2007 Review, 2008 Preview

I launched ribbonfarm on July 4, 2007, which means it’s 6 months old as of the New Year. Here is a comprehensive review, with a full list of articles to-date, as well as selected highlights, including guesstimates of the “most popular” and “least popular” articles, and thoughts on what I am likely to write about in 2008. I hope you take this opportunity to look at some of the pieces you may have missed (especially those who came in late). I have a request — please forward this heavy-duty review post to your colleagues, friends and family, with specific recommendations on the articles you personally enjoyed. I am hoping to snare a lot of new readers with this review.

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Personal Brands, Identity and Perception Management

A friend recently made an abstract remark along the lines of “there is no reality, only perceptions, and life is about managing perceptions.” A common enough sentiment, admitting layers of interpretation depending on whether you are talking about marketing or the nature of reality. “Perception management” as a high concept has helped me, through the years, integrate a rich collection of thoughts on identity and the apparently faddish Web 2.0 idea of personal brands (commonly misunderstood as “You are Your Facebook Profile”). Perception management goes beyond individuals, but let’s stick to the simple case. Here is my current model.

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Strategy, Tactics, Operations and Doctrine: A decision-language tutorial

Note: the ideas in this post have been significantly refined and turned into a book. The treatment here is somewhat obsolete as a result, but the spirit of my revised arguments remain the same.

Suppose a job candidate walks into your office and hands you a resume. It proclaims, “strategic, systems thinker.” You wince, and almost throw her out right there, but since other parts of her resume look promising, you decide to give her a chance and proceed with the interview. Now ask yourself, how would you actually probe if there is any substance behind the candidate’s claim to strategic abilities? Here is a very good answer: ask the candidate to tell a story. Not any old story, but a relevant one, like how she views the history of development of her field. Or how she views her own personal trajectory. If you can’t figure out why this is an excellent question, read on.

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BBC Documentary Featuring Gregory Chaitin

For those of you following my series on digital physics (the first part, on the reality of the real line, and the second part on the relevance on cellular automata  have been posted), you will like this documentary on the nature of infinity by BBC. It features Gregory Chaitin, whose work I covered in the first part.

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Book-Reading Meme

Nandini tagged me to participate in a meme on books. Not exactly how I’d break down my reading tastes, but I suppose I have to be a sociable blogger. So here goes, the books in my life parsed through a dizzying array of angles:

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August-ish 2007 Roundup

Okay, so I am not clockwork regular in posting roundups, but at least it’s here. August and the first week of September saw a good deal of interesting activity on Ribbonfarm. Two minor milestones: first, I crossed 100 comments for a base of 27 articles, so that’s still nearly 4 comments per article, which makes me happy. Second, I got my first ever traffic spike from a social bookmarking site (StumbleUpon) — the piece on cartograms generated the spike (probably thanks to reader Kapsio posting a link to it at a popular data visualization site — thanks Kaps!). Anyway, here is a summary of the posts since the last update:

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Ten Years in America

According to my passport, as of August 5th, I have lived in America for 10 years. Somehow, no profound thoughts occur to me. When I try to look back, no grand ethnographic synthesis or thick description suggests itself. Perhaps all the profound observations about America have already been made by Alexis de Tocqueville and the The Simpsons.

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July 2007 Roundup

The first month of operation turned out to be pretty exciting. Ribbonfarm.com went from zero to 17 articles at a brisk average pace of just over an article every two days. The business, economics, philosophy and thinking themes saw the most development, which sort of surprised me, since I’d assumed I’d be able to develop the science and technology themes the fastest. Here is an article-by-article overview of the action, with highlights of the comments section, and for those of you prefer listening to reading, my first ever experiment with podcasting. The podcast provides an overview commentary of the first month’s activity on the site, and also has a sneak preview of upcoming action. It’s going to take me a while to learn this game, so you can have some fun sniggering at my umms, aahs and run on sentences in the meantime.

July 2007 Roundup (22 minutes, 20 MB)
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Framing the Consciousness Debates

What David Chalmers calls the “Hard Problem” of consciousness has been among the main reasons I started this blog. If you view it honestly, it is the last remaining fundamental mystery and, were I to be as extreme as Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, I would go so far as to label it the only problem worth studying (Camus said that about suicide though). I meant to segue into this topic slowly, by first posting reviews of a bunch of relevant books as anchor points for my views, but blog readers have an unsettling habit of jumping the gun, and derailing the best-laid roll-out plan with untidy comments. So here we go. I’ll frame and circumscribe my approach, state my axiomatic commitments, bluntly partition the landscape into the relevant and irrelevant, and we’ll get set for exploring the Last Great Mystery.

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