August 2008

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A little guide to New Orleans radio & other Hurricane Gustav sources.

If you’re using a regular over-the-air-type radio, and you’re within 750 miles or so of New Orleans, tune in 870am to hear WWL. It’s one of the original (literal) clear channel stations. In the old days you’d get them from coast to coast at night, but in recent years the FCC has chosen to allow new stations to clutter the AM band at night (when signals skip off the ionosphere). But still, worth a check if you’re within range. WWL also has a hurricane coverage network of other stations in the area.

If you’re listening over the Net, your station choices are WWL and WIST. Here’s a link to a browser thingie that plays WWL (using Windows Media or Silverlight). Here’s WIST’s audio page. Wish either used .mp3, but this isn’t the right time to complain. Both have excellent local coverage right now, from what I can gather. Lots of listener call-in stuff.

Here’s AP hurricane video.

Can’t get Technorati to chart less than 90 days, but this chart shows Gustav action.

Full Circle‘s Tracking Hurricane Gustav on Social Media.

Rex Hammock’s Where to go for Gustav information. Includes the Gustav Information Center, Nola.com, Wikipedia’s Gustav entry, GustavWiki.

I’ll add more as the night goes on.

American Red Cross Flickr photos. Those with “Hurricane Gustav” tags. All photos with hurricanegustav tags.

Andy Carvin wants to make the ultimate Gustav mashup map.

See the comments below for more.

Amidst the Palin din

I listened to McCain’s veep selection live on the radio. Struck me as pretty smart, though maybe a little too smart for McCain’s own good. His attacks on Obama’s lack of experience ring kinda hollow after he’s picked a backup president (which is all a veep is, Cheney excepted) with even less experience. Since then I’ve read a few blogs and stuff, and pretty much steered clear of politics while enjoying freedom from media and technology during my last few days at home with family and friends in Santa Barbara. Anyway at this point I’d say my take on Sarah Palin kinda parallels Richard Bennett’s:

  She’s young, good-looking, inexperienced, a bit ideological, and a member of a marginal group; just like Barack Obama, actually. But she’s running for VP, not to be the big dog. She’s not at all embarrassing, not a Katherine Harris, Harriet Miers, or Dan Quayle. All in all, a good contrast to Biden who’s tainted with the scent of corruption.

  This just might work for McCain.

  UPDATE: But seriously, what was McCain thinking? Palin is a nice woman, but there’s no way in hell she should be allowed inside the White House if not on a tour. McCain has effectively conceded the election. Welcome to the Oval Office, President Obama, listen to Sen. Biden carefully and don’t screw too many things up.

FWIW, she’s got some taint too.

Also FWIW, I know a lot of Hillary partisans, and if anything the Palin selection helps them rationalize voting for Obama.

Looking forward to the debate between Palin and Biden.

Bonus link (hat tip).

We have a MacBook Pro in need of a device driver that will make a GT Ultra Express data card work. The card is made by Option. Documents here show it working on the laptop. The 4th and last AT&T person we spoke to (escalating up through the call center ranks) said that Apple provides the device driver, and that it should come with the machine. But it doesn’t. Not that we can tell. (A borrowed Sprint card works fine, for what that’s worth.) Apple’s site offers no clues we can find. Option’s wants us to enter the SNR and EMEI numbers before help moves forward, but when we do a login failure results.

Clues?

If the presidential election ends in a tie, as it kind of did in 2000, I suggest settling it with a game of one-on-one basketball between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

Maybe it has Alzheimers

Why does Facebook bother with a “remember me” checkbox when it never does?

Related: I now have 212 friend request, 3 friend suggestions, 6 event invitations, 1 music invitation and 190 “other requests”. Saying this is too much doesn’t cover it.

Off we go

Well, approximately nothing mechanical or electical is working right. Both laptops are flaky and both cameras are screwy too. But the car works, so I’m taking the boys on a trip to the Antelope Valley Fair. We have tickets to Wierd Al‘s show tonight as well. See ya on the far side.

[Later...] Pix.

Putting the buyer in charge

The Buyer’s Envelope, Please is a post over at the VRM blog in which I do some thinking out loud about a topic I’m still learning about.

A slolam

Lots of pretty thunderheads between Phoenix and Salt Lake City. We’ll be dodging those shortly.

My first piece about the Obama Convention. (I know that’s a terrible headline, but I’m busy and don’t have time to make it better. And it doesn’t matter anyway.)

Marc Canter and family stopped by a couple days ago, and everybody had a lot of fun. Naturally we talked shop as well. In the midst Marc shared a one-liner that I love: “Open is the new black”.

Which brings me to Google Earth. I have more than 22 thousand photos on Flickr. Of those, more than 6.5 thousand are tagged “aerial”. If I had the time or energy I’d go back and give another few thousand the same tag.

Yet, far as I know, I can’t add any of these to Google Earth — at least not in the way that Panoramio shots get added. Panoramio is a cool service, but its feature set is small compared to Flickr’s, and less appealing to me as both a photographer and a geology and geography freak. I’d much rather upload shots to Flickr than to place them on Google Earth (or any mapping service) using open APIs.

Yet, far as I know, I can’t (with Google Earth, that is). That’s how it looked the last time I tried to make a go of it. (Also, Google Earth doesn’t like aerial photos, which also isn’t helpful, especially in places where its own resolution is low.)

Anyway, I’m not here to carp about Google Earth, which is one of the most amazing and helpful programs ever. I’m here to carp about exclusivities. Services such as these should be maximally mashable. By favoring Panoramio over Flickr (and other services like it), Google does neither Panoramio nor Google Earth any favors. In fact it isolates both from competitive pressures that would lead to improvements in their own code and in the marketplace.

Adam Fields and Barry Welford have convinced me to try making a habit of searching with Clusty. No time to put together a research-driven case, but so far I find myself liking the results.

That said, I’ve felt from the beginning that search has always been something of a kluge required by the absence of a real directory for the Web — one to which anybody can add anything in a durably findable way. That’s why I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of XRI/XDI since I first heard about it.

Someday somebody is going to base a deeply cool and useful product or service on XRI/XDI standards — an invention that mothers necessity for the standard. Just watch.

I grew up in New Jersey, which I think of as “New England without the universities”. There are many places in New Jersey with beauty equal to, say, New Hampshire’s. But New Jersey never had the same ethos of preservation, the same not-quite-a-mythology that explains why Norman Rockwell and his sentiments fit New England like a shoe while to the rest of the country they remain a maudlin approximation of bygone times elsewhere.

I transferred my state citizenship from New Jersey to North Carolina in early 1974, when I left our small rented house on Route 94 in Yellow Frame, out in Sussex County, the beautiful northernmost county of the state. Back then Sussex County had more cows than people, and featured fall colors and pastoral scenes worthy of calendars and post cards. Best of all it shared the with Pennsylvania. The shores of the river were settled first by the Indians and later by the , descendents of which continued to farm the islands and lowlands alongside the river, right up to the point in the 1970s when the United States government, with help from both states, condemned the land, including perfectly good towns such as Dingman’s Ferry, and let it all fall to ruin while fighting and failing to build the unnecessary. It was, and remains, a disgrace.

Can you imagine the feds, or Vermont and New Hampshire, doing the same to the ? Of course not. We’re talking about New England here.

The difference was brought home to me this past weekend when we picked up The Kid from camp in Vermont and took our time heading back to Boston. We visited Middlebury, Waterbury (including the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream headquarters), the Rock of Ages Quarry near Barre, and various towns along the Connecticut River before having some okay Thai food in Keene. New England is truly a beautiful region, even with almost no available hotel rooms.

Much of that was recorded photographically. Here’s the set. Here’s the slide show.

Nice to know New England is there. Less nice to know that much of the same beauty has long since been paved or otherwise profaned in other states. (Of course, I also realize that much has been lost in New England as well. Just less of it than elsewhere.)

The shot above is of the Congregational Church in Middlebury, Vermont. I shot a series of photos of the church, most with white and grey clouds boiling up in the sky beyond. I wasn’t sure which was best (which is why I kept them all), but I am sure that several are better than the one the church uses for its own website.

I also did some experimental shooting with this brick building in downtown Middlebury, which is about as nice a little college town as you’re gonna find anywhere. The best of those shots, by the way, were taken not with my Canon 30D SLR, but with a little Canon Powershot SD850is. Partly that’s because the little camera likes to yield more vibrant colors than the big one; and partly it’s because the big one wasn’t fixed right and read the light wrong.

Anyway, I’m back out in California, where I am now a citizen, even though most of the next year will be spent back at the Berkman Center in Cambridge.

Harvard blogs were “having a massage”, the message said yesterday. Today I’m looking at a new WordPress dashboard/UI, and puzzling my way around it. Categories and Tags are now separate things. Tagging is comma separated, rather than space separated, as it has long been with Flickr, where one puts names such as in quotes if one wishes to tag them. I’d rather add the rel=”tag” element to the link. Never have been a fan of listing tags at the bottoms of posts.

Uploading and posting pictures (or, as WP has it, “Add media”) doesn’t work yet. I have at least two I want to share, but no rush.

Anyway, figuring it out.

Meanwhile, over in I’ve posted It sucks because it’s good: a defense of Jakob Nielsen‘s stalwart and sensible usability principles against the scorn of those whose sense of design owes more to ancient print sensibilities than to Web nativity.

omfg

I’m currently #2 on this list, behind Clay Shirky. (In spite of what may be the worst picture ever taken of me.) Context from Dan Thornton.

Tags: ,

Conseil du jour

Mary Schmidt: There’s no shortcut to real relationships – online or virtual. I think “social media” is great – but the fundamentals haven’t changed. You gotta be real… and if you’re selling something, it’d better be good.

Years ago, when the search engine category was a lot more competitive, I did a lot of comparing between contenders. For awhile HotBot was ahead, then AltaVista, then AllTheWeb/FAST… Not necessarily in that order, but you get the point.

Then Google won. Huge. They were just bigger and better than everybody at finding nearly everything.

But lately Google has frustrated me. When I do lookups for subjects, it gives results that include misspellings and other approximations, even when I use the “advanced” settings. Worse, it’s been useless at something it used to do perfectly: find old blog entries of mine.

For example, when I was writing this post about cameras and lenses, I wanted to see what I’d written on my blog back when I first picked up my Canon 30D. I kinda remember that it was in early ’06, but beyond that I wasn’t sure how to go hunting, since Google seems to have lost track of that blog, even though its archives are online with inbound links. See, my old blog was moved off of weblogs.com and mothballed (with welcome help from Dave Winer) at the domain doc-weblogs.com. Some links got 404′d, but Google re-made enough connections so that people could at least search for specific words and strings and find stuff. But somewhere along the way, that ended. When I looked for doc searls tamron zoom canon lenses on Google, I found page after page of nothing.

So I went where I haven’t gone for a long time: Yahoo, and did the same search. Voila! The blog post I wanted to find was right up top. That rocked.

I just repeated the experiment with the same two searches, and found that Google has caught up, and now lists what I was looking for in the first page of the 17 results it brings up, with yesterday’s post pointing to it as the top result. Obviously Google followed the link and indexed the old page.

So I decided to do a search for another day in that same time-frame, for another bunch of words that only occur on that day’s blog postings. The day I chose was Thursday, May 18, 2006. The words I searched were doc searls rob cottingham profitable tragedy. Google found nothing, but gave me three pages of results, including misspellings of Searls. Yahoo delivered four results, including exactly the page I was looking for. In fact, every test I do, for every day of my old blog, brings up a Yahoo result. (One sample.) To Google, my old blog pretty much doesn’t exist unless there’s a new inbound link to one of its pages.

Obviously, Yahoo is doing a better job of following links here.

And that means it’s doing a better job — to me at least — of competing with Google than most folks give it credit for.

My hat’s off to them.

Green Mountains, blue sky

A perfect day in Vermont. In Middlebury at the moment. At Carol’s Cafe. Perfect coffee. Before that, lunch at Mama’s Cafe. Also outstanding. I have a feeling nothing sucks around here.

Not sure what’s next, but we’re doing that.

[Later...] I don’t know why, but this text disappeared, and the comments under it now appear under the one following it, which now appears to precede it, because I was able to recover the text, and post it again. Not sure what went wrong there, but … whatever. Better just to enjoy life. And sleep. I gotta crash now. Tomorrow: something in New Hampshire.

Several weeks ago, while we were walking around Mystic Seaport, in the mist of shooting these pictures, I dropped my camera, a Canon 30D — a workhorse that has served ably for more than two years. Afterwards it seemed to work fine mechanically, but it could no longer read light properly. For whatever reason, it overexposed shots by two stops or more. (All the shots I took with it after that were in manual mode using guesswork about light, trial and error.)

So I took it in to a camera repair shop near Boston, and they sent it to Canon. On Friday (yesterday) I got it back. It was an almost entirely new camera. New back, new top, new electronics. I didn’t have time to test it out before hitting the road for the weekend in Vermont and New Hampshire, but I didn’t expect any problems.

I was wrong. The problem wasn’t fixed. It still reads light wrong and overexposes by two or more stops. How could they replace so much of the camera and not fix the one thing that was wrong with it? Amazing.

I suppose I should bring the camera back on Monday and repeat the process, but I really want to have it in California this next week, and on the trip that follows that one. In fact, the first day I’ll be able to pick it up is September 12.

Right now I’m hoping that Samy’s in Santa Barbara (where I bought it) will be able to send it into Canon and expedite a fast turn-around on a fix.

