Joho the BlogAugust 2008 - Page 4 of 7 - Joho the Blog

August 21, 2008

Open science and the competition-collaboration slider

There’s an excellent story on the front page of the Boston Globe today, by Carolyn Johnson, about scientists who just go ahead and blab about their data before the village elders have given them permission.


The article says:

Scientists who plunge into openness also risk giving a competing lab a leg up.

“Maybe somebody has discovered some interesting gene and doesn’t want to blab to the whole world about why it’s interesting,” said Michael Laub, an assistant professor of biology at MIT. He says his lab is not overly secretive, but does not post “all the gory details of what someone is working on, because I don’t want my grad students necessarily to be scooped by someone else.”

Laub is just saying what everyone knows.1 But the fact that everyone knows it and we’re ok with it is a sign of the problem with the system: The system we want maximizes knowledge and innovation, but the system we have swerves in order to preserve credit for individuals. From the discovery of the shape of DNA to AIDS research, we’ve seen some of the problems with the competitive model of science. But we also routinely see the benefits, as scientists work overtime in order to get credit for a discovery.

And yet, the mix seems wrong. The competitive model made more sense when it was more difficult to share data anyway. The collaborative model is proving itself in unexpected places. It’s clear that a mixed model works — some competitive, some collaborative — but it’s not clear how far we can push the slider toward the collaborative side. My hunch, and my hope, is that it’s way further than we would have thought, especially since experience shows that the satisfaction of being recognized as a continuously generous member of a network can at least equal that of authors of intermittent, officially-sanctioned publications.

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1I’m totally guessing about his, but I suspect that Laub actually talked with Johnson, the reporter, mainly about the virtues of open science, but noted that his group doesn’t give away absolutely all of its data…and it was only the last part of the sentence that made it in. As I say, I’m totally making this up, but the quotation had that sort of ring to it.


August 20, 2008

Tips that made me go D’oh! #8567 & #8568

#8567 If iTunes — one of the least intuitive user interfaces around — isn’t transferring podcasts onto your iPod (which, except for the wheel, is a UI so badly designed that your first instincts are almost wrong):

1. Click on your iPod in the “Devices” section of iTunes

2. Click on the “Podcasts” tab in the window on the right. (See here for instructions and a screenshot.)

3. Click on “Sync”

4. Click on “Apply” in the bottom right.

5. Smite your forehead and say “D’oh!”

(I’m not proud of this. It just never occurred to me that syncing podcasts would be off by default. And I had always clicked through the very top level of the device, not recognizing it as a preference pane. Hence the self-inflicted D’oh!.)

#8568 If you are using Firefox and want to quickly scroll among the many, many, many tabs you’ve accumulated, install the add-on All In One Gestures and set the mouse wheel preference so that you can then:

1. Position your mouse cursor over any tab.

2. Spin the wheel away from you.

3. Watch the tabs fly by.

4. Spin the wheel towards you.

5. Watch the history of your tabs pass before your eyes.

4. Smite your forehead and say “D’oh!” [Tags: ]


Movement of humankind

Here’s an animated explanation of how humans spread across the planet. (Thanks for the link, Greg!)

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August 19, 2008

[berkman] Hub 2 – Community-involved development via SecondLife

Gene Koo and Eric Gordon are giving a Tuesday lunch talk on “Hub2: Creating Deliberative Publics through Virtual Worlds.” [I’m taking quick notes and will undoubtedly get some stuff wrong.]

Hub2 is a partnership with Boston (Harvard is sponsoring the project) to enhance the community participation process. It’d be good to have a platform for deliberative process. But land use discussions typically ahve their own technical jargon. And it can be hard to imagine what a place will be like when all you have is a 2D map. It’d be better to be working in 3D space, so you can see what t’d be like to move these trees over there, or widen the path, etc. Instead of having the community react — yes or no — to a design, why not have the community participate in the design?

Hub2 aims are providing a design process that is experiential, embodied, constructive. Hub2 heads towards “augmented deliberation”: Imagine, design, engage, activate (= IDEA). They’re using SecondLife for this. They hope citizens will use it as a design tool and come up with an affirmative vision of what they want. And because you can walk through the virtual space, you develop an informed opinion. Gene and Eric ask people to try out the space in various roles, e.g., a 33 yr old who walks her dog twice a day or as someone in a wheelchair.

