Posts Tagged ‘Russell’

The Science of Thanks Giving

November 22nd, 2012 11:10 admin View Comments


Hugh Pickens writes writes “This is Americans’ big week to give thanks. Now Russell McLendon writes that giving thanks can do wonders for the human brain according to researchers at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center where scientists have developed an easy way for people to do just that and, at the same time, contribute to a national research project and maybe also improve their lives. The project is part of a $5.6 million, three-year national effort called ‘Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude,’ funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The center has gone live with, an interactive, shareable gratitude journal and has invited people in the campus community to take part in the Cal Gratitude Challenge by keeping a two-week online ‘gratitude journal’ and, if they choose, sharing their posts with others. Early research into the power of gratitude journals ended up proving that students who wrote down everything they were grateful for strengthened their overall resilience and became less vulnerable to everyday stresses and complaints like rashes and headaches, says Emiliana Simon-Thomas. ‘ wanted to make this spiral notebook very accessible, and to make the research a little more specific than it has been historically,’ says Simon-Thomas. Online, anyone can take part — and potentially reap the benefits. The Cal Gratitude Challenge opened November 1 and will remain open throughout November but the project has a three-year grant and participants will be able to maintain their journals for the duration and first results from the data are expected in January. ‘We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received,’ writes Robert Emmons as part of the project. ‘This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.’”

Source: The Science of Thanks Giving

US “the Enemy” Says Dotcom Judge

July 16th, 2012 07:14 admin View Comments

United States

First time accepted submitter Flere Imsaho writes “During the NutHui Internet conference last week, the NZ judge to hear the Dotcom extradition case was speaking on the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and how the US entertainment industry is pushing to make region code hacking illegal, when he said ‘Under TPP and the American Digital Millennium copyright provisions you will not be able to do that, that will be prohibited… if you do you will be a criminal — that’s what will happen. Even before the 2008 amendments it wasn’t criminalized. There are all sorts of ways this whole thing is being ramped up and if I could use Russell [Brown's] tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is [the] U.S.‘”

Source: US “the Enemy” Says Dotcom Judge

Most People Have Never Heard of CTRL+F

August 20th, 2011 08:09 admin View Comments


Hugh Pickens writes “Google search anthropologist Dan Russell says that 90 percent of people in his studies don’t know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page. ‘I do these field studies and I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve sat in somebody’s house as they’ve read through a long document trying to find the result they’re looking for,’ says Russell, who has studied thousands of people on how they search for stuff. ‘At the end I’ll say to them, “Let me show one little trick here,” and very often people will say, “I can’t believe I’ve been wasting my life!”‘ Just like we learn to skim tables of content or look through an index or just skim chapter titles to find what we’re looking for, we need to teach people about this CTRL+F thing, says Alexis Madrigal. ‘I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don’t use it at all,’ writes Madrigal. ‘We’re talking about the future of almost all knowledge acquisition and yet schools don’t spend nearly as much time on this skill as they do on other equally important areas.’”

Source: Most People Have Never Heard of CTRL+F

Google Finally Delivers On Promise Of Admin-Free Chrome Frame Installs For IE

May 10th, 2011 05:23 admin View Comments

Today at Google I/O in San Francisco, Google developers Amit Joshi and Alex Russell took the stage at a breakout session to announce an important milestone: a version of Chrome Frame that doesn’t require admin rights to install.

While this might not jump out at you as a huge thing, it’s big news for millions of users stuck working at offices with older machines where admins won’t allow them to upgrade to newer, modern browsers. Now there’s a way around that with the new dev build of Chrome Frame. You can install this in IE without needing admin access.


Google has actually been working on this problem for months. While Chrome Frame was always a great idea for helping the world ween itself off IE6, 7, and 8, the admin issue remained a large one as users couldn’t do much without this access. Now Google has finally figured out a way around that.

So how did they do it? “Let’s talk backstage,” Joshi said with a big smile when asked this question. He said it’s a bit of a technical discussion. Russell said at a high level it was just about getting the technology to work in the browser itself rather than being seen as a traditional plug-in.

