The solo marathon

The usual marathons, the popular ones, are done in a group.

They have a start time.

A finish line.

A way to qualify.

A route.

A crowd.

And a date announced a year in advance.

Mostly, they have excitement, energy and peer pressure.

The other kind of marathon is one that anyone can run, any day of the year. Put on your sneakers, run out the door and come back 26 miles later. These are rare.

It’s worth noting that much of what we do in creating a project, launching a business or developing a career is a lot closer to the second kind of marathon.

No wonder it’s so difficult.

       

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Cambridge scientists create a successful "vaccine" against fake news

  • Researchers from the University of Cambridge use an online game to inoculate people against fake news.
  • The study sample included 15,000 players.
  • The scientists hope to use such tactics to protect whole societies against disinformation.

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A large new University of Cambridge study proves that it’s possible to teach regular people to spot fake news. By analyzing the responses of 15,000 participants, the researchers found that “psychological resistance” to fake news could be increased by having the subjects play an online game.

In the browser game, called Bad News, launched in February 2018, players become propaganda producers. They are allowed to manipulate the news and social media, invoking anger and fear. Tactics at their disposal include twitter bots, conspiracy theories, impersonation and photoshopped evidence. Still, while they use such Machiavellian approaches to attract followers, the players must maintain a “credibility score” to continue to be persuasive.

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Dr. Sander van der Linden, Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab, explained that the task before the researchers was not easy, since fake news spreads very fast and can go “deeper than the truth.” That makes it harder and harder to stand up to misinformation.

“We wanted to see if we could pre-emptively debunk, or ‘pre-bunk’, fake news by exposing people to a weak dose of the methods used to create and spread disinformation, so they have a better understanding of how they might be deceived,” shared the scientist.

He called their game “a psychological vaccination.” This work builds on the so-called “inoculation theory,” which maintains that beliefs can be guarded against influence the same way you can protect a body against diseases – by being exposed to smaller doses of them over time to build up immunity.

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To see how well the participants were inoculated against fake news, they were told to rate how trustworthy various tweets and headlines were. They had to do this before and after playing the game for at least 15 minutes.

The researchers discovered that the subjects were eventually able to pick out fake news better, finding them 21% less reliable after the game. Playing made no difference in how they ranked real news.

Not only that, the scientists saw that those who were most vulnerable to fake news prior to the game were inoculated the strongest.

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While they perceive that those who actually played the game were generally younger, male, liberal and educated, the scientists built in a nonpartisan mechanism into the game to avoid bias. The subjects were able to choose fake news either from the left or the right.

Dr. Linden expressed excitement at using such methods across whole populations to build “societal resistance to fake news”.

His colleague and the study’s co-author Jon Roozenbeek, also of Cambridge University, saw the benefits of their investigation in uncovering pro-active measures that could be taken to fight against bad information. He hoped to use such tactics to create “a general ‘vaccine’ against fake news.”

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The game, created by the scientists, in conjunction with the Dutch media collective DROG as well as the design agency Gusmanson, has been translated into nine different languages. It is also being developed for WhatsApp and has a “junior version” for children aged 8-10. The researchers hope to use that version to develop early media literacy.

Check out the study published in the journal Palgrave Communications.

Play the game Bad News here.

Preserving truth: How to confront and correct fake news

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Meet 38 immigrants that show why it should be easier to become a citizen

The Carnegie Corporation of New York announces this year’s entrants to its list of great immigrants, as a counterbalance to increasingly anti-immigrant government policies that it’s fighting against.

In honor of Independence Day, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has inducted 38 new immigrants into its annals of amazing contributors to society. At the same time, the philanthropic funder continues to back grassroots efforts to mint more of them, by easing the process of immigration in the face of increasing government hostility to newcomers.

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Only 2 Democrats raised their hands when asked if they would abolish private health insurance

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and while the 10 presidential candidates participating in tonight’s Democratic debates had lots of words about America’s healthcare crisis, their reaction to a question about whether or not they’d abandon the status quo was telling.

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Constraints and measurement

These are the two axes of professional design and engineering.

Did you produce within the constraints?

Did you deliver measurable results?

That’s it.

Good design doesn’t exceed the available resources and produces measurable change against the agreed upon objectives.

Great design is better than good design because it uses fewer resources and/or creates even better results.

If you need to build a bridge, yes, of course you could build one out of unobtainium and even an amateur could build one that can’t carry truck traffic, but a professional engineer eagerly accepts the constraints she signed up for and insists on measuring just how much wear and tear the bridge can actually handle.

Direct marketing, curriculum design, product testing, movie-making–they all live within the axes of constraints and performance.

They just opened the long-awaited Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, previously one of the worst major airports in the world. And while it’s shiny, the failures of engineering and design are everywhere. At 6 am, the line for the ladies room is 20 people long. The space constraints can’t be eased (constraints enable architecture) but the throughput would have been easy to measure at the blueprint stage. This part of the billion-dollar facility had just one job, and it failed.

The same is true for the design of the simple coffee stand. It doesn’t require a breakthrough in retail engineering to create an espresso bar that can serve grumpy pre-caffeinated travelers with speed and grace. But despite the hard work of the tradespeople who followed the plans, the plans themselves were defective. The outcome of their poor design decisions is obvious to anyone looking at the line of 30 people.

Forward motion happens when we see the best practices of our craft and exceed them. The privilege of design and engineering comes with the responsibility to be measured, and to redo our work when it doesn’t measure up.

“Give me constraints” and “Measure my performance” are rarely heard, except when talented and passionate designers go to work.

       

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