Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ravenweb 2008 Year in Review

We're nearing the end of another year, and I wanted to highlight some of the major posts and blog stats from the past year.

Most Popular Posts


1. Scrubs Finale?
2. Configuring a Wireless HP Photosmart C4380
3. Seinfeld
4. Embedded Blog Comment Form


Most Popular Book Posts

1. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz


Most Popular RSS Posts

1. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
2. Slam by Nick Hornby
3. Seinfeld

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Sugar Fix by Richard J. Johnson and Timothy Gower

The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick warns of the dangers of eating a diet high in fructose and correlates excess fructose consumption to a number of serious medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.

The book covers all aspects of fructose in detail, including how it's absorbed into the body, the relationship between fructose and uric acid, how fructose doesn't satisfy an appetite, and the significance of high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener in which fructose is a key component.

One caveat/disclaimer: while the lead author (Richard J. Johnson, MD) comes across as sincere and presents a persuasive argument with ample data and research, he clearly has a vested interest in the success of his argument and even has developed a Low-Fructose diet and submitted several related patent applications. So, as always when at the intersection of an argument and a possible business venture, stay wary of the marketing and take what you can from the underlying data.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Earlier this year, I attended a project kickoff meeting for a large website redesign project. There were many attendees, over two dozen if I remember correctly, from various business units and departments, and a vendor team was also present.

One of the recurring themes of the meeting was the importance of diverse groups in large, complex projects. To reinforce the point, the Project Leader distributed a copy of The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki to every meeting attendee.

I was interested in the concept presented at the meeting and followed up by reading the book.

The Wisdom of Crowds very much endorses the notion that groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them or a single brilliant individual. But not just any group. As Surowiecki demonstrates, not all groups are wise and some become mobs. For a group's collective intelligence to rise and produce better outcomes than a single or small group of experts, four conditions must be met. Wise crowds need diversity of opinion, independence of members from one another, decentralization, and a good method for aggregating opinions.

Surowiecki provides several examples of collective intelligence outperforming individual experts and looks at, among other examples, Google, voting, betting, and traffic.