When asked what Microsoft thought of this, neither Joshi nor Russell would comment. That probably says all you need to know right there.

Source: Google Finally Delivers On Promise Of Admin-Free Chrome Frame Installs For IE

Q&A With Survivor Host Jeff Probst On Surviving Social Media

April 24th, 2011 04:00 admin View Comments

This Q&A with Survivor host Jeff Probst was conducted by guest writer Narendra Rocherolle, CEO of The Start Project. He and his partners hold the curious distinction of selling their company, Webshots, twice.  Narendra is an occasional contributor to TechCrunch, you can read a Q&A with Lance Armstrong here. He is @narendra on Twitter.

The CBS show Survivor is completing its 22nd season—a run with a business and social impact that are reserved for extraordinarily few productions in Television history. Survivor launched the Reality TV genre and has managed to continue to do well during a decade where the very foundations of TV have been shifting. The show’s host Jeff Probst has been a mainstay and a driving force behind the show’s continued innovation in storytelling.  I recently caught up with him to get some unfiltered thoughts.  If you have questions or comments you can direct them to @jeffprobst on Twitter!

What was the genesis of  Can you talk about how all of your social media efforts are tied or not tied to CBS, your contract, etc.? 

I’m fascinated by the major shift taking place that allows for truly global conversation with people all over the world. offered the opportunity to own my content and also provided the ability for me to take control of my voice and not have to rely on other outlets to accurately convey the things I want to share.

Survivor is a deceptively complex media property because you have multiple narratives: the game, behind the scenes details, and deeper looks into the actual participants. Building on these narratives, you are now live tweeting during Survivor shows (both East and West coast feeds).  Where did you get the idea?  

I am a big Howard Stern fan and one weekend he tweeted while watching a re-run of his movie, Private Parts.  That was the inspiration for me to do the same thing with Survivor fans.  I wanted to continue the conversation and give them more of what they crave, which is behind-the-scenes information and personal insight. In addition, I learn valuable information about what is and is not working for the show.  It’s a very satisfying, albeit time consuming, effort.

Any thoughts on the Twitter medium in general? 

I think Twitter is just another amazing step in the ongoing transition that will change so much of how we communicate as a world.  Twitter will not be the final frontier but Twitter and Facebook are definitely the pioneers.

Do you feel like there has been adequate production resources to explore these other narratives?

No. I feel we are in the very early stages of this global conversation and almost all of the traditional networks are very far behind when it comes to utilizing social media.  Initially, CBS didn’t know or care that I was tweeting.  Once they saw people tweeting back with comments like “I used to DVR, but now I watch it live” they took notice.  They are on board now but I still think we are in the early stages of what will be a global transformation.

In your mind, how has your role as host on the show changed over time? 

I’m much more involved than I was in the early seasons. It’s been a natural evolution.  As the game has changed, so have I.  I have always had a point of view but CBS wasn’t comfortable including it in the show until around season five, Survivor: Thailand.  At that point things really started to evolve.  It’s a great job in that I get to be myself, say what I’m feeling without any fear of retaliation because I’m not playing for a million dollars.  I have nothing at stake.

Since you know the outcome (to the finalists) for each season, how difficult is it to blog and tweet without accidentally giving something away or unduly influencing perceptions of the story that is unfolding?  

I always have somebody else proof it to make sure I’m not giving anything away, but in general I’ve become oddly comfortable forgetting what happened when doing interviews and just speaking as an audience member about what I see and what I think.

You recently conducted a fascinating Skype video interview with 3-time Survivor participant, Russell Hantz.  It is notable for many reasons (including being a video of a video, 15-minutes long, and having poor lighting).  Yet, It is incredibly compelling because it is the real thing, composed not long after the airing of an episode, and with a participant who is both wildly charismatic and creepy/off-putting.  What were your goals with that video?  