The project has set up Boston Island in SecondLife and have the last name “bostonian.” They are using it for augmented deliberation about Harvard’s Honan Library Park development in north Allston, MA. Local residents get together, try out layouts, leave comments (in visual flags). Residents can access the site either at home or using the public access systems in the library; the libraries have Hub2 staff people there to help people with the system. (They have thought about the fact that they’re putting public records into a proprietary data format, but SL is the best choice.)

Over 60 teenagers have spent time on the system, along with about 30 other residents. That’s more than have participated in the traditional process.

Q: I’m glad you’re dealing with the digital divide issues. But this is a 1.2 acre park out of 350 that Harvard owns in Allston…
A: There will be more open spaces.

Q: Should we open this process up to the world?
A: It’s a local issue
A: Keeping it local builds consensus
A: Maybe. You’d want to make clear who is local and who isn’t. It might even help to defuse the situation in which the locals want a design that is impractical or reflects the needs of those who happened to have engaged in the process.

Q: Maybe you should be talking with SL about how to make the archives more open.
A: Yes. But our main goal is to improve the design process. [Someone on the irc chat points to a BBC piece on archiving virtual worlds.] [Tags: ]

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Free the white space

Google is taking to the public in its lobbying of the FCC to make the “white space” available for wireless broadband. This is the space between designated channels. Right now, we use it as sort of bowling alley gutter bumpers between assigned frequencies, but given modern technology, we can make better use of it, if only we’re allowed to.

Google has a form for sending a message to the FCC, as well as some useful explanatory materials…

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Those lobbyists sure like to have a good time!

The Sunlight Foundation‘s new site, Political Party Time, tracks the hundreds of parties being thrown at the two political conventions by fun-loving groups who are merely interested in celebrating democracy, folks such as the RIAA, AT&T, USTelecom, and Bank of America. [Tags: ]

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August 18, 2008

Worst. News analysis. Ever.

This could well be it. Of course, it may be fabricated, in which case, it’d be much less awfully funny, and funnily awful.

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Fred Stutzman’s Freedom

From Fred Stutzman comes Freedom. Here’s how he describes it:

Freedom is an application that disables wireless and ethernet networking on an Apple computer for up to three hours at a time. Freedom will free you from the distractions of the internet, allowing you time to code, write, or create. At the end of your selected offline period, Freedom re-enables your network, restoring everything as normal.

Freedom enforces freedom; a reboot is the only circumvention of the Freedom time limit you specify. The hassle of rebooting means you’re less likely to cheat, and you’ll be more productive. Not rebooting is why we bought Apple computers in the first place. When first getting used to Freedom, I suggest using the software for short periods of time.

Freedom is free, although Fred wouldn’t object if you chipped in $10.

And lest you think that Fred is a curmudgeon railing against the Net, check out his current post about his new course: Technologies of Friendship.

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I am up-down dyslexic

I know that I’m right-left dyslexic, although “dyslexic” can’t be the right (left?) word, can it? But I recently realized I’m also up-down dyslexic: if you tell me to climb the hill, I won’t roll down it, but if you give me a trapezoidal plug and a trapezoidal socket — like the small end of a USB plug, or a VGA plug — I will try to insert it the wrong way up 50% of the time.

I assume this is tied into my extraordinarily low scores on tests for spatial ability. You know the test where they show you a cube unfolded into six squares, some with various shapes drawn on them, and then you’re supposed to figure out which squares are adjacent? Not only can’t I do that, I have trouble imagining them folded into a square. To me, they might be instructions for making an origami heron or the shadow cast by a fourth dimensional cube onto a two dimensional surface. Or Space Dominoes. I just can’t tell.

This, by the way, make me the world’s most annoying chess player. Obviously, I can’t picture the board ten moves ahead. But I also can’t picture the board one move ahead. So, I have to actually move my piece to see what it would look like, and, if you’ll let me, to judge your possible responses, I’ll move your pieces too.

My nightmare: I’m piloting a spaceship over the surface of the Empire’s Death Cube, which is folding randomly because of a warp in space-time, and my only hope is to fly to the left and insert the trapezoidal nose of my ship into the trapezoidal hole of the Death Cube’s energy portal. And then I look out my window and see that the Cube is made out of seafood.

Oh, did I mention that I’m afraid of seafood?

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Lake reflections

I just uploaded some photos of Lake Buel reflecting the sky, a theme I seem to like. (I’ve had vivid, overpowering dreams about sky and earth mirroring each other. I can’t convey the numinous feeling of them.) Anyway, here are a couple, and there are more at Flickr.

lake reflections aug 2008 03

lake reflections aug 2008 07

lake reflections aug 2008 06

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