Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'Reputation systems'

Reinventing what it means to be human

May 3rd, 2009 · Comments Off on Reinventing what it means to be human

Sky treehouse at sunrise

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Let’s be more ambitious than Freud: What do Humans want? I am putting together a college-level course on the ways that Utopia is being multiply re-imagined in digital worlds.

Second Life is well-known as a place that sets people free to imagine new faces, bodies, histories, and futures. But Wikipedia is also a second life to many of its participants. If Second Life has multiple sexual genders, including a wide range of Furry and Gorean and scientific data visualization options, Wikipedia too has “genders”; people who come there to work out different desires.

Wikipedian fulfillment may involve some very strange couplings (wrong word, since far more than two people often become involved), quite often accompanied by virtual cat-on-roof yowling. Consider, for example, the passionate encounter of article-writer with article-editor. Or of somebody who just loves enforcing the RULES with a prankster who loves to break those rules.

Agenda-pushers for any agenda X would get no satisfaction were there not advocates for agenda not-X also eager to engage in back-and-forth pushing.

Yes, I am (mostly) joking. But the part of my course on “Gratified desire” will consider material well beyond Second Life.

Tags: geeky · language · Metablogging · Reputation systems · Wide wonderful world · wikipedia

The trouble with Crime 2.0

August 7th, 2008 · Comments Off on The trouble with Crime 2.0

Poisoner eyes her victim

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

You already know to watch out for poisoned teacups, but what you should have been worrying about instead …

An internet-based team of “three people from the United States, three from the Ukraine, two from China, one from Estonia and one from Belarus” (says Reuters) stole credit card numbers by millions from US retailers, and sold them “… to people in the U.S. and Europe for thousands of dollars. The buyers then withdrew tens of thousands of dollars at a time from automated teller machines, officials said.” Even so, the chief conspirator’s lawyer sounds very confident that his client will never enter a jail cell.

After all…. the guy who made possible the NH 2002 election phone-jamming got his conviction overturned because the interstate denial-of-service attack on Democrats’ phones was not covered by Federal laws against phone “harassment.”

It’s hard for the laws against doing bad stuff to keep up with human innovation in stuff we can do. Maybe that’s how it should be.

But let’s hope the US Attorney’s office works smarter on identity theft cases than they chose to do in the matter of NH phone jamming.

Tags: Good versus Evil · New Hampshire! · politics · Reputation systems · Science · voting

“Confidential” info in government files leaked to reporters

October 16th, 2007 · Comments Off on “Confidential” info in government files leaked to reporters

“New leak shock,” says today’s Irish Independent.

Yesterday’s shock was a civil servant (male), who passed on private government data that got used for attempts at blackmail. Today’s story is a civil servant (female) who repeatedly accessed the files of prominent people–often just days before their “confidential” data showed up in newspaper reports about them.

According to the Independent, nine different newspaper stories revealed private details that this civil servant leaked to them from government files. She also “improperly accessed” the private files of many others.

Only by chance was this ongoing abuse discovered, while officials were investigating a separate matter. And the woman remained in her job for almost a year before offering her resignation and taking her departure.

If only the private data of Irish citizens were half as secure as the job of a civil servant “protecting” that data!

Tags: Editorial · politics · Reputation systems · Wide wonderful world

Why *not* to like huge banks of personal data

October 15th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Big companies and big governments would find their lives so much more convenient if you and I would just let them put all our personal data into one giant pile where they can sift through it.

For them and for all of us– just this morning in Ireland, the Irish Independent reports that Ireland’s national collection of personal data has been raided by various government employees for various reasons.

One “civil servant mole” (the Independent’s words) passed on private data that his brother used to burgle one businessman and try to blackmail others.

When confronted, the ‘mole’ told police that

it is a common practice amongst civil servants to check up on the financial status of friends, family, and acquaintances…Other records accessed out of ‘curiosity’ included those of a politician, pop star, and a ‘notorious criminal.’

The department was unaware of the breach until detectives..told them the criminal had sensitive information in his possession and he had received it from his civil servant sibling.

If you wonder why the “Data Protection Section of the Department of Family and Social Affairs” didn’t flag these ongoing abuses of personal data–that happens to be the department that employed the mole.

Tags: Editorial · politics · Reputation systems

All the world’s a perch

June 29th, 2007 · Comments Off on All the world’s a perch

All the world’s a perch

Originally uploaded by carpe icthus

A flock of ungendered sparrows–ungendered to me, that is–swooped into my back yard this evening. One female cardinal, already taking a bath, seemed content with their company.

