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Talk of tech innovation is bullsh*t. Shut up and get the work done – says Linus Torvalds • The Register

The Linux kernel is perhaps the most successful collaborative technology project of the PC era. Kernel contributors, totaling more than 13,500 since 2005, are adding about 10,000 lines of code, removing 8,000, and modifying between 1,500 and 1,800 daily, according to Zemlin. And this has been going on – though not at the current pace – for more than two and a half decades.

Can big data yield big ideas? Blend novel and familiar, new study finds -- ScienceDaily

We found that what makes an idea creative as judged by both consumers and firms' executives is a mix of ingredients (words) that includes a balance between words that commonly appear together (familiar combinations) and words that do not (novel combinations)." Thus, a creative idea is not simply an idea that includes novel ingredients, but combinations of words that are novel when appearing together balanced with combinations of ingredients that are more familiar. For example, if one generates an idea for an app that would help people live healthier lives and includes the words "running," "counting" and "steps," this would not classify the idea as creative, as all three of these words are fairly frequently used together. However, including the word "calendar" as an additional ingredient would take the idea in a more creative direction, for example the creation of a calendar app in which you could track daily movement and accomplishments. Even though the word "calendar" may not be novel with respect to the topic of health apps in and of itself, its combination with "running," "counting," and "steps" is novel.

Find Innovation Where You Least Expect It

To see if generating generic descriptions bolsters creative thinking, our research team presented two groups of students with eight insight problems that required overcoming the functional fixedness bias in order to solve. We told the members of one group simply to try their best. We taught the other group the generic parts technique and then asked them to use it on the problems. The people in the first group were able to solve, on average, 49% of the problems (just shy of four of them). Those who systematically engaged in creating generic descriptions of their resources were able to solve, on average, 83% (or 6.64) of them.

Find Innovation Where You Least Expect It

We consider each element of an object in turn and ask two questions: “Can it be broken down further?” and “Does our description imply a particular use?” If the answer to either question is yes, we keep breaking down the elements until they’re described in their most general terms, mapping the results on a simple tree. When an iceberg is described generically as a floating surface 200 feet to 400 feet long, its potential as a life-saving platform soon emerges.

Inside the Development of Light, the Tiny Digital Camera That Outperforms DSLRs - IEEE Spectrum

The first and current version of the Light camera—called the L16—has 16 individual camera modules with lenses of three different focal lengths—five are 28-mm equivalent, five are 70-mm equivalent, and six are 150-mm equivalent. “Equivalent” means that the lens achieves the same field of view as a lens of the specified focal length in a conventional film camera.

Instagram CEO on Stories: Snapchat deserves all the credit

“When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it. Facebook invented feed, LinkedIn took on feed, Twitter took on feed, Instagram took on feed, and they all feel very different now and they serve very different purposes. But no one looks down at someone for adopting something that is so obviously great for presenting a certain type of information. Innovation happens in the Valley, and people invent formats, and that’s great. And then what you see is those formats proliferate. So @ usernames were invented on Twitter. Hashtags were invented on Twitter. Instagram has those. Filtered photos were not invented on Instagram. Related Articles Instagram launches "Stories," a Snapchatty feature for imperfect sharing How to use Instagram Stories And I think what you see is that every company looks around and adopts the best of the best formats or state-of-the-art technology. Snapchat adopted face filters that existed elsewhere first, right? And slideshows existed in other places, too. Flipagram was doing it for a while. So I think that’s the interesting part of the Valley. You can’t just recreate another product. But you can say ‘what’s really awesome about a format? And does it apply to our network?’

Echo as hub came 'as a lark'

Connecting the Echo to Internet-enabled lightbulbs and thermostats made by other companies hadn’t been a focus within Lab126 until late 2014. On a lark, an engineer had rigged the speaker to work as a voice controller for a streaming TV device. It was a forehead-slapping moment for Bezos, according to one employee who worked with him directly. “It was something he grew to embrace, aggressively,” the person said. Amazon’s vision for the Echo now relies heavily on the speaker serving as a hub for the so-called smart home. Limp jokes that it’s only a matter of time before some enterprising developer writes a program to use the Echo’s voice controls to flush the toilet.

Alexa 'always almost ready to ship'

Even as these fundamental changes went on, the lab’s leadership was convinced the speaker was almost ready. For three consecutive years, the product was expected to ship within six months. The $50 target price seemed more and more far-fetched.

