Re: Yglesias does it. Klein does it. But no post of mine does it.

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Vox doesn't appear to be the explanatory journalism I was hoping for. But maybe it's really different than the links I see to it suggest, which generally make it seem like the same old bloggish opinion journalism that's been around for years.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-20-14 11:19 PM
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Well, that and alt.vox.whatever FAQs.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-20-14 11:20 PM
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"Vox, Super Fucking Annoying. " I like it, let's trademark that shit.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-20-14 11:20 PM
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Christensen definitely comes across as a huge dick in that interview, but he makes a lot of good points about the Lepore piece, which reads as a hatchet job based mainly on a fundamental difference in methodology between historians and business professors. His main argument seems to be "all your criticisms are addressed in my subsequent books, which you apparently didn't read," which may or may not be true but certainly seems fair.

That said, this from the Yglesias piece that neb's first link is in response to drives me up a fucking wall:

Here is the issue. If your company (like Vox Media!) is funded by venture capital investments, that means two things are going on:
Disaster! Why would anyone ever give a company like that money? Well, they would do it because the potential profits in lending to mature creditworthy firms are pretty limited. By contrast, if you get a small ownership stake in the next Google or Facebook you're going to strike it rich.

OMFG. If these people really have so much money that they're willing to give it to companies with no money and no credit, there are so many better options (in terms of human well-being, not necessarily return on investment) that I don't even know where to start. This problem is endemic in rural Alaska and I literally deal with every day in my job. If any of these Silicon Valley guys with millions of dollars to blow on risky investments are reading this (or any readers know any of these guys), seriously, contact me. You should probably think of it as charity rather than an investment that is likely to pay off, but the need there is so huge and meeting it would do so much good.

(I've mentioned before that some Google folks attended a conference up here a while back. I haven't heard from them since the immediate aftermath of that, but this makes me want to contact them to see if they're still interested in doing something.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-20-14 11:56 PM
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And yes, I realize that most of these guys are not actually interested in human well-being over return on investment, but maybe some of them are open to the possibility so it's worth a shot.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-20-14 11:57 PM
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Anyway, I'm not FB friends with either Klein or Yglesias (though I have played poker with both of them), so I don't have any insight regarding neb's complaint in the OP.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:07 AM
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neb uses "super" for "very"? Fairly shocking!


Posted by: Mr. F | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:09 AM
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What's wrong with that? It's a well-established usage.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:11 AM
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My guess is that this is corporate policy. At a certain fairly well known liberal organ we are constantly exhorted to use social media to antisocial ends.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:56 AM
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Me, I am antisocial in a way inimical to corporate interests


Posted by: OPINIONATED CP SCOTT | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:57 AM
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Christensen's response makes it sound like his theory is still cherrypicking, just better cherrypicking than before.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 4:21 AM
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5: they really, really are not. They're interested, specifically and solely, in getting in on the next google as a way to make zillions. The ROI of giving a little money to any arbitrarily stupid idea that comes along, if one of them hits and is Google (or WhatsApp) probably (maybe) makes it worthwhile. If you could convince them that whatever enterprise in Alaska had a tiny chance of getting huge, maybe they'd give you ten grand. But that's all they're interested in.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 4:23 AM
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I have Facebook friends in the journalism business who do this. Doesn't bother me at all. People gotta make a living.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:08 AM
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which may or may not be true but certainly seems fair

Wait, what? Also, I don't know enough to know if Lepore has read the rest of dickface's books, but whether she has or not seems to have no bearing on the basic fact that dickface is a huge dickface.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:20 AM
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Also, I share neb's sense that yglesias's and klein's upworthy-like facebook posts are hugely annoying. Indeed, those posts have further soured me on their (apparently) monumentally dumb business venture -- who would have guessed that klein wasn't a business-side genius?!!!? -- though I still allow for the (increasingly unlikely) possibility that it will improve with time. And, I genuinely wish them both all the best, as they're considerably less awful than most of the alternatives.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:23 AM
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I just realized that 14 is pretty unfair, as teo won't be awake for hours. Sorry, teo, my point was just that if it's not true that Lepore hasn't read dickface's other books, then such a contention doesn't seem at all fair to me. Playing the you-know-nothing-of-my-work card is a very shitty thing to do if the reviewer being addressed does, in fact, know something of your work. It delegitimates the reviewer, much like calling the reviewer by her first name infantilizes her.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:27 AM
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I just read the first part of Yggles's thing. It strikes me as sad more than anything, for the first rule of not getting crushed by disappointment in the startup world is to realize that VCs are evil, heartless bastards who are only interested in you insofar as there is a tiny, tiny chance you'll make them a ton of money in a year or two, and who fundamentally want your company to go out of business the instant tht doesn't happen. Sure, use them if you must, but don't get suckered, Matt.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:35 AM
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I mean, one of the drivers of the current startup boom is that VCs have realized that instead of giving experienced mid-career founders five million dollars you can give twenty-year-olds a hundred thousand dollars and not only will they believe you have their best interests at heart and work their fucking asses off for free, the companies will pccassionally hit. That is not the kind of thinking typical of a good person.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:43 AM
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I like Vox fine, and am a little baffled by the reaction to it here.


Posted by: David the Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:46 AM
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I'm pretty down on vox based on their format (so, so, so ugly, so clunky, and so failing to render their stupid "cards" on the browser I have to use at work) and their promo strategy. Yeah, media guys and gals gotta eat, but at least have the grace to have one of the other people there compose the tweets that you are simulcasting, Matt & Ezra.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:53 AM
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I promote my grandmother's memoir on FB every time I update. By the way, if anyone would like to be following along - updates every Monday and Thursday! - shoot me an email.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 5:57 AM
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I think I may be too old to care about Vox.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:06 AM
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If you look at Ezra's tweets, some have this annoying format, but many do in fact summarize rather than dangle. Skimming through, I see "You can be a huge beneficiary of racism even if you are not, yourself, a racist"; "The case for completely getting rid of the TSA"; and "We don't have a confirmed surgeon general right now because the NRA is blocking him". But then there's also "21 things Obamacare does that almost nobody knows about" and "This is the kind of story that actually scares me".

I took it as a bad sign, though, when he tweeted "There goes my evening" with a link to a 23,000-word Q&A with the founder of Buzzfeed.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:23 AM
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I feel annoyed at vox because I genuinely can't figure out how to read sausagely's posts even when I actively think, "hey, remember when I used to read matt's blog every day? it's no longer the case that slate has him writing solely on his weakest topic! I should maybe read that blog-whatever-thing he's doing." then I go there and I'm just: uh. seriously, slate's new-n-mproved improved (i.e. deteriorated) interface is way better than vox.

not that I thought slate was on purpose trying to make the internet worse with their blogging brief for sausagely, but I'm not saying they weren't trying to. technical aspects of only one narrow topic? that was a...just an inappropriate thing to hire him for. he was most interesting when he wrote lots of brief notes about daily news.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:39 AM
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Slate needs to bring back News Quiz. That was great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:47 AM
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4: Business professors have a methodology?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:48 AM
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I second the hating on Vox's design and layout. Ugly, ugly, ugly.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:59 AM
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17: and it's not like there's a shortage out there of people explaining exactly how VCs will fuck you and your company at this point. You'd think someone who spends as much time on Twitter as Yggles does would have run across one or two of them.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:06 AM
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4: Business professors have a methodology?

Sure!
1. Follow scent trail of prestige
2. Insert blood funnel
3. Extract money
4. Shoot ink
5. Jet off to safety


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:06 AM
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Is the "window" graphic a new thing in web design that I need to start hating? Because I hate it.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:22 AM
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20: Is the part of the government's inexplicable love of outdated versions of IE?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:32 AM
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31: the cards thing? yeah


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:37 AM
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So maybe the complaint about the cards is unfair. But I stand by the rest.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:52 AM
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Media people gotta eat and all, but of all the journalists I'm "Facebook Friends" with, the only person who doesn't pull this shit is Beyerstein, who writes consistently interesting thoughtful stuff on her FB wall. When she asks questions, she actually seems to want to get answers, and she responds to people meaningfully. If she writes something at another venue, she says it's here (link) and she'd love to hear what you think about it. But she also links other people's stuff all the time. Are my other journalist friends under some kind of asshole contract where they have to start posting like they've never heard of the article they're linking, which they personally wrote?


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:57 AM
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AWB!


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:58 AM
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Hi!


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:00 AM
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32, 33: I wasn't really defending Vox so much as commiserating.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:02 AM
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36: I'm told it was your tip that let me get to 2048. Thanks for helping me waste time efficiently.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:03 AM
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34: The only journo FB friend I have posts occasional links to his stuff but not with any kind of pretense that it's anything other than "here's what I did today."

Also good to know Beyerstein is FB active. I'll have to friend her. I loved Majikthise when it was running. For a while it was my home blog before I moved on to Pandagon and then this place.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:04 AM
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they have to start posting like they've never heard of the article they're linking, which they personally wrote?

Yessss.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:21 AM
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Vox is annoying to me mostly because its articles tend to take a magisterial, We Are The Truth tone with few if any "maybes" or "others suggest."

