The Longest Now


Anonymizing data on the users of Wikipedia
Wednesday July 25th 2018, 12:22 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,citation needed,Glory, glory, glory,wikipedia

Wikipedia currently tracks and stores almost no data about its readers and editors.  This persistently foils researchers and analysts inside the WMF and its projects; and is largely unnecessary.

Not tracked last I checked: sessions, clicks, where on a page readers spend their time, time spent on page or site, returning users.  There is a small exception: data that can fingerprint a user’s use of the site is stored for a limited time, made visible only to developers and checkusers, in order to combat sockpuppets and spam.

This is all done in the spirit of preserving privacy: not gathering data that could be used by third parties to harm contributors or readers for reading or writing information that some nation or other powerful group might want to suppress.  That is an essential concern, and Wikimedia’s commitment to privacy and pseudonymity is wonderful and needed.

However, the data we need to improve the site and understand how it is used in aggregate doesn’t require storing personally identifiable data that can be meaningfully used to target editors in specific. Rather than throwing out data that we worry would expose users to risk, we should be fuzzing and hashing it to preserve the aggregates we care about.  Browser fingerprints, including the username or IP, can be hashed; timestamps and anything that could be interpreted as geolocation can have noise added to them.

We could then know things such as, for instance:

  • the number of distinct users in a month, by general region
  • how regularly each visitor comes to the projects; which projects + languages they visit [throwing away user and article-title data, but seeing this data across the total population of ~1B visitors]
  • particularly bounce rates and times: people finding the site, perhaps running one search, and leaving
  • the number of pages viewed in a session, its tempo, or the namespaces they are in [throwing away titles]
  • the reading + editing flows of visitors on any single page, aggregated by day or week
  • clickflows from the main page or from search results [this data is gathered to some degree; I don’t know how reusably]

These are just rough descriptions — great care must be taken to vet each aggregate for preserving privacy. but this is a known practice that we could do with expert attention..

What keeps us from doing this today?  This may be discussed  somewhere, but past discussions I recall were brought to an early end by [devs worrying about legal] or [legal worrying about what is techincally possible].  It seems to me this would help tremendously in improving our understanding of the projects, our participants, and their experience of the wikis.  Without that we’re rather in the dark.  And we would draw in many great sociologists, historians of knowledge, and data scientists (as outside researchers, perhaps as staff) by having richer material for them to work with.



In eternal rhyme: as Cyberiad draws nigh, a tiny Lem shrine
Sunday March 25th 2018, 1:49 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,noetic,poetic justice

Stanislaw Lem‘s Cyberiad is a miracle of 20th century literature.

In particular, the poems of Trurl’s Electronic Bard, and the story itself, remain one of the best bits of writing I know.  So I’m preserving here the Bard’s poems, in as many translated languages as I can find.

English

Phlogoisticosh. Rhomothriglyph. Floof.

Pev’t o’ tay merlong gumin gots,
Untle yun furly pazzen ye,
Confre an’ ayzor, ayzor ots,
Bither e furloss bochre blee!


Mockles! nt on silpen tree,
Blockards three a-feening,
Mockles, what silps came to thee
In they pantry dreaming?


Oft, in that wickless chalet all begorn,
Where whilom soughed the mossy sappertort
And you were wont to bong–


{Responding to Klapaucius’s taunts…}

The Petty and the Small
Are overcome with gall
When Genius, having faltered, fails to fall.

Klapaucius too, I ween,
Will turn the deepest green
To hear such flawless verse from Trurl’s machine.

Have it compose a poem — a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom!  Six lines, cleerly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.

Now all in g! A sonnet, trochaic hexameter, about an old cyclotron who kept sixteen artificial mistresses, blue and radioactive, had four wings, three purple pavilions, two lacquered chests, each containing exactly one thousand medallions bearing the likeness of Czar Murdicog the Headless…

Grinding gleeful gears, Gerontogyron grabbed
Giggling gynecobalt-60 golems


Let’s have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics.  Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit.

