Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wikirandom is a website that (naturally) grabs random wikipedia articles. The obvious question is so what?

I'll tell you what: interface. It's all ajaxy and cool, and it even lets you embed a random-wiki-article-getting widget in an external site. That looks like this:

Some random Wikipedia articles:

More randomness on Wikirandom - The Random Encyclopedia

(Edit: hm. That doesn't work, does it? Blogger strips line breaks; it might be that.)

Wikipedia + iPhone + gps = OMG THE MATRIX

Geopedia is an iphone app.

The iPhone knows where you are, geographically speaking. So Geopedia knows where you are, too, and it uses that knowledge to pull up a batch of Wikipedia articles (they're geotagged) about stuff nearby.

It's not hard to see how cool this is -- it's sort of a merging of physical reality with a canonical description of that reality, creating a single giant thingamabob made of bits and atoms. Go to the statue of liberty, and there you'll find the Statue of Liberty article.

It's worth reiterating a comp. sci. professor's prediction for the year 2100:

This city is all about intensity of purpose and connections, and technology will only make it more efficient and more fluid. And in a city that is so multicultural, communication will be easier. A hundred years from now, you and I could be having a conversation in two languages and translation would be automatic. I could look at a newspaper written in any language and have the translation superimposed on my vision.

Being in the same room with people, looking in their eyes, touching them — this will still be important. But when people come together, there will be a lot more information at their fingertips and floating in the air between them.

On the other hand, it's easy to overdose on media -- drown in it -- and become a total spaz. You've got to get some peace once in awhile (that is, to unplug) in order to think. Unless we can figure out how to ignore distractions better, the always-on future might be as brain-numbing as TV.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Absurd Entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (from someone who read it cover-to-cover).

I am afraid that as the edit of the OED continues, these bits of absurdity will be excised, along with any outright errors that the editors find. It will obviously be an improvement, at least in terms of improving the clarity of these definitions. Yet the whimsical anthropomorphizer in me is sad to see that murinoid has had its definition changed from ‘Resembling the mouse or its allies’ to ‘Resembling a mouse; (Zool.) of or belonging to the subfamily Murinae…

The Codebreakers (full video) is a BBC documentary about how poor countries use open source software. (I haven't watched it yet, but it looks good.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Two NYT articles this weekend. The first is about the slow death of print encyclopedias, and includes this funny chart.

The second is about Jimmy, mostly, and Wikipedia's growth pains. It's good -- it manages to draw together a lot of issues.

Wikipedians will be most interested in the second half, which talks about how a member of a VC firm arranged big donations to Wikimedia (and mentions selling logo rights to a board game, which might be cool).

Sue and Florence come off as cautious and principled, and the comments section is full of people who like wikipedia. The ship is not sinking.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Moving Forward

This brilliant bit of code siphons newbie-baffling wikiprogramming off into separate parts of the on-screen interface without breaking up the "real" article fulltext.

Practical and creative. Good stuff.

Newscientist: Physicists slam publishers over Wikipedia ban.

If I'm reading between the lines right, "GFDL" is becoming synonymous with "Wikipedia-compatible".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

World Happiness Map

The Sentience Quotient concept was introduced by Robert A. Freitas Jr. in the late 1970s. It defines sentience as the relationship between the information processing rate (bit/s) of each individual processing unit (neuron), the weight/size of a single unit and the total number of processing units (expressed as mass).