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

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30 October 2004
Filed under:Open source at5:25 pm

The often-interesting Many to Many weblog posted about the reliability of Wikipedia and how it functions some time ago.

The Guardian’s “Simon Waldman”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1335837,00.html tackled this again more recently and found that although it was hard to introduce errors into the wikipedia, ‘Frozen North’ proved “it can be done”:http://www.frozennorth.org/C2011481421/E652809545/ if the errors are obscure enough. I think the much more important point was made by Ethan Zuckerman who “points out”:http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethan/2004/09/27#a356 the fact that

most of the people who work on Wikipedia are white, male technocrats from the US and Europe.

and the Wikipedia will therefore probably never provide as broad a perspective on the world as something like the Encyclopaedia Brittannica does.

I don’t understand why none of the authors even the ones in the UK mentioned “H2G2”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/ the smaller and more lighthearted but quite interesting alternative model, which has more of a hierarchical structure but produces good work. I think it is also worth noting that the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica is “available for free online”:http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/ (albeit in a rather rough and ready form) and a more recent edition is available on CD-ROM for less than £20 these days.

29 October 2004

Back in September I wanted to know how to find out “where the money comes from to fund US politicians”:https://blog.org/archives/001231.html and was surprised at how hard it seemed to be to get at the info. Fortunately (if a little late) the great guys at “SearchEngineWatch”:http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/041028-604a just provided an excellent overview of a number of search facilities. Interestingly, “Google employees seem to lean overwhelmingly towards supporting Kerry”:http://insidegoogle.blogspot.com/2004/10/google-says-to-vote-google-employees.html (I knew they hired smart people…). Oddly though my own political contribution doesn’t seem to appear.

P.S. “Open Secrets”:http://www.opensecrets.org/ (‘your guide to the money in US elections’) which seemed not to respond when I looked in September is now back online.

P.P.S. I just came across a post over at the Berkman Centre about Cameron Marlow who has found a number of other “political hacks”:http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/home?wid=10&func=viewSubmission&sid=605 (in the sense of interesting uses of technology in the service of politics not to be confused with politicians’ spin doctors!) including a “text analysis of the presidential debates”:http://overstated.net/04/10/01-presidential-debate-analysis.

28 October 2004

Michael Feldstein “suggests”:http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage/sub_page.cfm?section=3&list_item=25&page=1 that the tendency of bloggers to link to other bloggers, usually done as a way of crediting them with the idea, tends to smother discussion or debate: “The very same hyper-linking impulse that makes it easy to pass along an idea with a minimum of effort also makes it easy to appear as if I’m agreeing with the post I’ve referenced when, in fact, I’m just deferring to it.”

From an academic perspective I think Cass Sunstein “got there first”:http://bostonreview.mit.edu/BR26.3/sunstein.html (though he was talking about Internet mediated discussion more generally). I know this is one of the things that bothers Habermas about the Internet (I asked him). Shanto Iyengar “disagrees”:http://bostonreview.mit.edu/BR26.3/iyengar.html.

Thanks to Jeremy Wagstaff for the link

27 October 2004

The most popular weblog, “boingboing”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/10/26/boingboing_endorses_.html and (more tellingly) the second most popular conservative weblogger, “Andrew Sullivan”:http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=qFFINfAm4eR7PMnY1tkQ2m%3D%3D have endorsed Kerry (though “Instapundit”:http://instapundit.com/archives/018671.php – the most popular right wing blog – does not look likely to do so). Keep an eye on “the official Kerry endorsements page”:http://www.johnkerry.com/pressroom/press_endorsements.html to see who in the US mass media endorses Kerry and see “here”:https://blog.org/archives/001247.html for more on what the rest of the world thinks of the election.

Update: Even the Economist has “endorsed Kerry”:http://www.economist.com/printedition/displaystory.cfm?Story_ID=3329802 (albeit reluctantly).

After three necessarily tumultuous and transformative years, this is a time for consolidation, for discipline and for repairing America’s moral and practical authority. Furthermore, as Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him.

On a lighter note here is a mildly entertaining, well-executed Chomsky-ite propaganda cartoon video clip that just came to my attention – Pirates & Emperors. And I just learned if you haven’t yet seen Fahrenheit 9/11 it is being made available unofficially in several formats to download “by this guy”:http://marc.perkel.com/archives/000468.html among others (apparently Michael Moore would “like people to pirate the film”:http://www.webuser.co.uk/news/56254.html though of course since he almost certainly doesn’t own the rights this doesn’t make it legal). There’s a BitTorrent of it “here”: (this is the most efficient way of downloading it though it needs “special software”:http://bitconjurer.org/BitTorrent/).

