social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2019

Posts tagged Internet

Yesterday I worked on my post about John Tukey and his contributions to statistics, data analysis, and my cell phone addiction.

As I did research to supplement my personal knowledge about Dr Turkey— near the end of his life, a good friend did work with him and one of my grad school professors (Bob Abelson) was one of his most influential students — I noticed the brevity of the bio in Wikipedia about him (less than a half a window on my computer) and contrasted this to the large number of screens of information available on the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Rodrigo Borgia, Al Capone, and Richard Nixon. Even R2D2 has a much longer biographical entry.

screen_0091 screen_0092

At many times the Internet is like ancient Rome (bread and circuses) or an episode of (un)reality television.

I dread to think how the aliens in the next galaxy are going to react when the television waves hit their planets. The two likely responses I forecast will be to either classify humans as a lower life form or to be delighted they have all the episodes of the Kardashians. I am betting on the latter (or probably both).

It makes me sad.


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Governments and other public entities are increasing their use of web sites as the primary publication outlet for medical, human services, and research information.

The transition to electronic publication saves money as well as other resources and at the same time is much more environmentally-friendly. At least a few forests in the world owe their lives to the decision of some of the largest paper users in the world to move to electronic publishing.

Electronic publishing offers a special advantage not generally available in traditional publishing on paper. On the Internet it costs no more to include colors, simple and complex images, and images that expand to show greater detail. And it is much less expensive for publications to present, in addition to their traditional text, graphics maximized facilitate creative thinking, memory retention, “big picture thinking,” and explanations that may be easier for individuals using other languages and from other cultures to understand.

Not everyone in the world does their primary thinking using words. Many — including me — find visual information more valuable, easier to assimilate, and more supportive of creative insights.

How often do you see a #MindMap, #ConceptMap, #FlowDiagram, or other visual representation on a government web site? While there are plenty of pie diagrams and line charts, such representations of data are quite limited and do NOT incorporate informed interpretation of information. Also, while there are plenty of pictures on government web sites, these images do NOT incorporate informed interpretation of information and they may give a quite biased view of data.

I do not recall ever seeing a #MindMap, #ConceptMap, or #FlowDiagram on the (otherwise extremely useful and high quality) web sites of the US Social Security Agency, the abstracts in the PubMed medical and scientific information databases, and the US government’s explanations of research and social programs, diseases and social conditions, and social service eligibility forms.

World-wide thinking is increasingly visual. Official information should be presented using both the traditional text-based methods currently employed AND newer, very effective methods of visual thinking. The brain is not limited to a single form of thinking and in fact research shows clearly that some of us (including me) handle visual data far more effectively and perform some of our best work using visual thinking techniques. Research also suggests that as the brain changes through disease processes such as Alzheimer’s disease and other more rare neurodegenerative conditions, as verbal centers suffer damage, visual centers may assume increasing importance.

While I strongly prefer #MindMaps as the method of presenting visual information, I could accept #ConceptMaps, #FlowDiagrams, and other visual thinking representations as at least a first start.

Of the mind mapping methods, I strongly believe that the Buzan-style organic mind maps including color-coding, size-coding, radiant information structures, and methods designed to optimize memory retention, memory retrieval, creativity, and cross-cultural communication are the most effective. A recent addition to mind mapping has been Huba’s method of mind modeling that adds all of the components shown in the figure below.

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Comedy and tragedy theatrical masks

Remember the “gold standard” research paradigm for determining if a medical treatment works: the DOUBLE BLIND, RANDOM ASSIGNMENT EXPERIMENT?

The design has historically been considered the best way to “prove” that new medical interventions work, especially if the experiment is replicated a number of times by different research teams. By the double blind (neither the treating medical team nor the patient know whether the patient is taking a placebo or active medication) design, investigators expect to negate the placebo effects caused by patient or medical staff beliefs that the “blue pill” is working.

A key part of virtually all double-blind research designs is the assumption that all patient expectations and reports are independent. This assumption is made because of the statistical requirements necessary to determine whether a drug has had a “significantly larger effect” as compared to a placebo. Making this assumption has been a “standard research design” feature since long before I was born more than 60 years ago.


Google the name of a new drug in clinical trials. You will find many (hundreds, thousands) of posts on blogs, bulletin boards for people with the conditions being treated with the experimental drug, and social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. Early in most clinical trials participants start to post and question one another about their presumed active treatment or placebo status and whether those who guess they are in the experimental condition think the drug is working or not. Since the treatments are of interest to many people world-wide who are not being treated with effective pharmaceuticals, the interest is much greater than just among those in the study.

Google the name of a new drug being suggested for the treatment of a rare or orphan disease that has had no effective treatments to date and you will find this phenomenon particularly prevalent for both patients and caregivers. Hope springs eternal (which it SHOULD) but it also can effect the research design. Obviously data that are “self reported” from patient or caregiver questionnaires can be affected by Internet “the guy in Wyoming says” or the caregiver of “the woman in Florida.”

