Category Archives: geekery

Typealized

I’m pretty much a sucker for Doc Searls take on stuff, so I did as he suggests and went to Typealizer and put in oookblog’s URL and here’s what I got back:

ENTP – The Visionaries

The charming and trend savvy type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and anticipate trends. They often have sophisticated language skills and come across as witty and social. At the end of the day, however, they are pragmatic decision makers and have a good analytical abilitity.

They enjoy work that lets them use their cleverness, great communication skills and knack for new exciting ventures. They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

Hmmm. Guilty. And slightly preening-of-feathers too.

Antikythera

Sentences like this renew one’s faith in humanity:

Because of parallax, the likelihood of a solar eclipse depends not only on a syzygy’s nodal elongation, but also on whether it occurs north or south of the ecliptic, as was recognized in antiquity.

(See Freeth et al. in Nature, via xefer, where there’s also a link to a 44 page (!) Supplement)

Clerical wit

Most of the biblical allusions one sees on license plates are sanctimonious, sentimental, or just plain soppy, but here’s one that giveth hope, quoted to me by the Rev. George Dole:

IIK920

…which probably not all of you will parse as 2 Kings 9:20. Getting the sturdy old King James out from its hiding place in the barn to decode, here’s what it says:

the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he driveth furiously

Besides being the soul of wit, George also has the distinction of having been a runner in the race (6 May 1954) in which Roger Bannister first broke 4 minutes.

Some thoughts about the evolution of computing

There’s no doubt that a lot of my life revolves around this machine, before which I spend several hours a day. I’ve been riding this pony since 1992 (when I started building a Gopher presence, soon after I started work as a reference librarian at W&L), or maybe since 1989 when I started playing with HyperCard, or perhaps since 1984 when I bought my first microcomputer (a TI-Pro, still in the barn), or maybe 1979 when I started to play with SYMAP (making maps of demographic data from the Hungarian census of 1900), or maybe 1962 when I first started working with punch cards (as research assistant to Bob Textor in cross-cultural studies). At each of those junctures I had some idea of where I was heading, but the destinations kept changing as new possibilities emerged.
I seem to be in another spate of thinking about the ways the Web is/has been evolving, in the proximal contexts of Licklider‘s Libraries of the Future [1965] (which I’m reading at Gardner’s instigation) and the impending visit of friends with three home-schooled kids (for whom my question is: where does The Computer fit in what they’re doing?)… and reflecting on the many ways in which my life has been tangled up with computers. For at least 45 years I’ve seen them as essential tools for things I needed to do, though generally my imagination has outrun my technical capabilities, and I’ve relied upon the multiple kindnesses of others to assist with practicalities and realize my imaginings. There’s a looooong history of books and articles and Web resources that I’ve been influenced by, and an equally convoluted history of apps I’ve experimented with as I’ve worked at making sense of the potentials. Wish I could reconstruct all the steps…
I started library school in January 1991 with the question What will microcomputers do to libraries? but I certainly didn’t foresee that the most profound effect would be to distribute the end-user’s experience in most information transactions –to make the physical library mostly irrelevant to seeking answers, to enmesh the user in networks composed of nodes that might be on different continents, to make multimedia an everyday experience, and to proffer tools that make the user an active contributor to the construction of distributed knowledge. Two of today’s cases in point:

Harper’s release of 150+ years of full text archive exposes a glorious trove, and the possibility of gathering up David Halberstam’s contributions to the magazine adds a great deal to a resource like Christopher Lydon’s program recorded two days after Halberstam’s death

and

I discover that others who are reading Eco’s Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana have established a Wiki-based annotation project for the book.

At the moment I’m eagerly awaiting the imminent arrival of Dave Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (publishing tomorrow), listening to Weinberger’s Radio Open Source appearance, keeping an eye on Weinberger’s blog around the book, and still savoring a two-hour podcast of Weinberger’s Social Media Cluster talk of last week.