My goal was to have an honest interaction with Russell.  To achieve that I felt it important that we limit the interference as much as possible.  Russell had never skyped before that night so it was definitely a new experience.  We shot the interview on my iPhone and uploaded it about 20 minutes after the interview.  There was great feedback and I would do it again but only with someone that I felt really had something unique to offer.

Is it strange to be producing and creating content that has a completely different quality than the high gloss Survivor shows?  Does this lend to authenticity or does it chip away at the brand that Survivor and CBS has been building? 

I really haven’t done that much, but I’m not worried about chipping away at the brand.  Not at all.  If anything this adds to the experience.  The advent of all the new technology is fantastic in that it lets anybody be a filmmaker or story teller.  Anybody could have shot the interview with Russell and posted it on You Tube.  If your story is compelling nobody cares what it looks like. On the other hand, if your story isn’t compelling then it can be as pretty as a sunset, it won’t matter, nobody will care.

Why choose to have clunky Google ads on your site?  Is there no title sponsor that will step up to the plate? 

Fair criticism.  We are new to this and experimenting.  Agreed.  They are ugly and don’t provide much content at all.  You may be the impetus to lose them all together.

Survivor TV audiences have cracked 20M viewers.  Your YouTube channel has 500+ subscribers.  How does starting from ground zero affect the way you look at the history of Survivor? Or media and distribution in general?  

It doesn’t.  I’m not on a show that will ever attract that kind of attention again.  Our day was 8-10 years ago.  We’re no longer the new kid on the block.  This is a personal experiment for me.  I have no idea how many twitter followers I have and I don’t read the stats for how many people visit the website.  It’s about content and connection.

I am not sure people realize how dedicated you are to these new channels.  You have a heart-felt video talking about people posting spoilers to your blog.  On TV, you appear to be the alpha dog when it comes to controlling the contestants.  Online, that is obviously much more difficult. What are the big challenges you face in trying to both create online content and build community? 

For me it is simply about authenticity.  There is so much hyperbole online that I know I can’t compete.  Everybody vying for our attention.  Celebrities are the worst. So instead I am just posting stuff that interests me.  I am ignoring the pressure that I can sometimes feel to always post new stuff or to “please” people.  You will never win that battle.  I just don’t have the time to monitor it all day.  For that reason alone it will never be a huge site.   But as I said, as an experiment, really fascinating.
Can you also comment on your hope that your blog can grow into a broader discussion forum? How do you measure success in this case? 

Great question.  Not sure how you measure success.  If you have a dialogue with one person and that impacts your life or theirs; does that equate to success?  If you interact with millions and discuss the best cup of coffee does that equate to success?  I really don’t know.  I’m a neophyte.  I do believe a global conversation will be had in the near future and I hope to be involved in some way.

When you are on location how much time or thought goes into ancillary content and future social media concepts/angles?  How has that evolved or changed in the last few years? 

This will be the first time on location with my website, so we’ll see!  I’ve done behind the scenes over the years.  The reason for those was two-fold.  Give fans more insight and give young producers the chance to prove themselves.

Can you talk a little bit about philanthropy and the extent to which your Survivor experience has informed your awareness/concern?

I’ve been involved in many organizations including EGPAF and St. Jude’s.  A few years ago I founded my own non-profit,The Serpentine Project, to help foster youth.  We just merged with The Alliance For Children’s Rights.  It’s been a great journey and a very powerful experience.

How many hours a week have you been spending online dedicated to various projects? 

It really varies.  I do the blog which takes a few hours to write.  I tweet online live on Wednesday nights during Survivor which takes a few hours and then I post stuff occasionally.  The trick is finding the time.  It’s all about how you want to spend your time on the planet.  I strive for balance.  A bit of this, a bit of that.

What do you love about Survivor?  What has kept you at it? 

The study of human nature.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  Why we do what we do.  Justifying our ethics.  All of it.  I learn so much about myself through others.

Do you have any specific regrets over 22 seasons about your own performances? 

I always try to move forward and learn from each situation.  There are many things I could have done differently over the years but it’s a live, unscripted show.  You prepare for what you think might happen, do your best and try to learn from it.

