The Longest Now


Half-Baked Idea (fit for the half-bakery): a Coffee Presser
Wednesday February 20th 2013, 6:51 pm
Filed under: ideonomy,international,knowledge

Java-Logs exist. They’re just like firestarters but they smell nice and are made of coffee grounds; wrapped in paper just like regular firestarters. Coffee machines produce lots and lots of grounds that get thrown out (ideally into compost but usually not. often they just sit around, uncompacted, and grow mold.)

So: someone should design a “Coffee Presser” add-on to traditional popular coffeemakers – and standalone for dumping the dregs from your French Press – that produces mini Java Logs and wraps them so you can hold then when spit out. Perfect for those climes suitable for both lots of hot coffee and nightly fires.



Aaron’s Army: A brotherhood remembered by Carl Malamud.
Tuesday February 12th 2013, 3:18 am
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang

Carl’s speech at the Internet Archive memorial.



One man’s salvation from persistent madness to reasoned satirist
Saturday February 09th 2013, 4:27 am
Filed under: indescribable,meta,Seraphic

96 days of altered consciousness and recovering from a psychotic break. Told with humor and self-awareness, in an epic 18-part tale.

Let’s say that every time I see a yellow car, you actually see what I would call a green dragon, and we’ve just adapted to different driving styles… Now let’s assume we both see an object descended from the Model-T, and not the offspring of a bat fucking an iguana in a wood stove.* Except now I’m secretly attaching the symbol of car to dragon.

* I say natural selection demands that if you did this enough times, something would survive, and I bet that something would be a dragon. If there are any crazy people reading this right now, you have your mission.



Public Service Ad: TheOldReader perfects a google reader clone
Friday February 08th 2013, 10:05 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory

If you liked Google Reader, you’ll love TheOldReader.com – a site that perfectly replicates the funcionality of the original Google Reader, adding the joy of being part of a reclaimed tool.

Update: Mako points out that newsblur may be even better, and is free software. Huzzah!

Every day for the past two weeks someone different has mentioned in my presence how much they miss Google Reader, and I or someone else has pointed them to this site, to great joy. TOR supports importing of your old GR feed. Most of my G-R-maven friends have switched over by now, so there are at least a few amazing people to share with there.



Edit by Edit: an Article Feedback Tool gets firmly tested
Saturday February 02nd 2013, 11:49 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,wikipedia

One of the Wikipedia projects that has been developing slowly over the past two years is the Article Feedback Tool. In its first incarnation, it let readers rate articles with a star system (1 to 5 stars for each of the areas of being Well-Sourced, Complete, Neutral, and Readable).

The latest version of the tool, version 5, shifts the focus of the person giving feedback to leaving a comment, and noting whether or not they found what they were looking for. After some interation and tweaking, including an additional abuse filter for comments, it has recently been turned on for 10% of the articles on the English Wikipedia.

This is generating roughly 1 comment per minute; or 10/min if it were running on all articles. In comparison, the project gets around 1 edit per second overall. So if turned on for 100% of articles, it would add 15-20% to the editing activity on the site. This is clearly a powerful channel for input, for readers who have something to share but aren’t drawn in by the current ‘edit’ tabs.

What is the community’s response? Largely critical so far. The primary criticism is that the ease of commenting encourages short, casual/random/non-useful comments; and that it tends to be one-way communication [because there’s no obvious place to find responses? this isn’t necessarily so; replies could auto-generate a notice on the talk page of the related IP]. Many specific suggestions and rebuttals of the initial implementation have been made, some heard more than others. The implementation was overall not quite sensitive to the implications for curation and followthrough.

A roadmap that included a timeframe for expanding the tool from 10% to 100% of articles was posted, without a community discussion; so a Request for Comments was started by an interested community member (rather than by the designers). This started in mid-January, and currently has a plurality of respondents asking to turn the tool off until it has addressed some of the outstanding issues.

The impression of the developers, here as with some other large organically-developing feature rollouts, was not that they had gotten thorough and firm testing, but that editors were fighting over every detail, making communication about what works and why hard. Likewise there has been a shortage of good facilitators to take in all varieties of feedback and generate an orderly summary and practical solutions.

So how did things go wrong? Pete gets to the heart of it in his comment, where he asks for a clearer presentation of the project hopes and goals, measures of success, and a framework for community engagement, feedback, and approval:

I think it’s a mere mistake, but it does get frustrating because WMF has made this same mistake in other big technical projects…

What I’m looking for is the kind of basic framework that would encompass possible objections, and establish a useful way of communicating about them…

WMF managed that really well with the Strategic Planning process, and with the TOU rewrite. The organization knows how to do it. I believe if it had been done in this case, things would look very different right now…

It is our technical projects that are most likely to stumble at that stage – sometimes for many months – despite putting significant energy into communication.

Can we do something about it now? Like most of the commenters on the RfC, including those opposing the current implementation, I see a great deal of potential good in this tool, while also seeing why it frustrates many active editors. It seems close to something that could be rolled out with success to the contentment of commenters and long-time editors alike; but perhaps not through the current process of defining and discussing features / feedback / testing (which begs for confrontational challenge/response discussions that are draining, time-consuming, and avoid actually resolving the issues raised!).

I’ll write more about this over the coming week.




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