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The Longest Now

17 lovers around the world rejoice
Monday January 30th 2006, 2:40 pm
Filed under: metrics

This week Wikipedia briefly broke into the top-17 list of most visited websites, as gauged by Alexa Toolbar users; snagging the attention of 3% of them that day.  Rock on…

In other news, if you want to find out more about Wikipedia and are in the Boston area, come to the upcoming presentation at Simmons on Feb. 13.

17 lovers around the world rejoice …

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Become Brewster’s Librarian
Sunday January 29th 2006, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

What a job.  Slightly better than being ground into the dirt by a sexy bounty hunter, like Papalote.  If you’re into that kind of book-loving knowledge-preserving jazz, ping the Internet Archive asap!

Become Brewster’s Librarian …

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Awesome. Writely, Writeboard.
Wednesday January 25th 2006, 11:02 am
Filed under: chain-gang

Writeboard : those 37signals lads have a sense of humor, oh but they do.

Writely : It really is that good. What do we (as a society, as inventors, as knowledge stewards) do with great tools like this? When the marginal cost of creation and distribution is around a penny, it’s an awfully tough decision…

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This mailing-list business has gone too far…
Wednesday January 25th 2006, 9:57 am
Filed under: %a la mod

“[x]  Yes, sign me up for the latest news and updates about Logan Airport WiFi Connections.”

I would pay good money to see the past list of ‘latest news and updates’, for kicks, but I don’t want to get spammed with them in the future.

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Football coach coins neologism, snags 200,000 trackbacks
Monday January 16th 2006, 3:00 am
Filed under: poetic justice

Mike Newell has apparently written and spoken about a culture of bung — a “bung culture”, as it were — for the past year or two. Now that term , which may never have been popular before, has become indelibly linked to his name.

“Another conservatory”, “a boob job”, and “a fast car” are all identified with one another in the list of uses to which a bung may be put.

Bungs “have always been a part of football” — apparently they are kickbacks of one sort or another. Where this usage comes from escapes me atm, but I’m sure I will find out soon.

The Line (Snowcrash)
Friday January 13th 2006, 3:52 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Stephenson is a fine author.  Snowcrash was a good book.  But
it has one line that is so telling that, when James and I first
discussed the book, long after reading it, he said “Ohh, Snowcrash is
great.  The
Line!”  And I knew precisely what
he meant. 

The book came up twice today, and I was forced to recall the passage
through the haze of a few years.  I sharpened my memory on chapter
thirty-six; to share with you its unadulterated glory:

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that
under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in
the world. If I moved to a  martial-arts
monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family
was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge.
If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to
wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to
being bad.

Devotion and circumstances.  How could mere facility not pale in comparison?

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Plagiarism, Copycenter, and Avoiding attribution : Where copyright has always failed
Wednesday January 04th 2006, 10:29 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire

Everyone has heard of a few occasions when a major publication or
journal has an author or paper accused of plagiarism or copyright
violation.  Theoretically, the quote of even a short recognizable
excerpt from another’s work — a three-word characterization, a
one-term neologism, a 100-pixel icon — falls somewhere on the spectrum
of illegality from impolite non-attribution to outright theft.

Book authors have been roasted over this particular fire for a few
sentence-long sentences lifted from one or another source.  These
days, three notes is in some court cases enough to identify a bit of
creative work and indemnify someone who reuses it without
permission.  In theory, fragments far shorter than a sentence
could be every bit as illegal to reuse without great care.

The open secret of the history of creative work, authorship, and
copyright, is that significant portions of ‘original’ work have always
been copied without attribution, in some sense, from others. 
Modern copyright is continually being violated.  Early
dictionaries and
encyclopedias and compendia and histories were often quite brazen in
borrowing from previous works with no attribution.  Authors of
philosophy, poetry, and even fiction have similar issues; in a field
full of 100-word poems, could borrowing a few two-word phrases, rhyming
schemes, or conceptual conceits possibly go unnoticed?  This was
not always an absolute evil.  Attribution was not always desired
or even possible in the context of publication.  How does one
footnote or attribute one’s style, use of epithets for public figures,
choice of jargon? 

And when one has learned material from a few
dozen sources, compiled it in one’s own head, and synthesized it into
something “new”, how can that possibly be entirely separate from the
specific word-choice and thematic structure of what has been
read?  A significant % of authorship choices inevitably hearken
back to the choices made by those whose work has been read or watched
or listened to.  In practice, people often do less synthesis than might be ‘optimal’ in the legal sense. 

A random example about the Macchi C.202 — the precise phrase “Asso XI RC.40 that, compared to the best foreign realizations, was underpowered
may have come from a print book on the history of planes which came out
recently in Italy.  At any rate, ‘the best foreign realizations’
is an unusual phrase.

If one is writing to pursue a specific end other than the legal enforcement of copyright,
is it not right for others to come and use whole parts of one’s work in
a better way, demonstrate rearrangements and substitutions that yield
the best possible result?  This is not at all the same as allowing
anyone to reuse the entirety of one’s work without attribution. 
It is different from the kinds of freedoms offered by modern
‘copyleft’.  Key elements of the trouble with modern copyright
come from its not being subtle enough; from presuming too much; from
imagining every problem as a nail for its well-used hammer.  Some specific thoughts:

  • Some very basic form of “financial protection from wanton
    copying” should be granted to all authors by default; under any
    provisions whatever (100-year, &c).
  • Some forms of “protection from world-readability” should be
    available on request; with a well-organized database of works so
  • Some forms of “protection from being quoted, or having short
    segments reused or repurposed” might be available under restrictions
    and time-limits, again on request.  This is already an unusual
    provision to ask for publicly-distributed work.
  • Some forms of “reduced/waived protection for reusers sharing some
    larger purpose” —  use under ‘a similar license’, use towards a
    specific goal (such as education, narrowly-defined).
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Inside finite games looking out
Monday January 02nd 2006, 3:04 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

Inside a game, life and value and equivalence are quite different than
they are outside.   If one could turn one’s perceptions
inside out, and somehow look out of a local game, the value warping
would be visible as a certain colorful rainbow effect…

Consider a classroom, or a staged event, or a casino.  Or
something complex, such as a social group.  Value can be locked up
in any number of things…  People act differently about what they
want when they have access to a pantry of free food, or when they have
to pay for it on the spot; when they are freerolling, or when they’ve
paid some small amount for something; when they are being Instructed,
and when they are learning with an extra understanding of free choice.

Perhaps the most obvious examples are people who process large
quantiitiies of goods, money,
and people.  Captains, freight
shippers, stocktraders, gamblers, train conductors,
pilots…    Inside one such game, I possess a year of
tournament fees.  Inside another, partial ‘ownership’ of several
spectacular dwellings and constructs, and a local title.  In a
third, original-authorship of a widely-referenced and updated dataset;
in a fourth, position in a world-famous clan.  Attempting to
translate any one of these into any other, or to compare their values –
hundreds or thousands of hours, dollars, connections – across the
prismatic boundaries of their games…  would be difficult and
inaccurate at best; impossible or dangerous at worst.

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