Joel Smith

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    272 Words About 272

    When my wife and I and two friends founded 272 we set out to create a different sort of social media platform. A slower, a quieter, a —dare we hope— more civil place for thoughtful and thought-inspiring conversations. Challenging conversations. No rants please. No echo chambers. So we took as our inspiration the Gettysburg Address, a document that was challenging, inspiring and, as we now know today, enduring. It stood as one nation's... Read More

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    Keep America Great, Again

    240 years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created Equal. Being so conceived and so dedicated is what made and continues to make our nation great. Being so conceived and so dedicated is what created and continues to create unparalleled wealth –material, technological and cultural. Being so conceived and so dedicated is what br... Read More

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    If I am sitting in your living room, or you in mine, and I feel I might have been insulted by you, what happens next? If the same thing occurs when I am online, what happens? We know the two responses will be different. In the first case, I will try to work out whether the perceived slight was in truth an insult. I will look inward first: did I miss something? I will look to you: what were you really getting at? I will be subtle instead... Read More

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    272: new and upcoming features

    Thank you beta testers! It is still early days on 272. You may encounter bugs, you may find key functions labeled as “coming soon”, you may even find things you do not like!We are always open to ideas on how to make 272 better. If you come upon a problem, have a question, or - best yet - would simply like to make a suggestion, let us know by clicking the “Help Us Improve” or “Live Chat” tab. Or email me at will post upc... Read More

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    america's greatest hits

    Dear 272 Readers, Today I start a series of 272s on America’s founding “documents”: excerpts from actual documents plus the speeches, songs and sayings that form our goals and standards. Our nation’s DNA: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” “We the people…” “…in order to form a more perfect union” “…a nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated ... Read More

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    Mr Lincoln's Opus

    “To teach our kids how to run our country, before they are called upon to run our country…if we don’t, someone else will run our country.” – Richard Dreyfuss Watching Richard Dreyfuss make the case for civics education on the Late Show the other night triggered for us one of those wake-up-and-start-talking-at-the-TV moments. "Yes!" “This is amazing!” “That is what we have been saying!” As excited as we were, he was not. H... Read More

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    Today marks the day in 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as our 16th President, and the day in 1865 he began his second term. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the perorations from his first and second inaugural addresses. Lincoln’s first inaugural address, March 4, 1861. Seven of the 13 states to secede have already done so, before Lincoln sets foot in Washington: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. ... Read More

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    The Pixar Pitch

    272s are short and sweet and to the point – any point. I have found the Pixar Pitch –six sentences, each with a set beginning– similarly useful for getting to the essentials fast and flexibly. Take the pitch for Finding Nemo: 1. Once upon a time there was… a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was protective of his only son, Nemo. 2. Every day… Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away. 3.... Read More

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    Words matter. They reflect how we feel, but can also shape our feelings. Take “nostalgia” - a fine enough word on its own. But what if there is something you are not feeling particuarly nostalgic about? What if you are feeling quite the opposite? While nostalgia expresses a wistful longing for the past, you might instead be feeling a hearty gratitude that the past is past, that you are warmly thankful for the lessons gained but in no way want ... Read More

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    If Democracy is like a garden – neglect it and untoward things take hold – then we would be wise to hack into the tangled areas we do not get around to tending often. Or ever. Take policing. Nothing says more about a democracy's health as the behavior and demeanor of its police. And nothing captures our stout Anglo-Saxon roots in this area better than Robert Peel's Principles of Policing. With my paraphrasing: The goal is to ... Read More

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    Where would you put on the political spectrum a person who spends a good deal of his time arguing the merits of government regulations? Free markets are great, he says, but they are never free if left to “self-regulation”. Corporations will anywhere and always try to rig markets in their favor, whether through collusion among themselves or, worse, by swaying elected officials with their money. Particularly banks…don’t get him started on the ba... Read More

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    People often ask, “Does 272 have a particular political bent?” And we are always happy to answer, “No. No, it does not.” Nor do we want one. In fact, if there is something that is the opposite of a political bent, then that is what we have and what 272 is about: people with different views, different backgrounds, different life stories, taking part and offering their insights and wisdom. On politics as on any aspect of life, 272 ... Read More

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    Most of us are familiar with the Marshmallow Test: a researcher offers a five-year old child the choice between one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later. The researcher then ducks into the next room to watch as the child squirms in the face of temptation. Some kids give in, but plenty others find ways to distract themselves, sometimes ingeniously, and one suspects always to the mirth of the onlooking researchers.  Haha! Good fun a... Read More

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    Tragedies, we know, drive us looking for comfort. We seek explanations not new worldviews. The net effect is a retreat to ideological corners. Or I should say, the effect is nothing (positive) changes, and we continue on the path towards more tragedies. We can do better. Our nation was founded on Enlightenment principles on the nature of governed and government, many of which concerned policing. “The police are the public and the public... Read More

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    PRE 9/11 THINKING?

