Links to What Distracted Me from Working This Week

This week, I read someone talking about legal threats to bloggers linking to the New York Times. The writer made the comment that the Web is basically a giant copying machine. How true, how true.

In that spirit, links to some of the stuff I happily distracted myself with this week:

On the highbrow end, not one but two interesting pieces about online reviews. First, from the Economist, this discovery:

a handful of bad reviews, it seems, are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he says. So a small proportion of negative comments—“just enough to acknowledge that the product couldn’t be perfect”—can actually make an item more attractive to prospective buyers.

And this one: A company that researches this “shows that visitors are more reluctant to buy until a product attracts a reasonable number of reviews and picks up momentum.”

Know who does this really well? One company estimates that one little feature of reviewing on the Amazon site is worth $2.7 billion of new revenue. Wow.

On the middlebrow end, I wrote my sustainability tip this week about how green cigarettes are, based on an excellent article by Nina Shen Rastogi, a.k.a. The Green Lantern, a columnist on

Long story short, cigs are a disaster. 27 million pounds of pesticides every year in the U.S., nearly a half-million acres of forest and woodland cleared every year for tobacco farming, 84,878 tons of fine particulate matter (bad stuff!), 1.7 billion tons of cigarette butts … yuck.

message-traffic-pollution-mAlso, British project is showing the effects of traffic pollution. Using a network of wireless sensors near major roads, they collect data on carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, other pollutant levels, temperature, humidity and noise levels, as well as a count of vehicle passages. The result is a real-time “pollution map” of London, to help people choose travel routes, and government officials figure out solutions.

In lower brow fun, The New York Times has a great article about kooks who do like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, right down to the costume, and building replica chairs. The photos are priceless. I’d run one, but the New York Times is pretty ornery about that nowadays.

The UK’s Telegraph has a list of 20 the most ridiculous complaints made by travelers to their travel agent.

One of my favorites:

A tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a waterhole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel “inadequate”.

On that note, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Braniac blog, I also had to laugh at one of the funniest faux-self-help books I’ve ever seen. (Which is not for the more prudish of your friends and relations.)

And last but not least, some clever Brits did their take on what the publisher’s meeting might have been like for the Harry Potter books. Which is funny as hell if you’ve every tried to pitch a book.


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