Technology to make us read faster

If you missed the buzz about Spritz startup this week, let me tell you about it. The guys behind it developed an interesting technology that might help us all read faster without an extra effort. Key idea is to eliminate the unnecessary eye movement my properly positioning words.  Unfortunately, there is nothing to download so far, but I think  a lot of cool apps will be developed soon.

spritz_devices

Update 2014.03.26: 

Squirt.io – browser application.

Here is how it works:
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Quora: ask any question

I could not find enough time to post here recently. I certainly have been doing more reading than writing. So, I thought why not to share some of things I read? And I decided to tell you about Quora.

As you most probably already know, Quora is a questions-answers website which succeeded in doing what Google and multiple other companies failed at: provide a decent quality of responses.

Several months ago they even created their own book “Best of Quora 2010-2012“, compiled of best answers, available for free download. It covers quite a range of topics. From Steve Jobs to moldy cheese, from neurological basis of curiosity to Jay-Z. I hope to find time and selectively read the most intriguing ones.

quora

In a meanwhile, here is the short list of questions on the website itself that I found noteworthy:

Add me if you are there.

Venture Lab: free Stanford University online courses

I devoted some of my time to self-education in September-December using the opportunity provided by Stanford University Venture Lab‘s online courses. In this post I would like to briefly describe my impressions and share some useful materials from the courses. Venture Lab courses are somewhat different from other online courses in that they take place during a specific time with specific deadlines, and you need to enroll in order to participate.

I tried three courses: Technology Entrepreneurship, Crash Course on Creativity, and Finance. As they are very different, I will tell you about each one separately.

Technology Entrepreneurship

This is probably the best one. Although, there are multiple opinions on whether entrepreneurship can be taught, there are a lot of useful materials.

Lectures certainly vary in content. Some are quite theoretic and contain, for instance, large charts showing, how probability of team’s success depends on the number of members or on their background. Others are more about anecdotal. There was, for example, a story about history of skateboarding culture. I didn’t know that it originated from dry Californian summer during which many Californian pools were empty and people started using them to ride inside instead of swimming.
Aside from theory, there is also a team work that is highly encouraged and is in fact an integral part of learning process. Working in teams you are supposed to do market research, create and test the business model. Participants are very diverse. There are people from Pakistan, Belarus, Serbia, Russia, Canada and many other countries. You can pick any of already existing teams (hundreds of them) or create your own and invite other students to join.

If it is too late for you to participate, you might still benefit from these materials:

I think it takes about an hour a week or so to keep up with the lectures. But if you want to do more, for example communicate on forum, read recommended books, and actually try to apply ideas to some project, it will take longer, of course.

By the way, if you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend you these recent notes from Peter Thiel’s lectures. They also happen to be in Stanford. Computer Science dep. It will save another hundred thousand dollars. 😉

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Listening to music for the first time

Austian Chapman was born deaf. But recently he got a new a type of hearing aid device which allowed him to listen to music for the first time.

Here is how he describes his experience:

“When Mozart’s Lacrimosa came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the car.”

 

I wonder how would it feel to listen to music for the first time. Or see for the first time. Or smell for the first time. Or just after a week-long “break”? Probably, it would be 100 times more vivid than what we are used to.

I wonder whether in the future people will incorporate short intermittent “breaks” using technology in order to sharpen these feelings.

 

via mashable

 

The most watched and most highly-rated TED talks at the moment

Recently the list of most watched TED talks appeared in TED blog.  Very helpful to make sure you didn’t miss anything:

  1. Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity (2006): 8,660,010 views
  2. Jill Bolte Taylor‘s stroke of insight (2008): 8,087,935 views
  3. Pranav Mistry on the thrilling potential of SixthSense (2009): 6,747,410 views
  4. Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense (2009): 6,731,153 views
  5. David Gallo‘s underwater astonishments (2007): 6,411,705 views
  6. Tony Robbins asks Why we do what we do (2006): 4,909,505 views
  7. Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen (2006): 3,954,776 views
  8. Arthur Benjamin does mathemagic (2005): 3,664,705 views
  9. Jeff Han demos his breakthrough multi-touchscreen (2006): 3,592,795 views
  10. Johnny Lee shows Wii Remote hacks for educators (2008): 3,225,864 views
  11. Blaise Aguera y Arcas runs through the Photosynth demo (2007): 3,007,440 views
  12. Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing your genius (2009): 2,978,288 views
  13. Dan Gilbert asks: Why are we happy? (2004): 2,903,993 views
  14. Stephen Hawking asks big questions about the universe (2008): 2,629,230 views
  15. Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation (2009): 2,616,363 views
  16. Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice (2005): 2,263,065 views
  17. Richard St. John shares 8 secrets of success (2005): 2,252,911 views
  18. Mary Roach on the 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm (2009): 2,223,822 views
  19. Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action (2010): 2,187,868 views
  20. Chimamanda Adichie shares the danger of a single story (2009): 2,143,763 views

But I decided to take it one step further and create a list of the most highly-rated TED talks.
Which is not hard to do using their Youtube channel statistics. So, here it is. The list of most highly-rated TED talks:

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Cool stuff digest: April & May 2011

Things that I liked in April & May 2011:

  1. Artificial intelligence at work: Google Scribe suggests a new word to type. I first thought that it’s April 1 joke… :);
  2. As it turns out, you can set your Google ads interests to make them more relevant;
  3. Honest Logos by Viktor Hertz;
  4. Vintage photos of Moscow, taken with a Graflex box camera in 1909;
  5. Brandz 2011
  6. Very cool wiki-project: short book summaries;
  7. Our digital life info-graphics;
  8. Google Correlate.

All links are from my twitter and Google Reader.

If this then that review: a new web 2.0 tool

Just a couple of days ago I discovered a new promising Web 2.0 service called If this then that which is actually a new start-up project from San-Francisco.

Guys try to develop a kind of meta-tool which unites many others: GmailFacebookTwitterGoogle ReaderEvernoteDeliciousInstagram, etc. Quite an interesting thing to play with, although it lies in a kind of geeky/nerdy field. But I actually believe that normal people can also find it useful for few things…

In short, the idea is to connect all those services through simple rules set-up by user. For example, “if somebody tags me in a photo at Facebook, send me an email about it” or “if I like a post in Google Reader, save it in my Evernote”.

The coolest thing about is that they also have SMS-service that can be used in the same manner as everything else.

Here are some usage ideas that I could come up with:

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Superfreakonomics review

Book with a stupid name Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner appeared to be quite surprisingly interesting and was listened on my way to work and back home in a week or so. I would probably even say that the sequel is better than the first book – Freakonomics.

Authors position themselves as economists doing research into non-conventional topics. However, I feel that it would be more appropriate to say that book is in the sociology field. Yes, individual & group level economics is often discussed, usually through the prism of decision-making. But in overall it’s more about psychology.

Topics covered are global warming (or cooling?) & ecology, technological & scientific breakthroughs, economics of prostitution, algorithmic search for potential terrorists based on banking activity and human altruism which is covered in more details in video below. In other words, as authors confess themselves, there is no uniting topic.

Superfreakonomics

Superfreakonomics is full of curious facts. For instance, you have statistically higher chances to get into trouble if you walk home drunk then if you drive home drunk.

All topics are presented as stories revolving around particular characters and therefore easily digested. One of the main lessons sounds quite banal and generic: “people respond to incentives, sometimes unpredictably”. However, we forget about it more often than we’d like to think.

You might use this RSA video made from co-author’s speech as a trailer of some sort:

Update 2010.09.22: It turns out they make a movie based on the first book! Trailer is below: