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The Longest Now

Eminem carves up Bush
Saturday October 30th 2004, 8:46 am
Filed under: null

So everyone’s heard about the video Eminem made for the upcoming election, right? Mosh. It’s a bit about portable mosh pits for expressing anger,
a bit about getting out the vote, and a bit about sticking it to the president really, really hard. In one five minute video, Slim Shady manages to:

  • reprise the scene from Fahrenheit 9/11 where Bush sits reading to elementary school kids while the second plane flies toward the Twin Towers;
  • suggest that Bush knew about the attacks
  • suggest that Cheney et al are behind the Bin Laden videos
  • encourage a recalled soldier to rebel against the administration (yelling ‘Fuck Bush!’ and putting a combat knife through Bush’s head in effigy) and against his fellow soldiers (fooling them long enough to let protestors turn a firehose on them)
  • encourage massive civil disobedience, including storming government buildings — though in the end, ha ha, it turns out to be in order to vote in an orderly line.

On Wikinews : Africa vs. Endor
Saturday October 30th 2004, 6:46 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Just yesterday, Rebecca made a few good suggestions about how a prospective Wikinews project could proceed without annoying any traditional journalists or alienating their audiences. The idea of tackling new topics for investigative journalism is a particularly interesting one. I think, however, that most original journalism will start out addressing local news that traditional media haven’t deigned to pick up (and this may have a broader audience than traditionally expected… but then when’s the last time that any journalist, traditional or not, asked you what you wanted to read?).

But when she talks in terms of choosing angles on stories, she misses one of the strengths of this particular wiki tradition. What wikinews should be able to do better than any other news source, is mention and contextualize all of the major angles on a story (including, perhaps, a novel angle not covered by other media); expose the aspects of a news report that are hotly contested among its various authors; and expose the revision process involved in newsmaking.

She gets in a dig about Middle-earth having better coverage in the encyclopedia than most of Africa, referring to Ethan Z‘s comment last month that the article on the Congo Civil War was shorter than that on Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I feel bad that the source of these claims is right here in my backyard, so let me try to set matters right. The initial distribution of content on Wikipedia was spotty, influenced by the interests of the initial contributors. When you have a blank canvas, you have to pick somewhere to start. Since then, the shared goal of a neutral, comprehensive encyclopedia has guided how coverage has broadened.
Many contributors to Wikipedia are not contributing in their area of expertise, but instead researching new things as they contribute articles where the encyclopedia needs them most (see for instance the recent new-article contest focusing on filling article requests).

Yes, Wikipedia has fantastic, perhaps unequalled coverage of Middle-earth — currently there are almost 900 related articles, half of which are short descriptions of the hundreds of characters and places that compose that most detailed of fantasy worlds. And yes, Wikipedia’s coverage of Africa pales in comparison to its coverage of other continents.

Nevertheless, there are 3000 articles directly related to Africa, including, for instance, Economy of Africa and Congo Free State. There are no articles of such depth or quality about hobbits and elves — despite Tolkien’s talent, he could hardly compete with the exotic detail of real life.

[If you’re curious about the numbers, I just spent half an hour reviewing these topics via the beta categorization system.]

First successful use of Google Ads!
Friday October 29th 2004, 6:27 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

For the first time, an ad that popped up while I was looking at something else was deeply interesting to me! Here‘s a site with a 70’s-era web feel — if there ever were a 70’s of the web. You know what I mean; ’93-era HTML, colors, and tables; so proud of having the *ability* to use colored text and links and cells that color shows up everywhere.

It’s like watching ”The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, but it’s just a website for chrissakes. It also happens to be the site of someone who seems to make his living selling old-skool e-texts online. I just love it!

First successful use of Google Ads! …

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Team America v. The Pit of Jalalla!
Friday October 29th 2004, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

Or is it Jararra? I saw “Team America: World Police” the other day, and the Pit of Jalalla is only the last part of the film; not nearly the best. Like the directorial duo’s last great film, “Cannibal, the Musical”, this one works as a crudely popular farce, but is littered with brilliant wit… read more

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Diebold makes “Robust” Votin^B^B^B^B ATM machines
Thursday October 28th 2004, 10:44 am
Filed under: indescribable

Back in the Spring, everyone’s favorite voting-machine manufacturer delivered a new ATM to Carnegie-Mellon U. — and it promptly rebooted. When it came back up, its WinXP OS loaded without launching the ATM software, and with its touchscreen interface waiting to be used. The next day, the students got some nice shots of the ATM machine running Windows Media Player…

Thank goodness we still use paper ballots in this country!

Diebold makes “Robust” Votin^B^B^B^B ATM machines …

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President Bush to audience : “[Fuck you]”
Thursday October 28th 2004, 5:56 am
Filed under: poetic justice

Our sitting President gets frisky with his media support before an interview, and clearly the person behind the camera can’t stand to see such glorious footage brushed away on the cutting room floor.  So, instead of being incinerated, the clipped vulgarity ends up afloat in everyone’s favorite cesspool, Al Gore’s InterNet. 

Bush shoots the birdie like a no-nonsense expert, but giggles afterwards like an amateur…  this short has been posted all over the place, but I like the simple humanity of the clip.  Fwiw, I like the Bush in this clip a lot better than the Edwards foppery making the rounds.

President Bush to audience : “[Fuck you]” …

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EB’s 2-Track Mind? A Blast from the Past
Tuesday October 26th 2004, 3:12 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire

A few years ago, Freerepublic posted a note about the Encyclopedia Britannica, with Dale Hoiberg speaking about its most promising content channels, and how it intends to refresh its online content quickly with two-track workflow. I’m dying to know whether they’ve stuck with it for the past three years, and how their workflow has changed.

The material online, moreover, is constantly updated. Britannica’s editor, a Sinologist named Dale Hoiberg, says it has instituted a two-track workflow: one fast, for work that needs to be turned around quickly (for an impeachment, for instance); and another slower, for the traditional work of researching, writing and editing the encyclopedia’s entries.

Ms. Schroeder predicts that reference publishers will pursue “such a variety of different business models, it will make your head swim.”

(from the March 2, 2001 edition of, a mere six weeks after Wikipedia’s founding)

Including, I suppose, the “100% volunteer” business model.

EB’s 2-Track Mind? A Blast from the Past …

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Guardian : “you’d be insane to bet against Wikimania”
Tuesday October 26th 2004, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

All the stars from headliners past comes out of the woodwork for this one : Dan Gillmor, web guru; Dale Hoiberg, Britannica editor-in-chief; a mention of the c’t content review; the IBM research paper on how quickly vandalism gets removed; a token naysaying librarian (“practically, I wouldn’t use it; and I’m not aware of a single librarian who would.“); a charming anachronism (in this case, the spectre of retro-cased BarnStars being used as universal rewards for good deeds done); a hopeful glance toward the horizon and Wikipedia 1.0 — Stable Edition. It’s like down-home week on the “In the Press” page.

And it’s a great article. It touches on a hundred facets of the project with only the smallest of misperceptions. It seems to have had prominent placement on Tuesday’s front page

Guardian : “you’d be insane to bet against Wikimania” …

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Despite flaws, users hope for dominance of Wiktionary, Mediawiki
Tuesday October 26th 2004, 2:44 am
Filed under: metrics

The O’Reilly Network’s Scott Hacker wrote a piece on
wiki support yesterday,  Where’s the Movable Type of the Wiki World?,
published with some eloquent commentary by visitors at the end.

Hacker suggests the Wiki world needs its own elegant, soup-to-nuts
wikiproject, comparing the chaos of wiki communities and documentation
to that of the blogging world pre-Movable Type.  He shopped around
for a wiki to use for an educational project (which was itself inspired
by WikiPedia, retro camel caps and all), and finally settled on
MediaWiki.  Unfortunately, its “scattered and obtuse”
documentation,  “stupidly difficult” customizations, and lack of
compact, neatly packaged documentation for end-users, left him

U.Penn student Swarat Chaudhury, writing for India’s venerable
paper The
, is a bit more optimistic:

Wikipedia has spawned a sister project called Wiktionary
(http://www.wiktionary. org), a collaborative multilingual dictionary
with pronunciations, etymology and quotations. The grand ambition of
these projects is nothing short of letting the demos beat the experts
at their own game… Personally, I still rely on the OED most of the
time, but I also look forward to a day when Wiktionary beats it hands

Despite flaws, users hope for dominance of Wiktionary, Mediawiki …

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Le Monde taps French Wikipedia for background content
Monday October 25th 2004, 10:13 pm
Filed under: popular demand

The French paper /Le Monde/ is now using Wikipedia as a “see also”
reference for various articles in its online version (see the
right-hand column, under “sur le net”).

For instance, the following articles link to [[Ophiuchus
(constellation)]], [[Surr

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Collaborative news, half-neutered
Monday October 25th 2004, 10:10 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire

A current events and a related “In the News” section have existed on Wikipedia for a long time. They are among the more popular sections of the site, but there is some controversy about what kind of news notes are appropriate for the encyclopedia. Is a news update every day okay for a major story? Clearly newsflashes should also update the relevant article. How about local news? Is an event which attracts attention today but won’t be encyclopedic tomorrow (predictions about where a hurricane will hit ground, rumours of a big scandal which may be substanceless) worth its own paragraph? Its own article?

Right now, the only place for newsblurbs is in a long list on the current events page, which is later archived by month. A new Wikimedia project proposes to change all of that : Wikinews, a year or more in the conception (and still uncertain of the breadth of its mission), is attracting active discussion again, and may get its own domain this month. It aims to be a place to develop both news summaries and the occasional original report. This last bit sticks in the old craw; questions of neutralization of extreme points of view and hysteria, categorization, archiving, verification, and finalization of verified reports remain to be addressed later… but clearly much of the excitement over the project stems from the lure of this small proportion of its content.

Collaborative news, half-neutered …

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Spyware, privacy, and the commons of popularity
Sunday October 24th 2004, 2:51 am
Filed under: %a la mod produces spyware many love to hate. It is friendly, as spyware goes, but both prevalent and public with how it uses its aggregated information, unlike private spyware like Google’s own toolbar. In general, groups that collect data on web-surfing traffic are aggregating cast-off bits and pieces into something useful, interesting, and slightly invasive. By the time Technorati can tell you how many computers from suburban homes have been used during the day by Movable Type bloggers from Houston to visit your site from a bookmark for more then ten minutes at a time… even it will be approaching spyware.

So, is there an ideal way to aggregate information? To collect it? When I visit your site, is it okay for you to note this? When I write you, how much metadata about my mail to you can you pass on to others before I am allowed to take offense? “I got 50 messages today” “Joe wrote me twice today” “Mary Cc:ed a silly email to 80 of us during lunch” “Ranga wrote: ‘My sister just came back from bailing Larry P. out of jail for pimping; she said his expensive new phone (410-555-2310) is already disconnected… crazy.'” “I hate mailreaders, so from now on I’m just automatically uploading my email to a public rss feed.”

Talk to me, people. I want to know what you think about all of this.

Best use of Floating Head Ever
Sunday October 24th 2004, 2:30 am
Filed under: indescribable

Blog-Wiki morphology probed by MSNBC.

Reading World Books as a kid can give you great ideas, or so goes the investigative thread of the Newsweek staff who wrote a quick column on Wikipedia, topping it with the greatest image of Jimmy Wales‘s floating head yet snapped. Of course they refer to the site occasionally as “”, and can’t quite figure out how it all fits together, but they are enthusiastic. And that counts for a lot.

Best use of Floating Head Ever …

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UN Promises better support for creativity of the Commons
Saturday October 23rd 2004, 11:38 am
Filed under: %a la mod

But how much clout does the WIPO have? They are interested in open source development, and have been sponsoring many related conferences, issuing statements &c for a few years now. Is this really a change of heart for them? What motivates the people who set down these regulations?

More importantly, how can one translate the great societal benefits of a creative Commons into short-term gain for corporations, governments, or individual politicians? The benefits of open development of ideas and innovation are so great that it is no loss to give up much of it to friction.

UN Promises better support for creativity of the Commons …

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Non-fiction prizes, glory — How do I apply?
Friday October 22nd 2004, 2:58 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

A new content contest is available for those of you eager to hone your non-fiction writing skills. Check out the list of suggested topics and join in the fun!

Non-fiction prizes, glory — How do I apply? …

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Link distance between two articles
Friday October 15th 2004, 6:21 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Now you can find out how far removed two Wikipedia articles are from one another… more or less. Give this script two article titles and let it rip.

Of course it needs some tweaking, removing the easy links b/t articles, such as years and days (which get linked often, in a quirk of WP style), but it’s ”’wicked fun”’ to use. Sample results:

Barry Bonds →American football →Basketball →January 20 →1970s →Barry Manilow

Cheers →Alcoholism →Clich

free blogging software: wordpress, blosxom, et al
Saturday October 09th 2004, 2:29 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

WordPress, by mediawiki user Matt, seems like a nice new free option for blogging software. I haven’t looked at it much, or at blosxom recently; but should do. What a britishism!

There’s already a WP-linking patch for wordpress…

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