Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forAugust, 2004 | back to home

21 August 2004

The Living Room Candidate is a fascinating site which archives campaign commercials from 1952 to the present including “‘independent’ ads”:http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/desktop/shadow.php from interest groups like the “Swift Boat Veterans”:http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/player/index.php?ad_id=1152 one which disgracefully tries to call Kerry’s war record into question. It even includes a “Desktop Candidate”:http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/desktop/index.php section which links to various Internet-based ads.

P.S. To track the veracity of claims made in campaign ads on both sides of this year’s race, check out “Factcheck.org”:http://www.factcheck.org/ which has done a thorough analysis of that “controversial swift boat ad”:http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=231.

20 August 2004
Filed under:Personal at11:46 am

My hard disk started acting oddly a few days ago and now works at best erratically. Fortunately I had a backup – make sure you have a backup for your main computer and do that backing up frequently! But I spent most of yesterday getting a new drive to back up my backup onto so I could try backing up my main disk onto my backup disk without losing the earlier backup that was on it (if you see what I mean).

Now I am working from my backup but I want to make as few changes as possible to my disk in case I can get the data off my original drive successfully later. This is a hassle but is less tricky than it once would have been. A lot of my work is in email (which I can do via the web). I have an “MP3 player/storage device”:http://blog.org/archives/000901.html which may have more recent copies of some of my most used files on it and which I can use for temporary storage. My most up to date contact and calendar information is backed up on my Palm along with many of my most frequently used documents. Some of my email is in an exchange server at the LSE. And of course I haven’t lost any of the data on this weblog because it isn’t on my machine either.

Without really thinking about it I have come to realise my data is no longer centralised on my computer – it has spread itself into a kind of web across several devices. Sometimes that can be quite handy!

Later: It’s a bit like coming home after a small robbery. At first everything seems fine then you find out that things in odd corners are lost or broken. In my case, so far, I have lost a few Mozilla settings and (more serious) all of my Eudora email folders seem to be corrupted and some ‘ghost’ folders and messages of gibberish have appeared. So far after rebuilding the email database for my inbox only a small amount of damage seems to have been done but the depressing thing of course is that (as with a real or virtual breakin or virus damage or whatever) you can never be sure what it is you are missing or what problems you will stumble across next. Very traumatic!

P.S. Another discovery – a 160Gb hard drive (that could store all my data twice over) costs just 75 quid these days – the simple caddy that it fit into (it’s removeable) cost me nearly half that!

Thanks to “Simon Bisson”:http://www.sandm.co.uk/simon/index.html who helped calm me down when the problem first became apparent…

19 August 2004

If you want to see what influential US Internet pundit/policy wonks think about the potential of the Internet to change politics you should keep an eye on the Extreme Democracy weblog and download the chapters of the book in progress there.

“Emergent Democracy”:http://www.extremedemocracy.com/archives/2004/08/chapter_1_emerg.html which I “commented on earlier”:http://blog.org/archives/000687.html is there for example. It has been edited since my comments but it still appears to overlook the very real problem of the continuing digital divide both in the US and across the world and both in Internet access and, more importantly, in the forms of Internet use. I suspect most of the chapters of this book shares this problem though I have yet to read more of them.

All the evidence I have been able to derive (based on the raw data of a Pew survey in Mar/April 2003 which was made into a “report”:http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/113/report_display.asp) suggests weblogs – particularly political ones – are read by a very small audience. To quote some earlier research I did based on the Pew data:

18 August 2004

I learned about “Biblioexpress”:http://www.biblioscape.com/biblioexpress.htm and “Scholar’s Aid 2000”:http://www.scholarsaid.com/aboutsafree.html from the “PhinisheD advice pages”:http://www.phinished.org/faqs/ which might be good bibliographic options if you can’t afford “Endnote”:http://endnote.com/ as both of them are free software. I’ve not tried them myself as the LSE has a site license to Endnote.

17 August 2004

Keith Hampton has announced the launch of “i-neighbors”:http://www.i-neighbors.org/, a set of free web services for neighborhoods in Canada and the US inspired by the “research”:http://web.mit.edu/knh/www/pub.html into the connection between virtual and f2f communities done by himself and Barry Wellman. With their software you can

# Meet and communicate with your neighbors.
# Find neighbors with similar interests.
# Share information on local companies and services.
# Organize and advertise local events.
# Vocalize local concerns and ideas.

Alas the site’s services cannot be used by people outside the US and Canada because of legal concerns – particularly about our EU privacy laws, apparently, possibly because the service remains part of an MIT research programme and “data will be gathered for that research”:http://www.i-neighbors.org/privacy.php – but hopefully the BBC will do something similar for the UK at least. Meanwhile, “Upmystreet”:http://www.upmystreet.com/ here in the UK offers some of the necessary services.

I encourage any North Americans reading this to use this software to try to bring together the people in your community and I look forward to reading the research that will come out of this project.