OK you say, but medical laboratory tests and clinical observations will not be affected because these indices cannot be changed by patient belief they are in the experimental or placebo conditions. Hhmmm, Sam in Seattle just posted that he thinks that he in the experimental condition and that his “saved my life” treatment works especially well if you walk 90 minutes a day or take a specific diet supplement or have a berry-and-cream diet. Mary in Maine blogs the observation that her treatment is not working so she must be in the placebo condition and becomes very depressed and subsequently makes a lot of changes in her lifestyle, often forgetting to take the other medications she reported using daily before the placebo or experimental assignment was made.

Do we have research designs for the amount of research participant visible (blogs, tweets, bulletin boards) and invisible (email, phone) communication going on during a clinical trial? No. Does this communication make a difference in what the statistical tests of efficacy will report? Probably. And can we ever track the invisible communications going on by email? Note that patients who do not wish to disclose their medical status will be more likely to use “private” email than the public blog and bulletin board methods.

Want an example. Google davunetide. This was supposed to be a miracle drug for the very rare neurodegenerative condition PSP. The company (Allon) that developed the drug received huge tax incentives in the USA to potentially market an effective drug for a neglected condition. The company, of course, was well aware that after getting huge tax incentives to develop the pharmaceutical, if the drug were to prove effective in reducing cognitive problems (as was thought), it would then be used with the much more common (and lucrative from the standpoint of Big Pharma) neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) and schizophrenia.

Patients scrambled to get into the trial because an experimental medication was better than no medication (as was assumed, although not necessarily true) and the odds were 50/50 of getting the active pills.

Patients and caregivers communicated for more than a year, with the conversations involving patients from around the world. In my opinion, the communications probably increased the placebo effect, although I have no data nor statistical tests of “prove” this and it is pure conjecture on my part.

The trial failed miserably. Interestingly, within a few weeks after announcing the results, the senior investigators who developed and tested the treatment had left the employ of Allon. Immediately after the release of the results, clinical trial participants (the caregivers more than the patients) started trading stories on the Internet.

Time for getting our thinking hats on. I worked on methodological problems like this for 30+ years, and I have no solution, nor do I think this problem is going to be solved by any individual. Teams of #medical, #behavioral, #communication, and #statistical professionals need to be formed if we want to be able to accurately assess the effects of a new medication.

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Clinical Trial  Double-Blind  Treatment Evaluation  in the Era of the Internet

I guess it’s just me … I search Google for sites with “psychology mind maps” and I get lotsa pages returned. Of course very FEW of these pages let you know where the ideas, recommendations, and organization comes from. That makes me pretty pissed off.

I have a simple rule for evaluating psycho-pop, psycho-babble, psycho-art, and psycho-schmaltz: if the author (artist, developer) cannot prove to me that the information came from a credible source and is being communicated by a credible source, I assume it is psycho-fantasy and just walk (actually run) away.

Here’s a few things to ask about before you go ahead and change your job, spouse, running shoes, or haircut because somebody gives you some magic MBTI letters, a number on a test published in a self-magazine, or advice that must be right because it appears in a pretty mind map.

I love great psychology content conveyed in an easy to understand manner. I hope I produce some. Most do not produce anything except profits. Know what you are buying (and staking your life on) when you get information from a book, TV, the Internet, text, or a graphic.

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Don't Believe a Psychology (Self Help) Mind Map Unless it Tells You

A key part of the television science fiction series Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek are the machine “races” Cylons (“toasters” or robots in BSG who develop “human” bodies to house the electronics) and Borg (androids who assimilate new species and technology into their race in Star Trek series starting with New Generation).

People who want to be part machines (like the guy at the next table in the restaurant who can’t put the iPhone down from his ear long enough to acknowledge that his kids exist) are pretty common these days. Does the iPhone want to be partly human? By iPhone 9 it undoubtedly will be.

I write this as I get ready to hook up a blood pressure cuff and fitbit to my iPhone 5.

Veal in machine oil sauce. A cuisine whose time is coming.


I always look forward to the release of many Apple app updates on Saturday morning with anticipation and fear. At times these updates (really bug-fixes of not-acknowledged problems that should have been initially discovered through enough testing before release) provide useful new methods. At times they introduce a whole new set of bugs to frustrate you, hone your work-around skills, and make you look forward to the next updates.

I guess developers who sell millions of copies of small apps that replicate all of the functionality of another developer’s apps do not feel the responsibility to release a bug-free product after a lot of beta testing. Perhaps this lack of regard for the customer is because a programmer who ignored doing sufficient beta testing therefore releasing buggy and bloated software that probably wasted a year of my professional life went on to become the richest person in the world and pretend that all he ever wanted to do was to solve those six world problems that are simple enough for him to understand.

The well publicized “generosity” of the Gates Foundation is really not that; Gates is simply repaying with no interest a few cents on each dollar taken from the world as excessive profits by a monopoly and the waste of the world’s resources in the loss of billions of hours. Bill Gates should be severely criticized, not lionized for his charitable work; it is a tiny distraction from a life of greed and shirking responsibility for the products you sell. I certainly hope the little guys who “only” make a few million dollars from simple apps will not look to Gates as a role model.

Software  Updates and  Bill Gates'  Legacy

Here is a little experiment.

iMindMap of newly minted pseudo-words I have never used online before.


