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You may have heard about ResearchGate, the so called facebook of scientists. Yes, another social network. Its structure is actually more similar to twitter: each user is a node and you can create directed edges from yourself to other users. Since I finally got rid of my facebook account (I am a Bellwether. In five years all the cool guys will not be on facebook), I decided to try ResearchGate. I wanted a stable platform to upload my preferable versions of my papers so that they will be the first to pop up on google. Also, I figured if I am returning to blogging then I need stuff to bitch about. ResearchGate only partially fulfill the first goal, but it does pretty well with the second.

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It’s eight months already since I got my ipad and I haven’t boasted about it here yet. (But I did try to piss everyone off by constantly playing with it during the summer game theory workshops, with a considerable success.) Well, everything you’ve heard is true, the pad is awesome. I will pour more detailed praise in another post, but first I have a complaint to register: There is no Dvorak layout option for the software keyboard.

If you don’t know what is Dvorak, then the keyboard layout you work with is the one invented million years ago. The hunter gatherers who were roaming the earth at that time were typing their papers using a mechanical device called typewriter which was something between a keyboard and a printer: When you press a key it would squirt ink onto a paper. Since the typewriter would jam when two keys were pressed together rapidly, the layout of the keys was designed to slow down the typing. That’s why the vowels in your qwerty keyboard are all over the place and you have to move your fingers a long distance from one letter to another when you type. I, on the other hand, and other members of the exclusive club of dvorak users, rarely move our fingers from the middle row in our keyboard, which reads, from left to right, AOEU ID HTNS. Notice how your favorite letters are all there. make sense, no ?



How come Dvorak didn’t conquer the world already ? Well, some people view this as a market failure. Other, especially those who believe `market failure’ is a logical contradiction, view this as a proof that the dvorak layout is actually no more efficient and that the story about the qwerty layout being designed for inefficiency is a crock. Other say we are in a transition stage between one equilibrium to another: Just wait another million years and everybody will be using dvorak.

As for me, I know that the dvorak layout doesn’t improve my writing speed since, dvorak or no dvorak, it takes me so much longer to think what I want to write than to actually type it, that even if the letters will randomly permute after every key i press the impact on my writing speed will be negligible. Also, I usually take a couple of days break after every sentence I write (my exasperated co-authors could elaborate on this point), so again — the bottleneck is definitely not in the keyboard layout.

Why then am I using dvorak ? Because it’s a status symbol, because it’s cool, because I will enjoy seeing your face when you try to type on my notebook and get gibberish, because i am an avid consumer of useless gadgets. In short, I am using dvorak for the same reasons I am using ipad. So how come the ipad’s operating system doesn’t support dvorak layout ?

Ok, just in case you missed the subtext of this post, let me make it explicit: I have an ipad ! it’s awesome ! i am totally smug about it !

MacFreedom is an application that disables network connection for a period of up to eight hours. Actually it doesn’t mean you absolutely can’t restore the connection if you really must check on facebook what your elementary school classmate had for lunch yesterday, but you do have to restart your computer for that. So by using Freedom you force yourself to exert some effort in order to browse around. Therefore you are less likely to actually do it, and you can spend your time more productively on your tenure package research.

Economists sometimes talk about `multiple selves’ model. I never actually managed to get through a behavioral econ paper, but I think it goes something like this: There are two Erans. A sophisticated, long term planning `E1′ and a lazy, self-serving, easily tempted `E2′. As long as they (that is to say, I) are planning to do stuff, E1 is in charge. But when I actually sit down in front of my laptop to read Blograshevski et al. Econometrica 1974 `The multiple selves model in a dynamic multi-valued auction with hyperbolic discounting’, E2 takes control. Since E1 is sophisticated, he uses Freedom to disconnect from the universe for sixty minutes just before E2 arrives, so that E2 will have to pay the cost of rebooting before he can delve into the blogosphere. Presumably, between Blograshevski and rebooting, E2 might actually prefer Blograshevski.

Well, this used worked for me: I have Freedom to thank for some of the few papers that I actually managed to read or write. But here enters another, less abstract, economic idea — if E1 benefits from using Freedom, then he should actually be willing to pay for it ! Indeed, Freedom started as a freeware, then a donationware, and now it costs $10.

The economic reasoning does not work on this particular E1 though. Sorry, but paying for internet and then paying again for not being able to use the internet is just too humiliating, selves or no selves. As somebody mentioned, the next thing you know credit card issuers will ask E1 to pay fee for the service of increasing E2’s over-the-credit-limit fee.

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