Hell Yeah! [Weekly Head Voices #59]

We kick off this week’s edition of the WHV with Ben Goldacre giving his TED talk on “Battling bad science” at 180 km/h:

He’s fabulous, isn’t he? If you haven’t done so already, you should really read his book “Bad Science” too, and don’t forget to hand a copy to anyone in your neighbourhood that might be confused about homeopathy, accupuncture, any other forms of alternative medicine, or anything by Patrick Holford, vitamin-peddler of note.

On a completely different note, I’ve fallen in love with a piece of software again. This time it’s Zotero, open source reference manager. For those of you not into writing (scientific) articles, a reference manager is an indispensable tool that keeps track of all the other articles that you’ve studied and helps you to cite them correctly whilst writing your latest attempt. I tried Zotero in 2009 but wasn’t that impressed. It seems that much has happened since, as I’ve been completely blown away this time. Killer feature #1 is the extreme ease with which I can import new references, by clicking on the little icon in my Firefox 7.0 url bar (Zotero 2.1 is a Firefox plugin). If the PDF is available, it’ll add that as well. I can also just drop a PDF directly in there and tell it to extract metadata to make a bibliographic entry. It does this surprisingly well.  Killer feature #2 is the explicit support for storing one’s reference database anywhere else, for example in one’s Dropbox, another piece of software with which I have a long-term romantic involvement and which in this case ensures that I have transparent access to my whole reference database, via Zotero, from any computer I care to use.

(NB: If you’re going to do this, make sure you don’t run Zotero concurrently on multiple machines. A better solution, which I’m now using, is to have only the zotero “storage” folder in your dropbox, and then symlink that into the default zotero firefox profile directory. Please let me know in the comments if you need more detail on this.)

Just in time for our regular coffee-themed blog post interlude, there’s been yet another study on coffee-related health benefits, and now it looks like coffee drinking may also protect against depression in women. As you will recall, I recently blogged about the coffee-related prostate-cancer protection. Seems coffee is perfect in one more regard: It’s an equal opportunity health benefit!

For my birthday, TNR bought me Anything You Want by Derek Sivers, and beamed it directly to my Kindle (go 21st century!). Derek Sivers is the guy who started CD Baby almost by accident, a company that became the largest seller of independent music on the interwebs. I say by accident, because his goal in the beginning was purely to sell his own CDs online (which was quite a feat in 1997, as there was no PayPal and not that much WWW yet), and then friends asked if he could sell their CDs too, and before he knew it, he had 85 employees, 150000 musicians and 100 million dollars in revenue. It’s a fabulous story, all the more because he really just wanted to keep his company as small as possible and do what he loved.

The book is chock-full of philosophical nuggets, for example the one that inspired the title of this blog. Sivers explains that when you have to decide whether to commit to a new project or not, there are only two choices: It’s either HELL YEAH! or NO. Your time is too limited to take on just yes or even maybe. Makes sense, no?

What really resonated with me however, was the following thought on how people grade themselves:

For me, it’s how many useful things I create, whether songs, companies, articles, websites or anything else. If I create something that’s not useful to others, it doesn’t count. But I’m also not interested in doing something useful unless it needs my creative input.

I think that I’ll leave it at that. Now go have an epic week kids!