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The Longest Now

Scriptural excitement
Sunday February 27th 2005, 4:39 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Professional webcred transcripts have come back
from distant lands.  I am awfully excited about this —
unreasonably excited, even.  I have a particular primal affinity
for clean, freshly-minted transcripts; particularly modern ones in all their searchable glory. 

I’ll spare most of you my full review of the transcripts, but here is a quick overview:

The good:
  1. The transcripts are beautiful.
  2. The English is clean.
  3. They get most names, proper nouns, organizations, and technology
    references right.
  4. Their attention to small connecting words and comments
    under-the-breath is excellent, some 99.5% capture.
  5. They were fast : 1 week turnaround for 15 hours of dense audio.
The bad:
  1. They are inconsistent :
    [inaudible] usage, accuracy of names — full names in some places, and
    not in others — session formatting,
    paragraph breaks.  The transcription of podcasting audio clips was
  2. They get names, proper nouns, organizations, and technology
    references wrong.  They should have lists of these terms to avoid that…  
  3.  The transcript is wrong or confused in rare places. 
The ugly:
    1. Many passages were misattributed. 
    2. They
      get key names wrong; not just one or two.  They inconsistently
      attribute the same speaker’s voice to more than one name.  They
      get a
      name right on one line, only to misspell it (apparently using
      audio-to-text software – “I am Hussain Direction”) on another.

I imagine the first two ugly problems are in part
because many different people
transcribe any given session… but names are important enough to
merit separate passes just to get them right.

People always tell me I’m too critical ^_^.  Don’t get me
wrong; I’m immensely grateful that such services exist, glad this was
done for webcred, and hope we will do the same for Wikimania.  Rest assured that this criticism is presented with love and a sense of kinship.  I also enjoyed
working up verbatim transcripts of two of the sessions.  For comparison, here
are my transcript of friday morning and the professional version

Scriptural excitement …

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Days and weeks
Friday February 25th 2005, 10:45 am
Filed under: %a la mod

It’s been one of those weeks.  Wikipedia went down, down, down, down
Stayed down for a day through a painful rollback process… and was
slow for the next week.  Two weeks later, and it’s still
(weekly stats and RecentChanges IRC bots have yet to be
rerun).  A highly reliable read-only solution would be awfully

 Everyone is talking about the [Model] UN and WSIS these days, but the latter still don’t have name recognition among 99% of the world’s population.

But other projects seem to be speeding along; Cyberarts, stay-in
earphones, astronomy.  As for days, once you make it to the third
straight day, everything inevitably starts to fall into place. 
Never fails.

Days and weeks …

More transcript notes
Thursday February 24th 2005, 11:31 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

If any of you want to relive the webcred conference, or are working on your follow-up plans to better the world and need quick access, see the updated matrix
for guaranteed contentment [or your money back!], now with audio
timestamps in the transcripts for quote mongers.   Rumour has
it full transcripts for all sessions will be available in the very near

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The misery of long weekends
Tuesday February 22nd 2005, 7:55 pm
Filed under: null

Taking off for a long weekend in an attempt to relax may sound wise, but in practice is generally a Bad Idea. To do it properly requires is far too expensive, and to do it poorly just wastes a few perfectly good days. Please remind me of this the next time one comes around, and sabotage my helicopter if necessary. Now I have a project draft to finish by tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to it. And a book to finish. There’s no way I’m sleeping tonight. And tomorrow… I’m adjusting my diet, just in case.

INTERLUDE : By the curliecues : reaping the sown
Saturday February 19th 2005, 9:01 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

When exposed to goodness, feeling good about themselves, or thinking about the world at large, people are fundamentally good. This can change, when surrounded by others who are passionately struggling for personal and local success; who view getting a leg up at the expense of others as a minor victory. But most people remember what it is like to feel, to be fundamentally good, what it feels like to do well by others. Even the joyfully cruel may notice with a tiny corner of themselves, in the middle of relishing someone else’s suffering or downfall, each time they avoid doing something to help another person in need; and acknowledge with that remote corner that whatever their conscious moral beliefs, they are being unjust. (I am reminded, somehow, of JACK, the Pumpkin King.)

And there is a thrill in the air, a sense of inevitability, an unmistakable look on someone’s face, when he has been hoping for and secretly betting on, even assisting, the failure of another, and profiting thereby (if only through ego and amusement)… and then that weakness disappears, success is relentlessly extracted from failure, judgements and justice prepare to be served. In the throes of this vulnerable mood, stubborn criminals will meekly accept prison and even confessions, bullies quail and retreat, the most deeply hidden truths give themselves up. (I am thinking now of the German widow scolding the muddy, belligerent Nazis who came to take her property, demanding that they remove their boots and recall their manners, and never being bothered again.)

I saw that look on his face today, felt the air of fear and certainty and guilt; though I could not be sure of the victim or the secret hope and profit. The vulnerability was more palpable than its source; I could have pushed him gently and he would have fallen down, confessed — heaven only knows what. It seemed that by steadily going about my business I was somehow realizing his fears; he tried, quietly, without enthusiasm, to divert my attention; then left. Though we have long been friends, I could no more bring myself to ask him what was going on than he could manage to ask me to stop.

