The Longest Now

13000 comments 1 post, part 2
Saturday January 21st 2012, 5:14 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,international,popular demand,Uncategorized

Update: see also Clay Shirky’s brilliant talk explaining SOPA and PIPA, and why they were drafted.

More comments on the Wikimedia community blog:

  1. I didn’t even know about the proposed legislation by America until just now reading here about the blackout and I’m sure that most people, including most Americans have no idea about it…  I have been going to Wikipedia since I was little as a site that I could trust not to have an agenda. I have grown up with Wikipedia as a part of my life and I am grateful for your existence.  – Sigrid Anderson
  2. The comments show that Wiki has generated a considerable amount of uninformed hysteria about proposed legislation that is not going to be adopted  – Bill Wood
  3. You should blackout every language version. The whole world is against of this dumb law.  – Jesús Manuel O.
  4. I’m an Australian man facing similar legislation.  I have been hoping that Wikipedia, Google, and similar organizations would make their position known in the form of a black out protest, to say what my little voice can’t get across  – Uriah
  5. “It’s political, but it’s not partisan politics.  SOPA is not a left-right issue. It’s a new media, old media issue. New media has every right to get political about its future. Congress should not be in the business of protecting one business model at the expense of another, especially when the new model is the only true source of growth in the nation’s economy for the last 20 years.” – Factoid (via Reddit)
  6. SOPA in it’s current form is scary, yet preventable, and I support Wikipedia for making a stand. – Brande Kramer
  7. Oh…no…witnessing the gagging and chaining of our only remaining freedoms: healthy freedom of speech and self expression on the internet would surely break my heart!  – Alejandro Bina
  8. A word of advice for everyone, like myself, who will suffer the inconvenience of this black out:
    Don’t Panic.  – Rowdy
  10. Working within an Indigenous community in Australia, it is clear to me that poverty begins and becomes generational, with lack of access to information.  – Ron West
  11. Wikipedia… is a source for great knowledge.
    Wikipedia team is not an ordinary team.
    The protest must be supported in a resounding tone of echoes.   – Karthik Yerramilly
  12. A G R E E !!!  – George MacNabb, M.D.
  13. This message has brought me to tears, literally.  – Carol
  14. These bills restrict not just freedom of expression, but considerably worse, will constrain an individual’s right to knowledge.  – Aisha
  15. America isn’t the world. If members of the American parliament are planning on doing something in America, it’s YOUR problem.  – Thomas Marshall
  17. I don’t really see how protesting a restriction on the free flow of information by restricting the free flow of information is at all helpful. Aren’t you just doing exactly what they want you to do?  – jjs
  18. AWESOME! The internet is a tool for the evolution of our entire species, not just another control mechanis…  – Trevor Allen
  19. about time someone takes action against SOPA and this nonsense!! YOU’RE AWESOME WIKI!  – brittany
  20. Thumbs down to Wikipeida. What’s wrong with you guys? I read the SOPA and I don’t see in any way will harm free speech.  SOPA is about IP and business, different stuff alright.  – James
  21. Wikipedia has created a permanent shift in human awareness, and has probably altered the very structure of our minds by abolishing “I don’t know” from out lives so many billions upon billions of times. Wikipedia going dark will hurt. It will be frightening, and I’m going to hate it. But if they chose to go dark for a month in protest of such terrifyingly dangerous laws, they’d still have my absolute support.  – Ehren Turner
  22. The balls (or ovaries) of the administrators are commendable. As much as it will hurt me if it does happen- I am aware it’d hurt me more if it didn’t  – jUrk
