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The Longest Now

Jerry for Ohio
Saturday January 31st 2004, 6:35 am
Filed under: %a la mod

What a beautiful, inspirational politician he is.  If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, you should go out of your way to do so.

Jerry for Ohio …

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Media Rant by BlackCommentator
Saturday January 31st 2004, 5:30 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Media Rant by BlackCommentator …

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Multilingual Encyclopedia and Dictionary (public domain)
Wednesday January 28th 2004, 12:45 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Wikipedia has matured into one of the most beautiful sites I know of, and the most elegant example of information-density.  I remember when it was just one of a crowd of budding community-built information clearinghouses, along with an Encarta spinoff, Nupedia, h2g2, Everything^2 , …  and was competing with other similarly-minded sites for volunteers — dmoz, the Gutenberg Project, and so on.  Look how it has changed from its original design, running on a spartan UseMod wiki, to the current site, using highly customized wiki software. 

The wikipedia idealists are also extending their efforts to non-encyclo’ collections of information, such as dictionaries… which, though it’s an English-definition-only dictionary, includes the most concisely complete radical-based dictionary I’ve seen (the best has to be Rick Harbaugh’s incomparable

I finally signed up for a wikipedia account, after being drawn in by their glorious main page and universal timeline schema — later I found out these were both the result of energetic work by a single maverick.  As for its former competitors, few have yet outgrown the “look ma, I built this!” phase.  Here’s a little review of some of them: 

wikipedia, Bomis (transferring ownership to Wikimedia Foundation), 200k articles/”40k” users/170 admins/30+ langs:
Intent: world’s best encyclopaedia, free-use.
Pros: beautiful. focused. high-density information. extensive overviews; many good models for information delivery; high density, quality links between topics; good (sometimes expert) authors; no barriers to entry [any anonymous site visitor can update a page] and smooth process for handling unwanted input; friendly welcoming staff & many helpful fora for new users; transparent mediation/administrative process; clear and clearly expandable goals (cf. wiktionary, wikisource).
Cons: subjective editing policy; not recognized as universal ‘pedia [leading to unconnected niche ‘pedias]; not enough bandwidth or software dev.
Overviews: stats, all-pages listing, main page directory [detail changes once you login], “recent changes“, many diverse FAQs and overviews.
Users: many for-profit sites wanting to enhance their content.

E^2, The Everything Development Co., “70k” users, 35 gods/30 editors, 400k entries [90/day], “like eavesdropping on the world… legally!”
Pros:Communal, funny, admin’ed by enthusiastic volunteers (only 2 of 30 active site-gods are owners of the EDC). layered permissions/xp scheme and editing scheme encouraging activity; mentors for helping others. Unusual classification scheme: “nodes”, unifying various entries under one title, and universal People/Places/Things/Ideas categories.
Cons:not beautiful (broadly lacking ice), chaotic(unfocused, often silly, loosely ordered), diffuse vision(‘pedia entries, ideas, personal journal entries, rants, “look this is cool” entries, book transcripts, quotes), low bandwidth, few content overviews. No secondary use possible/encouraged; English only.
Overs:”cooling” feature; recent “cool” lists; last 100 entries; many FAQ-style usage overs.
Users:Community members only.

h2g2, BBC, 40k users: 
Intent: zany entertaining community, “an unconventional guide to life, the universe, and everything.”
Pro: elegant, if BBC-generic.  Elaborate peer review & moderation scheme, lg community [40+k users, ??k arts, 5k reviewed-arts], extensive comm-pages [jour, conv’s, pers’al-pg], high bw, decent budget [2 ft staff]; friendly volunteer welcome committees for new users.
Con: non-trivial login required for edits; ‘management’-driven; affected by changes in BBC oversight; fundamentals of hosting/mgmt/copyright are centralized and fragile.  Intent is vague and w/o clear metric. English only.
Overviews: users-online, cat multi-heirarchy, a couple walk-through intros to the community from the clean main page, breadcrumbs, separate peer-reviewed sexn [5k arts].
Users: community members, largely in the UK.  English only.

dmoz, Netscape, ??k editors [in hierarchy; ?? non-newbies]. ??langs:
Intent: cat all websites in “largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web.”  Compare Y! directory, at 50 new sites/day [2/1/04].
Pros: run mainly by eager volunteer ‘metas‘.  has newsletter w/updates, meta-articles; volunteer editors have fairly social community.
Cons: not beautiful.  fading community, lack of focus, internal feuds; poor statistics; secretive about organizational discussions [editor login req’d to even follow links in newsletter], hampered by barriers to entry into editor community [full disclosure: this has twice prevented me from becoming an editor, when noone ever got back to me about my editor applications, after mult emails]; newsletter last updated 18 months ago. 
Overs: a meager FAQ, sporadic newsletter, var. editor-only fora & tools.
Users: Google’s Directory, many private sites that want to enhance their site with directory content.