Wordle of newly minted pseudo-words I have never used online before.


I will update this blog post with comments as the experiment continues. My bet is that the engines will find the content very rapidly.

June 4 2013. Thus far, the only word google has found is torken. I am assuming that is because the font and tilt are like normal test.

Thus far, the moral of the story seems to be that if you want google to not find a word in your mind map, use organic mind mapping. Conversely …

Since humans can readily see the words in both the mind map and the woordle, this does illustrate (that at least in this case) google is not working like the human brain. I will check Bing later and update this post.

More to come. I also want to see what happens with the output of other mapping and graphics programs. I would argue that if google cannot detect nonsense words that humans can see in an organic mind map but can see those that appear in a non-organic, flat mind map (such as those from Mindjet and Mindnode, and XMind), then that would tend to argue that organic mind mapping is more like human thinking.

I invite everyone who mind maps to run simple experiments like this. These are very easy to do.

I have been writing (and mind mapping) a lot recently about the need to make sure that mind maps purported to contain “expert” information are valid, reliable, important, and data-driven. I have noted that I also think these mind maps are better communication devices if they are “organic” (in the sense of Tony Buzan) and “artistic” and creative. And I am fairly sure that valid and memorable organic mind maps can be much better for encoding information into memory.

The best example I have found of a profesional who consistently produces valid, reliable, important, data-driven, organic, artistic mind maps is Hans Buskes who posts his work frequently on his blog mastermindmaps and tweets as @hansbuskes. Dr Buskes’ maps have well-researched information that meets current standards of excellence, are easy to understand, and data-driven. Look at his two English-language e-books on mind mapping. The book available on iTunes is offered for free.

I view the work of Dr Buskes as the standard I hope to achieve.

The examples are partial screen clips of two of Hans Buskes’ maps. See the mastermindmaps blog site for the full maps and explanatory materials.



This figure shows my current core set of apps. I use these about 90% of the time when I am on the iPhone (in addition to the built-in apps). This set of apps permits you to do some pretty advanced calculations, manage tasks, write longish memos, clean up your pictures, use social media, show movies, take notes, and store web pages for later reading.

Who woulda thought in 1967 that tricorders would exist during the lifetimes of my high school friends and I; cell phones did not become available for another 20 years, and the original scientific calculator was released about 1974.

Now half of the adults around me in a college town look like Spock staring into his beloved tricorder (about 8 times the size of an iPhone). A lot of them seem to have about the same degree of social intelligence as Spock as they stare at the machines in restaurants with their friends.

Without further ado, a look at what is on my iPhone.

iphone 5 apps daily core set

Keyword Board

iphone 5 apps: daily core set photography perfectly clear media amazon instant video youtube netflix mind mapping imindmap social media tweetbot pinterest tweetings word press blog task management due clear magazine zite pocket © 2013 g j huba other scan myscript calculator calcbot wolfram alpha notes draft skitch fastfinga3 evernote ia writer day one

In the USA, you do not have the right to yell fire in crowded theaters. And you shouldn’t. There are limits to free speech and the invasion of privacy. Somebody needs to tell Emperor Trump that.

It is now possible to data mine public information, the Internet, photos of my home from outer space, credit card records, records of what I read (from book purchases and Internet clicks), records of what I watch (from movie ticket purchases and Internet clicks and cable/satellite clicks), my family tree (and what they read, watch, buy, etc), my health insurers’ reimbursements, my pharmaceutical purchases, and once again what I charge to my credit card. Somebody knows that I regularly go to a Thai restaurant in Chapel Hill and the Panera in Durham (I never use a credit card at McDonald’s so no one will know I like steak and egg bagels) and get my prescriptions filled in Chapel Hill. In many real ways it is now possible for data miners to create models that are almost me by adding in routines that account for the fact that I am predictably unpredictable. And even more scary, they can use a computer model of me to infer things about my family (genetically linked conditions, personality proclivities, intelligence, potential problem behaviors, lifespan). Really sucks, doesn’t it.

WTF have we been thinking? If there was ever an industry in need of regulation it is the folks who are recreating ME as a computer model. Don’t feel left-out… they are also recreating YOU.

I predict that a new industry will arise to “fool” the data miners and make the computer models less accurate by adding random noise and random data to the information the marketers use. This can be done by a variety of techniques probably well-known to the CIA, FBI, NSA, Amazon, Google, health insurers, and Walmart. I currently try to manually introduce random information into my various computer profiles.

You do not have the right to be ME. In person or on the Internet. For any purpose.

To the data miners and marketers who are stealing ME and YOU and YOU and the next two generations of our families I say … “I wonder if there is a special corner in Hell for you.”

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The penalty for yelling fire in a crowded theater might well be fire.

PS. For those of you who do not like Obamcacare and universally covering pre-existing conditions, remember that current computer models are sophisticated enough to make a good estimate of the odds your own unborn great grandchildren will have certain serious medical conditions and behavior problems. Hell, we better cover pre-existing conditions for the next six generations before somebody decides to pre-disqualify my unborn grandchildren.