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Atomized junior- The Radio Weblog

Wednesday, 28 May, 2003
the green 90 mile

Providing a link here to one of Mifi's patented roller coaster rides. The level of invective was surprisingly low this time out. Hyperbole of Mifi's led aside the story eminates from a number of newspapers, including the not exactly bleeding heart Telegraph, reporting that as part of a move to establish a permanent detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay - camp Delta to replace camp X-ray there are plans to build a death row and an execution chamber. Apparently there are going to be military tribunals and military verdicts and military resultants; all proceeding beneath varying layers of secracy. pb

We don't need no stinkin' Geneva Convention. We don't need no stinkin' Geneva Convention - US plans death camp - plans to turn Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray into a death camp are in the works. [MetaFilter]
9:30:36 AM    comment [];

Monday, 26 May, 2003
4 days in May

The best story from last week was the flight of the renegade outlaw democrat state legislators from Texas. The story began on the previous weekend, and was over by midnight last Friday. In time to be well and fully commented on by the weekend talk shows.

I was looking over some news stories I had saved into my temp file from last week, along with trying to remember why I saved them in the first place. There were three that I saved to read again simply out of the mere congruence they formed. One was a story emanating out of the fall-out from the renegade Texas state senators story. This was the story of process-by-which part of the federal government found itself looking for the plane of Pete Laney, one of the 'outlaw' publicans, in the belief that the plane was missing and perhaps crashed. The significant angle of that story by midweek was that this story was likely permanently obscured by the decision of the Texas Department of Public Safety shred all documents associated with that incident within days, and notably before any request analogous to a FOIA request could be filed on them.

In the Washington post the same day a story on the DARPA data mining project, formerly known as the Office of Total Information Awareness, now with "Terrorism" suiting up and going in for "Total". That article produced this quote:

"The program's previous name, 'Total Information Awareness' program, created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens," the Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, said in a statement.
Well, I can't imagine where people could have got that idea from. It certainly couldn't have been from ideas like individual identification through gait pattern recognition, or that overwhelmingly creepy logo A picture named OIA_Logo. A few pages over another story ran under the headline Anti-Terror Power Used Broadly summarizing a report (pdf) by sent by the Justice Department to the House Judiciary Committee which details widespread general and non-Al-Quada related uses by the government of the powers given them by patriot act one (of at least two). Seeing this and noting that these powers have also been used by Tom Delay (R-TX) to try to enforce a shotgun quorum in a political battle back on his home turf. I think that, protestations to the contrary aside, it would be allowable to view these new powers as 'abused as they came out of the box.' pb
Addendum 27 May 03: a couple of tweaks to the above, I came up with Justice dept's letter to the House Judiciary Committee, so I made that reference a link. Also the picture of OIA's logo (sadly, no longer prominently displayed on their front page) functions as a link to their site. Which was the original intent until I forgot.
12:52:13 PM    comment [];

Thursday, 22 May, 2003
Straussians gonna git you sucka!

I have to laugh. I've seen at least five articles over the past week or so pronouncing themselves aghast upon discovering the existence of adherents of the University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss in the Bush Administration. Well, two of these articles [alternet, Tompaine] seem to be written by the same person, Jim Lobe. What appears to have kicked this off is a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh, who really does seem to be casting himself as this administrations most "domestic terrorist". The New York Times doubled up on it by running a piece in its week in review section Sunday, O8May03. Metafilter got into the act with a post called Neoconservative Kabbalism. The title, there, pretty much set the tone. At one point someone inquired whether this dark conspiracy was taking over political science departments across the nation. To which someone else dryly commented: the political philosophy sections; perhaps, not to be understood as being quite the same thing. I always wondered why back years ago when I was a genuine undergraduate, every time I went to Prof. Dr. Butterworth, or anyone in that corner of Tydings hall, and asked him; "this Plato fellow, what the hell was he trying to say, and why couldn't he just come out and say it." He would always direct me to go out and read some Karl Popper, Allen Bloom (always with the Allen Bloom), or Leo Strauss. Of, course this is the same teacher who couldn't understand why the department wouldn't let him show the film "Days of Rage" in class. I'm not convinced that reading Strauss automatically makes one a Neo or Paleo con. Nor, that it leads one to stop worrying and learn to love the bomb.
9:43:43 AM    comment [];

Tuesday, 20 May, 2003
MITH looks at weblogs

A small informal speaker series orgainized by University of Maryland group: Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) took a look at weblogs a couple of Tuesday ago (6 May) . They brought in Mathew Kirschenbaum an assistant professor of English to give the talk. He is currently teaching a graduate class in digital communication and runs his own weblog MGK . Since MITH is down in the basement of McKeldin library where I work I stuck an 'at lunch' sign on my desk and hit the staircase.

