Archive for September, 2010

How China’s Great Firewall Can Make Us More Productive

Monday, September 27th, 2010

You want what you can’t have. This fundamental aphorism of human psychology means that full-stop censorship is the wrong approach to hiding ideas and information. The taboo, by definition, makes the information desirable, regardless of whether the content is revelatory or mundane. The insight is that you can use this knowledge on yourself to reshape your own behavior.

China’s great firewall carefully circumvents the want-what-you-can’t-have desire. When I last visited Beijing I tried to access the BBC expecting it to be blocked. Instead, the site came through slowly and erratically. If I waited long enough, refreshed often enough, the page just might come through. Because of the sporadic experience, I found my frustration was directed at the BBC and not at the firewall. Even with a conscious knowledge of what was going on, I had a visceral reaction that it was the BBC’s fault and not a country-wide censor. (more…)

Firefox Panorama: Search proof-of-concept

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

There are two modes people use for finding information: browsing and searching. Browsing is for when you don’t know exactly what you want to find, and search is for when you know exactly for what you are looking.

A supermarket makes a good example of the browse versus search distinction. Say you want to make a salad. When you go to a supermarket your browse for ingredients: you wander through the vegetable section picking up the the ingredients that strike you as delicious. You don’t know exactly what you want, but seeing the vegetables helps you make the selection. That’s browse.