Daily Me

WSJ writes about personalised newspapers:

A new generation of Web start-ups is trying to address those drawbacks in different ways but with a common premise. These sites track the reading habits of their users as a whole, then use that data to make suggestions to individuals based on what others like them are reading. This communal news judgment can help ensure that readers don’t miss important stories outside their usual interests. And it can even help online news junkies decide which of the stories they choose to see are must-reads, and which can more safely be skipped.

One of these new sites is Rojo.com, owned by San Francisco-based Rojo Networks Inc. Rojo.com helps users find and organize RSS feeds. Instead of just having users plug in the feeds they know they want to read, Rojo asks new users to define their general interests and favorite sources first. During the sign-up process, users check boxes next to topics such as “News — top stories” and “Iraq/military bloggers.” Then they can choose from a list of big-name news sources. Rojo automatically subscribes new users to popular feeds that match their interests. Readers who already had a list of RSS feeds can have those displayed on the site as well.

Expert Performance

The New York Times has a column by the authors of Freakonomics:

Anders Ericsson, a 58-year-old psychology professor at Florida State University,…. is the ringleader of what might be called the Expert Performance Movement, a loose coalition of scholars trying to answer an important and seemingly primordial question: When someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good?

Ericsson and his colleagues have thus taken to studying expert performers in a wide range of pursuits, including soccer, golf, surgery, piano playing, Scrabble, writing, chess, software design, stock picking and darts. They gather all the data they can, not just performance statistics and biographical details but also the results of their own laboratory experiments with high achievers.

Their work, compiled in the “Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance,” a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichs that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichs just happen to be true.