When Calvin explained to Hobbes, “With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog,” he got it backward. Fog comes easily to writers; it’s the clarity that requires practice. The naïve realism and breezy conversation in classic style are deceptive, an artifice constructed through effort and skill. Exorcising the curse of knowledge is no easier. It requires more than just honing one’s empathy for the generic reader. Since our powers of telepathy are limited, it also requires showing a draft to a sample of real readers and seeing if they can follow it, together with showing it to yourself after enough time has passed that it’s no longer familiar and putting it through another draft (or two or three or four). And there is the toolbox of writerly tricks that have to be acquired one by one: a repertoire of handy idioms and tropes, the deft use of coherence connectors such as nonetheless and moreover, an ability to fix convoluted syntax and confusing garden paths, and much else. You don’t have to swallow the rational-­actor model of human behavior to see that professionals may not bother with this costly self-­improvement if their profession doesn’t reward it. And by and large, academe does not. Few graduate programs teach writing. Few academic journals stipulate clarity among their criteria for acceptance, and few reviewers and editors enforce it. While no academic would confess to shoddy methodology or slapdash reading, many are blasé about their incompetence at writing. Enough already. Our indifference to how we share the fruits of our intellectual labors is a betrayal of our calling to enhance the spread of knowledge. In writing badly, we are wasting each other’s time, sowing confusion and error, and turning our profession into a laughingstock.

Why Academics’ Writing Stinks - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

On Monday, Facebook will roll out a rebuilt ad platform, called Atlas, that will allow marketers to tap its detailed knowledge of its users to direct ads to those people on thousands of other websites and mobile apps. “We are bringing all of the people-based marketing functions that marketers are used to doing on Facebook and allowing them to do that across the web,” David Jakubowski, the company’s head of advertising technology, said in an interview. Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE Bits Blog: Turning Users Into Customers at FacebookAUG. 4, 2014 Bits Daily Report: Mobile Advertising Lifts Profit at FacebookJULY 24, 2014 Bits Blog: After Uproar, European Regulators Question Facebook on Psychological TestingJULY 2, 2014 State of the Art: The Future of Facebook May Not Say ‘Facebook’APRIL 16, 2014 For example, if PepsiCo, one of the first advertisers to sign on to the service, wanted to reach college age men with ads for its Mountain Dew Baja Blast, it could use Atlas to identify several million of those potential customers and show each of them a dozen ads for the soft drink on game apps, sports and video sites. Atlas would also provide Pepsi with information to help it assess which ads were the most effective.

With New Ad Platform, Facebook Opens Gates to Its Vault of User Data - NYTimes.com

We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Ms. Le Guin wrote in an email. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.

Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics - NYTimes.com

It’s very clear to me, and to those I represent, that what Amazon is doing is very detrimental to the publishing industry and the interests of authors,” the agent said. “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.

Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics - NYTimes.com

California has become the first state to require students on college campuses to receive active consent before all sexual activity. Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed into law a bill that will impose this new standard for consent at all colleges that receive state funding, including all public universities and many private institutions where students receive state grants. Consent can be conveyed by a verbal “yes,” or signaled in a nonverbal way, but lack of resistance or objection cannot constitute consent.

Active Consent Bill Signed in California - NYTimes.com

The key here is this: colleges need to get more specific about who they want to help, and why. Universities’ commitment to “diversity” is important, but it’s a poor substitute for a policy of equal access for the disadvantaged because “diverse” students and disadvantaged students are not necessarily one and the same. Several studies have shown that beneficiaries of diversity-based admissions policies typically hail from the most well-educated and economically successful segments of “diverse” communities. That’s why a diversity strategy will not help universities reclaim their mission of fostering socio-economic mobility.

Colleges are doing diversity all wrong - Vox

The last and most important thing is that if you cannot be happy being average then you don’t know how to be happy—and being “successful” won’t do you much good. For most of us average is amazing and we should thank our lucky stars every day if we live indoors with enough to eat; we have it better than kings did 200 years ago. Our self-help culture and obsession with success is making us miserable and it has got to stop.

The case for being average - Quartz

Already the new phone has led to an eruption from the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey. At a news conference on Thursday devoted largely to combating terror threats from the Islamic State, Mr. Comey said, “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.” He cited kidnapping cases, in which exploiting the contents of a seized phone could lead to finding a victim, and predicted there would be moments when parents would come to him “with tears in their eyes, look at me and say, ‘What do you mean you can’t’ ” decode the contents of a phone. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”

Signaling Post-Snowden Era, New iPhone Locks Out N.S.A. - NYTimes.com

This week, a team of researchers out of MIT, Harvard, and China’s Tsinghua University—all schools that offer MOOCs—released a study showing that students who attended a MIT physics class online learned as effectively as students who took the class in person. What’s more, the results were the same, regardless of how well the online students scored on a pre-test before taking the class. “It’s an issue that has been very controversial,” said one of the study’s authors, Professor David Pritchard of MIT, in a statement. “A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs, or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.”

Why Free Online Classes Are Still the Future of Education | WIRED

Digital sales of all kinds now make up about 68 percent of total sales revenue for the recorded music industry. Streaming outlets, which include “on-demand” services like Spotify, Rhapsody and Google Play Music All Access; Internet radio like Pandora and iHeartRadio; and even video services that use music, are now 27 percent of the whole. According to the report, 7.8 million people in the United States paid for subscriptions to digital services (up from 6.1 million at the end of last year).

Music Sales Drop 5%, as Habits Shift Online - NYTimes.com