Hail the unscalable aggregator

Something Sam Ruby wrote today gives me an opportunity to attempt a related point I’ve been meaning to make. Sam wrote:

If you are an online user of a single page aggregator, then what generally best suits you is a a short lead in with a link to the rest of the story should you be intrigued enough to follow it.

For me it’s just the opposite, actually. I like everything on one page: the less clicking I have to do, the better. The “everything on one page” style lets me quickly scan a post and decide whether to read it closely before deleting. Excepting mainstream media feeds, lead-ins usually don’t give me enough information to decide, and I wind up having to click anyway.

The likely objection here is that one’s aggregator page can get long. Hence we have the three-pane aggregators. These are supposed to help us manage large amounts of data by providing segregated views and a folder system. But in my hands, at least, this “scalability” encouraged bad habits. I wound up with thousands of undeleted messages in my various SharpReader folders. It was the worst aspects of email, all over again.

Try an aggregator that doesn’t scale. Like this one or this one. It will force you to work through the posts, and help you do it quickly. Don’t worry about stuff that you didn’t have time to read. Just delete it. Remember, it’s not email. The data will (probably) remain out there on the Web where you can get to it later if you really need to.

Phish gets it

New York Times: “Using one of 20 iMacs, concertgoers could not only surf the Web and send e-mail, they could also burn free custom CD’s from the 154 live Phish tracks that were loaded on each computer.”

The CDs weren’t really free, of course, because concertgoers had to pay $137.50 to get in. Think different.

BBC on flash mobs

BBC: “Participants were told to stare fixedly at the store’s giant animatronic dinosaur for three minutes then fall to their knees and react to its roars by moaning and cowering for another four minutes.”

Of human folly

Jerome Groopman writes in this week’s New Yorker:

The study also yielded many ancillary insights. For example, several participants experienced what doctors call the ‘‘nocebo effect”: even though these patients were in the group randomly assigned to take a chemically inert placebo, they reported suffering from side effects associated with taking Prozac, like insomnia and indigestion.

In the “placebo effect”, a subject feels better because they expect to feel better, even if no drugs are involved. It’s easy to get a kick out of this because, hey, if the person feels better that’s just great, whatever the reason. The nocebo effected subjects, by contrast, felt worse because they expected to feel worse. Not only that, they felt worse in specific ways that they’d gone out of their way to discover. Here there is also an element of human folly, but it is at once more tragic and more delicious.