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustrum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I’ll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou’lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love’s lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not — for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a²cos2ф!


{And found among the poet’s papers…}

Arms, and machines I sing, that, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Homo’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Terran shore…

 



“‘I participate in contact origami’, The Book”, The Movie
Thursday March 09th 2017, 8:48 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,noetic

Footprints in a self-similar river. The occasional passing act of will that remains and is amplified downstream, so that at some future moment, perhaps fording at another spot altogether, you discover a print announcing to you alone that you have been there before.

screen-shot-2017-03-09-at-5-33-45-pmA decade ago, I once spent too long creating a stylesheet for a tiny “how-to” template: the numbers in boxes laying out a three-step process, whether to switch fonts, bold, padding, background and border colors. Making the css just right to work on screens of all sizes.

It looked something like this.  >>

In fact, almost exactly like that.  Some things worked, some didn’t.  I tried to add padding to the left of the roman numerals, tried to remove the pixel of whitespace above the bordered boxes, without success.  Should the roman numerals be left-aligned but the boxed text centered?  Since then, scores of similar templates have copied and remixed it, changing text and context but not style.  The color palette I settled on, almost content with it, shows up on hundreds of pages. It would now take a script and many hours to find and tweak each instance of the design.

I run across one myself every few months, and experience river-shock: the sense of seeing something simple you did once that has a quiet, pervasive mark that cannot be undone.  This is quite different from the sense of pride or dismay that comes from seeing the expected result of a major endeavor: a book in someone’s hands, a clinic building in use or in disrepair, a student now teaching others.

Another memory: One week I set about compiling a collection for a museum, a complete series of parts, diagrams and XO laptops: a few boxes full.  I had sent background context by mail, but at the last minute took a fine-tipped sharpie and attached clarifying notes to post-its on each cluster.

Years later, visiting the museum with a friend, I ran across the display as part of a history of computing; the electronics beautifully preserved as I had hoped, as I saw with pride.  And – river shock – a handful of my post-its, with small diagrams and 8pt-font notes to the curator, exactly where I had placed them.  Anyone with access to the materials could have chosen one of each and put them in a box; my handwriting made it seem like my own workdesk, enclosed in perspex and on display.

On occasion a visitor will find one of the historical texts I’ve preserved against linkrot and plagiarism, like the acquiantance checking up on the man trapped in Charles de Gaulle airport, or a friend running across their favorite college essay or spellpoem, and I have a shadow of that frisson.  A passing fancy, created to be found anonymously by others, appearing at least once more in the endless river of daily life.



The Memetic Zoo – Collaborative space where woke creatures share slang
Monday January 23rd 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,noetic,poetic justice

January is gray, and this now is the Ur-Jan, but today for a change was bright.  Thanks to the snain, red lettering, h’rissa and light.

And to you, dear Reader, for truth, presence, and ideas catalysed in telling – rarities that should be commonplaces. And for this box of potential thoughts about thoughts I will think Thursday.

I still have so many things to ask: what you know of supersimultaneity, quantified serendipity, if you feel a cool thrill in the small of your back when a crux or potentiality approaches, foreshadowing and afterimages. Sometimes I wake with the certainty I must pursue such things with all who might answer, before my pulse cools and I file it away as dream residue for review. Next time.

Today drew out instead improvements in preservation and propagation: idiogenics, cryogenic Seed Vaults and Culture Vaults, a vicariant Greenland. Advances in meme propagation as a critical piece of biological development, including RNA and human speech, but countless other innovations besides. Revisited a recurring dream of a summer camp (memezoo!) for animals who have learned to communicate with humans, to demonstrate relevant universalities.  These prodigies & their humans could spend time with the most precocious of their own species, sharing their newfound memetics, solving puzzles together, creating cross-species pidgins and developing contextual slang, to see what emerges // a place where Batyr and Kosik could have met, and Kanzi could build language bridges with more than just his step-sister.

And what is Earth herself but a planet methodically coated by a memetic zoo?  Once we have a more balanced sense of non-human memetics, we may be able to see our own more clearly, in both historical and current context.


techsolidThen Tech Sølidarity met in a converted warehouse, 150 people totally focused on the moment, technologists listening and thinking for over an hour. At most a handful of computers out, checking data or taking notes for the room. But the same narrow cross-section as before, 80% men, 90% white.

We agended aligning national efforts towards: visualizing data for local politics, streamlining calls to city pols; visualizing gerrymandering & voter disempowerment; securing voting machines; coordinating and sustaining responses to alt-facts (like the Guardian’s dangerously wrong WhatsApp bashing); listing things tech design decisions have broken & proposing fixes; devising mottos for technologists (Protect the Vulnerable?); building toolkits for curators and reviewers to ward off vandals and trolls.  And finally, looking for interfaith groups holding similar gatherings of religious leaders, with which we might cross-pollinate.

I worked with the group gathering voting-machine tech & policy wonks who could provide checklists and advice that we could adopt and share with city councils and mayors. We glissed an arpeggio of steps from procurement & policy to auditing & security, which could each be adopted by someone. Only pranksters whispered about blockchain, but agreed we needed a tacky sign to raise whenever the word came up. Next time.


They too agreed not to wait too long before the next, and to endeavour|fail|evolve rather than simply passing on the meme.



Psych statistics wars: new methods are shattering old-guard assumptions
Thursday October 20th 2016, 12:51 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,citation needed,Glory, glory, glory,knowledge,meta,metrics

Recently, statistician Andrew Gelman has been brilliantly breaking down the transformation of psychology (and social psych in particular) through its adoption of and creative use of statistical methods, leading to an improved understanding of how statistics can be abused in any field, and of how empirical observations can be [unwittingly and unintentionally] flawed. This led to the concept of p-hacking and other methodological fallacies which can be observed in careless uses of statistics throughout scientific and public analyses. And, as these new tools were used to better understand psychology and improve its methods, existing paradigms and accepted truths have been rapidly changed over the past 5 years. This shocks and anguishes researchers who are true believers in”hypotheses vague enough to support any evidence thrown at them“, and have built careers around work supporting those hypotheses.

Here is Gelman’s timeline of transformations in psychology and in statistics, from Paul Meehl’s argument in the 1960s that results in experimental psych may have no predictive power, to PubPeer, Brian Nosek’s reprodicibility project, and the current sense that “the emperor has no clothes”.

Here is a beautiful discussion a week later, from Gelman, about how researchers respond to statistical errors or other disproofs of part of their work.  In particular, how co-authors handle such new discoveries, either together or separately.

At the end, one of its examples turns up a striking example of someone taking these sorts of discoveries and updates to their work seriously: Dana Carney‘s public CV includes inline notes next to each paper wherever significant methodological or statistical concerns were raised, or significant replications failed.

Carney makes an appearance in his examples because of her most controversially popular research, with Cuddy an Yap, on power posing.  A non-obvious result (that holding certain open physical poses leads to feeling and acting more powerfully) became extremely popular in the popular media, and has generated a small following of dozens of related extensions and replication studies — which starting in 2015 started to be done with large samples and at high power, at which point the effects disappeared.  Interest within social psychology in the phenomenon, as an outlier of “a popular but possibly imaginary effect”, is so great that the journal Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology has an entire issue devoted to power posing coming out this Fall.
Perhaps motivated by Gelman’s blog post, perhaps by knowledge of the results that will be coming out in this dedicated journal issue [which she suggests are negative], she put out a full two-page summary of her changing views on her own work over time, from conceiving of the experiment, to running it with the funds and time available, to now deciding there was no meaningful effect.  My hat is off to her.  We need this sort of relationship to data, analysis, and error to make sense of the world. But it is a pity that she had to publish such a letter alone, and that her co-authors didn’t feel they could sign onto it.

