Category Archives: interesting

The Statistics on Link Rot

By sampling 4,200 random URLs spanning a 14 year period, Maciej CegÅ‚owski, the creator of bookmarking website Pinboard.in, decided to gather statistics on the extent of link rot and how it progressed across time. Interested in finding out if there is some sort of ‘half life of links’, he found instead that it is a fairly linear, fast deterioration:

Links appear to die at a steady rate (they don’t have a half life), and you can expect to lose about a quarter of them every seven years.

And even that is an optimistic result, says Maciej, as not all dead links were able to be discovered programmatically. There are also several unanswered questions:

  • How many of these dead URLs are findable on archive.org?
  • What is the attrition rate for shortened links?
  • Is there a simple programmatic way to detect parked domains?
  • Given just a URL, can we make any intelligent guesses about its vulnerability to  link rot?

Interestingly, link rot is what inspired the creation of Pinboard.in (it features page archiving funcitonality). This is similar to why I started Lone Gunman: I was losing track of interesting links and articles, and wanted a way to easily find them again as well as help me build connections between disparate articles and topics.

Equipping for Emergencies: What Items Disappear First?

As someone who lives in an economically, climatically and politically stable Western country, the chances are somewhat remote that I’ll ever encounter an emergency that requires forethought and careful planning1. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this list of the 100 most in-demand goods during an emergency.

This list apparently originates from someone called Joseph Almond who created it in 1999 after observing the behaviour of consumers preparing for Y2K-related problems. I say “apparently” because I can’t find any suggestion that this is actually true.

Neverthless, there’s something about this list that is inherently intriguing, even though I’m far from a member of the survivalism movement. Oh, and feel free to share this with the more voguish title: How to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Now that will get you some of them precious retweets.

via Ask MetaFilter

1 Although I’m not know for my futurism.

Mid-90s Quotes from Wired

Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired, found an old file containing a selection of quotes from the first five years of Wired. This is a nice wander down memory lane, with Wired‘s trademark embracing of technology in the face of huge change quite evident (as well as some mid-90s prophesying, positivism, and–dare I say it–fear-mongering).

Some of my favourites:

Roadkill on the information highway will be the billions who will forget there are offramps to destinations other than Hollywood, Las Vegas, the local bingo parlor, or shiny beads from a shopping network.
Alan Kay, Wired 2.05, May 1994, p. 77

The very distinction between original and copy becomes meaningless in a digital world — there the work exists only as a copy.
Daniel Pierehbech, Wired 2.12, Dec 1994, p. 158

For a long time now, America has seemed like a country where most people watch television most of the time. But only recently are we beginning to notice that it is also a country where television watches us.
Phil Petton, Wired 3.01, Jan 1995, p. 126

The future won’t be 500 channels — it will be one channel, your channel.
Scott Sassa, Wired 3.03, Mar 1995, p. 113

Isn’t it odd how parents grieve if their child spends six hours a day on the Net but delight if those same hours are spent reading books?
Nicholas Negroponte, Wired 3.09, Sep 1995, p. 206

The most successful innovators are the creative imitators, the Number Two.
Peter Drucker, Wired 4.08, Aug 1996, p. 118

It is the arrogance of every age to believe that yesterday was calm.
Tom Peters, Wired 5.12, Dec 1997

Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion and the Importance of Recognising “Enforced Compliance”

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is Robert Cialdini’s 1984 book discussing what he calls the six fundamental psychological principles of compliance: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.

The conclusion to Cialdini’s book points out why, in this increasingly complex world, resisting attempts at “enforced compliance” (deception) through these key principles is as important as recognising and responding to truthful instances of their implementation:

Because technology can evolve much faster than we can, our natural capacity to process information is likely to be increasingly inadequate to handle the surfeit of change, choice, and challenge that is characteristic of modern life. More and more frequently, we will find ourselves in the position of the lower animals—with a mental apparatus that is unequipped to deal thoroughly with the intricacy and richness of the outside environment. Unlike the animals, whose cognitive powers have always been relatively deficient, we have created our own deficiency by constructing a radically more complex world. But the consequence of our new deficiency is the same as that of the animals’ long-standing one. When making a decision, we will less frequently enjoy the luxury of a fully considered analysis of the total situation but will revert increasingly to a focus on a single, usually reliable feature of it.

When those single features are truly reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with the shortcut approach of narrowed attention and automatic response to a particular piece of information. The problem comes when something causes the normally trustworthy cues to counsel us poorly, to lead us to erroneous actions and wrongheaded decisions.

The Long Game: Civilization II and Sim City’s Magnasanti

After ten years of playing the same Civilization II campaign (my favourite game ever), Reddit user Lycerius has ended up creating a dystopian semi-self-sustaining world, where the three remaining “super-nations” are in a constant state of espionage and nuclear war.

The details of Lycerius’ “hellish nightmare” world are absolutely fascinating: the military stalemate; the 1700-year war; and the global warming epidemic that led to melting ice caps, famine, and the end of cities. This is the political situation:

The only governments left are two theocracies and myself, a communist state. I wanted to stay a democracy, but the Senate would always over-rule me when I wanted to declare war before the Vikings did. This would delay my attack and render my turn and often my plans useless. And of course the Vikings would then break the cease fire like clockwork the very next turn. […] I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire. But of course the people hate me now and every few years since then, there are massive guerrilla […] uprisings in the heart of my empire that I have to deal with which saps resources from the war effort.

This reminds me of Magnasanti: the totalitarian city created in Sim City 3000 that sustains the maximum population (six million) for 50,000 years. The interview with it’s ‘maker’, architecture student Vincent Ocasla, is worth a read.

Keep these people away from town planning departments, please.

Magnasanti via Kottke