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Archive for January, 2007

Book-map mashup

Inside Google Book Search writes about a mashup of digitized books and Google Maps, that plots on maps place references in books. Click and get a snippet of the text. Very cool. (Thanks for the link, RageBoy.) [Tags: ]

Midomi thinks I’m flat and have no sense of algorithm

I gave Midomi a quick whirl this morning. It searches for songs based on melodies you hum to it. Fun idea, but it took me six tries before it got one right. It thought my rendition of the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth was the 59th St. Bridge song by Simon and Garfunkel, and it thought my rendition of the 59th St. Bridge Song was Oh Daddy by Fleetwood Mac. Midomi offers to play the matched portion of the song (recorded by users, which is rather charming), and in no cases were the match and the matchee recognizably the same, except presumably in some computer algorithmic sense. It did get, “Doe, a Deer” right. Unfortunately, that’s the one song whose name is embedded in its melody.

I’m no Mariah Carey, but I’m within the bell curve of normalcy for singing on key. Even so, I played the opening notes of the 59th Street song on my keyboard, with my mic laid on top of it. That apparently is Only a Dream in Rio by James Taylor. And Beethoven’s Fifth on the keyboard Midomi thinks is the melody to How Deep Is Your Love.

If I’m missing the point, I’m sure you’ll set me straight. [Tags: ]

Social answers

Eric Scheid (in an email) notes that LinkedIn now is enabling users to pose questions to their social network. Only members can respond. They’re also limiting how many questions you can ask per month. Interestingly, you’re only allowed to give one answer to any one question. Lots of interesting results may accrue… [Tags: ]

Divided by software

Seb Schmoller notes a research project by Steve Graham at Durham University exploring how many institutions now routinely use software to sort customers/users/citizens. Stephen writes:

…in the UK, software now organise everything from call centre phone queues, the prioritisation (and stalling) of Internet traffic, the identification and tracking of those deemed ‘risky’ or ‘threatening’ on commercial shopping streets, people’s access to premium (electronically-tolled) areas of urban roads, the allocation of financial and insurance services, the geography of shops and bank branches, and the experience of energy markets.

His project will explore how software is being used to sort us, the social assumptions behind it, how those assumptions are embedded in the code, and the practice’s social and political implications.

Great topic.

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Mozilla Manifesto

Mitchell Baker has posted a draft of the Mozilla Manifesto. (There’s discussion of it here.) Here are the principles:

1. The Internet is an integral part of modern life — a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole.

2. The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.

3. The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.

4. Individuals’ security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.

5. Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.

6. The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon technological interoperability, innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.

7. Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource.

8. Transparent community-based development processes promote participation, accountability, and trust.

9. Commercial involvement in the development of the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial goals and public benefit is critical.

10. Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

There isn’t a sentence in it with which I disagree. And that’s the problem. It’s not disagreeable enough. I can imagine all sorts of organizations that I think are doing harm to the Net signing onto the first five principles without even checking with marketing first. The only two that would give anyone pause are #6 and #7 (although the telcos would have to do claim that—as per #5—making international phone calls counts as “decentralized participation worldwide”). Even then, they could say they are happy to have other people doing open source work, because that’s part of the balance that #9 endorses.

So, I guess I’d be more enthusiastic about the principles if they had more bite. Name the threats to principles #1-5. Declare that its openness in process and standards should make open source software the first choice to be considered when organizations serving the public good are making software decisions. Denounce the use of software patents. I hate to be, well, disagreeable about a set of principles I agree with, produced by a group I admire and whose software I use and am grateful for every day, but imo the manifesto needs to be more than a pat on the back and a big group hug. [Tags: ]

Jeez, maybe everything actually is miscellaneous!

Richard Sambrook of the BBC is at a Davos meeting that doesn’t permit live blogging. He does report, however, that:

One internet entrepreneur said “The challenge isn’t content anymore. It’s organising it, the architecture of content is the new challenge.” He was referring to sites like Flickr and Facebook.

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Other music

JP Rangaswami points to a Wired interview with Josh Madell of Other Music, a NYC music store’s site that’ll sell you songs without restrictions on how you use what you’ve bought. Josh says, for example,:

The nice thing about selling digitally is that the space limitations are much less restrictive than at the physical store, where we constantly have to delete items for space reasons, and also you are never out of stock of an MP3. The thing about iTunes, which is by far the most successful digital store so far, is that despite the cool factor they have been able to hold onto, they are really closer to Best Buy than Other Music in terms of the shopping experience. That’s great for some people, but we feel there is a real need for great indie download shops with a curated selection.

JP also points to a funny Other Music video that’s an ad in the sense of making Other Music look as over-the-top horrible as possible. It is, as RageBoy comments, durn gonzo. [Tags: ]

Jackson County Library – Out of business

Jessamyn reports on the Jackson County Library Information blog, where you can read about the indefinite closing of all fifteen branches of this Oregon county’s library system. The reasons are complex, but it comes down to the need to cut lots of services as the county reduces its budget by $23 milllion. Libraries are apparently a “nice to have,” not a “must have,” in Jackson County. (It doesn’t help that a previous ballot measure removed the special levy for libraries.) [Tags: ]

Online politica

Politicopia, a wiki for Utah citizens, is up. It’ll be very interesting to see if Utapians make use of it. (If not, some other site will arise.)

By the way, the Wall Street Journal has an article on the parties’ embrace of online activism. It says the Republicans are only a little behind the Democratics in this regard. [Tags: ]

Now that Hillary has announced that her campaign is a “conversation,” Todd Ziegler rounds up the conversational elements of her site.

Political campaigns are perhaps the most corrosive of genuine conversations because campaigns make run-of-the-mill control freaks look like drunken libertines. Their idea of a great conversation is generally the sort of Bush town hall meeting where citizens are frisked for ideas before entering. The best hope for a conversational campaign is one that brings supporters together and then gets out of the way. But campaigns want to be at the center of every conversation.

For example, Todd wonders why campaigns have abandoned for house parties. Part of the answer is that campaigns want to have more control over the meetings’ data and governance, and that’s not totally illegitimate; is a civic-minded group (bless ’em), but it’s still a private company.

But campaigns generally are not re-creating MeetUp. They’re replacing meetups with house parties. That’s what the Kerry campaign did, and I could never convince Zack Exley (who’s also civic-minded, bless him), who was in charge of Kerry’s Internet campaign, that house parties are fundamentally different than the Meetups that fueled the Dean campaign.

First, and most obviously, house parties traditionally are traditionally fund raisers. Dean Meetups were not. The house party message is clear: Have a nice chat while you take out your checkbook.

Second, campaigns generally assume more ownership of house parties than Meetups. At times, the Dean campaign provided some topic they thought the group might want to talk about. A couple of times, Dean addressed the Meetups via TV. But there’s a real difference in feeling between that and arriving at a friend’s house and being dealt the official house party “kit” materials.

Third, and most important, house parties are in private spaces. Meetups were in public spaces. A house party is put on for the attendees. The host has an obligation to make sure it goes well. But a Meetup in a bar or a restaurant is an empty space within which we are trusted to figure out what to do…what to do during the Meetup and what to do to take our country back (as Deaniacs put it). House parties are parties with guests. Meetups are meetings among citizens.

It’s a subtle difference, and I can’t quite articulate it. But I’ve been to house parties and to Meetups, and the difference is very real. [Tags: ]

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