Day: July 17, 2011

Search Engines Ruin Our Memory, Make Us Smarter

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internet memory research

By now you’ve probably heard that Google and other search engines are making us think differently.Columbia University researcher Betsy Sparrow said we are remembering less information if it is readily available online, but we are remembering where we can find that information on the Internet.

This raises a debate: Does this new research mean that we are getting lazy and stupid or is the Web turning into our external memory drive?

Sparrow’s research shows that they way our memory uses the Web isn’t unlike how we would have relied on other people in the past.

“Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things,” Sparrow says in her report. “Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure the Internet has a lot more information bouncing around it than the brains of my friends, family members, and co-workers. (No offense, guys!) That is almost like being friends with the Oxford English Dictionary and a few sets of Encyclopedias. The tricky part is knowing what sources have reliable information and which ones don’t. Plenty of garbage out there is masquerading as truth or fact. If we don’t have discerning minds, we can easily think we have an answer, when we really have false information or half-truths.

I like to think that Sparrow’s findings means we are more like research librarians than lazy students: we might not know everything, but we have a pretty good idea where to find information when we need to. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be committing certain things to memory. Just because we have calculators doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to do some basic number crunching in our heads.

I think the sweet spot would be if we can harness the Net to take over mundane tasks and free more brain power for critical thinking and creativity — two things that can’t be easily supplemented by computers.

Discovered a New Band? Find Out Which Songs To Check Out First With GoRankem

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Name: GoRankem

Quick Pitch: GoRankem is a crowdsourced ratings site that helps users discover new music, complete with suggestions for which songs to listen to first.

Genius Idea: A cheat sheet for music discovery.


When checking out a new band, the first album that you listen to can have a huge effect on your opinions from there on out. You might stumble upon a musician’s best song first, allowing you to forgive any artistic oversights said musician may later fall prey to. Or, you know, you might be the victim of that Western movie-themed solo album that the bassist decided to bust out in the off-season.

GoRankem aims to help music lovers wade through the morass of tunes out there, so as to get right to the good stuff (according to fans, at least) at the get-go.

“The inspiration dates back to my high school days when I was trying to embrace a band like Widespread Panic — loved what I was hearing, but their monster catalog was just too damn overwhelming,” says founder Adam Wexler. “All I wanted was a cheat sheet so I could figure out which songs to check out in the ideal order.”

To cure this ill, Wexler launched GoRankem at Digital Music Forum East in New York City. Wexler has basically bootstrapped the project, raising a chunk of cash via Kickstarter. He has yet to try to monetize the site.

Still, we can see Wexler capitalizing on some kind of affiliate program, garnering money for albums and songs sold through the site, because GoRankem is actually pretty useful. Create an account, and start clicking around. Search for a specific artist (via its 500,000-artist catalogue courtesy of MusicBrainz) and you’ll be presented with a list of their songs (which you can order by song, album or year) that you can drag and drop in order of quality. You can rank between five and 20 songs per artist.

After rating, you give yourself a “fanstanding” — or a ranking of how big a fan you are — between one and 10. The average fanstanding of raters of a band is supposed to indicate the accuracy of the rating (although we don’t know why a “one” would bother ordering songs). You can then share your rankings via Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, there’s all kinds of game-playing aspects involved: People can “rec” your profile if they think you have good taste, and you get badges for sharing, etc. However, all those aspects seem kind of arbitrary. The simple, cool root here is that one can get crowdsourced recommendations based on specific songs. Yes, you may not agree with the verdict, but if you’re, say, a new Pulp fan and you’re looking at a giant discography, it’s good to get some guidance on where to start.

How do you find new music? Would you take the word of the crowdsourced masses?

Image courtesy of Flickr, Julia Folsom

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Breaks Box Office Records

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 not only set a box office record for midnight showings, it absolutely shattered opening day box office records.

The film grossed a jaw-dropping $92.1 million in the U.S. on Friday. That’s not only the biggest opening-day draw of all time, it’s the highest-grossing single day in U.S. box office history.

Worldwide, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is also breaking box office records. The film has already grossed more than $157.5 million internationally, breaking opening-day records in the UK and Mexico.

Box Office Mojo puts the figures in perspective:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 took in 50% more on its first day than the previous Potter film,Deathly Hallows Part 1, back in November. At the time, the $61.7 million opening day was a franchise high. With 1.5x the gross, Deathly Hallows Part 2 clearly sets the record.
  • Deathly Hallows Part 2 also outstripped past films in terms of estimated attendance.
  • When you subtract the record braking $43.5 million midnight gross from the total day figures, you’re still left with $48.6 million for the rest of the day. This, in and of itself, beats the midnight free gross for every other film, with the exception of The Dark Knight (which took in $48.7 million sans midnight totals).
  • The first day ticket receipts alone beat every other weekend opening for 2011, with the exception ofTransformers: Dark of the Moon.

 

SEE ALSO: Harry Potter and the Social Media Surge 

The eight and final Harry Potter film is expected to easily best The Dark Knight as the biggest opening weekend of all time. In 2008, The Dark Knight took in $158.4 million in its opening weekend.

Of course, a big factor in Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s boffo ticket sales are the fact that the film was released in 3D. Although 3D tickets only accounted for 45% of the box office gross (as compared to 60% for Transformers: Dark of the Moon), the number of 3D screens available is unmatched by any other new film. Moreover, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opened in 4,375 locations and on 11,000 screens.

Warner Bros. embraced social media in a big way in the promotion of Deathly Hallows Part 2. In addition to running significant campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, the studio also reached out to fan sites and created YouTube videos to promote the film.

What did you think of Deathly Hallows Part 2? Let us know in the comments.

Reaching 200 Million Accounts: Twitter’s Explosive Growth [INFOGRAPHIC]

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The 200 millionth Tweep signed up for a Twitter account, and to commemorate the occasion we bring you this infographic tracing the history of the platform that led up to that mind-boggling number.

If that 200 millionth Twitterer figure impresses you, get a load of the biggest number on this infographic: 350 billion tweets delivered each day.

Even though Twitter started out with users feeling cramped within its 140-character confines and talking about what they had for breakfast, today it’s turned into an explosive dynamo that instantly brings you news from all over the world. In fact, some have even blamed/credited it with overthrowing governments.

The service has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past five years — its official fifth birthday was in March, but it first became available to the general public in July, 2006.

And now that Jerry Seinfeld has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, it reminds us that the little tweeting platform that was once about nothing, well, now it’s about something. Something big. One thing’s for sure: It’s changed the world.MORE