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Successful founders who got $5 million are thin on the ground. I can't see that's it's particularly worse to give 50 bright 20-somethings with a cool idea $100K each instead.

I've known founders to blow through $10 or $20 million a shot repeatedly and never produce much of anything, even with good ideas. Not to mention ones who "succeeded" once and never made anything useful again.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:25 AM
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I don't find SEK's method -- a topic sentence, more or less -- particularly annoying.

Andy Worthington writes a paragraph or two, on the theory, I suppose, that most people aren't going to click through. But then his mission is actually informing people, not just getting click-throughs by any means necessary.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:34 AM
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it's no longer the case that slate has him writing solely on his weakest topic

I think this is attributing way more agency to Slate than the evidence merits. At some point, he became an increasing crank about density and barbershop licensing, started reading economic textbooks, and decided our salvation would come through more vigorous global capitalism (albeit leavened with a lot more redistribution than the libertarians with otherwise exactly the same views whom he retweets). Slate just let him do what he wanted.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 9:05 AM
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19: I don't hate Vox, it just seems meh.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 9:24 AM
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TJ, I think that you have access to FB and Chrome. At least I do.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:05 AM
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I got Firefox but then they took it away. I'll def ask about Chrome. Thanks for the tip!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:09 AM
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Dunno why they took away FF (which is what I meant by FB). It is a standard option from EITSD. In fact there is a page listing extra apps that you can "install" yourself, such as FF, Chrome, Notepad+.

Hmm, if the FF loss happened recently it might have been when they did the sloppy audit & clean-up of the virtual cloud-based apps (FF is one such). One of my team lost FF and had to get help desk to restore it. (I lost access to Project and had to get that restored.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:19 AM
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Ahhh, I think that might have been what happened. Seems I recall those things happening contemporaneously.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 11:02 AM
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Ha, I just got that the title of the post a verse of "Let's Do It."


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 11:07 AM
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So neb is not an educated flea.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 11:10 AM
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Somebody could build a portal for Quartz Vox Medium so I could navigate and find stories.

Also, on mobile, a link to 'open in app you already downloaded' would be so much more useful than encountering yet another download app link after following the teaser link in my twiterfacefeed.

My ecperience supports that they're paid by download, not by pageview.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 11:17 AM
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Quartz Vox Medium

The lack of meaningful menus, categories, tags or search functionality has got to be a UX choice, rather than a technical limitation, so what's the story? I get that their readers come to their articles through shares from Facebook and Twitter, and I get that I am old, but I still don't that.

Someone please compose a requiem for getting randomly linked to a site on the web and then having a mechanism to explore it and decide whether it was bookmark worthy.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 11:48 AM
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1 minute of exploration, rather than my standard 20 seconds, shows that you can find search functionality on Medium and QZ, so Vox is the only outlier there.

QZ also has the following taxonomy for exploring its stories:

Filters:
Top News
Latest
Popular
Starred

Our Obsessions:
Glass
Design
The Next Billion
Modinomics
World Cup 2014
Future of Finance
Energy Shocks
The Sea
Mobile Web
How We Buy
Ukraine crisis
China's Transition
The Cloud
Euro Crunch
Digital Money
Debt
Borders
Space Business

Sections:
Ideas
Tech
Markets
Lifestyle


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:05 PM
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I am on team 19, although I am not a day-to-day reader, so in that sense it's probably failed based on Ezra's goals for the site.

(I was disappointed by Jill Lepore's article, tbh, even though Christensen deserves to be disrupted right in the kisser. It's not actually a valid rebuttal to his stupid theory and the stupider ways people use it that US Steel and IBM aren't out business.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:14 PM
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I adopted a policy of reading Vox when people link me to it. So far that has led to read a lot of Dara Lind (their immigration reporter, about 85% of whose articles are substantively accurate and otherwise excellent) and bits and pieces of other people (who are generally annoying and/or ignorant and/or supercilious).

much like calling the reviewer by her first name infantilizes her.

I really liked the subtly snarky copy editor who put in [brackets] the FIRST name of the guy Christensen refers to in the same interview.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:14 PM
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And I already said my piece on Vox's blatant rationale for their nonexistence commenting.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:18 PM
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Nonexistent.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:18 PM
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I took it as a bad sign, though, when he tweeted "There goes my evening" with a link to a 23,000-word Q&A with the founder of Buzzfeed.

No! You're wrong! The interviewer is Felix Salmon and it was a genuinely enjoyable read.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:19 PM
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Nonexistent commenting AND search. Bah.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:22 PM
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They still don't have search? It's been like two months since they said its "moved up on their list of priorities." Can't you just pay someone ie google to build that for you?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:24 PM
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alameida: the link below is to all of Yglesias' posts. It is slightly annoying that they're all on separate pages... right clicking spree!

http://www.vox.com/authors/matthew-yglesias


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:38 PM
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... Q&A with the founder of Buzzfeed.

Incidentally, I'm probably behind the curve, but I found this article about Upworthy quite interesting.

"It's easy to push 'Like' and increase the visibility of a friend's post about finishing a marathon or an instructional article about how to make onion soup," writes Pariser. "It's harder to push the 'Like' button on an article titled, 'Darfur sees bloodiest month in two years.' " A year later, in March 2012, he and Koechley founded Upworthy explicitly to conquer this problem.

...

But those people only care about important topics within a specific context. Upworthy's most popular posts of 2013 include heavy subjects--gender, body image, cancer--but the videos themselves are, as the site's cheery name suggests, often oriented around uplifting messages. The cancer story isn't about research funding; it's about a 17-year-old cancer patient recording an album. Their top "racial profiling" story is an alarming, advertisement-like stunt showing that an African-American kid trying to steal a bike gets dealt more skepticism than a white kid. At South By Southwest, Carr summarized criticisms of the site as, "you're not making the news more interesting, you're making the news sound more interesting." Which begs the question--is Upworthy really changing the world for better by altering what it sees?

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:40 PM
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they really, really are not. They're interested, specifically and solely, in getting in on the next google as a way to make zillions. The ROI of giving a little money to any arbitrarily stupid idea that comes along, if one of them hits and is Google (or WhatsApp) probably (maybe) makes it worthwhile. If you could convince them that whatever enterprise in Alaska had a tiny chance of getting huge, maybe they'd give you ten grand. But that's all they're interested in.

Oh, I know, and that's part of what prompted me to post 5 as a follow-up to 4. If any Silicon Valley money ends up coming into rural Alaska, it'll be from philanthropic loss-leaders like google.org (which the Google people I mentioned worked for) rather than VCs. I was just super-annoyed by the "plight of the poor VCs" tone of the Yglesias post, especially the way he framed it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:55 PM
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16: No, that's fair enough, and my phrasing wasn't very clear. If it turns out that Lepore has actually read Christensen's other books then his objections aren't fair. What I meant is that Christensen may or may not be correct when he says that Lepore's objections are addressed in his later books, but it's fair for him to say that assuming she actually hasn't read them (which seems pretty apparent to me). And maybe it's not worth the trouble to wade through them, but I think it is necessary to effectively debunk his theories.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 12:59 PM
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Definitely agree with alameida re: Yglesias (although 61 is helpful), and with all the haters re: Vox. The whole thing seems so weird. That article someone linked a while back about how they launched the site was interesting but didn't really clear up any of the confusing parts. They put a huge amount of effort into launching as fast as possible for... no particular reason? Apparently?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:02 PM
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It does seem to be optimized for sharing individual articles on social media, like Buzzfeed and the redesigned Slate, rather than the traditional blog model. Which is okay, I guess.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:03 PM
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I endorse 52.last.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:05 PM
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They put a huge amount of effort into launching as fast as possible for... no particular reason? Apparently?

In theory because they thought they would learn faster having a working, but incomplete site than they would working in private towards a more full-featured grand opening.

I don't know if it will work but, personally, I think that's a great reason. If they can actually be open to re-thinking what they're doing as they go along (which is really difficult) I do think you learn more by having a product and seeing how people respond to it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:15 PM
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Also this page offers some ability to browse, and it has a "Search" field, but it appears to only search the headlines (or, rather, the card stack titles, which is an even smaller set than the headlines) so it isn't very useful.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:19 PM
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I guess, but it seems like a crazy risky approach for a business model that's entirely based on getting people to read your site. If you make big mistakes early on you may alienate most of your potential audience faster than you can fix things, and then you're just screwed.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:19 PM
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69: Looking at that link: I doubt I'm the only one who finds "Everything you need to know" tags -- repeated endlessly there -- obnoxious. I seem to recall that line from the Wonkblog, and I was willing to forgive it, because it was in the WaPo and intended for a distracted audience, but in the Vox context it's quite a bit more annoying. Please call it a primer or background or something. There's no way on earth those card stacks contain everything you need to know, so stop saying so.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 1:35 PM
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I'm still holding out minor hope that the site is going to get a name that's not just Vox. The whole Project X thing seems silly in retrospect, if you're just going to go with the name of who funds you.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:06 PM
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I hadn't actually realized before that Vox was VC-funded. I guess the funders are hoping it'll get bought up by a bigger company? It certainly seems very unlikely to be a hugely profitable success on its own.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:23 PM
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8: It's at a demotic level to which I'm fairly shocked neb stoops. But I'm reading it as non-ironic, which might be incorrect.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:37 PM
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Wait, I thought Vox Media started out that way but was more established now. It's not? (I guess I could Google.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:38 PM
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That's how Yglesias describes in in his post about Christensen. I guess he must be referring to Vox Media overall rather than just the Vox site.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:40 PM
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The bottom of Vox Media's Who We Are page says "We Enjoy Support From Leading Investors" and lists three VC firms, so it seems like that is still their main source of funding. I don't really understand what their long-term revenue model is supposed to be.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:47 PM
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No one cares about money, it's all about facebook clicks.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:53 PM
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That certainly seems to be true of Vox itself, but surely their funders care about money. Indeed, as discussed above, VCs don't care about anything else.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 2:55 PM
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I don't really understand what their long-term revenue model is supposed to be.

