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User Journal

Journal Journal: Nearing critical mass for funding open nVidia drivers

I was just made aware of a pledge drive attempting to raise $10,000 USD to help fund a project working on open-source nVidia drivers. This would provide full 3D-acceleration to open-source operating systems, and could potentially sidestep the persistent debate between "partial support with open-source drivers" vs. "full support with proprietary drivers." It appears that the organizers intend to use the FSF as an intermediary to transfer the funds. They are already more than 3/4 of the way to their goal. Is this a viable model for future software development? Will companies like nVidia take notice?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Study finds that unconscious makes good decisions

This is a story submission that I made yesterday (that was rejected). Here's the summary:

According to an article published today in Science Magazine, overthinking important decisions is counter-productive. The study found that for unimportant decisions (such as buying shampoo), deliberation would yield useful results (people pick the best product), whereas for more complex and expensive decisions (such as buying furniture or a car), deliberation would tend to decrease the likelihood of picking the optimal product. From the Science Magazine news report: 'as the decisions become complex (more expensive items with many characteristics, such as cars), better decisions and happier ones come from not attending to the choices but allowing one's unconscious to sift through the many permutations for the optimal combination.'

More information on the research:

There is also news coverage of this study on Reuters and WebMD.

The actual Science paper citation is: Ap Dijksterhuis, Maarten W. Bos, Loran F. Nordgren, Rick B. van Baaren "On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect" Science 17 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5763, pp. 1005 - 1007 (for those with subscriptions: DOI 10.1126/science.1121629). The abstract from the actual paper says:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing. On the basis of recent insights into the characteristics of conscious and unconscious thought, we tested the hypothesis that simple choices (such as between different towels or different sets of oven mitts) indeed produce better results after conscious thought, but that choices in complex matters (such as between different houses or different cars) should be left to unconscious thought. Named the ''deliberation-without-attention'' hypothesis, it was confirmed in four studies on consumer choice, both in the laboratory as well as among actual shoppers, that purchases of complex products were viewed more favorably when decisions had been made in the absence of attentive deliberation.

I find the result of this study very interesting. Anecdotally, I'm sure many of us have had the experience of trying to make a difficult decision, and going in circles: reconsidering the same data over and over again. Ultimately, I often just "make a choice!" and interestingly, this choice often turns out to be a good one. This study suggests that we should follow our instincts even more often. It's also possible that people would suffer from Buyer's remorse less intensely if they spent less time worrying about their purchases (both because their purchases were, on average, more optimal, and because they would not have stressed-out over the purchase in the first place quite so much).

Edit: Looks like someone else submitted the same news item.

User Journal

Journal Journal: AMD Vendor section sucks

This is not a rant about how slashdot has "sold out" with the recent inclusion of a "Vendors" section. Slashdot has always been a commercially-supported community-driven site (i.e.: we look at ads to support the bandwidth costs). That's fine. I actually think the "Vendors" section is a great idea. We get the slashvertisements put into a logical place, so that people can easily ignore them if need be.

However, the AMD vendor section (as of this writing there is only an AMD in the vendor list) is worthless. Apparently it's up to the vendor to post stories into their section, so AMD can decide what to post and how often to post. What have they chosen to do? They have wasted an opportunity by making their section useless and worthless. They have posted literally dozens of stories every day. All of the stories (of course) point to new AMD products, or articles about how AMD is cool and whatnot. This in and of itself is fine... but the fact is that they've killed the part of slashdot that actually makes it fun and useful: the comments. Each story has a comments section, but NO ONE ever posts comments.

The reason that people avoid it is simple. No, it's not because we dislike talking about commercial products (lots of stories are about our fav. commercial products)... it's because they've overloaded that section, making it impossible to find a good place to have a discussion about the product or news release.

It's too late. The damage is done. What they *should* have done is to release one (or two) stories when the vendor section first started. Slashdotters would have been intrigued, and we would have gone there and added some comments; had a few discussions (both about the vendor section, and AMD products, no doubt). As the days went by, people with an interest in AMD would go and look at the latest items, and probably interesting discussions would evolve in the AMD section. This would generate alot of interest in the products, as we would be able to advise each other on what to buy, etc.

Instead, every slashdotter (it would seem) has been turned off from the whole notion of using that section. Based on the number of comments that appear (which is to say, almost none), no one is interested in that section. And it's too late. AMD wasted their chance, and this also means that future vendors won't bother listing in the Slashdot vendor section, since it's obviously useless.

No one is reading those press releases, because there are hundreds and they are not differentiated. If only they had chosen a more sensible route, they could really have generated some interest in the community.

Oh well, another good idea destroyed by over-eager PR-types.

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