The half life of facts

Facts have life spans, and they change in a predictable way.

That’s the big idea from the 2004 book The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date written by mathematician Samuel Arbesman. His thesis has been referenced in other books I’ve read, so I wanted to go back to the source.

Or as Arbesman wrote: “Facts have a half life and obey mathematical rules.” He also references “fact excavation.”

The idea is that this will help us navigate an in increasingly changing world. Consider different “kinds” of facts: the “facts” of the weather changes hourly, and the “fact” of the height of Mount Everest changes over years. Arbesman introduce the idea of a “mesofact” or a piece of information that is somewhere between a variable and a constant.

Below I share my notes on the matter.

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My 2019 Review

I roared into this year with a plan.

After a 2018 of mixed results, I intended 2019 to be different. In many ways it was. My company had a big Q1. I got personal time back. By the end of summer, though, a key hire that was a major part of my work strategy had their own major life change. My plans had to change. Work taxed me more than expected, and that had ripple effects in personal ways too.

Knowing what I was working toward, I was exhilarated for most of 2019. Yet I still ended the year tired and distracted by reestablishing plans I thought I already had set. This year I was reminded that leadership may start with setting a plan but it’s tested by reacting to inevitable changes to that plan. I did that. I’m at least a year wiser.

Below find both a recap of important milestones in my year, and, farther down, find a review of how I did on my 2019 Resolutions.

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Stop Lying About Your Employer Brand: Disrupt HR NYC

An employer brand should help professionals decide if your workplace is a good fit. Focus on quality, not quantity. Yet many hiring. managers purely focus on maximizing the number of applicants. It’s backward.

That was the focus of a DisruptHR presentation I gave at the NYC edition of the popular event series on May 19. I last spoke at the Philadelphia edition in 2017. Watch below.

Jury Duty

Last August, I was due for Jury Duty. As I was instructed by the form mailed to me, I called an information hotline the night before and was told that I wasn’t needed.

I breathed a little sigh of relief because, though in April 2010, I was very moved by a Common pleas judge imploring residents to take jury duty seriously (saying: “People with jobs do everything they can to get out, so who do you think is left?”), I was equally nervous about taking a day off from work and how behind that would put me.

But then I got a notice again in April for a June date. Dutifully I called again, but this time I was told to report, which I did, Friday, June 7 to the Criminal Justice Center in Center City Philadelphia.

We filled out a survey of our prejudices, watched an endlessly outdated video in a big room filled with at least a couple hundred people and were divided up into groups of 18 or so to go to various courtrooms in that building and in City Hall. In the courtroom, we were all asked followup questions to our survey and then if we felt we had reason enough to not be part of the jury, we were asked to raise our hands and speak privately with the attorneys and the judge.

We were asked specifically to not use work as an excuse — everyone has work ,we were told, but I felt running my own business was different. I didn’t have someone who could fill in for me. That wasn’t received well. Maybe because I was preceded by a surgeon, or maybe because I seemed like a pompous kid whose business wasn’t entirely understood — “is it like a newspaper or like a blog?” I was asked, but I commanded to report for duty on Monday — I read the FAQs in preparation.

I was told by a friend that reporters might legitimately be able to suggest they are impartial because they follow the news so closely, but I felt uncomfortable pushing too hard, given my feeling it was a civic duty of sorts. Given how small-time this case was, I doubt that would have be seen as serious anyway.

It was a three-day trial involving a car accident and request for monetary damages. We heard a lot of testimony, listened to the phrase”with reasonable degree of medical certainty” a lot, the court bought us pizza on the final day so we could deliberate and, in the end, we decided in favor of the defendants. The judge, who apparently had a reputation but seemed friendly enough in the courtroom, came to see us as we were leaving, thanked us and told us that, overall, he agreed with our assessment. (He thought one of the defendants deserved some blame, which I had agreed with but during conversations with my fellow jurors felt I lacked enough legal certainty to fight much). We also were paid — in Pennsylvania, you are paid $9 per day for the first three days and $27 a day afterward.

