The Longest Now

The Unscrupulous Institute for Cultural Diplomacy Fails
Friday March 29th 2013, 7:39 pm
Filed under: international,knowledge,wikipedia

I had never heard of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy before they started harrassing and legally threatening my friend Mako Hill. But they are clearly an organization that understands neither cross-cultural communication nor diplomacy.

There is also no possible outcome of this dispute that is in their favor. The Streisand effect can’t be reversed by filing law suits. Filing law suits will never make a diplomacy institute look good. And Wikipedia policy isn’t structured in such a way that it could ever have an article about them after this without mentioning the drama in the first place – even if enough editors one day changed their minds about notability.

Update: Cory D. was thoughtful enough to put up a note about the case on BoingBoing.

Annotation Hacks: Hypothesis XXX begins to converge
Thursday March 28th 2013, 1:12 pm
Filed under: international,knowledge,popular demand,Uncategorized,wikipedia

The various threads around, the Open Annotation spec, and the campus-wide annotation projects at MIT, Yale, and Harvard are starting to converge. It’s nice to see a future pillar of the global web take shape – with no less friction but a more diverse audience than gathered to create the early Internet specs.

I’m at the Convergence Workshop at Harvard on the topic today, and will be at the iAnnotate workshop in San Francisco in 3 weeks. Consolidating notes on a “Hypothesis XXX” hackpad. [Btw: We dearly need a fully open hackpad equivalent with more reliable uptime than piratepad et al.! I default to HP when I have a doc that needs to sustain heavy editing and be guaranteed available during a narrow window of time at a conference… but I would much rather use a Wikimedia or similarly hosted service, with a more explicit guarantee of ongoing availability, at no cost ever.]

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.

Exploring science in ten hundred words or less, and similar gems
Tuesday January 29th 2013, 6:27 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,citation needed,indescribable,knowledge,meta,poetic justice,Uncategorized

try and grok science
try and make a gun
try Sheldrake’s homing dove thought experiments

For dessert, some fraud:
listed, retracted, pharmed, 11-jigen (x6),
chilled(snapshot, comments).

Now I remember the flush of despair: cold crisp inverted insight
Sunday January 27th 2013, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Aasw,knowledge,meta

Larry’s foresight to clear schedules seems fair, from that inverted space.

Mystery Hunting, 2013: Pulling off an epic Coin Heist
Friday January 25th 2013, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang,indescribable,knowledge,meta,Uncategorized,zyzzlvaria

Mystery Hunt 2013 pitted teams against Enigma Valley to rescue the Hunt coins from a vault.

As usual, it was full of some of the best puzzle ideas in the world.   (more…)

Max Kennerly’s vote for doing something about Aaron Swartz’s death
Thursday January 24th 2013, 5:28 pm
Filed under: knowledge,null,Uncategorized

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act (NCJCA) Spearheaded by Jim Webb (D-VA) is a first step towards high-level reform of our benchmarks for criminal justice – what is considerd acceptable, and what our justice system should be for in the first place. Most observers agree the system is broken in fundamental ways. It’s not clear to me why a review is controversial; but this act got only 57/100 votes in the Senate in 2011 and was filibustered. (The bill was Tracked over its history by the BulletPath Legislation Channel.)

Max Kennerly, one of the more level-headed critics of Aaron’s legal prosecution last year and this, suggests supporting the NCJCA this term. It was already very close to being passed.

Want to do something right now? Call up your Senators and Representative and tell them you’d like them to start moving again on the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. It failed in the Senate in late 2011, but it’s still bouncing around. Get it on Congress’ radar again.

Max’s Blog

Aaron Swartz, scholar, activist, and Internet hero, is dead.
Saturday January 12th 2013, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,knowledge,meta,null,Seraphic,wikipedia

Aaron took his life yesterday. I am still finding it hard to believe.

His ongoing court case overshadows his death, so let me get that out of the way: 
He was living through a two-year federal case which had only become more nightmarish since last year.  (JSTOR stated it did not want a trial, and has steadily been releasing the PD articles in question and more for free public use; yet the prosecution, continuing its outrageous abuse of discretion, declined to settle and tripled their felony charges to cover up to 35 years in prison.)

Friends and family were helping him plan a campaign to spread the word about the unreasonableness and inequity of the trial. Its uncertainty was intensely stressful, even for those of us who lived only the tiniest fraction of it.  As Lessig notes, the prosecutors – Stephen P. Heymann (and at times Scott L. Garland), working in Carmen M. Ortiz‘s Cybercrime unit – should be taking a long hard look in the mirror and asking themselves what they are doing with their lives.

