Wisdom of crowds chapter 11

Chapter eleven of Wisdom of crowds focused on markets. Most of the time markets do there job very well. A market’s job is to assign correct values to stocks and commodities. Markets function well at determining value because there are a lot of educated people whose job is to buy stocks when they are undervalued, making the stock go up, and sell stocks when they are overvalued, making the stock price go down.

Just like any wise group a market needs have a group of decentralized, diverse, independent people, who cooperate. When a market stops being diverse and independent a bubble occurs. A bubble is when a stock or group of stocks becomes highly overvalued.

Bubbles occur when people stop thinking about what the value of a given stock is and what they think other people think the value is. After all if you can predict that everyone will overvalue a stock you should buy it and sell it before people come to their senses.

I demonstrated the difference between thinking for yourself and bubble thinking by asking everyone to pick their favorite artist out of a group of six artist or bands and then try to pick the artist or band that most people would pick. With just one acception everyone picked either Kanye West or Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift and Kanye shared the favorite vote. Taylor Swift won the popular vote by one vote. Only six people didn’t change their answer from the first to the second vote. That means eight people thought their favorite was not the most popular artist.

Research paper source

My research paper is on the gray area between information and entertainment media. One main source I’m using is The Lifespan of a Fact, which was featured in an On The Media episode. I will also be using a story aired on This American Life about the retraction of a story about Apple factory workers in China. The initial story, Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory, has been taken down but it is a perfect example of the subject of my paper. The retraction episode is just as good and gets at a lot of points im discussing in my paper. Anyone interested in this topic should check it out.

This American Life Retraction story

Blog Stats

I’m not sure if anyone else has done this, but I just clicked on the stats section on my dashboard (it’s the graph looking thing in the gray bar on top of the screen). It’s really interesting. If you havn’t checked it out I suggest you pull it up, right after you read my post.

The stats section shows you a bar graph of the most veiwed days (March 27th 2012). It shows you how people found the site on any given day. On March 27th the search terms were mostly Santorum, Deathstyle, and Gay. So I think we should all give a hand to Francesca for her post Someone Tell Me This Man is Kidding. 

Along with giving Franceca a hand I think we should give all current blog contributers, aka our class, because we are kicking butt. We have posted the most veiwed month by far (March) aswell as the second (April) and third (February). So congradulations us. Keep up the good work.

Reply girls

I’d never noticed relpy girls before. Maybe it’s because I am just so pure of heart that I’d never seek out such smut, or possibly because I just don’t use Youtube very often.

I heard this story in the car while I was driving with my brother. We both agreed that these women shouldn’t be making these videos, but we also both had the same idea. The problem with these women is not that they are showing cleavage, in fact the cleavage has been described as irrestable which is a great asset for a video. The problem is that these busty women aren’t interesting. Our solution was that these ladies should just say something worthwhile. It could even be a funny spoof of reply girls themselves. Now there’s an idea, any busty women who are also funny or interesting feel free to use it.

Bad TV, made every day

I’m glad On The Media tackled the issue of the dumbing down of educational channels. As an avid viewer of crap television I noticed a significant uptick in commercial fishing, logging, and mining shows. I don’t understand why people want to use their time off from their jobs watching other people work. If you really wanted to watch fishing you should get in a boat and fish.

The On The Media story was about the National Geographic channel and specifically a show about mining for historical artifacts. This is how most of these shows work. They hide behind a sliver of educational value, but at the end of the show you’ve learned about as much about from the show as you learn about medicine from an episode of house. My favorite excuse is the History Channels tag line “History, made every day” which to me translates to History, now playing reality TV.

It’s sad to see this erosion of educational television, but not surprising. Educational channels have to compete for advertising dollars just like all the other channels. I wonder if there is any way around these shows. My suggestion is more Cash Cab.

Polls, Southerners, and Republicans


In the story “The Lure of Reporting About Southern Stereotypes” there were many voices condemning the over reporting of polls that depicted southern republican voters as backwards on cultural and social issues. Daily Beast contributor Michel Codel argued that the polls were a mute point because they don’t differ significantly from national views.  She concedes that the polls “Show how socially conservative southerners are compared to other sections of the country” but then goes on to say “40% are strict creationists and another close to 40% believe in intelligent design”. I don’t know where she got those numbers from but they seem off to me because that would leave only 20% of people who believe in evolution which is a number that is not compatible with my reality.