Gutenberg Project, private founder, ??k eds. 11k texts + 10/day (80% from pgdp, via ~400 editors/day):
Intent: digitize all cr-free texts.  The most famous effort of its kind.  Compare Google’s plan to digitize old Stanford library content; magazines; Amazon’s digital book project.
Pros: org run by two idealistic founders; producing and feeder groups run by eager volunteers.  Distributed-proofreading group grew up to provide e-texts Neut: PG is fundamentally a “roll your own; no centralized streamlining” org, strongly separating PR/501c status/admin’n/vision from implementation.
Cons: site(s) not beautiful; not deeply collaborative. people with infinite energy can funnel it all into a few books without furthering the project organizat’n (which is still lacking); better stats, better-coordinated collab tools needed; final version of digital copy needs more reliably-labelled quality control [after it’s done, the final copy is never reviewed via normal processing steps by other editors].  only recently becoming int’l.
Overs: an extensive FAQ; a long “how to help” page; news and newsletter page; meager stats (pages/day, texts finished, pages/user) at subsid sites like pgdp.

Multilingual Encyclopedia and Dictionary (public domain) …

It’s so easy…
Tuesday January 27th 2004, 1:40 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

“I don’t know why everybody doesn’t just run Linux.  Good thing they don’t…”

It’s so easy… …

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Spinning Screams
Sunday January 25th 2004, 10:08 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Dean’s infamous yawp, seen comparatively over time — in articles the next day, and then later in the week.  Most telling are the reporters who got two articles out of the event, one early and one late in the week — the two mentioned wrote it up inoffensively, then later (once it became a Story) reported it with spin and dark import.  A lovely piece on wagging the dog.

Spinning Screams …

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When people abuse communication channels…
Sunday January 25th 2004, 8:41 pm
Filed under: metrics

…everything seems ridiculous.  The problems of “Denial of Service” and “spoofing” have been around since long before there was human-generated electricity… now it’s just cheap and easy to carry one out from across a country. 

What prompted this commentary is SCO’s new letter claiming open-source software is a threat to national security.  So:  who’s really behind their current program?  Do they have an arrangement with MS?  Why is this broad extension of their initial lawsuit a profitable foray for them?  [It would seem much more profitable for a larger company with more to gain — MSFT, a thousand times larger than SCO, seems like a more promising suitor] 

And: if people start publishing sincere meaningless letters, and research papers [prompted, say, by business interests, or for personal fame], and books [propaganda, private vendetta, political or financial gain, sincere delusion], and financial reports, historical documents, resumes, instruction manuals, etc — how can the world react in such a way as to efficiently cull truth from fiction?  In which areas of writing/thought is it possible to perform such a separation?

Presumably, in the presence of a quick cheap metric, one could enact spot checks combined with stiff punishments to probabilistically suppress misleading communications.  Else?  How to leverage distributed community efforts, accounting for 2d- and higher-order errors?  This seems to be a significant problem of universal inliquidity.

When people abuse communication channels… …

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Rethinking the natural form
Sunday January 25th 2004, 3:53 pm
Filed under: metrics

Gough finished his 7-month naked trek across England on Friday.  He refused to don clothes even as winter came on and he neared the northern extent of his journey.  He was arrested on many occasions, only proving his point that the natural Body had a major image problem to overcome in England.  What a hero!  Also high on my list for the year.

Rethinking the natural form …

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Mister Luke, Prepare the Tin Foil Hats
Sunday January 25th 2004, 3:49 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

Lovely.  Intense labours of love for their own sake are next to cleanliness.

