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19 Websites That Will Make You Smarter in Every Way

19 Websites That Will Make You Smarter in Every Way

It’s almost unbelievable that in this day and age almost everyone is carrying around a library of knowledge, richer in resources than that of the Library of Alexandria. So it comes as no surprise that many want to utilise this resource, the internet, to become a better, smarter, productive being!

With this in mind, 19 of the top websites that will make you a smart person, in every way, has been compiled for you.

Academic

1. Smarterer

Want to test your writing ability? Prove your programming skills? Show people that you’re an Excel genius? Using Smarterer, you can take tests that provide you with a ‘qualification’ that you can show to employers when they need proof of your abilities!

2. UniversityWebinars

If you’re a fan of TED Talks, this is basically the TED Talks of the university world. With live webinars, and a huge library of past webinars and other educational videos, you cannot go wrong with this one.

3. Memrise

Flash cards, mixed with the addictive nature of gaming. This one is great for those looking to improve their overall general knowledge, while having fun. It’s available in a multitude of languages!

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    4. Project Gutenberg

    Don’t have the time or money to read a book, but still manage to sit and read on the internet for an obscene amount of time every day? No more excuses, Project Gutenberg is a catalog of books that you can read, online, right now, without cost. Get reading!

    5. Treehouse

    Treehouse basically has something for everyone. From web development to entrepreneurial tips, you’ll never come away from Treehouse without having learnt something. The only downside is that it costs at least $25 a month after the free trial, but investing in your education is never a bad idea.

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      6. OpenCulture

      A vast compendium of educational resources, on literally hundreds of different topics. From online courses to ebooks, you can find it all on OpenCulture. It’s one of the only websites you’ll ever need on education.

      7. Udacity

      Udacity is almost like the vocational learning place of the Internet. Real people teaching you real technical skills that are needed by real tech companies, with hands-on projects instead of boring old lectures. It’s hard for this one to fail to please.

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      udacity

        8. Creative Live

        Classes streamed live. Some cost, others are free, but all are worth watching! These aren’t your average classes either, they’re real practical classes that will give you real usable skills. (There’s even a section for those looking to make more money!)

        9. Future Learn

        Future Learn is a site that offers free courses, in categories such as Law, Psychology, Teaching and many more. Partnered with some of the finest universities that the UK has to offer, you can be guaranteed that the content of the course will always be high quality.

        10. Coursera

        This is similar to Future Learn, though maybe with a bit more variety. With over 800 courses, and 10,000 current students, the statistics speak for themselves. The courses are always informative, and you get a real qualification at the end of them!

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          11. BBC Languages

          Arguably one of the most well-known and most supported platforms for learning a foreign language. With simple step-by-step interactive guides on learning another language, you’ll be speaking a new language in absolutely no time!

          12. University of Reddit

          You’ve probably heard of Reddit, but have you heard that Reddit created a new site where Redditers could teach each other? Pretty much any subject you can think of is covered here, because they’re all people just like you, teaching what they know!

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          Creativity

          13. Drawspace

          So you’ve always wanted to draw, but have never known where to start? Drawspace is here to rescue you, and get you expressing in the artistic format that you’ve always desired! Easy, comprehensive, guides that will get you drawing in seconds.

          drawsp

            DIY

            14. HackADay

            The name says it all. Every day a new hack is posted, with topics varying from things like fixing faulty Apple chargers to learning to build movie props – you can find it all here. Good for those who like to dabble in a multitude of hobbies!

            15. Do It Yourself

            Do It Yourself offers you a overwhelming amount of free DIY projects that you can do, in a simple and easy to read (and do) format. It’s time to become the handyman or -woman that you’ve always dreamed of being!

            16. Instructables

            Community driven step-by-step instructions on how to do pretty much anything. It’s impossible to have a look on Instructables without coming away having learnt how to do something new and useful. Check it out, it won’t disappoint.

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              Other

              17. UnplugTheTV

              A site that’ll give you a random video to watch, that’ll benefit your mind, instead of watching TV. A neat idea, and the execution seems to match. The content is not always guaranteed to be the best, but it’s always guaranteed to be better than mindless TV.

              Screenshot 2014-11-01 22.17.58

                18. AboveTopSecret

                Alternative news sources are a wealth of information, if you can get past the bias. Don’t limit yourself to seeing the worldly events from a single perspective, explore other options. Check out the sources, draw your own conclusions.

                19. Divine Society

                A site similar to AboveTopSecret, where a multitude of interesting articles from all over the web are posted. Everything from politics to religion is covered here, so it’s worth exploring a few of the articles they have to offer.

                So there you have it, 19 sites that will make you smarter in a variety of ways. If you have any that you think belong on this list, don’t be afraid to share them in the comments below!

                Featured photo credit: Teo Siew Yong via yourpresenceheals.com

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                The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                What is the productivity paradox?

                There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                He wrote in his conclusion:

                “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                How do we measure productivity anyway?

                And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                The paradox and the recession

                The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                Looking forward

                A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                Reference

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