  23. como en mexico como en america latina y no me reservo al todo el mundo, nos sentimos indignados y ultrajados por esta tonta accion, que conlleba a lo que por muchos años idealistas han peleado y han muerto por ello. la libertad, la idea de controlarla de esta manera me parece arrogante y de mal gusto. – gerardo perez
  24. I love Wikipedia, but I think you’re making a big mistake in opposing laws that restrain intellectual theft.  – Hal Barwood
  25. If some industries must rethink their economic models in the face of the fundamental changes the internet has afforded the larger world, then so be it. That is by far the lesser evil  – Steven Burg
  26. Yeah, I get it, but 24 hours, really. How is that a protest. The library closed for 2 days over the weekend every week…big deal. I know your head is in the right place but really, man-up and do something that makes noise.  – Mehnert
  27. From Iran.
    It is very disappointing to see what my people are trying to fight here is emerging in the U.S.
    …we can live one day without Wikipedia to make sure it remains there forever.  – AgentTheGreat
  28. I definitely concur Team Wikipedia. Do what you have to do. ‘Nuff respect!  – Kush Barnes
  29. <quotes Spiro Agnew>
  30. Here in South Africa the government is in the process of passing a secrecy bill, which will, in effect muzsle the media as well as free speech. I definately support the blackout.  – Walter Hutchison
  31. I would also like to offer my country – South Africa – as the potential host if you need to move.  – Adam Brink
  32. Do not disrupt Wikipedia to make a point. Shame on you.  – Kyaa
  33.  dear wiki-world, i experience ms. gardner’s statement and wiki community’s mandate to be nuanced and reasoned—neither overly interventionist/hysterical nor frightened into inaction—not making wiki (this gynormously birthed baby) an overly precious object, nor being so lax as to be w/out any integrity.  – mazal
  34. This is actually a very serious decision. In all its years of existance, i have never seen Wiki go down. Just yesterday, a national stock exchange was DDOSed and hence out of service. I have seen the PSN go down. I have seen gaming clients’ networks go down. I have seen news clippings of “such and such site attacked and compromised”. But never Wiki was attacked or down, because everyone accepts it to be a neutral ground, a safe no-nonsense ground, where everyone turned to for information, regardless of language.This is one of the unwritten rules of the internet.
    This blackout just shows how serious this SOPA and PIPA problem is.
    I completely and unconditionally support Wikimedia in this.   –jmd.akbar
  35. Not only Wikipedia, but also the structure of Wikipedia is quite dependant on the freedom of expression on the [W]eb. Even if wikipedia itself is not blocked in any way, we would still feel the backlash if other websites with legitimate information are blocked… badly defined laws with a broad spectrum such as these tend to be abused for purposes they were not (or perhaps were) intended for.  – Excirial
  36. “We want people to trust Wikipedia, not worry that it is trying to propagandize them.” But then just a few lines down in the same letter it says… “I have increasingly begun to think of Wikipedia’s public voice, and the goodwill people have for Wikipedia, as a resource that wants to be used for the benefit of the public.” So they don’t want people to think they are engaging propaganda, but… want to use the “voice” of Wikipedia to influence public policy? …I imagine I will support many/all of the positions they would support, but I dislike the idea of eroding Wikipedia’s neutrality.  – Dan
  37. If I start replicating Wikipedia pages on a gigantic website of my own, for my own purposes such as to put ads on them generating revenue for myself, you wouldn’t like that would you? Oh, but by your standard, wouldn’t that be “freedom of expression”? I think you need to explain your position a lot better than you have done.  – jrbt2647
