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The Longest Now

Zvi Boshernitzan:Boy Genius
Saturday March 31st 2007, 6:53 pm
Filed under: indescribable

I don’t know how he does it, but Zvi has certainly done it again.  He is over at, making their amazing site render faster, load more stably, and run on a lean, mean pile of code.  I can only hope his work will be open sourced one day so that other sites with similar audiences can benefit from a working toolchain for community-centered design and bounty or feedback processing…

I want to start a series of children’s books of the form “Zvi Boshernitzan:Boy Wonder” and “Zvi Boshernitzan:nighttime at the Cancel Corral“.  Think they would sell?

Zvi Boshernitzan:Boy Genius …

Friday March 30th 2007, 2:57 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

Quanta plans widescale rollout of cheap computers; the cheapest with small screens and no hard drive.  No word on whether they care about power and life…

… …

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Nomenclatural justice
Sunday March 18th 2007, 4:14 am
Filed under: poetic justice

I keep on running into people who refer to Wikipedia with over-definite articulation. That is to say, with a definite article. I am reminded of a comment from years past, care of Joho:

The circle of articulate digerati who have recently preferred the
“the Wikipedia” to the “Wikipedia” option, however, highlight the
urgency of the struggle for nomenclatural justice.

I have updated the Wikipedia FAQ to clarify and rectify the reality of the matter, and trust that the “the” the Wikipedia-loving fans of the aforementioned circle have grown accustomed to, will in the near future fade into the recesses of the past.

Please fight for justice in nomenclature, and save us all from grammatical confusion and disorder.

Nomenclatural justice …

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Wiki-twin falls afoul of fact-finding fisticuffs after fabrication
Sunday March 04th 2007, 10:28 am
Filed under: indescribable

Essjay, my eponymous Wikipedian colleague, was renowned for years for many things — his devotion to Wikipedia and meticulous attention to detail, his clear writing and sense of visual style, his ability to stay cool when discussions got hot, his comprehensive knowledge of religious details, and his enticingly half-revealed life history — a gay professor of theology with long academic credentials, who did not want to share his name or location.

Two months ago he joined the ranks of Wikia, and confessed that he was really just a young polymath who had been playing a role he set for himself, very carefully.  In the process, he had fooled most Wikipedians, and even given a telephone interview as his alter ego — the result of which was an excellent essay by Stacy Shiff in the New Yorker.  Everything in the essay remains true, save for the personal details about Essjay — and a new footnote at the end about his actual identity highlights some important elements of the site not explicitly laid out in her original prose.

Since his revelation, however, a growing number of Wikipedians and anti-Wikipedians have been asking him and eachother what to make of all of this. The person who wrote to tell the New Yorker the news was an anti-Wikipedian who had been wondering about his true identity for a long time…  one of the many interesting sidenotes in the aftermath is that almost noone mentions this point.

What distresses me most about the whole affair is: this was an extraordinary opportunity for Wikipedia, and its strongest proponents and most active members, to educate the world in a positive way about how it works.  Wikipedia does not privilege credentials.  Skill in writing?  Yes.  Demonstrable expertise in referencing their work, constructing arguments and presentations, and mediating disputes?  Certainly.  Level-headedness and willingness to consider alternate points of view?  By all means.  But not credentials as such.

So it pains me to see so many people – including people whose wiki work and philosophy I respect – repeating sound bites about Essjay misusing the trust of others, without qualifying every such statement with a similar discussion of the ways in which his actions in every sphere spoke louder than any fabricated identity.  I trusted in the quality and reliability of his work, both written and social, something unmatched in my experience with Wikipedians. I would continue to do so in any circumstance. 

…to be continued.

Wiki-twin falls afoul of fact-finding fisticuffs after fabrication …

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Wiki-twin falls afoul of fact-finding fisticuffs after fabrication
Sunday March 04th 2007, 1:52 am
Filed under: indescribable

Wiki-twin falls afoul of fact-finding fisticuffs after fabrication …

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Entrepreneurial free content creation
Friday March 02nd 2007, 2:00 am
Filed under: popular demand

Background: Kiva has been on my mind a lot lately.  Zvi has been helping them with their tech infrastructure of late, so it naturally comes up each time we talk.

I spoke Tuesday about OLPC‘s content plans to the Media Lab OLPCclass, and gave a passionate argument for free content yesterday to a tough but tremendously well-meaning audience.  There were questions about business models for creators.  The most poignant comment of the night: ‘it is a shame that as a civilization we’ve figured out how to monetize collecting gold in World of Warcraft, but not how to support this incremental work which is absolutely essential…’

Reflecting on this, and on efforts to raise funds to sponsor local content creation through microgrants, I had an idea: why have a central authority raise and hand out funds to seed content creation, when we can distribute both efforts? What about an interface such as Kiva’s to allow people to select open-content learning material ideas they want to support for a given amount of money?  They wouldn’t be expecting to get the money back; but instead an intellectual return on investment — a few more chapters of an ongoing work, or a few chapters of translation, which even if not completed could be picked up by other people and turned into something great.

A clever person in a wealthy region might spend 40 hours writing a brilliant educational work or list of 100 projects; but with less effort could perhaps donate to a dozen good proposed projects by creators closer to the target audience, or working natively in other languages — often creators in poor areas who would gladly spend 40 hours writing in exchange for what the original person might earn in 2.   As with Kiva’s microloans, these content microgrants would pass through a local microfinance institution, and the prospective authors’ projects would be vetted by field partners to ensure their sincerity.

I think one could make this a reality with minimal changes to the current
Kiva interface, which is quite lovely.  OLPC has always been focused on grassroots creation of content in native languages, with donations of existing material as a seed or important secondary element.  Because of our short timelines, distributing sponsorship as well as creation has a definite appeal.  I wonder how this meshes with Sasha‘s ideas of distributed financing of open source software efforts…

Entrepreneurial free content creation …

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On children
Thursday March 01st 2007, 5:55 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Let there be children!  And quotas for restaurants and the like. 

On children …

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