My logical self, superimposed on my intuition by decades of training and pilpul, notes that I may be wrong about all of this. You will be the first to know if I am; I will write you straightaway. But the rest of me wonders what repercussions of my work he has foreseen and how they will affect him; and I marvel at the strength of that unspoken mood, the universality of that fleeting look, the immediacy and insistence of its impression on me; the smile that touched my lips as half-hearted diversions convinced me that I was somehow unwittingly righting distant wrongs. It occurs to me that he may one day overcome his guilt, discover my awareness of it, and berate me for not reaching out to him (however much he may expect or deserve the result). On that day, there might be a thrill of tension in the air, a sense of inevitability, the briefest flicker of an unmistakable expression on my face…

Central Park’s glory days
Friday February 18th 2005, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

Go see the latest park-dressing for yourself.

One of Albert Maysles’s favourite moments with Christo occurred during one of 17 hearings the artist had to attend to obtain permission for Running Fence. “Some of the ranchers were complaining that it wasn’t art,” he remembered. “Then one farmer’s wife stood up and said, ‘Sometimes I cook a meal for three hours, and it’s a work of art. But then it’s eaten, and it’s gone.‘ Ah! That was so great! She got it.”

– from the Globe and Mail

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Big Gov providing basic comm-chans? Oh my!
Friday February 18th 2005, 10:58 am
Filed under: popular demand

Modern debates about public v. private wifi outlays, and whether municipalities and dictatorial! monopolistic! governments should be involved, look pretty silly when viewed with the proper perspective… Glenn Fleishman highlights this in a recent essay with an excellent thought-experiment about electricity.

Reasoning by parallel analogy is wonderfully satisfying. (Even if reasoning by poor analogy is often the opposite…) All of this isn’t to say that municipal wifi control is the way to go — only that the standard arguments against it aren’t worth much.

Big Gov providing basic comm-chans? Oh my! …

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The self-organizing, self-repairing, hyperaddictive library of the future
Thursday February 17th 2005, 2:48 pm
Filed under: popular demand

In the March edition of WIRED, Daniel Pink has managed to turn a few personal meetings, a bit of leg-work (including a trip to the sparse Foundation headquarters in Florida), the stray historical quote and a bit of prognostication, into a poetic piece on Wikipedia. He refers to the project as the latest stage in mankind’s longstanding desire to “tame the jungle of knowledge”.

Titled “The Book Stops Here“, the piece’s layout runs to six pages, mimicing those of a gold-edged, leather-bound book. The frontispiece, showing Wales gazing levelly over a large stack of Britannica volumes and — are those the 2001 Florida Statues? — is coupled with a set of beautiful sketches of six active wikipedians (Angela, Bryan Derksen, Carptrash, Kingturtle, Ram-Man, and Raul654), whose stories are woven into the article.

Pink deals quite well with the nuances of community collaboration, good faith, administrators, stewards, and developers, and brilliantly captures vignettes of individual contributors and motivations.
Perhaps the one bit of internal culture he gets slightly off is the tone of the admiration community members show towards founder Jimmy Wales — the cheerful irony that accompanies the term “God-King” in wiki circles, is unlikely to carry over to an audience used to hearing the term associated with infallible emperors of times long past.

The one glaring omission in the article is an acknowledgement of the project’s unparallelled multilinguality. The only mention of other languages is a single sentence discussing the size of the encyclopedia — “Tack on the editions in 75 other languages, including Esperanto and Kurdish, and the total Wikipedia article count tops 1.3 million.” Surely that 60% of the project deserves more than a nod. Similarly, other Wikimedia projects go unremarked, though WikiCities gets a few paragraphs.

Charles Van Doren‘s 1962 essay, “The Idea of an Encyclopedia” in “The American Behavioral Scientist” is called in to wrap the piece up (Van Doren later became a senior Britannica editor):

“[T]he ideal encyclopedia should be radical. It should stop being safe…. what will be respectable in 30 years seems avant-garde now. If an encyclopedia hopes to be respectable in 2000, it must appear daring in the year 1963.”

Pink’s conclusion? “You can’t evaluate Wikipedia by traditional encyclopedia standards.” Nevertheless, he feels the project is “about to become respectable.”

Other great quotes from the article:

  • “The God-King drives a Hyundai.”
  • “Wikipedia requires that the perfect never be the enemy of the good.”
  • “Among the nearly half-million articles are tens of thousands whose quality easily rivals that of Britannica or Encarta.”
  • “One night he corrected an error in an article… his first inhalation of Wiki crack.”

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SCO prepares for delisting from NASDAQ
Thursday February 17th 2005, 2:23 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

As SCO prepares to be delisted, the rest of the world (at least those of them who give a damn) wonder idly what will happen to their IP.