Meanwhile I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and get a soon-to-be-discontinued Canon 5D, which is getting down around $1000 now. It’s a great camera, much better than the 30D. And use the 30D as a second camera. But… I dunno. Probably not, mostly because I’d also have to invest in all those good lenses that will make the 5D sing. Right now I have only one really good lens for the 30D. The other two are cheapies: a Tamron 18-200 (sharp, but not fast, and with fuzziness at the long end and barrel distortion at the wide) and a Canon f1.8 you can still get for just $80 or so.¬† They do a good job for the money, but they’re not real good lenses.

I’m a pretty good photographer. Not great, but pretty good, on the whole. And I feel like a pretty good musician using an almost good instrument. The 5D is a good instrument. Not the best, but close enough. To get a 5D and the “glass” that would do it justice… say, three primes (fixed length lenses) and a zoom would cost several thousand dollars. That’s out of my range, at least until my get-rich boat comes in.

I’m sure it will. And for that to happen, I need to focus on other work.

Radio now

I listen to a lot of WBUR in my car. ‘BUR is Boston’s main NPR station, and where I’m I do most of my public radio listening. While weather isn’t the main thing on ‘BUR, it’s a frequent thing, and what makes me feel at home when I listen. Lately the report has been what we’ve heard most of this summer: more rain. Flash flood watch, even.

Still, as I looked around here, it’s sunny and clear and perfect in the same way that Boston weather this summer has been sucky. That’s because I’m listening in Santa Barbara. At home I use our Sonos system, and in the car I use the Tuner app on my new iPhone. Tuner costs money and is missing some pieces (just like the iPhone), but it’s a great way to listen to radio.

I got an iTrip AutoPilot to go with it. The design is good, but its FM signal is way too weak. Not sure if I’ll take it back, but I’ve abandoned it while jacking the iPhone into one of those fake tape cassettes on a wire, which I shove into the car’s cassette player. (The car is a ’95 Infiniti.) ‘BUR is easy on the cell system because its stream is just 24kbps. I’ve also done a lot of listening to faster streams, all the way up to 128kbps, and I gotta say those work pretty well too, over the 3G system. My fave at the top rate is , which is just an awesome music station.

The main result for me is a new set of prelminary conclusions about the final stage of radio.

1) Live still matters. I have lots of stored music and podcasts on my iPhone. They’re great to have, but there’s no substitute. Stored and live are not the same. Both have their virtues, and now both can be maximized.

2) Human still matters. When I listen to WBUR in the morning, I expect to hear Bob Oakes, even if what he’s saying could be said by anybody.

3) The primary medium for radio, as with every other form of digital communication, is now the Net. Over-the-air (OTA) will still matter for a long time, but it will be become secondary rather than primary.

4) The cell phone system will become a data system that carries telephony, rather than the vice versa we have now. The same goes for the Net at home as well. What we still have in both cases is dial-up: data piggy-backing on telephony or cable TV. In terms of provider priorities, that’s the way it’s been for awhile, but the flip is going to come, and the sooner we make that happen, the better.

5) The iPhone is less a phone than a platform for mobile Internet applications that start with telephony. Voice will always be the primary personal mobile communications activity; but it will be one application, or set of applications, among many. Radio is another of those applications.

6) iPhones and other MIDs (mobile internet devices) will become bags of tools for doing all kinds of highly personal and engaged stuff. Today I’m in Toronto blue-sky-ing at PlanetEye (I’m on their board), thinking about all this. Long ago Larry Josephson told me “Radio is personal. That’s it.” But when all you had were transmitters and non-interactive receivers, there was a limit to how personal it could be. Not any more.

I’ll add more, but I gotta go.

Dave Barry is back, covering the Olympics.

Mark-up

In May of last year I flew from London to Los Angeles and shot a lot of pictures out the window. While still ascending toward the sky over Scotland and beyond I shot a city I later discovered was Manchester.

Since then the photo has acquired 21notes by 3 different people. Go through the 49 shots at that last link and find many more notes from more people than I can count. Amazing. I love that kind of help.

Speaking of which, many shots like this also serve duty in Wikipedia. I just discovered where they live.

Mediamarklings

Just so I don’t lose them…

I was 4.5 years younger when that interview was shot, at a Linux Desktop Summit near San Diego. I haven’t watched more than a few of the clips, but I doubt I’d change much if anything of what I said back then. I was talking about what was happening to the software industry over a long period of time. Those trends were clear to me then and clearer to me now.

So, if you want to save yourself thousands in consulting fees, or millions you might risk wasting on proprietary lock-ins, give them a look.

Piques and valleys

Fun to look at Google’s news archive timelines. Here are some profiles for Obama, JFK, Ubuntu, and Katrina. That should get you started.

Remembering Gluetrain

Every once in awhile I like to point back to the best Cluetrain parody ever: The Gluetrain Manifesto. It went up in mid-’99, and has lived in the Internet Archive ever since it went dark sometime between October and December of ’04. Most of the links to other Gluetrain parts still work too.

