Noise to Signal


Mommy, where do hashtags come from?

Mommy, where do hashtags come from?

You know those time-lapse videos that compress days, weeks or years into minutes? The ones with flowers budding, blooming and then withering in seconds? Or late-1990s Silicon Valley startups getting venture capital, blowing it on espresso bathtubs and Dr. Pepper fountains, and vanishing into receivership?

I think Twitter may be the same thing, except for language. In spoken English, it can take decades – even centuries – for new words to emerge, become part of common parlance, and then fade into disuse.

But on Twitter, hashtags can live that entire lifecycle in the course of a day or two. A news story breaks, and competing hashtags vie for dominance. Then a few influential folks adopt the same one. Suddenly the conversation coalesces around it, the term trends, the spammers start using it, and then the conversation peters out as we move on to the next topic.

Is that the pattern? And how closely does it map onto the ways that words and phrases earworm their way into spoken language?

Maybe some up-and-coming linguistics student is already mapping the ways hashtags rise and decay, and getting ready to publish a dissertation… in 140-character increments.

http://www.robcottingham.ca/cartoon/

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NYTimes.com: Snowpocalypse to Snowicane: Hype Reigns in Winter


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The snowmenclature smackdown among meteorologists started with ”snowmageddon” and ”snowpocalypse.” When the latest snow event — laden with flakes and whipped by heavy winds — headed for the storm-weary Northeast this week, the folks at AccuWeather Inc. warned of a coming ”snowicane.”

That did it for the more reserved National Weather Service, which accused the for-profit forecasters of overhyping to the point of inciting panic. The Weather Channel, an AccuWeather competitor, also took issue with the word.

As ”snowicane” foreshadowed impending wind-and-snow doom Wednesday on AccuWeather’s Web site, National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego said the federal forecasters were taking a more measured approach, because the storm hadn’t yet fully formed.

”It’s almost inciting the public, inciting panic,” Evanego said of AccuWeather’s terminology.

His weather service colleague, meteorologist Roy Miller in Mount Holly, N.J., put it bluntly to The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pa.

”It’s not responsible to be putting out things like this,” he said.

The newspaper called the brouhaha a ”meteorologist smackdown.”

Richard Grumm, the government service’s chief science and operations officer in State College, said science and ”getting people’s attention and entertainment” each serve a purpose.

”Scientifically, I have my own opinion of what a hurricane is,” he added. ”The word, ‘snowicane’ — I have a glossary of meteorology, it doesn’t exist.”

A key meteorological measure of a hurricane is sustained winds of at least 74 mph. As this week’s storm barreled into New England, it slung wind gusts into that range and higher — but those winds were not sustained. It therefore failed to achieve hurricane status.

It did, however, dump even more snow on a region digging out from the deepest cumulative snows ever recorded for a winter season and knocked out power to more than 1 million homes and businesses. The number of outages was cut nearly in half by midday Saturday.

Evan Myers, chief operations officer of AccuWeather, defended the choice of words but said his firm wasn’t trying to panic anyone.

”I guess you can say that we stuck our necks out on this storm. … Some people thought we were crazy, we were nuts, talking about the storm from this perspective,” Myers said Friday from the floor of AccuWeather’s high-tech operations center in State College.

”The storm performed as advertised,” Myers said, noting, among other things, the coastal flooding from Maine to eastern Long Island and heavy snows in some areas.

AccuWeather’s Web site on Saturday took up the ”snowicane” defense: ”Our concern was that the storm might be taken too lightly by the public if we stuck to the norm of calling the system a nor’easter, snowstorm, or even a blizzard.”

It cited wind gusts of 90-plus mph off the New England coast.

By another measure, barometric pressure, the storm lived up to its billing, AccuWeather said. The storm’s central pressure was as low as a category 2 hurricane, the Web site reported.

”We said it would have the characteristics of a (hurricane or tropical system), and in fact, it did,” Myers said.

Fred Carr, director of the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology, hadn’t been following the AccuWeather forecasts, but briefly reviewed one from early Thursday. AccuWeather’s forecasts were consistent with the government’s forecast models, he said. The difference was with the words used, not the forecast itself, he said.

”I’m sure no one seriously, even AccuWeather, (could) have seriously meant it to be like a hurricane,” Carr said. ”I think it was just a catchy term that would give them more publicity … of course, now I’m playing psychologist.”

Though it didn’t specifically name AccuWeather, The Weather Channel joined the fray. On its Web site, weather.com, it called invocation of the H-word an example of ”bad meteorology.”

”It’s not an apt analogy to compare this winter storm, which is really all about cold air and jet stream, with a hurricane, which is all about heat and … things of tropical origin,” said Bruce Rose, vice president and principal scientist at The Weather Channel.

Using a baseball analogy, Rose acknowledged the competitiveness among the meteorologists.

”When a guy gets a base hit, he’s kidding around with the other team’s first baseman,” he said. ”But they are still trying to beat each other’s brains out when it comes to the final score.”

——

Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in Allentown contributed to this report.

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BUFFETT’S ANNUAL LETTER TO SHAREHOLDERS


The master has spoken in his freshly released letter to shareholders and as usual, it is filled with brilliance, hypocrisy and more brilliance.  You can read the full letter here.  I will keep my personal thoughts on the letter short and sweet, but a few things stood out to me:

Buffett appears to attempt to distance himself from the notion of  “too big to fail” and implies that the firm is not dependent on the “kindness of strangers”:

“We will never become dependent on the kindness of strangers. Too-big-to-fail is not a fallback
position at Berkshire. Instead, we will always arrange our affairs so that any requirements for cash we may conceivably have will be dwarfed by our own liquidity.”

