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My mobile’s bat­tery is flat, so to call my mum to pick me up from the sta­tion, I’ve turned on my work laptop, con­nec­ted to Tel­stra Nex­tG, con­nec­ted to VPN using my secure token, logged into Cisco IP Com­mu­nic­at­or (which emu­lates the IP phones we have on our desks at work) and then made a call using that. That’s pretty cool (but not quite as cool as this).

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Wiki­pe­dia: built on cooper­a­tion and col­lab­or­a­tion

Wiki­pe­dia depends on col­lab­or­a­tion for suc­cess (18 Septem­ber 2008, Daily Tro­jan)

Pro­fess­or Robert E. Kraut of Carne­gie Mel­lon Uni­ver­sity dis­cussed the factors that are involved in the suc­cess of online com­munit­ies, and his own research into the coordin­a­tion tech­niques of Wiki­pe­dia. Suc­cess in an online com­munity can be defined in a num­ber of ways, he said, but to suc­ceed, online com­munit­ies need to over­come chal­lenges such as a lack of response to posts, recruit­ing mem­bers and wel­com­ing new­comers. Focus­ing on Wiki­pe­dia, Kraut said that Wiki­pe­dia art­icles require “an awful lot of sub­stan­tial coordin­a­tion”, for example, in plan­ning the art­icle or deal­ing with dis­putes. There is expli­cit coordin­a­tion (such as through plan­ning and dis­cuss­ing) and impli­cit coordin­a­tion (such as through struc­tur­ing), he said, and the coordin­a­tion work lies beneath the sur­face of the art­icle.

Oth­er men­tions

Oth­er recent men­tions in the online media include:

  • Defin­ing the Bush Doc­trine: Not as Simple as it Sounds (15 Septem­ber 2008, The Wall Street Journ­al blogs)
    Sarah Palin’s gaffe focuses atten­tion on the Bush Doc­trine art­icle.
  • Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales on wiki suc­cess and fail­ure (11 Septem­ber 2008, ZDNet blogs)
    Listen to a pod­cast where Jimmy Wales dis­cusses the factors that lead to suc­cess or fail­ure for a wiki, such as crit­ic­al mass.
  • Wiki­pe­dia Sleuths Win Journ­al­ism Award for Wired​.com (10 Septem­ber 2008, Wired​.com blogs)
    A Wired​.com blog won an award for com­bin­ing a vot­ing wid­get with the WikiScan­ner applic­a­tion to let read­ers high­light self-inter­ested edits to Wiki­pe­dia.
  • Ver­non Kay shocked at death by Wiki­pe­dia (15 Septem­ber 2008, TechRadar UK)
    Tele­vi­sion host Ver­non Kay has had his Wiki­pe­dia bio­graphy van­dal­ised to say that he had died in a yacht­ing acci­dent, when he is per­fectly well and alive.
  • Knol, the Wiki­pe­dia Maybe-Fork? (19 Septem­ber 2008, Slash­dot)
    The author of this art­icle sug­gests that Google Knol accept CC-BY-SA con­tri­bu­tions, so that once the GFDL is com­pat­ible with CC-BY-SA, copy­ing to Knol will be com­pletely above board; this will facil­it­ate the cre­ation of, effect­ively, flagged revi­sions of Wiki­pe­dia art­icles, sup­por­ted by people’s repu­ta­tions.
  • How Wiki­pe­dia Works (19 Septem­ber 2008, Kan­sas City infoZ­ine)
    This is a book review of the book How Wiki­pe­dia Works, writ­ten by a num­ber of prom­in­ent Wiki­pe­di­ans.

From the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post.

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The Plan­et 3 ser­vices can be accessed on your 3 phone by press­ing the but­ton on the home screen, which launches the phone’s default browser.

But what if you want to use Plan­et 3 using Opera Mini?

The short answer is, you can’t. The author of this post thinks that it’s due to the serv­er restrict­ing access to the built-in browsers, but I don’t think this is the cor­rect reas­on.

Opera Mini, accord­ing to Wiki­pe­dia, uses a proxy serv­er hos­ted by Opera that renders the page in a spe­cial com­pressed format. Now, it should be axio­mat­ic that Plan­et 3 is not access­ible out­side the 3 net­work, and the proxy serv­ers are def­in­itely loc­ated out­side the net­work. Q.E.D.