  38. I think we can cope without Wikipedia for 24 hours if it is for something like this. We should not be bullied.
  39. Today on MLK day! I’m reminded it’s my duty to continuously keep watch over and non-violently fight for our civil rights. Thank you, Wikipedia!  – Maggie Evan
  40. piracy… is a very real economic threat to the creative community. However, the methods by which these acts combat it are heavy-handed and overreaching; like fighting cancer with grenades. I am an artist who is opposed to piracy, and I applaud Wikipedia for this stand.
  41. “Although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not”, the statement is what strongly influenced on me. Thank you, all Wikipedians, for letting them know what is the right thing to do!  – Jerryz Tschin
  42. Doing a blackout to protest against censorship is like shooting random people in the street to protest against the death penalty.  – Björn
  43. Here in New Zealand we have a similar law. The legislation here means that anyone even suspected of disobeying the current piracy laws can have their internet access withdrawn at the ISP level. No burden of proof is required, just a certain number of unsubstantiated complaints from a copywrite holder. I understand and support the protest and hope that everyone can see the requirement to speak out now before things get any worse.  – Matt
  44. No argument is available why it helps or is good for media companies to not have protection. Who cares anyway, it won’t hurt Wikipedia. Or does Wikipedia now plan to host copyright content.
  45. I agree that the blackout is a good idea, but it is a shame that in its statement, Wikipedia/Wikimedia did not also make a strong statement to distance themselves from online piracy. This would have clearly confirmed that, while we do not condone online piracy, that we do want preservation of online freedom.  – Daeld
  46. I fear a world in which someone might be sued for humming a tune or quoting a line from a movie!
  47. The internet… from the very beginning has always seemed to me like a world mind. From my first log on so many years ago I was amazed at the open sharing on so many levels that was available. Year by year it has matured, with more reliable sources of information becoming available… a rich depth of knowledge, experience, and opinions: brilliant and beautiful bits… The entire festival of words, pictures, history, music, and vidography is like one enormous love poem to ourselves… The idea that we would allow anyone to tamper with this or take it from us without a fight is unconscionable.I find the current trend in this legislation to be highly suspect. I think it has much more to do with inserting fingers of control which can then be tightened into an iron grip than it does with the putative problem of piracy. As someone who is trying to make her living as a writer I rely on Wikipedia among other things as resources but I think I can suck it up for one day.  – Marilyn Melnicoe
  48. It is not advocacy to fight for your survival. Everyone is affected by this legislation, within and outside the US… The WWW is at risk of being ‘enclosed’ (removed from shared public ownership)… vested interests assert ownership of large parts [and] remove them from shared possession. We’ve seen this with land, with music, with software (leading to the need for CopyLeft) and now the right to index knowledge… It is certainly about piracy – the theft of public property for personal gain. – Loftwork
  49. I fully support this shutdown. SOPA, PIPA and NDAA… inflict unjust impediments on freedom of the common person, two online and one in “real” life… justified by exaggerated causes that can’t be fought by that legislation
  50. This is an act NOT of politics, but of self-preservation. Please make sure that, when the site comes back up, there is another banner explaining why it was down, for those who missed this message. – LTL

