Tuesday, April 03, 2012 12:55 PM
Why America’s schools are doing better
than you think.
The world’s first comic-book
A new map helps community
gardeners find vacant
land in New York City.
The full-size office that doubles
as a giant suitcase.
37 million people try to
access the 1940 census archives at
the same time.
The House of Commons hacks
Why the subprime mess was bad
A nifty graph on copyright
law and the midcentury
My Liberal Party MP can
beat up your Conservative Party Senator.
A college professor wants
you to go to school.
A Japanese photographer floats
across Tokyo (or so it seems).
Why NPR owes a lot to the sinking
of the Titanic. Like much of the ship itself, the Titanic’s radio equipment
was among the most advanced in the early 20th century world. It’s
failure to properly alert maritime authorities was something of a wake-up call
for radio engineers to develop a more reliable and more standard system of
Image by Andrei
Niemimäki, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, December 18, 2009 3:18 PM
Mark Graham digs into Wikipedia’s geotags and emerges with a map, published in The Guardian, demonstrating the online encyclopedia’s “highly uneven geography of information”—articles about places and events from Europe and the United States are disproportionately represented, while articles about places and events in developing countries are written in far fewer numbers.
Almost the entire continent of Africa is geographically poorly represented in Wikipedia. Remarkably, there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than all but one of the 53 countries in Africa (or perhaps more amazingly, there are more Wikipedia articles written about the fictional places of Middle Earth and Discworld than about many countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas).
There are some countries that are crammed with a dense amount of floating virtual information, such as Germany (with an average of one article tagged for every 65 square km), while others remain as virtual deserts, such as Chad (with an average of one tagged article every 17,000 square km).
It’s possible, Graham writes, that as technology improves in developing countries, new Internet access will mean new editors for Wikipedia—and a lot fewer blank spots on the website’s information map. But, he argues, “it is equally conceivable that as peer-produced projects such as Wikipedia become our primary sources of knowledge, we could begin to see permanent information inequalities between different parts of the world.” Either way, “it is clear that we are far from running out of topics to write about.”
Source: The Guardian
Image by fdecomite, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, May 29, 2009 12:41 PM
The wisdom of the masses has proven helpful creating encyclopedias (Wikipedia), digitizing books (reCaptcha), and founding a religion. When it comes to book writing and editing, however, that wisdom looks pretty dumb. Tech guru Lawrence Lessig tried updating his 1999 book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, by releasing it as a wiki. After the project was over, he told the ABA Journal:
“I don’t think I’ll ever write a book that way again,” he confesses. “It’s very, very hard. It’s much harder to write a book with collaborative editing than it is just to write the book.”
Source: ABA Journal
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 4:44 PM
Religions have never been particularly open to change. Changes are usually referred to as “revolutions” or “schisms” in religious history. Believers of the open source movement, profiled by Sam Kean in Search magazine, believe it doesn’t have to be that way. By applying the open source philosophy, best known for software like Wikipedia and Linux, a few tech-geeks are using a nonhierarchical, change-based approach to change religion.
Strict adherents to the open source philosophy point out that neither Wikipedia nor Linux are considered truly open source, because there are certain restrictions in place that prevent people from editing everything. This becomes a problem in open source religion too, where certain traditions and rituals are literally sacred. Kean also identifies “a certain lackadaisicalness about some open-source religions,” where people aren’t as religious in their dedication.
Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:54 PM
In a bid to make Wikipedia more transparent, a new website lets users see who’s been editing its articles, and how often, reports Technology Review. WikiDashboard generates a display at the top of Wikipedia entries that tracks the number of edits each user has contributed and keeps a timeline of when the edits took place. Ed Chi, who helped the Palo Alto Research Center develop the site, hopes WikiDashboard will help people understand the social interactions around an article—by making it obvious when a few users are dominating a conversation, for instance, or by showing when a topic's been fiercely debated.
Sources: Technology Review
Tuesday, September 02, 2008 10:38 AM
The internet is buzzing with news about John McCain’s VP pick, Sarah Palin. Bloggers are struggling to figure out who the Alaskan governor really is. Twitter user Eamon 1916 claims that, “Sarah Palin taught MacGuyver [sic] everything he knows.” Twitter user Dabolos writes, “Sarah Palin isn't qualified for VP, but she did stay in a Holiday Inn last night.
