Saturday, December 31, 2011

N.Y.P.D. Leaves Offenses Unrecorded to Keep Crime Rates Down -

Institutional information irresponsibility, Law-and-Order Division:

Crime victims in New York sometimes struggle to persuade the police to write down what happened on an official report. The reasons are varied. Police officers are often busy, and few relish paperwork. But in interviews, more than half a dozen police officers, detectives and commanders also cited departmental pressure to keep crime statistics low.

N.Y.P.D. Leaves Offenses Unrecorded to Keep Crime Rates Down -

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Patients Want To Read Doctors' Notes, But Many Doctors Balk : Shots - Health Blog : NPR

Whose IV line is it anyway?

The patients overwhelming thought that open visit notes were a great idea. They said it would give them more control and be better prepared for appointments. They also said it would help them do a better job following doctors' orders. More than 37,000 patients took part in the survey, and 92 to 97 percent endorsed access. That's a lot of enthusiasm.

The doctors, however, aren't so sure. Most thought the patients would be more confused and worried if they saw their notes. The doctors also thought they'd have to work more as a result.

About one-third of the 173 doctors polled decided not to take part in the OpenNotes project. For them, the prospect of patients peering over their shoulders meant they would have to be less candid, particularly when writing about such touchy subjects as cancer, obesity, substance abuse and mental health. And unlike the doctors who signed on to the experiment, they didn't think all this hassle would make patient care better or safer.

But for now, here's a clue. In May 2009, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center started letting patients read their electronic medical records online. More than 84 percent of current patients have looked at their records. Referring physicians are using them, too. The two most common requests they make are that doctors fix something written down incorrectly, and for how best to translate medical jargon.

"As a result, they are more informed about their care plan and diagnostic results and ask smarter, more focused questions," Thomas Feeley, vice president of medical operations at M.D. Anderson, and Kenneth Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas system, wrote in an accompanying editorial in Annals. And yes, the doctors do complain about the time it takes to explain what they wrote. But all and all, they're happy with it.

Patients Want To Read Doctors' Notes, But Many Doctors Balk : Shots - Health Blog : NPR

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Scolds Around Comes Around

Hmm… An incisive column by Gail Collins got me thinking about scoldism, so I blogged about it earlier today.  Now, less than a half-day later, I encounter this piece from NPR calling Ms. Collins for excessive zeal in scolding Mitt Romney for something he did 28 years ago.  That’s eight years above the statute of limitations that Ms. Collins herself suggested for tut-tutting a public figure about an embarrassing romantic partner.

I do not share Brendan Nyhan’s opinion that strapping a dog to the roof of a car for a long trip is “inconsequential.”  And there’s an apples-and-oranges things going on here: Holding one accountable for his own decades-old actions is not equivalent to holding one accountable for the actions of a decades-old romantic partner.

Nevertheless, this blog is about information responsibility, and I am duty-bound to mention that the very columnist who got me thinking about scoldism can appear to others to be something of a scold herself.  Here is an excerpt from the NPR website:

Plenty of folks have their unshakable obsessions. Indiana Jones sought the Holy Grail. Captain Ahab pursued the Great White Whale. For New York Times columnist Gail Collins, it's her fixation on the voyages of an Irish Setter named Seamus.

"For some reason, the idea that you've got this guy who would drive all the way to Canada with an Irish setter sitting on the top of the car — it absolutely fascinated me," Collins said.

By "this guy," Collins means Mitt Romney — as in the Republican presidential candidate — and the trip is a family vacation back in 1983 when Romney put the dog in a crate tied to the top of the family station wagon and drove off.

Collins mentioned the dog so often that Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan started keeping a running tally. "She's trying to be funny — I get that. I appreciate a good campaign story as much as the next person," Nyhan said. "But I do think it's representative of the way that the media focuses on trivia, things that are so inconsequential. Mitt Romney is not running for dogcatcher — he's running for president of the United States."

Nyhan is a Democrat and blogger for the Columbia Journalism Review — and he says he's not a Romney supporter.

"The deeper problem here is the way that pundits want to put candidates on the couch and psychoanalyze them, so this is being used to illustrate some sort of deeper underlying flaw in Mitt Romney's personality," Nyhan said. "But Gail Collins is not a psychologist and I'm not sure how much this really tells us about whether he'd be a good president."

Why Is Times Columnist Gail Collins So Obsessed With Mitt Romney's Dog? : It's All Politics : NPR

Scoldism Is The New Black

I’ll declare that “Scoldism”—apparently I’ve committed a neologism with that one—is an especially pernicious and aggressive form of sanctimony. The say-anything, reveal-everything ethos of the web provides a target-rich environment for scolds.