Aaron was a dear friend, and one of the most decent men I have known.  The only times I have seen him truly angry was in response to some social wrong; and he actively looked for ways to find and eliminate injustice. He always considered how to act morally – even when this meant being at odds with local social norms – and regularly paused at forks in his life to think about how to live so as to benefit society.

He kindled ideas from those nearby, and freely passed on his own.  Made mistakes often and tried to learn from them, usually publicly. His transparency was a useful meterstick for me. Ages ago, when we first met, I remember him brainstorming ideas about community and wiki design with Zvi and me; about learning and unlearning, society and ideals, civics and collaboration.  Once his curiosity was piqued about a subject he would pursue it until he could write about and explain it.  

~ ~~~ ~

I spent last night with mutual friends who live now in his old apartment, in a room that was once his; remembering the many great projects he started and inspired – especially the little gems, the personal quirks and insights, the inspiring ideas that became single-purpose services, or calls to arms. (We never did start a dog-walking service for data, but the idea abides.) Rereading some of his writings, I remember the many opportunities missed for synthesis, reframing, and clarity – about how life works, and how to live it.

Everyone has idealized dreams — what would you do with an unlimited wish? — about long-term projects worth devoting one’s life to, to transform the world. Dreams cherished but rarely attempted.  Aaron was the only person I felt completely comfortable sharing mine with.  We had a little game: a couple times a year we would meet in a nameless cafe, and he would ask for ‘rabbinical’ advice on moral quandaries, and I would ask for ‘professional’ advice on realizing societal dreams. I don’t know that he needed my advice, but I always looked forward to his. There was usually at least one book suggestion from his endless reading list that answered an open question of mine. And no matter how grandiose the dream, he would understand, clarify, laugh, counterpoint, help tune mental models, and remind me to get to it. And we never had quite enough time.

I miss him very, very, very much.   Part of my own future has gone missing too.

Somewhere, celestials are being taught to tune the cosmos.


In Memoriam:
Quinn. TBL. Grimm. Cory. Larry (^2). Cyrus Farivar.

The court case.
Alex Stamos (on the wrongness of the case).
New York Times (front page).
The Guardian (front page + 4 more articles)
The WSJ.

In his own words:
How to work.
How we stopped SOPA.
On feeling low and key limes.

From the Boston Wikipedia Meetup on August 18, 2009, by Sage Ross:

Public Domain Day Canadian Style: Faulkner, Hesse, Cummings, Bohr
Sunday January 06th 2013, 9:50 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,international,knowledge

And at least seventeen more. (In Canada, works enter PD 50 years after the author’s final circumvention of their mortal coil.)

via “the commons is not always a tragedy

Public Domain Day! Happy 2013 from 13 creators
Tuesday January 01st 2013, 12:36 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,knowledge,wikipedia

Happy Public Domain Day! Today millions of works – everything made by people that died in 1942* and not previously public – enter the public domain in most of the world.**

See the Public Domain Review, which compiled this “class of 13” collection of some of the best known authors and artists, and the related celebrations by hyperallergic, crackajack.

For a more US-centric view, with a heavy dose of “what were we thinking when we set up current copyright law?” activism, see the Public Domain Day summary by Duke’s insightful Center for the Public Domain. They also track the Alternate Universe Public Domain list for the simple alternate universe in which copyright laws remained as they were in 1976. This is a harder thing to visualize each year, since in this alternate universe so many other things (anything published between 1923 and 1955) would already also be free.

* in most countries

** but not in the US. The ‘Sonny Bono’ CTE Act created a backlog that will all enter the public domain in 2019.

Better knowledge graphs fit for Star Trek computers coming to Google
Monday December 31st 2012, 8:32 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,knowledge,meta,metrics,wikipedia

Last year Google acquired Metaweb, providing a reliable future to their many projects, including Refine and Freebase.

From earlier this year, here’s a quote from Amit Singhal, Google’s SVP responsible for their Knowledge Graph:

We hope this added intelligence will give you a more complete picture of your interest, provide smarter search results, and pique your curiosity on new topics. We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the “Star Trek computer” that I’ve always dreamt of building. Enjoy your lifelong journey of discovery, made easier by Google Search, so you can spend less time searching and more time doing what you love.

In the near future, I expect both Google’s knowledge graph, and the increasing awareness of the usefulness of such graphs, to change the structure and scope of industrial-scale knowledge processing. Thanks to all those working on these tools and solutions; see you in 2013!

Awesome Knowledge 1: Supporting global knowledge through Tech In The World
Sunday December 23rd 2012, 7:48 pm
Filed under: knowledge

Local proto-non-profit Tech In The World, started by a group of Harvard students, is overseas this winter break helping show CS students how their knowledge can be applied to solve scientific and technical problems around the world.

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