12000 comments 1 post, Part 1
Wednesday January 18th 2012, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,international,popular demand,wikipedia

The Wikimedia Blog has 1013,000 comments on Sue’s  SOPA/PIPA blackout post – roughly 3x the total volume of posts in the entire previous history of the blog.   By my casual estimate, 90% of comments are opsitive, 5% neutral, and 5% opposed (generally on the grounds that WP itself should be neutral).

They are a goldmine of interesting quotes.  A selection, for your entertainment:

  1. I was at first very irritated when I saw that Wikipedia was taking a political stand on any issue, I actually had no knowledge of these bills and after reading these bills, not only am I too very opposed to them but I also understand the threat these bills pose to Wikipedia itself. – Donald Langhorne
  2. The issues go far beyond the US. -FT2
  3. dis is retarded -____- im 13 and i NEED wikipedia!!!!!How else do u think i get good grades on my essays?!?   -LLAMAZRULE
  4. Good. Great. Fantastic. Amazing. I love it. Public figures, be they people or webpages, never take a bold stance on anything important. Thank you for doing so. – Quarex
  5. Not only is Wikipedia the easiest, quickest and most hassle-free place to check up on facts, but now it also has the courage to take a stand against restrictions of our freedom online as well! – Jennifer Fricker
  6. Black it out for a week if you have to. GO WIKIPEDIA!
  7. i don’t really know about this man. I know it’s got to be a hard decision but i don’t think it’s a good thing. what if somethin’ happens because someone hacked the government lately so please don’t do this.  -rhedeosi
  8. blindness seems so easy..while vision is so hard to bear…
  9. Just learned of your blackout in support of intellectual property thievery. I disagree with your position.  I have for several years sent a year-end contribution to Wikipedia. Since you have thrown your support to brigands, thieves, miscreants and malefactors, I will send no further contributions. This is NOT a free speech issue as you claim. This is about appropriating work of others without compensation. We call this theft. It is a crime. You can look it up in Britannica.   -tcement
  10. It is the movie companies etc who are the pirates. The films they produce are mainly rubbish these days and actors are paid way too much.
  11. I kinda hate you for shutting down my favorite recreational website for 24 hours, but not only do I agree with why and what you’re doing, I’m also glad such a large user website is taking their time to shut down and bring awareness to this nasty piece of legislation. -Joey
  12. I am extremely disappointed that the issues raised by those opposed to this action have not been addressed. The English Wikipedia community is not 100% behind this action… this is a sad day in the history of Wikipedia.  seem[s] like a rash action to me and one pushed forward by the tyranny of the majority – RobertHorning
  13. Didn’t have any idea about this so thanks for not only informing me but taking steps to protect us from this legislation. – Alice Miller
  14. Yo apoyo su postura y desearía conocer de que otra forma puedo apoyar la causa de una libertad que es inherente absolutamente a todos los seres humanos. –  Jorge, Mexico
  15. I support this plan, but I hope that WP still open and not close forever.
  16. As an artist and so-called “content provider,” I totally support this blackout. – Gary Lee
  17. I was not aware of the choices being made. I am therefor very proud to have found this blackout ideal going on. I do not think the men and ladies of our government offices will care to much about the black out… ON the Common man in central Illinois. I would say I do so enjoy your web help on so many levels. I thank you all so very much for many years of dedication.  – Micheal Raleigh
  18. I am thirteen years old and i love wikipedia. Have gotten good marks on most of my essays thanks to Wikipedia. You have my support.  – Tristan Wong
  19. I remember when television was free, and the first cable companies came to our smallish U.S. town with promises and packages for the city commissioners (the governors of our city) to admire. They courted us, then they took over so there weren’t any alternatives any more…  – Judy Allensworth
  20. A great decision, people need to be made aware of SOPA/PIPA. You have my support in future fundraisers because of this.  – jam12
  21. We, as a global people, need access to an Internet that crosses borders without restraint. I say this as an American, living behind China’s Digital Great Wall. Yes, I can go around it, but why should I have to?  – Eva Richardson
  22. As a financial contributer to Wikipedia I must say that I am dissapointed that this protest is planned. My so far unsubstantiated fear is that opponents of this law… want no legal interference with the internet… so that they can file share stolen intellectual property… I wish Wikipedia would stick to its primary purpose. I am unlikely to continue my perpetual support of the Wikipedia community if I feel I am likely to support political causes too–even if they are at times causes I support.  – C. Becker
  23. I’ve been something of a Wikipedia fanatic since its debut, when I could barely reach the keyboard. Sure, a six year old kid can’t really learn that much about applied physics—but the thought that I was reading “smart stuff” worked wonders on my little noggin. Now the thought that any number of bills could take away… one of my best sources of information enrages me. And this isn’t even taking into consideration the damage SOPA and PIPA could cause in other sites which can only subsist with the free transfer of media and information (Youtube, Reddit…)  – sebastian