16 August 2004

Giving away most of his $45m fortune was not enough for Zell Kravinsky – he gave away one of his kidneys too, to a black woman who was a stranger to him and who would probably otherwise have died. His was one of only ‘several dozen’ nondirected kidney donations made each year in the US. The more I read this New Yorker article about Kravinsky the more admiration I feel for him and the more it saddens me that he seems to be painted largely as a crank. He seems to have been inspired by Peter Singer whose influential essay, Famine, Affluence, and Morality pointed out (to my mind convincingly) that there is no moral difference between failing to save a child who is drowning in a shallow pond right in front of you and failing to give money to charity that would help to save a child’s life in Bangladesh. Moreover it is hard to establish a moral difference between one’s responsibility to one’s family and friends and the same responsibility to any other person in need. (I am not at all persuaded incidentally by Singer’s next step which is to suggest that All Animals are Equal and therefore, ‘ that we extend to other species the basic principle of equality that most of us recognize should be extended to all members of our own species’).

I do believe (uncomfortably) that I should really be living at a minimum comfort level and the rest of my money should be going to those who need it in the third world. Like most people however I would have great difficulty living according to that principle and accordingly I put it to the back of my mind and try to do what I can within the limits of ‘normal’ behaviour. That makes me all the more filled with admiration for one of the few people who seems to be making a serious, conscientious attempt to live according to those principles (albeit imperfectly – he and his family are not living a millionaire lifestyle but neither are they ‘living poor’).

More coverage of his story from The Daily Telegraph.

15 August 2004
Filed under:Academia,Personal at10:39 am

I won’t run out of the house naked shouting like “Archimedes”:http://www.mcs.drexel.edu/~crorres/Archimedes/Crown/Vitruvius.html but posting here is the next best thing – I think I have finally found a fresh way of looking at personal home pages (and weblogs) that lets me examine what most interests me about them and illuminates several bodies of relevant theoretical literature at the same time.

I’ve been stuck for weeks trying to figure out in my own mind what it is that I am most interested in studying about them (they are interesting in so many different ways!) and at the same time trying to find something that is measurable and theoretically interesting. I won’t tell you all just yet what it is, however, it might be a false start – I’ve had a few of those before!

Still, the new perspective has given me fresh impetus and excitement at last – enough to inspire me to dash into the “library”:http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/ on Sunday to pick up W. E. Bijker and J. Law (1992) Shaping technology/building society: studies in sociotechnical change and P. Du Gay, S. Hall, L. Janes, H. Mackay and K. Negus (1997) Doing cultural studies : the story of the Sony Walkman.

14 August 2004

“Alex Halavais”:http://alex.halavais.net/’ decision to produce a page of links to Graduate Student Advice has inspired me to do the same. “Seb Paquet”:http://radio.weblogs.com/0110772/ alerted Alex and me to “his collection of advice”:http://www2.iro.umontreal.ca/~paquetse/cgi-bin/om.cgi?Advice_For_Young_Scholars and to those two I would like to add PhinisheD FAQs from the very useful virtual self-help community “PhinisheD”:http://www.phinished.org/ (which I have to say I have yet to actually introduce myself to).

Last but not least you may also wish to download consult one or more of the presentations and documents provided as part of the LSE’s “Study Skills Workshop”:http://learning.lse.ac.uk/detail.asp?EventID=20. The material is notionally aimed at LSE students but the general guidance is applicable to anyone. “Study-Skills.net”:http://www.study-skills.net/ may also be worth a look.

13 August 2004
Filed under:Useful web resources at11:02 am

The (rudely named but nonetheless useful) Rasterbator takes any image you give it (no more than 1Mb in size) and provides an Adobe Acrobat file which if printed can reach almost any size you like (if you have enough paper and enough toner). The biggest image produced so far was made up of “352 pages”:http://www.geocities.com/i337o/rasterbator.htm! Apparently the site has been used to produce a total of 324 015 square metres of pictures. There is a “gallery”:http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/gallery.gas of images produced if you are curious (none of the first few are pornographic, the name of the site notwithstanding).

12 August 2004

I recently read (on CNet perhaps?) that anonymous people within Yahoo are promising one stop searching of web, email, hard disk and Yahoo services – sometime. I won’t get too excited about that until it gets close to launch.

Meanwhile, “X1”:http://www.x1.com/ (which admittedly costs $75) has been improving rapidly – it now supports boolean and proximity searching of your hard disk, contacts, email (including Eudora and other email apps as well as – and alongside – Outlook I am delighted to say) and email attachments. With those improvements I am going to start trying to use it again regularly. Download their trial version and/or “enter their sweepstakes”:http://www.x1.com/sweepstakes/index.html to win up to 50 copies.

For more on what Microsoft is up on this see “this post”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001134 and for Google’s plan’s “see here”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001119.

Update: Jeremy Wagstaff who shares my obsession with hard disk search has just posted a “discussion”:http://loosewire.typepad.com/blog/2004/08/the_new_search_.html of the race to provide good local search and a (probably comprehensive) “list of available programs”:http://loosewire.typepad.com/blog/2004/08/a_directory_of__2.html including three I have not yet tried – all free of charge – “Tukaroo”:http://www.tukaroo.com/, “Wilbur”:http://wilbur.redtree.com/index.htm (which is also open source) and “Blinkx”:http://www.blinkx.com/

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