BEST OF THE WEB: Why LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman values relationships above all else

Reid Hoffman has had a busy year. In the past 12 months his social networking venture LinkedIn listed on the American stock market (and is up 10% from its initial price), and he has continued to invest in various start-up ventures as well.

He’s notorious for his quirky management techniques. He’s one of Facebook’s first backers, an unusual recruiter who makes executives write their own obituaries, and is a huge board game fan.

But above all else, this billionaire values relationships – and it’s the importance he places on them that is at the centre of his business mindset.

In this extensive piece over at Wired, Hoffman is put under the microscope and his various friends and colleagues reveal a singular truth – the people in his life are very important to him.

“One of the conversations I remember our having back then was about the meaning of life,” PayPal founder Peter Thiel said.

“Reid’s answer was that it’s the people you spend your life with—the connections you make. It’s no surprise that Reid thought through social networking earlier and more methodically than anyone else did.”

It’s an apt answer for the founder of a social network. The piece reveals some stark truths about the entrepreneur, who remains incredibly humble despite his billionaire status.

“When we were going public, I sold a tiny amount of LinkedIn stock, and The Wall Street Journal reported that I was buying a new yacht,” he said. “My response was, where’s my old one?”

But it’s an anecdote towards the end of the piece that sums up Hoffman’s approach towards business, when Wired asks him why he hasn’t used his position as a Facebook investor to encourage Mark Zuckerberg to allow users’ greater control over their data.

“I’ll ask him,” he says, and pulls out his phone.

The children growing up on eBooks

There are plenty of readers who say they don’t like reading eBooks, instead preferring the touch and feel of a paper-bound copy.

But as this New York Times piece shows, there are plenty of kids who are growing up knowing nothing else than the digital word.

“It’s just cool that you can read on your iPad,” one child tells the publication, which notes she started reading eBooks when she was six. “It’s more fun and you learn more from it.”

It’s an interesting debate, but these schools are slowly embracing eBooks as part of their curriculum. The ramifications this could have for secondary and university education is equally intriguing.

“The most important thing is sitting and talking with your children,” Gabrielle Strouse, an adjunct assistant professor at Vanderbilt, told the publication. “Whether you’re reading a book, whether you’re reading an e-book, whether you’re watching a video. Co-interacting, co-viewing, is the best way for them to learn.”

Why kids should learn to code

Learning computer code languages has been left alone for the developers and web-savvy among us. But there’s a cohesive argument over at The Guardian for why kids should actually be taught computer languages.

The reasoning is simple – kids are now growing up in a world based more and more on computers and in order to understand and interact with that world, some basic knowledge of coding is essential.

“They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites working for huge corporations such as Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg and his kind,” the piece argues.

“Is that what we want? Of course not. So let’s get on with it.”

All you need to know about data mining

There have been a few pieces over the past weeks about data mining and the companies that track your movements online. But do you actually know what data mining entails?

Over at The Atlantic, there’s an extensive guide to data mining and a breakdown of all the different definitions used including “cluster detection” and “association learning”.

For instance, do you know what “anomaly detection” means?

“In a large data set it is possible to get a picture of what the data tends to look like in a typical case. Statistics can be used to determine if something is notably different from this pattern,” the piece explains.

“For instance, the IRS could model typical tax returns and use anomaly detection to identify specific returns that differ from this for review and audit.”

If you’re keen to understand more about the data mining process, this is definitely a fascinating read.

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