Update: Nosek also wrote a lovely paper in 2012 on Restructuring incentives to promote truth over publishability [with input from the estimable Victoria Stodden] that describes many points at which researchers have incentives to stop research and publish preliminary results as soon as they have something they could convince a journal to accept.



Snow Use’s Kitchen: dishes fit to make hearts melt and mouths water…
Monday April 14th 2014, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,gustatory,SJ

In Snow Use’s kitchen there stood a large stove,
And what she cooked on it she cooked with much love.

She used chunks of chocolate, melted in steam,
And sugar and egg-whites and oodles of cream.
(And, for effect, an occasional scream!)

She stirred it and mashed itinto a thick paste,
And added some cognac to give it more taste.
(As to the calories: they went to waist)

She poured the concoction into a strange mold;
Then into the freezer until it got cold.
(With a note saying: Please do not spindle or fold)

And when it was frozen so-o-o pleased was Snow Use,
For she had made Thidwick, the chocolate mousse



Women’s Public Voice: points left out of Mary Beard’s history of speech
Sunday March 02nd 2014, 10:38 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,metrics,poetic justice,popular demand

Bruce recently recommended an essay on the historical public voice of women, by noted classicist Mary Beard.

Beard is a fine and provocative writer; it is good rhetoric.

But I don’t think it gives much insight into historical causes, or ways we can bring about change. Women face deeply gendered and hateful criticism today, particularly online. The argument that this is due to Greco-Roman rhetorical traditions, or the Western literary canon, is unconvincing. I see selection bias in Beard’s examples.

I would love to see a version of this essay that gets nuances right, and tries to explain changes in the past century based on its arguments.

Left out:
+ The complexity of women’s voice in Rome, from Fulvia and Livia to Irene of Athens;
+ Greek admiration of Gorgo, Roman admiration of Zenobia;
+ Conflicting views of leaders in adjacent cultures (Boudica, Cleopatra, Dido);
+ The Old Testament (Deborah and Esther ?)

Misused for effect:
– Ovid: No metamorphs of any gender could speak; Io for one was changed back.
– Fulvia: First by describing her as someone’s wife, though she was one of the most powerful figures in Rome; then by framing her hatred of Cicero as a matter of gender.


On a tangent: Two speeches I love, to lift the spirits. (Both American; I know less oratory from the rest of the world. Suggestions welcome!):

Frances Wright on global patriotism and change:
# Independence Day speech at New Harmony (1828)

Margaret Chase Smith on an issue too great to be obscured by eloquence, thankfully no longer a concern today:
# Declaration of Conscience (1950)



“BRB singularity” : A comic on love, death, and robots
Monday February 24th 2014, 12:36 am
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,SJ

XBRB – stories from the Singularity.

A Blue/Red/Brown production.



Pope Francis won’t stop being awesome: please enjoy these sweet papal memes
Tuesday December 10th 2013, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,Glory, glory, glory,international,poetic justice,Seraphic

Here is a gallery of great pope memes celebrating the awesomeness emanating from Catholicism’s new Pope.

After a Pope who sometimes made one despair that global religious leaders could inspire perspective, this is a daily source of happiness.



For a moment I am a thesaurus joining at a breakneck pace
Monday December 09th 2013, 3:13 am
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,gustatory,poetic justice,Rogue content editor

misplaced ideas with corollaries, antonyms with alternatives, symmetry with simulacra.

and then I am back in the moment. recalling, lives ago, looking forward to this future, married to my (smart, lovely, mad) sweetheart. perennially fighting over homes and children and unmeant slights and trivia.

I chose otherwards, nor ever doubted that, though it would have been sane and not wrong. now she has colonies of frozen fertilized embryos waiting for the next wave; you have families to love and sweat and curse and laugh about; I have corollaries yet beginning. different paths are necessarily incommensurable; and to the extent they can be directly compared, they all come out to the same possibilities in the end. never demean where you are; find the joints and levers at hand and use them with confidence and joy.



