Dave Winer alerted me to the Knight News Challenge, a source of funding designed to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation. I've been thinking for a few hours now about ways a project done with Fargo might foster expression and innovation.

One of the big strengths of Fargo, in my opinion, is that it enables quick entry of organized information that can be published in an open way (i.e., via OPML and HTML). This makes it a powerful tool for scientists. Behavioral researchers like myself spend a great deal of time (1) writing and debugging experiment programs and software, (2) conducting data analyses with different statistical programs (e.g., SPSS) and programming languages (e.g., R, Python), and (3) writing and disseminating the resulting findings. To do all of these steps well (and in an open, reproducible way), good documentation is a necessity. Fortunately, like I've said, Fargo enables good documentation.

So an initial idea is to build services that strengthen Fargo as a means for academic and research documentation. Right now I am visualizing this as a "Fargo for academics," but of course, Fargo is already for academics (and programmers, poets, etc.; everybody else), so when I say "Fargo for academics," I mean that in an abstract way.

One tangible link/possibility: I have become an interested follower of the Center for Open Science (COS) stationed in Charlottesville, VA. The COS built and supports a tool called the Open Science Framework, which encourages open documentation of research and other academic collaborations. Right now the Open Science Framework uses a wiki-like system to record researcher notes. This system might be enhanced considerably by a connection to a tool like Fargo. It would be really neat to link up Fargo and the Open Science Framework for better research documentation, where you publish a note in Fargo and the OPML gets sucked up by the Open Science Framework.

So that's one fuzzy idea. Since I don't much know the folks at the COS (I do have a few connections, though), some more conversation there would be required. Since two of the six implementation objectives of COS involve strengthening infrastructure, though, I bet they'd be into it. The end goal would be to use Fargo to strengthen the internet for expression and innovation through open science -- something that'd be good for all of us.

02/27/14; 02:45:46 PM

A super neat Psychological Science paper we're reading for lab meeting next week. It makes a pretty basic claim, but one that's helpful to think about. Here it is: The likelihood we'll need a particular memory is a function of the frequency with which we've needed (or have experienced) the memory in the past. For example, I see my officemate Pooja pretty regularly, and interacting with her makes me think of her name. The chance that I'm going to need to remember her name over the next few days, then, is probably pretty high.

This has implications for forgetting. Specifically, as a function of prior exposure, it'll take me a long time to forget Pooja's name, too (in fact, that'll probably never happen, although I suppose there could be a slowdown in the rate at which I access her name when I'm 50 or something). Now on the other hand, the name of someone I've met just once or twice -- say, a sixth year PhD student when I entered graduate school -- was rarely used and likely quickly forgotten.

The overall idea here is that our memory system is adaptive (and almost Bayesian in nature): Prior experience is predictive of future demands. So when Becky says, "Andy, you never remember when I'm going out with my friends," the scientific response is, "There's very little cost associated with forgetting that information, so I don't remember it." But see, then I get in trouble, which increases the cost of forgetting. As a result, I'm a bit better at remembering when she's going out with friends.

Bottom line is -- a neat paper.

02/27/14; 12:14:15 PM

For fun this morning I opened a "pop-up" coffee shop for an hour. I'd say it was a reserved success -- I forgot one Aeropress part at home so the offerings were more limited than I would have liked. Thanks to everyone who came, and see you back next month!

Here's a photo of the menu:

02/27/14; 11:03:18 AM

Last built: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 8:39 AM

By Andy DeSoto, Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM.