How To Make Your Scientific Paper Better In Five Minutes

I’ve been published!

This was mostly good luck. John Bullock had an interesting research idea, and he needed someone to help out. I was available, and sufficiently interested in recording information for posterity. (Hence this blog — shout-out to those of you reading this in the 22nd century!)


The Paper

Modern science has a big problem. Well, a lot of big problems, but this one has the distinction of being easy to fix.

The problem is reference rot, which is what happens when you cite in your political science paper and then Trump gets inaugurated.

That is to say: The link breaks, and no one will ever know what the heck you were citing. Which makes them less likely to cite you, and also just makes it really annoying to do science.

This happens to a startling number of links in scientific papers and other official documentation. And it happens fast. Our paper found that, in the most prestigious journal in political science, more than a quarter of links cited in 2013 were broken by the end of 2014!

If you publish research papers, or anything else with hyperlinks, you’re at risk.


Fix Your Work in Five Minutes

How to avoid reference rot:

  1. Before you submit your final manuscript for publication, ask yourself: “Self, have I cited any online materials in this paper?”
  2. If so, replace every link with a permanent, archived version of that link. You can make these with The Internet Archive or Perma.
  3. There is no step three.

If you’re a blogger, you can also do this, but it’s tedious. Instead, I use the WordPress extension “Broken Link Checker”, which alerts me to any links that go dead and lets me replace them with the Internet Archive version in one click.

When you start to use archived links, you’ll officially be storing information more securely than the Supreme Court.


John Bullock Bonus

Before this paper, Bullock published a more substantial paper with a more important researcher who shares my initials (Alan Gerber).

The authors find that, while Democrats and Republicans claim to believe very different things about history, those differences shrink when partisans are offered money for correct answers to historical questions. They’re cheering for their beliefs, not professing them seriously.

If only there were a way to combine money and politics in a way that would convince partisans to disclose their true beliefs…


The Other Five Best Clickhole Articles of All Time

The Five Best Clickhole Articles of All Time is my most popular post ever.

What would Clickhole do if they were me?

Obviously, they’d write a sequel, to get all those delicious clicks. Here you go!


The Five Best Clickhole Articles Since The Last Time I Wrote This Article

  1. Six Job Offers I Received After I Listed My Job Title on LinkedIn as “Treasure Horse”
  2. Almost Inspiring: This Woman’s First Post About Her Miscarriage Showed How Strong She Was, But Then Her Next 8 Posts Were Just Way Too Fucking Sad To Go Viral
  3. Disgrace: The CEO Of Beans Has Stepped Down Amid Reports That There Can’t Be A CEO Of Beans
  4. An Oral History of Pixar
  5. Wow: When Someone Graffitied Hateful Messages On This Mosque, A Group Of House Painters Came Together To Cover It Up For Free. But Then The Next Night The Hateful Guy Came Back And Wrote Even Worse Stuff, And The Painters Are Booked Through The End Of The Year. So Now Some Well-Intentioned Teens Are Going To Try To Fix It, Which Is Very Nice, But They Probably Aren’t Going To Do A Very Good Job And They Don’t Have A Ladder.


Almost Inspiring:

Within just a few hours of posting, Kelsey’s story had already racked up over 1,000 shares on Facebook and was well on its way to becoming the sort of viral sensation that inspires women all across the globe. Unfortunately, the eight statuses that followed were such a fucking bummer that there’s no way you’ll be seeing them shared across your feed anytime soon.

The CEO of Beans:

As of this morning, the board of directors of beans has accepted Mr. Buckley’s resignation, and then the members promptly stepped down themselves amidst reports that beans cannot have a board of directors, either.


Pete Docter (animator, Pixar): There was this unspoken agreement that films shouldn’t star human beings. They should star human beings whose souls are trapped in the bodies of smaller things, or bigger things. Souls trapped in fish; souls trapped in toys; souls trapped in cars. It’s just good storytelling.

John Lasseter: I vividly remember the moment we came up with the idea for Ratatouille. Brad Bird suddenly started scribbling down the words “rat Frenchman” over and over on a napkin. He must have written it hundreds of times. We all started nodding, because we knew this idea was going to make us a billion dollars.



The Other Four Best Clickhole Articles (etc.)

  1. If People Think There’s A Quick Fix To Illegal Immigration They’re As Misguided As The Scientists In My Screenplay ‘Chronotaur: Labyrinth Of Time’
  2. Not Good At All: This Charity Pays For Skydiving Lessons For Convicted Sex Offenders
  3. PR Disaster: The President Of Panasonic Has Been Forced To Resign After 60,000 Panasonic TVs Ascended To Heaven Without Warning
  4. I Put On A Fat Suit To Understand What It’s Like To Be Your Mom


Not Good At All:

The charity is shockingly well-funded, has tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization, and has already paid for hundreds of sex offenders to enjoy the excitement of skydiving for the first time. But it gets worse. Charity Navigator, a popular charity-rating site, gives Sky’s The Limit a four out of four star rating, citing its transparency and high percentage of donations going toward its programs.

Your Mom:

From the moment I put on the fat suit, it became clear that your mom’s life was way more challenging than I ever could’ve imagined. You can’t sit down without first checking for innocent bystanders. You can’t roll over in bed without getting your passport stamped. You can’t even take a selfie without using Google Maps.



If you liked this article, you should subscribe to Alpha Gamma! The rest of the blog is very different. Subscribe anyway.


Self-Congratulation and Self-Criticism

Sometimes, I do a good thing. Not a great act of heroism, but a simple, fundamentally decent thing that helps someone else.

When that happens, I congratulate myself for doing the right.