Male and female cardinals look to an untutored eye like two different species–he metrosexual red, she muted soft buff colors with just that subtle hint on her beak of scarlet. Her bright-red lipstick, my mother used to call it.

Sparrows have gender-signs their mating partners decode–but they don’t broadcast their mating preferences out to the parts of the universe they don’t want to mate with. Energy that could have gone into scarlet feathers or lipstick is leftover for sparrows to do other stuff they care about–seed-crushing muscle maybe, or louder cheep-cheepers.

Now my personal dress-style is much more like Mrs. Cardinal’s than like Ms. Sparrow’s–but one of the things I’ve loved about the Web is that it’s let me try on gender-neutral identities. In places like Slashdot or an IRC chatroom, a woman can jump into the conversation using some “nickname” that doesn’t yell “Hey, I’m a female!”

I’m told that Jane Austen never wrote a scene where men were talking together without any women–because she herself could never witness such happenings. If she could have hung out in IRC, posting as “darcy,” just think how much more fun and trouble she could have created.

Tags: language · Reputation systems · Science · writing

John Smith, “self-fashioning,” and Nobel autobiographies

April 16th, 2007 · Comments Off on John Smith, “self-fashioning,” and Nobel autobiographies

Colored engraving of Pocahontas saving John Smith

“Captain John Smith was widely believed to be a liar .. he was also, arguably, the first American historian,” says the recent New Yorker article where I first learned the (cynical and condescending, hence surely pomo) term for autobiographical writing, “self-fashioning.”

Modern taste in biography enjoys debunking but sniggers at “inspiration.” (Middle-schoolers who wouldn’t know Trenton from Bunker Hill can tell you that George Washington owned slaves and badly-fitted false teeth.) One non-modern and inspiring antidote to this trend can be found at the Nobel Prize website, where untrendy and innocent new Nobel laureates try to create a brief history of the family and lifetime behind their scientific achievement. Just a few favorites, not coincidentally all physicists:

  • Joe Tayior (1993), whose big childhood influences were ham radio and his family’s “deep Quaker roots.”
  • Gerhard ‘t Hooft (1999), whose childhood ambition was to become “a man who knows everything.”
  • Anthony Leggett (2003, and now Sir Anthony Leggett), whose family history reaches back to a cook on Nelson’s flagship the Victory.
  • Frank Wilczek (2004), whose autobiography’s good qualities include photos of our family!

Many of the supposed lies of John Smith turned out, in the end, to be true. And some at least of his debunkers turned out to have their own ulterior motives–e.g., debunking an early Virginia colony in order to augment the luster of New England Pilgrims. And George Washington did a few things that make him worthy of being remembered aside from slave-owning, false teeth, and his failure to chop down cherry trees.

So, if you’re ready to join me in being cynical about knee-jerk cynicism, one inspiring place to start would be Nobel biographies.

Tags: Reputation systems · Science

George Washington Carver: The Dave Winer of peanut butter

February 23rd, 2007 · Comments Off on George Washington Carver: The Dave Winer of peanut butter

Movable School
Originally uploaded by jessamyn.

George Washington Carver (1861(?) – 1943 ) has been both praised and debunked at great length by many people in Wikipedia (and elsewhere of course).

But did he invent peanut butter? Well, probably not–depending on how you define “invent” and how you define “peanut butter.”

The funny thing over in Wikipedia is how some people want to define and redefine peanut butter so that it means essentially “something that GW Carver could not have invented.”

For example, Carver could not have invented peanut butter because ground peanuts were well-known in Africa. So peanut butter was invented in Africa.

Also, ground-up peanuts appear in an 1885 cookbook. So peanut butter was invented in 1885. Not to mention that “nutmeal” was patented in 1897 by Dr. Kellogg. Er, did I say “nutmeal”? Sorry, Wikipedia calls that invention “peanut butter.” So, GW Carver didn’t invent it.

Yet another reason Carver didn’t invent peanut butter–his recipe just described some peanuts ground up, disgusting and oily. Real peanut butter is the modern stuff that somebody patented in 1922.

It reminds me so much of the Wikipedia ruckus over questions like “Did Dave Winer invent podcasting?” Of course nobody ever asks such silly questions except for the people who want to define the words “invented” and “podcasting” to make the answer come out that just about anyone, maybe your Aunt Lulu, might be the one who deserves every bit of the credit for podcasting, but it sure as heck is not Dave Winer.