Don’t forget if you are overseas there is (probably) still time to cast your overseas ballot (see “here”:http://www.aokerry.com/aok/2004/10/4_important_ann.html for more information about how from Americans Overseas for Kerry though of course the same instructions work whichever way you want to vote).

26 October 2004

Thanks to the publicity provided by Google’s move, lots of applications are coming out of the woodwork. Here’s the latest news in brief. I just learned about three more products:
* “ISYS”:http://www.isys-search.com/products/desktop/index.html (free to try but they don’t tell the price up front)
* “Filehand”:http://www.filehand.com/ (now free – has the embarassing motto, ‘It’s like Google for your computer’)
* “x-friend”:http://www.x-friend.de/en/start/introduction/ (written in Java and runs on ‘any operating system’ – produced in Germany)
I also just learned about two reviews:
* “PC World just reviewed ten desktop search applications”:http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,117809,pg,4,00.asp not including Google Desktop Search and
* “CNet”:http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3684_7-5536376.html has just reviewed six desktop search apps (rather briefly) including Google Desktop, though they concluded “Copernic is best”:http://reviews.cnet.com/Copernic_Desktop_Search/4505-3684_7-31087427-2.html?tag=tab.

For more on this stuff see “earlier”:https://blog.org/?cat=29&submit=view (and scroll down that page to see more search related stuff).

25 October 2004

We badly need more scholarship about weblogs outside of the Anglo-saxon world, and Performance in Everyday Life and the Rediscovery of the ‘Self’ in Iranian Weblogs provides an interesting point of view, using Goffman. The author suggests weblogging is valuable for Iranian women who lack other ways of expressing repressed identities. Some of the arguments sound quite similar to those advanced in McKenna, K. Y. A. and J. A. Bargh (1998) “Coming out in the Age of the Internet”:http://homepages.nyu.edu/~kym1/coming_out.pdf, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75 pp. 681-694.

24 October 2004
Filed under:Personal at12:18 pm

Apple’s new “iBook G4”:http://www.apple.com/uk/ibook/ is an awfully tempting bit of kit for an ex-Mac owner who has long strayed from the Apple path. I have been looking for a small. light and inexpensive laptop for ages but the PC market seems to be concentrating on ever-bigger ones (unless you want to pay a small fortune). I left Apple because System 7 was less stable and offered a smaller variety of Internet applications than Windows did at the time but now with “MacOS X Panther”:http://www.apple.com/uk/macosx/ based on Unix Apple once again offers a superior OS. Alas, I doubt I could justify the purchase to my wife. However if anyone out there has really enjoyed reading this blog and has “750 pounds”:http://store.apple.com/Apple/WebObjects/ukstore.woa/90701/wo/507beZar3Zp82CPaZE9zrCFahoV/ ($US 1375) to spare* it would make a nice pre-Xmas surprise!
Thanks to Tech Digest for the info

*Not to seem mercenary as this blog is not run for profit but though it has run for three years and eight months and more than a thousand people read it each day I have not received any donations to date whether of cash or of stuff from “my amazon wishlist”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=davidbrakeswe-21&path=registry/NNWN70BQ5SDT. Oh well…

23 October 2004

I always assumed that the large amount of news I receive about battles with the US Congress about various communications policy issues (copyright, privacy, digital divide issues) was simply due to my own interest in these subjects influencing my choice of online media sources. But it seems according to a report by Syracuse University’s “Convergence Center”:http://www.digital-convergence.org/,

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, communications and information policy (CIP) replaced the environment as the policy domain of greatest congressional activity, as measured by number of hearings. From 1997 to 2001, the annual number of congressional hearings devoted to CIP surged to approximately 100 per year.

22 October 2004

The BBC provides a case study of what happens when an enthusiastic teacher encourages students as young as seven to blog.

Some of the children who attend the club have improved their knowledge of IT far above what is required of their age group by the National Curriculum. The Government target is for 80% of children of this age to reach level 4 by year 6. All of the webloggers have done that, and some have reached level 6. They are doing what 14 or 15-year-olds are expected to do.

You can see the kids’ weblogs “here”:http://www.hangletonweblogs.org/.

21 October 2004
Filed under:Academia,Personal at9:20 am

Today I face my thesis committee and defend the research proposal I have spent the last year mulling over. Hopefully they will like this proposal enough that they will be giving some additional insights into alternative methods and approaches to theory so I can move on and start to actually gather some data (rather than telling me I need to go back and start again!)

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