My Man Bruce

I’m slightly surprised not to have seen much reference to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW Rant this year. I listened to it today and (as usual) found bits of it apposite and provocative. Some good lines even if one doesn’t entirely agree, and/or hadn’t had occasion to think of it that way –a lot to chew on, follow up, explore in more detail. He’s a luvvim/hateim speaker, like Garrison Keillor in that respect (my spouse can’t abide GK, and knows it’s him within ONE syllable, and OFF goes the radio).

Here’s another way to experience Bruce (8:15, and worth it as an Example), and it (as object, and as Example) will make even more SENSE once you’ve listened to the soundbites below:

So on to the SXSW soundbites:

1. broadband eats everything …the old line guys are trying to live on artificial scarcity, pile up the DRM… (0:18)

2. the native Internet generation cares nothing for the proprieties of 20th century media (0:13)

3. you pitch Google and Wikipedia together, and it’s kind of game over for the 80s (0:32)

4. Reformulating the Four Worlds model to reflect new realities: (2:05)

First: global market world (make it in Shenzhen, ship it to…)
Second: governance at all levels
Third: commons-based peer production a new thing, growing fast with profound effects on general population
Fourth: disorder, parts of the world just falling off that don’t have any of this (fastest-growing part of the planet)

5. commons-based peer production more powerful than people give it credit for (0:30)

6. things that are businesses stop being businesses …CraigsList, the profession of journalism and the Global Precariate(1:39)

7. a new world of laptop gypsies, vulnerable to charlatans, ripoff artists, dunderheads, lynch mobs (0:19)

8. on artistic qualities: repurposing of Harry Potter characters, pastiche: Sow’s Ears aren’t Silk (0:48)

9. mashups in vogue, but a raw source of creativity? no musical staying power, pastiche, epiphenomenon (1:08)

10. Lev Manovich’s ‘Soft Cinema’, and powerful compositing tools in people’s hands (1:47)

11. need a new form of media criticism (0:50)

12. using the term ‘blog’…a passing thing? (0:08)

13. style of discourse: Dig This! (0:28)

14. spam as semiotic pollution, machine-generated robbery and gibberish (0:36)

15. broadcast tv as evil medium that debases (1:58)

16. conventional businesses melting like the Arctic (0:46)

There’s more… Go to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW Rant for the link to the whole thing.

The Testosteronic Phallacy of Dominance and Control

Mud Time creates some bleak mindspaces, and Stephen Downes’ posting of yesterday afternoon Why the Semantic Web Will Fail can perhaps be read in this light. A few trenchant bits:

The Semantic Web will never work because it depends on businesses working together, on them cooperating.
We are talking about the most conservative bunch of people in the world, people who believe in greed and cut-throat business ethics. People who would steal one another’s property if it weren’t nailed down. People like, well, Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch.
And they’re all going to play nice and create one seamless Semantic Web that will work between companies – competing entities choreographic their responses so they can work together to grant you a seamless experience?
Not a chance.

…The future is not in the Semantic Web (or in Java, or in enterprise computing – all for the same reason). Careers based on that premise will founder. Because the people saying all the semantic-webbish things – speak the same language, standardize your work, orchestrate the services – are the people who will shut down the pipes, change the standards, and look out for their own interests (at the expense of yours).

…The future of the web will be based on personal computing.
Not because everybody in the world is some sort of Ayn-Rand-close [?clone?] backstabbing money-grubbing leech.
But because there’s just enough of them – and they’re the one’s who tend to rise in business. And when they say “give me your data” (or “let me manage your money” or “base your career on my advice”) it’s merely a prelude to their attempting to take you to the cleaners.
If my online world depends on them – and in the Semantic Web, it would – then my online world will fail. Will be a house of cards that will eventually collapse.

I extract these pieces not as a substitute for Stephen’s whole argument, but to challenge you to read and consider the whole thing, with the wish that you’ll come up with something hopeful as an anodyne. But I’m afraid he’s right –and I’d been blithely thinking that it was government meddling that would end the Idyll, but no, it’s those Adamic Market Forces that are the real danger, underlain by their besetting sins of greed and venality, in the service of Interests. It’s a Guy Thing.