Lisa: Do you have a business model?
A: How many shares of stock will it take to make this conversation go away.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 3:02 PM
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Heh.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 3:03 PM
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I've been skeptical of claims that we're in a new tech bubble, but this is making me more inclined to believe them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 3:19 PM
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UI minimalism taken to absurd lengths aside, I welcome Ezra's purported mission of explainer journalism rather than hourly updates on who is winning the day and what does it mean for, 'Is Hillary re-electable in 2020 ?'.

See also, we ask 11 questions and you will believe what we interspersed among 11 said questions: 11 answers.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 3:42 PM
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Vox Media is a bigger organization than Vox.com -- it's a number of biggish-name websites, along the Gawker model: The Verge, SB Nation, and Polygon are the notable ones to me. (Felix Salmon, mentioned above, wrote a little thing about the strength of Vox Media being its CMS that my employers all passed around interestedly.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 6:48 PM
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Yes, I know that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:02 PM
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Ah, I didn't realize which Vox you were referring to in 73. (I believe they were initially bootstrapped by, among other people, Markos of Daily Kos, but they took VC funding as they expanded outside sports blogging.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:07 PM
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Yeah, when I posted 73 I was just referring to whatever Yglesias was talking about, which wasn't totally clear but I now realize must be Vox Media rather than Vox.com.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:13 PM
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One possibility is that the whole idea of "explainer" journalism done by non-expert generalist journalists is a deeply counterproductive enterprise. That is to say, journalists were reasonably competent as generalists when they simply "reported the news," often with a particular kind of experiential knowledge that came from being the local court reporter/washington press corp; there was an obvious potential for institutional capture there, but at least it provides its own kind of expertise.

The generalist "explainer" though is just purporting to explain things that they don't actually know much of anything about; it attracts a kind of faux-certainty at which smart undergrads like Yglesias excel, but that collapses into total banality (most of Vox) or even worse affirmatively hinders actual understanding.

Two counterarguments to the above: "explain the news" did seem like a possibly useful function of blogs when they blew up in 2003-2005 or so. A lot of that was driven by how corrupt and horrible the Washington Press Corp had become by that point and so the blogs did feel like a breath of fresh air. In retrospect, though, their value was less in "explaining" and more in "pointing out that obvious lies of the Bush II administration are obviously lies." Vintage Yglesias was one of the best, and quickest, at that game, but it's not really the same thing as substantively explaining anything.

I kind of liked Wonkblog when it existed at the WaPo, but there it also seemed very different than "explainer" journalism most of the time; really, it was just Washington beat journalism but Ezra's beat was wonky mid-level Obama administration staffers. Again, it was more reporting an official spin than "explaining the news" or providing meaningful background.

I think my current bottom line is that "explaining the news" is best left to actual experts in particular subject matters, or at least people who work on 1 month rather than 15 minute deadlines, and that Vox as a proposed idea is a failure (useful for 8th grade current event book reports, though).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:19 PM
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"as a proposed idea" was supposed to be something like "the idea of Vox as proposed."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:21 PM
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I think I agree with basically everything in 88.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:23 PM
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Another interesting dynamic has been that these "explainer" sites seem to be much more successful when they're backed by the resources of major media organizations than when they go out on their own. I'm thinking of both Vox and 538, compared to Wonkblog and the Upshot. (I don't read any of these sites regularly, so maybe I'm off base about this.) It seems like to the extent that there's a role for this type of journalism it's as a niche supplement to regular newspapers rather than an independent enterprise.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:27 PM
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Isn't 538 owned by ESPN?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:29 PM
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Oh yeah, I guess it is. Well, that kind of shoots down my theory.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:31 PM
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Anyway, I kind of prefer Halford's theory that none of this stuff is useful at all.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:32 PM
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538 has been useful on soccer. I have never found myself drawn to look at Vox for anything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:35 PM
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Halford, I think the key you're leaving out of 88 is the fact that Ezra had done enough research -- or had a deep enough Rolodex that he was talking to subject-matter experts who were not blowing smoke up his ass -- to actually understand the healthcare policy issues he was writing about, and then he wrote about what he understood/was hearing. This is a huge improvement over general political beat reporting, where people often seem to adopt the pose that they are completely baffled by determining whether things are true or not. (Or simply don't bother reporting on truth value at all.) This, rather than "hire a bunch of smart Harvard liberal arts majors"*, strikes me as a defensible niche in reporting**, although it may not be enough to sustain Vox.com as a moneymaking venture; it's one of the reasons that Paul Krugman's blog is so enjoyable a read.

* Or, in the case of 538, hire a bunch of smart etc. and a climate change denialist hack.
** Certainly I can think of any number of bloggers who do this; as you say, having it attached to the house magazine of Kaplan University was the novel part.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:41 PM
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I do think a site that compiled background information provided by actual experts to explain the news could potentially be a useful resource, but it would be hugely expensive and time-consuming and would never be profitable. Also it would basically be an encyclopedia, and we already have those.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 7:44 PM
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Regarding 7, not only do I use "super" that way, I even occasionally use the phrase "super a whole lot".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:03 PM
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97: you could make it an encyclopedia that *anyone could edit*!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:03 PM
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Encyclopedias aren't so strong on current events and policy.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:06 PM
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99 to 100.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:18 PM
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96 -- I pretty much agree, but (a) I wonder in retrospect how much of what seemed great* at the time of the health care act was just Klein being captured by administration sources whom I mostly agreed with; it's not too hard to do good reporting when your sources are very good and feeding you good stories; (b) how much that was limited to the pretty unique circumstances of the health care bill, a big single complicated piece of legislation that Ezra really did take the time to learn well, but that's not really more broadly extendable to "explain the news" more broadly.

*seemed great when I read it, but truth be told at the time I tended to find wonkish details of the HCA boring so I'd click over to Wonkblog, be impressed, and then come over here to relax by fighting over bullshit.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:32 PM
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The thing I always objected to about Ezra, as much as he understood health policy, is that he'd never worked in healthcare. Sure, he could report on adoption of medical records, but he hadn't spent seven years in a hospital trying to use them or not.

I am biased, of course, but it still think the main reason that I used to have stuff to say about water is that I did actually go out in the field. So if I say "but only a handful of districts can control their water with any finesse and it is real expensive to install that capacity", I was describing what I personally had seen. I never thought Ezra had similar experience even in his chosen expertise and I also thought he didn't miss it. If I am right, he thought reading other people's synthesis got him as much as he needs.

Part of the reason I blog about water less and less is that I haven't spent enough time in the field to have new observations. I am not convinced I have more value to add. I don't see how a generalist, even a wonky one, can add that value either.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:36 PM
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I mean, Atul Gawande can write incredible articles on healthcare. But he is also a practisioner. I like a good decade of practice from someone who is going to teach me stuff.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:38 PM
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Megan,
The problem is that the general public lacks so much more than a decade of experience. They would do better with even your intercession.
Tom


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:40 PM
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i don't read generalists, I prefer generalist criticism.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:44 PM
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Maybe. Thank you. But there's a lot of argument out there based on outdated common knowledge and I may be committing the same sin. Most of my opinions were formed based on conditions a good while back and I haven't had a way to assess them recently.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:44 PM
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Megan,
Half-assed info would beat quarter-assed info,
Tom


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:47 PM
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Anyway, I never had the impression that Ezra even wanted to be embedded in a hospital for a while. He's willing to explain policy in a field that he hasn't ever worked in in any capacity.

Are nurses over/undertrained? What is a good way to improve emergency rooms? Ezra doesn't know from personal observation.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:48 PM
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I think a site that brought together explanatory journalism - defined fairly broadly and including things that might even be called history but generally excluding things that are more short-form opinion/analysis - from any source would be very useful but I don't think it would be profitable. I mostly agree with 88 that it's very hard to do that kind of work in-house with a high frequency, especially on an ad-supported maximize pageviews(?) (likes?) no-subscription model.

I guess this was my main concern back when the venture was announced* so I suppose I can't be too disappointed. Also, to have anything informed to say, I'd have to visit the site more often.

*but I'm not going to dig through old threads to look it up.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 8:51 PM
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One meets a lot of smart generalists in my line of work. It's pretty easy to fall into thinking that a short tutorial is enough to be able to get by on mostly anything.

