Archive for July, 2011

Black Swan

Black Swan: a significant phenomenon or event that’s impossible to predict, but is rationalized or explained after the fact.

The last post regarding the demise of Google elicited some reactions of this nature.

It’s really important to consider the difference in value between explaining and predicting things. Both are important. A good explanation after the fact can be quite illuminating. Predicting, on the other hand, especially predicting significant events or trends — that’s most valuable. I’m not referring to guessing, or hedging your bets. I mean to be able to analyze and see where things are headed with a confidence that you are willing to gamble your career or fortune on it…and have it turn out right.

The previous post was not so much of a prediction as it was the passing along of something many people already know…with a bit of an explanation. Basically just reporting.

Real predicting is much, much harder, and therefore generally worth way more than merely explaining something as it is happening. But it’s also important to recognize that the difference between the two is relative. To the right audience the “prediction” of the importance of something like html.5 could be considered earth-shattering, or merely old news.

Google is Over

Well, not entirely, but Google as we have known it is done. Index search is entering its demise, or at least is going to have to drastically transform. Half of all internet connected devices are mobile devices now. Index searching is way down on the list of activities people perform on these devices (something like 1% of it). So, if you believe, like most people do, that mobile devices are taking over, then you must believe by association that Google is in a rough spot. They have lots of other stuff going on of course, but index search has been the cash cow.

Science Has a PR Problem Too

Experts don’t agree on the health benefits of tea. There’s the prevailing sentiment that green tea is good, especially at reducing the risk of heart disease. But there are plenty of researchers who have found differing results. One bit of research I saw actually shows that coffee is better for you than tea. Some have shown that cold tea can cause more heart disease and kidney stones, while many show that hot tea helps. Could the difference really be the temperature? I suppose it’s possible, but what else don’t we know?

Ultimately these sorts of contradictions pose a PR problem for science. Science, and the people who work on it, place a high value on their credibility. Validation is not easy to come by there.  In many instances scientists will go so far as to condescend to the irrational religious zealots, but in the spirit of “let he who is without sin throw the first stone” it must be acknowledged that the track record of science is far from perfect.

Add to it that science often disappoints. It gave us space travel, but…we don’t really travel in space. It gave us computers, but they are slow, get viruses, go obsolete, etc. It gave us cars, but now they’re telling us they warm the earth. It gave us inexhaustible nuclear energy, but….

Darwin himself wrote that if certain assertions he put forth were proven to be untrue then it would seriously call in to question his theory of evolution. Well, one can find exceptions to those assertions. Some are more or less open to interpretation, but even many of the harder core, anti-religion scientists do now admit that some of his theories aren’t as cut and dried as once believed.

The world we live in is so complex. So much about it is still beyond us. That leaves room for doubt and for questioning, which any scientist would normally say is a good thing. But it also leaves room for many of the beliefs associated with religion, which for some reason many scientists think is a bad thing, and this exacerbates the already existing PR problem.

The battle lines have been drawn and the war rages on.

What’s Working at Apple


And seemingly most things.

Apple Store 7/3 @ 10:30 AM -- (Nice Tab Shirt!)

I took this photo at the Novi Michigan Apple Store July 3rd at about 10:30 AM. The store had already been open for over two hours, and was every bit this busy when I arrived at 9:45. In the background, across the mall hallway, you can see Brookstone’s store. Empty. Every other store in the mall was virtually deserted. (Not a total surprise on a holiday weekend Sunday morning.)

The Apple store was crowded.

Granted, half of the activity was support related, which on the surface means they weren’t making any money. But they got people back in to their store. I spent two hours looking at stuff I wanted to buy while a tech worked on my computer.

People will go where they get value. The proof is in the pudding.


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