Weekend Reading

I usually queue these up in the afternoon, right before my 9yo gets out of his elementary school, which as is about 45 minutes away from Newton.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the children of Sandy Hook Elementary, and their teachers (and other staff) and parents, as well as with the first responders. (Most of our puzzled looks are directed at the people who greenlit putting traumatized kids, or their parents, on tv. And all our contempt is reserved for those who would insist that we can’t “politicize” this tragedy, as if that isn’t the most political move of all.)

On to this week’s links . . .

  • The Dunbar Number is a proposed limit on the number of people with whom you can meaningfully interact. Friend-of-ProfHacker Dave Parry asks, reasonably enough, “What is the Dunbar Number for teaching?”: That is at any one time what is the number of students I can interact with, what is the cognitive limit of the number of students I can maintain and have a consistent interaction with. I think we can all agree that the fewer the students the more time I have to spend with each, and versa visa, the more students the less time I can spend with each. But I am hypothesizing about something slightly different here. What is the educational cognitive load? What is the Dunbar number for instruction? At what point do the edges start to fray and do I lose track of the students I am interacting with over the course of a semester?
  • For those interested in my post gently introducing AppleScript, here’s John Gruber with a long look at “The Unlikely Persistence of AppleScript”: AppleScript has survived and remained relevant during a turbulent decade-long transition, despite its unbeloved language syntax and technical hurdles, for the simple reason that it solves real-world problems in a way that no other OS X technology does. In theory, AppleScript could be much better; in practice, though, it’s the best thing we have that works.
  • Andrew Goldstone and Ted Underwood answer a helpful question, “What can topic models of PMLA teach us about the history of literary scholarship?”: Topic modeling might not reveal varying “rationales” for using a word even if those rationales did vary. The strictly linguistic character of this technique is a limitation as well as a strength: it’s not designed to reveal motivation or conflict. But since our histories of criticism are already very intellectual and agonistic, foregrounding the conscious beliefs of contending critical “schools,” topic modeling may offer a useful corrective.
  • At Academic Jungle, GMP offers vignettes on collaboration: I like having my way as much as the next person, and perhaps more than most. But, more than having my way, I like having things done, and in a timely fashion
  • Anil Dash has a tremendous post up about how we’ve strayed from the core values of the web, in “The Web We Lost”: The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

In this week’s video, Stephen Colbert visits Google to talk about America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t:

Bonus video (via Lincoln): “Why Taking Breaks Will Help You Get More Work Done”

Have a great, safe weekend!

Photo “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding” by Flickr user ginnerobot / Creative Commons licensed BY-SA-2.0

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