Friday, August 08, 2014

Using empirical results to guide foreign policy

Stephen Walt has an interesting suggestion for US foreign policy in the Middle East.

If you look back over decades and decades of US actions in the Middle East, whether you are talking about Israel/Palestinian, North Africa, Arab Spring, Iraq/Afghanistan, Syria, Al Queda, and on and on, the results are not so hot. 

So what if, he suggests, we take that as a hint that our intervention doesn't do much good, despite the investment of significant amounts of blood and treasure?  Of course, they may be brief humanitarian necessities if we see genocide.  But other than that, what if we experiment with doing nothing for a decade or two and see what happens?  We can always re-intervene at that time if the results are even worse.  But what if it gets better? 

We may not have a logical or geopolitical reason for it to get better from inaction, but clearly the logic and geopolitics leading our interventions simply hasn't worked either so perhaps our models and instincts are all wrong. 

It's funny how the scientist in me really wants to run the experiment, but the risk-averse geopolitician in me just can't bear the thought.

This Week in EID – Episode 15

I missed a lot of this week because of my trip to Singapore.  I wrote the articles the week before and Keith did his magic to queue them all up so that nothing would be amiss on the site.  But I was not keeping track as closely about what came out when.  So this weekly wrap-up is also a good chance for me to remember what it was exactly that I talked about.

Monday looked at the website Pinterest Fail and realized that the examples there are not always failures, they are often satisficing successes.  Just because the chocolate cookies don’t come out looking perfect, doesn’t mean they are not perfectly yummy.  That is an important design distinction because a lot of people care about the look (especially if they are baking the cookies as a gift) and lot of other people don’t (comfort food scenarios often are better when mushy).

Tuesday was a great post because it is one of those things that just slaps you in the face – a common, obvious, important design decision that I never realized was being made.  I will let you read the details in the original post, but I really wonder if companies realize the important decision they are making when they require (or don’t require) unique user names.

Wednesday was one of my favorite posts ever and others seemed to agree with me based on the emails I got (yeah, a lot of folks don’t comment directly on the site for some reason). This was the post about how people create their on-line dating profiles and whether they are completely misjudge what the people who they are trying to attract are looking for or whether they are just too insecure to tell the truth.  What do you think?

Then Thursday was one of my favorite topics because of its importance rather than just being fun.  How much do your principles impact your design choices?  Not legal or ethical decisions where there is a clear line that you are not supposed to cross.  I mean the ones where you have to willingly give up some usability or profitability, or something else more tangible in order to make your design conform to a principle that is not mandatory, just important.