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Combatting infomation overload with online sabbaticals

» Tuning out technology: Pressures of the wired world drive some to cut back on e-mail and electronic gadgets.

For Leda Dederich, there came a point about a year ago when she realized her life was overly shaped by technology. The manager of an Oakland-based online consulting firm for nonprofit groups, Dederich was a leader in her field, but she started feeling that high-tech culture was dramatically out of balance -- "like a combination of a hamster wheel and an echo chamber."

I love my computer, but the last two weeks of checking email once or twice a day and spending the rest of my time offline have been truly lovely. Highly recommended. (via 43f [ 07/19/07 ]

How to write your name in Elvish in 10 minutes

» How to write your name in Elvish in 10 minutes. (via br)  (1) Comments  / [ 03/14/07 ]

Pre-computer ASCII art

» Modern Mechanix is collecting, among other things, examples of pre-computer ASCII art, found in old issues of popular science magazines. So far, he has found articles on the typewriter art of mill worker Rosaire Belanger in the June 1939 issue of Popular Science (featuring an awesome picture of George Washington), Keyboard art, from the October 1948 Popular Mechanics, and How to make a typewritten flag, made using mystery curved characters from the July 1948 issue of Popular Mechanics.  [ 08/21/06 ]

1956: The British House of the Future

» The British House of the Future, circa 1956. "All electric power is drawn from a nearby atomic power station. [...] A short-wave transmitter with push buttons controls all electronic equipment. We’re sure you’ll be interested to know that the shower stall has jets of warm air for drying and the sunken bathtub rinses itself with detergent. No bathtub rings left for Mother." (via aaa)  (1) Comments  / [ 08/18/06 ]

Trek Jews: Rabbi Gershom's Jewish-themed Trekker Page

» Rabbi Yonassan Gershom is a a Hassidic homesteader, an expert on Jewish reincarnation, and author of the yet-to-be-published book "Jewish Themes in Star Trek (Where No Rabbi Has Gone Before!) " You'll want to explore his page, TrekJews, and its companion page of material from around the Web on the same theme. The Rabbi has also compiled a list of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy. (thanks, Kane!)  [ 08/09/06 ]


» Here's a musical genre I had never heard of, and would never have predicted: Nerdcore hip hop, also known as "geeksta rap". CmdrTaco reviews the Rhyme Torrents Nerdcore Compilation.

It's like a Weird Al mad libs lyric, where the rapper tries to rhyme whatever techish things pop into mind. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. MC Hawking is a great example. His track essentially an MC Battle style rap that relies on the synthesizer voice gimmick. But damnit it actually works. The lyrics are tight and amusing. I wish the hook was stronger, but thats a track I'll enjoy listening to. [...]
[A]t the end of the day, sometimes you just need to find a bit of music that you can relate to. And when you hear 'join me in the basement cuz it's warcraft patch day / time for D&D a frontalittle mainstay' day, so it's time to play D&D.... well, thats my Tuesday too.

Be sure to check out some of the artists listed on Wikipedia, for example, Commodore 64.

Formed by four members of a math club and breakdancing troupe in 1982 at a concert in New Jersey, Commodore 64 were the first group to release a single produced entirely using an Apple Macintosh computer, "Horton Hears A Ho" in 1999.

The MC Hawking entry includes sample lyrics ("I explode like a bomb. No one is spared. My power is my mass times the speed of light squared." - From "E = MC Hawking") and a fictional discography from the official website. Awesome.  [ 07/13/06 ]

Gaming is good for you

» Researchers at London's Brunel University recently published the results of a 3-year study focused on the massive multiplayer online game Runescape which found that gaming may help young people learn important life lessons.

Study co-author, Nic Crowe says he was surprised by how quickly players as young as 11 years-old took up roles and responsibilities which demanded discipline, leadership and maturity. Young players actually set aside time for work (mining, fishing or crafting) and then made time for play (questing or chatting).

  [ 06/06/06 ]

The Houseplants of Gor

» The Houseplants of Gor. [Wikipedia entry: Gor] (thanks, Lizard!)  [ 05/29/06 ]

What is special about this number?

» Super cool: What is special about this number [ 05/25/06 ]

The Conservative case for Network Neutrality

» The Gun Owners of America has sent out an op ed piece to conservative news outlets explaining why it agrees with, in the fight for network neutrality.

The real problem is that we are under a distorted market from the get-go. Government is setting the rules. The result has been a government-supported oligopoly. We are lucky that those controlling physical access to the Internet have been forced to give every purchaser of bandwidth equal access – it doesn’t matter whether Gun Owners or the Brady Center is purchasing a T-1: all T-1 purchasers pay the same for the same level of service. And moreover, the phone company has to tough it if they don’t like what is being done with that bandwidth.