Since CNN bothered to make James Burgett one of its heroes (an honor he richly deserves) why not maintain the video that says so? Why does a video have to “expire”? For that matter why should the rest of the CNN links on that story, other than the one to the ACCRC, go to expired or 404′d CNN locations?

Bulletin to CNN: I’d gladly pay to see that video (or after seeing it). But on my terms, not yours.

Spammers du jour

Today I got three attempted spam comments from MindCafe.org and one from Jaworski Coatings. I just want to make sure they’re publicly flagged as spammers. (Note: I’m not bothering with others that are purely evil and impossible to shame in any case.)

With linkful sourcings of Darren Rowse, Richard McManus and Mark Rizn Hopkins, Duncan Riley in The Changing Blogosphere and Blogging 2.0 shows me how full-circle blogging has become:

  Blogging 2.0 runs counter to the prevailing ethos in blogging, which is maximize your Google juice, your page views, your links in, and refrain from sharing that traffic with others, without putting the end user first. Blogging 1.0 is all about maximizing the opportunities for the blog owner while ignoring community, where as blogging 2.0 maximizes the experience for the end user (reader).

  In focusing on the experience for the end user, via linking, sharing and enabling the conversation across many places, blogging 2.0 rallies against today’s accepted norms.

So… what was blogging back when there was no advertising on it, and few of us wanted any? Back then the prevailing ethos was nothing more complicated than writing linky, interesting and helpful posts for readers rather than just for traffic. For a lot of us, that’s what it’s been all along.

Sounds to me like “Blogging 2.0″ is a lot like blogging before it became flogging.

A wise warning from Shelley Powers:

  At issue is not that broadband companies are becoming overwhelmed, but that the same companies providing broadband are beginning to perceive that online video offerings such as Netflix WatchNow, Hulu, iTunes, and so on could become an eventual threat to their bread-and-butter operations: offering entertainment packages. Capping broadband use to prevent competition is against the law in this country. If this is the situation, when reason fails, the courts will then need to become engaged. I have to think the ISPs know this, and such knowledge will give them pause.

The trick for carriers is not to protect doomed business models, but to pursue benefits to incumbency other than trapping and milking customers the usual way.

The Net is a sea of bits: a rising tide that lifts all but the boats that defy its nature. The carriers have enormous advantages here, and not just in billing out the usual scarcities, or leveraging the lame assumptions all carriers, cable included, inherit from the late Ma Bell.

For example, I have Verizon FiOS at my apartment in Boston. I get 20Mb of symmetrical service for about $65 a month. On top of that they offer some premium services, only one of which I want: offsite backup. I’d try to get it, but there’s no link to the service on that page; just a promo. So I’ll give up on that for the moment (I’m in Santa Barbara anyway) while I point to the Verizon FiOS Internet for Business pricing page. Here the prices start at levels much higher than home pricing. What’s the difference? I can see reasons for charging a bit more, but why that much? How much business does this kind of Old Skool captive-market tiering prevent rather than encourage?

For that matter, why should my Internet service take a back seat to television, which soaks up most of my actual fiber-to-the-home bandwidth. Says here that’s 2.4Gb downstream and 1.4Gb upstream. Most of the downstream is devoted to live TV that I don’t watch. Most of the upstream is wasted.

Think about what could be done with that capacity. Don’t think about any business that now exists, much less of protecting it. Just think about what new uses and businesses could grow in those wide-open spaces. Think about how those new businesses would justify even more fiber-to-the-home build-out by Verizon and everybody else.

We have a friend over here who is new to chat. So we got her going on Gmail so she can talk with a variety of others with different clients. But her new Gmail account tells her in the chat window that chat is off and that she must sign out and sign back in again to make it work. It doesn’t, and still says the same thing. Any ideas? Thanks!

During the long drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara yesterday we looked forward to vegging on the couch and taking in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, recorded earlier but presented in prime time by NBC on its local affiliates.

With our nice Sony flat screen, fed by our top-end Dish Network receiver, we figured to be watching the show in high-def. But Dish wasn’t obliging. Seems that getting the locals up in HD is a bit of a chore. Dish doesn’t publish a schedule for that, but DirecTV does. Here’s the list of 150 markets where DirecTV will be introducing local HD channels to the whole HD line-up, gradually, month by month. Santa Barbara’s not on it. Being the number 200-something market, we’re pretty far down the priority list. Since DirecTV and Dish compete pretty much across the board, I’m sure Dish will be just as slow at getting those to us.

To Dish’s credit, my call for help got escalated to a high-level support person who was far more helpful than the first person I talked to. He said that a steady fiber-optic link had to be established between each local affiliate and Dish’s uplink center near Denver. This takes time, and accounts for the hold-up.