    One day in 1995, I found myself in the gray area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The maps tell you it is Pakistan, but you will not see any Pakistani officials there. Or any officials at all. These are the Pathan tribal areas, the Taliban heartland. And in 1995 the Taliban were exploding onto the scene, and for no good reason I was there. Somehow I had made my way to a large family compound, at least I have always remembered it as a f... Read More

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    What are journalists for?Jay Rosen poses this question in his book of the same title. In the fist chapter he writes (and it is worth a close reading):"If the public is assumed to be 'out there,' more or less intact, then the job of the press is easy to state: to inform people about what goes on in their name and their midst. But suppose the public leads a more broken existence. At times it may be alert and engaged, but just as often it struggl... Read More

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    A lie travels halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its shoes on... Whenever I hear this line, I picture poor ol’ Truth kneeling down in our family entryway, easing on his running shoes, lacing them up just so, and then and only then lumbering out the front door. Maybe at this point Truth pauses to scratch his head, look around and mutter, “Now, where did that dastardly Lie get to…?” Too late! Mr. Lie is halfway ... Read More

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    Information Accidents

    The Mass Transportation era began when we went from horse and buggy to automobiles. It gave us new freedom. And it gave us something rather less welcome: a huge increase in deadly traffic accidents. The Mass Information age is now upon us. It likewise opens up new realms. It likewise brings us "information accidents". Of course, popular misconceptions of the physical world did not wait for the invention of the Internet to come into e... Read More

  • 272s By Others

    272s shared by Joel

    Evolution or Coincidence?

    Written by: Serena LoPiccolo-Smith

    I once heard that many, many years ago, there was a little fish, which had a burning desire to walk on land. He would swim and swim and swim, he would go up and he would go down, but every time he looked at the land, out there, he was filled with a desperate longing. He would think, in his little ichthyic brain: I wish I had the power to grow legs and lungs and walk out of here and explore those mysterious places, full of trees, and light, and... Read More

    Final Goodbye

    Written by: Linda Dooley

    Thank you for making so many of my dreams reality -and more. I dreamed of owning a house. You bought us a home. As a teen I wanted a royal blue Camaro. You bought a midnight blue Eldorado for me. I prayed for two children, a boy and a girl. Together we had a son and a daughter. They’ve grown up in the past five years. They miss you very much, although they aren’t always aware it’s you they’re missing. I loved to travel  with ... Read More

    What Is Love

    Written by: Giulia Smith

    Contrary to popular belief, love is not all you need, but it is important. It is quite easy to go crazy if no one cares about you. The science of falling in love with someone is kind of crazy too though. Picture it like this:  Bobby sees a feast on the other side of a glass door. In his excitement he doesn't notice the glass door and -smack!- runs into the door and breaks his nose, wrecking his sense of smell. Bobby walks away, embarrassed.... Read More

    About gravitational waves and good writing

    Written by: Serena LoPiccolo-Smith

    This excerpt is from an article on the New Yorker by Nicola Twilley (@nicolatwilley). I am sharing it here because it is beautifully written, showing that scientific writing can be harmonious and pleasing to the ear:     "Just over a billion years ago, many millions of galaxies from here, a pair of black holes collided. They had been circling each other for aeons, in a sort of mating dance, gathering pace with each orbit, hurtling closer and c... Read More

    Dallas dreaming

    Written by: Lori Dawn

    On Friday nights when I was a kid, after my parents tucked me in for the night, I would sneakily snap my little  tv on and tune into a show that I was not allowed to watch- Dallas. I had a little crush on JR- formally known to me as Major Nelson. Bobby was too much of a pretty-boy wimp. And as far as bad boys go, you could do a lot worse than a billionaire oil magnate. Anyway,  because of that show, I had my first dreams of what I wanted to be... Read More


    Written by: Joel Smith

    Today marks the day in 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as our 16th President, and the day in 1865 he began his second term. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the perorations from his first and second inaugural addresses. Lincoln’s first inaugural address, March 4, 1861. Seven of the 13 states to secede have already done so, before Lincoln sets foot in Washington: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. ... Read More