These are interesting comments now that we know Buffett in fact played a role in orchestrating the bank bailouts (see here for his letter to Hank Paulson).  Of course, Buffett had a substantial amount at stake if the banks were allowed to implode.  As Barry Ritholtz has previously shown, Buffett did indeed rely on the kindness of strangers.   He claims to have been a supplier of capital, but this was nothing more than doubling down on bad bets that he had made with the hope that the government would ultimately step in.  Of course, we all know they did.  I don’t know how he can make such comments when it is so obvious that he directly benefited from the bank bailouts and played an instrumental role in orchestrating them?   It’s disingenuous at best.

A few other things that jumped out:

  • His discussion on risk management (p. 16) should be required reading for every CEO and money manager in America.
  • He is still extraordinarily funny.
  • He sounds very optimistic about the state of the housing market.
  • He sells his company and the idea behind Berkshire better than any CEO on the planet.

For more reading please see his annual letters from the Buffett Partnership days.

http://pragcap.com/buffetts-annual-letter-to-shareholders

© 2009 pragcap.com

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INSIDER SELLING HITS NEW 2010 HIGH


The recent uptick in stocks has not been met with much enthusiasm by corporate insiders.  In fact, pessimism rules the day in the land of insider buying and selling trends.  For the week ending February 26th insiders sold a total of $1.88B in stock and purchased just $13.22MM.  Selling was up substantially from last week and buying was down substantially from last week.  The selling was the highest level experienced this year.  Interestingly, as the rally has continued insiders have actually increased their selling. Leer más “INSIDER SELLING HITS NEW 2010 HIGH”

Cloud ‘Recovery’ or Just The Same Old Thing?


Written by Guest Author

Diagram showing overview of cloud computing in...
Image via Wikipedia

This post is part of our ReadWriteCloud channel, which is dedicated to covering virtualization and cloud computing. The channel is sponsored by Intel and VMware. As you’re planning your Cloud Architecture, check out this helpful resource from our sponsors: IBM Credits Virtualization With Helping Client Contain Server Sprawl.

Cloud computing means many things, but almost all definitions include some key value propositions: scalable on-demand resources, a metered pay-per-use model, access over the Internet, and infrastructure management and optimization that is better than most data centers.

At a more conceptual level, cloud computing abstracts away all the undifferentiated IT tasks. Most businesses don’t add any value to their customers or create any competitive advantage for themselves when they buy, build, configure, and manage servers and storage. This is doubly true for disaster recovery equipment and data centers.

Conversely, poor performance in these tasks can cost value and competitive advantage. There is no benefit in doing these tasks well, but there is cost to doing them badly. This is like the opposite of a financial call option – lots of downside risk, but no upside. Leer más “Cloud ‘Recovery’ or Just The Same Old Thing?”

The $46,000 bicycle


BARRY PARK

The Factor 001.The Factor 001.

It takes a week to build and costs the best part of a decent wage, but the Factor 001 can monitor your skin temperature and determine how powerful each of your legs is.

Electronic gears, sleek carbon-fibre body, optional carbon-fibre brakes: they sound like car features but in fact they describe a very special bicycle.

British retailer Harrods is expected to soon stock the Factor 001, a super high-tech bike made by motorsport engineering company BERU f1systems.

For the equivalent of about $46,000, you get a bike that takes six engineers a week to build. There’s hydraulic brakes integrated into the frame and a Shimano Di2 electronic gear shift.

The frame is also packed with load sensors, wiring, batteries and control cables that help the bike to collect up to 100 separate bits of ergonometric data—from skin temperature to respiration rate and humidity to individual leg power output.

smh.com.au

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How to be a billionaire


SHAUN REIN, FORBES.COM

Ferrari for auction.Do billionaires have any traits in common?

Research reveals three qualities common to people who build great fortunes.

Have you dreamed of becoming a billionaire?

Based on the response I’ve gotten to my recent article Three Myths About Starting Your Own Business, many people have. They imagine having wealth like the founders of Google and Apple, so they can fly to their own chateaus on the French Riviera in a Gulfstream IV or maybe even a Boeing 737. They picture making it onto the Forbes Rich List and buying diamonds from Tiffany.

What does it take to get that rich? Are billionaires completely different from you and me? My firm, the China Market Research Group, decided to see if we could answer those questions and if there were any secrets we could learn from them. Over the last five years we interviewed secretive real estate tycoons in China who own companies through proxies for fear of being too high-profile, internet pioneers in the US who party with rock stars, multi-generational conglomerate tycoons in India and retail heirs in Europe who hit the Alps to ski. In all, we interviewed about a dozen billionaires and several dozen people worth more than $USD 100 million. We had fun doing it, too, from gambling at racetracks in Hong Kong to chomping on biscuits in Boston.

While almost everyone we interviewed said luck and timing played a role in their success, we found some other similarities in their responses, too. Most of the truly rich, perhaps surprisingly, are not that different from you and me. They have the same fears about their children and their health, and the same desires. But we did find some differences.

We narrowed those differences down to three secrets of the truly rich that most of the people we talked to said had helped them get to where they are:

The first secret of the truly rich is that they are never afraid to fail. Most of our interviewees told us that at one point they had had a choice to either stick to an easy, secure route or take a calculated risk. To reach the truly heights of wealth, some risk is needed. If you look for security in a job or are scared to try something different, you won’t get far in the pursuit of true wealth.

Even when they had failed-and every single one of them had at least once-the truly rich said they had used those experiences to learn from their mistakes and get back in the saddle. They had avoided the real failure of letting a bad experience destroy their optimism and their passion. Leer más “How to be a billionaire”