The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Fresno Fantastic
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Fresno Famous has been redesigned and Drupalized and is a wonder to behold.

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Instant RSS Feeds from E-mail
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emailsub.jpg Best previously-undiscovered Bloglines feature ever: At the bottom of the Bloglines menu, on the ‘My Feeds’ tab, you’ll find a link that reads “Create e-mail subscriptions.” Click on that link, and you will be taken to a magical place where Bloglines will generate a random e-mail address for you. Any e-mails sent to that address will show up as an RSS feed in whatever Bloglines folder you specify. Excellent.

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Micro vs. Macro in a Duel to the Death
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Get ready: I am about to compare Wikipedia to Wal-Mart.

Chris Anderson says the magic of Wikipedia (and other internet systems, e.g. Google) is that they work on hugely macro “probabilistic” scales. Think of it like this:

To put it another way, the quality range in Britannica goes from, say, 5 to 9, with an average of 7. Wikipedia goes from 0 to 10, with an average of, say, 5. But given that Wikipedia has ten times as many entries as Britannica, your chances of finding a reasonable entry on the topic you’re looking for are actually higher on Wikipedia. That doesn’t mean that any given entry will be better, only that the overall value of Wikipedia is higher than Britannica when you consider it from this statistical perspective.

Nick Carr replies:

OK, but what are the broader consequences? Might not this statistical optimization of “value” at the macroscale be a recipe for mediocrity at the microscale — the scale, it’s worth remembering, that defines our own individual lives and the culture that surrounds us?

So here goes: This seems analogous to the debate over Wal-Mart.

Read more…

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Happy Holidays
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A post by Douglas Rushkoff about Hanukkah and a Slate article about Kwanzaa each make the same point: call them made-up holidays if you want, mock their dubious origins, but recognize the very valid role each holiday plays for its culture by asserting “distinctiveness in the face of the forces of assimilation.” And speaking of holidays of dubious origin, I’ve taken to answering “Merry Christmas!” with “Io, Saturnalia!” although my family does celebrate a pretty traditional Christmas. So far, I’ve only gotten smiles in response. Next year I may try “Blessed Solstice!”

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Snapshot from the Uncanny City
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What’s wrong with this photograph? (Answer in the extended entry.)

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Pure Play in Adulthood
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I started reading this post by Chris Bateman about theories of play and got sucked in despite the jargon, and I’m quite happy about it. It ends up framing a very interesting discussion about games in a light I’d never considered before.

Imagine that “play” is a continuum stretching from freeform, imaginative anarchy (“paidia”) at one end to rules-based order (“ludus”) at the other. As children, we start out with a natural tendency towards paidia — we play nonsense games with dolls, we build worlds out of Legos, we bat about aimlessly with sticks, with no rules or direction in mind. (Although one theorist mentioned in the post argues that the unspoken cultural ‘rules’ underpinning these games are stricter and more elaborate than those you’d find in an instruction manual.) Paidia tends to be short-lived, generally evolving into ludus. As we play with our dolls and our Legos and our sticks, we start developing more and more rules and logical structures for our play. The dolls start acting out a scenario. The sticks find a target and a purpose.

As we age, we tend to skip paidia altogether and head straight for the ludus. Adults play card games and sports and board games with rulesets that are complicated from the outset. And the geeks among us prize those games with incredibly Byzantine engineering — turn-based role-playing games, for example. These are games that have been carefully designed to incorporate many different patterns of play — strategy, chance, competition, mimicry — into a seamless whole.

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Revolution or Evolution?
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Grant McCracken riffs on three models for how the Net is changing the world: 1) It’s cutting out the middlemen. 2) It’s allowing microcultures to flourish. 3) It’s reforming the idea of the idea. The post isn’t really dense or light, but slightly abstract and pretty interesting. McCracken doesn’t necessarily contend that all or any of these models is actually true.

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Heathen Blog!
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This post is putatively to mention that NYU journalism professor Mitchell Stephens, author of the rise of the image the fall of the word, has begun a new blog tracking the history of atheism. (He’s writing a book on the topic.)

But really this post is just a way for me to mention that once you figure out how to configure it for Movable Type, the Performancing extension for Firefox is pretty hott.

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More Snapshots from the Uncanny Valley
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What do you think? Knowing that none of these faces belongs to a human, do you find them freaky, or actually kinda hot? Do any of them work for you? How about when you compare them to this set of faces? Does it help if they’re not looking at the camera? Are you wigged out yet? (Ferreterrific.)

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Why'd They Put Bono in the Middle?
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Ah, TIME’s Person(s) of the Year. This cover just makes me laugh.

(Does this feature seem totally tired and irrelevant these days to anybody else?)

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