Aaron Swartz hackfests this weekend around the world: honoring his work
Friday November 08th 2013, 7:04 pm
Filed under: Aasw,Glory, glory, glory,international,knowledge,meta,metrics,popular demand,wikipedia

Help continue projects Aaron believed in, in person or online.
I’ll be at the Cambridge event and aftermath throughout the long weekend.

Related project summaries:



Inversionistas inmobiliarimos en Chile de hoy
Sunday November 03rd 2013, 5:43 pm
Filed under: citation needed,Glory, glory, glory,ideonomy,international

En Puerto Varas, para ser precisos. Un articulo por Sebastian.   ᔥmadre.

Hay paisajes extraordinarios, pienso, y luego este. Esos campos y poblados guardan un centenario orgullo que emociona.



Wikipedia The Movie: the maddest thing I’ve read in some time
Wednesday October 30th 2013, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,poetic justice,wikipedia

Wikipedia The Movie, a wiki-amusement started by Mark Pellegrini during the Chrome Age of Wikipedia, is hard to describe, and not exactly what you might expect. It is a surreal cataclysm of in-jokes pretzled together into a tilable shape. Its pieces have been polished by those who appreciate it: editors with a sense of humor, reflecting on a larger community whose relationship with humor is more nuanced. In short Dalí-scented scenes, and the language of cafeteria gossip, it captures something about the projects in a way that is honest to the madness of humanity. Enough to make any committed editor wince/smile.  It makes me wonder what a similarly frank slice of subtext would look like for other large-scale projects.

While I remember the original being written – not called ‘Episode 1’ at the time – I only discovered last year that it had been turned into a franchise, slowly unfolding year after year. And I can’t complain that I was cast as my favorite Shakespearean fragranceur.

Wikipedia the Movie

And then there is the musical version. For you who have shared the private hallucinations of those who breathe too deep of lemony Huggle vapour, give over a few minutes of your day to a stroll down memory’s phantasmagoria:

Wikipedia the Movie, Episode 1 ·  Wikipedia: The Musical



That curious creature, the technicolor starling, illuminated
Tuesday October 22nd 2013, 3:45 am
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,zyzzlvaria

My power animal: Hildebrandt’s starling. Similar to some butterflies, these starlings are colored by the microscopic structure of its feathers, not pigment.

My power animal: the technicolor starling

 

Putting peacocks (and the stray chalybaeus) to shame for 2,000,000 years.

HT: Gaia.  via Wikimedia Commons. (this one is from Tanzania)



To “snub” you must find someone who can be made to feel inferior
Saturday October 19th 2013, 4:53 pm
Filed under: citation needed,Glory, glory, glory,poetic justice

“A snub,” defined Lady Roosevelt, “is the effort of a person who feels superior to make someone else feel inferior. To do so, he has to find someone who can be made to feel inferior.”

ᔥ Quote Investigator,  ↬ Meredith Patterson



Cambridge doggerel in celebration of her glorious sunsets
Friday October 18th 2013, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Aasw,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,meta,Not so popular,poetic justice

140 characters, just like mom’s.

The sunset was pretty
in Cambridge. The ember
of Sun cast the city
in hues to remember.

When I tried to draw Rindge
and Latin, ’twas orange.



Socrates Jones: Wow. “There are no limits on the extent of smiting!”
Thursday August 22nd 2013, 2:53 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,knowledge,metrics,poetic justice

Noted game designer Chief Wakamakamu writes:

So, guys. I’m pretty sure that, whenever you played Phoenix Wright, you thought to yourself “Man, this game would be so much better if it was about moral philosophy instead of high-stake courtroom arguments.”  

Well, I have come to make all your dreams come true. I’m currently looking for play-testers for Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, so that we can make it as awesome as it could possibly be before we unleash it on … a starved market.

Sate your hunger.  Interrogate antiquity’s moral philosophers for yourself.

 




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