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The Longest Now

Stupid News Tricks
Wednesday July 27th 2005, 11:43 pm
Filed under: indescribable

There are some stories that are just too silly to take
seriously.  You often run across them in the news and in popular
books.  And yet they are not jokes; standard news outlets and
publishers — if not the best, at
least internationally-known names — publish them and stand by
them.  The canonical story format is: vague allegations, alarming
hyperbole, unsourced quotes, and unlikely statements presented without comment as fact. 
Sometimes the subject is political, sometimes corporate, sometimes
When chickadees attack!” human interest.  In each case it is fun
to guess why the stories are being propagated. 

The question for news reliability is, what does this say about how much
news accuracy or relevance matters to readers?  Does anyone really
to have reliable news?  What kinds of guarantees do we have
from even the best articles?  Are there particular classes of news
articles that can be as random and fictitious as you like without
damaging the societal web?  Are there other types of news which
should be handled by only extremely reliable organizations?

A tip o’ the keys to Saadi for the pointer to this recent beauty: 

Bin Laden (spelled any number of ways) is out to kill… thousands of
American coke-heads.  With poisoned cocaine.  [Sky News]  [Fox News
Oh, by the way, this was three years ago and it’s a slow news
week.  We had a hot tip on this one.  Did we remember a
gratuitous 9/11 reference?  Good.

Stupid News Tricks …

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Internationalize your night
Sunday July 24th 2005, 9:58 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Feeling mopey about speaking too few languages? Want to get a kick out of seeing translations of your favorite articles side-by-side, while feeling useful at the same time?

The Interwiki Link Checker is here to help. You can choose which pair of languages to browse, and be shown a stream of articles in different language Wikipedias with the same title. You then are asked to say whether they are the same article (this will create an interwiki link between them) or not. (Expert tip: you don’t need to be well versed in either language to do this; you can always select “I don’t know” if the similarity isn’t clear)

Internationalize your night …

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Wikimania! 2005 : Programme nearing completion
Thursday July 21st 2005, 10:21 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

The programme for the first annual Wikimania conference is almost finished!  You can see the draft
of  it online; there are still a handful of late additions to fit in,
and moderators to be finalized for two panels.  Let me know what you
think… O’Reilly had the misfortune of conflicting with our dates, so you can see that we snagged all the coolest people
You can still register online for only 20 Euros a day, or 50 Euros for
the weekend; and if you get in touch with me fast (i.e., by this
weekend), you may be able to snag a room at the Haus der Jugend where
the conference is being held before it’s booked.

For more info on where to stay in Frankfurt, see the location page on the site.  Reserve your rooms now, before the nearby places are all booked!

Wikimania! 2005 : Programme nearing completion …

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Beautiful words
Tuesday July 19th 2005, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

If “Cellar door” is the most beautiful combination of two words in the world, “Lahar” has to be among the most beautiful solo. 

Beautiful words …

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On abstinence
Sunday July 17th 2005, 2:01 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

The purpose of Wikipedia is to make as many edits as possible.
Therefore, experienced Wikipedians abstain from adding whole articles,
coherent sentences, or even intelligible strings of characters, as this
wastes a great deal of time. Common techniques of successful editors:
…  (read more)  — From the Uncyclopedia essay on Wikipedia
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Lincoln Pond is streaming down…
Friday July 15th 2005, 9:24 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire

Address: Elizabethtown, NY 12932
Campground Phone:

It’s no Heart Lake, but it’s moughty fine all the same.  Update:
Light, cascading showers!  Porters who smoke packs while running
up and down the mountain, as found about Kili, were nowhere in
sight.  Great fun was had by all.

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the bounty of summer
Thursday July 14th 2005, 9:55 am
Filed under: poetic justice

News from the wiki: a lovely idea for Wikipedians to offer and send gifts to one another in exchange for serious research is taking on steam.

In other news, Wikipedia and Google are showing up together in newsfeeds again. 

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Facets of old glory #11846 : satire in plame view
Thursday July 14th 2005, 6:05 am
Filed under: popular demand

You have to love a country where you can have cheerfully-mindless-yet-vicious government satire at, and pornography (well, not anymore!) at   Now if only journalists would stop producing content that is similarly mindless and easily confused with pulp… 

The best concise articles on the Plame affair, despite recent coverage, remain ones written back in 2003 (like this slightly anti-administration
Newsweek piece).
You would think some busybody would have improved on them by now.  If
you know of another good overview article, particularly a pro-administration one for good measure, please
leave a link to it. 

At least we now have a fairly encyclopedic overview of the case vis-a-vis Rove, and a decent timeline
But the real story isn’t about Rove or alleged illegality, it’s about
why multiple people in the government (and outside of the
administration) decided this was an acceptable result.  Not sexy,
hard to research — don’t hold your breath for detailed coverage this decade.  Just snag a copy of Pravin’s 2017 “Global Politics in Turn-of-the-Century America” when it comes out.

