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Offbeat (Page 3)

This subsection of the Need to Know newsletter offers news and ideas from unusual sources or other industries beyond journalism.

Virtual reality cafes are bringing niche technology to the masses in China

Two years after Facebook bought virtual reality company Oculus for $2 million, virtual reality remains a niche technology in the West. But in China, the niche technology is becoming more mainstream thanks to hundreds of virtual reality cafes, where people can pay a fee to go to wear a headset and experience VR. One Chinese startup, […]

‘We gave four good pollsters the same raw data. They had four different results.’

Nearly every polling articles mentions the “margin of error,” but what’s rarely explained is that the “margin of sampling error” doesn’t capture the potential for error in surveys, Nate Cohn writes. Two pollsters looking at the same raw data can come to widely different conclusions, Cohn says, because of the decisions pollsters have to make […]

‘Algorithms could save book publishing — but ruin novels’

Studying 5,000 book titles published over the last 40 years, Jodie Archers and Matthew L. Jockers have created an algorithm that can predict with 80 percent accuracy which novels will become bestsellers. Traditional book publishers are paying attention to algorithms too — Simon & Schuster hired its first data scientist last year, while Macmillan Publishers […]

How Nextdoor implemented new features to reduce racist posts by 75 percent

“Erasing racism through technology alone is impossible,” Kashmir Hill writes, but neighborhood social network Nextdoor found that a few changes to its interface reduced the number of racist posts significantly. Those changes, which were rolled out to all of its users last week, include requiring users whose posts in the “crime and safety” section mention […]

Clay Christensen explains his ‘jobs to be done’ theory: When we buy a product, we’re hiring it to help us do a job

Knowing more and more about their customers through data is often taking businesses in the wrong direction, Clay Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon and David S. Duncan write. With so much information about their customers, businesses tend to lose sight of what actually gets people to buy their products. Christensen’s “jobs to be done” theory […]

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