The posts aren’t true, but they’re part of a “Little Known Facts” meme jetting around Twitter. Other favorites from CNetNews include: “Sarah Palin wants more cowbell” and “Sarah Palin knows who was on the grassy knoll.” Michael Turk, another Twitter user, is credited with starting the trend.
Fake Sarah Palin news can also be found on the blog Welcome to the PalinDrome, where the authors poke fun at “liberels [sic]” and have asked readers to contribute money for a new snowmobile. The site seems to be taking cues from the fake Harriet Meiers blog that appeared when Meiers was nominated as a potential Supreme Court justice.
The real battle ground in the fight for Palin information was her Wikipedia page, even before her nomination was announced. NPR News reports that a pseudonymous user known as “Young Trigg” began editing Palin’s Wikipedia page hours before the nomination was made public. The user, whose name may be a reference to Palin’s youngest child Trig, made some 30 edits, all of which cast Palin in a positive light. Young Trigg chose to deemphasize Palin’s experience in a beauty pageant and focused the entry on her governing prowess and tenacity as a high school basketball player.
, licensed under
Wednesday, July 09, 2008 12:54 PM
Because the Internet inspires encyclopedic research and archiving, it’s no surprise that online repositories like Wikipedia and Usenet have rendered no nugget of knowledge too arcane to be exhaustively catalogued by geeks in every field. This is especially true of music, where mp3s and file-sharing networks have allowed songs and albums to be stored and traded by collectors and connoisseurs.
Now some enterprising music archivists have created the Whitburn Project, an astoundingly ambitious endeavor 10 years in the making whose aim is nothing less than the total documentation of every popular song since the 1890s. It’s more than just a listing of pop charts—release date, label, chart position, duration, etc.—all arrayed in a huge 22-megabyte Excel spreadsheet. It’s also a Usenet-based audio archive collecting audio files of every song. That’s several illegal terabytes of more than 37,000 mp3s.
The value of this information to music critics and scholars is limited only by their imaginations. Andy Baio, who wrote about the Whitburn Project on his blog, published a fun analysis of one-hit wonders and chart longevity based on the data, and made a graph showing how the average length of a pop song has fluctuated over the decades. Meanwhile, the video blog Grabb.it has performed the valuable service of reminding those of us in the MTV Generation what videos we were watching instead of the news when, for example, the Challenger exploded.
This isn’t the first project of its kind (though it's far and away the most audacious). There’s the fun little site that tells you what song was No. 1 on the day you were born. (I’m not sure what cosmic significance there is to mine, which happens to be “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band.) Incomplete release data is available on Wikipedia’s Year in Music pages. And Billboard, which owns the rights to chart data, makes it available to the public on a very limited basis, with full charts accessible for a fee.
Which raises the question of legality: The Whitburn Project is breaking copyright laws by making proprietary Billboard chart data available without permission. (This is why the aforementioned blogs, and now this one, won’t post actual links to the project.) But it’s all easily available via Usenet (the pertinent newsgroups are listed in WFMU’s blog entry), so music geeks—and I mean that in the most flattering sense possible, being one myself—should check out this staggering mass of data while it’s still available.
Image by stevecadman, licensed by Creative Commons.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 11:06 AM
Once upon a time, Wikipedia and other user-generated sites were the upstarts, pushing against the pay-for-content paradigm. Now their form of information dissemination is the status quo, informing the way 250-year reference veterans like Encyclopedia Britannica do business.
Encyclopedia Britannica recently announced that it would open its subscription-required online database to bloggers and other web publishers to link to, TechCrunch reports. Because a paid subscription is required to view the encyclopedia’s material, search engines aren’t able to index its content. This means the encyclopedia has little online presence to speak of, which, as TechCrunch succinctly puts it, means it essentially doesn’t exist. The idea is to change this by increasing the number of visitors to the encyclopedia’s site through links, while still charging users for subscriptions to view content that hasn’t been linked to.
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