April 2004

Science of marriage

This American Life had a fascinating show on marriage a couple weeks back (and have made an audio stream available). Most interesting was an interview (in act one) with Dr. John Gottman, a researcher who videotapes & bio-monitors couples discussing something they disagree about and codes their heart rates, expressions and how they speak to each other. From about 15 minutes of data he has an 85% chance of predicting if the marriage will last the next 4 years and whether they’ll be happy with it. If he records another hour or so of the couples talking about how they met & things they share, his success rate goes up to 94%.

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There’s no fool like an April Fool…

…and I’m one of them. Turns out the Wal*Mart purchase of online communities was an elaborate April fool’s hoax (dang it, these things are happening earlier every year!). From the owner of the board:

…And after reading thru the discussions the past week and all the frustration, concern, heated discussion and heartfelt conversation I came to realize one important thing.

THIS WAS THE BEST APRIL FOOL’S GAG YET!!!!! (Well it *could* have been)

Yeah, you got it. It was a scam, April Fool’s all completely bogus.

This was a carefully thought out and orchestrated prank from a group of truly demented geniuses, your moderators. Probably would have played out better had not a few people taken it as some declaration of war. We really had no idea some would be as hateful as to treat it that way.

Makes me wonder what else is a gag. Anyone taking bets on whether Richard Clark is going to jump up and yell April Fools?

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The problem with DRM on news

Mary Hodder over at Napsterization has a nice essay on how foolish it is for news media to hide their content behind Digital Rights Management (props to Dan Gillmor for the link). Her two main points: The most important reasons news media companies and creators should not implement DRM is because of fair use considerations of the content itself, as well as the maintenance of their positions as reporters of news, and authorities of information.

Her point on authority is an issue that can be expressed purely in business terms: don’t release your content and eventually you become irrelevant (and thus out of business). Her fair use argument is equally important, but harder to explain to all the large corporations that have bought up news organizations in recent years, but who didn’t grow up in the industry. Journalism is a social contract wherein the press receive special access to political leaders, special legal status, and strong constitutional protection, and in return provide the useful, trustworthy information our democracy needs to survive. Fair use may not improve shareholder value, any more than anti-bribery laws improve a congressman’s annual income, but it’s necessary for the press to continue their vital role as a public trust.

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