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Wikis knock­ing on the iron gates of Oxford

Andrew Keen on New Media – Recently, Inter­net com­ment­at­or Andrew Keen was at Oxford Uni­ver­sity togeth­er with Wiki­pe­dia co-founder Larry Sanger to debate wheth­er “the inter­net is the future of know­ledge”. Keen notes that it was iron­ic for the dis­cus­sion – includ­ing dis­cus­sion of wheth­er the inter­net was demo­crat­ising the cre­ation and dis­tri­bu­tion of know­ledge – to have occurred at Oxford, a rep­res­ent­at­ive of the “ivory tower busi­ness mod­el for know­ledge”. He notes that estab­lish­ment of Oxford Uni­ver­sity by a wealthy landown­er con­trasts with the ori­gins of Wiki­pe­dia, and sites like Wiki­pe­dia and Cit­izen­di­um are driv­ing the adop­tion of wikis, pod­casts and blogs, even by tra­di­tion­al know­ledge com­pan­ies. Keen found the response of Oxford fac­ulty and stu­dents to the demo­crat­ic poten­tial of the inter­net enthu­si­ast­ic and “any­thing but snooty”.

Oth­er men­tions

Oth­er recent men­tions in online media include:

From the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post.

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High-school stu­dents study course on Wiki­pe­dia

HSC stu­dents to get Wiki­pe­dia course – As of next year, the Eng­lish cur­riculum for stu­dents sit­ting for the High­er School Cer­ti­fic­ate, which is taken in New South Wales, Aus­tralia, will incor­por­ate an elect­ive called “Glob­al Vil­lage”, which will include the option of study­ing Wiki­pe­dia. Explain­ing the choice of Wiki­pe­dia, the Eng­lish inspect­or at the Board of Stud­ies, which over­sees the HSC, said that Wiki­pe­dia reflects “notions of the glob­al vil­lage”, and that the course will allow stu­dents to exam­ine com­mu­nic­a­tions on a glob­al scale. There has been a pos­it­ive response from edu​ca​tion​.au, a not-for-profit edu­ca­tion­al organ­isa­tion that brought Wiki­pe­dia co-founder Jimmy Wales to Aus­tralia on a speak­ing engage­ment last year. The CEO of edu​ca​tion​.au, Greg Black, said that young people need to learn how to under­stand and con­tex­tu­al­ise the inform­a­tion they gath­er on the Inter­net and to determ­ine “wheth­er there’s an altern­at­ive view”.

Oth­er men­tions

Oth­er recent men­tions in the online press include:

  • Clinton’s entry in Wiki­pe­dia has a watch­dog – One of the edit­ors watch­ing over Hil­lary Clinton’s Wiki­pe­dia bio­graphy has been brought unex­pec­ted celebrity and is pro­filed by this art­icle.
  • The Wiki busi­ness plan – Sue Gard­ner and Kul Wad­h­wa talk about growth plans for Wiki­me­dia, the busi­ness side of the found­a­tion, and future oppor­tun­it­ies.
  • REPN TRI to the FULLEST!!! — “[A]s a mod­el of dis­course, it’s a kill­joy”; this author believes that the style of the prose on Wiki­pe­dia is apt to lead stu­dents to believe that intel­lec­tu­al dis­course is “leaden” and “spir­it­less”.

As pub­lished in the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post

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You may know that I write for the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post, and recently, I wrote an art­icle for it on the com­par­is­on between Wiki­pe­dia and Google Knol. In the end, the art­icle I wrote was sub­stan­tially over­hauled by the edit­or because it was an opin­ion piece biased towards one view — inten­tion­ally. Although opin­ion some­times does make it into the Sign­post, the edit­or felt that was not the time nor place for it, and so he rewrote most of it in a more object­ive style. So it’s old news, but instead of wast­ing (some­what) good prose, here it is:

Google usu­ally makes a noisy entry wherever it dares to tread, and this week’s announce­ment of Knol, a site that will host user-gen­er­ated art­icles was no dif­fer­ent. Wiki­pe­di­ans, how­ever, should have noth­ing to fear.

Knol, which is cur­rently only access­ible to a select few who have been invited, will be a site that hosts user-gen­er­ated con­tent on a wide range of sub­jects. The term knol was coined by Google to mean a unit of know­ledge, and refers to the entire pro­ject as well as indi­vidu­al art­icles. While the jury is still out on wheth­er Knol will be suc­cess­ful, or wheth­er it will even make it to a pub­lic launch, the obvi­ous com­par­is­on that has sparked the Inter­net alight is with Wiki­pe­dia.