Turns out CNBC and USA have a lot of Olympics coverage too; but not, apparently, of the opening ceremonies. Not that I could tell, anyway.

Some of the time we can get HDTV over the air from San Diego and Tijuana, which are more tan 200 miles away, across the open Pacific. But last night (only a few hours ago as I write this) only the ABC signal came in. NBC is the Olympics network, and the San Diego NBC affiliate, KNSD, wasn’t there. (Over-the-air (OTA) digital transmission is kinda binary. You get it or you don’t.)

Our “local” NBC affiliate is KSBY from San Luis Obispo. Its low-def signal on Channel 6 is a long way off in any case, and at the end of its journey here slams into the 4000-foot high Santa Ynez mountains. The station’s HD signal, on UHF channel 15, might as well be coming from Alaska, since UHF signals don’t travel nearly as well as VHF (channels 2-13).

So we settled for KSBY’s low-def picture, which reaches us by a route that leaps mountains by running a 50,000 mile route from San Luis Obispo to Denver to a satellite over the equator and then down to us here in Santa Barbara.

It’s all actually a pretty messy system, considering.

And I’m expecting it to get a lot messier after next February 17th.

Here’s a photo tour of another Channel 6 transmitter site, also doomed to go dark in February.

Olympics in low-def

During the long drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara yesterday we looked forward to vegging on the couch and taking in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, recorded earlier but presented in prime time by NBC on its local affiliates.

With our nice Sony flat screen, fed by our top-end Dish Network receiver, we figured to be watching the show in high-def. But Dish wasn’t obliging. Seems that getting the locals up in HD is a bit of a chore. Dish doesn’t publish a schedule for that, but DirecTV does. Here’s the list of 150 markets where DirecTV will be introducing local HD channels to the whole HD line-up, gradually, month by month. Santa Barbara’s not on it. Being the number 200-something market, we’re pretty far down the priority list. Since DirecTV and Dish compete pretty much across the board, I’m sure Dish will be just as slow at getting those to us.

To Dish’s credit, my call for help got escalated to a high-level support person who was far more helpful than the first person I talked to. He said that a steady fiber-optic link had to be established between each local affiliate and Dish’s uplink center near Denver. This takes time, and accounts for the hold-up.

Turns out CNBC and USA have a lot of Olympics coverage too; but not, apparently, of the opening ceremonies. Not that I could tell, anyway.

Some of the time we can get HDTV over the air from San Diego and Tijuana, which are more tan 200 miles away, across the open Pacific. But last night (only a few hours ago as I write this) only the ABC signal came in. NBC is the Olympics network, and the San Diego NBC affiliate, KNSD, wasn’t there. (Over-the-air (OTA) digital transmission is kinda binary. You get it or you don’t.)

Our “local” NBC affiliate is KSBY from San Luis Obispo. Its low-def signal on Channel 6 is a long way off in any case, and at the end of its journey here slams into the 4000-foot high Santa Ynez mountains. The station’s HD signal, on UHF channel 15, might as well be coming from Alaska, since UHF signals don’t travel nearly as well as VHF (channels 2-13).

So we settled for KSBY’s low-def picture, which reaches us by a route that leaps mountains by running a 50,000 mile route from San Luis Obispo to Denver to a satellite over the equator and then down to us here in Santa Barbara.

It’s all actually a pretty messy system, considering.

And I’m expecting it to get a lot messier after next February 17th.

Here’s a photo tour of another Channel 6 transmitter site, also doomed to go dark in February.

This is worse than sad news. One winces to read Elizabeth Edwards post about it on DailyKos. It ends,

  I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.

Celebrity voyeurism is the neon-lit armpit of every culture infected by it, especially when its light and stink surround the wounded. As voters, however, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the country was spared another Bill Clinton: a man whose little head told his big head what to do — at risk to everybody else’s, starting with his own family.

Greater radio

Nice to learn that Joe Frank, one of the greatest radio artists of all time, is back. In a way. You can listen in a browser to .wma selections from albums he sells. It would be nice for Joe to make those available as .mp3s as podcasts.

Maybe when we get this put together we can find a new way for him to make money with his art.

This here suggests I’m right brained. I can’t get the dancer to spin left.

Not sure where to go with that, other than nowhere. Maybe if I were left-brained I’d have a strategy.

Hat tip to Sheila Lennon… who [later...] adds this bonus link.

