This seems like magic: Aluminum-air battery

I hope my sons can figure stuff like this out:

Phinergy batteries use a porous  electrode with a large surface area that captures the oxygen from ambient air. The electrode also contains a silver-based catalyst that doesn’t let CO2 interact with it. This unique and proprietary catalyst solves a common problem in air-battery technology, carbonization caused by CO2 permeating the electrode.

via Aluminum-air battery demonstrates extended range for EVs..

True Big Data / The Atlantic Wins Journalism

If you want a good example of what “Big Data” really means, it’s this. “Big Data” isn’t just “shit ton of data”, it’s “amazing and proprietary insights that could only come from very creative analysis of a shit ton of data that only we can get our hands on”.  So, stop referring to your little facebook data project as “big data”.

And, for what it’s worth, the Atlantic just showed you what’s possible when you cross a curious journalist with a hacker’s mindset. So very cool.


Using large teams of people specially trained to watch movies, Netflix deconstructed Hollywood. They paid people to watch films and tag them with all kinds of metadata. This process is so sophisticated and precise that taggers receive a 36-page training document that teaches them how to rate movies on their sexually suggestive content, goriness, romance levels, and even narrative elements like plot conclusiveness.

They capture dozens of different movie attributes. They even rate the moral status of characters. When these tags are combined with millions of users viewing habits, they become Netflix\’s competitive advantage. The company\’s main goal as a business is to gain and retain subscribers. And the genres that it displays to people are a key part of that strategy. \”Members connect with these [genre] rows so well that we measure an increase in member retention by placing the most tailored rows higher on the page instead of lower,\” the company revealed in a 2012 blog post. The better Netflix shows that it knows you, the likelier you are to stick around.

via How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood – Alexis C. Madrigal – The Atlantic.

Staying Motivated, Staying Ambitious

Early yesterday morning, after an hour of cranking on a deck, i realized it was my 5 year anniversay at my employer. I threw out a quick post on Twitter suggesting a new "law". Basically, it's this: The longer you stay in corporate america, the harder it is to make great things.

It got a bit of reaction, mostly negative. I shouldn't have posted it without context, in hindsight. I think it's real, and to me it's an important motivator, a watchout, a warning sign, which is why i posted it in the first place.

"Great" is a key term. And, i think "great" is relative to the culture/environment you're in. Company ABC has very different expectations and strategies and goals compared to Company XYZ, just like what's "great" in Niger or Chad may not be "great" in Tokyo or Silicon Valley. The challenge to anyone in a well established corporate culture? Stay focused on external benchmarks, on the innovators, on the dudes in a garage with 10K from YCombinator that are coming to decimate your "strategic advantage".  Don't let your cultural blinders keep you focused on your corporate navel or your boss, or this quarter's objectives, or that single metric. Keep on eye on how the state of "great" keeps changing.

The other term is "make something". When you've been in one place for sooooooo long, it's easy to just keep the wheel moving. Its a lot easier to keep the current machine – no matter how shaky or out of  date –  operating smoothly. We can make Incremental improvements, but still be proud of efficiencies, productivity, etc. instead of starting something new that's vitally needed for longer term personal, professional, corporate or cultural success. Change, when it's meaningful and innovative, is hard. Really hard, especially when there's heavy, long term investment in a status quo that's been quite successful.

Finally, "make something great" doesn't just mean "make something that exists better". To me, i still believe that those that have been given talent, resources, opportunities and tools should have ambitions to make the world a better place. "Great" means having a social and historical impact. It's not cool these days to be nakedly ambitious, but i'll say it: I don't want to leave the planet without trying to do something historically noteworthy. Even if it's just in the company where i work, i want to leave a mark. I believe we should be shooting at making something, something that's noteworthy, something that people will remember because it had a lot of impact or helped others, something that is great.

So, i'm staying motivated, staying ambitious. I'm fighting the hypothetical "laws" of corporate physics.