Mister Luke, Prepare the Tin Foil Hats …

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Delegates Count!
Saturday January 24th 2004, 8:27 am
Filed under: metrics

Everyone loves to ignore the delegate count in favor of the ranking of candidates in each state by popular vote… I find the delegate system [and its disappearance from the public mind — how many people do you know who understand how delegates are selected, cast votes, interact with their Party?] fascinating.  This article keeps track of the running delegate count for all candidates…

Delegates Count! …

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Watergate returns, in earnest
Thursday January 22nd 2004, 7:50 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

So some snooping and ‘breaking in’ has been going on for a long time… to cement the re-election of our popular president, among other things.  I don’t know what to say to that, except… I know some people on both sides of the fence who have mused publicly that they would love to do just this.  There’s something deeply wrong with our set of acceptable morals that makes everyone think

  1. They’re right about complex national issues, and the others are wrong, and

  2. Realizing their pure vision / defeating the others justifies almost any means.

When my brightest and sweetest friends start wandering into this territory, I worry.

Watergate returns, in earnest …

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Hawking in hospital again
Thursday January 22nd 2004, 7:41 pm
Filed under: indescribable

UK Daily Mirror interviewed a nurse of his who claims he’s chronically abused and beaten by his wife. 

Hawking in hospital again …

Wednesday January 21st 2004, 6:26 am
Filed under: null

Oh, and if you want a piece of me, virtually or otherwise, you’ll have to wait until February… ‘less you’re jettisonning into the mountains and graveyards with me next week.

Kerry’s delight
Wednesday January 21st 2004, 6:23 am
Filed under: chain-gang

Nothing warms the heart like a last-minute pull-through.  Kerry’s victory yesterday is just what he needed to rally his troops…  what I’m more interested in, however, are Edwards’ buoyancy and Clark’s quiet coalition-building.  Edwards manages to lift my spirits… can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’m thinking about it.

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Noun/Verbless Language Analysed
Friday January 09th 2004, 6:55 pm
Filed under: indescribable

Hot damn. 

{pictureRef (Economist's tower of Babel, “Tower of Babel from the Economist”, border:0, align:right)}

David Gil is my hero and thorn of the year so far.  Now if only the other 41 professors would start publishing on the rest of those describable ideas… I’ll get back to the indescribable ones.

Noun/Verbless Language Analysed …

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Modern market illusions shattered, #613
Friday January 09th 2004, 6:43 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

Right on, Mr. Thompson!  I particularly like his articulate dissection of the lossy and arbitrary separation of music into official genres, in which artists, industry, and critics all share a part.  And his note of how much he can tell about someone by their walk and state of mind, in contrast to the more standard modern stereotypes. 

Modern market illusions shattered, #613 …

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Orders of Magnitude, Revisited
Friday January 09th 2004, 6:21 pm
Filed under: indescribable

Some businesses take advantages of new OofM’s, like the first mass-production factories, early users of huge warehouses, early applications of specialization.

Hundreds of years later, historians are quick to say “here was an amazing breakthrough in technology,” but at the time it was often spun as a personal success of one businessman, one product line, one marketing technique — whoever was quickest on the uptake, with a nod from those few who actually knew what was going on, could pick up the acclaim for the surge forward. It is sometimes to one’s advantage not to let others know wherein success truly lies.

However, in each age looking forward, there are few people discerning new OofM’s from ‘brilliant new product niches’, ‘revolutionary advertising strategy’, etc. Laying 10x as much fiber optic cable as your competitors does not an OofM make. How far up
the financial food chain does this carelessness extend?

Purification. Cross-indexing. Sampling. Empathizing. Tracking.

You know what I’m talking about. Yes, you. I see you reading every
now and then. No need to hide. [for the rest of you, consider which of the above are in the future, and which are in the past…]

Until next time, keep your nose clean and your eyes open, and trust your senses.

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national information systems
Wednesday January 07th 2004, 11:33 pm
Filed under: metrics

Collection/archiving:  the national library system, the LOC,

Redundant storage: non-library archives, DARPANet and its spawn and widespread use,

Transmission/accessibility: DARPANet and its spawn, explicit accessibility programs to overcome certain obstacles, etc, etc.

Identific/Categoriz/Contextualiz ation: Official systems [DDS, LOC, etc], librarians, publishers [self-help].

Review/Analysis/Comparison: Critics  |  Professors, assistants in relevant topical Fields  |  Historians  |  Professors, assistants in field devoted to relevant medium (literature, music, video, etc).   Often w/ stark delineation (mutual oblivion?) among the analyses of these four (more?) groups.


There’s not much up there that makes use of, or even allows for, contributions by the vast bulk of people affected by these works; their audiences, readers without time or inclination to polish their reactions to a high sheen and 10 column inches, etc.  Only the second applies, really, and then only the last part of it — the part that was wholly accidental.

Is this foolishness?  Failure of government to adapt to the multiplying ways in which it can be useful?

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