Amazon's secret patents

Amazon kept its fingerprints off the original patent applications. Instead, Rawles LLC was named the assignee—the organization that would own the patent. Rawles had been incorporated in Delaware just two weeks before Amazon started filing patent applications related to augmented reality. In the years since, Lab126 employees have applied for dozens of patents listing Rawles as the assignee, all relevant to augmented reality or voice control. No one has ever claimed Rawles as an employer on LinkedIn, and its correspondence with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been handled by lawyers based in Washington state, where Amazon is headquartered.

Nature melts the brain (in a good way!)

In a 2012 study, for example, Strayer found that backpackers were 50 percent more creative after they had spent four days out on the trail. They were given several tests of creative thinking—for example, they were presented with a set of words (for example: blue, cake, cottage) and asked to figure out the unifying word (cheese). Upon their return, the hikers performed twice as well on the tests. “People were actually solving the problems more creatively after they had unplugged in nature,” he says.

You can now share quoted text directly to Facebook | The Verge

Facebook is much more generous on that front — you can post updates of more than 60,000 characters there — but the company still sees plenty of screenshots anyway. Today it's introducing quote sharing, a feature developers can use to enable native sharing of quotes from their apps onto Facebook itself. Facebook is launching quote sharing with Amazon, which built quote sharing into its Kindle e-reader. Now instead of copying and pasting text from Kindle into Facebook, you can simply highlight it and share it to Facebook.

What is a Product Manager?

I’ve always defined product management as the intersection between the functions business, technology and user experience (hint — only a product manager would define themselves in a venn diagram). A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.

Artur Fischer, Inventor With More Patents Than Edison, Dies at 96 - The New York Times

One of Mr. Fischer’s most recent inventions is a gadget that makes it possible to hold and cut the top off an egg of any size. He got started on the problem when a hotel owner complained to him that his guests, on opening their boiled eggs for breakfast, always made a mess — the year was 1946.

A Stanford psychologist explains why spacing out and goofing off is so good for you - The Washington Post

You can also unfocus by broadening your experiential and intellectual horizons. According to Kaufman, anything that violates expectations of how the world works can boost creativity. For example, a semester spent studying abroad boosts students’ creativity. Why? New experiences that disrupt our usual way of life and show us a different perspective make us more mentally flexible or creative. […]A research study out of Harvard headed by Karim Lakhani established that there was a higher probability of someone solving a problem submitted to Innocentive if that person was not an expert in that particular field, but was in a field that was marginally or not at all related.

Awesome album falls between the cracks

hough now considered a classic, The Gilded Palace of Sin sold dismally. Rolling Stone critic and fellow Waycross native Stanley Booth gave it a rave review and Dylan said the album “instantly knocked me out,” but the Burritos’ music was still too rock for country audiences and too country for the rock set.

Mind of blue: Emotional expression affects the brain's creativity network: Study of jazz pianists finds 'happy' and 'sad' music evoke different neural patterns -- ScienceDaily

"There's more deactivation of the DLPFC during happy improvisations, perhaps indicating that people are getting into more of a 'groove' or 'zone,' but during sad improvisations there's more recruitment of areas of the brain related to reward," said McPherson, a classical violist and first-year graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology. "This indicates there may be different mechanisms for why it's pleasurable to create happy versus sad music."

50% of patents are inadvertent?

So how many big ideas emerge from spills, crashes, failed experiments and blind stabs? One survey of patent holders (the PatVal study of European inventors, published in 2005) found that an incredible 50 percent of patents resulted from what could be described as a serendipitous process. Thousands of survey respondents reported that their idea evolved when they were working on an unrelated project — and often when they weren’t even trying to invent anything. This is why we need to know far more about the habits that transform a mistake into a breakthrough.

How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity - The New York Times

A few months ago, I was having a drink in Cambridge, Mass., with a friend, a talented journalist who was piecing together a portrait of a secretive Wall Street wizard. “But I haven’t found the real story yet; I’m still gathering string,” my friend told me, invoking an old newsroom term to describe the first stage of reporting, when you’re looking for something that you can’t yet name. Later that night, as I walked home from the bar, I realized “gathering string” is just another way of talking about super-encountering. After all, “string” is the stuff that accumulates in a journalist’s pocket. It’s the note you jot down in your car after the interview, the knickknack you notice on someone’s shelf, or the anomaly that jumps out at you in Appendix B of an otherwise boring research study.

Serendipity roots

In 1754, a belle-lettrist named Horace Walpole retreated to a desk in his gaudy castle in Twickenham, in southwest London, and penned a letter. Walpole had been entranced by a Persian fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip who possess superpowers of observation. In his letter, Walpole suggested that this old tale contained a crucial idea about human genius: “As their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” And he proposed a new word — “serendipity” — to describe this princely talent for detective work. At its birth, serendipity meant a skill rather than a random stroke of good fortune.

