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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21 November 2005

WordPress, an open source weblog engine, is what this website uses and from my experience it is every bit as powerful as Moveable Type – but free of charge. I noted earlier that a small organization, Blogsome, was offering free hosting of WordPress blogs. Now WordPress.com is offering the same and I hope (given the name) with substantial backing (though it’s not clear to me how it is that hosting is paid for).

5 May 2005

Traditionally if you wanted a WordPress weblog (open source so free to use and arguably the most feature rich blogging product around) you needed to be techie yourself or at least have a techie friend with server space spare. Certainly it is only thanks to my own connections in the tech fraternity that I have been able to have this blog hosted using first Moveable Type and now WordPress.

Recently, however, I have discovered that blogsome offers a free hosting service similar to blogger‘s so anyone reading this could have a blog like mine. I’m a little concerned that blogsome don’t have any apparent means of gathering revenue to offset the cost of hosting so they could disappear one day – particularly if they get popular – but my guess is that by the time they do there will be lots of other places able to take over hosting.

If you are already running a weblog using another service you may need a little help getting your archives across to this new platform but once you have taken the plunge I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth it to get features like categories, password protected posts and an extensible architecture for people to add features.

I am not using blogsome myself – instead this weblog, like my other group weblog at the LSE is now generously hosted by Tim Duckett.

Hope you enjoy the new look. Feel free to comment with suggestions and do let me know if there are any problems.

P.S. If you are in the UK don’t forget to vote!

25 March 2005

I just read in “Wired”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.03/start.html?pg=7 about NASA World Wind – a free application which (if you have a powerful enough PC) lets you hover over the globe and zoom in on any part you like to see a satellite overview of it. It only runs on Windows, alas.

21 March 2005

“A home for all your digital media”:http://ourmedia.org/ – for free and forever. A very exciting prospect! See my posting on the LSE group weblog for more details.

22 January 2005

Ethan Zuckerman has written thoughtfully about Wikipedia in response to a recent “article”:http://www.techcentralstation.com/111504A.html (by a former editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica) suggesting it is impressive but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Zuckerman points out that Wikipedia is great if you are looking for in-depth coverage of (say) how “GSM”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GSM works but, ‘when I use Wikipedia to obtain information that I could find in a conventional encyclopedia, I often have a terrible experience, encountering articles that are unsatisfying at best and useless at worst.’

Danah Boyd notes usefully that one of the benefits of signed, scholarly resources over community ones like Wikipedia is that “scholars have something to lose”:http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2005/01/08/on_a_vetted_wikipedia_reflexivity_and_investment_in_quality_aka_more_responses_to_clay.html when they get things wrong.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the debate about the quality of Wikipedia has spread fairly widely across the Internet punditsphere. It now even has its own “wiki page”:http://www.emacswiki.org/cw/WikipediaQualityControlDebate which attempts to summarise the debate (and if you use a blog search tool like “Bloglines”:http://www.bloglines.com/citations?url=http://www.techcentralstation.com/111504A.html you’ll find 83 more sites with something to say on the subject).

P.S. Sorry if this is coming to the debate rather late – I am not doing as much blogging as I used to to free up time for writing my PhD about it instead – and where I am blogging I tend to do it on the “Media@LSE Group Weblog at get.to/lseblog”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php I set up. In the last few weeks I have blogged about “Korea leading the world in numbers of bloggers”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=39, a “database of predictions about the Internet”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=28 “Santa Studies”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=23, “Online transcription services”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=22, “The Economics of Search”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=15 and the “global broadband digital divide”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=20 (and my colleagues in the LSE’s PhD programme have also had several interesting things to post). Pleas come and take a look (at least if you want to hear about the academic side of my life).

19 December 2004

I had a quick look around and found grisbi (which has all its documentation in French), jgnash, Sacash, Eurobudget, and Jcash among others but many of them (other than the first two) don’t appear to have been updated in the last year or two. Gnucash is very popular I gather but it doesn’t run on Windows. Am I missing something? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be a prominent open source alternative to Quicken and Microsoft Money? Note: it would have to be easy for someone to use who hates accounting (me), has to allow me to divide my expenses into categories – preferably automatically as they are imported – and has to read and write QIF files to be able to shuffle data between my online banking and my Palm.

I would be willing to actually purchase Quicken but the company doesn’t appear to offer a demo so I can’t see whether it would work for me! I’ll take a look at Microsoft Money (which does have a demo) but I would really prefer something open source…

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.

19 October 2004

At last someone has produced a free-to-download User Guide to Using the Linux Desktop (there may be others but this is the first general purpose one I’ve heard about). You might also check out “the O’Reilly site”:http://linux.oreilly.com/ for a few free chapters from some of their many Linux books or take a look at “Learning Debian/GNU Linux “:http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/debian/chapter/book/index.html which is completely free – one of O’Reilly’s “Open Books”:http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/.

Thanks to “Slashdot”:http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/04/08/22/1955204.shtml for the link

Ubuntu Linux, sponsored by South African entrepreneur “Mark Shuttleworth”:http://www.markshuttleworth.com/bio.html is not just available free – the organization behind it will “send free CDs”:http://shipit.ubuntulinux.org/ to wherever in the world people want to get their hands on it. (Note: if you have broadband and can download it rather than getting the CDs please do so and save money that could be used to send discs to developing world organizations that do need it). If you want a review of the current version with all the geeky details read “Kuroshin”:http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/9/28/211242/712. To summarise, it includes the main applications you would need (the Firefox web browser and OpenOffice) but at present if you don’t want it to take over your whole hard disk you have to partition it manually, which doesn’t say much for its user-friendliness. It’s early days though.

15 September 2004

It always seemed a shame to me that the commercial nature of documentaries like “Fahrenheit 9/11”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0361596/ and “Outfoxed”:http://www.outfoxed.org/ meant that they would not also be available free – at least not officially – but Robert Greenwald who made Outfoxed found a clever way around this.

Rather than releasing his whole film he has simply released the raw interview material from it, allowing independent filmmakers or the curious to make their own use of it. An excellent use of “Lessig”:http://www.lessig.org/’s “Creative Commons”:http://creativecommons.org/ license – I hope more journalists and their organizations start to adopt this practice.

Robert Greenwald’s comments and the interviews in a variety of formats are available on “archive.org”:http://www.archive.org/movies/movies-details-db.php?collection=election_2004&collectionid=outfoxed_interviews&from=thisJustIn

Thanks to “BoingBoing”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/09/15/outfoxed_interviews_.html who led me to Lawrence Lessig who led me to “Torrentocracy”:http://www.torrentocracy.com/blog/archives/2004/09/outfoxed_torren.shtml and “Demand Media”:http://demandmedia.net//?op=displaystory;sid=2004/9/15/1612/10512

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