  [ 05/12/06 ]

Red paper clip guy up to Alice Cooper

» I know you've already heard about the red paperclip guy. He's all the way up to an afternoon with Alice Cooper. (thanks, kelly!) (1) Comments  / [ 05/10/06 ]

More on Flickr-powered collaborative photojournalism

» Emily Turrettini notices the difference between the Flickr slideshow of the CPE protests I linked here last week, and other CPE photo compilations on the Web, which depict a much more peaceful event. She wonders whether the slideshow photos depicting vandalism were taken during the French riots in November, and then deliberately mis-tagged "CPE", but I don't think that's the case. The slideshow I linked was organized by "interestingness", which is likely to skew to the sensational. The "most recent" slideshow presents a much less dramatic series of images. Note that neither is a measure of "importance" or "fairness", values that will likely always require human editorial judgement.

Of course it would be easy to deliberately mis-tag photos as they were uploaded. I posted here about the inherent limitations of tagging back in January 2005. At the time, others joined me in commenting on the potential to game the system. But Flickr is still a relatively unknown phenomenon, and I would be surprised if, at this point, anyone is trying to game it for political gain. That will likely change once Flickr becomes more widely known. Perhaps the automatic inclusion of GPS and time/date information when photos are uploaded would provide enough information to allow viewers to make more accurate assessments.

Emily is correct when she says "Caution and good judgment must prevail, not only toward the traditional media, but with regard to collaborative citizen journalism as well" — but that applies equally to the other sites she links. Organizations that participate in an event will document just one version of the event: their own. This version might be carefully constructed to present a particular narrative of the event and of the organization's role (think of the narratives routinely presented by political parties). At its least contrived, organizational records will consist of of "our favorite moments" — the parts participants themselves most want to look back on. This is right and natural and how we all organize our personal memory-markers. It is one reason I've argued that narratives must be written by a third party in order to be classified as "journalism" instead of memoir.

People photograph that which they think is "interesting". Photographers then apply another filter of "worthness" before they upload their photos to the server — or show them to friends. Every photograph has a point of view. Every series of photos creates a narrative. It will never be complete, or unbiased. Even so, barring a large-scale misinformation campaign, Flickr photos of any event should, in aggregate, represent a relatively impartial account of what could be be captured on film.

That lack of editorial control provides some protection against any person or organization seeking to control the narrative of any given event. Everyone's photos are published, regardless of their political standing or intent. Given enough participants, Flickr's inclusive nature will work against anyone deliberately skewing coverage of an event.

We need to be on guard against fraud. We need to create technological systems that will support transparency and reduce distortion. But in the end, one of our best weapons against deliberate manipulation and misinformation may be the simple, non-technical principle of inclusion. In fact, the framers of our Constitution were onto this 200 years ago. It's a little thing they liked to call "a Free Press".  (7) Comments  / [ 04/17/06 ]

Attention Deficit Trait = Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder

» Science finally catches up with me: "Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who's studied attention deficit disorder for more than a decade, has identified a related disorder he calls attention deficit trait, and he says it's reaching epidemic proportions in the corporate world." (via 43f(1) Comments  / [ 04/11/06 ]

How Flickr single-handedly invented collaborative photojournalism

» What is collaborative journalism? I would define it as news reporting, enabled by the Internet, done by a dispersed, unorganized group of people — or a group that spontaneously (and temporarily) organizes around their interest in a particular event. It's a compelling idea, but unfortunately — and in spite of many millions of blogs and wikis and online forums — actual examples are few and far between.

I had believed that was because most people are just not that interested in reporting the news, but I was wrong. Most of us can't wait to "break" a story to our friends, whether we've just witnessed a car accident, a celebrity sighting, or discovered that friends who were dating have broken up.

I'm beginning to suspect that what citizen reporters lack is the proper tool. Because the Flickr slideshow of photos of the French employment riots [Flash required] amply demonstrates that, on Flickr at least, collaborative photojournalism is thriving. That success is at least as much a product of Flickr itself as it is a product of the contributing photographers.

For those who don't know, Flickr allows members to upload photos to a public viewing area, and then "tag" them to denote their subject matter. Flickr then rates each photo according to "interestingness", a quality that is based on the ways in which other users interact with that photo. No one (outside of the Flickr team) knows exactly what that algorithm is based on, but I would guess that it measures things like the number of times each photo is viewed, the number of times another member calls it a favorite, the number of times it's emailed to others — those sorts of things.

The above slideshow consists of all public photos with a certain tag. So the first thing Flickr is doing is aggregating them. Then they are arranged by "interestingness" which means that the best photos (as judged by the community) come first. It also means that as new photos are added to the stream, it will continue to change, and more interesting photos will percolate to the top. If you haven't looked at a Flickr stream before, you'll be astonished by the high quality of these photographs.

