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May 25, 2008

Peer produce the star of tomorrow

Massify is a collaborative site for filmies. For example, you might view this audition tape and decide that Jannette Bloom should be given a role. If enough of you do, she will. The competition ends at midnight on Monday. The fact that Jannette, who is a really talented director who also sings real nice, is a friend of my daughters really shouldnt influence you.

Go, Jannette

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May 24, 2008

A moment of Google silence

The China Vortex runs the search log for Google China that dramatically shows the three minutes of silence China observed on May 19th in remembrance of those who died in the earthquake. It is, eerily, like the inverse of a seismograph.

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May 23, 2008

Transgenerational rock (OR: Why isn’t rock dead yet?)

Our local public radio station, WBUR, just ran a piece about corporate execs who are in rock bands. (It includes a mention of my friend Jon Cahill, who by day is a graphic designer, and who designed the splendid cover for my non-splendid children’s novel, but who at night plays in The Limitations.)

It makes me wonder. My parents’ music sounded old-fashioned to me when I was a kid. I don’t think my generation’s music — The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel, to list some prototypes — sounds nearly as old fashioned to our kids. Sure, there was something sui generis about the Beatles, but Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman (more prototypes) also made remarkable and complex music, although it took me until my late forties to recognize that.

Why has my generation’s music stood up so well? Why doesn’t it sound as old-fashioned to our kids as the theme music for the Our Gang series?

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May 22, 2008

Our calls are important to them

“Your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.”

I’ve always assumed — based on nothing — that when the recorded voice says that, it’s basically lying. How many recorded calls do they need for their extensive training purposes? Or do they have some ulterior purpose in capturing every fascinating syllable of every fabulous service call?

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McCain and Ellen on gay marriage

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Israel is a low-down, stinkin’ appeaser

Israel is talking with Syria. And Israel is secretly talking with Hamas. So, why aren’t Senators McCain and Clinton denouncing Israel, for it’s obvious that talking with your enemies is precisely the same thing as appeasing them, surrendering to them, and rooting for them.

Isn’t it? [Tags: ]

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May 21, 2008

Health Commons launched

Science Commons, in its relentless drive for product line expansion (I kid because I love), has posted a white paper proposing a Health Commons. In it, the authors, Marty Tenenbaum and John Wilbanks, lay out the problems and suggest a solution.

They write:

We are no longer asking whether a gene or a molecule is critical to a particular biological process; rather, we are discovering whole networks of molecular and cellular interactions that contribute to disease. And soon, we will have such information about individuals, rather than the population as a whole. Biomedical knowledge is exploding, and yet the system to capture that knowledge and translate it into saving human lives still relies on an antiquated and risky strategy of focusing the vast resources of a few pharmaceutical companies on just a handful of disease targets.

After citing more problems with the current system, the authors propose a Health Commons:

Imagine a virtual marketplace or ecosystem where participants share data, knowledge, materials and services to accelerate research. The components might include databases on the results of chemical assays, toxicity screens, and clinical trials; libraries of drugs and chemical compounds; repositories of biological materials (tissue samples, cell lines, molecules), computational models predicting drug efficacies or side effects, and contract services for high- throughput genomics and proteomics, combinatorial drug screening, animal testing, biostatistics, and more. The resources offered through the Commons might not necessarily be free, though many could be. However, all would be available under standard pre-negotiated terms and conditions and with standardized data formats that eliminate the debilitating delays, legal wrangling and technical incompatibilities that frustrate scientific collaboration today.

The paper emphasizes the need for metadata standards: “Providing such standards, Heath Commons improves and extends the public domain by
integrating hundreds of public databases into a single framework…” The Commons also provides the needed “social and legal infrastructure,” and a portal that provides the right set of services.

They hope that by lowering research costs, some of the 5,000 tropical diseases currently “uneconomical to address,” for example, will become the target of pharmaceutical R&D. “Health Commons makes it cost effective for small groups of researchers to conduct industrial scale R&D on rare diseases by exploiting the economies of scale afforded by an ecosystem of shared knowledge…”

The authors see the benefits going beyond the Commons’ value to non-profits. “Every pharmaceutical company sits on a wealth of promising targets and leads that they won’t develop themselves.”

The Health Commons could be a huge step forward. But it will take some work. “To realize the full potential, existing companies need to rethink their business models to leverage the commons.” As an example, the paper points out that “Only six out of the 1800 biotechnology companies funded since 1980 have made more money than was cumulatively invested in them.” Rather than counting striking it rich with proprietary drugs discovered via proprietary R&D platforms, perhaps companies could profit by opening up their platforms and taking a cut of any drugs discovered with them.

Finally, Health Commons will provide a way to continuously publish research, along with comments, to supplement the traditional publishing model.

Health Commons can and should be a big deal. It requires lots of pieces coming together over time, but its acknowledgment of the role of profit is encouraging, and it is in the hands of serious, committed, and wickedly smart people. [Tags: ]

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May 20, 2008

CBC documentary on ROFLcon

FYI, a CBC documentary on ROFLcon will air tomorrow at 11:30am as part of the Spark program, and again on Saturday. Eventually it will be available on the Spark site.

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#15! We’re #15!

WASHINGTON — According to data released today by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), at the end of 2007 the United States ranked 15th out of the 30 member nations in broadband penetration — down from 12th place in 2006, and continuing its slide from fourth place in 2001.

The OECD data is here. [Tags: ]

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Libguides … letting librarians be librarians!

I’m about to run for an airport (this is probably the single phrase I utter the most in the course of a month, alas), so I only had time to take a quick look at Libguides, but it looks very interesting. It aims to let librarians (and others) share their wisdom and insight, while engaging the community of readers. Interesting! (Thanks to Karen Schneider for the link, via a tweet. And, congratulations to Karen on her new job!)

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