Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jury Nullification - fact or fiction?

It's been a week since Aaron Schwartz gave up, and decided he had no options left. Why has it take me all this time to even consider if asking the jury for reasonable compromise was an option?

I have no idea if jury nullification is something that can be done in the 21st Century here in the US or not. If not, then I believe we need to change it, NOW.

Could someone reading this give me a good solid non-wikipedia based answer as to what would have happened if Aaron had tried to use this concept in his defense against rabid prosecutors?

I want to know.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Self Valeting Cars

Imagine a car that can go find it's own parking spot, and return when you call it on your phone.

It could come get you if you need a ride, and are stuck at the office.

Imagine if ZIP cars could do this!

The future is cool again!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Critique of modern discourse

A Metafilter story got me to writing about the problems with modern discourse as seen on the Internet. I thought I would spend some time refining and extending those thoughts here. By no means is this the definitive word on what's wrong with the internet, but I hope that a cogent summary might help fix things.

Time Pressure

1. First post phenomenon - On a site such as /., comments are sorted by default in the order they are received  This means that the first post gets the most feedback, and sets the tone for the rest of discussion. This results in a bunch of hasty, emotional, not well considered crap that then has to be moderated around in order to extract value.

2. 15 Minutes of fame. - Any post gets attention, and then gets pushed under by the oncoming store of other stories in 15 minutes, maybe a bit more if you're evil like Carmen Ortiz... but only a bit more. This means that any effort you do put into something isn't going to pay off much.

Text is Messy

3. Comments on a message board are usually undifferentiated text, sometimes with a bit of formatting. There is no easy way to tell visually what the meaning is without forcing oneself to read it all, and then start to draw out conclusions about structure, agreement/disagreement, etc.

Moderation is a kludge

4. Most moderation systems are a layer of code designed to filter out crap, and help extract some value from an otherwise overwhelming amount of undiluted text. Like spam filters, there are behaviors and techniques that get used to route around them.

  The most common form of moderation system is to have a ranking system (like/dislike), which turns commenting into a popularity contest. The funniest or most vocal viewpoints drown out everything else.

5. Popularity contests are 1 dimensional - There are lots of reasons someone might want to flag a post (which isn't quite granular enough for me, but you have to start somewhere)... agreeing with a post as "having value" is the standard here in the blue, but elsewhere it's a direct measure of the groupthink agreement. (/.  for example)

Wouldn't it be better to have multiple dimensions of ratings? Factual/wrong, Conservative/Liberal, Cheap/Expensive, True/Lie, etc.?  They wouldn't have to be the same set of things either, but it would be easier to code for lets say Funny, True, Insightful as separate (orthogonal) dimensions.

6. The missing half of Facebook - Facebook doesn't allow the inclusion of negative votes, so it's actually only 1/2 dimensional.

Anonymous people are assholes
7. Anonymity allows people to say things they'd not say in person. Remember the Id in Forbidden Planet?

So, how can we help fix it?
There are a number of strategies to be used to help fix this.

Use your blog more
The first is to blog more, and comment less. If you find yourself writing something in a comment that seems to be really insightful, make a more refined blog post out of it (linking back to the discussion for context). Blog posts are better than comments on someone else's site for a number of reasons:

  • You own the post, and can tweak it later if necessary. This times into and builds your reputation internet-wide, instead of in on little corner of it, subject to whim.
  • The post can be found later, as a stand-alone piece to be referenced, and can be more self-contained.
  • Time pressure is less because blog posts can stay "popular" for years. A few hits per month done a few dozen times means you're always getting feedback and links.
  • If you've already written about a particular view, link back to it, and perhaps tweak it a bit with improvements.
Build a better commenting system
Someone (me?) needs to come up with a better commenting/moderation system, that allows the multiple dimensional rating that I discussed above. It would be nice to discover visually how the arguments are inter-related about a given topic, to allow one to focus ones time better, and improve signal/(signal+noise) ratio.

Review your comments periodically
It would be good if we all where to re-read the things we've written with some distance of time, and get a better sense of ourselves. This can help us to all be better writers and readers.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Meme Patrol

I recently posted the following on Metafilter, only to find it "disappeared" in 1984 style.

I find the idea of "meme patrol" to be the key here... imagine if you can watch for people who might have an insight that helps in opposing your cause, and then deliberately derail them (while building a big database of such people).
You could quickly know what to look for, who to try to discourage, etc., you'd be able to wisely leverage resources in a manner far better than astroturfing, etc.
Imagine if you had a technology that was top secret, and wanted to delay it's eventual re-discovery by the masses... this would be the way to do it. Find people who are starting to figure it out, and target them in a subtle but persistent manner.
... now I have to wait for the meta-troll to come after me. ;-)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Tooling up at PS:1

I'm now the metal shop host at Pumping Station One, a makerspace in Chicago. We've received quite a few donations in the past year, and we're working on getting everything up to speed. We're "tooling up". I've taken the last 2 visits to build a few accessories for the machine tools.

Sunday I made a chuck key for our Prazi Lathe.


Today, I made my first project of 2013, a tool holder for the Grizzly lathe.

Tool_Holder_1 Tool_Holder_Mounted

The year is off to a good start. 8)

Welcome back, Doc!

Doc Searls has resolved to start blogging daily again, and I say welcome back. I think he's on to something, so I'll join in the fray as well. It's time to get away from the walled garden that is Facebook, and to re-invest time and energy in a more open and free way.

It's a new year, and a time for looking back, taking stock, and setting a new course. I've spent time reading a lot of things, some of which I file here with the tag Wisdom, on delicious, a social bookmarking service. The most recent entry is to a post by Paul Kingsnorth about finding a way out of the technological progress trap we're all embedded inside of. It's thought provoking, and reminds me that I'm an adult, and have some heavy duty choices to make. Part of it is devoting time and energy at my local hackerspace, PS:1 in Chicago, where I'm now in charge of the metal shop. (Me, an amateur machinist).

I think it's time to more intelligently deploy the resources I have left, and to be more aware of the consequences that I can generate if I'm careful and a bit lucky.

Thanks for your time and attention.

PS: I'm looking for work, by the way. I've been outsourced.