There where about 25 people in a room that was set up to seat 15 comfortably. Kirschenbaum worked off a laptop running into a projector, switching between powerpoint and his browser. He ran down the origin of the term 'weblog', which leads you through the evolution of the personal homepage and the current variations on the weblog theme {linkfilters, journals, tech or focus blogs, such as warblogs, being generally how that sorts out}. The unifying or common elements that allow weblogs to be recognized as a thing-in-itself are self-contained dated entrys or 'posts', and a side-bar filled with an honor roll of other weblogs or favorite sites. While you can do a weblog type site by hand (as I did for 2 years), the key is page management software. He ran down a list of the top five or so weblog tools available: Greymatter, Blogger, Radio Userland and its elder sibling Manila. Eastgate makers of the hypertext authoring tool storyspace has one called Tinderbox. There's Slash, and finally Movable Type which is the one he uses. These run the gamut between free to costly, and tools limited to straight blogging and tools which are earnest content management systems (like Movable Type). Another scale to think about is which tools encourage you to be your own author, or editor, and which require you to be your own systems admin. Note that Prof. Kirshenbaum runs MGK on Maryland's "otal" server which allows CGI bin scripts, required for Movable Type. Where on the "wam" server which doesn't, I run a Radio weblog.

He made a point early on, which I liked, about the general vox of weblogs. An element almost as pervasive as a blogroll to most sites is the similarity in the read they give. His take on it is that blogging as a new technology requires a new - a particular - voice and cadence or rythmn. He also noted that in line with their pervasive hypertextality much of the action in a well made weblog is in the marginalia: Blogrolls, trackbacks, indexes, reading lists, much of the 3rd party add-ons, the toys, the concentrated linking occurs in a weblogs margins. Trackbacks is a feature some weblog systems offer, to look at the web to identify referenced links to your site by another site, as many people will do that rather than comment to a post directly.

The comparison of weblogs to listserves came up. Particularly the question will weblogs kill list serve? My own feeling is that weblogs have largely supplanted the listserve as technology. The community weblogs I am most familiar with (Kuro5hin, Metafilter, even Slashdot are more stable, more long lived than any list serve or usenet group that I remember. Most listserves tend to very finite lifes, an early period of high-minded passion and a pointless horrible death reduced by flame warriors, trolls, or pendanticism. Community weblogs sidestep this a number of ways not only are discussions - threads - based on single posts ensuring that fresh topics are always forming, but layered membership and rating systems allow community vetting on the topics thrown open (through front-page previews) and on comments rendered (-1 redundent). Prof. Kirschenbaum brought the question around to what he sees as the real question, whether the autonomous individual weblog through its format and various toys and ties coheres into a whole. Into a blogsphere, or as he put it a self organizing discourse network.

The key to this beyond anything mentioned so far are two further elements. One is webloggers' prevalent early adoption of the creative commons license over the more restrictive copyright. This allows for discussion and commentary on weblogs to be treated (given proper attribution), as a common open source dialog. The second is technological: RSS - often supposed to stand for really simple syndication. I was thinking about this while listening to Louis Rosenfeld talk the other week. RSS is an application of extensible mark-up language (XML) the follow-on to HTML. Weblog applications create a XML metadata summary of your weblog and anounnce its availabilty for automated pull-down at a routine ping. It is this functionality that allows the weblog ecology to operate, what gives it its living dynamic interactive nature.