And look, there it is on the internet, just the right length, telling me everything I'd need to know to be an expert on any subject.

But, actually, most of the few Vox pieces I've read are more or less at the level I'm already at. Although I did read about Yo, which I'd never heard of before, and can't tell you how much the additional information has enriched my life.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:05 PM
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I see Megan's point, but I'm kind of ambivalent about it. Obviously having things explained by people with many years of hands-on experience would be good, provided they're good at explaining things (hardly a universal skill!), but I think it might be better to have them out there doing the stuff rather than explaining it. Plus, no one can understand all facets of a subject through personal experience. Whatever experience someone has is specific to the situations they've been in, and may not generalize well. E.g., maybe someone with ten years working in a hospital has a very good sense of how to improve emergency rooms, but maybe that hospital's problems are unusual and the improvements wouldn't work everywhere. Obviously the more and more diverse experience you have the better you can generalize, but no one can get ten years of experience in every hospital in the US. Being able to aggregate and generalize is a useful thing, and it's not necessarily useful in the same way as personal experience.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:12 PM
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Whatever happened to yoyo?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:12 PM
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(Obviously to some extent I'm touchy about this as a generalist myself with little hands-on experience of anything. But I think my points still stand.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:13 PM
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Veering topics a bit, but I've been working in health policy for a number of years now, and I'm getting disheartened at how the safety net policy operates even in the left-of-center spheres. I'm probably closer to the ground than Ezra ever was, but there's still a lot I don't get operationally. It feels like experiences and problems tend to get filtered up the chain through people like me and at a higher level people like Ezra, and this system weights up problems that are understandable on paper and in terms of laws and regulations (like too-strict eligibility requirements), and weights down problems that have to do with the low-income lacking an effective voice (like being treated haphazardly or even contemptuously by eligibility workers) that especially come to the fore when benefits are means-tested. And so we have this dual-track safety net, an accountable one for the middle-class and a slipshod one for the poor, which continues no matter how much more Congress might listen to, say, CBPP in the future.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:40 PM
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I don't think you're going to see reporters work full-time in fields they're reporting on, but I do think it's reasonable to expect them to try to understand a subject by doing more than traditional reporting, if they're going to try to report on the subject in depth. Reports that are sourced entirely or almost entirely to things other people said in conversations with the reporter are rarely going to get beyond the surface of a topic. But observing people at work, doing background research and analysis, visiting sites involved in the story, etc. are all things I'd hope a reporter would do - and be given the support to do - if they're on a beat.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-21-14 10:42 PM
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megan--people are supposed to know what the fuck they talking about when they blog? that's just crazy talk. though, for serious, your blog was always super informative and interesting. I bet you still have lots of things to say about water management that a layperson would be interested to learn and currently knows zero about, even general topics within the field.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:28 AM
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pwned by turgid jacobian/tom.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:31 AM
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Megan is such an engineer.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:43 AM
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43: I think this [i.e. forcing saiselgy to say boring, non-informative things about the fed] is attributing way more agency to Slate than the evidence merits. At some point, he became an increasing crank about density and barbershop licensing, started reading economic textbooks, and decided our salvation would come through more vigorous global capitalism....Slate just let him do what he wanted.

I don't think so. I know a lot of people have been convinced sausagely was headed to the dark side of the force since day one (cough*emerson*cough), but I have to think it was some editor's idea to give him a terrible, narrow "beat." not that he arguably didn't like the "beat" fine qua topic! but his strength as a blogger was never as a wonk, but rather as a very smart person who was willing to write down half-formed thoughts in immediate reaction to the days events. he was really good at that! and entertaining! when his home-barbering-railing-against wasn't at the fore he talked about a really unusually varied selection of stuff, achieving solo what people mostly do (like at LGM) by batting line-up.

and, to be perfectly fair, and even though a white dude is the worst person to ride this particular hobbyhorse down the broad highway, a lot of barber shop licensing incorporates training requirements that are straight racist. within the DC city limits, does an african-american woman doing only braids need to pay a bunch of money to learn how to give white people perms? no. should there be licensing and training generally, so people don't die of septicemia? obviously. is getting extensions going to give you blood poisoning? no. would it, in fact, be much more useful to teach people about the harmful chemicals in straightener, and how to avoid giving children serious burns with a hot iron, something never covered in these courses? yeah. now, maybe at some point the feds gave the DC city council the authority to do something about this and they did while I was in narnia, so, great. but it was actually a legitimate complaint, and african immigrant women running home businesses have been shut down for not going to beautician's school, and they didn't even ever get near a pair of scissors. that's stupid, even if reason magazine also thinks it's stupid.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:50 AM
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One background thing is that the whole industry has decided that in future all stories will be, ideally, either 40 words long or 4,000. At least two national news orgs in Knifecrimea are planning for the future on that basis. And if you're doing the 4,000 word slot you need to change the whole way people see a problem, and make them understand the factors that are normally hidden. A great many of these are things which can only be learned by immersion. There really is a limit to what can be understood by smart generalists, as the Economist demonstrates every week. "Simplify and then exaggerate" is only a useful maxim if you understand what you are simplifying.

This is hard, because a great part of the skill of traditional news journalism is wrenching things out of context so they appear surprising to the ignorant and uninterested, who are the target of all ad-supported media ("Church of England abandons sin and the devil", to take a recent example).

||
Eh, oh fuck. I have some dreary work to do and some even drearier filing. So here is the final refutation of Halfordismo
|>



Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:58 AM
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Once again, alameida gets it exactly right in 120. Slate definitely hire Yggles to cover a very narrow beat, which he kind of sucked at because he's a generalist who doesn't have any specific knowledge about anything. That said, he's basically right about most of his hobbyhorses even though he only understands the issues on a superficial level. Slate's business and economics coverage has of course improved immensely since he left.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:10 AM
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should there be licensing and training generally, so people don't die of septicemia? obviously.

Not even that. Here in olde England, we have completely unregulated hairdressing, and it seems to work OK; there really aren't loads of people going round with head wounds and chemical burns all the time everywhere.

Ezra is a nice guy, but he needs to be a lot more sceptical about some of his sources. There was that horribly embarrassing episode when friends of Larry Summers managed to get to him and convince him that LS was a viable possibility for treasury secretary; everyone on finance twitter was screaming at him that he was getting played but he was all "no my sources are really senior Obama administration guys".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 3:30 AM
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Here in olde England, we have completely unregulated hairdressing, and it seems to work OK

On the other hand, there is a qualification, City and Guilds, which has the highest take up of all vocational courses, and it's pretty difficult to get hired as a hairdresser without either having it or enrolling on it toot sweet. A lot of places will ask you, "Do you mind having the trainee?", if the person isn't already certified.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 3:47 AM
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I had thought that MY was more or less clear that adopting a libertarian contrarian position was about branding. (Articulating is probably a better verb than adopting.)

I'm certainly on record re the childishness of libertarianism, but, imo, contrarianism is even worse.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 5:14 AM
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There's obviously a free market demand for contrarianism.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 5:29 AM
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There's obviously both a good case for mild regulation of the hairdressing industry and a risk that licensing could be used purely to prevent new entrants. But the real issue with MY's focus on it (and a number of other things that he obsessed about) is the this issue is basically a gigantic who gives a fuck. Hairdressing is already very cheap in the US and the barriers to entry are quite low; it may be a tiny bit marginally easier to become a barber in England and prices may be a bit cheaper (no idea, haven't checked) but even if that's true it's with maybe a fee exceptions at the level of "mildly annoying regulatory problem" rather than "important issue." It's a sign of Yglesias's poor character and generally greater interest in sounding clever than in learning anything or being right that he picked the time when it had become obvious to even moderate liberals that capitalism was completely fucking up in massive, hard to understand ways to spend his time writing about super minor examples of things that (arguably, but not really even there) fit into a neat Econ 101 framework that allowed him to toss off lazy paragraphs at a 20 paragraph a day rate. He then somehow got so into the lazy paragraph Econ 101 approach and started to apply it to bigger issues, and has now become IMO an entirely worthless asshole, which at least means that I've finally completely stopped reading him. It's a fascinatingly sad story of being a smart undergrad and the pitfalls of same, though.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:03 AM
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Let's all list what we pay for a haircut.

I pay $23, including tip, for a guy with his own shop and no other workers. Somebody told me I'm not supposed to tip in that circumstance, but I can never remember rules.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:11 AM
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I pay £5 ($7ish) and don't tip except at Christmas because cultural differences.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:15 AM
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We bought a $40 Wahl home kit several years ago and haven't gone to a barber for me or the kids since. Taking three kids for regular haircuts would be crazy expensive.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:15 AM
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$7? Maybe regulation of haircuts is killing American.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:16 AM
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I don't remember to get my hair cut often enough to remember what it costs. $25?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:18 AM
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Isn't 538 owned by ESPN?

Can we call it "The Ocho"?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:20 AM
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Last time I did go, however, I think it was $16, but you could get a coupon online for $2.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:21 AM
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$7 is very cheap. 130 is affirmativy disgusting for an adult professional man with hair, it's fine for your kids to look like shit but you have no excuse. You'll all be glad to know I pay more than twice what Moby does, but it's worth it because my hair is awesome.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:21 AM
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Never pay for online coupons.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:21 AM
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I work with scientists, you think anyone notices what I look like at work?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:25 AM
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Isn't 538 owned by ESPN?

