a simple solution for america's educational failings

The reddit community is aghast at what co-host Sherri Shepherd of The View said when asked if the world was flat.
"…I Don’t know."
She "never thought about it," but she has in fact thought about "how I’m going to feed my child."

As a twenty-four year old without children, I have the time to ponder the shape of our world. She doesn't. I consider being able to feed just myself an accomplishment.

What's more frustrating is that Whoopi keeps wasting her time probing about the shape of the Earth. The ladies of The View could have been using that time to discuss the nuances of string theory (Elizabeth Hasselbeck is a huge Brian Green fan).

Besides, so-called "intellectuals" like Thomas Friedman have only muddied the waters. His very popular (and evidently very misleading) book, The World is Flat, probably caught Mrs. Shepherd's eye.

Just whose side are you on, Mr. Friedman? It's time you were held accountable, but that's for another day.

Now, before we go burning Mrs. Shepherd at the stake (that's what scientists are for) we should consider the broader implications of her comments. It reveals the failings of our education system. Juxtapose Mrs. Shepherd's comments with those of Ms. South Carolina:

"[...]some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future."
Not only do Americans not have maps. Those that do can't use them. Worse, they think the Earth really looks like that (flat and all squished out -- c'mon, Greenland looks frigging huge!).
My solution? Globes in every classroom!

kudos to dan kennedy

Leave it to a blog on the Guardian's comment is free to be the first "mainstream media" report I've seen to make the proper distinction between "social news" sites (like reddit) and "social bookmarking" sites (like del.icio.us)*. Hurrah!

Dan Kennedy's recent piece, From the Daily Me to the Daily We, certainly makes a nice plug for NewsTrust (I'm evidently woefully out of touch, as I hadn't heard of them before) but it also addresses the nagging issue I've had with the PEJ report and have already blogged about too many times.
The study examined Digg, Reddit, and Del.icio.us, each of which operates somewhat differently. Digg and Reddit let users vote up or down on stories submitted by users. Del.icio.us is a social-bookmarking site: the more people who bookmark a particular site, the higher it rises in the rankings.
Now, if only we could get this explained on TechCrunch -- then everyone would be saying it.

There was another heartening quote in this piece, that came from the PEJ director himself, Tom Rosensteil: "I think that to some extent websites like Digg and Reddit represent something really meaningful."

Dan & Tom, I'd like to send you reddit shirts. Hopefully this will be more successful than my attempt to clothe Andrew "[reddit] is particularly inane and dangerous" Keen.

*Bored readers will be interested to know that I nearly ran out of quotation marks in this sentence.

pink shirt solidarity

Having been both a bully and bullied growing up (more of the latter, really) it felt great to read this story from a Canadian high school. Given the response not only on reddit, but from the greater online community, I think a lot of folks were impressed by David Shepherd and Travis Price.

The alien even decided to wear its pink shirt all weekend long.

I contacted the journalist, Ian Fairclough, to applaud him for reporting the story and ask that he pass along the collective congrats of the reddit community to those two high schoolers (see, even a cynic like me appreciates a feel-good news story every now and then). According to Fairclough, the article was a major traffic success compared to what Nova Scotia's Chronicle Herald usually gets.

To think, it's likely I'd never have seen it if it weren't for a bunch of redditors. </grouphug>

Anyway, we've sold out of most of our merch, so with our new shipment will come the long-awaited pink reddit shirt. Really, we've gotten a lot of requests from this in the past and the first two shirts are going to be sent to Shepherd and Price.

Shameless marketing plug? Or genuine show of appreciation? You decide!

a kind offer from a tardy vc

With all the buzz about TechCrunch40 -- both self-aggrandizing and critical -- the timing of this email couldn't have been better. Steve and I had a phone conversation with this unnamed VC firm well over a year ago; just yesterday, Steve got this friendly follow-up:

My name is UNNAMED VC ANALYST, and I am an analyst at UNNAMED VC FIRM. I was hoping to touch base and reintroduce you to US, as I believe you spoke to a couple of my colleagues, VC #1 and VC #2, a few months ago. As investors in a variety of internet companies, WE HAVE a tremendous amount of expertise and depth in the software, e-commerce and infrastructure space. Reddit has recently been getting quite a bit of exposure and traffic, and I would love to discuss your growth and plans for the future. WE ARE a $3 billion venture capital/private equity firm, and we focus exclusively on internet, software and software-enabled service companies. If you would like, you can take a look at our website, www.blah.com, for further reference. Some of our portfolio
companies include ...

Again, I would like to speak to you more about Reddit, as well as reintroduce you to US and our unique advantages. Please let me know when you are free to speak this week. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Maybe we should get back to him and "do lunch"...

i scratched my blackberry :-(

Some of you may scoff, but I love my BlackBerry 7130c -- I love it so much I've dropped and scratched the hell out of it for the last year and a half. Although I don't have any children, I suspect this is the same way a doting parents show their love.