There are some imme­di­ately appar­ent dif­fer­ences between Knol and Wiki­pe­dia. The most import­ant one is that Knol is not a wiki. Con­tent pages will be owned by a single author and that sole author has the respons­ib­il­ity of main­tain­ing its con­tent; users can par­ti­cip­ate by sug­gest­ing edits, or by rat­ing or com­ment­ing on the art­icle, but that’s about it. There is no Wiki­pe­dia-style col­lab­or­a­tion mod­el; in fact, it is dif­fi­cult to see how there can be much of a strong com­munity. The single author approach admit­tedly has its attrac­tions, though; an author’s repu­ta­tion lives and dies by his or her words, and this builds trust into the equa­tion. How­ever, as many have noted, this denies Knol one of the more valu­able aspects of Wiki­pe­dia art­icles, that con­tro­ver­sial art­icles are likely to have been edited by a vari­ety of users who have had to com­prom­ise to pro­duce a rel­at­ively neut­ral and bal­anced piece of work. The com­pet­i­tion between dif­fer­ent Knol pages will not neces­sar­ily res­ult in great­er util­ity for the end user.

This com­pet­i­tion is what will define Knol, and this fur­ther dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from Wiki­pe­dia. Writers of Knol con­tent will have the abil­ity to insert Google advert­ising into their pages and earn a cut of the res­ult­ing rev­en­ue. Wiki­pe­dia, on the oth­er hand, is advert­ising-free, and the com­pet­i­tion on this site, if you can call it that, is one more akin to a friendly mer­ito­cracy than the harsh world of chas­ing advert­ising dol­lars. Knol, from its very found­a­tions, does not seem con­du­cive to a com­munity spir­it, some­thing that may keep edit­ors on Wiki­pe­dia.

But maybe Google doesn’t need a sense of com­munity. Cyn­ic­ally, all it needs is for people to link to Knol art­icles, have the pages appear close to the top of its widely-used search res­ults and then have its advert­ising cash registers chink­ing; by com­par­is­on, send­ing people to Wiki­pe­dia does Google no dir­ect fin­an­cial favours. Wiki­pe­dia could lose out by hav­ing less incom­ing traffic, and there­fore less expos­ure to new, poten­tial edit­ors.

Knol is an inter­est­ing idea that will surely stim­u­late debate about how the face of user-gen­er­ated con­tent should pro­ceed. It cur­rently appears as neither friend nor foe, but as anoth­er choice for users that will prob­ably sat­is­fy its own niche.

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I’m sur­prised I didn’t know about this till recently, but Google Blog Search is some­thing that no blog­ger should ignore. (Here are some oth­er, albeit some­what old, first impres­sions.) Appar­ently, Google believes in blogs — “Google is a strong believ­er in the self-pub­lish­ing phe­nomen­on rep­res­en­ted by blog­ging…” — and extends their search prowess to the world of blogs. It looks and feels just like the stand­ard Google search, but one must ask the ques­tion: why both­er search­ing blogs? After all, aren’t blogs (like this one), just filled with the imma­ture rants of wan­nabe writers who just wouldn’t cut it in the real world of journ­al­ism?

No, I don’t believe it’s true in gen­er­al. Sure, the qual­ity of blogs does vary quite a bit — but they all serve some kind of a pur­pose. Wheth­er it’s a pro­fes­sion­al blog­ger con­trib­ut­ing in his or her field of expert­ise, or a uni­ver­sity stu­dent writ­ing about life, the uni­verse and crap like that, it’s all because they have some­thing to say. The abil­ity to link between blogs and com­ment on blogs cre­ates a kind of dynam­ic that encour­ages people to think — instead of merely being pass­ive con­sumers. That is a great thing to see. I sup­pose Andrew Keen wouldn’t agree, but just because he’s pub­lished in dead tree form doesn’t amount to much: see the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post review. By being able to search exclus­ively in blogs, you too can par­ti­cip­ate in this part of the Inter­net — par­ti­cip­ate in free speech. You can find out things that tra­di­tion­al media will not cov­er — how-to’s in obscure top­ics, polit­ic­al rants that match your per­sua­sion. The res­ults you get are pretty good — see this descrip­tion of how it all works. Yes, Google’s thor­ough.

For blog­gers, it is import­ant that you are indexed by search engines, even if you are a small time blog­ger like me. What’s the point of writ­ing pub­licly if you don’t actu­ally intend on any­one read­ing it? I had known of Tech­nor­ati before this, but Tech­nor­ati has many irrit­a­tions that oth­er blog­gers have covered and I won’t cov­er here; any­way, Google’s over­taken it. To ping Google Blog Search, just add http://​blog​search​.google​.com/​p​i​n​g​/​R​PC2 to your list of serv­ers to ping.

