529 Moon Shot

Save or Die

It's impossible to escape the temptation to compare student loan payments to mortgage payments. Both are methods of post-funding “American dreams” using either direct federal funds or rely heavily on federal guarantees. Both are highly profitable and “too big to (let) fail”. Both represent a de facto securitization of middle class salaries by a blend of federal agencies and Wall Street.

At least a mortgagor can sell their home in a healthy housing market to extinguish mortgage debt. The security backing student loans isn't so liquid: the salary of the college graduate. This asset, too, can be sold, but only in installments of time for decades.

My goodness, Eddie Smith has written a real barn burner about paying for college. As the father of two daughters (and hopefully more kids in the future), the skyrocketing cost of higher education infuriates me. The scenario that Eddie didn't discuss, and which I think is the most likely, is that as the country liberalizes, state-run colleges and universities become free.

While I agree with Eddie that it'd be bad for society to lose those in the liberal arts, I know far too many of my peers with Medevial Art History or Youth Ministry majors that cost $80,000-100,000 and earn all of $40-45,000/year. There needs to be some check-and-balance system so that people stop paying for degrees that they can never pay off out of their future earnings.

My wife and I are both unbelievably blessed that our college educations were paid for either directly or indirectly by our parents. My parents set up a business that I had to manage and then the earnings were mine to pay for school. I hope to be able to do something like that for my kids so they still have to work hard for their education, but without needing to wait tables.

This dovetails well with the article that Bradley Chambers referenced:

The more and more I use online learning from places like Lynda.com, Codecademy, and even Audible.com to supplement gaps in my personal knowledge and technical training, the more I'm hopeful that somehow, non-traditional learning will gain traction and pop the bubble of assembly-line learning found in most higher-ed today. And just in case that doesn't happen, I'm working my tail off to save for my kids.


Comcast ≠ Blockbuster

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always felt like Dan Lyons was desperate for attention. Now I know he is:

Daniel Lyons, visiting fellow at AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications and Technology, thinks antitrust regulators may be too stuck in the present when it comes to the Comcast-Time Warner Cable. He cites a blast from the past to make his point:
“Ten years ago, the FTC successfully blocked the merger between Blockbuster and Hollywood Video because the combined company would have dominated the market for video store rentals — failing to appreciate that technology was shifting so quickly that ‘video store rentals’ was no longer a relevant market,” he writes. “Without the scale to compete against new technologies, both companies eventually collapsed. It remains to be seen whether regulators have made the same mistake here.“

Comparing Blockbuster (a company whose revenue was already on the decline in 2005 and didn’t provide access to anything critical to our society) to Comcast (a company whose revenue continues to grow and has roughly 20% of the country’s broadband subscribers) is absurd. But, as John Gruber has pointed out, Dan Lyons specializes in the absurd.

The billionaire’s typewriter

Still, I wouldn’t say that Medium’s ho­mo­ge­neous de­sign is bad ex ante. Among web-pub­lish­ing tools, I see Medium as the equiv­a­lent of a frozen pizza: not as whole­some as a meal you could make your­self, but for those with­out the time or mo­ti­va­tion to cook, a po­ten­tially bet­ter op­tion than just eat­ing peanut but­ter straight from the jar.

I’ve never understood Medium. This quote just about sums it up for me.

Using Siri Better to Write Posts and Messages

It’s not convenient to explain punctuation to Siri, but if it’s just occasional, or you don’t have your hands free, these commands can save some time in the editing process.

I think it’s best if you use Siri inside a text editing app like Drafts…It’s easier to edit things there, and sometimes Siri botches things so using the service by pressing and holding the home button still feels a bit risky.

Jordan Shirkman does a fantastic job explaining the best way to use Siri on your iPhone/iPad. He also has the best list I’ve ever seen of punctuation commands for Siri.

Personally, I go back and forth between his method of speaking text into Drafts and just making an audio note in Evernote. I generally try to keep my documents as text, if possible to make sure they’re searchable, but when I need to get an idea out quickly or it’s technical in nature, I find it works better to make them an audio note in Evernote and transcribe later.

Weaponized Clickbait & AllAdvantage

But chances are you won’t know what you’re getting before you click. Today, a single-digit percentage of readers will click through a link in an “Around the Web” module, compared to 0.1 percent who will click on a traditional banner ad. But banner ads once had high clickthrough rates themselves. Over time, readers learned that banners rarely led to anything good. At Outbrain and companies like it, there’s an existential fear that their own products could suffer a similar fate. Speaking of the company’s ideal customer, LaCour says: “We want to make sure that she’s happy and she’s delighted. If we as an industry continue to try to clickbait her, and she’s not happy after she clicked, then we’re all screwed.” (LaCour says Outbrain strives to recommend only high-quality links.)

There's a very interesting story about weaponized clickbait over at The Verge about those crappy links you seem to see at the bottom of every news story. I've been shocked at how cheaply you can buy a major publisher's journalistic integrity. Whenever time I see that on a news site, I find myself grouping that site into a HuffPo or TMZ level of integrity. Then I usually go take a bath.

The article reminded me of companies like AllAdvantage. I had an account with them to get paid for banner ads to show at the lower portion of your screen. Unfortunately I never made a cent from that.1

  1. I probably never made any money from that because 1) I had no one under me and 2) I had some program that hacked the system to remove the ads. 

Down with Homework?

Down With Homework!

On top of causing stress, more homework means kids have less time for other activities. There’s less opportunity for the kind of learning that doesn’t involve traditional skills. There’s less chance to read for pleasure, make friends, play games, get some exercise, get some rest, or just be a child.

This argument would be more compelling if kids really were going to read, play games, or exercise instead of doing homework. The more likely outcome would be more consumption of brain-deadening media.

High school teacher Leslie Frothingham watched her own two children struggle with enormous quantities of homework in middle school. The value of it never seemed clear to her. “What other ‘job’ is there where you work all day, come home, have dinner, then work all night,” she asks, “unless you’re some type A attorney? It’s not a good way to live one’s life. You miss out on self-reflection, community.” Thus, when she became a teacher, she chose to have a no-homework policy.

Also, does Ms. Frothingham not know anyone in the professional world? In today's workplace many, many people have to work in the evening.

I was really disappointed by this article. I'd hoped it'd be a little more well argued.

Family Dinner

Families are definitely eating faster. According to a 2011 survey of 1,000 teens by the National Center for Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 32% of families spend 20 minutes or less eating dinner. That compares with 26% eating dinner at this pace in 2009, the prior survey year.

via Does It Count as a Family Dinner If It’s Over in Eight Minutes? – WSJ.com.

This strikes me as funny. Now that we have kids we cannot finish dinner in any less than 30 minutes.

Flickr Auto-Uploading

Auto Upload for iOS 7

Up until now, you’ve had to upload photos from your iPhone manually. That can be a really painful and time-consuming process. We’re introducing Auto Upload for iOS 7 users to automatically save your photos to Flickr, securely and privately, until you’re ready to to edit and share them. With Auto Upload, you can always find your smartphone photos wherever you want – within the Flickr app and on Flickr.com.

I’ve tried lots of different options for background uploading photos, but this is by far the best out there. Flickr gives you 1TB (yes, terabyte), of space, which is enough for some 600,000 photos.

I tried it tonight and the uploading was seamless, quick, and didn’t give me any needless prompts.

I’d previously been uploading everything to dropbox, but that was blowing up my dropbox storage way too quickly and then I’d have to manually remove the photos from there and drop them in to some other non-dropbox folder, iPhoto, or sometimes Aperture. So excited about this!

via Introducing Auto Upload and Auto-straightening for Flickr on iOS « Flickr Blog.