Quickpost – A great new site

Guided and challenged by readers’ comments, I have over the course of several posts been honing in on what this thing is we call empathy.

The journey is far from over. (I haven’t yet got to the operationalisation of emapthy – what it means in practice.)

This seems like a good place to consolidate ideas into an overarching metaphor. I’m writing that at present and hope to have it out tomorrow.


In the meantime, let me draw your attention to new site – Psychoanalyst TV put together by Swivelchair from Neurological correlates.

It’s based on a simple but great idea – aggregating videos on neurology and behaviour. (Although, as the title of the site and the list below indicate, videos are chosen on a much wider and more humorous basis.)

Hopefully the site will attract both comments and recommendations for videos to add. See here for a submission guide.

Some recent posts
Sopranos – Dr. Winer (1:39)
More deposition video Old Lawyer Fight (2:56)
Birth of Baby Orangutan (2:38)
Narcoleptic Dogs (2:53)
TEDtalks: Dan Gilbert (on happiness)(22:01)
Lie Detection – Prof. Paul Eckman (1:46)
The Phone Call (2:00)
Tom Cruise Scientology via Gawker – DIY Microexpression analysis on this (4:41)
Harvard Biovisions – The Inner Life of a Cell (3:10)

Besides providing us with interesting and entertaining videos which we might otherwise miss, it’ll save us a lot of time zooming around Youtube!


Dating – don’t do it! Some thoughts after blogging about psychopaths

Simply writing and reading about about human wickedness has a sobering effect on one. When reading what follows, please keep in mind the author has been, if not frighted rigid then, had his protectiveness ratcheted way up.

I once wrote a piece – mainly for women’s eyes – about how dating (by which I meant dating in the hope of meeting a partner/spouse) doesn’t work.

My argument was that men have an aversion to that kind of ‘energy’. (I could have written another piece about how what is attractive on a first date is a very poor predictor of what works in a long-term relationship.)

But I was talking there about decent men. What about dating when they’re, shall we say, not quite so decent?Advice from a female criminal profiler
Pat Brown from The Daily Profiler knows a thing or two about how things can and do go horribly wrong. Her advice: Continue reading


I recently asked What is the right reading level for a blog?

The guru of new media writing, Seth Godin, understands that, like it or not, we’re involved in selling. Money may never change hands, but we’re writing to be read and have to get onto the reader’s wavelength.

Godin refers to an interesting piece Literary style by the numbers by Steven Berlin Johnson.

Johson used amazon’s ‘text stats’ to compare the ratio of “Average Words Per Sentence” and “% Complex Words” for a few authors. Malcolm Gladwell – a true master to transmitting ideas popularly – averages 17 words per sentence in ‘Blink’. Compare this with, say, Foucault’s 38 and Fredric Jameson’s 53!

Their use of complex words is: Gladwell 12%, Foucault 19%, and Jameson 22%.

OK, so we can extrapolate from this that new media writing should probably have shorter sentences and fewer complex words. Great. But here’s something else to factor in:

What I thought was so striking was that…each author’s books are closer to his other books than they are to the other two author’s books. In other words, each of us has a certain sweet spot of complexity that we come back to book after book.

At copyblogger.com Brian Lash (who pointed me to the Godin and Johnson pieces) tells us Why writing like a college student will kll you online. He emphasises the informality of new media writing compared to what counted for good writing in college.

He has five strategies to help us keep it simple, stupid.

Read for 5 minutes before you write. Not just anything – read something “simple, unasuming and effective” (like Seth Godin)
Start with a single line
And then swop it for one that’s less formal, “then let its style cascade through the rest of your work.”
Speak it
“New media writing should sound like your everyday speech, albeit a more precise, polished version.”
Apply the “impress test”
“When you find yourself impressed…simplify your message without compromising its meaning.”
Find someone who will keep you honest

Reader, how’m I doing?

Ethical thinking, caterpillars, choking, panicking, and hope

Jon Morrow at copyblogger correctly suggests that we bloggers can get intoxicated by our words. He recommends:

Sober up – Walk away from the post for a few hours and give your internal editor a chance to wake up. He’ll tell you whether the post is good or not.
Find a driver – If you can’t afford to wait, ask a friend to read the post and give you honest feedback. Regardless of how euphoric you are about it, trust their judgment.

Chris Garrett follows with a thought-provoking post on how “blogging has some things in common with drinking the booze”:

Lowered Inhibitions
Solution: Don’t post in haste. Write like your mum or boss is reading.
Solution: Realize you are not perfect yourself and what you put out you get back.
Solution: Make friends in forums, comment on others blogs, chat on IM and email. Other people are usually happy to let you know the truth of the situation or just give support.
Solution: Post in draft, do not reveal too much, have clear procedures for keeping details safe and not always using the same passwords, keep backups.
Solution: Prevention is easier than cure but if you do find yourself having to clear up a mess, be honest and remorseful and hope people forgive and forget!

As it happens I just had a right old tussle with the third in his list – despair. In part this was a pin-off of the topic I’d been posting on for a while – psychopaths and lying – but I’ll write more about that another time. Today I’ll just consider the effect of of engaging one’s mind publicly with a big age-old problem (in this case, ethical and unethical behaviour).* Continue reading

What is the right reading level for a blog?

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How readable should a blog be?

criticsrant has a reading level test where you simply enter the name of a website and a reading level is produced. The reading level for the toptwoinches is ‘High School’ as you can see.

What should I make of this? Given that I don’t expect actual high schoolers to have much interest in this blog, should I be pumping the level up? Some sites are proud to display this badge as proof that their blog is ‘genius’ level:
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On the other hand, what about all the metablog advice about simplicity in all things? Should my blog’s reading level be even lower? Continue reading