Can we call it "The Ocho"?

How could we not? The Fivethirty Ocho


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:27 AM
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Looking it up, Supercuts costs $15 and the local cheap barber costs $12, so that's probably about the cost for a cheap men's haircut.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:31 AM
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But Supercuts UK looks like it costs 15 pounds (!), suggesting that it's either a higher end shop in the UK or that Chris Y is getting a really good deal.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:37 AM
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...but it's worth it because my hair is awesome perfect.

It's all making sense now.

$16 plus a $4 tip because it feels weird and cheap to ask for a single back from a twenty.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:38 AM
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But Supercuts UK looks like it costs 15 pounds

Probably London prices. I do get a good deal. Middle aged Italian owner manager with one part time assistant in a middling part of town. I could easily spend £15, but then they'd spray me with smelly stuff so I'd have to go straight home and shower.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:46 AM
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141: Ask for four quarters for the laundry.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:55 AM
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The last time I changed my hair style and also stopped going to Supercuts is when I described what I wanted and the person said, oh, you want a combover?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 6:56 AM
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I have only gotten one haircut in the past four years or so.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:01 AM
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Chris Y is getting a crazily good deal. I pay about £35 ($60) but I use a hairdresser, not a barber. Barber would be in the £10-20 range, depending. I used to average about £12-15 at barbers' in Oxford.

I get a better cut at the hairdressers', though, and don't have to wait. It also tends to grow out better, so I get it cut less often than at a barbers'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:07 AM
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145: Because of regulation?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:16 AM
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I pay $15 + $3 tip at a little one-chair place open maybe 20 hours a week.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:47 AM
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I doubt there are regulations on Apo's hair.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:47 AM
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Surely part of the problem with yglesias's blogging is that what he's good at is now only done on twitter and not on blogs.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:47 AM
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149: I guess maybe back when he had the mullet they might have passed a general law, but I'm pretty sure there's something in the constitution about bills of attainedhair.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:57 AM
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Dang it. "untamedhair"


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 7:58 AM
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Yglesias didn't have to take the job at Slate. He already had a perch where he could be a left-leaning generalist (a perch that also let him indulge his crank obsessions and seemed to pay pretty well). I stand by my belief that he thinks a world of Chipotles, loose money, and Scandinavian tax burdens is utopia, and he took the Slate job to learn and talk more about loose money, as well the economic practices of the firms he likes and dislikes.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 8:13 AM
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a world of Chipotles, loose money, and Scandinavian tax burdens is utopia

New mouseover. A true utopia, however, would have taxes, loose Scandinavians, and chipotle burdens.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 8:16 AM
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I'm with SP. Clippers at home. Haven't been to a barber in about five years. Last time I went, in CA, it was something like $18.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:11 AM
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Also haven't read iggles in many years. Halford's 127 is totally right. Yglesias had a refreshing "I don't give a fuck about careerism" vibe, but it turns out he just doesn't care about his job very much. Not just the perils of being a smart undergrad, but also having family money.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:16 AM
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I mean, Atul Gawande can write incredible articles on healthcare. But he is also a practisioner. I like a good decade of practice from someone who is going to teach me stuff.

Other people have responded to this, but I think it's an interesting question for both politics and journalism. Because there are all sorts of situations in which there is legitimate public interest in questions for which most people don't have relevant experience (I find myself remembering the debate in 2004 about port security -- there can't be many people who really know much about intercepting contraband on cargo ships). What do you do? I agree that there's something uniquely valuable about having an experienced practitioner who's both interested in explaining the issues and also interested in seeing those issues from the perspective of public interest, rather than parochial concerns.

But if you don't have somebody like that, I think it's appropriate to ask journalists (and politicians) to do the best that they can sorting out the competing claims, even though they often do a bad job of it. Perhaps at that point you just to have a sense of humility and a willingness to be provisional in your conclusions -- which does lead you to parsimon's irritation at, "Everything you need to know."

On the other hand, I think journalists can acquire subject matter knowledge by covering a beat for an extended period of time and I don't completely agree that vox is just hiring smart liberal arts graduates. People like Timothy Lee, Sarah Kiff, Brad Plummer, etc . . . do have subject matter expertise.

On the third hand, I want to vox to succeed, but Halfod may be correct that, "the whole idea of "explainer" journalism done by non-expert generalist journalists is a deeply counterproductive enterprise. "


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:24 AM
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much like calling the reviewer by her first name infantilizes her

Put next to his habit of referring to himself in the third person by his full name, hello charm school.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:12 AM
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Moby Hick refers to himself in the third person all the time. Mr. Hick feels it lends a certain elegance to proceedings.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:20 AM
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But then again, Moby can be a dick.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:28 AM
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160: Moby can be a dick.

Or a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl..


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:36 AM
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112: Obviously having things explained by people with many years of hands-on experience would be good, provided they're good at explaining things (hardly a universal skill!), but I think it might be better to have them out there doing the stuff rather than explaining it. Plus, no one can understand all facets of a subject through personal experience. Whatever experience someone has is specific to the situations they've been in, and may not generalize well.

This is worth emphasizing. The health care field, for example, seems fraught when it comes to (badly, wrongly) generalizing from the particular. Anecdatally, my primary care physician recently 'explained' to me that none of her patients who'd switched to Obamacare plans had had their claims, filed by her office, honored by their new plans. I expressed surprise, as I'd seen her in March and as far as I could tell, my visit had been covered by my new Obamacare plan, her office had been paid, etc. She expressed surprise in turn, and declared that well, then, I must have been the first!

I wouldn't want her reporting from the field.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:53 AM
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I was glad to read 135 because I had been agreeing way too much with Halford lately. I was beginning to worry.
As long as it's come up, should I get my haircut at the black barbershop on my block, or would that be weird and intrusive?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:13 PM
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Obviously, it'll be awkward, because me.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:14 PM
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Now that I've thought it through, the answer is obviously yes. Carry on.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:20 PM
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163: I have a serious answer! You're white, I believe: white people's hair behaves differently from black people's hair, generally speaking, and haircutters/hairdressers don't necessarily know how to handle all hair types.

White women with curly hair are, for example, sometimes cautioned to seek out hairdressers who are well-versed in (white people's) curly hair, because those who really only know straight hair are going to fuck it all up. I can tell you from experience that yeah, they may well. Back when I had bangs, I had hairdressers cut the bangs to a length down to my eyebrows -- when the hair is wet. No no no! You know what's going to happen? Those bangs, once dry, are going to curl up 1 to 2 inches and bounce around at my hairline. You have to cut the wet-hair bangs to a length at the end of my nose if you want them to come out around my eyebrows.

So I'd step in to the black barbershop and just ask them: do you do white people's hair? (or, more diplomatically, Hair like mine?)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:27 PM
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do you do white people's hair? (or, more diplomatically, Hair like mine?)

Please, please film this.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:29 PM
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Chinatown cuts anybody's hair for $4 in NYC.
Women or long hair might cost extra though.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:32 PM
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166 before seeing 165. Obviously if you just have a generic straight-hair more or less short haircut, do it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:32 PM
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Moby Hick is at a semi-professional soccer game. I saw an own-goal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:38 PM
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Chinatown cuts anybody's hair for $4 in NYC.
Women or long hair might cost extra though.

Women are people too.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:38 PM
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If Ta-Nehisi had a blog, he could tell you that barbershops are about lively socio-political discussions; hair is just the pretext.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:39 PM
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No, if Ta-Nihesi had a blog he would tell you to get your hair cut by Dominicans.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:52 PM
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The barbershop I went to as a kid had porno mags kept in huge locked steel binders, which they would bring out and present to adult men like the Torah for the men to flip through while having their hair cut. Doesn't seem likely that exists anywhere now but how common could that have been even back in the day?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:52 PM
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By the way, that barbershop is now a vegan cupcake shop that sells $8 cupcakes, further proof of the shittification of everything.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 12:57 PM
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There are two single-seat barber shops in our town just a few blocks apart, each run by a different octogenarian barber. I think both of them have Playboys among the reading material.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:01 PM
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I didn't know it was still something you could get on paper.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:04 PM
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My last haircut was a buck fifty including a massage, demonstrating the soundness of my policy of eschewing domestic barbers. A haircut is one of the most profitable import commodities possible: no duties are levied and it has negative mass.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:04 PM
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I've now seen a goal canceled on account of offsides.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:12 PM
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Maybe once those semi-snake-oil surgery robots go generic they can be used to import haircuts from remote barbers. And be covert assassination tools.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:13 PM
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I'm helplessly thinking of Dave Chappelle's hilarous barbershop skit. It seems to be about barber shops, but it's actually about white people dancing, I see.