SCO prepares for delisting from NASDAQ …

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the defeated nomenclature
Thursday February 17th 2005, 2:21 pm
Filed under: null

While reading up on international 50-year ”’identities”’ the other day, and thinking about how fundamental names are (even in this post-biblical and post-$10M domain-name purchase era), it occurred to me that I should take more seriously the matter of preemptive name-conflation.

I keep running across other SJ’s on the web (some of whom don’t even know how to pluralize or punctuate “SJ“), so I thought I’d just clear up some of my private identity crisis by keeping tabs on them all. After an early on-wiki attempt to do this, I realized there were enough instances to warrant a separate story on the issue. I hear some people have entire sites devoted to people with their name… but that seems like overkill.

If you find (or ARE) a particularly compelling version of me out in the rest of the world, ping me and I’ll update the list. I think the only reason I never did this before was my abiding shame that a nutrition doctor name Samuel Klein was vastly more popular than I… but his clever SEO schemes could only hold out for so long.

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Wikinews gets a scoop, gets laid
Thursday February 17th 2005, 1:50 pm
Filed under: metrics

Well, a scoop at least. The “SHA-1 broken” story broke on Wikinews, and then Slashdot (with just a Wikinews link) almost 12 hours before it broke in other international English-language press. Presumably the original source was in Chinese… WN also just got written up as a possible salvation for the future in BusinessWeek, which is pretty nicely laid out.

Huzzahs all around, in particular to the trio of crackers — all women, thankyouverymuch — who ‘deprecated’ the infamously hoary algorithm.

I love a world in which that can refer to something less than twenty years old!

Wikinews gets a scoop, gets laid …

Wikimania accepting papers
Thursday February 17th 2005, 8:30 am
Filed under: international

Wikimania is now accepting submissions of papers on a variety of subjects.

Everyone within and outside of Wikipedia are invited to suggest panel
discussions they would like to see, submit abstracts for lectures and
workshops, and submit abstracts for brief papers or posters they would
like to present. The audience will consist primarily of active
Wikimedia users from all over the world.

Topics should contribute to Wikimedia’s projects and its goals.
Original research is not needed but welcome.  Wikimania is meant
to be a social event as well as an academic conference, so be bold in
your submissions.  Suitable topics include but are not limited to:

Wiki culture

* Research into wiki culture (philosophy & sociology)

* Criticism of the efficacy of wiki collaboration and communities

Wiki projects and tools

* Succesful subprojects on your favorite Wikipedia

* Existing or proposed wiki projects, and their parallels in the non-wiki world

* Ways to enhance or integrate existing projects and their communities

* New wiki software and interfaces

* Corporate wikis,

Free culture

* Free knowledge, free licensing, and its applications

* Universal access, automatic conversion between formats, fonts, and languages

* Preservation and distribution of knowledge and cultural information


* Collaborative writing and research

* Collective intelligence, “excellence from mediocrity”

* Tools for better-nuanced / more immediate collaborative feedback


* Multilingual interaction, related translation issues

* Integration of international perspectives; similar global projects

* Linguistic projects; uses of our multilingual corpus

* Preservation of minority languages

(read more…)

Wikimania accepting papers …

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Wikimedia Weekly Week
Tuesday February 15th 2005, 11:22 am
Filed under: international

A glorious old proposal about a regular Wikimedia news outlet, with
colour and good humour, is ripe for development.   We already have
an almost-quarterly newsletter, and a local project news outlet on
Wikipedia. We had 5 or 6 major cross-project news stories last week. I suppose we’d better get cracking on the WWN. Suggestions for a better name, and help submitting links and article ideas (or writing for it!), will be appreciated.

Wikimedia Weekly Week …

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Best Children’s Book Ever?
Monday February 14th 2005, 5:48 pm
Filed under: indescribable

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best children’s book ever.  Not that one with demons and archangels and archaeopteryx hanging out in the museum post-twilight, bathing in the fountains and gathering plastic four-leaf clovers
from the astroturf.  No, I  mean the one with the astonishing
string of meaningless, mundane coincedences leading to a Really Bad Day.

Well, strange things have always happened to me, particularly ever since a fateful conversation with Sarah Ettling.  Often things so strange that I would never share them with other people
because, well, why bother them with meaningless impossibilities? 
I’m still taking flack for showing people the disturbing smiley-face biscuit that turned up under my hood the night my battery mysteriously died in the STAR market parking lot.  I should have thrown it away.

Or so I thought at the time.  I’m feeling more open towards the world these days, and towards humanity, and see only humour in their very unlikeliness; perhaps you will, too.  What unlikely things have happened to you so far this year?  (read more…)

Building Bridges
Monday February 14th 2005, 4:49 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Schedules for Bridge-Builders events is avaialable online here (full html) and here (just a text table, modified info)

Building Bridges …

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You know what time it is…
Monday February 14th 2005, 3:24 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Hug thy neighbour!

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Ferrets and Stoats
Saturday February 12th 2005, 11:57 pm
Filed under: indescribable

I was checking up on a particular stat for this blog, and accidentally visitied “…/stoats” instead of “/stats“, and was disappointed to find nothing there.  Dave Winer, take note: the next revision of Manila should include stoat functionality.

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