Now, with or without Flickr, there would be people out on the streets watching the riots. But I would judge that Flickr members are now more inclined to document what they see, knowing that they can share it with others when they get home. I don't know what tools could make it this easy for other kinds of journalists to assemble a compelling story in pieces, but clearly Flickr has made something possible for photographers that was not possible before. [Updated to more clearly distinguish between written journalism and photojournalism.] (via rw)

Update: More on Flickr-powered collaborative journalism(8) Comments  / [ 04/11/06 ]

The Ser-Venn-Ity Diagram

» The Ser-Venn-Ity Prayer.  (1) Comments  / [ 04/04/06 ]

On Political Blogging

» What Does it Mean to be 'Political'?

The words "politics" and "political" have been so degraded and defiled that maybe it's just as well Beebo doesn't want to call us "political" but, in my opinion, we are all political writers. Indeed every act of personal reflection (however minute) followed by the public speech act of opining to the universe is a political act. It is why freedom of speech is so fundamental (and so frightening to the fascists).

Amen.  [ 03/30/06 ]

Innovative uses of iPods in Education

» Georgia College & State University, a small, rural liberal arts college, has initiated a program to devise innovative uses of the iPod across campus. One professor asks students to screen required films on video-enabled iPods before class; another produces a weekly podcast of the most-asked questions from her office hours; and the school has created an "iVillage" to help freshmen adjust to life on campus.   [ 03/22/06 ]

Placesite geographical social networking

» Placesite is a new service that allows patrons of wifi cafes to connect with one another by reading profiles of the other (online) people there, chatting, and contributing to message forums tied to that particular place. It is an attempt to counteract the zombie effect of having so many people staring at their computers by bringing social networking to geographic places. It's interesting, but two objections spring to mind. First, a certain percentage of people have always used cafes to read and write and study. What's the difference? Second, won't this just create two classes of people, those who are able to interact with others on their computer, and those who are not? (via phblog(1) Comments  / [ 03/21/06 ]

Geek Humor: Economists

» As you may know, I have a fondness for specialist (aka geek) humor. For your bewilderment and amusement, I offer you: Economist Jokes. (thanks, jjg!)

Three econometricians went out hunting and came across a large deer. The first econometrician fired, but missed, by a meter to the left. The second econometrician fired, but also missed, by a meter to the right. The third econometrician didn't fire, but shouted in triumph, "We got it! We got it!"

Top 10 Economist Valentines

  [ 03/16/06 ]

Pray as you go Podcasts

» Fabulous. A group of British Jesuits is offering a popular new service: free, 12-minute worship sessions in MP3 format, with an automated "Pray as you Go" process to automate downloading to the user's iPod. (via trevor cook [ 03/15/06 ]

The couple who plays together better cooperate

» Time was, couples couldn't play as bridge partners socially for fear of repercussions for an "unexpectedly" played hand when they got home. These days, the rules are reversed, and gaming couples who want to preserve their relationship often choose to play online games cooperatively [ 03/13/06 ]

Social Media Rules

» Yahoo!'s Bradley Horowitz starts blogging with a terrific post on why 100% participation in social media services is not only unnecessary, it's undesirable [ 03/02/06 ]

Understanding WarioWare

» What WarioWare can teach us about game design. "In a sense, WarioWare is an Understanding Comics of video games: a text that uses the representational strategies of a medium to reflect upon that same medium. But where Understanding Comics is discourse on comics, written in the language of comics, Wario Ware is more like Chuck Jones's meta-cartoon Duck Amuck. WarioWare and Duck Amuck violate convention, and in doing so draw attention to how cartoons and games are both constructed and interpreted."  [ 03/01/06 ]

WoW is the New Golf

» Is World of Warcraft the New Golf? argues that the world's high-tech movers and shakers are making connections and making deals in the massively multiplayer online game. "Warcraft is like a really, really well-designed UI for real-time, ad-hoc group collaboration and management of tons of people. The tools are really interesting because they apply to stuff that we'll be using in the real world." Joi Ito, venture capitalist and entrepreneur.  [ 02/24/06 ]

What games teach us

» David Sirlin examines the messages inherent in games ("Chess appears to be vaguely about war...but it's really a game of controlling space, of reading the opponent's mind, of trickery and tactics and so on") and reflects on what What World of Warcraft really teaches: Time is worth more than skill, groups are more important than individuals, and "us" is more important than "them".  [ 02/24/06 ]

Black like me

» When Erika Thereian changed to a black-skinned avatar in the online game Second Life, she found that some of her friends no longer sought her out, certain men assumed she was sexually promiscuous, and that some people just don't like black folks. "Well, I teleport into a region where a couple people [are] standing around. One said, 'Look at the n***** b****.' Another said 'Great, they are gonna invade SL now.'" (both via rw [ 02/24/06 ]

Pacman in needlepoint

» Amazing: Pacman, in needlepoint. [Wait! Cross stitch?](via rw [ 01/25/06 ]

Skills for a modern-day RPG

» A list of skills for a modern-day RPG. Among my favorites: crossword, forklift driving, and l33t-sp34k.  [ 01/24/06 ]



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