  24. How do I, as a High School Senior, talk to my political leaders to stop these acts from being signed.regards, Dixon Romeo
  25. ..en el nombre de un internet libre apoyamos esta movida.   – edwin
  26. Not only english Wikipedia must blackout this next Wednesday, the other languages too… we have a saying here in South America: “When the USA sneezes, the rest of the world catch a cold”. Those bills are very dangerous for freedom of expression, and if that happens in the so called “land of the free”, what can other countries expect? My full support for you, Wikipedia, we will win!  – David
  27. Great news… This is a milestone in the decades-long reformulation of intellectual property rights during the age of computers. The solution still eludes us. Creative people must have rights to their creations, but tyranny must be avoided.  – Jeff Laird
  28. I’m so confused with the SOPA…  USA is very honor the freedom, but why you do this?
  29. While I oppose SOPA as well, so much for wiki’s NPOV.  – Glenn
  30. This is finals week at my school so it will be difficult to not have Wikipedia for a day, but I support what y’all are doing and I am glad such a large website like wiki is standing up for our rights, maybe our congress people will listen. – Morgan
  31. As a longtime fan of Wikipedia, this decision saddens me… Wikipedia’s voluntary blackout doesn’t affect my feelings on SOPA. I still support it, and I suspect that the only people whose opinions change are those who know little about the subject  – Mark
  32. this sucks I will lose my brain for 24 hours – gelly909
  33. the blackout is already being run on the local news networks. So the protest is already making headlines. No pain no gain.  – Neale Family
  34. Though I wholeheartedly support the blackout (and think a 24 hour blackout is too short)… this form of protest is a one-time deal… Any protest afterwards may make Wikipedia appear politically skewed; consequently, this is a temporary solution to stopping internet censorship. Real solutions must be made by limiting corporations, redefining outdated laws… – Kevin
    – SRK
  36. You should also black out the Spanish language version of Wikipedia. It’s just as much the language of the United States as any other. And add German, French, Italian, Chinese, Hmong, Sanskrit, Pashtun, etc. while you are at it. All cultures have been welcomed here.  – tooluser
  37. This should not have been done without widespread participation… Many people want to contribute to Wikipedia without getting entangled in Federal policy debates.  – Racepacket
  38. A kid, first, talks by it own way,
    after learning and teaching it talk right words.
    Institution should teach how to provide right content and publishers should learn
    – Rajagopal Jeyaraman
  39. The 24 hour silence of Wikipedia will be most eloquent. Thank you for taking such a stand!
  40. love wikipedia for things like this, its so…open. For the people, by people.
  41. I am in complete and utter shock. I had been quietly reading what everyone thought and kept thinking no, Wikipedia wouldn’t take such a political stand. Now it is. I never thought I’d see the day… this is amazing to see happening.  – cycloneGU
  42. While I totally approve of Mrs. Garnder’s letter and of the blackout protest, what is missing are clear specific reasons to oppose SOPA and PIPA.
  43. Although it is hard to pick what battles to fight that wall seems to be coming closer to our backs every day.
  44. Sorry, friends… fewer great minds will be willing to risk creating great things knowing that Wikipedia will confiscate the fruits of their labors, like a thuggish pimp, and whore them out.  Put away your self-righteousness, something that is so typical of mobs, and learn to honor the individual–the only thing that has ever made any great advances in any free society. Read “Atlas Shrugged” and learn.
    Do you have a response? I’d like to read it.  – Mike Whitehead
  45. As a scientist and as a professional engineer… I endorse the Wikipedia stand on the free flow of Internet information. Wikipedia is the best social institution to arise since the creation and distribution of written script via the printing press, second only to the publication of those social concepts and ideals of our founding fathers set down thereupon to guarantee their preservation.  – Anthony Bielecki, P.E., PhD
  46. After WWII in Japan, GHQ censored all publications in Japan. Then gradually they lifted censorship, but… step by step the publishers were trained to do what the authorities wanted; to submit to effective censorship of free expression and speech.  Too bad I won’t be doing my Media class on Friday at Toyo University. If the class was tomorrow, I would have the students get on Wikipedia, define their shock, and introduce the very important topic of free speech.  – Sarah Brock
  47. Even light-weight tabloids will notice and report it.  – Michael Wild
  48. Many of the objections raised about the powers of corporations to control user access to foreign sites… prohibit streaming… throttling of bandwidth… threatening ISP providers with shutdown, are already a reality here in Canada. If you can’t prevent this in the U.S., the rest of the world won’t have a chance. Good luck. Our children’s freedom is at stake.   – stephen
  49. you guys are doing the right thing… Luckily for me, I am Canadian but hold dual citizenship. If this passes, I will definitely pay the $500.00 to lose my dual citizenshi  – Sean
  50. SOPA will never be used to take down the largest encyclopedia in the world–to suggest otherwise is just disingenuous… Wikipedia should never take such an obviously political stance on something that will not affect them directly.