But no matter how hard I try, it just won't break. Those Canadians are crafty.

How am I supposed to appreciate this phone if I can't buy a new one every three months?

(Yes, this is news.)

threat level rising

Run! Hide! Threat Level has hit a new high -- the blog, not the frivolous approval rating adjuster pictured to the left. This Wired blog (admittedly one of my favorites) hit 1 million pageviews last month. And deservedly so. It's a damn fine blog.

I also happen to be a friend of Ryan Singel (full disclosure is how I roll), so don't take my biased word for it. Read the blog for yourself.

If for some reason your AdBlock isn't on, you've likely noticed the house ads we run on reddit as we ramp up with advertisers. As a fan of variety, I wanted to design a house ad for Threat Level. The idea struck me as I was getting on the B train one night, fortunately I had my trusty notebook handy to jot it down.

Despite how easy it is to get all the parts you'd need for an LED Mooninite, things appear to have calmed down in our old town. Or maybe the Boston bomb squad got the memo about Mooninites and LEDs. Either way, I suspect this ad helped a few folks keep up with privacy, security, and crime online. And that's a good thing.

mr. yuck, meet mr. chuck


After my condemnation of the anti-teddy bear warning sticker on my paper shredder, a number of concerned parents emailed me for help. They had read my suggestion for a more effective warning label and wanted to see it created.

So in the style of the classic, yet fear-inducing "Mr. Yuck" (he never did marry), I brought Mr. Chuck to life. Some people have already gone so far as to call my contribution heroic, given the number of adorable kid fingers it will likely save.

I don't think of myself as a hero; I'm just a designer doing his job.

No word yet on when these will go into mass production.

aliens encounter

When we left our intrepid mascot, its deportation rocketship had crash landed on a distant moon.

The lone survivor, our deportee assess the alien landscape and takes a moment to regain composure.
Some of you (the nerdier ones) probably deduced the location of our mascot from my clues. The rest of you should just be thankful you're not this obsessed with the Aliens series.
Having spent the last two years just standing around, reading reddit, our pudgy alien is no match for these drones. It's captured alive and brought to the queen's lair.
The United States Colonial Marines save the day, pulse rifles blazing.
Growing up, I was really addicted to this sci-fi universe. Can you tell? I even read the Dark Horse novels -- and studied this. If you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a M56 Smart Gunner (who wouldn't?).
Thanks to the USCM heroics, our mascot is safe. Or is it...

Find out Monday. For now, just admire the alien's pink shirt. We hate bullies.

reddit is a special site, our users know this

And not "special" in the euphemistic way.

I've never been so happy to be bumped off a flight. Waiting in LAX with some spare time and my beloved evdo card, I hopped onto reddit and was so pleased with what I found. Earlier today, pragma submitted a self post that directed redditors to keep the link at #25 on the front (hot) page. I know of no other sites that function like reddit in this regard -- stories are alway rising and falling on our front page, most never even make it to #1, or even the top five.

Go ahead, load reddit. Ten minutes later, hit reload and watch things shuffle around; perform this vigorously throughout the day, our advertisers will love it.

I suppose Steve and I benefited from our ignorance of the competition when we started reddit. We just did what made sense. The first time Steve pointed me to the site on our dev server, he had to explain to me just how the hotness algorithm worked. It involved basic arithmetic, so all I remember is what we'd agreed upon -- stories needed to rise and fall. What we simply thought was a better user experience turned out to be pretty unique.

I guessed it helped that we didn't know about any of our competition until a month after we launched.

The model you'll find everywhere else is easy to explain: once a new link gets X votes (say, 50) it jumps to #1 on the front page and will enjoy a hearty dose of traffic. The next new story to get X votes becomes the new #1 and the old one drops down to #2. It's like any blog, only those first X users are selecting the next story.

On reddit, links have to work their way up to the #1 spot, fighting their way up against down votes and time (yes, hotness involves time - stories that aren't getting votes up are always cooling off). If as a result of this neat experiment, you've figured out our algorithm, Steve has already promised to change it. Heh.

Perhaps we (read: I) haven't done a good enough job explaining this in the past. Thanks for giving me some encouragement today, reddit.

UPDATE: I've just landed and it's still the #25 story. Hurray.

Oh, and a clever redditor (danweber) did something awesome. Hopefully it'll never happen again ;-)

CORRECTION: Apparently, JelloShotz did it first. Props to you, sir. Fry is without a doubt the hottest thing on reddit tonight. Who says you need to go out on a Fryday night to have fun?

(-25 points for me on account of that pun. I'm sorry.)