While I have you on the spot, a truly pressing question. Over the years you have settled on an incredibly awkward gesture in conjunction with “Survivors ready…Go!”  It is this strange double armed thing where you always look like you aren’t quite sure that you are going to get it right.  What gives?  How about waving a flag or no gesture at all? 

Very fucking funny.  Finally somebody said what I’ve been feeling for years.  It all started on episode one, season one when I had to let the first group of Survivors know when to start a challenge.  They were way out in the water and so I threw up my hand and dropped it as a signal.  It stuck.  Not my greatest idea.  Then again had I known we’d be on 12 years later I might have chosen a different wardrobe too!

Source: Q&A With Survivor Host Jeff Probst On Surviving Social Media

Functor is to Lens as Applicative is to Biplate: Introducing Multiplate

March 16th, 2011 03:16 admin View Comments

Functor is to Lens as Applicative is to Biplate: Introducing Multiplate is an interesting paper by Russell O’Connor which shows that certain types are isomorphic to quantification over certain type classes. This isomorphism then naturally leads to a generalization of Uniplate/Compos into Multiplate, which allows for rather generic traversals.

The BiplateType datatype defined in the Uniplate library is similar to a lens (a.k.a. a functional reference). This paper proves that Biplate generalizes lens similarly to how applicative functor generalizes functor. This paper gives an alternative definition of BiplateType using a nested data type that better captures the invariants for Biplates than Uniplate’s original definition. In previous work, van Laarhoven conjectures an isomorphism between this nested data type and a data type found in Compos library. This paper complete his proof of the isomorphism by using free theorems for types polymorphic over applicative functors. This result means that, morally speaking, Compos and Uniplate use isomorphic representations for their core data type for generic traversals of simple recursive data types. For mutually recursive data types, Compos and Uniplate providing two different extensions to this common core functionality. Compos requires the user to rewrite a mutually recursive data type as a GADT, while Uniplate’s Biplate class, is less powerful but only requires multiparameter type classes and does not require rewriting one’s data type. This paper proposes a third extension to support mutually recursive datatypes that is as powerful as Compos, as easy to use as Biplate, and more portable than both of them. This proposal, called Multiplate, only requires rank 3 polymorphism.

(Full disclosure: Russell is a post-doc at McMaster, working with me and Bill Farmer. While trying to figure out how to make certain repetitive traversals of MathScheme ASTs into a generic framework, he ‘stumbled upon’ multiplate, and then kept pursuing the ideas, with the multiplate package and this nice bit of theory as the end result.)

Source: Functor is to Lens as Applicative is to Biplate: Introducing Multiplate

Aol To Journalists: You Be The Rock Star, We’ll Be Mark Chapman

March 10th, 2011 03:25 admin View Comments

“You be the rock star, we’ll be your stage.”Aol billboard outside TCHQ

“Hey, what’s going on? – Russell just got electrocuted.”Almost Famous

The re-invigoration of Aol continues apace today with the announcement by Tim Armstrong that 900 employees will be laid off before the afternoon is out. According to Wired, those canned include “veteran journalists from AOL’s top news sites, including PoliticsDaily, DailyFinance and Walletpop”. Or as AOL’s SVP of news put it: “I have just laid off dozens of the most talented journalists & product folks I know.”

And, lest overpaid freelancers like me get too cocky, Tim had a nice fuck-you-very-much for us too. “Going forward, AOL will invest more heavily in our in-house editorial team and transition away from a reliance on freelance journalists,” he wrote in an email leaked to Business Insider. Thank God I write books for a living, eh?

To be fair, though, Armstrong’s grand plan for making Aol the world’s greatest content company isn’t limited to laying off “dozens of the most talented journalists and product folks”. According to a second leaked memo that’s just landed in my inbox, other proposed measures to improve the bottom line include…

  • Only completely restructuring the entire company three times a week, instead of five.
  • Ending the company’s popular “let’s burn all our money” Fridays.
  • Increasing the cost of AOL dial-up and broadband to $10,000 a month “because those fucking idiots will buy anything.”
  • Switching to premium rate “900” numbers for the company’s 40,000 mandatory weekly conference calls.
  • Resisting the temptation to give buying Bebo “just one more shot.”
  • Rebranding PoliticsDaily as BieberKittensandDirtyPornDaily.
  • Encouraging local Patch journalists to increase revenue by sending 419 scam mail to their readers.
  • Making all potential editorial hires take a Turing test and rejecting any who pass.

