A Few Good Links – May 14th 2010

on May 13, 2010
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Well, I am back to blogging for a short time, after having spent close to two months focused on intense efforts I cannot disclose yet.

But I did continue reading, and collecting a few interesting links. This time, the links are not directly connected to Decision Management, but are tangential to it.

1. Scott Berkun on why smart people defend bad ideas (1)
This is a web classic at this point, so I am sure that many of you have already read this post. I re-read it periodically. Scott is the author of The Myths of Innovation (2) and frequently provides insight into interesting management issues.

The one he goes into here – the reasons why people who would qualify as smart, intelligent, sometimes (or frequently) fall into the trap of defending bad ideas way beyond reason – is fascinating. I have lived in four continents, three fundamentally different civilizations and world views,  I have been part of both small and large corporations, and one of the constants I have seen across the board is precisely that one. And I, more frequently than I probably realize, have fallen in the same trap.

Read Scott’s article. I have used his recommendations and they work. In particular the recommendation to break the pace of discussions, and force the explanations to be made: “talk to me like I am 4″…

2. The Boom of Big Infographics (3)
 You know that I consider that good data visualization is a key part of decision management. I absolutely love the combination of powerful insight that good visualization provides, and the aesthetic aspects of the result.

One thing that has become clear is that infographics are become mainstream, are used more and more as a tool by news and analysis corporations (I have referred to The Economist which publishes what they call the daily chart as well as to The Guardian which publishes a regular datablog (4)).The vast amounts of information to display is pushing forward innovation in both the way information gets displayed, as well as, and this is really interesting to me, the way users interact with it. I believe the short term future will see an explosion of sites where infographics and interactive information will be provided to the masses – all facilitated by the broad availability of data, and the systematic usage of discoverable APIs.

Lots of intriguing applications will result from all this. And those organizations that rely on scarcity of data and analysis as their key differentiation will have surprises.

This FlowingData post (5) has an interesting account of the quick progress of infographics.

I do like the “Big” put in front of everything that deals with massive user generated content. Big data, big infographics. Of course, we’ll soon have “big decisions”.

(As a side note, The Guardian has an interesting post on the property repossessions by local authorities in the UK (6), with an intriguing series of questions on what is happening in Birmingham…).

3. Innumeracy and its role in the housing bust (7)
 A lot has been written about the potential causes of the housing bust. I have my opinion on some of the mechanics that compounded the effects to lead to the magnitude we are seeing (for those interested, I tend to focus on the lack of systems analysis in most large scale technical and social systems, see my blog from a while ago (8)).

The Economist (yes, them again) published the results (9) of an interesting study on the impact of numeracy on the ability of borrowers to take on financial risk (10) conducted by researchers for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. While the conclusion is fairly obvious – the more numerate you are, the more likely you are to not get into financial issues – some of the findings are less obvious: for example, there is little difference in the types of loans taken between individuals with very different numeracy skills; the difference seems to be much more in the daily management of money (lots of numeracy requirements) than in single choices (intense but infrequent numeracy requirements).

The researchers used a numeracy test to segment the population. You can take it too. Do it (11). And if you get it all right, you may even do better than Terry Tao, a Fields medal winner (the Nobel for Math)…

4. Soccer world cup (12)
For those of you interested by the Soccer World cup (and I know some who are passionate about it) – here is a link to a forecast competition for the tournament (13).  Because of my heritage, I will end up rooting for three (if not four) countries, which, I guess, gives me an edge… I had not been in that situation since, oh…, probably the 1982 cup.



The term of the week: FOUC or Flash of Unstyled Content (14).

I like this – you see it when connecting to sites with complex stylesheets from slow machines with slow connections: a brief view into the site in all its unstyled glory, raw, naked. It also happens with humans, in conversations and debates where, for a fraction of a second, the intensity is such that you suddenly get an glimpse of the raw nature of the person, at least at that point in time. This is a term I will keep on using…

The quote of the week:

“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.”
— H.L. Mencken

I hope you find these ramblings and links interesting. Hopefully I will be able to continue regularly…


  1. http://bit.ly/1DpgLM
  2. http://amzn.to/98NBv
  3. http://bit.ly/aCXUCk
  4. http://bit.ly/bQhi6s
  5. http://bit.ly/aCXUCk
  6. http://bit.ly/9KzuN3
  7. http://bit.ly/cQrl3l
  8. http://bit.ly/9L237Q
  9. http://bit.ly/cQrl3l
  10. http://bit.ly/ctVwfk
  11. http://bit.ly/cO5Zxj
  12. http://bit.ly/bP13zP
  13. http://bit.ly/bP13zP
  14. http://bit.ly/6mhINg

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