Crony Connect

“Crony Connect allows you to identify politically-connected individuals, using data from Companies House, the Electoral Commission and the MP’s Register of Financial Interests.

How does it work? When you enter the name of an individual, Crony Connect looks for any companies linked to that individual in the Companies House database. Then it searches for the individual and any of their associated companies in the donations and financial interests databases.”

Crony Connect

I tried Michael Gove, 1967 and August and it had two entries. One indicated he was affiliated with the Henry Jackson Society, which probably doesn’t add much to what you might know of his politics. But, it’s interesting none-the-less.

I like how projects like these try to make information more accessible and present it in different ways. It also shows the problems in how information is organized. For example, Michael Gove should have one authority record, and all variants should point to the authority record, rather than multiple listings based on whether his middle name is included or not.

Crony Connect reminded me of TheyRule.net, which was a Flash site from 2001 that described itself in this way:

“They Rule is a website that allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top 100 companies in the US in 2001. The data is static, so it is fast becoming out of date, as companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.”

But, the site provided a visual representation of interlocking corporate boards that showed how information and power is shared in a visual way. I found it fascinating. But, it also shows how quickly this information changes, so there needs to be a dynamic way to generate and present this information that makes these kinds of relationships clear. Because it is when they are not clear that corruption flourishes.

Crony Connect is an interesting attempt along these lines. I found the search mechanism, particularly the need to include birth year and month, a bad user experience. But, I liked the spirit of the thing.

Calling Bullshit

“Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:

* Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.

* Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.

* Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.

* Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

* Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.”

Calling Bullshit Syllabus

Decide to K.I.S.S.

“…irrelevant information or unavailable options often cause people to make bad choices. When both elements are present, the probability of a poor decision is even greater.”

—Chadd, I., Filiz-Ozbay, E. & Ozbay, E.Y. “The relevance of irrelevant information.” Experimental Economics. November 11, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10683-020-09687-3

Determining what is possible and the relevant information between choices is key to good decision-making. It’s obvious, but at the same time, it’s something worth keeping in the forefront of our minds when making decisions.

The Syllabus

“By combining algorithms and human curation, we salvage the most thoughtful intellectual output from the ever-mounting great pile of information — most of which is simply rubbish.

The result? An eclectic selection of the best new academic articles, essays, talks, podcasts, books, lectures, and more, produced for you, once a week.

Led by technology critic Evgeny Morozov, The Syllabus method combines algorithmic filtering, categorisation and systematic human curation – across six languages – to power our various syllabi.

https://www.the-syllabus.com/

Importing Excellence

“If you want to know what it is that your own country produces that is genuinely excellent, look for what the most obsessively discerning residents of London and Tokyo choose to import. Look for the choices of the otaku, the fanatic of pure information.”

—William Gibson in the introduction to Paul Smith, “You Can Find Inspiration in Everything.” London: Violette Editions, 2002.

Russell Conjugation

“Sentence 1: I am firm.

Sentence 2: You are obstinate.

Sentence 3: He/She/It is pigheaded.

-Bertrand Russell, quoted in David Perell, “News in the Age of Abundance.” Perell.com. February 4, 2020.

“Most people will have a positive emotion to the first sentence, a mild reaction to the second, and a negative reaction to the third. Likewise, writers can vary the meaning of their words by changing the length or structure of their sentences. Once their words are set in print, they can enhance their messaging with images that manipulate the reader’s emotions.”

ibid.

Many if not most people form their opinions based solely on whatever [Emotive] Conjugation is presented to them and not on the underlying facts.

Most words and phrases are actually defined not by a single dictionary description, but rather two distinct attributes:

 1. The factual content of the word or phrase.

2. The emotional content of the construction.

-Eric Weinstein, ibid.

The Three Main Forces Shaping the World: Demographics, Inequality, and Access to Information

“The greatest innovation of the last generation has been the destruction of information barriers that used to keep strangers isolated from one another…

…What’s happened over the last 20 years – and especially the last 10 – has no historical precedent. The telephone eliminated the information gap between you and a distant relative, but the internet has closed the gap between you and literally every stranger in the world.”

—Morgan Housel, “Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World.” CollaborativeFund.com. October 4, 2019.

Obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious and looking at data and likely implications is a useful exercise.

Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online | WIRED

“On [Archive of Our Own, a.k.a.] AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling.”

—Samantha Puc, “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online.” Wired. June 11, 2019.

There’s been lots of discussion of the significance of AO3’s Hugo Award for Best Related Work.

Modest proposal? Use this process on new terms entered in the search box of a library’s online catalog to surface subject headings for users. It’s a logical extension of the catalogers work.

Trump and Brexit Proved This Book Prophetic — What Calamity Will Befall Us Next?

“Fifty years ago, society was organized according to the industrial model. People were passive recipients of information. It was a top-down system with limited choices or diversity. You could buy two or three different types of cars and get your information from two or three different television channels and newspapers. This system produced a relatively uniform “mass audience” that was suitable for the needs of industrial society.

What we have seen since is a complete breakdown of that system. The loss of control over information has resulted in the breakdown of the mass audience and many of the old ideologies. In its place has emerged a more ideologically diverse and fractious public. The public, which is not necessarily synonymous with ‘the people’ or ‘the masses,’ can come from any corner of the political environment today. It is not a fixed body of individuals and lacks an organization, leaders, shared programs, policies, or a coherent ideology. The public is characterized by negation: It is united in being ferociously against the established order.”

—Martin Gurri in interview with Murtaza Hessian, “Trump and Brexit Proved This Book Prophetic — What Calamity Will Befall Us Next?The Intercept. March 3, 2019.