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Cory Hardman
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Let's say you're building a system to measure something, like a physical location. Sometimes you can measure to great precision; sometimes only to a very fuzzy precision. How your system tells its users about that can have drastic repercussions.

For example, let's say you're MaxMind, a company which provides a digital mapping service that tries to map IP addresses to physical locations, and provides this to everyone from suicide hotlines trying to find their callers to people engaging in lawsuits over things on the Internet. 

If you're smart about this, you'll give back an answer that reflects your actual knowledge: a lat/long if you have it, or "somewhere in Los Angeles," or "somewhere in the US" if that's all you can find.

If you're not smart about this, you'll just give back a lat/long describing the region where it's in, and leave it at that.

What goes wrong if you don't do this correctly? For one thing, it means that every time you want to say "somewhere in the US, not sure where" you indicate that by returning a lat/long at the center of the US. Which happens to be the lat/long of an actual farm, owned by actual people, who are then listed as the origin of half the malware, suicide hotline calls, and criminal activity in the country.

This wasn't due to malice or recklessness by the company, or by any of the other companies which do similar things. Most often, a company does the right thing, and provides two ways to get the data: a sophisticated API that tells you about regions and certainty, and a "simple" API that just gives you a lat/long for everything. That latter API is a reasonable way to talk to their computers if you just need a simple way to diagram things; e.g., maybe you want to plot a bunch of information on a map. Unfortunately, when you expose something like this, especially in a system designed to be used by decidedly non-technical lawyers, police, and so on, a bunch of people will ignore the API warning and treat the coordinates it gives you as gospel truth.

The moral of this story: it's never enough to express measurements on their own; measurements without a measure of uncertainty are less than worthless. This is just as important when you're designing API's as it is when you're quoting statistics to people.

Or as +Marcelle E put it so clearly in the comments: "it is just as important to know what is not being measured, as to know what is being measured." That's an aphorism to teach your students, right there.

Via +Jennifer Freeman 
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Most insightful thing I've read on buzzfeed
"This is incredibly interesting", says the very old man.
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It was so fun watching James open up Christmas presents this morning. Having a great Christmas with my family!
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I had never heard of Hedy Lamarr, but she is awesome!
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First Halloween as a family!
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Interesting project attempting to create some higher quality content on YouTube. First episode is out and it got my attention.

Unfortunately it is already suffering from movie physics. Though it is so far off of reality physics that they can likely just make things up from here.
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Western digital did an hilariously bad job implementing disk encryption.
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I'm so excited!
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"People are more afraid of shark attacks than of car accidents, despite the fact that car wrecks are millions of times more likely."

There is clearly only one way to solve this problem.

via +SMBC Comics 
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+Alexandra Petri​​'s take on women in meetings. Try listening for it. You may be surprised. Not a "Wow, you didn't have to get me a present!" kind of surprise. More like a "That's not what the TV commercial said it would be" kind of surprise.
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