My Wikipedia entry is once again the stub it was. The threatening stuff at the top of the page is gone. The deletion debate page is now archived. At the top it says,

  The result was Clear case of snow. Article needs some improvement, but doesn’t require deletion to address issues.. TravellingCari 01:58, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

I’m not sure what “clear case of snow” means. Is it that there were twelve votes to keep the entry and none for deletion? Or is it wikipedia-speak for something else? No matter. I’m glad the entry was saved, and grateful to the folks who helped save it — both on that page and in comments elsewhere. Much appreciated.

I used to think I should do more writing and editing in Wikipedia; to put my shoulder to the vast wheel of a project from which I draw many benefits and contribute almost nothing. I know lots of well-sourced material I could bring to many subjects, and I could help with copy editing on many more. In fact I could spend the rest of my life doing nothing but editing poorly-written articles on Wikipedia. So could lots of other people.

I hate to say it, but there are more highly leveraged things I can do. Most of those involve writing as well — writing that’s mine and not anybody else’s. I turned sixty-one last week. While I have just as much energy and drive as I’ve ever had, I also know that I’m ratcheting down the short end of life’s stick. I need to do more of something I’ve always sucked at: investing my time wisely and deliberately, even as I continue to enjoy spelunking down the digressive tunnels of my insatiable curiousity about damn near everything. As digressive intellectual tunnels go, Wikipedia has no rivals in the online world. Among those digressions is figuring out how Wikipedia works, and how to participate in a fully engaged and meaningul way. I feel like I need to be a lawyer to figure out all the rules.

So here’s what I’ve learned and now need to put to work.

First, I need to write newspaper op-eds. Here’s a good one by Dan Gillmor that ran the other day in the San Francisco Chronicle. And here’s another, by David Weinberger, in the Boston Globe. I should follow their lead.

Second, I should start writing books. For real. Since Cluetrain came out, Chris Locke and David Weinberger have put out two books apiece. Me: none. I’ve been accumulating text toward The Giant Zero, which is about the Net and its infrastructure (which I believe is inadequately understood — by everybody, including myself). I’m part of an offline community that’s working toward establishing a think tank or an academic center (like Berkman and CITS) we’re calling the Internet Infrastructure Institute. A lot of the writing is excellent fodder toward that book. My corpus of writing for Linux Journal contains more than enough material to gather into a book. There’s also the history quietly being made by the VRM community as we work toward giving customers far more power in the marketplace (among other good things).

So the will and the ways are there. I just need to make the time and use it wisely. Advice is welcome, because I’m sub-optimal at both.

Yesterday I not only learned that my Wikipedia entry was nominated for deletion, but that Tara Hunt‘s went through the same process a while back — and failed to survive. She’s still here in the physical world, still on the rest of the Web, but gone from Wikipedia.

I’m also sure her experience with Wikipedia deletion — being marched to the gallows by a finger-pointing Wikipedian, then standing there while the gathered crowd gave a thumbs-down before the trap door dropped — was reason alone to write The Whuffie Factor, a forthcoming book that comprises the entire Usage section of Wikipedia’s whuffie entry. There is a link for Tara there, and for the book too. You can follow Tara’s to the deletion log, where you’ll find records of its execution. The book is graced with pure potential: it has no entry yet.

I’m impressed at how well Tara took her sentence, while awaiting her entry’s execution:

There are oodles of entries on Wikipedia like this, though. Debatable ‘notables’, some who obviously do use their pages as their resum√©, many people who have, obviously, accomplished a lot in their lifetime, but who are not widely known for these accomplishments and missing any ‘notable third party sources’. Others I searched for are nowhere to be found, who are well-known authors, presenters, inventors and real thought leaders. But they haven’t been quoted or featured by some national publication to be verified as mattering to history. And all judgements on “delete” or “keep” are still made by a handful of individuals.
Is Wikipedia the people’s encyclopedia? Well, no. Not really. I mean, it gets closer than the Encyclopedia Britannica, but it uses similar editorial guidelines. Its advantage is that there are more sources (people) to add entries so that it can grow and encompass knowledge faster than the small, paid editorial team at EB. But I don’t think it was meant to be the people’s encyclopedia and this is where our tempers run high.
I could think, “I’m being deleted? What do these jerks know about my accomplishments?” and be personally offended and upset by this. But Wikipedia is no measure of my worth. It’s an encyclopedia that is editable and online. Period.
Should there be an encyclopedia of people? Well, there is already. It includes the internet, but extends into phonebooks, government records and personal anecdotes. Maybe we can’t all be written into history like we want to be, but know that this is a century’s old issue: History is not ‘a fact’, it is a point of view. History has been written by a small percentage of the population over time and, because of ‘scaling problems’, will probably continue in the same fashion.

Fine points, gracefully delivered.