A little sumfin’ sumfin’
Thursday July 14th 2005, 4:22 am
Filed under: %a la mod

More than you ever wanted to know about Tooth enamel and Doom.  Also, the love-struck story of Layla, Melbourne’s most encyclopedic gramamar school (Caulfield),  and a brief flyover of Hong Kong.

A little sumfin’ sumfin’ …

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“…the Real Story”
Wednesday July 13th 2005, 9:03 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

 In this case, the real story of LANL — the Los Angeles National Laboratory.  Documented via blog; you’ll love it.  Waiting for the “List of works subtitled ‘the Real Story‘” article to complement the fine start at List of books with the subtitle ‘Virtue Rewarded’.

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Completely unbelievable news
Sunday July 10th 2005, 5:14 am
Filed under: %a la mod

How can anyone believe such undersourced and marginally informative
news?  “450 sheep jump to their death” — a fascinating
story.  I want to know more.  Will I ever discover more in
the English-language media?  In any media?  Probably
not.  This was probably treated as a tabloid story by its original
(Turkish) reporters, and by its translators. Immediately classified as
filling some “social interest” slot that must be filled each day.

What original reporter went to the trouble of getting 3 tiny fragments
of data, along with excerpts from a Turkish paper, without finishing
the story or talking directly to the original reporter?  Only the
title of the source paper was mentioned; I couldn’t find the article
myself by searching quickly through the Aksam paper’s online version.

How many sheep were in the flock?  How many shepherds were at
lunch when the sheep began to jump, at what time of day?  How high
was the cliff?  What was the weather like?  Did the entire
flock jump?  Are there any recorded precedents for this?  I see micro stories like this via Reuters and AP all
the time which I discount completely… if they are real news, I want
to know that, for goodness’ sake.  I don’t enjoy being cynical about unusual stories; but there has yet to be a system of accountability that I trust.

Completely unbelievable news …

Mega 1-up
Sunday July 10th 2005, 5:00 am
Filed under: %a la mod

What a great story.  The Nintendo reps weren’t talking too much about this at E3; I’m sorry I didn’t hear about it until now.

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London Bridges
Friday July 08th 2005, 2:57 pm
Filed under: international

I don’t know how human society would function without tragedy.  Is
this where so many utopian visions fail?  The drawing-together
around shared catastrophes is rooted very, very deeply. 

I like my drawings-together to be international and cleanly archived…
I’m writing up a condensed overview of what happened the other week on the
#wikinews channel, as the London bombings were progressing. 

The first comments on the bombing likely turned up on Wikipedia
itself.  Its community is enormous, and it is much easier to add a
note to a Wikipedia article than to figure out how to start a new new
story, or add a tip to the newsroom.

The first comments on IRC, which for Wikipedians (#wikipedia) is mainly a channel
for hanging out but for Wikinewsies (#wikinews) doubles as a fast-response newsroom for breaking stories,
were incisive and focused.  For the next 10 hours, that channel
was devoted to reporting and refining existing news; sharing news
reports as they came in and cross-referencing them with other sources;
griping about how unreliable certain channels were; and posting links
to first-hand photos and writeups from friends and colleagues at one of
the scenes.

By the mid-afternoon, Wikinews had a detailed primary article and a
small cluster (since grown to a large cluster) of other articles posted, covering both the London
bombings themselves and various brief satellite stories, with details
on how others were reacting, how specific lines of investigation had
progressed, which groups were claiming responsibility for what. 
The news articles were very current, and quickly dated. 

Wikipedia likewise had an extensive article about the bombings by
the end of the day,
developing in a very different, timeless fashion.  The wikinews
article had 300 edits the day it was published, then 30 the next
morning, and none thereafter.  The Wikipedia article, in contrast,
had 3000 edits the first day, 500 the next, and an edit-halflife of two
or three days after that.   Joho was quick to blog about this after I mentioned it to the Berkman mailing list.

A detailed
comparison is worthwhile; here is a copmarison of their first
paragraphs, two weeks later:

Wikinews: “Coordinated terrorist attack hits London

July 7, 2005
Three bomb explosions have hit London Underground trains, and a further bomb destroyed a bus in the city centre. The Metropolitan Police Service has initially confirmed that 33 people have been killed in the four explosions on London‘s
transport system this morning, and said the overall number of wounded
was as high as 700, in what are believed to be terrorist attacks. (See
later reports in the box at the side for later announcements made on
following days.)

Wikipedia: “7 July 2005 London bombings

For information on the 21 July explosions, see 21 July 2005 London bombings

On Thursday, 7 July 2005, a series of four bomb attacks struck London’s public transport system during the morning rush hour. At 8:50 a.m. (BST, UTC+1), three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other on three London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus at 9:47 a.m. in Tavistock Square. The bombings led to a severe, day-long disruption of the city’s transport and telecommunication infrastructure.