Blackout Wednesday website screenshots
Wednesday January 18th 2012, 5:31 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,international,wikipedia

Studying patterns
Monday August 29th 2011, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,metrics,Not so popular,poetic justice

For the past few years, I have been tracking patterns and ways to measure them.  In some easily reproducible settings, like small-group social engagements, short-timeframe teamwork, and the like, patterns are much more useful than individual events at determining how things work out.  Especially when the desired outcome is patterned, and real-life outcomes usually are (“make sure everyone leaves happy”, “come up with a solution that addresses everyone’s personal use case well enough”), focusing on natural patterns rather than linear ones* provides for better rules of thumb, and a clearer understanding of why things happen.

Indeed, most common wisdom about why things happen – how causality works, what comes first and what comes next – is simply a version of the post hoc fallacy: if two things happen near eachother, one caused the other.  You can see this most eloquently in the history of many sciences.  We continue to make this class of mistakes most quantitatively in abuses of statistics today.  But the more prominent arena for this sort of thinking is in everyday life – the way we talk and write, the words we use to explain important events to ourselves.

If you look at almost any significant and complex world problem, you will find that both laymen and experts enjoy breaking things down into linear patterns, and choosing a small number to claim as the “key” factors in making or unmaking some change.  Climate change, economic collapses, political standoffs.

In my observation, it is rare for there to be much truth in ascribing impact to any small set of such factors.  Yet most people I know will, in at least some areas where we lack solid repeatable data, suggest otherwise.

After running some experiments in this area, I am keen on writing something more formal about this, including some language, metrics, and toy examples for working with patterns.  I have found a close attention to patterns to be of tremendous personal use, and expect it will come to be so in larger collaborations as well.  If you have run across relevant work in this area, or writings on pattern of any sort – human, biological, artistic, mathematical, or other – I should like to hear about it.


* Linear or “single factor” patterns are the simplest kind; and in many if not all cases one could describe all more complex patterns in terms of the interction of linear patterns.  However we can usually evaluate a set of natural, more complex patterns with reasonably low error.  Forcing a guess at their decomposition into linear ones and at what those linear factors are, and composing those guesses together, is often far more incomplete or uncertain.


Blikstein auf stein: constructionist brilliance
Wednesday June 15th 2011, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable

Brows the syllabus and photos from the amazing course Human-Computer Interaction +Rapid Prototyping +Learning Sciences + Constructionism + Critical Pedagogy which is given by Paulo Blikstein at Stanford’s beyond bits and atoms group.  Does that sound like something you’d be interested in doing in a town near you?

It something in between the Media Lab’s lifelong kindergarden group, fablabs, and an peruvian olpc robotics lab, for grad students.

three students hacking on the inside of small box on the ground, at the same time

Working inside the box

Involuntary collaboration
Sunday March 20th 2011, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,indescribable,Rogue content editor,Uncategorized

I buy other people’s landscape paintings at yard sales and Goodwill and put monsters in them. from imgur.

Involuntary Collaborations: I buy other people's landscape paintings at yard sales and Goodwill and put monsters in them.

La Voz Del Mako
Sunday February 06th 2011, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,international,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

Some things are too good to mako up: The prison-blogging project La Voz Del Mako, “un espacio libre para los reclusos” at Centro Penitenciario de Albolote in Spain, apparently began life as a newspaper of the same name a dozen years ago. The current director of the prison said, in setting up the blog, “I wanted to open more than prison.” It’s not quite Between the Bars, but it looks like an interesting cloistered-community-wide effort.

Editor-to-Reader ratio on Wikipedia: a visual history
Sunday February 06th 2011, 8:12 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,chain-gang,international,metrics,wikipedia

After early exponential community growth, editing on Wikipedia has slowed recently. The number of readers, on the other hand, grows steadily. Over the past 3 years, the number of active monthly editors in all languages has declined by 12% (and twice that in English). But the effective change in active editors per reader may be 4x as large.

This change in how many readers become editors points to both a problem and a short-term solution: On the one hand, we have many more people coming to the projects who don’t know they can edit, find no reason to do so, or are discouraged before becoming active. On the other, we reach many more people than in the past, so effective changes in messaging, tools, or policy have a larger impact.

Mako and I were discussing this last night, leading to some back-of-the-envelope calculations (using some of the many great stats resources the Foundation maintains) and a heady R + ggplot session, which turned into a beautiful post on copyrighteous:

Unlike all those other [encyclopedia projects] Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia is powerful because it allow its users to transcend their role as consumers of the information they use to understand the world. Wikipedia allows users to define the reference works that define their understanding of the their environment and each other. But 99.98% of the time, readers do not transcend that role. I think that’s a problem.

Read the full post.