So good.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:14 PM
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If somebody gets a red card, I'll have seen all of soccer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:15 PM
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I've cut my own hair for years. Before I started I used to generally pay in the $12-$15 range. Also, Halford, CB and ogged are totally right about Yglesias.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:19 PM
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@174,175: It seems to me that the combination porn & vegan cupcake shop niche is underdeveloped. Maybe the same VCs who are funding Vox will front you some cash.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:22 PM
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184: That seems highly implausible. I suspect it's been done in Portland, at least.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:36 PM
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Regardless of whether Yglesias is right or wrong about occupational licensing, I don't think the vast majority of what he's written about has fallen into the category of explanatory.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:44 PM
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Oh, I don't know. A lot of his Slate posts on monetary policy were explanatory in nature, and he's done posts on various other subjects where he explains an NBER report he read or something. He certainly did lots of silly, facile posts too, but I'm not sure offhand what the balance between the numbers of both types has been.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 1:50 PM
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I suspect I have a more restricted idea of what's explanatory, but also I don't think I read more than one or two things he wrote for Slate so I don't know how much of change that was from his years of mostly shorter analytical posts.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 2:06 PM
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I'm thinking mainly of stuff like this, which seems pretty explanatory to me. On the other hand, scanning his overall output does suggest that most of his stuff was more superficial.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 2:25 PM
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Eggplant, if your hair looks anything like it did a year ago, it should be no big deal to get it cut at a black barbershop as long as you're comfortable enough getting it done there. Contra parsi, white women with curls should typically be able to get their hair styled by black stylists who are comfortable with natural and biracial hair, which not all black stylists are going to be. But I'm not even talented with hair and after 7 years and 4 heads I deal with regularly, I could be competent with white people's curls. Someone who'd doing this professionally and with meaningful insight would be a million times better.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 8:43 PM
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I recall Thorn being full of hair-related suggestions last year.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 8:56 PM
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You ASKED, nosflow. And I'm still not sure what look you're going for, which is what would determine the right technique.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:05 PM
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Whichever look will bring the laydeez.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:07 PM
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I actually don't remember asking.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:07 PM
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My hair has looked the same for the last 15 years. I'm not big on change. After hearing on occasion about the social significance of barbershops in the African-American community I just had a fear that going would be a little like inviting myself to someone's house. I am a ridiculous person, I realize.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:17 PM
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One of my favorite haircuts and haircut experiences was in a small barbershop in Vermont where the person cutting my hair spent the whole time talking to a friend of hers who was just sitting on one of the seats in the waiting area and I could get by with barely saying anything and not feel like I was failing to hold up my end of the social contract.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:48 PM
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I pay $15 + $3 tip at a little one-chair place open maybe 20 hours a week.

I probably go the same place though as Bave points out, there are at least two such.

For about ten years I just put a #2 guard on the clippers and ran them over my head until nothing else was coming off, and I kind of miss it, but even then I had to pay for a haircut once in a while because it's basically impossible to do the back of your neck well and if you're hairy, eventually you look weird. Also I'm not sure all-one-length is a good look on the rounder face of my late 30s/early 40s.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 9:57 PM
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but even then I had to pay for a haircut once in a while because it's basically impossible to do the back of your neck well and if you're hairy, eventually you look weird.

I'd be thrilled if one of the self hair cutters* had a solution that works to share for this. Sometimes I do clipper my own hair, but this is basically the reason why I don't stick with it. I guess I could just ask a friend to do the neck line, but that seems like it might be weird.

*I think there should probably be a hyphen or something in there somewhere, but in this crowd, I don't want to risk the attempt.


Posted by: remy | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 10:16 PM
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I've cut my own hair for the past six years or so. It's not that hard with a bit of practice - I submit that even a hairy neck-back, which I have, can be managed by feel. There were a few learning-curve months where I often looked terrible, but I was in humanities grad school so who cares. It wasn't a cost thing for me, just fear of small talk.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 10:22 PM
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As a practical matter, the hand-mirror-reflected-in-bathroom-mirror apparatus gives you some idea of which parts of the back of your head look indecent. My standards are relaxed, though. I wouldn't cut it in a room full of copyright lawyers.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 10:26 PM
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Aha; the opposite-wall mirrors I want for pinning up my hair would also be useful to people clippering themselves. We're a larger lobby than I thought.

I cut my hair by braiding it very evenly & then snipping the end off, or preferably have my mother do it by combing it down my back & leaving the clippings for birds' nests.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 10:49 PM
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See, now this (via one of you on FB) is a much better takedown of Christensen than Lepore's, because it fights him on his own turf (management consulting) whereas Lepore was trying to fight him on hers (history).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:12 PM
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How is attacking Christensen on his motives better than attacking him on his facts? Especially if his motives are already the received ideology of the powerful. ...I suppose it's consistent with preferring journalism without subject-matter experience. But that's too close to the managerial preference for not having subject-matter expertise (as described in the article in 202).


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-22-14 11:57 PM
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I want to tie this new gentility to Minivet's critique in 115. I expect we'd be faster to fix the problems middle-class people have under many regimes, but the belief that good management is independent of industry specifics is going to be especially pernicious in unusual industries.

Annoyingly, that belief doesn't go as far as thinking that management itself can be outsourced and value-engineered. Consultants don't seem to be cheaper (by the hour).


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:07 AM
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It's not so much his motives I'd like to see attacked as the underlying principles of his theory (which admittedly the link in 202 doesn't quite get to). The problem I see with Lepore's article is that it pointed out flaws in his specific examples, to which he responded "okay, fine, but I have other examples that do support the theory" (consistent with the general methodology of business professors, namely, cherry-picked case studies). Newfield, however, clearly has read a lot of Christensen's work and is able to contextualize it within the overall discipline, which I think leads to a more convincing account of how he's wrong.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:13 AM
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Really I'd like to see an actual economist or economic historian take a hard look at Christensen's theories in the light of other research, but a quick troll through JSTOR suggests that management and business as academic disciplines live in their own world that other disciplines rarely engage with.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:46 AM
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There is no general methodology of business professors. In finance, case studies are worth nothing, for example. Accounting and marketing are pretty heavily empirical. Operations management is applied mathematics. Management is not very rigorous, so I assume Christensen is a management professor. Though Christensen is a popular success, so he's more like Niall Ferguson than he is like your run-of-the-mill management professor.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 1:04 AM
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Huh. Interesting.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 1:06 AM
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Sick insomnia is the worst insomnia.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 2:04 AM
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202 is a good read, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 2:13 AM
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sorry heebs. on the making you feel better tip, I'm about to depart on a 23-hour plane flight (the actual flight, including re-fueling in frankfurt). SORT OF DO NOT WANT BUT HOW TO GET TO AMERICA??? I usually cut my own hair but for the super-short pixie cut I gots to have someone else in the back manning the clippers, as you all say. as long as you're doing your hair long-ish (2-3 inches +) and it's wavy you can do the back fine with the hand mirror but if you're a man with a hairy neck you need either your loved one or roommate or some lady at the salon to clean that up with the clippers. WHY AM I NOT PACKED YET AAAAAAAH FUCK!!!!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 2:23 AM
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I hate the rushed packing last minute feeling, not that I avoid it very well.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 2:42 AM
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At least I didn't do the thing where you finally fall asleep ten minutes before your alarm goes off. Good morning, everyone.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:08 AM
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I slept about fifteen hours because jetlag. We need some way to transfer sleep-hours between people.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:24 AM
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I got up at 5 this morning in an attempt to start adjusting to Narnia time - feels good, actually. Leisurely breakfast, read a bit, packed, then off to work...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:35 AM
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204: I am sort of leaning the other way right now. My field seems to be run by social workers and other clinical types who got promoted but never learned anything about how to manage anyone. They seem to believe that documenting everything is the only value. And when things go wrong (even small things), you need to figure out who to blame instead of figuring out how to improve the system through better communication or whatever.


Posted by: Anonymous public sector employee | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:59 AM
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ajay, you have timed your narnian visit poorly, I must say. you only come like twice a year, right? 3x?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 4:20 AM
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you only come like twice a year, right? 3x?

Stop lording it over the rest of us about the hyperfrequency of your orgasms, will you?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 4:44 AM
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206: teofilo - within strategy & management nobody takes Christensen terribly serious. Sociologists, economists, and _even_ "not very rigorous" management researchers have been enumerating the advantages and disadvantages of big, established firms forever. There's a mix of both, of course. Sometimes big firms get tripped up by things that look simple. Sometimes they steamroller new innovators. Christensen has some mad skillz with storytelling, etc. (ala Turgid Jacobian #29). But they are not in the line of decent empirical analysis.

These guys went over the same data as Christensen (when he started) and found more experienced players were more likely to enter new hard drive segments:
http://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mnsc.48.2.171.253

And this guy found big health firms entered new medical imaging segments when they emerged:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/2989896


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 5:02 AM
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I have mixed feelings about the critique linked to in 202. On the one hand, it makes lots of assertions about why "disruptive innovation" became such a popular idea. These amount to, as Stephen Jay Gould might've put it, a lot of adaptationist just-so storytelling. ("Just so did the corporate managers get their ideology.") But I don't see a strong case being made for the explanation.

On the other hand, even if those ideas became entrenched and powerful because they serve particular interests, they could still be completely true.

