: everything is a factor in the global system.
So the ‘news’ has moved to the forefront, and I consume it all as part of my ‘work’. But unlike most people, it is my ‘job’ to talk about the connections, to hypothesize the way that social networks are changing everyday life, how modern media has disrupted political discourse, and how the civil unrest of the Arab Spring and the London riots leveraged social media, but were not engendered by it.
I never back off from subjects that are contentious, but I have divided my writing into two blogs: technology and other passions. There’s a constant tension about how to write about certain topics, and sometimes I write about something at both, coming at it from tech versus policy angles.
But then I don’t have a workplace, and as a result I don’t have to share an office that is divided into Tea Partiers and progressives, like many Americans do.
Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. In a letter to the board, he writes, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” Above, we’ve pulled three Newsweek covers of the visionary Apple co-founder from over the years.
Letter from Steve Jobs:
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee. As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.
Ben Huh makes some prescient observations about what’s wrong with our outmoded notions about news creation, delivery, and use:
1) Editors Don’t Know What We Already Know
Having read the last 10 updates on the efforts to cool Japanese spent fuel storage pools, I’ve noticed a very annoying problem. After the initial 3 paragraphs that contain the latest update, the rest of the article is just a regurgitation of the previous 24-hours worth of stories that I’ve ready 9 times before. Why can’t the reporters just write a short update on the latest news? If you don’t understand what’s happening, the update makes no sense. But if you’re like me and are following the news closely, I feel like I wasted my time. This update-the-last-story practice is a leftover from the days of printed newspapers and wire updates. There’s no need for this today.
2) News, Not Front Pages The front-page of a newspaper is an iconic symbol. One that sums up a generation’s influences and chronicle life-defining events. But more than ever, those front pages, ported to the web, don’t fit the way we use the web.
Walking through the hallowed halls of the New York Times, the front pages of the Gray Lady on historic days call out like a collective social memory. Unfortunately, news site front pages have lost the cultural benefit of archiving our collective memories — I have no easy way of knowing what the homepage of CNN.com looked like on September 11, 2001. And at the same time have become less influential due to the rise of social media — we’re much more likely to dive directly into the story from a friend’s Tweet as I rely more and more on social filters to tell me what’s worth reading.
3) One Front Page For All The News That Fit’s to Print
6 billion people can’t agree on a single perspective — let alone fit an entire world of news on one homepage. Talking to news editors, it’s clear that their job performance is more and more tied to generating traffic and news front pages are their drug of choice. The more traffic you can draw off a homepage, the better you are at your job. That’s a very poor way to use very talented editors.
The web can do much than this. Techmeme is a great example of a front page for mainstream tech news. Hacker News is a great example for a developer community front page. The list of examples can go on and on. By curating the news that appears on the front page, editors and curators set a powerful tone and setting for future coverage.
News producers need to change how they throw based on how we can catch.
I NEVER tune in to breaking news (or even regular news) on TV anymore. I follow breaking news stories on Twitter and Tumblr and keep whatever game is on TV on mute. The TV is no longer a source of news in any way for our household.
The ONLY time I can remember in the last 8 - 12 months that we used TV for news was the Obama announcement re: Osama.
I don’t have cable any more, so I can’t even be surprised that I never watch the TV for news. I find streaming news online if and when I want to watch Obama or the World Cup.
(via DOGHOUSE - Timely)
AOL is diving into a shot glass from 100 feet up, betting huge amounts of cash on local media, a sucker’s bet. The list of failures in this area boggle the mind: Backfence, Bayosphere, Outside In, TBD, Loudon Extra, Everyblock, and now AOL’s Patch, which might be the biggest dodo of all:
Mathew Ingram, Can Patch Become the Huffington Post of Local News?
The bigger issue for AOL is that even if it manages to hit the Patch ball out of the park, and creates thriving communities in hundreds of locations across the U.S., it’s not clear whether that’s going to be a good business or not. Building online communities is all well and good, but generating revenue and profits is what AOL really needs to do. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post shut down their local ventures in part because they didn’t generate enough revenue to make them worthwhile. So far, Armstrong hasn’t made a strong case for why Patch should be any different.
AOL says it expects to generate local advertising revenue from its Patch sites, but admits this isn’t even close to happening yet. Meanwhile, it plans to continue pouring millions into this unproven hyperlocal strategy. Tim Armstrong just keeps piling his chips higher and higher on his Patch bet, but the odds of winning continue to be extremely slim.
The message of the web is being missed here, again, by folks like Armstrong. People are breaking free of mass media, so we don’t watch the Evening News together like folks did in the ’50s and ’60s, or reading the Daily Blatz on the train every morning.
But we aren’t replacing that 20th century behavior with watching the Hyperlocal Evening News or reading the Hyperlocal Daily Blatz, either. We haven’t shifted our allegiance from the nation or metropolis to a zipcode, which is after all just a smaller mass.
No, we are defecting from mass identity — which is the real message of mass media — to social identity. And social identity is not based on zipcodes, it is based on connections.
We are building intentional communities: by picking who to follow, not by moving into some utopian neighborhood.
And we want our media to follow those intentions, to support the communities we are crafting through connection.
So Armstrong and Huffington will have to give up on Patch. It is trying to do the wrong things for the wrong motivations. There is no constituency for Patch, because there is no single public that cares in the same way about geographic locales, any more.
(This turns out to be a similar problem for geography-based politics, too, by the way.)
Patch attempts to solve a problem people don’t know they have. They feel informed — if anything, they feel like they have too much information.
AOL would be better off look at solutions like News.me, Percolate, and Flipboard. These are based on the social news flowing in the streams of tools like Twitter.
News is better when it is delivered through people I trust, and then it is ‘near’ me in my social net: that’s the only sort of local that works. It will overlap with hyperlocal, in part, but incidentally.