As scoldism thrives, what will happen?  Perhaps folks will temper their online behavior.  Individuals might do that as they mature, but the web milieu will always harbor the rhetorical style known as “Too Much Information.” That’s because teenagers are a renewable resource.

Perhaps only the powerful will be able to control their information.  (Where are George W. Bush’s driving records?)

Or perhaps the world will gradually learn to forgive certain indiscretions, youthful or otherwise. The second directive of “Forgive and forget” is no longer possible, so we might need to develop the capacity to forgive anyway. Call it “Forgive and whatever.”

I’m not promoting idiocy and I’m not dismissing consequences.  Rather, I’m encouraging folks to recognize that lives have narrative arcs.  Can you remember your most foolish moment?  Is it on Facebook?

The Golden Age of Scoldism

It’s probably too late to rescue your privacy. (Some folks are trying; see the previous post.) It says here that facts about your past can and will be used cynically against you by your political enemies. This from a recent column by Gail Collins:

New unnerving development in Congress: Some senators are claiming that a woman nominated to be ambassador to El Salvador can’t have the job because they don’t like a boyfriend she lived with almost 20 years ago.

These days, it’s hard enough to get kids to understand the possible future employment consequences of appearing naked on Facebook. If they hear about this one, they’ll give up entirely.

However, who of us does not have a difficult significant other in the distant past? There has to be a statute of limitations on this sort of thing, and my vote would be for a decade, max.

The Ghost of Boyfriends Past -

Please Stop Sharing: A Tweet (Or More) Too Far -

Nice idea, but probably too little too late.

But there is only one difference between the knuckleheads of yore — me, for example — who did numerous stupid things between the onset of puberty and a late adolescence lasting to nearly 30, and those Twit-iots of the 21st century.

And that is technology. Facebook, Twitter, cell phone text messages and palm-size appliances yet to sprout from Apple’s labs allow all of us to be banal in real time.

“I’m a moron, Siri,” I can tell my new iPhone 4S robo-assistant. “Please share with everyone.”

Let the counterrevolt begin; the shying of America would be a welcome thing.

Please Stop Sharing: A Tweet (Or More) Too Far -

Monday, December 19, 2011

Anthropomorphism in names: More product loyalty and more cow’s milk

A recent article in Slate reminded me of the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize in Veterinary Medicine. 

Excerpt from Slate:

The idea of a talking machine with a human-sounding name isn’t new, of course, but Siri’s predecessors were mostly fictional. Think of the arch KITT, the silicon brain of a Pontiac Trans Am in the TV series Knight Rider; Joshua, the troubled NORAD computer in the film War Games; and most famously, the eerily calm HAL of 2001: A Space Odyssey. These were mere characters, but they also reflected a universal human impulse: When we talk to something, or when it talks to us, we want to call it by a name. Have you noticed how many drivers give names to their GPS devices?

Using a human-style name reflects our relationship with the thing being named, and shapes it, too. Indoor pets, for instance, tend to be given more human names than outdoor animals. Assigning a name to a car or other possession is both a sign of growing affection and a spur to further bonding. Around my house, I've found that it's nearly impossible to throw out any object that my kids have named. Names give objects emotional life. You say, "the iPhone" and "my iPhone," but not "the Siri." It—she—is simply Siri. The name makes the act of conversing with a metal slab feel natural. And that emotional connection seems to invite a powerful kind of consumer loyalty.

Excerpt from the website of the Annals of Improbable Research, where the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize in Veterinary Medicine is described:

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

REFERENCE: "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production," Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoos, vol. 22, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 59-69. DOI: 10.2752/175303708X390473.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Facebook: “There are no published cases of NoSQL databases operating at the scale of Facebook’s MySQL database.”

From a recent GigaOM report.  So if Facebook doesn’t need NoSQL, who does?

Callaghan was more open to using NoSQL databases, but said they’re still not quite ready for primetime, especially for mission-critical workloads such as Facebook’s user database. The implementations just aren’t as mature, he said, and there are no published cases of NoSQL databases operating at the scale of Facebook’s MySQL database. And, Callaghan noted, the HBase engineering team at Facebook is quite a bit larger than the MySQL engineering team, suggesting that tuning HBase to meet Facebook’s needs is more resource-intensive process than is tuning MySQL at this point.

Facebook shares some secrets on making MySQL scale — Cloud Computing News