Source: Aol To Journalists: You Be The Rock Star, We’ll Be Mark Chapman

Robots That Talk Like Cave-Dwelling Crickets: Using Silent Puffs Of Air

March 9th, 2011 03:32 admin View Comments

Ant trails, airborne chemicals, wood vibrations—scientists have a long history of borrowing clever communication techniques from the animal kingdom. Inspired by the odd social habits of a cave-dwelling cricket, scientists have now taught robots to communicate by firing rings of pressurized air at each other.

The cricket in question is the African cave cricket (Phaeophilacris spectrum), which rapidly flicks its wings to launch donut-shaped air rings, a type of vortex, to both potential mates and enemies. Reduced to two kinds of messages, its “language” is pretty simple: It sends isolated vortices to threaten its rival, and a rapid sequence of vortices to woo would-be lovers.

When Andy Russell, an engineer at Monash University in Australia, learned about the cricket, he thought this technique would improve robots’ ability to communicate in noisy environments—but that wasn’t the only benefit. “Like the cave crickets, there may be times when a robot does not want its communications intercepted,” Russell told New Scientist. Researchers speculate that the cricket uses vortices to communicate undetected by predators—so why not robots? As Chris Melhuish, a researcher at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK told New Scientist, “This could be a useful addition to the communication armoury of future robotic systems.”

The science of vortices reaches back to 1858, when William Rogers first described vortex rings, and scientists have been dazzled ever since by how far these rings can travel (underwater ones have been clocked at over 65 feet). They form when a slug of air or liquid is shot out of a small nozzle into a region of still air or liquid: As the slug travels out of the nozzle, the low-pressure build-up on the outside side of the slug causes the edge to curl, eventually forming a donut shape that can then propagate quite a distance.

Russell co-opted cricket communications with the science of vortices by equipping a squat, roughly 6-inch tall, cylinder-shaped robot with eight air disturbance sensors, sending binary messages via a separate vortex generator, which isn’t quite as high-tech as it sounds: it’s pretty much like a loudspeaker cone, sending pulses of air outward through a less than one-inch aperture. Because it’s difficult to track an pulse of air—it is invisible, after all—the engineers burned incense to see the air disturbances in progress.

By themselves, these air pulses don’t say much—but when sent in a series of binary coded pulses, they can be used to communicate with other robots.  In this study, for example, the scientists sent a sequence of 1,000 vortices to relay the binary coded word for “vortex” over a distance of nearly 12 inches. In addition to sending messages through varied pulses, the sensors could detect both the direction and range of the sender: The message direction was gathered by sensing which of the eight sensors were triggered, while the robot calculated distance by analyzing the lag between the fast- and slow-moving vortices.

Sensing air disturbances is all fine and dandy, but what happens when you’re in a breezy environment? The scientists equipped the robot with a plastic film attached at only one end to take care of that: When hooked up to an optical sensor, the robot can detect the difference between laminar (typical of breezes) and turbulent flow (typical of the vortices). But despite their valiant efforts, the common error was still missed vortices: As the rings of air traveled, breezes from the room’s ventilation system would sometimes trigger a phantom vortex, sending unintentional messages.

While not perfect, the scientists nevertheless demonstrated that such robot-to-robot communication is possible—and that’s the big thing to take away from this. In addition to fixing the errors, the researchers want to construct a smaller vortex generator—one closer to the size of its inspiration, the wing-flick of the cave cricket.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Traitor

Source: Robots That Talk Like Cave-Dwelling Crickets: Using Silent Puffs Of Air

Supreme Court: No, You Can’t Sue Drugmakers Over Vaccine Injury Claims

February 23rd, 2011 02:10 admin View Comments

If a vaccine injures a child, should the parents be allowed to sue in state court? That’s a question lawyers, vaccine makers, parents, and Congress have wrestled over for a quarter century. This week, the United States Supreme Court brought forth a ruling that keeps the status quo: No, you can’t.

