Biweekly links for 10/27/2008

  • Jon Udell on the evolution of a Wikipedia article.
    • He traces, of all things, the “Heavy metal umlaut” article. It’s fascinating to see the evolution in real time.
  • Australian government trying to gag web censor critics
    • Continuing an unfortunate tradition in which both major parties in Australia make major mistakes in regard to internet policy.
  • I think I’m musing my mind – Roger Ebert’s Journal
    • Ebert on losing the ability to speak, and what writing means to him.
  • Will Algorithms Make Human Editors Obsolete? Not If Journalists Collaborate – Publishing 2.0
    • “most news site still see original content creation as their sole purpose — they don’t see the tremendous need, and the tremendous value in filtering the content that already exists. They don’t see that every link on their site is an important editorial judgment, not an afterthought, not an algorithmic process to set and forget (which often leads to algorithms making bad recommendations, as many news sites who use them will tell you).”
  • Terry Tao: Princeton Companion to Mathematics
    • The PCM is now out. Based on the bits I’ve seen, this should be an incredible resource for mathematicians. Note that there’s an “Advice to Younger Mathematicians” section which is free on the web, containing advice from people like Atiyah, Connes and many other great mathematicians. See the links in the post.
  • Kevin Kelly: Cloud Culture
    • “The war over copyright will seem tame compared to the legal battles that the life in the cloud will hatch. Who’s laws will prevail? The laws of your domicile, the laws of your server’s domicile, or the laws of international exchange? Who gets your taxes if all the work is being done in the cloud? The transparent discontinuity between legal regimes will be a threat to the expansion of the cloud. This friction will also force the growth of multiple clouds. Clouds with varying legal frameworks will compete at the global level, although within many geographical regions, there may be little choice. But the legal issues are not merely international. Who owns the data, you or the cloud? If all your email and voice calls go through the cloud, who is responsible for what it says? In the new intimacy of the cloud, when you have half-baked thoughts, weird daydreams, should they not be treated differently than what you really believe?”
  • Tech Tips for the Basic Computer User – David Pogue
    • I was surprised by how many of these I didn’t know – maybe a quarter, some of them very useful.
  • The character of a country
    • “In a connected world, countries, governments and companies also have character, and their character — how they do what they do, how they keep promises, how they make decisions, how things really happen inside, how they connect and collaborate, how they engender trust, how they relate to their customers, to the environment and to the communities in which they operate — is now their fate.”
  • David Heinemeier Hansson: Acquire taste
    • “The problem with the concept of taste is that it’s so ephemeral. One view of the world is that some people just have it and others don’t. Either you’re lucky enough to be born with it and you’ll be forever awesome or you’re a tasteless sod doomed to create crappy work. I don’t subscribe.

      I think taste is mostly about developing an eye for the details that matter and that it’s absolutely something that can be learned. The best way to learn what details that matter is to examine the details of great and not-so-great work and contrast and compare.”

  • Intro to Failure – Eva Amsen
    • “But still. I’m not doing the “normal thing”. I don’t have a postdoc lined up. I feel like I told people I am dropping out of high school and moving to Hollywood to become an actor. No Academy Award would ever make up for the feeling of failing high school. And no matter what I end up doing in a few years, no matter how much I love it or how good I am at it, it’s not going to make up for the feeling of failing the standard research career. I think I also sense some of this in Anna’s recent blog post . There is a feeling of being lost when leaving the mainstream track. One of the things I talked about in my failure session at BioBarCamp was my aversion to the term “alternative career”. The fact that it’s called “alternative” already makes it sound like it doesn’t quite live up to the career it is an alternative to – the research career.”
  • Linux Kernel Development
    • Great overview, with many fascinating tidbists, including a list of which companies are contributing most to the kernel. One particularly interest fact: “over 70% of all kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work.” Linux isn’t so much a volunteer effort by individuals, as it is now a volunteer effort by companies; the economics of that are pretty darned interesting. I guess a lot see themselves as downstream of Microsoft’s business model, and want a viable competitor, similar to Google’s support of Firefox.
  • Larry Sanger: The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia
    • Excellent account, first of two parts.
  • Wikipedia’s history, according to Wikipedia
    • Very informative, with lots of great links.
  • Editing – and re-editing – Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia entry – International Herald Tribune
    • Many interesting details on the cleanup of Sarah Palin’s wikipedia page that occurred in the run-up to the announcement that she was McCain’s VP pick.
  • Wikipedia Edits Forecast Vice Presidential Picks –
    • A comparison of Wikipedia edits in the runup to McCain’s pick of Palin. The bottom line is that Palin’s entry showed a lot of activity compared with other contenders, but there’s loads of other interesting information in the article as well.

Click here for all of my bookmarks.


  1. This week’s appreciation: the link to Eva Amsen’s fine blog, which in turn provides a link to J.K. Rowling’s outstanding Harvard commencement address.

    My wife (who is a full-time freelance writer) endorses the analysis and sentiments of Rowling’s address 100%.

    Supporting data: the Wikipedia Page “New Investigator” … if you click on the accompanying graphic, you’ll discover why newly-minted PdDs in biomedical research have solid statistical reason to either (1) feel dismayed about their career prospects, or (2) foresee that vast changes are coming in biomedical research (pick one or both).

  2. Also, to followup on Navin’s post (above) about open-source hardware, our UW QSE Group is a big supporter of the open-source hardware movement.

    Our GPL’d package for adapting the GNU Radio hardware to quantum spin imaging sensing and control is here:

    This programmable, open-source GNU hardware replaces a pretty large rack of extremely expensive equipment.

    Open-source hardware doesn’t receive much attention in the popular press, but it has become a major transformative trend in system-level science and engineering.

  3. John – Yeah, that Rowling speech is excellent. I should probably add it to my linklog, although a lot of readers have probably already seen it. Nice job on the open source hardware!

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