Still the same pollsters that did the Mississippi and Alabama polls found that only half believe in evolution. Codel argues that this is not significantly different from the Mississippi and Alabama numbers. Even if you agree with that, the issue doesn’t go away. What I take from the poll is not how the south differs from other regions on these issues; it is how they differ from me. I know very few people who refute evolution and I can’t think of a single person I know who believe that interracial marriage should be illegal. From my stand point these views are ludicrous. I frankly don’t care what other regions think. If Michel Codel’s point is that these numbers don’t depict the south’s backwardness on many social issues because they are consistent with the rest of America then I’d have to conclude that the numbers depict America’s social backwardness. Saying the south isn’t all that different from the rest of America doesn’t make the problem go away, it makes it bigger.

With that said I believe the story didn’t do an adequate job of depicting the majority of these polls (Mississippi, Alabama, and Illinois) directed toward likely republican voters. Michel touched on it a little at the end with her assertion that the country may indeed be more red and blue then Obama would have us believe. Obama being a Muslim and disbelief in evolution are practically core values for some republicans. They wouldn’t like to admit it but these are republican campaign tactics so it is no wonder that likely republican voters believe them in high concentrations.

Mashup Semester Project

For my semester project I plan to make a series of mashups. For those who don’t know what a mashup is, it is a mix of two or more songs that make a distinctingly different song. I think this semester project is particualarly pertinent to our course because it deals with commons knowledge, and copyright, as well as our evolving ideas of creativity.

Many people do not consider mashup varieties of art, whether it be music, video, or visual, because they relay on existing creative pieces. I will try to touch on whether I think that is a valid school of thought and why or why not.

Here is a great example of a Mashup, by DJ Earworm.


The Lifespan of a Fact

This weeks On The Media dealt a lot with truth, from Middle East countries trying to cover it up to media sources like movies and essays not being able to live up to its high standards. I want to focus on the second to last story entitled “The Lifespan of a Fact” which was a story about an essay written by John D’Agata. D’Agata knowingly stretched the truth a number of times in an essay about a teenager in Las Vegas who committed suicide.
There was a short but contentious debate between D’Agata and a fact checker named Jim Fingal. This short back and forth was really what cemented by opinion of D’Agata as an ass depicted in quotes like “ever heard of Cicero”. He didn’t really address any of Fingal’s issues with the essay and deflected most of his questions. He also struck me as defensive and aggressive. For the majority of the short interview I wanted to punch him in the mouth.
It’s hard for me to divorce my feelings for D’Agata from his point of view. With that said I don’t agree with him. It is true essays are works of opinion rather than fact, like journalism, but that does not give the essayist license to lie. “it sounds like you are saying an essayist can say things of arbitrary truth value and make quotations up out of whole cloth that are attributed to real people who live in the real world…isn’t that what people call fiction?” this was Fingal’s biggest objection to the essay and it is mine too. If one bends the truth too much it snaps and is no longer the truth and an essay even as an opinion piece isn’t saying anything if it is dealing in fiction.
D’Agata’s piece is not grounded enough in truth to merit the title essay. If I wrote an essay for a history class and I changed facts to make a more poignant literary point I would fail for writing an inaccurate essay. D’Agata does acknowledge that he does stray from the truth in the essay, but if an essay has that caveat what is the point? Anyone could write a convincing essay if they are not constrained by facts.
I understand what D’Agata is trying to accomplish. He is trying to make his point more powerful with his literary skill which is fine for any writer to do, but presenting creative enhancements or altered facts as true is morally wrong and often illegal, especially when dealing with a topic like a specific teen’s suicide. Using a tragic event to shed light on an issue is fine but very delicate I feel if you are writing about real life you have to use facts not fabrications.

Lin Post

As an avid viewer of Sportscenter I looked forward to this week’s on the media as a reprieve from “Linsanity” maybe that was too much to ask for. The story about Jeremy Lin’s race, a strange focus to the popular story. I don’t see very many stories about his race, though you can always count on a cut to Taiwan or China Town during Knicks games now. I’m confused why NPR cited Floyd Mayweather’s twitter account. I’m sure if one took a second look at his account you would find much more offensive tweets then his regarding Lin.

I’m a little disappointed that they did not touch on the effect of new media on these new athlete obsessions. I think the biggest factor in the fandemonium is twitter. It seems like every athlete that ever played professionally has a twitter account from which they tweet exclusively about sports. This is not necessarily a bad thing to have so many “experts” giving input, however when a story that everyone agrees with arrives then twitter, espn, and sports sections across the nation turn into one giant echo chamber. Everyone is saying “have you heard about this amazing player Lin?” and answering, “Yeah Lin is awesome!”

Don’t get me wrong Jeremy Lin is awesome. It’s an awesome story. He is an awesome player. However, the story is too big. I don’t like these huge stories that over saturate, but it’s something I think I better get used to them because they aren’t going anywhere.