The term Social Software got thrown around as it usually at this point. as it did in talk about the recent Emerging Technologies conference that O'Reilly publishing sponsered. Social software is just too broad a catagory to mean much. What it does mean could also be read into any conception of the internet as an evolving thing. Weblogs in their feedback loops of syndication are social software , so are WIKIs which are related to weblogs - open-edit encyclopeaedias one might call them. So also are MUDs (multi-user domains), and MOOs (object-oriented MUDs), and online role playing games often refered to now as massive multi-user role-playing games (MMRPGs) which have been around for years. Not to mention the more prosaic but equally intertwining e-mail and instant messaging. A good book on the subject is online communities : designing usability supporting socability by Jenny Preece. Community weblogs don't do any usenet didn't do, they just do it better. Along with certain influential personal weblogs they form a nucleous amalgamating thousands of individual weblogs into a whole. The role of these inflential weblogs has attracted controversy. with some noting the overwhelming number of pointing links these sites attract (I frequently see the ratio 20:80 discussed), which elevates their importance in the Google search engine, aggravating those who fail to see weblogs as a journalistic or even semi journalistic enterprise. Others, noting this, are apprehensive of the tendency of web societies towards what has been termed a monglossia or domination by a single voice or social discourse (Evans, cyberspace and...democracy. First Monday

Prof. Kirschenbuam closed his talk with a "Why I Blog" mea culpa. Everyone has their own reasons, many of his were familiar. At one stroke of a pen - or rather push of a 'post' button he can efficiently keep open lines of communication within in his field and practice the art. Try out new technologies as they are being advanced. By linking, posting and having this archieved by a content management system, doing this to all significant phenomenon encountered on the web; he notes he has turn his blog into a database of the internet as he perceives it. Half the time one is weblogging to ones self. The point is to capture a unit of information from the extremely ephemourous flow that is the web, until such time that you can place it into a context and make larger use of it. To write about it, Because that is what writers do - write.
11:54:57 PM    comment [];

Friday, 16 May, 2003
Adrain Belew? Duane Eddy was the true Twang Bar King

Please tell me they didn't just figure this out. "More Nick Park Sausages, Ma". Also if they could license the Slickee Boys while they're at it. pb

Web should turn to golden oldies. Media: Record companies targeting teenagers with music download services may be forced to think again after research showed piracy is a big hit with the older generation. [Guardian Unlimited]
8:19:43 AM    comment [];

Tuesday, 6 May, 2003
A short propsal for ignoring the recording industry

The day after I wrote about Apple's new music file selling endeavor, which seems to be doing gangbusters for them I heard a piece on NPR which made me laugh. I have been unable to find a link to this piece. It was from the Market Report segment which is embedded in Morning Edition and comes on at 10 min to the hour. It may have been a tongue in cheek piece - no less factual for that. Noting that when an given industrial segment is not performing - has been engaging in monopolistic activities, is not producing at the true clearing rate of the demand curve; in short, has been caught up in error and inefficiency. Here a shift of resources along the production curve will occur allocating those assests to other sectors.

The recording industry can show you graphs, charts, they can show you the po' face. They can talk theft, piracy, buccaners on the high prairre seas. They can open their dark gates and let lawyers march by closed columns. In the meantime musical instrument sales and guitar stores are doing very well. The people who had put this piece together had looked at that segment of the retail market noted its health and conjectured that a guitar might be the coffee to the music industry's rigidly packaged and arbitrarily priced tea. They talked to people from the chain Guitar Center- they were happy people - they had no Hillary Rosen on retainer. I have bought things from this Guitar Center store, I bought a whatchamacalit from them, looking at my book I have determined that a whatchamacalit is more correctly called a saddle bone. Point being, music is in no danger of falling out of American culture and the "music industry" is not music, despite the din of their protestations. Learn to play piano, get a guitar, build yourself a hornpipe and make Popeye dance. Make a simple tune one time, make a more complicated tune the next. Don't stop

If I find where NPR hid that link I'll edit this to include it.
9:03:43 PM    comment [];

