Friday, April 12, 2013

Best of the Week #100

I love running in the rain. Not freezing rain, and not windy rain, but a solid spring- or summer-time downpour that soaks but doesn’t chill and is somehow simultaneously calming, invigorating, and empowering.

I did eight hill repeats on Capitol Hill this morning – pretty much just me, the rain, the cherry trees, the robins, and a few especially intrepid tourists and fellow runners. I finished with my running shoes completely soaked, wrung out my waterlogged shirt on my front porch, and took what felt like a completely redundant shower.  Good times – go springtime! 

And while we’re speaking of springtime, here are some more cherry blossom photos from my week.

In my flowering tree research for Tuesday’s post, I came across this pretty cool map of all the trees in DC. "What trees are on your street?" Zoom in, then clicking on the tree shows its size, and you can also switch to street view to actually see the trees. 

Breaking news! Fikabröd! Fika means to take a coffee break in Swedish. Fikabrod is the sweet bread you eat with that coffee. This is important because, well, sweetbread and coffee breaks! Yes please all the time!  
  • You sit down, drink your coffee slowly and talk about anything. You can do it any time of the day and several times a day.
  • It is often a spontaneous break and therefore requires that you always keepfikabröd (sweet bread) at home. I actually read somewhere, that in the old days you should be ready to serve at least three different freshly baked goods not to insult a Swedish guest. 

  • They are apartment towers in Hong Kong. Photographer , who has lived there for decades, pushed his camera close, so all he shows are windows and walls; there's no street, no sky, no top, no bottom, no end. The overall effect is like staring at a frozen tidal wave of residential construction, overwhelming, yet empty. You know this place is crowded, but you don't see a soul ...

Awww Snoopy. I know how you feel sometimes!

Interesting long read of the week “Does BuzzFeed Know the Secret?” about viral media, the spread of information, advertising, and the study of human behavior online. A few interesting chunks excerpted:
  • Peretti says that twentieth-century media businesses sowed the seeds of their own destruction by treating advertising as a “necessary evil.” He, by contrast, doesn’t care whether a post is produced by a journalist or sponsored by a brand, so long as it travels. He’s a semiotic Darwinist: He believes in messages that reproduce. “Some editorial content sucks, some ads are awesome,” Peretti told me, “and for many readers this line is even more important to them than church and state.” Within BuzzFeed, he’s stressed that creating custom-designed advertising posts is just as important as writing the hard news and soft candy. “People don’t do good work when they feel like losers and are second-class citizens within their own company,” he wrote in a memo distributed last year.
  • The Huffington Post produced an enormous amount of junky but well-trafficked content, most of which never appeared on the site’s front page. Peretti called it the “mullet strategy”—business in front, party in the back—a metaphor that grated on some of his colleagues. [About the Huffington Post, Peretti’s first project.]
  • It’s actually, literally, a formula. In speeches, he projects a simplified version of the epidemiological equation for viral reproduction, expressed as R = ßz. (in epidemiology, the z represents the number of people who come in contact with a contagious individual, while ß represents the probability of transmission.) This is the starting point of a theory that Peretti calls “Big Seed Marketing.”
  •  “We have this very Newtonian view of causality,” Watts, a square-jawed Australian, shouted over the din. “Like, billiard balls hitting each other, that’s the most complicated thing that we can wrap our heads around.” But his research suggests that the commonly understood, Gladwellian model of virality, with its linear progression through influencers and tipping points, doesn’t really reflect the way viral messages spread. Instead, he says, they tend to grow from seeds scattered in little clusters, popping up all at once like toadstools after a rainstorm. BuzzFeed has found its most popular posts don’t take off because Kim Kardashian shared them but because many people did in small groups—the median figure is just nine Facebook friends.
Says SpeedyKate  yesterday: Buzzfeed is basically a corgi aggregator. I am not upset about this fact at all – I’ve been loving corgis since 1992 (first Sarah, now Amy) and the ebb and flow of their trendiness will never affect that. From yesterday, this and this. I can't even deal. 

  • On television, the maps always appeared right-side-up. But for reasons likely related to presentation, the kids and their beacons were situated at the top of the continent, so this is what they saw. Before seeing it upside-down, I didn't know where Mali was. Now I really really really don't know where Mali is. I also don't know what, why, how, or even whether Mali is.
  • She missed terribly on some of them -- for one, she thought Mauritania was Zimbabwe, when in fact Mauritania is roughly as close to Zimbabwe as it is to Maine. 
I went to Open Mic Night at Busboys and Poets on Wednesday. I’ve been a couple times before and I am just consistently amazed at how talented people are. Jamia Reddy (video below) was the “feature,” all but maybe two of the poets were really good, and one guy, Official Sampson, did stand-up comedy that was actually hilarious. Not for everyone I guess, but I like it!

Hope you all have an excellent weekend and go on a bike ride or run or hike something!