Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, February 01, 2008

The people who brought you the 10,000-year clock are excited about Wikipedia's potential as a canonical "Futurepedia".

Think about articles like 2020 -- "If expanded greatly the official future timeline might prove to be a useful document of what we expect."

I hate to be the one to break it to them, but there's no way that's going to happen within Wikipedia proper. It's not verifiable. It doesn't cite authoritative sources. It's not encyclopedic. Basically, it breaks all the rules, and it'll get slapped down before it gains any steam. Wikipedia's incredible realized potential lives side by side with a lot of squandered potential.

You're not going to win this one by fighting it out in the AfD trenches -- anyway, 1head-to-head combat isn't the wiki way. Wikipedia desperately needs to be nested inside some broader, more permissive architecture.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Florence: Wikipedia will have stable versions, wiki-to-print, and collaborative video editing.

F.D.: First of all, improvements to the software. This is something that's been under discussion for two and a half years: stable versions. The idea is to be able to identify which versions have been validated, and to enable users to see both the current version and the last version that was accepted as being more or less correct.

The second innovation, which I hope will become available in spring, is to give people the chance to put together a small personalised pdf file or paper version containing a selection of articles. Suppose, for example, that I want to know all about the Davos forum. I put things in a basket, just as on Amazon: the article on Davos, articles about the various personalities attending, global warming or the economic crisis. I compile my own little book which I can buy and have sent to me. That is Wiki to Print.

The third innovation, probably in autumn 2008 will be the possibility of adding videos to Wikipedia and editing them collaboratively, like a wiki text. That should be really, really good!

Wiki-to-print has been around for awhile as pediapress, but there were all sorts of problems with the implementation. Now that I check their site, it looks like they've "entered a long term partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation". Sweet. Here's the press release from a month ago; it looks like this slipped completely under the radar.

"Project Chanology" began as an Internet-based protest against the controversial Church of Scientology by "Anonymous", a group described as "a disparate collection of hackers and activists".

As with so many things, yesterday's essay sounds much more convincing when spoken by a robot:

link, for feeds

Turning it up to 11

Cast your eyes back to the golden age of television -- anytime before the last couple of years. Think of a sitcom.

Every sitcom is written by a team of genius writers -- the best writers in the world, who, individually, could lay waste to 99% of their peers. Deeply weird people who went to harvard.

The actors in the sitcom are the most attractive people in the world. Millions of people go to L.A. to get discovered. Have you ever seen someone who seemed too beautiful to live -- just unbelievably, amazingly attractive? If you walk around socal you'll see one of those people every few minutes.

Every single second of the sitcom -- the color, the framing, the facial expressions and movements -- is laid out on the screen purposefully, by professional cinematographers, people who have devoted their lives to understanding how this stuff works.

That's why it's so hard to look at something else in the room when the TV's on. That's why I spent two straight hours staring face forward on the bed the day my mom got cable.

Television has a peculiar intensity of experience. It has to, because the goal of any particular second of television is to keep you watching one more second, then one more, until the commercials come on (and to make sure you stay til they finish). This is the singular difference between television and movies (if you're in a movie, you've already paid) and the type of thing McLuhan was talking about when he said "the medium is the message".

It's also the reason your parents told you tv rots your brain, and go outside! Your parents had to learn this from experience. Television was new in the 1950s, and nobody was saying it rotted your brain -- they viewed it as harmless theater-at-home and only realized you had to steel yourself against its magnetic pull after watching someone they knew follow the inexorable road toward homesteading on the faux-leather hide-a-bed with a 5-gallon bag of cheetos and a bedpan.

Growing up with television also explains the peculiar intensity of american culture. The Guardian:

The Americans have long been aware of the impact of heavy metal music on foreign miscreants. They blared Van Halen (among other artists) at the Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega when he took refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama City, and blasted similarly high-decibel music at Afghan caves where al-Qaida fighters were thought to be hiding.

If you grow up constantly exposed to the intensity of TV, the next logical step when you're an adult creating art is to push things up to eleven. Sometimes it becomes an end in itself -- see bikini kill.

This is a bit of a problem. The natural ebb and swell of life provides periods of calm, not just stimulation -- times when you're alone in your room, and your brain has to create order from chaos in order to entertain itself.

I'm starting to think the internet provides this same unnatural intensity of experience. I was a mefi regular, but social filtration is something new. The sheer compelling volume of digg and reddit, where you only see the 0.1% of content that pushes people's awesome button hard enough to reach the front page...

Like TV, it's the strange hyperfiltered essence, the panned gold at the upper edge of the parabolic curve. Like distilled liquor, I'm not sure you should drink too much of it.

Like so many things, this essay is much more convincing when read by a robot:

Link, if you're reading in a feed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Picture of the year. (Damn, I liked the others better.)

Remember how I was trying to build that Wikipedia-themed digg/reddit clone where users could filter Wikipedia articles and the best ones would rise to the top?

That very thing now exists as Reddit Wikipedia! (I didn't code it myself, duh.) This is pretty fucking awesome, and I'm going to be copying all of the wikisnips there over the next few weeks.

Reddit's layout is confusing; here are some direct links (which will become more useful as time goes on).

The highest-ranked articles. (As always, cat-related content rises to the top.)

The most recently submitted articles.

The highest ranked articles submitted this month, this week, or today.