Both articles have around six images; the news article give a far more
thorough detail of what it was like on the day of the bombings; the
encyclopedia article is over twice as long with twice as many
references and far more historical comparison and analysis.

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Public knowledge repositories : Alternatives to Agglomeration
Friday July 08th 2005, 3:35 am
Filed under: %a la mod

I hereby declare that I will give a talk by that name sometime this
decade, simply to hear myself say it in front of a live audienceAlternatives to
this is a subject that librarians
[should] have been considering for millennia.  And yet
precious few have been found.

new journal articles and research papers are supposed to becreated
entirely anew, not directly drawing more than a few paragraphsfrom one
another, even when reproducing someone else’s experiment stepby
step.  What does this say about our notions of
creativity,information creation, individuality, sense of self?

Wikipedia has recently become symbolic ofa
growing variety of new trends; many of which have nothing to do
withbeing either a wiki or an encyclopedia.  The most important
ofthem are simply to do with the idea of offering an open public knowledge repository,
which will never disappear
[and so in some sense can never get ‘worse’ if you know
where to look], which accepts suggestions, which tries to tackle each subject
it approaches broadly and thoroughly, not necessarily in that

up on this thought later, in a proper story. For now, let meleave you
with a comment from a Yahoo! blog post back in April, whentheir hosting
donation to Wikimedia (two score Korean servers comingonline soon) was

The Library
of Alexandria
held in very high regard. When it did exist it was neither reliablenor
publicly accessible. It was the personal property of one court. Itgrew
only with the arrival of the next ship’s library. The project
ofconfiscating books for copying actually made information
LESSavailable. It was absolutely riddled with errors, tall tales, ego
tripsand speculation. What it had going for it was that it was a
projectthat no one had accomplished before. No one had done it before
becausefew people saw the value in it.

Wikipedia is now -only it has every advantage that didn’t exist 2000,
or even 5 yearsago. Accessibility, reproducibility, and a vast ocean of
informationflooding into it every day.

Its potential for growth
is ultimately without limit. The fact that right now it has ten
articles about “American
” competitors for every one about a member of the Royal
is a temporary condition. What Wikipedia is now is
NOT what it will be in a year, five years, a hundred
. It’s not going to go away, and it’s already among the
most important cultural resources ever created.

Originally posted by: Dystopos,
hyperlinking mine
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True Confessions of a Hungry Mind
Thursday July 07th 2005, 6:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ok, that’s quite enough contemplation and open mourning. If your
last name ends in A-G, I’ve already gotten to you. The site
colour will be back to nourmal soon, once I finish a few pressing
duties for the Wikimania Programme.

Let me take a break from meta-communication for a moment; I have something to confess. I am a binge eater. Not what you first think of when you imagine “binging” — there is no purging involved; and minimal compulsion
but I will eat staggering quantities of food at a time. When I am
deeply involved with some project or invention, or doing many things at
once, I sometimes actively avoid eating. It isn’t so much a
matter of forgetting; the first few regular meals that pass by are
certainly noticed. But eating is a very direct and physical
distraction. It is much harder to control one’s own sleep schedule
on a full stomach, and the simple process of choosing, making, and
cleaning up a meal is a good half-hour’s interruption. And after
ten years, I am still astonished at how much clearer, faster, and
deeper free-association is on a long-empty stomach.

This morning for instance, after three days of subsiding on the
occasional piece of chocolate (here I would refer to the longevity
recommendations of a famous pair of nonagenarian sisters from the US, but cannot find their fifteen minutes of fame; the Fortean Times suggests “avoid alcohol, eat good vegetables, and never, never get married to no skinny woman” — thus Jackson Pollard, 124, from their Amazing Lives and Astonishing Deaths),
I polished off a two-pound lasagna, two pounds of vegetables, three
small pots of yoghurt and a few cans of soda. Plus the last
quarter pound of chocolate.

This wasn’t the limit of my appetite, mind you; it’s
just what was at hand. As I write this, having easily doubled the
rest of the week’s food intake before breakfast, I am
rather longing for a
juicy yam or three.

~ ~ ~

Reflecting on this, am reminded of the endless meals of distant times and places… and of That French Restaurant in Lake Placid,
at the back of a blues club, with the inevitable classical piano player
and, for those so inclined, a proper five-course meal, where by proper
I mean “incomparably filling.” A full meal there might run
to three hours, 8000 Calories and a two-notch loosening of the
belt. My father raised me on meals like that once in a blue moon,
so perhaps that’s where I picked up the habit. For years I made sure
when dining (and ordering) not to leave any food left over.

Alas, I have not quite maintained my former standards. Not two weeks ago I was at the South Street Diner with J #1, and we both got their mixed grill (fantastic),
well over a pound of grilled meat and fish, with a couple of
sides. It was with a guilty conscience I handed over my last few
bites at the end of the meal.

Update: Six hours later, I am definitely hungry for a full lunch.

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