Saturday, 3 May, 2003
Louis Rosenfeld in a basement room at Maryland

I took a long lunch yesterday and went across campus to the Hornbake building where an e-mail had promised I would find in person Louis Rosenfeld co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web . He was there at the invite of the local ASIS chapter- all graduate students and faculty with the MLS program here. I may have been the only one that actually bought and read his book. Heck, I've even read Christina Wodtkes'. Louis struck me as a bright personable energetic and engaged sort, not that this was any different than what I had expected to find. It just seemed so unusual. After a period of introductions , he began an informal discussion among the group. Pointing out that information architecture as practiced is necessarily a multi-disciplined activity he questioned the commitment of library science programs around the country to multi-disciplinary approaches. Such approaches presuppose a more theory based or abstact focus, certainly a more information-centric one. This accounts for the move of many library science programs to insert the word 'information' into their titles somewhere. Some fun was had here at the expense of those schools who have simply declared themselves to be the Information program at such and such University. Behind all this is the acknowledgment that many library programs in higher education tend to be very vocational in nature. They are full of people in the midst of a career change or looking to position themselves for career advancement in the work they already do. They are focused and goal-oriented towards the MLS certificate. Typically there will be a dromedarian look to the student demographic between these people, and those following straight on from an undergraduate degree. The latter group is also more likely to make up the ranks of the doctoral program.

The point Rosenfeld (MLS, U. Michigan) was trying to make with this discussion was that the needs of information architecture as a field and profession will not be answered by library programs that see themselves as primarily training librarians to work in libraries rather than, say, teaching librarianship. Later on a second cycle of discussion arose over whether the ASIS(&T) is the best professional organization for information architects to hang their hat or not. Louis Rosenfeld has been instrumental in setting up a supplemental organization to focus on the concerns of those practicing information architecture in addition to the existing sigIA.

Amid these longer discussions some other items where also brought up. How and at what point web resources are taught or approached within the context of reference work - in introductory courses or advanced? How are web sites found, browsed, evaluated, and mined for content by information seekers? Use of the internet to both identify and represent individual expertise in a subject was mentioned along with ancillary topics collaborative and trust networks. At the point when I had to head back to work, the discussion had shifted to the semantic web. Once a promising concept even a buzzword it is now widely regarded as: "a nice topic for research". The semantic web was going to live or die on the strength of connecting metadata to content. Metadata being most easily described as information (how much, how recent, by whom, pertaining to what etc.) about the main content. The HTML variant of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative offered a decent framework for capturing for web pages the heart of International standard book description principles, but one entity that could make the best use of that data, the search engine Google, reputedly ignores it. When I think of a rigorously realized semantic web, I tend to think of a fully described XML RDF - I think of things like the MARC (MAchine Readable Catalog) : XML project. Marc is the database and transfer format for the information on a given books library catalog card, it represents the culmination of approximately fifty years of intellectual effort by a large number of people. In its XML variant, it is semantic web friendly. Most things (information entities) suitable themselves to the semantic web's ideals are generally already in databases, the realization of a prior capital investment. I had largely forgotten the semantic web until it was mentioned among this group. This weblog; however, being generated by Radio Userland software lives in the xml ocean - one of the more fascinating features of Radio is the news aggregator spinning off the RSS functionality. I thought, as Louis Rosenfeld, who has a weblog of his own talked, RSS is the semantic web but it is bottom up, a partial, particular, but genuinely networked semantic web. As opposed to big comprehensive RDF projects which could be characterized as top down. A semantic web of sorts probably will come about but it will be a gradual process of small xml outlining, and scripting applications reaching out to each other in fullfillment of specific needs.

There were points in his talk where I felt a little on the spot. I am in fact a library technician - a clerk - who occasionally entertains the thought of applying to library school. I'd hate to think that people like me might hold the profession down. I would far more likely look at the new as yet unaccredited information science program than the traditional library program, and would be more likely to use this information to pursue ends arrayed out of my (almost completed) undergraduate degree in government and politics. I would be... less likely to use it in ways directly related with my current position in technical services of a large library. I had read Rosenfeld's book and was inspired head down to this talk because of joining a committee tasked with bringing the several hundred assorted web pages belonging to the Technical Services Department into some order, control and usefulness. A task which is turning out to be harder and considerably more interesting than mundane set of tasks that comprise modern copy cataloging.
11:58:18 PM    comment [];

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Last update: 5/28/03; 09:33:32.