(And on one finger of the first hand, the author of the post seriously under-estimates human flexibility in deriving practical consequences from general theories. You can, and people have, start from orthodox Marxism and conclude that what will be of most benefit to the proletariat in the long-run is unfettered capitalist development. If disruptive innovation is all the rage but you want to argue for workplace democracy, call that the disruptive innovation to organizational form. Sure, maybe it won't be quite as efficient as a command-and-control hierarchy at first, but in the long run, etc., etc.)


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 5:15 AM
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(consistent with the general methodology of business professors, namely, cherry-picked case studies).

See, I just don't believe that business professors get a license to cherry-pick just because they are business professors. If he is attempting to identify a causal, economic process acting over history, he needs to play by the same rules everyone else does.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 5:34 AM
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220: I had a similar reaction, but at the same time, the popularity of ideologies seems only loosely related to their truth, so it's worth examining why they get adopted.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 5:55 AM
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When a Bayesian is chasing a theory through the data with an overfit model and a spurious correlation, I assume he's not in it for the positivism.


Posted by: Professor Callahan | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 5:55 AM
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If he is attempting to identify a causal, economic process acting over history, he needs to play by the same rules everyone else does

Who is "everybody else" in this instance?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 6:28 AM
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so it's worth examining why they get adopted

Agreed, but there are a host of more self-serving ways to justify what companies want to do. "Disruption" seems to capture an amorphous anxiety of our age that is by no means limited to managers.


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 6:48 AM
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Who is "everybody else" in this instance?

You know, those objective learners in heebie's post.


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 6:49 AM
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I'm pretty sure Christensen prefers to be called Clay. I've never met him, though.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:06 AM
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225: I'm sure that's part of it, but there's also a group that views themselves as the disruptors rather than the disrupted. Christensen's work serves as a heroic myth for them.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:14 AM
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228: I don't think that's extricable. The fundamental premise is that you're going to have to be one or the other, so being a "disruptor" is a way of dealing with anxiety about being "disrupted".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:17 AM
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222: "the popularity of ideologies seems only loosely related to their truth, so it's worth examining why they get adopted."

Of course, but as time goes on, I find myself more and more skeptical of the kind of explanation put forward in that link. It's of the form "Ideology A has (or can be seen as having) effects B; effects B serve the interest of class C; class C is powerful; hence ideology A is popular." Well, maybe; but this just shows (or insinuates) motive, without attending to means and opportunity. I want these accounts to explain how the ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the epoch. Otherwise, I think we're in the realm of retrospective analogy-mongering where we can link anything to anything else.

(I suspect the fates of ideologies are much more random and meaningless than if they were being coherently selected to advance group interests. In fact I think that's true of culture generally.)


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:26 AM
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Shorter Cosma (why would I do such a thing?): any argument that could end with "connect the dots." has not itself connected the dots.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:30 AM
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Is that a dot or a period in the middle of the sentence?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:31 AM
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Arguably studying the ideologies that get adopted suffers from the same cherry-picking issue as studying companies that have succeeded to learn what makes a company successful. (googling; oh, right, it's called "survivorship bias".)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:33 AM
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232: depends if it's connectable, I guess.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:33 AM
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231: You have no idea how much that pleases me.

(But I suspect those arguments might be more rhetorically effective than ones which do connect the dots, because, by the time readers are inserting their favorite connective tissue, the conclusion will feel like their own.)


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:35 AM
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... laydeez.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:39 AM
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235.last: there's an interesting analogy with visual illusions there; fool the brain by allowing it to do what it's good at, making sense of ambiguous input.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:42 AM
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their favorite connective tissue

Does the frenulum have any legitimate competition in this or can we just go ahead and award the trophy?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:42 AM
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I want these accounts to explain how the ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the epoch.
Georgetown cocktail parties.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:44 AM
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I guess I'm not sure what needs to be explained. If an idea is popular with powerful people it is already sufficiently popular to be a ruling idea, and there are no shortage of people willing to try to increase its popularity.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:52 AM
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Who is "everybody else" in this instance?

Historians, among others.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:52 AM
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Is there someone out there that is allowed to cherry pick evidence? Novelists?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:52 AM
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People who can fund grants.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:56 AM
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Op-ed writers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:57 AM
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I want these accounts to explain how the ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the epoch.

There's this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything....


Posted by: Opinionated Miller | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:58 AM
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230: I don't want to go too far defending the argument in 202, but I do want to defend the type of argument in 202. I suppose it's a question of starting point, but I've moved in the opposite way from you. If you go too far in the direction of wanting the dots connected, I think you end up with methodological individualism, which has had as pernicious effects on social science as any warmed-over base-superstructure theory.

For example, economists have argued that money doesn't have that much influence on politics -- the amounts are too small. And yet we know from other research that legislative action lines up with the views of the rich pretty well, the middle class less well, and the poor not at all. From the point of view of individual action this is fairly mysterious, but maybe the correct unit of analysis in social science is not individual action.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:11 AM
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I am sort of leaning the other way right now. My field seems to be run by social workers and other clinical types who got promoted but never learned anything about how to manage anyone. They seem to believe that documenting everything is the only value.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess on behalf of the social workers that this is because they went into the field hoping to actually do something and then it was made clear to them every minute of every day that they were only there to document things and that the funding would all go away and their job would disappear if they didn't literally make documentation the central focus of their job. Eventually these things get internalized. p.s. they probably went into management not because they had always dreamed of it but because they were sick of making less than any other adult they knew.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:11 AM
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There goes my guess at who was Anon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:14 AM
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241: Do philosophers use a representative sample of trolley problems? No they do not.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:15 AM
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Me too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:15 AM
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What I found helpful about the piece in 202 was the part about how disruptive ideology gets applied when it's applied: particularly the stuff about how management looks for people who are competent but not strongly connected to the work of the people they're managing. The larger explanatory claims are thin.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:24 AM
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248: My field isn't run by social workers. It's run by attorneys.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:27 AM
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My field is run by somebody who decided I get an office with a window. I don't know more or care to.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:29 AM
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We are in a big open area with almost everyone in cubicles. A veal-fattening pen, as Douglas Coupland termed them, but a pretty nice one. The cubicles are enormous , but still without walls you are kind of stuck listening to everyone's phone conversations while you try to have your own.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:34 AM
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Disruption is annoying as a concept because it gives cover to things that suck.

That Vox article gave the example of Google. Google was disruptive because it was better than all of the other search machines. I am pretty sure it was better before they got any VC funding. Vox is not better than the NYT.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:35 AM
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Do philosophers use a representative sample of trolley problems?

Trolley problems were one of the first targets for the experimental philosophy movement.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:36 AM
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I'm so glad people in my field don't generally talk on the phone.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:37 AM
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I'm not going to click that link so I can believe that they set up experiments with people and working, full-sized trolleys.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:37 AM
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256 is very much not an answer to 249.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:38 AM
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257: We use the phone so rarely that my most frequent caller is those guys with the "There's nothing wrong with your account but we need to talk to you about your credit card" robo-calls. I can't make them stop. I'm getting a new number when I move offices.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:40 AM
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People call to get in the locked lab door. That's it.

I mean, people will take personal calls occasionally, but they'll generally go someplace private like the nap room, or out by the foosball table.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:41 AM
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That Vox article gave the example of Google. Google was disruptive because it was better than all of the other search machines. I am pretty sure it was better before they got any VC funding. Vox is not better than the NYT.

I'm not even sure Google was disruptive qua search engine. Sure, it took a great big chunk of market share, but it was just building on existing business trends and doing it better. Where it was arguably disruptive was in making a crapton of revenue by selling ads against search (and building out from that to being a general internet advertising leviathan). Or there's the genuinely disruptive Youtube - which Google bought rather than built in-house.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:47 AM
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Man. I just read the Lepore article. Sure seems devastating to Christensen, to me. Disagree completely that her take (history) is not an acceptable way to criticize his (management) because the things that Christensen said happened DIDN'T SEEM TO HAPPEN.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:52 AM
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I'm not even sure Google was disruptive qua search engine. Sure, it took a great big chunk of market share, but it was just building on existing business trends and doing it better.

I dunno, I mean, the pre-google search engines thought of themselves as having a very different business model (one more akin to google's current model, but anyhow) which involved search as one component of a portal that you could get people to come back to again and again. The radical simplification of search-as-a-business genuinely shook things up.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 8:56 AM
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I dunno, I mean, the pre-google search engines thought of themselves as having a very different business model (one more akin to google's current model, but anyhow) which involved search as one component of a portal that you could get people to come back to again and again. The radical simplification of search-as-a-business genuinely shook things up.

That's fair I suppose, but search-as-a-business was tiny back then. I mean, Yahoo's total net revenues, including all the portal stuff, were $200m in 1998. So it didn't take much to show how misguided that approach was. I guess I was thinking of disruption in the wider world outside of search. And, I don't know, are there material profits in search even now outside of Google? Bing is surely a loss leader for Microsoft and Duck Duck Go is more zooplankton than minnow.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:20 AM
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@265: recently I've noticed the appearance of various search engines whose main appeal seems to be that they don't track your every move, but I'm not sure what their plan to make money is.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:24 AM
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I just realized the reason cubicles work out ok here is because we have old-fashioned phones that don't have a speakerphone feature, so people can't imaginarily-or-not put their feet on their desk, think how important they are, and check voicemail on speakerphone. I love attorneys dearly but attorneys do that.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:27 AM
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Duck Duck Go had revenues(!) of $350k in 2013. To all intents and purposes, it's not making money. It's kind of hard to monetise search if your entire pitch is not collecting user data.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:31 AM
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Maybe attorneys could get some headsets and keep their hands free without spreading the noise.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:33 AM
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264 - I think it's more the simultaneous development of radically better search and AdSense; without both of them at once, I don't think Google becomes a juggernaut.

