Monthly Archives: November 2005

On Blogging in Academia: Bloglines citations

Alan Levine has a nice piece on using blog citations, from which this is an excerpt:

There is a lot to be said by looking at the patterns of communication on the Web- seeing who responds to a specific posting is a neat way of taking the highway of serendipity to finding new blog voices, of taking a pulse on the sphere, of increasing our connectedness.

Here’s the format of the Bloglines search:[insert URL here]&submit=Search

And another example, which finds 56 linkers to a story on the destinations of Katrina refugees.

Point is, this feature/capability allows us to make the echoes of an article or a posting into a subject for analysis, and offers a constructive answer to the question ?Why would I want to mess with blogging? Alan Levine addresses this in terms that should appeal to faculty members dubious about the medium:

What new ideas emerge? What modes of argument are used? Abused? There are all kinds of social learning activities nestled in this one thin slice of web activity.

Sebastian Paquet, bless him, created a Bloglines linkbacks bookmarklet to do this back in June 2004… and following one of the links to Seb’s original posting, I discover a followup from Lilia Efimova from October 2004, pointing to a Movable Type plugin created by Riccardo Cambiassi.

Followup on Semasiology

I happened upon a wonderful quotation from Thucydides, in Donald J. Boudreaux’ posting to the History News Network Group Blog, to which I’ve added some emphasis:

Practically the whole of the Hellenic world was convulsed, with rival parties in every state – democratic leaders trying to bring in the Athenians, and oligarchs trying to bring in the Spartans…. To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect…. As a result…there was a general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. The plain way of looking at things, which is so much the mark of a noble nature, was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist. Society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.

–this linked in a comment by Andy Vance, accompanying shownotes for tonight’s Radio Open Source interview with Lawrence Wilkerson

In the whole English Language

this is surely the Queen of Sentences:
She begun to talk in the morning and to be friends, believing all this while that I had read her letter, which I perceive by her discourse was full of good counsel, and relating the reason of her desiring a woman, and how little charge she did intend it to be to me, so I begun and argued it as full and plain to her, and she to reason it highly to me, to put her away, and take one of the Bowyers if I did dislike her, that I did resolve when the house is ready she shall try her for a while; the truth is, I having a mind to have her come for her musique and dancing.
Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 14 November 1662

I pay them extra and make them mean what I like

I can’t say enough in praise of r0ml Lefkowitz’ talks on Semasiology of Open Source (this year’s and last year’s, from the O’Reilly Open Source Convention). Now that kind of thing OUGHT to enliven a meeting of librarians, but doesn’t. The atmosphere of library meetings is tainted by the fact that the participants are mostly fixated on an Institution that I love in the abstract, but find a lot to be pessimistic and critical about in the particular and concrete. Part of the problem is the attitude of most or at least many librarians: all too many are fraidy-cats, cringingly grateful for the crumbs that Academe bestows, and (with precious few exceptions) very much disinclined to rock even the boats that most NEED rocking. Another irritant for me is that many librarians just aren’t very curious about the territory outside the Profession. Few would see why they should listen to a keynote from an Open Source convention, let alone a couple of hours on Semasiology.

I must confess that Semasiology was not in my lexicon until I heard these sessions, though attention to the shifting meanings of words has been one of my lifelong playgrounds. (A Google Scholar search vouchsafes that “Carnap divided the study of language into syntactics, semasiology, and sematology…” …and Carita Paradis’ Reinforcing adjectives: a cognitive semantic perspective on grammaticalization reminds me that I’ve always been interested in the linguist’s perspectives on language).

three different takes on Google Print

Says Bob Stein, at if:book:

Google Print really is shaping up to be a library, that is, of the world pre-1923 — the current line of demarcation between copyright and the public domain.

Umair Haque, at Bubblegeneration, tucks this in near the end of a long posting:

Google Print is also a killer example of an edge competence based strategy. Like core competences in the 80s and 90s, edge competences are going to dominate the post-network economy of the 21st century. By making info about books more liquid and plastic, Google atomizes upstream and downstream segments in the value chains. For example, it dilutes Amazon’s market power directly, by massively reducing switching costs – and, in general, the market power of anyone on either side of its value chain segment. Value shifts away from the core, and towards the edges.

Tim Wu, at Slate:

Google has become the new ground zero for the “other” culture war. Not the one between Ralph Reed and Timothy Leary, but the war between Silicon Valley and Hollywood; California’s cultural civil war. At stake are two different visions of what might best promote authorship in this country. One side trumpets the culture of authorial exposure, the other urges the culture of authorial control. The relevant questions, respectively, are: Do we think the law should help authors maximize their control over their work? Or are authors best served by exposure—making it easier to find their work? Authors and their advocates have long favored maximal control—but we undergoing a sea-change in our understanding of the author’s interests in both exposure and control. Unlike, perhaps, the other culture war, this war has real win-win potential, and I hope that years from now we will be shocked to remember that Google’s offline searches were once considered controversial.

