Readying the shovel : an operetta in two parts
I don’t like people who throw about new terms as though they were old. It has the smell of name-dropping without any of the potential for gossip. So I’ve downgraded my opinion of people I’ve found using the phrase “shovel-ready” in recent weeks. It has reached such a state of malaise that today I went in search of the origins of the term.
To my surprise (but not yours, astute reader), the term originated with the owners of shovelready.com, who have used it for the past decade to refer to economic development projects in upstate new york that have “worked proactively with the State to address all major permitting issues, prior to a business expressing interest in the location“.
This became a designation used cross New York state, from where it no doubt came to the attention of its senators and later Obama. One might also take its popularity as a reflection on the excellence of the site design at shovelready.com — which I would guess drew Clinton and Obama and their aides to discuss it. So congratulations are in order to the underappreciated web designers at National Grid.
Sleep, glorious sleep!
yawnlog beta is live! Check it out. track your sleep patterns and those of your friends… and try to live up to your own goals.
nbsp;http://o–o.jp/ with new length-defining action!
Also: Fun with associative arrays. Wikipedia has never been faster. Now if only the edit button worked…
Infoslicer code released : reading Wikipedia subsets has never been easier!
The infoslicer project has finally released its code under the GPL. This project started many moons ago with a discussion between me, Anne Gentle and Todd Kelsey… Michael Priestley got involved and helped find new interest… Anne Gentle published a nice overview last year. Since then the project has changed a bit, absorbed some summer interns, and set up a code repository. And now it’s freely licensed as well.
From Laura Cowen‘s announcement today:
Non-developer types can download the InfoSlicer xo package to install on their OLPC (or other Sugar installation) from: http://sugarlabs.org/go/Activities/InfoSlicer
One caveat is that the xo package that you can download from there doesn’t contain any sample articles from Wikipedia (which ideally it would to help you get up and running more quickly using the tutorial). You can use InfoSlicer without these sample articles (you can download Wikipedia articles from within InfoSlicer anyway). If anyone is able to re-compile the xo package with sample articles in it, I can provide instructions on where to put the sample articles in the package so that InfoSlicer automatically picks them up when it starts.
Download infoslicer for the XO or run it on your own system, watch a video of infoslicer in action, and give it a whirl! You can send feedback to the OLPC library list, or specific feedback on downloading/reading wikitexts offline to the wikireader list (which is for wikireader discussions of all sorts, not only related to XOs).
Did someone say Яolcats?
No, not rollcats, but Яolcats — the glorious and gorgeous (and occasionally quite uncatty) lolcats of Russia.
Faves: March is a state of mind …
Gormless statistical studies and social analysis
I haven’t posted a rant for a while, so I though I’d share my frustration with a paper I recently read, filtered through a more distant conversation with Aaron Swartz.
I am interested in the bounty of social exploration open to those of us alive today — from creating new geography-neutral organizations and governing bodies to actively living multiple separated and separately valued lives more explicitly than every before. But sociology papers I read, by humanities scholars, technophiles, or artistic lawyers, seem to be all form and no substance.
Here is a popular coffee-table study from Yee & Bailenson at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab about online experiences influencing offline life. Enough people I respect (I have seen references to it twice in the past 2 days, prompting this post) refer to it off-hand to support related conversation, as though its conclusions were surely true, that I read it today. And publication and the attention of a Time.com article certainly lend credence to the study!
Yet on reviewing it, I find almost no aspects of it that are not misleading, naive, or methodologically suspect. Group selection seems lacking in depth, and the notion of “repeating” a study in the sense of verifying its results is used extremely loosely. The choice of motivation and introduction for the experiments are artificial and described in haste. Obvious dependence between different parts of an experiment are treated as unexpected discoveries (only after encountering results contrary to a hypothesis) rather than prepared for in advance. The language used obfuscates what is new about the study and what is universal, statistics are used as a bludgeon and to hide unconvincing results, and the interpretation of data in terms of human psychology is exaggerated in places and unsupported in others.
Here is the original paper.
This sort of practice seems commonplace; I do not mean to single out the authors, who for all I know are models of methodology in their subfield. Doing a study as an excuse to posit a personal opinion can effectively produce centuries of dialectic without furthering our understanding of fundamentals one whit; which may be valuable in its own right and enough for certain people. But it is not good for exploring of the boundaries of what is possible, or for discovering deeper truths, and it sure doesn’t satisfy me.