… Synergy Epitome
Thursday January 27th 2011, 8:56 am
Filed under: Blogroll,Glory, glory, glory,popular demand,Uncategorized

From a world of transient characters and jargon, a vignette about synergy and beauty:

  1. Two friends program and voice a two-minute RPG.
    The game becomes somewhat popular.
  2. Someone posts a very literal, frustrated, typo-ridden review.
    The review becomes infamous.
  3. The voice actor finds and narrates the review.
    The narration becomes very popular.
  4. Someone finds the narration and animates its text to Carl Orff.
    A one-hit wonder is born.

Epic win.

I love it when scientists talk dirty…
Friday January 07th 2011, 1:59 am
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,indescribable,international,metrics,Too weird for fiction

…and when they make loose with a few orders of magnitude.

Rouder and Morey critique some recent work by Bem on “Feeling for the Future”:

[O]ur assessment is that Bem’s experiments, collectively, provide some evidence of psi phenomena, but not enough to sway the beliefs an appropriately skeptical reader…

…There is [a] surprising degree of evidence for the hypothesis that people can feel the future with emotionally-valenced nonerotic stimuli, with a Bayes factor of about 40. Though this value is certainly noteworthy, it is several orders of magnitude lower than what is required to overcome appropriate skepticism of such implausible claims.”

The framing of the questions and hypotheses here is most amusing, and worth a read. Rouder’s face sums up this whole debate.

Hat-tip to Cassandra Vieten at HuPo.

How to become a skilled language-crafting society
Friday December 24th 2010, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,Glory, glory, glory,international,metrics

We like to think of humans as defined by being tool-users and language-users. But while we respect people who create new tools and languages, we don’t prioritize such work, nor have we developed fields that study how to become more efficient at developing, measuring, and improving theoretical tool and language designs and implementations.

There is the idea, in each case, that undirected evolution over time will sort out the best new tools or words or languages, organically producing [successful, widespread] inventions and [popular, widespread] terms that address all significant opportunities for us to become more effective [as tool- or language-users].

I’m not sure where this idea comes from. Three people whose thinking I admire have independently offered a version of this idea as a rationalization for why we the current level of interest in tool- and language-crafting is ‘optimal‘ or ‘sensible’. I think there are quick ways to quantify the extent to which this is not the case.

(As an example of this idea of default optimality: my clever linguist friend last night explained that there is a popular assumption in linguistics that “all living languages are equally good at transmitting all kinds of ideas,” modulo new vocabulary.)

As an example of quantifying what is missing: mathematics & physics in the last century have very actively started creating new collections of axioms, and trying to use them as a language to define what is known about math & the world. If one frames this as language-formation, it was consciously designing a better, more elegant, more expressive language — and designing one that is capable of explaining in simply terms new complex things that we observe or have discovered.

Stephen Wolfram makes the case that there are an enumerable number of different systems of logic (on the order of 50,000), and that we chose one fo these long ago which we’ve built up into moder mathematics and logic, and use to define which srots of theorems or proofs seem ‘elegant’ and ‘simple’ and can be derived quickly from its axioms. He suggests that choosing other systems of logic (and repeating the process of building out an infrastcuture of theorems and propositions) will provide fertile ground for further advances in understanding the universe. What I like most about this argument is the attempt to identify opportunities for understanding which we cannot yet approach conceptually, for lack of language to take us there.

One could do the same by moving backwards in the history of mathematics, trying to describe problems of broad modern interest without concepts and terms developed in the last 200 years. But in that case one could still imagine a single broad highway of ‘increasing sophistication’ along which we progress, adding more nuanced language as we go — when in contrast I feel that here, as in most walks of life, we have made a choice at some point to limit the building blocks of subtle communication, and are filling in the space of ideas that follows naturally from those early assumptions, but are no longer able to see what other building blocks would make possible. In particular, we have no way of estimating gaps in our understanding, or how to reach them.

So the question is: how do we reframe our development of languages outside of math so that we can start improving them consciously, measuring their effectiveness and acknowledging successes that we have discovered in the past through random-walk exploration? How do we merge the valuable properties of different spoken languages; create new auditory or visual languages; develop better sublanguages for effective communication in negotiation, love, large-scale collaboration? How can we use modern tools (wordnik, ngrams) to take control of the language-creation process, identifying trends and demands, and helping visualize new discoveries across all languages?


