December 3rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

You’re on the List

They are everywhere. It doesn’t matter if the subject matter is serious or completely frivolous. Anything can and will be broken down into a list. Lists attract our attention. Lists are magnets for pageviews and sharing. In The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova shares a brief list of reasons why our brains love lists (written, oddly, in paragraph form). Apparently, reading everything in list form is fine “as long as we realize that our fast-food information diet is necessarily limited in content and nuance, and thus unlikely to contain the nutritional value of the more in-depth analysis of traditional articles that rely on paragraphs, not bullet points.”

+ Numbered lists are often accompanied by a catchy (mostly misleading) viral headline. From Hamish McKenzie: “This Story Will Make You Puke!” New media goes all Upworthy, all the time.

+ Ezra Klein: Being a viral genius is going viral.

+ There was a time when editors could convince themselves that the most important news stories were getting the most reads. Those days are over. Now editors have the data that tells them exactly how many times an article is being read. And that naturally drives a temptation to produce more of those articles. Take a look at a snapshot of the most popular stories at the NY Daily News yesterday.


Phoning It In

The holiday weekend was lackluster, but the Cyber Monday numbers saw a significant boost. And this year, a whole lot of consumers are using mobile devices to shop (for, one assumes, more mobile devices).

+ What was the best-selling item at Walmart on Black Friday? Towels. Me-gifting is the new Re-gifting.


Who Gives?

The Economist’s Matthew Bishop says we should make this year’s “giving tuesday” (the opening day of the giving season) the day of the Unselfie.

+ This year, I joined the board of a great Bay Area organization called 826 Valencia (founded by Dave Eggers). Through after-school tutoring, school workshops, and college-readiness programs, the group does great work inspiring kids to become more confident writers and learners. It’s inspiring stuff. If you feel like supporting a NextDraft cause this holiday season, please consider making a donation to 826 Valencia (and be sure to answer the question about what made you decide to give so we can track the power of the NextDraft community).

+ Aeon: The selfish gene is one of the most successful science metaphors ever invented. Unfortunately, it’s wrong. (I’ll chime in on this once I see our 826 Valencia fundraising numbers!)


Detroit, Rocked City

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has cleared the way for Detroit to officially become the largest U.S. city ever to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy. In summarizing his decision, Rhodes explained: “We have here a judicial finding that this once proud city cannot pay its debts. At the same time, it has an opportunity for a fresh start. I hope that everybody associated with the city will recognize that opportunity.” For those counting on pensions, it could be too late for a fresh start.


This Will Have You In Stitches

OK, so the website sort of works. Now we need to do something about costs. We may see big changes in the number of insured Americans. But the price of health remains obscene. The NYT takes a look at the the high (and widely variable) cost of cutting your finger: As hospital prices soar, a stitch tops $500. When I feel sick, I meet a concierge doctor in the penthouse suite of a luxury hotel. It’s cheaper that way.

+ WaPo: Nearly all hospitals will give you the price of parking. Barely any will give you the price of health care.


Swimming in LA

Two academics set out to map all the swimming pools in Los Angeles. One of their key takeaways: Beverly Hills has 2,481, Watts has none. Another key takeaway: It’s really easy to collect data that people might not necessarily want collected.


Maybe We Just Don’t Test Well

More than half a million students around the world took a standardized test in 2012. The results for Americans were largely unchanged. Our education is expensive and unequal, and we’re not that good at math.

+ But maybe being bad at math is good news. Countries with higher math scores have unhappier kids.

+ Are we testing for the wrong things? When was the last time your kid’s spatial skills were assessed?

+ Want smarter kids? Sign them up for music lessons.


Banana Republic

“So it came as something of a surprise to Lavery to discover Monday that Tommy, the chimpanzee to whom he has extended his hospitality and an endless supply of bananas for the last decade, had sued him in New York’s Supreme Court.” The Nonhuman Rights Project is helping animals lawyer up and seek a writ of habeas corpus. But in this case, they seem to be going after the folks who are already out to rescue animals.


New Coke (and Pepsi)

The cola wars have played out across the airwaves for years. But now, they are playing out in the labs where researchers are attempting to find the sweetened, holy grail that could save the industry: The mid-calorie soda.


The Bottom of the News

Amazon drones may never actually hover above your front yard. But if they do, they might want to avoid Deer Trail, Colorado, where the town is set to consider an ordinance that would allow (and even reward) hunting drones.

+ Ohio. The sweariest state in the nation.

+ The Seahawks’ fans are know for creating a lot of noise. They also just created an earthquake.

+ Wired: The 13 best movies you didn’t see in 2013.

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