The justices, voting 6-2, said a 1986 federal law preempts claims that a drugmaker should have sold a safer formulation of a vaccine. The law, designed to encourage vaccine production by limiting patient suits, channels most complaints into a company- financed no-fault system that offers limited but guaranteed payments for injuries shown to be caused by a product. [Bloomberg]

The case in question, which has been kicking around for nearly two decades, was brought by Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz on behalf of their daughter, Hannah. In 1992 she began experiencing seizures after receiving a diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus shot made by  Wyeth [part of Pfizer]. At the time, her parents tried to file a claim with that government-created system.

When a special Vaccine Court within the Court of Federal Claims ruled that her injuries couldn’t be linked with the vaccine, her parents tried to move the case to Pennsylvania state court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the claim was pre-empted by federal law, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court. [Wall Street Journal]

Hannah has what’s called “residual seizure disorder.” Under the original setup of the government’s claims clearinghouse, she would have been covered no-questions-asked: Because of the difficulty in showing that a vaccine directly caused an injury, the government simply created a table of conditions that would be covered.

But in March 1995—a month before her family filed their claim—a special government advisory committee gave the injury table a radical overhaul. Under the new system, residual seizure disorder no longer qualified a child for compensation. Instead, Hannah’s family needed to prove that the vaccine caused her injury, and they were unable to do so. [Slate]

Justice Scalia and the other five voting in the majority cited the original intent of the 1986 law: It exists so that a flood of lawsuits—many perhaps frivolous—can’t create a public health crisis by impeding vaccine production.

Kathleen Sullivan, who represented Wyeth in the case before the court, told justices that ruling against the company could lead to thousands of lawsuits in which parents claim, for instance, that the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine played a role in their children’s autism. [Washington Post]

Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, however, argued in their dissent that by shielding drugmakers from lawsuits, what the government is actually doing is removing the pressure to create better and safer vaccines.

Image: U.S. Supreme Court

Source: Supreme Court: No, You Can’t Sue Drugmakers Over Vaccine Injury Claims

Betabrand’s ‘Privates’ Underwear Promises To Block TSA Employees From Seeing Your Scanned Junk

December 13th, 2010 12:39 admin View Comments

There’s been no shortage of outrage over the TSA’s “naked” body scanners, which have been compared to virtual strip searches. For those of you who want to protect your private parts from being ogled by TSA employees, crowdsourced online retail site Betabrand is now offering a scanner-proof undergarment, aptly called “Privates.”

The brainchild of Stephen Russell, the founder and chairman of surveillance search engine and facial recognition company, 3VR Security; Privates essentially distorts the shapes seen in airport body scanners. The garment fuzzes out a traveler’s privates using body scanner resistant materials. But Russell says that the pattern isn’t so dense that it will get you pulled out of line, writing that the “effect is much like wearing a loose sheer piece of clothing.”

Russell says that he used his expertise in scanner technologies to build a prototype that would be resistant. You can read his thoughts on the TSA and more on his blog InHardFocus. As of now, Russell and Betabrand claims that the underwear will not get you pulled out of line for a more invasive search. But the company is seeking 50 travelers to test-pilot prototypes of the underwear to be sure.

To enter the Alpha test, you’ll have to shell out $100 to get the first hand-made edition of Privates (which are scheduled to ship in early January 2011) and the general release version (available later that quarter.)

Seems like a lot of money to bet on something that may cause you to incur more scrutiny and embarrassment at the hands of TSA employees. On the other hand, if this works, the garments could sell like hot cakes considering the controversy around the TSA full body scans and the “pat-downs.”

Source: Betabrand’s ‘Privates’ Underwear Promises To Block TSA Employees From Seeing Your Scanned Junk