Wikipedia turns 10 next month!
Thursday December 23rd 2010, 12:15 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,international,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Wikipedia turns 10 on January 15. Please honor the anniversary by making ten edits on your favorite project, including making your first account if you have to! (yes, anonymous edits count, but they’re just less fun!

The Boston Wikipedians and Code X crew will be celebrating with a (short, concentrated!) party at MIT in Cambridge that Saturday night, and a longer evening of events and video screenings about Wikipedia the following week. There will also be dozens of other events around the world. As events around the world come together, I’ll post links and notes about them here.

Ivay Martinez just published a schedule for a Mexico City WikiX event. Congrats to Wikimedia México for this excellent-looking lineup!

Motolinía 33, Centro Histórico
Ciudad de México, Mexico

Wikipedia cumple 10 años y Wikimedia México te invita a celebrarlo!

18:00 Proyección del documental Truth in Numbers: The Wikipedia Story
19:20 Bienvenida a los invitados. Inauguración del evento.
19:30 Proyección de un video introductorio sobre Wikipedia 10 y Wikimedia Mexico
19:35 Charla de Miguel A. Solís (Fundación Software Libre FSF México)
20:00 Charla de Pablo Nieto Mercado y Hugo Chávez Carvajal, de WikiDF / CONACULTA.
20:30 Charla de Cecilia Estrada, historiadora de la UNAM.
21:00 Charla de Mtro. Jorge Hidalgo Toledo, profesor e investigador de la Universidad Anáhuac.
21:30 Charla de Iván Martínez (Wikimedia Mexico).
21:30 Proyección de felicitaciones y saludos de wikipedistas del mundo y de América Latina.
21:35 Mensaje principal de Wikipedia 10
21:40 ¡Fiesta! FURY (DJ) y POlo (VJ).

Tumblr test
Monday September 13th 2010, 11:19 am
Filed under: Blogroll,indescribable,metrics,SJ

Checking out what Tumblr does right and wrong: I posted a short series of meditations on joy, sharing and knowledge. Let me know what you think.

Drown, crash, blog : links and noise
Tuesday September 30th 2008, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,fly-by-wire,popular demand,Uncategorized

the bailout bill1 Drowning Street : differentiating market performance from the health of the economy.

Bringing down the House : People cared deeply about the inner workings of the House of Reps surrounding Monday’s failed bill… their website bowed under the attention.

My friend Seth (of zombie infocalypse infamy). who has been working on content and community media for our educational laptops, has just started a part-time internship with Yochai Benkler‘s new research group, and migrated his blog to this server.  Welcome, Seth!  We’re lucky to still have him at OLPC.

Infoseek: Finally, people visiting this blog are searching for some fascinating things:

– “things you never knew existed”
– “the desire to understand”
– The c’t Wikipedia comparison post (still popular even in other languages)

and my favorite,

how does a hair dryer electrocute you

Lessig ‘4Obama’ transcription
Tuesday February 05th 2008, 12:26 am
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,metrics,popular demand

First things first. I’m no no-holds-barred Obaman like Larry Lessig.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Boyish Orator’s style, and give him a leg up over Her Royal Cleverness, but don’t stay up nights worrying about the future difference to world peace their differential election would make (other things keep me up, even in politics), and not because I don’t think peace a devastatingly important realm for immediate change.

At any rate, Lessig taped a Barackish paean, and Ball and Prime started simulscribing in gobby. Gobby sessions exert a gravitational pull on me and soon I was transcribing myself, to exercise day-cramped hands — though I would never have listened to the piece otherwise. You can read the result of our labours.

The promise of making a set of ideas more accessible and revisitable is an infinitely better reason to divest oneself of twenty minutes of life than amusement or boredom… Which makes me wonder why we don’t see dotsub everywhere, at least among the sj crowd of one. Maybe it just needs a gobby plugin, or a way to find two friends and start transcribing in tandem. I’m even feeling the itch to ride a tandem bike or sidecar. Ach. Time for a seaweed shower.

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