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Web Monitor

17:30 UK time, Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

No stone is left unturned, no nook unexplored, in Web Monitor's quest to bring you the best bits from the internet.

• Pop sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, writes in the New Yorker that the banking crisis may have been partly caused by that humble card game, bridge, because the game bred over-confidence in some of the big risk-takers that ultimately destabilised the financial system:

"It makes sense that there should be an affinity between bridge and the business of Wall Street. Bridge is a contest between teams, each of which competes over a "contract" - how many tricks they think they can win in a given hand. Winning requires knowledge of the cards, an accurate sense of probabilities, steely nerves, and the ability to assess an opponent's psychology. Bridge is Wall Street in miniature... bridge involves "related items with continuous feedback." It has rules and boundaries and situations that repeat themselves and clear patterns that develop - and when a player makes a mistake of overconfidence he or she learns of the consequences of that mistake almost immediately. In other words, it's a game. But running an investment bank is not, in this sense, a game: it is not a closed world with a limited set of possibilities."

• Consider this a gift from Web Monitor - a new game called NHS bingo, to be played when flicking through the opinions on US health reform. The first to find six references to the NHS is the winner (using Michael Moore's praise of the British health service in his film Sicko doesn't count). Are you ready? Web Monitor starts the ball rolling... Peter Singer in the New York Times refers to the row last year when kidney cancer drugs were denied to UK patients due to cost, a point taken up by Sally C Pipe's article in the Wall Street Journal. Singer goes on to defend NICE (the body that makes these decisions, as explained by the BBC's quick guide), and then there's also Fraser Nelson and Irwin Stelzer's article in the Weekly Standard's No NHS Please, We're American. Phew! To share the joy of NHS Bingo, you can submit your findings via the comment box.

• The author of Brick Lane, Monica Ali, explains in Prospect Magazine why she has set her new work, entitled Book In the Kitchen in, you've guessed it, a kitchen. But this isn't any kitchen, this is a hotel kitchen:

"As one of my characters observes, hotel kitchens resemble UN assemblies: a rich source of diverse stories. They are also places that function under intense pressure, creating an ideal crucible for dramatic confrontation."

Is this a theory given further or less weight by Hotel Babylon?

• Last week Web Monitor orbited the web to get the best links to moon landing articles. Despite all that's been written about it, Ted Gioia finds a new line. Writing in Conceptual Fiction, he argues that the Apollo mission inadvertently put a dagger in the heart of sci-fi:

"Apollo proved to be the end of manned lunar expeditions, and not the beginning of the age of space exploration. Who would have guessed that, after Apollo 17 in 1972, no more astronauts would travel to the moon. Here is one measure of how quickly things changed: a decade later, when people spoke of the moonwalk, they were usually talking about Michael Jackson's dance steps. Few people suffered from this turn of events more than science fiction writers... As space exploration disappeared from the front pages, sci-fi lost much of its glamour and most of its readers."

• There's an illuminating experiment conducted in Slate magazine, to deduce whether the web or newspapers keep readers more informed about events. Two people spent three days getting their news only from the web and another two consumed only newspapers. In their discussions that followed, there is the suggestion that although the web breaks the stories, the papers offer the best analysis. So, an honourable draw in this office. Web Monitor 1, Paper Monitor 1.

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