This is an utterly fascinating interactive description of network effects, complete with Nicky Case style games. Play around with the parameters and suddenly you can see things “going viral”:
We can see similar things taking place in the landscape for ideas and inventions. Often the world isn’t ready for an idea, in which case it may be invented again and again without catching on. At the other extreme, the world may be fully primed for an invention (lots of latent demand), and so as soon as it’s born, it’s adopted by everyone. In-between are ideas that are invented in multiple places and spread locally, but not enough so that any individual version of the idea takes over the whole network all at once. In this latter category we find e.g. agriculture and writing, which were independently invented ~10 and ~3 times respectively.
Play around somewhere and you start to see why cities are where ideas have sex:
What I learned from the simulation above is that there are ideas and cultural practices that can take root and spread in a city that simply can’t spread out in the countryside. (Mathematically can’t.) These are the very same ideas and the very same kinds of people. It’s not that rural folks are e.g. “small-minded”; when exposed to one of these ideas, they’re exactly as likely to adopt it as someone in the city. Rather, it’s that the idea itself can’t go viral in the countryside because there aren’t as many connections along which it can spread.
This really is a wonderful web page! (and it’s licensed under a Creative Commons Zero licence)
We tend to think that if something’s a good idea, it will eventually reach everyone, and if something’s a bad idea, it will fizzle out. And while that’s certainly true at the extremes, in between are a bunch of ideas and practices that can only go viral in certain networks. I find this fascinating.
The latest explainer/game from Nicky Case is an absolutely brilliant interactive piece on small world networks.
Questions prompted by the Clearleft gathering in Norway to discuss AI.
A good range of answers for this year’s question, overlapping a bit with 2011’s What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?
Russell wrote an article for Wired magazine all about PowerPoint, but this extended director’s cut on his own site is the real deal.
Who knew that the creator of PowerPoint was such an enthusiast for the concertina?
A one-day event where participants conceptualize and create projects that have no value whatsoever.
Alan Kay’s written remarks to a Joint Hearing of the Science Committee and the Economic and Educational and Opportunites Committee in October 1995.
David Cole shares the ideas for projects he would like to develop further, but probably never will. I like this a lot (and there are some great ideas in here).
Steven Johnson describes the beautifully chaotic way that ideas collide and coalesce. Oh, and this bit…
Listening to Cerf talk about the origins of the Internet — and thinking about the book project — made me wonder who had actually come up with the original idea for a decentralized network. So that day, I tweeted out that question, and instantly got several replies. One of those Twitter replies pointed to a Wired interview from a decade ago with Paul Baran, the RAND researcher who was partially responsible for the decentralized design.
Stephen Johnson wrote a book. Frank Chimero did a doodle.
The latest project from Jonathan Harris is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to the study of contemporary culture: "We fulfill this mission by documenting, archiving, and disseminating ideas that are shaping modern thought by interviewing leading thinkers in the arts, sciences and technology from around the world."
The idea I like most from this portfolio is the heat-sensitive wallpaper with blooming flowers.
"No Ideas But In Things is a library of controls, animations, layouts, and displays that might be a source of inspiration for interaction designers. Dan Saffer is the curator. The title comes from a William Carlos Williams poem."
The PDF book of the T-shirt of the philosophy from 37 Signals. There are 4 chapters online for you to sample.