March 2005 Archives

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March 30, 2005

Can motion induced blindness be used to target for the logical possibility of zombies?

You can never have too many zombies. More Zombies (from blogosophy)

This is really what philososphers do. Any wonder why I got my undergraduate degree in the first science. That's right, I'm extremely concerned with the metaphysical existence of cryptozoological entities.

Blogosophy has also started a "Top Five Philosophers" Meme. Here are my lists.

Top Five Philosophers I'd bring with me on a desert island (chosen for my interest and their readability)

Isaiah Berlin
Walter Kaufman
Philip K. Dick
Robert Anton Wilson

Top Five Philosophers of which I wish had read more:


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March 24, 2005

So Yahoo buys flickr with which to beat Google

Cnet article on Yahoo's acquisition of flickr

Metafilter thread on same topic

Cory Doctorow's notes from the Folksonomy forum at the 2005 Emergent Technology Conference (Etech) (Doctorow writes for boing boing)

Many 2 Many's notes on the Folksonomy forum at Etech

I went looking for the older thread on folksonomies at Many 2 Many where Clay Shirky and Lou Rosenfeld duke it out, but heck, every freaking single post at Many 2 Many these days covers this topic, so just go read them all. Especially look for the articles on "Emergent Semantics" and "One World, Two Maps".

I think the thing that annoys me the most about "folksonomies" is the confusion of lay people (and professionals!) around what users are actually doing when they "tag" images at flickr. They are not, as the Cnet article suggests, "classifying". The whole notion of the community of flickr users regulating a common semantic vocabulary ala Wikipedia is absurd. There is no more wisdom in the flickr crowd than in us collective google users and pagerank spammers, only a deep abiding interest in porn and other lowest common denominators. Even flickr's peer pressure technology threatens to get as ugly as that high school popularity contest you've been repressing all these years.

If you talk to the flickr guys, especially the President of Ludacorp Stewart Butterfield, they will describe for you a very different, very personal "labelling" effort, much closer to what you see at Google's gmail. People are not collaboratively creating and defining buckets into which they deposit their content so that the unknown, average user can later find images via the shared semantic vocabulary. When you spell out this misconception it really takes on its full ridiculousness. By that I mean, who but librarians actually takes an interest in the information retrieval needs of their fellow web denizens?

What people are mostly doing at flickr is attempting to attach labels to their content that will most closely match search terms they themselves will use later to find their own stuff. Butterfield describes it as (from Cory Doctorow's ETECH notes):

Stewart: It's not really categorization on Flickr -- it's about letting users remember. If I add the "Norma" tag to pix of my mom, whose name is Norma, I don't think it goes into the Norma category. The unfortunate thing about the term "folksonomy" is that it implies that it's a replacement for categorization. People categorize things by noting what they do or don't have: mammals have hair and live babies; does it have property a? then it's a whatever.

As Butterfield says, its a very personal effort. What gets created out of this rather large, unappreciated effort is a large number of personal external memory systems. Individual users know that they'll forget the specifics of the image, but they'll want to be able to retrieve it, so they try to anticipate what words they might use later to search for the item. These words may have absolutely nothing to do with any kind of description of the content, format, or any of the other traditional cataloging facets. They are likely not to be the same words that anyone else would use. And yet, many of the pundits, experts and gurus are convinced that a "semantics" will "emerge." Y'know, just like it did at Google.

The average uninformed user has a snowballs chance in hell of conducting decent research in flickr, or at Google (this may be the only point on which Michael Gorman and I agree). The most they can do is enjoy serendipity. Folks like Clay Shirky who claim folksonomies to be the wave of the future make me almost as upset as Google itself, which is guilty for turning the world wide web into a high school popularity contest and convincing people to settle for "good enough." I can't decide who is worse, Google for convincing people to settle for the least because it takes zero effort, or Shirky for telling librarians to quit because the Google driven economics won't support their effort.

An example of "good enough" thinking, again from Butterfield (from Cory Doctorow's ETECH notes):

Stewart: The objective of tags shouldn't be to exhaustively cover the field -- we'll have a million photos of Tokyo, and if the TOKYO tag only gets you 400k of them, it's OK. You're only going to look at 20 of them anyway.

This is why academics have problems with Wikipedia. Their students, the ones using Wikipedia to conduct research, get the wrong idea about how you go about the Scientific Method, and how you conduct exhaustive research in any given subject area.

And I wish I could have gone to the Etech and SXSW conferences, seems like everybody in the technology biz is preoccupied by metadata these days. I wonder when the cool kids will find my weblog.

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March 01, 2005

Things I know are true

And addition to the collection:

by Lu Ting Pin,

When the moon is high I'll take my cane for a walk,
When the wind is cold I'll put on some clothes.
My heart is hidden in thick bamboo groves --
I come home alone leading the white clouds.

Posted by Keeper of the Blog at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack