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The Longest Now

Mediawiki gets reviewed
Tuesday November 30th 2004, 11:44 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Wikimedia’s new biggest fan is named Sean Michael Kerner, and he’s
published about it in NewsForge, an online OS journal.

Kerner is dutifully critical, calling the documentation “somwhat
‘dispersed’,” that tweaking skins “involves a bit of effort,” and wishes
for an interface for automatic backups of the database, and “more granular
control of users and permissions in one master dashboard”.  But he ends
with embarrassingly high praise:

“Downloading, installing, and running MediaWiki for my own purposes has
only enhanced my admiration for both the wiki and the WikiMedia
Foundation. It’s not only easy to use, it’s also easy to install and
deploy. In the true spirit of the open source community MediaWiki is a
shining example of what open content collaboration is all about.”

I guess he read [[m:Things we wish people would say about us]] before
sitting down at his keyboard.  Oh, he also offered to help with the
documentation.  Whatta guy.

Mediawiki gets reviewed …

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The Last Days of History
Monday November 29th 2004, 8:55 am
Filed under: %a la mod

“Most works of contemporary history do not  last long… for the material available to the writer is seldom complete.” — Hugh Trevor-Roper, in his introduction to The Last Days of Hitler

The amount and breadth of material immediately available to the historian is increasing with leaps and bounds.  Soon it will outstrip the single writer’s capacity to process it — once biofeeds and realtime audio and vide of events, from a variety of angles and perspectives, becomes commonplace material for same-day news reports, we will have a very different problem on our hands.

History has traditionally benefitted from the bottleneck Mr. Trevor-Roper acknowledges in the quote above, despite his apparent lament.  The benefit has been, that when only one or two people sit down with a limited quantity of material, they of necessity must fill in the gaps and construct a storyline out of the fabric at hand.  The result puts the story into history, providing a narrative that others can parse, learn from, remember and pass on.  It may not be perfectly true, but it is useful.  Writers from different schools consciously present different versions of what might have happened; students learn that multiple views of history exist, but these differences are presented via a finite number of distinct views, each with well-defined supporters and detractors.

When the bottleneck becomes a firehose, chaos threatens instead — thousands of writers with shared access to 15 hours of live footage and 50 pages of written/spoken testimonials of a 10-minute scene (from the personal recorders of a hundred passers-by).  Each writer extracts a different story and tone from the available material, and passes that on. 

Perhaps more interesting, is that historians will be in a position to write seminal works of history — presumably lasting fixtures of historical analysis — the very year a major event takes place.  Then only lack of perspective will keep works of history from its dustbin..

And in time there will come a generation that had got beyond facts, beyond impressions, a generation absolutely colourless, a generation seraphically free from taint of personality, which will see the French Revolution not as it happened, nor as they would like it to have happened, but as it would have happened, had it taken place in the days of the Machine.   — E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops

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Jihadist rants, uncensored and in English
Sunday November 28th 2004, 3:35 pm
Filed under: null

If you want to see the world through some disturbing and deeply tinted glasses, there’s always Jihad Unspun, a flashy site featuring columns by proudly pro-terrorist journalists, and others by Americans (like Steven Backus, professor of English at a university in Minnesota).

Here’s an exceprt from an article explaining how recent beheadings of captives by terror groups in the middle east jibes with the dictates of the Koran.  There are some one-liners in here that would have seemed like hilarious MadLibs five years ago.

Seymour Hersh revealed that young Iraqi boys were sodomized and shrieking while… being filmed as souvenirs for the friends and relatives back at home. When the Pentagon showed the pictures and videos, implicit references were made to executions and Necrophilia… If this were not an American phenomenon, why else did Arnold Schwarzenegger recently abolish Necrophilia in California?  The abuse is not confined to Abu-Ghraib [1]. 

Beheading a handful of captives is far less painful than being tortured to death as acknowledged by Nick Berg’s father. Even… degrading sexual torture can be worse than beheading. However, that only applies to those who have some degree of self-respect and honor. Sexual abuse inflicted on Lyndie England is unlikely to constitute punishment but rather a kind of titillation… Islam is indeed very different from the secular fanaticism of ‘freedom’!

Phew. Maybe someone can market this site as a diet drug.

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Sorry about your missing posts. Manila sometimes gets hungry like that.
Friday November 26th 2004, 12:18 am
Filed under: %a la mod

In Frassle, reload works, but that may not work in Manila. I haven’t
tried it recently enough to know. If content editors don’t click
release, they can get back in to edit the post. [Wow. I can’t get to
the text box in Netscape 7. Forgot about that bug with the
special text area & Netscape. You wouldn’t consider turning that
off, would you? It’s one of the features somewhere in one of the
editor’s menus.]  –RCE [rogue content editor]

Would that mean turning off the special text area for all
browsers?   It works fine for Firefox, I think.  The
trouble with turning /off/ that feature is that it is the one reason I
started using Manila in the first place – relatively simple
size-changes, table-insertion, etc.  As long as I’m giving that
up, I may as well switch to a more stable platform.  –SJ

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CrimeThought SingleSpeak
Thursday November 25th 2004, 10:42 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Cameo writes about Understanding and InterCapping ThoughtCrime.  I wonder if my cap is inter enough to keep me safe?  I only want to live free for another twenty years; after that my dynasty will be safely ensconced in the hills and the System can have my drained post-upload corpse.  Here you can see it being modelled by my midwestern Middle Eastern friend Ayman.

Protecting thoughtcriminals since 1999



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Wikitools for fun and excitement
Thursday November 25th 2004, 10:15 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

There are some delightful new tools for wikipedaholics, though full-scale social tools are still nowhere to be seen.  Six degrees of Wikipedia is cool, and the live RC is a real joy.  What I want to see now is a Wikiclippings service that shows me all recent changes that match a certain string.  What do you want to see? 

Wikitools for fun and excitement …

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Contrib Eds can’t edit posts
Wednesday November 24th 2004, 3:12 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Not even their own. Wah! –j

This seems to be the case… how odd! Maybe it’s just an interface bug, and if you could hack the URL appropriately, you could edit your own posts. In any case, content-editors can edit all existing news items. –sj

what about now? –guest

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What Contributing Editors have Access to
Wednesday November 24th 2004, 3:09 am
Filed under: popular demand

It looks like all we can do is log in and create posts. I don’t see editorial links on older posts and most of the editors menu is missing. I’ll bet I can’t knock this post live. Contributing editors have the power to assign categories, so perhaps you should let us know what they mean…

Choose the category that you think is most appropriate.  Just don’t use the awful “Mr. Ed” category which I can’t find a way to expunge.  +sj

Apparently, contributing editors can’t edit their own posts, either, but content editors can. As for bylines… all contributing editors seem to have the same byline, so please add your byline by hand at the end of your posts.  –j + sj

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Edit this blog!
Wednesday November 24th 2004, 3:06 am
Filed under: metrics

Now you can sign into my blog as a guest editor, and create your own posts. Sign in like so:

email:  guest  [@t]  googlish  d|o|t  com
pwd:    guest

Now you should be able to create news items (though they won’t immediately be live; bear with me here).  Sforza!

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Visitor tracking via Google tools
Wednesday November 24th 2004, 1:33 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Though I’m panning Manila these days and planning to switch asap, one neat thing about it is the ease of setting up separate main-page and other-page skins, so it is easy to add a counter to everything but the main page to see how many visitors click through at least once.  Right now I’m using g-ads stats to check that (the most useful aspect of those dang unreliably-matching buggy ads). 

Visitor tracking via Google tools …

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The Chaos, revisited
Tuesday November 23rd 2004, 3:57 am
Filed under: %a la mod

 Gerard Nolst Trenit

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Maps > Encyclopedias > Reunion Sites
Monday November 22nd 2004, 8:08 pm
Filed under: metrics

Wikipedia is among the 5 most visited reference sites, after and two map sites, according to everyone’s favorite inconsistent public eyeball yardstick (inconsistency: WP shows up as both 5th and 6th;  www beats out en: by a hair).  At least now it is linked from the main Reference page.

Maps > Encyclopedias > Reunion Sites …

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Dearest Dutchman in Creation
Monday November 22nd 2004, 3:57 pm
Filed under: international

For all you linguists out there.  Here is a fantastically droll essay on the sufferings of a British expat pronouncing his way through life in Holland (Hmm, here’s another shorter one; must be the latest fad).

The author references what must be the greatest English pronunciation criticism ever written, The Chaos — one which I first encounted this month.  I ascribe this in part to my growing up in the US, where few English teachers could pronounce all of the Britishisms required to preserve rhyme and meter.  However, it turns out that this gem was genreally lost for a few decades, and only slowly and in various editions made its way into the general consciousness at the end of the last century.  It never fails to make me smile just trying to read it through in my head.

The origin of the poem is curious; it is claimed to have been devised by a teacher of English for a young student, or to help multinational NATO personnel polish their accents.  It was certainly composed by a Dutchman, Gerald Nolst Trenite (1870-1946), and parts continued to be written until his death.  Perhaps this is why I first saw it on a page about pronouncing Dutch…  I like it so much, and clean online copies are so hard to come by, I should put up my own.

Dearest Dutchman in Creation …

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Lack of versioning, texts on CD
Monday November 22nd 2004, 3:42 pm
Filed under: popular demand

This business of Manila not storing the history of posts is a real shame… a template bug just blanked a pair of posts.   And my local text editor doesn’t store temporary revisions, so I lost a segment of writing last night in a crash.  What is it about tracking revisions of text — an amazingl cheap operation these days – that is so difficult? 

What I wanted to say about texts on CD is that the German Wikipedia CDshorter, cleaner, and well-cut — has seen 100k downloads on top of its physical distribution to 30k people, and the CD image has had many times as many downloads.  Lovely.  And, contrary to popular belief, it works on both Windows and Macs.

The company (Directmedia) that helped bring this about also publishes titles like “The Great German Classics” on CD.  A good decade into the Gutenberg Project, why are these publishing houses so unknown?  Why can’t I rattle off the name of a major publisher of Classic Literature CDs in English, the way I can say “Addison-Wesley, Penguin, O’Reilly, Dover, Springer-Verlag“? 

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Touching the Void
Monday November 22nd 2004, 3:08 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

I just saw Touching the Void (imdb)again last night.  There are only six people in the film; Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, Richard Hawking, and their early-life doppelgangers. 

It was every bit as riveting the second time through; and I appreciated the direct commentary from the climbers (now middle-aged and still climbing) a good deal more.  There is something about people robustly expressing their real thoughts and dreams – the thousand half-formed emotions that pass across their faces before they pick one idea to express and speak it aloud – which is more nuanced than the greatest matchup of director and actor.

Every time I turn around to check up on some part of Simpson’s life story, I find another one of his co-authors or fellow climbers being referred to as “late”; something like the world of private piloting, everyone who climbs professionally has a handful of friends who have died in the act.  Jono may have given up flying as a result, as Simpson finally has climbing (mainly due to the disintegration of the ankle on his good leg), but as Joe says early on, “if death weren’t involved, we wouldn’t be doing it.”

On the most devastating part of dying alone, aside from an eternity of Boney M‘s “brown girl in the ring”:  

Once right at the end I made a critical mistake, I believed they might still be there. When I called out and they weren’t, it was a devastating moment because I allowed myself a little bit of hope.

Still hungry for more?  Here’s a quick post-film interview with Joe Simpson. 

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Wikipedia meetup
Sunday November 21st 2004, 1:18 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Meetup this evening for dinner and Wikipediaholicity.  Bring good humour and a pencil… meet inside the Harvard Coop entrance at 18:30 hours.

Wikipedia meetup …

Everything about the Incredibles is… Fantastic
Sunday November 21st 2004, 6:31 am
Filed under: indescribable

Incredibles.  lovely film.  a pleasure to watch ten times over. And yet every watching is tempered by two things:

1. Marvel Comics and the Fantastic Four get no credit, despite being inspiration for almost every superpower and character in the story.  The FF in particular provided the template for most of the Incredible family, from their family worries to their particular powers.  In an odd sort of homage, the gratuitous Next Villain who shows up at the end of the film was pulled straight out of FF #1, their first marvel comic ever.  (Mole Man lives!)

2. The last 15 min of the film are garbage, when compared to the glory of the rest of the film.  They show how mediocre the whole film could have been, were there no time for polishing script, score or scenery.

Everything about the Incredibles is… Fantastic …

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