Friday 5 — 2.17.2017


To this erstwhile language geek, the application of technology beyond a language lab (look it up, kids) is intriguing. Mondly aims to marry language learning with virtual reality to advance immersion learning. In order to build a successful product, identify friction-killing tactics to engage and delight your users. These lessons from Amazon points to different kinds of friction, and actions you...

Friday 5 — 2.5.2016


It’s been almost ten years since Watson beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, and in that decade artificial intelligence has continued to advance. This week for the first time a Google DeepMind program defeated a professional human player in Go. Interesting take on how this advance reflects an “artificial imagination” capability, and what this breakthrough implies for business...

Noble or lazy gas: language and perspective


Last week I was speaking to a Chinese-speaking colleague when the concept of  ‘noble gas‘ came up. Initially, translation was a problem, because it turns out the Chinese phrase is ‘lazy gas’ or  惰性气体. The difference made me wonder enough to go back and check where the English phrase came from. It was translated directly from the German ‘Edelgas,’ coined by...

Friday 5 — 11.14.2014


Beyond audience analytics and editorial review, what are some other ways to suss out how well your website content is performing? Here are seven website graders you can try today. We’re all hoping for a silver bullet for email management, but Google Inbox isn’t it. While the Material Design approach makes the app look slick, the default bundling of conversations and multiple message...

Friday 5 — 6.6.2014


LinkedIn really, really wants you to buy a premium account, and is disrupting its current paid model with a less expensive $9.99/month option. This includes new, more visual profiles, and tools to help you optimize for search. For early access, you can sign up here. Despite the growth of and improvement in speech recognition software with Siri, Dragon, et al., inferring meaning from language...

Friday 5 — 10.11.2013


How do the words we use segment us by personality, gender, and age? An open vocabulary study of over 700 million Facebook posts by 75,000 volunteers provides a range of insights into attributes associated with language use. As the word cloud shows, men use profanity and talk about xbox far more than women on the social network. Direct messaging, long the neglected stepchild of the Twitter user...

Try it: Google define


Language is always changing, but the arrival of consumer technology over the past 25 years has meant a sharp uptick in our new day-to-day jargon. Terms like modem, pager, or smartphone enter and exit the common usage with remarkable frequency. FlowingData this week pointed out how Google’s “define: <word>” feature now displays word etymology via flowchart and graphs word...

The politics of spelling


What you call things clearly matters: global warming or climate change? High fructose corn syrup or corn sugar? Terrorist or freedom fighter? The knaidel/kneydl debate after the Scripps spelling bee is a reminder of the origins and implications of agreed, canonical spelling. Dara Horn writes an illuminating NYT Op-Ed about spelling as a political statement in Jewish Identity, Spelled in Yiddish...

Why social content is extra memorable


Turns out that people can remember social content better than a CNN headline, a sentence randomly selected from a book, or even than a human face. Psychology researchers published a fascinating paper back in January that showed through a series of experiments that Facebook posts — chosen with a range of emotions and writing styles — are extraordinarily memorable. But why? A few reasons: the text...

What words reveal about online community


Research by Bryden, Funk, and Jansen looks at word usage in Twitter, and finds that communities can be characterized by their word choice. Even better, the words used by an individual can accurately predict the community that user belongs to. We all speak in our own workplace jargon and the acronym-laden tech community, myself included, is more guilty of this than most. This study reminds us that...

Recent Blog Posts