Following H5N1: an update

I’ve been tracking Avian Influenza since January 2004, though in the last 10 months I haven’t made any additions to my extracts from the slipstream of media coverage. In November 2005 there’s just too much on “bird flu” –a subject that was really obscure in January 2004. A Yahoo news search for H5N1 (sorted by date) gives a picture of the press gabble, and a finger on the Technorati pulse monitors the blogosphere’s rising hysteria. Most of these sources are just too noisy and repetitive (and ill-informed) to be of much real use in understanding the unfolding global process. Many are fixated upon magic bullet “solutions” that governments or Big Pharma are expected to produce –medicaments, vaccines, quarantines…
It’s a real challenge to filter the spate of online news and rumor, and extract what’s really worth paying attention to. Others (better placed and better informed than I) have taken up the tracking and commentary, and I follow them via their RSS feeds. Another continuously updated digest source is The Coming Influenza Pandemic?.

The most thoughtful writers view H5N1 as a public health challenge, and are pretty unanimous in their comments on the sorry state of national and international systems that should be better supported. Here’s a nice clear example from a posting today:

An influenza pandemic will essentially be a local affair and depend on the leadership, resources and ingenuity at that level to cope with the consequences of a possible 30% to 40% absenteeism rate over an extended period. That is a community planning problem that takes time and resources. Our communities have neither. And with no effective public health infrastructure, even the vaccine (which doesn’t exist) wouldn’t save us. This sad predicament is the result of the social policies of the last twenty years.
(Effect Measure 12 Nov 2005)

Another approach is to follow the evolving folksonomy, via tags (that link is specific to ‘h5n1’, but ‘avianflu’ is closely related). Or use another technical term: HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) –see Google News search.

Drawing cats

I don’t usually remember dreams, or accord them much significance. This morning I awoke around 4:30 with one pretty clearly in mind. The dream had to do with drawing, which is something I’ve never done and feel that I have no talent for, though I greatly admire it in others. I was drawing cats, but via drawing pieces: a paw, a shoulder, the catenary (!) curve of a tail. Somehow these pieces (and there were many) were arrayed in 3-space so that one could walk around them, and from different perspectives on the collection one could derive a sense of CAT that was more complete and compelling than if one had seen a single complete drawing of a cat. So an aggregation of gestures (the single bits) allows the observer to construct a whole in a novel and hologrammatical way.
As I gradually transitioned to waking reality, the Cat morphed into an assemblage of the Web 2.x bits I’ve been messing with, and became a collage of my own watching, listening, reading, writing, searching… seen as a temporally ordered kaleidoscope which stands for and manages to communicate the flow of my attention. The rudimentary form of the default stylesheet for my page is the barest beginning of the imagined cyberproduct, but it is a beginning. Like all such imaginings, the practicalities of execution are pretty elusive, and/or would tie me up in technicalities that are beyond my powers, and keep me from the pleasures of the hunt that I so enjoy.
I’m still searching for effective ways to verbalize my sense that personal connectivism is the direction I need to follow –that it’s the essence of lifelong learning to articulate the learning process in communications …but to whom, and for what, is still pretty problematic. And there’s still the problem of the requisite management and composition and delivery tools…

It’s profoundly comforting

…to discover that Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” is alive 111,000 times over in cyberspace, and continues to propagate outwards and onwards. Perhaps also worth noting that Google Scholar has only about 100 instances. Take a look also at‘s array.
And the OED has this for first use:

1824 MACTAGGART Gallovid. Encycl., Yawp, the cry of a sickly bird; or one in distress.

Doc Searls, bless him, has a part of the whole thing laid out for us. Here’s the immediate context:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me.
He complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed. I too am untranslatable.
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

Of wogs and Calais

I have a long fascination with cultural identities, among them the essence of Englishness and the peculiarities of New Englanders (e.g., this from Donald Junkins), so I was delighted to find this quotation in a Language Log posting on Word rage outside the Anglosphere? (emphasis added):

The English aren’t people who strive for greatness, they’re driven to it by a flaming irritation. It was anger that built the Industrial Age, which forged expeditions of discovery. It was the need for self-control that found an outlet in cataloguing, litigating and ordering the natural world. It was the blind fury with imprecise and stubborn inanimate objects that created generations of engineers and inventors. The anger at sin and unfairness that forged their particular earth-bound, pedantic spirituality and their puce-faced, finger-jabbing, spittle-flecked politics. …
Anger has driven the English to achievement and greatness in a bewildering pantheon of disciplines. At the core of that anger is the knowledge that they could go absolutely berserk with an axe if they didn’t bind themselves with all sorts of restraints, of manners, embarrassment and awkwardness and garden sheds.
(AA Gill, in The Times, 30 Oct 2005)