The key thing with "disruption" to me is that it's about replacements being worse (on some metrics but not others) than the products they displace. Phones are worse at being computers than computers are, but better at being always in your pocket. Minimills produce worse steel than integrated mills did, but were able to do it enormously cheaper. People then say "disrupt disrupt disrupt" about sending you quarters through the mail etc., but I think there's a useful germ of an idea in The Innovator's Dilemma that explains e.g. why Kodak was unwilling to let the industry pass them by despite inventing the digital camera: if you blow up your business model, you risk simply being wrong about what the next thing is and having no functioning company left.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:34 AM
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And obviously Christensen is a jackass who doesn't have a theory that works predictively even in hindsight. (I've been amused by people digging up interviews in which he predicted that each of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad are going to be failures, with his doomsaying about the iPhone occurring as recently as 2012.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:39 AM
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A lot of disambiguation/knowledge-graphy stuff Google has added to search showed up earlier on DuckDuckGo.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 9:41 AM
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I want these accounts to explain how the ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the epoch.

What kind of explanation would be satisfying? An analysis of meme (sorry) flow and take-up in the rich, or the summary of whose interests legislation suits as cited above, or primate studies on our tendency to go along with the beliefs of someone tall, with good teeth, who isn't stressed out, who can fire us, or what? Middlemarch? Rachel Ray?

Tweety's comment that the belief system includes "you're going to have to be one or the other" is good -- like fears of home invasion or chemtrails, it justifies a lot of bad behavior under cover of necessity. I think I read Fukuyama's Trust, but I can't remember if it said anything deeper than its subtitle ("The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity").


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 11:31 AM
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I'm sure that some day no one will have iPhones so at that point you can claim it failed. In the long run we're all failures.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 11:45 AM
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I want these accounts to explain how the ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the epoch.

That argument makes up a good chunk of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. No need to reinvent the wheel.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 11:50 AM
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and who better to quote to MBAs? Most of them even know he wrote two books.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 11:52 AM
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I want these accounts to explain how the ideas of the ruling class become the ruling ideas of the epoch.

It's not clear to me how it could be any other way. The ruling class having ideas at odds with those of the epoch seems to me a good way for them to stop ruling and start being ruled.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 11:59 AM
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I have it on good authority that the wheel was invented at least ten years before Adam Smith was born.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:03 PM
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275: So are you going to tell us or do we have to go read that now? Or were we supposed to have already read that book? I think I lost the syllabus.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:03 PM
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I swear 273.1 was my thought process when I read Cosma's comment, but when I write it it comes out like 236.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:10 PM
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Travel the world. It lets you gain experiences you can't gain at home.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 12:49 PM
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Theory of Moral Sentiments is not a `specially hard read, although I should apparently have read it more carefully and remembered it better. I kept thinking that it was an alternate Freud -- similar problems, similar evidence at his disposal; very different conclusions. The bit where he adduces ghost stories and ?belief in goblins?, quite straightforwardly, had that effect on me. This may indicate that I understand neither Smith or Freud.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 1:00 PM
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281: I am impressed by the rhetorical standard of public servants in Tubingen.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 1:02 PM
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It's known for tight lips.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 1:03 PM
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Boucoyannis on Smith and Piketty.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 2:52 PM
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279: Seriously, it's all throughout the book. To 282, yeah, TMS demonstrates a real subjective turn from Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, which is roughly the same topic but focused instead on society rather than the self. I just taught it this semester. If I have it at home with my underlinings, maybe I can find a few juicy bits. Hold on.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:14 PM
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OK, so the reason it's very difficult to excerpt is that Smith spends most of the first volume convincing the reader that one is more readily able to sympathize with joy than with sorrow. It sounds ridiculous on its face, but he gets there with these really compelling little examples all stacked on top of each other. Then in I.III.2, he asks why people desire riches and fortune. It isn't that one sleeps more soundly or eats that much better than average people. (His idea of average people is pretty comfortable.) It's because they want attention:

From whence, then, arises that emulation which runs through all the different ranks of men, and what are the advantages which we propose by that great purpose of human life which we call bettering our condition? To be observed, to be attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and approbation, are all the advantages which we can propose to derive from it. It is the vanity, not the ease, or the pleasure, which interests us. But vanity is always founded upon the belief of our being the object of attention and approbation. The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world, and that mankind are disposed to go along with him in all those agreeable emotions with which the advantages of his situation so readily inspire him.

Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:21 PM
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And more: (There is a lot of this.)

When we consider the condition of the great, in those delusive colours in which the imagination is apt to paint it. it seems to be almost the abstract idea of a perfect and happy state. It is the very state which, in all our waking dreams and idle reveries, we had sketched out to ourselves as the final object of all our desires. We feel, therefore, a peculiar sympathy with the satisfaction of those who are in it. We favour all their inclinations, and forward all their wishes. What pity, we think, that any thing should spoil and corrupt so agreeable a situation! We could even wish them immortal; and it seems hard to us, that death should at last put an end to such perfect enjoyment. It is cruel, we think, in Nature to compel them from their exalted stations to that humble, but hospitable home, which she has provided for all her children. Great King, live for ever! is the compliment, which, after the manner of eastern adulation, we should readily make them, if experience did not teach us its absurdity. Every calamity that befals them, every injury that is done them, excites in the breast of the spectator ten times more compassion and resentment than he would have felt, had the same things happened to other men. It is the misfortunes of Kings only which afford the proper subjects for tragedy. They resemble, in this respect, the misfortunes of lovers. Those two situations are the chief which interest us upon the theatre; because, in spite of all that reason and experience can tell us to the contrary, the prejudices of the imagination attach to these two states a happiness superior to any other. To disturb, or to put an end to such perfect enjoyment, seems to be the most atrocious of all injuries.

Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:23 PM
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One of my students complained on the evaluation form that I should have just lectured about the ideas in the philosophy rather than teaching the works themselves. I'm like, seriously, guys? You're English majors. Reading the actual prose is the whole point. (And come on. Smith is practically a novelist!)


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:27 PM
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I could tell a long story about a person in over her head on a big project, which was the subject of a business lunch I was at today, but I'll just cut to the punchline:

A: It's like having the captain of a ship who can't read a map!

B: Yeah, but [he/she] totally likes the really cool hat.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:37 PM
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oops


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 3:38 PM
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The alternative title was "Trinkets of Frivolous Utility." We admire the rich because their lives resemble the mechanical ease of a perfectly made trinket, as does Smith's entire system. It's pocket watches all the way down.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 4:17 PM
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290

Do startups still give out cool hats (well, baseball caps anyway)?

When I was a lad, every project had its own T-shirt and cap, bomber jackets if it was a biggie.

Ou sont les swags d'antan?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 4:59 PM
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Trinkets of Frivolous Utility

This was the name of my garage band, back in the day.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 5:57 PM
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The cubicles are enormous , but still without walls you are kind of stuck listening to everyone's phone conversations while you try to have your own.

Mother of god, for some godamn reason the victim advocates sit right next to the auto theft guys and we have those same type of cubicles. The tell each other about their boring fucking cases in these sing songy voices and holy shit there's times I'm trying to get some work done and within an hour I'm ready to start murdering some fucking people. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:18 PM
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Just don't talk about murdering people by the homicide guys' desks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:22 PM
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Those are fantastic excerpts, A-dub.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:27 PM
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296:

There's a running joke around here along the lines of "do that shit in West Valley where you won't get caught".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:30 PM
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247: Your point about people going in is mostly true, and among the clinical staff many stay much longer than they should because the state pension is good, and they have union protections.

I think it has more to do with the fact that I work for a state bureaucracy than anything else. I looked up one of the Social Worker's salaries, and she makes $77,000.00 which isn't terrible.

Private hospitals--even private psychiatric hospitals--are not run like this.


Posted by: Anonymous public sector employee | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:53 PM
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Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking. just a moooment!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:56 PM
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Back when I worked for the state mental health system, I got raises every year, union protection, and I had a card that would get me out of any psychiatric hospital in the state, no questions asked. It was nice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-23-14 7:58 PM
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292 is excellent, also AWB's excerpts.

Please consider doing a tag-team youtube video. If you feel the need to anonymize, maybe one of those action-figure animation jobs.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-14 7:36 AM
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Thanks, AWB! Great excerpts!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-14 8:03 AM
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Yeah, fair enough, hospital jobs and government jobs actually pay fine. For some reason I was rubbed very wrong by your initial posting.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-24-14 9:14 AM
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Wrong rubbers, the worst? Or the very, very worst?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-14 9:37 AM
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