Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Trips from Lagos

In the process of trying to persuade my family to come out here later this year, I was writing an email about where they should go when I figured I could do this in Google Maps. I'd seen it done but never been geeky enough myself. Well now I have: Quite easy really!

Below is the map, with highlighted descriptions of Lagos, Osogbo, Kano and Katsina Durbars, Calabar Area, Benin (country), and Ghana.

Given the limited guidebooks for the area (to my knowledge there's only one of any use), this might be quite an interesting project to continue. If you want to help de-personalize, detail and increase the list of places to go, let me know and I'll invite you.

View Trips from Lagos in a larger map

Monday, 12 July 2010

Insular Cabal

On quoting an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which said a recent drop in figures meant that "only 45 percent of the articles published in the 4,500 top scientific journals were cited within the first five years after publication", Chris Blattman goes one to criticize an increasingly fractionalized information market:
I share the loathing for terrible work, and increasingly obscure and specialized journals, which publish the work of an insular cabal. The great tragedy is not the production of the work, but the initiation of so many new students into mediocrity.
Not really my view at all: The Long Tail allows me to focus on what I need to focus on and help make Adam Smith' vision a reality. What's wrong is not that there's increasing specialization, but that we may not yet have built the tools to process all the information. Blattman says himself that
There are benefits to an intellectual market with low barriers to entry. A few hours a month isn’t a terrible price to pay to consume the results.
What if we could condense those few hours into a few minutes? Google and its tools, such as Google Reader are built precisely on this premise but may not go far enough. Inventions that help us sift through increasing amounts of data are going to be as important to our way of life as bicycles and cars have been.

That's not to say that we should ignore all the rest of the world. There's so much beauty in the little things that surround us, as I hope this blog shows, that simply focusing on our iota of planet is a complete waste. While we've said goodbye to the Age of Polymaths, surely we could all do with a little Thomas Young in us. The popularity of events such as TED tells me that quite a few people think this way; a counterculture to the increasing specialization is developing in parallel with it - cross-dissemination and fertilization of ideas seems to  be blossoming.