Then I criticize myself, since I don’t deserve congratulation for doing the “right thing”. After all, everyone should do the right thing.

Then I congratulate myself for being so humble and morally strict.

Then I criticize myself for bragging about my own humility.

My record for this is four cycles. I almost always stop on self-criticism.


Perhaps there are two kinds of people in the world: People who usually stop at self-congratulation, and people who usually stop at self-criticism.

Which kind of person are you?


How to Start a College Magazine, Part Four: Survival and Growth

This is the last article in a four-part series on starting a college magazine, written by the former Chairman of the Yale Record, America’s oldest humor magazine. There’s a lot of information here; pick and choose whatever seems helpful. 


In the first three parts of this series, I gave advice about starting a publication, recruiting writers and other staff, and putting together your first few issues.

This is the cleanup post, where I talk about everything else. It will make more sense if you read the other posts first. Topics covered include:

  • Publicizing your work
  • Funding the publication
  • Selling advertisements
  • Staying out of trouble
  • Preserving your history


Find Readers, Get Famous

You’ve published an issue! Congratulations.

Now what?

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20 Alternatives to Punching Nazis

20 Alternatives to Punching Nazis

I won’t rehash the Nazi-punching debate that rolled over America last week. Good sources include thisthis, and this.

But having read too many articles on the topic, I still don’t endorse Nazi-punching.

When punching “the right people” becomes an option, the punchers often end up punching a lot of other people. And punching Richard Spencer in particular gives Richard Spencer much more publicity — even sympathy, in some cases — than he’d receive otherwise.

But it’s not helpful just to claim people shouldn’t do something to Nazis. Or to certain other groups of people who endorse ideas they see as existential threats.*

My views here are closest to those of Darth Oktavia, a longtime anti-fascist who writes:

“The nazis love getting into fights with antifas, because that’s their home territory. What nazis hate is parody […] they could save face with a traditional fight, but they cannot save face by starting a fight with people who are only showing what huge jokes they are.”

So, in the spirit of parody: here are some ideas for bothering Nazis, turning Nazis into laughingstocks, and making Nazis feel terrible — all without leaving bruises, and hopefully without running the risk of a felony assault charge.**

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The Best Books of My 2016

This was a good year for reading, since I spent it sitting with my Kindle on airplanes. (Kindles are great — like tablets, but without all those fussy little apps that distract you from reading.)

Of the ~150 books I read this year, these are the ones that come to mind when I think of the word “best”. They are very different, and you won’t like all of them, but they all do something well.

For a list of every book I remember reading, check my Goodreads account.

Best List of All the Books

In no particular order, save for the first four, which I liked most of all.

  1. Rememberance of Earth’s Past (series, all three books)
  2. The Steerswoman (series, all four books)
  3. Chasing the Scream
  4. Rationality: From AI to Zombies
  5. The Last Samurai
  6. Axiomatic
  7. The Fifth Season
  8. The Found and the Lost
  9. The Future and its Enemies
  10. Evicted
  11. On the Run
  12. Conundrum
  13. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
  14. The Partly Cloudy Patriot
  15. Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air
  16. Machete Season
  17. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia


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Daniel Radcliffe Memorizes the Lyrics to “Alphabet Aerobics”

This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely intentional. Except for Emma Watson, who seems like a perfectly nice woman. Inspired by One More Thing.




“Artificial amateurs aren’t at all amazing. Analytically, I assault and amaze…”

Daniel Radcliffe pressed “pause”, then “back”. He glared balefully at his iPod.

“No! That’s not right.”

He pressed “play”. The song began again:

“Now it’s time for our wrap-up. Let’s give it everything we’ve got!”

Daniel nodded in time with the beat. This time, he thought, I’ll get past “D”.

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Talking About Effective Altruism at Parties

I’m part of the effective altruism (EA) movement. We’re people who share a few beliefs:

  1. Value the lives of all people equally, no matter what they look like or where they come from.
  2. When you do something for the sake of other people, try to do the most good you can.
  3. Use research and evidence to make decisions. Support causes and programs with a lot of good evidence behind them.
  4. When you have a choice, compare different options. Don’t just do something because it’s a good idea — make sure there’s no obvious better thing you could be doing instead.

In practice, we give a lot of money to charity. Usually charities that work in countries where people are very poor, like India, Ghana, or Kenya — not the United States or Britain or Japan. We think other people should also do this.

(I’ll skip the complications for now. I’ve been satisfied by the responses I’ve heard to my objections against EA, and I’ll assume that any reader of this piece is at least neutral toward the central ideas of the movement.)


Party Conversation

This is a collection of ways to explain EA, or argue that EA is a good idea, in 60 seconds or less. Many are based on real conversations I’ve had. Ideally, you could use them at a party. I plan to, when I move out of Verona to a city with more parties.

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Annotate the Web: March 2016

I use Genius to add comments and context to the articles I read. This is a monthly round-up of articles I did the most Genius-ing on. To see all my annotations, follow me on Genius!

If you like to think while you read, you should get an account and add the Chrome extension. The Internet needs thoughtful people like you!

(Also, without the extension, you may not see the annotations on these articles.)


Articles of Note

80 years ago, Harvard had a “Jewish quota”. They used rhetoric about “character” to limit the number of Jews they admitted, in favor of students who weren’t as book-smart but fit the Harvard ideal. Today, the same thing is happening to Asians, for the same reasons.

Controlling for other variables […] Asians need SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and an incredible 450 points higher than blacks (out of 1,600 points) to get into these schools. 

If you want to see some ridiculously offensive statements from MIT’s Dean of Admissions, this is the article for you!

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