Critical Section


Sunday,  05/11/03  11:06 PM

It's all happening... (seems like a good name for a blog :)

I've ignored the whole Jayson Blair / NYTimes thing; but of course I have a strong opinion.  So does Glenn Reynolds!  Anyone who thinks this isn't affirmative action-related is not paying attention.  The worst part of this whole affair is the way it taints the work of any other minority reporter; people may question their veracity based solely on race.  (In the same way that an Ivy-league degree means less if you're a minority.)  So we see that affirmative action actually hurts minorities in their struggle for credibility.  I hope the folks at the University of Michigan who are fighting to preserve their admission policies think about this.

Bush and Blair have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Makes as much sense as anyone else...  This prize just doesn't have the luster or credibility of, say, the prize for Chemistry.  I mean, Yasser Arafat has won it.

There's a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about "social software".  The Guardian wonders "is it the next big thing or just hype".  I think - just hype.  Tools for communication are what people really need.  Don Park has misgivings about it...  Don't worry, Don.  It is what it is.  If there's a "there there", it will emerge from human-to-human communication, not because it is forced.

I think about "social software" as I think about "the semantic web".  I don't really get it, because there isn't really anything to get.  Dave Winer agrees.  And Scoble goes further and claims "the whole metadata movement is over-hyped".  I agree completely.  Raise your hand if  you enter keywords for your Word documents so you can categorize them later.

People will do the minimum *now* if there isn't a payoff.  This is why the best GUIs are as simple as possible.  Consider Google - one input field.  We discovered this big-time at PayPal, make the sign-up process as simple as possible, and more people will sign-up.  (Asking even one more question measurably reduced the completion rate.)

Metadata is best thought of as an emergent property, not an explicit one.  Tools which manage emergent metadata are very useful - Google is a perfect example.  Tools which require explicit entry of metadata are not...  RSS feeds work precisely because nobody has to do much to create them ("Real Simple Syndication").  If I had to go and tag every post in my blog with metadata, I would never do it.

Wired looks for A Tivo Player for the Radio.  Me, too!  Bottom line - the killer product is not out yet.  When it is, you'll know it.

Another new online music service: Magnatune.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]  "We are an Internet record label which sells and licenses music by encouraging MP3 file trading and Internet Radio."  Interesting, but of course only "unknown" artists are represented...

I finished Michael Crichton's Prey.  Not that good.  Yeah, the nanotechnology ideas were there, and the genetic programming algorithms, and of course as usual he creates interesting characters and a sense of tension.  But unlike some of his other novels it all seemed too farfetched, the science was far away from what's actually possible.

To see what is actually possible, check out the Avida project at Caltech.  This software is designed to model systems which feature self-reproduction, genetic algorithms, mutation, etc.  Really cool.

Also related - here's a great overview of grid computing from IBM.

Between the advances of nanotechnology, genetic algorithms, and grid computing something like Crichton envisions will exist, but dust clouds of nanoparticles spontaneously emulating people?  No.

With the Matrix Reloaded on tap (three more days!) consider The top 10 things I hate about Star Trek.  I'm going to reverse the polarity of this website right *now*; watch out!

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