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