[Editor's Note: Volume 2 was published on December 31st, 2007.]
This is one of my very favorite things of the year. It's my annual links roundup (2006 volume 1 & volume 2). Basically it's my chance to point to some of the amazing stuff I read this year . . . [Editor's Note: Halfway through this sentence I looked back at last years entry and realized I had written almost the same thing: "This is one of my very favorite entries to write. I get to pull all the great stuff I read all year and throw it into one post for your reading enjoyment. Hopefully this will be a fun way to fill some of that extra holiday time." . . . I'll go with that.]
Since they're top of mind, here's my favorite flash game of the year: Chain Factor. (For the record I managed to get 268,511 points, a feat I haven't come close to since.)
Network theory and power laws were a big theme for me this year, which made this Duncan Watts article on Justin Timberlake's success especially interesting. The crux of Watts' thesis is "when people tend to like what other people like, differences in popularity are subject to what is called Ã¢â‚¬Å“cumulative advantage,Ã¢â‚¬? or the Ã¢â‚¬Å“rich get richerÃ¢â‚¬? effect. This means that if one object happens to be slightly more popular than another at just the right point, it will tend to become more popular still."
I don't know much about Christianity (or religion generally really), but I found this to be a very interesting take on what Jesus would believe in were he alive today: "I believe that if Jesus lived today, he would be a secular humanist and would reject Christianity, just as he "rejected" Judaism and inspired Christianity. Christianity was once the vehicle for the boldest and most honest thinking about reality, the brotherhood of man, and the human condition. I think in light of the advances in science and our exposure to other religious traditions, it is time again to humanize further our understanding of "God" (or the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty) and come to a more universal understanding of religion."
The always brilliant Grant McCracken wrote about the importance of noticing: "Notice everything and pay attention to things that puzzle. Pay attention to things that demand your attention and then refuse your understanding. Pay attention to the failure of attention."
Sorry to be super geeky, but another power law article made the cut this year. This one comes from John Hagel and is called The Power of Power Laws. It's fairly dense and super geeky, but it's as good a peak at how this stuff works in the real world as you'll get. (If it's not obvious enough, power laws were my shape of the year. For a little more explanation, here's a presentation I gave on them which I swear I will record a voiceover for soon.)
Anyone who works in marketing has likely said they need to "own" something (as in a color or event). Well, my coworker Jared gave the idea a nice smack-down over at the Naked blog. In it he writes: "Overstock.com doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t own the letter O Ã¢â‚¬â€œ though I appreciate the way they not-so-subtly link shopping to female orgasms. Verizon doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t own the color red (nor does Target) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ though using visual cues to aid your brand is important. And despite one former clientÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dreams, their snack could never own July 4th, no matter how much they spent (budget was roughly $2 million). Because only one thing owns July 4th, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fireworks." It's something everyone who works in the industry has though about saying but hasn't had it in them to actually come out with.
This is more about an idea than an article. Wired wrote about how science should release it's "dark data", or the stuff from the experiments that weren't successful. The justification: "In this data-intensive age, those apparent dead ends could be more important than the breakthroughs. After all, some of today's most compelling research efforts aren't one-off studies that eke out statistically significant results, they're meta-studies Ã¢â‚¬â€ studies of studies Ã¢â‚¬â€ that crunch data from dozens of sources, producing results that are much more likely to be true."