Keith Richards on creativity under pressure

Because you’ve been playing every day, sometimes two or three shows a day, ideas are flowing. One thing feeds the other. You might be having a swim or screwing the old lady, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you’re thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. No matter what the hell’s going on. You might be getting shot at, and you’ll still be “Oh! That’s the bridge!” And there’s nothing you can do; you don’t realize it’s happening. It’s totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever. The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You hear this piece of conversation from across the room, “I just can’t stand you anymore”… That’s a song. It just flows in. And also … to provide ammo, you start to become an observer, you start to distance yourself. You’re constantly on the alert. That faculty gets trained in you over the years, observing people, how they react to one another. Which, in a way, makes you weirdly distant. You shouldn’t really be doing it. It’s a little of Peeping Tom to be a songwriter. You start looking round, and everything’s a subject for a song. The banal phrase, which is the one that makes it. And you say, I can’t believe nobody hooked up on that one before! Luckily there are more phrases than songwriters, just about.

From Casio's smoking ring to the iWatch

Founded in 1946 by Tadao Kashio, Casio didn't start out as an electronics company, but as the manufacturer of a plastic ring for smokers. The yubiwa pipe slipped onto a smoker's finger and held a cigarette, helping a smoker extract every bit of tobacco. […] Looking for a follow-up success, Kashio and his brothers started working on an all-electronic calculator.[…] turned Casio into a company that focused not just on producing electronics, but on setting itself apart from the competition through innovative design, specifically by working to make things more compact. In 1974, Casio entered the watch market with the idea that watches shouldn't be just timepieces. Its initial creation was one of the first watches with a liquid crystal display, […]"We saw demand for digital watches settle down in the '80s and Casio went back to its original thinking when it first entered the watch market; that is, ‘a watch is not a mere tool to tell the time.' We started talking about a multifunction, ‘time display plus other things, such as telephone number, memory and music alarm' strategy."

Facebook Open Sources Its AI Hardware as It Races Google | WIRED

Big Sur includes eight GPU boards, each loaded with dozens of chips while consuming only about 300 Watts of power. Although GPUs were originally designed to render images for computer games and other highly graphical applications, they’ve proven remarkably adept at deep learning. […]Traditional processors help drive these machines, but big companies like Facebook and Google and Baidu have found that their neural networks are far more efficient if they shift much of the computation onto GPUs. […] After 18 months of development, Big Sur is twice as fast as the previous system Facebook used to train its neural networks.

Diversity Makes You Brighter

When participants were in diverse company, their answers were 58 percent more accurate. The prices they chose were much closer to the true values of the stocks. As they spent time interacting in diverse groups, their performance improved. In homogeneous groups, whether in the United States or in Asia, the opposite happened. When surrounded by others of the same ethnicity or race, participants were more likely to copy others, in the wrong direction. Mistakes spread as participants seemingly put undue trust in others’ answers, mindlessly imitating them. In the diverse groups, across ethnicities and locales, participants were more likely to distinguish between wrong and accurate answers. Diversity brought cognitive friction that enhanced deliberation.

How to escape the pull of the status quo

One powerful way to deal with the bias is the reversal test proposed by Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord. Imagine you inherit a family cabin in the mountains. You haven’t spent time there in years, and your family isn’t really interested in weekends at the cabin. Another family member offers to buy the cabin for $100,000. But you hesitate. You’ve got these great memories, and sticking with the status quo lets you keep it. Reverse the choice. Now you have $100,000 in the bank. Would you use that money to buy the family cabin?

Different runs bring different mindsets

Long runs tend to brew essay or story ideas, but the fast work of training — sprints, hills, lifting weights — simultaneously sharpens and blurs those ideas into actions. Training sharpens ideas by cutting away the chaff that tends to accumulate during that long time on the trail, where the mind can wander; training blurs those ideas to the surreal places where art is made. Since my body craved sleep, I could slip from the rational mind that stifles fiction.

Don't interview customers, walk in their shoes: almost by definition, key assumptions don't get articulated

But there are certain things participants may never think to tell us. Frequently, these are moments they don’t recognize as disruptions to their experience, but rather, they see them as small annoyances or frustrations that they have adjusted to over time. To catch a glimpse of these small but highly significant moments, we need to conduct field research. Field research, put very simply, is getting out of the lab and into the world to talk with and observe people in their environment. It’s trying our best to walk in their shoes, see their point of view, and understand the context they live and work in. By seeing it ourselves, we recognize workarounds, physical artifacts, and motivations that are essentially invisible to our participants.