No, whatever Dave Winer did in modifying RSS and blogware and aggregators so they could link audio files to RSS — or in promoting “audioblogging” including gathering all the major audiobloggers at Bloggercon in 2003, after which podcasting really took off–well, whatever he did deserves barely a mention because he really didn’t “invent” podcasting, and anybody can define “podcasting” to make sure that somebody else did “invent” it.

Now, most modern sources don’t claim that Carver “invented” peanut butter. Most of what he published about his research appeared in agricultural bulletins for poor farmers. There he extolled long lists of peanut recipes, urging farmers to rotate their cropland from soil-draining cotton to nitrogen-replenishing legumes like peanuts and soy. At the suggestion of Booker T Washington, Carver designed a mobile classroom on wheels to carry his message out to the desolate farmlands.

George Washington Carver was a big-picture guy, and his big picture was the desperation of ex-slave farmers bent low under the heavy load of King Cotton. The teaching, the research, the promotion of his findings–those were all little details in Carver’s big picture.

But no, Victoria, he didn’t invent peanut butter. Lots of Wikipedia readers can tell you that.

p.s. Clarification–my experience has been that *most* Wikipedia editors are sincerely trying to make articles better, more accurate and informative. But we do get some very persistent point-of-view pushers from time to time, and their antics are more fun to write about.

Tags: Metablogging · Reputation systems · Science · wikipedia

Hoverflies mating, two views of the moon, and SFO by night

February 18th, 2007 · Comments Off on Hoverflies mating, two views of the moon, and SFO by night

Nope, not one of my favorites made the finals. But check out the sheer variety of these finalists for Wikimedia’s Picture of the Year .

Then reflect that each image, with hundreds more besides, has been uploaded for free to the common domain.

  1. San Francisco Airport (SFO) at night. Taken by Flickr user Andrew Choy.
  2. Sans domicile fixe in Paris. Taken by Wikimedian Eric Pouhier
  3. Animation of Newton’s cradle, resting on a copy of Newton’s famous book Principia Mathematica (animated). Created by Wikimedian DemonDeLuxe.
  4. Lunar libration (animated) by Wikimedian Tomruen
  5. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Taken by Senior Airman Joshua Strang.
  6. The wreck of the American Star (SS America) seen from land side, Fuerteventura. Taken by Wikimedian Wollex.
  7. A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) in Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada. Taken by Wikimedian Mdf.
  8. Barred Owl (Strix varia) Whitby, Ontario (Canada). Taken by Wikimedian Mdf.
  9. Moon occluded by clouds over San Diego, California. Taken by Wikimedian Rufustelestrat.
  10. Hoverflies mating in midair. Taken by Wikimedian Fir0002.
  11. A paper match igniting. Taken by Wikimedian Sebastian Ritter.

Each one of these is inspiring. And so is the fact that they all exist.

Tags: Reputation systems · wikipedia

Kansas crops, nuclear waste, Dave Winer’s biography

February 1st, 2007 · 1 Comment

Something beautiful in Wikipedia today: All 321 images being considered for Picture of the Year (2006). A few of my favorites:

On a different battle front for the public domain, many Wikipedia editors stepped up last week to baffle multiple and diverse attacks on Wikipedia’s Dave Winer article, including several attempts to blank or delete the whole thing.

Wikipedians really are doing grand things for the future of information’s public availability.

Tags: Reputation systems · wikipedia

Terrifying thoughts from the Wikimania speakers’ lounge

August 4th, 2006 · Comments Off on Terrifying thoughts from the Wikimania speakers’ lounge

Never be too cool to try something new.

That’s my excuse for finding the Wikimania Speakers’ Lounge, though I was sure that everybody but me would be way too cool to hang out here.

But this room is not empty, although it is by no means as full of speakers as the #wikimania online chat, where the conversation includes some terrifying (to a potential speaker) realtime critiques of speakers onstage.

ai yi yi! This is scary stuff.

In case you, like me, have never been in a speakers’ lounge, there’s good stuff in here. Coffee and juice and ice and bottles of water. And a big bowl of popcorn, and another big bowl (I kid you not) of teentsy-tiny Hershey’s chocolate bars.

I can see I could get myself in big trouble in here. So I’m going to unplug now, turn away from those chocolate bars and the scary stuff in IRC and go hear the 4 p.m. workshop on vandal-fighting.


Tags: Reputation systems · wikipedia