In oth­er news, Google Maps fea­tures con­tent for the 2007 fed­er­al elec­tion. Click on the “My Maps” tab and it’s under the “Fea­tured con­tent” part. Over­lay the party col­ours onto the map of Aus­tralia, and you’d be sur­prised about the land area that the Liberals/​Nationals rep­res­ent!

On a final note, Google Blog Search and these spe­cial maps rather emblem­at­ic of the prob­lem that Google has so many fant­ast­ic ser­vices writ­ten by so many fant­ast­ic engin­eers that just aren’t see­ing much of the light of day because… there are just so many of them.

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As I trawl the depths of the Inter­web, I’ve been jot­ting down ideas for what to blog on my digit­al post-it notes in the Vista Side­bar. (Notion­ally, it’s because I only want to inund­ate my blog but maybe I’m pro­cras­tin­at­ing on doing my pro­cras­tin­at­ing activ­it­ies — not a good sign). Sadly, I some­how mis­took the delete but­ton for the add but­ton, and I deleted everything but here’s a few I remembered.

Sad kitty: my cats would hate this — this surely counts as anim­al cruelty! Only in Japan…


Are the days of the SMS numbered? As the only per­son using mobile Inter­net reg­u­larly that I know of, I’ll just say some­thing quickly. No, I don’t think email (in its cur­rent form) can sup­plant SMS. Put­ting aside the repu­ta­tion of email as being for more “ser­i­ous stuff”, email is fun­da­ment­ally a pull medi­um, not a push medi­um that SMS is. The usu­ally widely dif­fer­ent uses of the two medi­ums doesn’t really make a strong argu­ment for the con­ver­gence of the two — one’s for short quick mes­sages that you’d prefer to be received instantly, while the other’s for longer mes­sages that can be diges­ted at the recipient’s leis­ure. I guess you could do some­thing like what Google has done by mesh­ing email and chat togeth­er in Gmail, the logic being that both are about con­ver­sa­tions, and they’re just dif­fer­ent mani­fest­a­tions of the same thing… but I just don’t see SMS and email togeth­er as offer­ing any addi­tion­al bene­fits to what we have cur­rently. In terms of cost, yes, one SMS nom­in­ally costs a lot more than one email, but my cap plan at least allows me to treat SMS as an all you can eat thing — I can’t pos­sibly use it all up unless I text day in day out.

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An excel­lent review on the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post of Andrew Keen’s book, The Cult of the Ama­teur: How Today’s Inter­net is Killing Our Cul­ture: here

A less harsh review here

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I noticed, and a couple of oth­er people also noticed, that someone from Symantec pos­ted a com­ment on a pre­vi­ous post, where I flamed Norton Anti­Vir­us 2007. I’ll write a little more ration­ally this time. Before I con­tin­ue, I’d like to say that it’s nice to see that they care so much about their pub­lic image cus­tom­ers. How­ever, part of me thinks that their PR slush fund might be bet­ter spent on hir­ing more qual­ity-assur­ance per­son­nel.

Put simply, anti-vir­us soft­ware is only neces­sit­ated by the hoards of people who basic­ally just click any­thing that moves. I’ve watched, trans­fixed, many times, as non-tech­nic­al users use the Inter­net and check their mail. I just don’t under­stand.

Until recently, I too have con­sidered anti-vir­us soft­ware to be the neces­sary yearly “Win­dows tax” that you’ve just got to pay… until it basic­ally struck me that in the last couple of years, we’ve had no instances of vir­us infec­ted files at all. In fact, because of our vigil­ance, we’ve also had no instances of spy­ware or adware at all in the last couple of years (as detec­ted by Ad-Aware and Spy­bot). Our ROI on secur­ity soft­ware is… zero.

That’s why I didn’t take up their offer of free tech­nic­al sup­port. Even if I had a desire to work out what was going wrong, it would’ve taken too much trouble to switch unin­stall AVG Free Edi­tion (which is really good — low resource usage, and did I men­tion that it was free?) and rein­stall NAV, and my sub­scrip­tion runs out about now (I was not intend­ing to renew), so there would’ve been abso­lutely no point in fix­ing it any­way.

So, farewell Symantec. For those of you who are won­der­ing what I use: AVG, Ad-Aware and Spy­bot on all machines; Sun­belt Kerio Per­son­al Fire­wall on XP, the built-in fire­wall on Vista. (The fire­wall isn’t strictly neces­sary, because I have a router that blocks most incom­ing con­nec­tions any­way.) I highly recom­mend all, and they’re all free.

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