Archive for March 17th, 2011

March 17, 2011



The term foobar is used as a placeholder name in computer programming. It is used to name entities such as variables, functions, and commands whose purpose is unimportant and serve only to demonstrate a concept. The words themselves have no meaning in this usage. Foobar is sometimes used alone; ‘foo,’ ‘bar,’ and ‘baz’ are sometimes used in that order, when multiple entities are needed.

The origins of the terms are not known with certainty, and several anecdotal theories have been advanced to identify them. Foobar may have derived from the military acronym FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition) and gained popularity because it is pronounced the same. In this meaning it also can derive from the German word ‘furchtbar,’ which means awful and terrible and described the circumstances of the Second World War.

March 17, 2011


group buying

Tuángòu [twangoo], which loosely translates as ‘team buying’ or ‘group buying’ (also known as store mobbing), is a recently developed shopping strategy originating in the People’s Republic of China.

Several people – sometimes friends, but possibly strangers connected over the internet – agree to approach a vendor of a specific product in order to haggle with the proprietor as a group in order to get discounts. The entire group agrees to purchase the same item. The shoppers benefit by paying less, and the business benefits by selling multiple items at once.

March 17, 2011



Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a ‘crowd’), through an open call. Jeff Howe, one of first authors to employ the term, established that the concept depends essentially on the fact that because it is an open call to an undefined group of people, it gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas.

For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task (community-based design and distributed participatory design), refine or carry out the steps of an algorithm (human-based computation), or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data (citizen science). The term has become popular with businesses, authors, and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.

March 17, 2011



Kickstarter is an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects, from indie film and music to journalism to consumer products, and food-related projects. One of a new set of fundraising platforms dubbed ‘crowdfunding,’ Kickstarter facilitates gathering monetary resources from the general public, a model which circumvents many traditional avenues of investment. It was founded in 2009 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler in Manhattan. Project owners choose a deadline and a target minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen target is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected (a provision point mechanism).

Money pledged by donors is collected using Amazon Payments, and initiating projects requires a US bank account. Kickstarter turns a profit by claiming 5% of the funds raised; Amazon takes an additional percentage (around two). Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. However, projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site.

March 17, 2011

Street Performer Protocol



The threshold pledge or fund and release system is a way of making a fundraising pledge as a group of individuals, often involving charitable goals or financing the provision of a public good. An amount of money is set as the goal or threshold to reach for the specified purpose and interested individuals will pitch in, keeping the donation in an escrow fund. When the threshold is reached, the contributions are retired from the escrow fund and a contract is formed so that the collective good is supplied.

This system is often applied to creative works, both for financing new productions and for buying out existing works; in the latter cases, it’s sometimes known as ransom publishing model or Street Performer Protocol (SPP). Sometimes contributions are refunded to the donors if the threshold amount is not reached as of some expiration date, and no contract is signed: this variation is known as an assurance contract. Contributions to an assurance contract may also be collected as pledges which are only called-in when the threshold is reached.

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March 17, 2011



Freemium is a business model that works by offering a basic product or service free of charge (such as software, web services or other) while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services. The concept was articulated by venture capitalist Fred Wilson in 2006: ‘Give your service away for free, possibly ad supported but maybe not, acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth, referral networks, organic search marketing, etc., then offer premium priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to your customer base.’

After describing the business model, Wilson asked for suggestions as to what to call it. Within a matter of hours, more than 30 name suggestions were given by his blog readers. One such suggestion came from Jarid Lukin of Alacra, one of Wilson’s portfolio companies. Lukin coined the term ‘freemium,’ and Wilson and his audience adopted it for the business model.

March 17, 2011


A paywall blocks access to a webpage with a screen requiring payment. Web sites that use them include some owned by periodical publications. In 2002 the Financial Times started charging for Web access to published stories. The Wall Street Journal has almost one million paying online readers, which generates about $65 million a year.

Utilities to circumvent paywalls are available. RefSpoof for Mozilla Firefox spoofs the referrer to Google so that multiple ‘first click free’ links can be performed. BreakthePaywall adds an option to Internet Explorer’s context menu which uses various methods (referrer and user-agent spoofing, Cookie deletion, etc.).

March 17, 2011

Charley Harper

Large Cardinal

Charley Harper (1922 – 2007) was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist. He was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations. During his career, Charley Harper illustrated numerous books, notably ‘The Golden Book of Biology,’ magazines such as ‘Ford Times,’ as well as many prints, posters, and other works.

As his subjects are mainly natural, with birds prominently featured, Charley often created works for many nature-based organizations, among them the National Park Service and the Cincinnati Zoo.

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March 17, 2011

Kazumasa Nagai

modera tone


Kazumasa Nagai (b. 1929) is a Japanese graphic artist and poster designer. He co-founded the Nippon Design Center in Tokyo in 1960.

March 17, 2011

Endurance Running Hypothesis

born to run

The endurance running hypothesis is the theory that the evolution of certain human characteristics can be explained as adaptations to long-distance running. The theory states that prior to the invention of the spear, the first projectile weapon, 200,000 years ago, ancient humans would use persistence hunting as their method of hunting animals, whereby, rather than outpacing animals, they would chase the animals over long distances until the animals would overheat.

Thus, adaptations favoring long-distance running ability would have been favored in humans. After projectile weapons were developed – in evolutionarily recent times – the importance of long-distance running became lessened but the traits remained.

March 17, 2011

Aquatic Ape

aquatic ape

The aquatic ape hypothesis (AAH), an alternative explanation of some characteristics of human evolution, theorizes that the common ancestors of modern humans spent a period of time adapting to life in a partially-aquatic environment. The theory is based on differences between humans and other great apes, and apparent similarities between humans and some aquatic mammals. First proposed in 1942 and expanded in 1960, its greatest proponent has been the writer Elaine Morgan, who has spent more than forty years discussing the AAH.

While there are theories suggesting protohumans underwent some adaptations due to interaction with water, the sort of radical specialization posited by the AAH has not been accepted within the scientific community as a valid explanation for human divergence from related primates. It has been criticized for possessing a variety of theoretical problems, for lacking evidentiary support, and for there being alternative explanations for many of the observations suggested to support the theory.

March 17, 2011

The Naked Ape

naked ape

The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal’ is a 1967 book by ethologist Desmond Morris which examines human behavior (he wrote a followup, ‘The Human Zoo,’ about urban behavior in 1969). Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, a sub-topic of zoology. Morris attempted to frame human behavior in the context of evolution, but his explanations failed to convince academics because they were based on a teleological (goal-oriented) understanding of evolution. However, the book was revolutionary for its time and has found fans among anthropologists and zoologists alike.

‘The Naked Ape’ depicts human behavior as largely evolved, to meet the challenges of prehistoric life as a hunter-gatherer. Morris made a number of claims in the book, including that not only does Homo sapiens have the largest brain of all primates but also the largest penis. He further claimed that our fleshy ear-lobes, which are unique to humans, are erogenous zones, the stimulation of which can cause orgasm in both sexes. Morris stated that the more rounded shape of human female breasts means they are mainly a sexual signalling device rather than simply for providing milk for infants.