Presenting the best of JWM, 2012 edition

Photo: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Photo: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

One of the benefits of the Attack of the Fanboys I went through this weekend was that it reminded me I had never gotten around to pulling out the best posts from this blog for 2012 and adding them officially to the “Best of Just Well Mixed” archive. I’m sure this was causing a lot of sleeplessness and anxiety for Longtime Readers™, so I’ve (finally) taken care of it.

What qualifies a post for inclusion in the Best of JWM? Mostly it’s a function of how much discussion a post generated; much-talked-about and much-linked-to posts are what a blog exists to generate. Other factors are depth (meaty, researched posts as opposed to quick “hey, check this out [LINK]” types of things) and longevity (whether the post is as interesting a year or more after it was written). All of these factors are then mashed together in the completely unbiased and objective computer that is my brain to determine the list of winners. Finally, I throw that list out and add in whichever posts I think deserve it.

Here’s the list of posts from last year that made it into the hall of fame:

I want a newspaper that can call a lie a lie (January 2)

Brisbane sets up a choice between “reporting” and “opinion,” which is a standard way journalists divide up the world, and then asks us which one we prefer. But I believe this is a false dichotomy, because it leaves out a critical third element: context

SOPA: the tech industry’s self-inflicted wound (January 19)

This makes it sound like the reason for SOPA is that the content industry spends a lot on lobbying and the tech industry does not. But the problem is that if you dig into the actual data that storyline looks less and less plausible — and what looks more plausible is that tech wasn’t outspent, but instead spent its money in dumb ways

Gadget fatigue (February 1)

I’ve tried four times now to buy a new phone, and each time I’ve walked away without closing the sale, feeling vaguely depressed about the whole process to boot.

I think it has to do with values. I know the kind of device I want to buy; the problem is that nobody makes it

The question about bombing Iran that nobody is asking (March 9)

There’s one question about an attack that nobody on either side of the question appears to be asking, and that’s disturbing, because it’s probably the most important question that could be asked. That question is whether or not we even have the capability to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities from the air

How to survive an atomic bomb (March 29)

Which brings me to the most important point about this [small terrorist nuke] type of scenario: it can be survived. It’s not like the Cold War wargasm scenario, where so much explosive tonnage is falling on your head that protecting yourself is impossible. There are things you can do if you find yourself in such a situation that can dramatically improve your chances of making it out alive

How to sell products to nerds (April 25)

Programmers aren’t just pessimists. We are fatalists. We believe that the only reason the world runs at all is because of frequent applications of bubble gum and baling wire in places we can’t see.

We think that way because our work requires us to spend our days climbing around in the innards of things, and innards, generally speaking, are not pretty

Interchangeable news story on President Obama’s announcement of “personal support” for gay marriage (May 9)

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” the president noted, historically and unprecedentedly. “That being said, there’s no reason for anybody to worry that I’m going to help in any way to make it easier for those same-sex couples to actually do that”

Ethical aggregation: it’s simple (May 10)

Ethical aggregation increases reader demand for the original story; unethical aggregation decreases it

Against live-tweeting (June 7)

I know you think that it’s critical that you get your opinions on the presentation out to your legions of followers right this minute. But trust me, your followers can wait for your thoughts until the session is over; you’re not Edward R. Murrow, and this is not the London Blitz

The image that illustrates the White House’s communication failure on health reform (June 28)

This has been the most glaring omission from the administration’s communications efforts around health reform ever since they first took up the issue. There’s no narrative, no story, and that’s fatal, because stories are what move people

How to crusade like a king in Crusader Kings II (July 24)

I’ve written in this space before about how impressed I’ve been with the latest strategy game from Paradox Interactive, Crusader Kings II, and its first expansion, Sword of Islam. Those posts led to a discussion on Facebook asking me to expand on them a bit, by taking them down to a more concrete level: strategies for how to play them and win. So, here’s a post that will do just that

Bill Nye demonstrates how not to persuade a creationist (August 29)

If you want to change somebody’s mind, you have to first establish to them that you’re someone they want to listen to. The way you do that is by approaching them with respect. And Nye comes across here as deeply disrespectful

Ask Mr. Science: Windows 8 (October 28)

Windows 8 is some software for computers and phones and stuff. It looks just like regular Windows, except for all the places it doesn’t. It works just like regular Windows, except for all the places it doesn’t. And it runs all your old Windows software, except on some computers, where it doesn’t

Everything you need to know to understand why Obama won, in one image (November 7)

[Voters] weren’t happy with the slow pace of recovery — a point this blog predicted would be a drag on Obama’s support two years ago — but they figured a slow recovery was better than a crash back into depression, which is the image that little R conjures up now. This is the boat anchor that Bush shackled onto the leg of the Republican Party, and they haven’t figured out a way to wriggle out of it yet