I think the main problem for Wikipedia isn’t just scaling. It’s that Wikipedia is worst at something it is also best at: dealing with living subjects. On the one hand I’m astonished at how well Wikipedia stays on top of changing topics such as the world’s tallest structures. (Here’s a second entry, and a third.) On the other I’ve often winced at how lousy Wikipedia can be at presenting accurate biographical information about living people (Dave Winer comes to mind), and at maintaining both accuracy and neutrality on topics such as, well, neutrality. Too much of what gets written are iterative errors and approximations by partisans.

That’s why I’ve always been happy enough with a Wikipedia stub. Soon as you get past the minimal, errors and approximations set in.

All of reality is a work in progress. Especially the tiny corner of the universe that supports life. We need to remember that the Net is still new, the Web is even newer. That both have profound effects on life is undeniable. But it’s a few seconds after the Big Bang and all we have a few light elements, a lot of heat, and no galaxies. The best we can do, as Kurt Vonnegut taught, is just to be kind to each other.

Making the D list

For as long as I’ve had an entry on Wikipedia, that entry has been a “stub”: a minimal placeholder. Humbling, but at least what little it says about me is mostly accurate. And I’ve quietly enjoyed seeing what happens (or doesn’t) when one lets nature take its course with this kind of thing.

Now I learn from Rex Hammock that somebody (or bodies) at Wikipedia think I might not be “notable” enough (or something… not clear to me). So my entry now begins with “This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy.” The deletion notice is as big as the entry itself.

It continues,

Please share your thoughts on the matter at this article’s entry on the Articles for deletion page.

Feel free to edit the article, but the article must not be blanked, and this notice must not be removed, until the discussion is closed. For more information, particularly on merging or moving the article during the discussion, read the guide to deletion.

So I guess we’ll see.

New daze

We’ve been having a lot of thunderstorms this summer in Boston. On Sunday we followed the last ones out of town, veering west after departing from Logan, while the clouds puffed off to the east. The dawn weather was dreary at ground level, but quite pretty, as clouds go, from altitude. So here’s a set of pictures I shot on the way out of town.

Most of the rest of the trip was cloudy, wasting a perfectly okay window with no obstructions. But I still got nearly 200 shots. I’ll be putting the rest of those up soon.

When you charge somebody for a service, your charge embodies your costs. That’s just the way business works. You bear the costs of overhead, and you charge enough to make a profits above that overhead. So, if you’re a hotel, your room rates embody the costs of heating, air conditioning, water, electricity, maid service and other necessities. Those are all overhead.

It’s time to look at Internet service the same way. Providing it should be as astandard at hotels as providing water and electric service.

Actually, more and more hotels are starting to realize this. Oddly, they’re mostly low-end hotels. But bravo for them. At least in those cases they seem to have worked out the kinks. I’ve had many fewer problems getting online over free Internet at cheap hotels than I’ve had getting online over paid Internet at expensive hotels. In fact, the costs of running a pay toilet business around Internet service are themselves pretty high, I’d reckon. You’ve got all these labor-intensive value-subtracts to maintain, starting with servers that throw login pages at users, and bump users offline if no activity is detected. These things are Murphy bait.

Of course I’m in the middle of one such mess right now, in San Francisco, where I’m paying $9.95 per day, per device, to not get online. (Luckily I have a Sprint EvDO card. But I’d rather get on a solid Net connection with more upstream speed than the EvDO card can muster.)

There is nothing wrong with a hotel hiring some outside company to make sure guests have working Internet service. But there is something wrong with a hotel offloading the entire service, and then charging guests for it. Can you imagine a hotel charging extra for water or electricity — and then sending you to some outside company to get it running if it isn’t working?

I’ve said it before and keep repeating it until it sinks in: Charging for Internet in hotels is like charging for toilets. Hotels need to get out of the pay toilet business.

What are some companies that help hotels provide free Internet to guests? Let’s have their names and pass them along. I’ll start with my hotel right here. (Where I’m currently waiting for a call from this hotel’s outside company.)

[Later...] So, at least empirically, we’ve found the solution that is also the problem: the hotel’s wi-fi system was only tested with Internet Explorer. We couldn’t get it to work with a Mac laptop or with a Linux one, each running Firefox and the former also running Safari. But when the Mac laptop fired up an ancient copy of Internet Explorer, it worked. How lame is that?

Right now I can’t log into this blog. Not through the WordPress browser dashboard, anyway. For some reason, my logged-in state was lost, just like my password to it.

My outliner knows the login and password, though. So I’m able to blog that way, which is how I post generally. But I need to be logged in to make comments as myself, or to post pictures.

Anyway, it’s a weekend, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get stuff staightened until Monday. Meanwhile I’ll be flying and driving a lot, as well as working. So, happy trails.