It required a lot of extra after-hours work and it was surely frustrating for my cofounder, whom I passed on a few business calls and other meetings, but I did my civic duty and now, as the judge told us, I’ve earned a three-year stay from future jury work. In that, a three-day trial seems OK, and I feel a little bit better by not lying  my way out of service.

Why don't Philadelphia police and fire departments sell merchandise?

God, I could get sick if I see someone else with an NYPD hat.

But, Hell, kudos because that is brand development and, I’d bet, some additional revenue for those departments – even if lots of copycats are out there.

I could only imagine the fear is police impersonation, but I have to believe you could limit the design and merchandise to mitigate that fear.

In a city of huge bureaucracy, this could be a department of the city’s police or fire departments that could make some money. As much as those departments are reviled by some, there are those eager to support a big city’s bravest and finest. Let’s monetize that for the city.

How, why and what should a young journalist start blogging

If you are a budding journalist, or trying to break back into the game, if you’re a writer, a poet, an editor or aspiring movie star, if you want to be on TV or on radio, why aren’t you blogging?

If only just a bit.

Newspapers are trying to establish themselves by these online rules, and some are finding much better success blogging than others. All media are finding ways to make money and find stars online.

Assuming you want to be part of both of those, you need to do something about it.

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Why losing a job can hurt men more (Philadelphia Inquirer 2/4/09)

By Christopher Wink | Feb. 4, 2009 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Thomas Schuler is a man.

Since October, he also has been without a job, a combination of characteristics that some say comes with distinct disadvantages.

That’s because unemployment affects men differently than women – research shows joblessness often is emotionally harder for men to bear. And with the economy hemorrhaging high numbers of jobs, disproportionately in male-dominated industries, those disparate emotions – shame, anger, fear, vulnerability – are on display more than ever. These feelings often find their way into other parts of a man’s life, affecting relationships with friends, wife and children.

“Historically, men have been in the breadwinner role in families, and so their sense of self is wrapped up in their ability to provide,” said Jerry Jacobs, a University of Pennsylvania sociology professor whose research focuses on labor. “So even today, when men are unemployed, that comes as a different kind of blow than to women.”

Schuler was proud when he landed his job as a facilities engineer at a struggling hotel in Plymouth Meeting. But when his position became a casualty of his company’s struggles, he suffered.

Continue reading Why losing a job can hurt men more (Philadelphia Inquirer 2/4/09)

PW: Central library expansion on hold

Artists rendering of the completed expansion of the central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The project has been long delayed.
Artist's rendering of the completed expansion of the central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The project has been long delayed.

I covered the again-stalled addition to Philadelphia’s Free Library central branch for Philadelphia Weekly, and it ran online during the weekend as part of their growing Web presence.

Think of it as the library of the future.

At more than 300 computers, graphic designers work on new projects, musicians record and bloggers and authors write and research, using the quiet of old and the wireless of new. Arching skylights vault over glass walkways, and plate–glass windows open an 8,500–square–foot foyer to light and weather patterns. A Visual and Performing Arts Department lets visitors focus on music instead of books. A Teen Center brings resources to school–aged kids courtesy of tattooed librarians, while the Entrepreneurium offers those who dream of starting a business the tools to make it happen. It’s all designed by internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, and it’s called Parkway Central—one of the premiere libraries in the nation.

It’s also, for now, a fiction… Read the rest here.

Comment and then come on back for a few items I cut from the story – see them below.

Continue reading PW: Central library expansion on hold

The Newspaper blog: salvation or suicide

Blogs will help kill newspapers.

Careful, that’s only if newspaperdotcoms continue to see blogs as competition.

Of course, anyone with interest in learning better knows blogging can be a tool to spread content further and wider than ever before.

Let me tell you how I believe newspaper blogs can help save newspapers.

Continue reading The Newspaper blog: salvation or suicide

My 10 favorite journalist bloggers

There are blogs and there are bloggers. There are mainstream blogs and there are those that aren’t.

Blogging, in my mind, isn’t necessarily, but a new transition that is one part of a test of big media. Can they develop and innovate quickly enough?

Below find my 10 favorite journalist bloggers: reporters associated with a mainstream medium who actively blog.

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