aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, March 24, 2006
Britannica hits back at Wikipedia study
In a document on their website, Encyclopaedia Britannica said that the Nature study contained “a pattern of sloppiness, indifference to basic scholarly standards, and flagrant errors so numerous they completely invalidated the results”.
The scholarly slanging match prompted an equally robust response from Nature.
“We reject those accusations, and are confident our comparisons are fair” it said in a statement.
I can’t help but feel that in the end it doesn’t matter. Jabs and parries will inevitably be exchanged, yet Wikipedia continues to grow and evolve, containing multitudes, full of truth and full of error, ultimately indifferent to the censure or approval of the old guard. It is a fact: Wikipedia now contains over a million articles in english, nearly 223 thousand in Polish, nearly 195 thousand in Japanese and 104 thousand in Spanish; it is broadly consulted, it is free and, at least for now, non-commercial. At the moment, I feel optimistic that in the long arc of time Wikipedia will bend toward excellence.
My bottom line is that today we all have to develop our own “editorial judgment;” that technology gives us the tools and we no longer need accept the fiction that there is one definitive authority. In my view, Britannica was the faith-based encyclopedia, and they, steeped in their belief system, are upset that they will no longer be.
I see Wikipedia as part of a welcome return to an oral tradition. In that argument, I say that I won’t miss the lack of technical accuracy. To be clear, I won’t miss it in the oral tradition, or the Wikipedia entry, because I agree with Ray Kurzweil that old paradigms don’t die. We’re not talking about replacing the encyclopedia. We’re talking about an additional information source that can inform the others.
I don’t want one definitive source. I don’t need one definitive source. George Orwell described a world with one definitive source. I want to be empowered to make my own decision. And the freedom to choose the consensus choice or the popular choice or the contrary choice or to propose my own choice!
I’m really kind of oblivious to who Hollywood actors are, so when I read that Randy Quaid is suing the Brokeback Mountain producers, I wasn’t sure which one he was. It turns out he’s as ugly and greedy as the character he played. Salon:
In a lawsuit claiming he’s a victim of “a ‘movie laundering’ scheme” that tricked him into only getting paid art-house film wages, Randy Quaid is taking the producers of “Brokeback Mountain” to court, asking for $10 million in damages and “restitution for all ill-gotten gains.” Quaid apparently thinks he was hired under the false pretenses that the movie’s producers somehow thought the film might become the unqualified box office success it now is, with a gross of $160 million so far. In papers for the suit (which you can see here), Quaid claims that when he was approached by director Ang Lee in 2004 for the part of Joe Aguirre, he was told: “We can’t pay anything. We have very little money. Everyone is making a sacrifice to make this film.”
Here’s a copy of the lawsuit.
Intellectual Property Run Amok
A DAY AFTER Senator Orrin Hatch said “destroying their machines” might be the only way to stop illegal downloaders, unlicensed software was discovered on his website.
BILL GATES had the 11-million-image Bettmann Archive buried 220 feet underground. Archivists can access only the 2% that was first digitized.
AMONG THE 16,000 people thus far sued for sharing music files was a 65-year-old woman who, though she didn’t own downloading software, was accused of sharing 2,000 songs, including Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug.” She was sued for up to $150,000 per song.
MICROSOFT UK held a contest for the best film on “intellectual property theft”; finalists had to sign away “all intellectual property rights” on “terms acceptable to Microsoft.”
ONLY ABOUT 5% of patents end up having any real commercial value. READ ON.
The Union Pacific Railroad has gone trademark crazy. They’re threatening to sue anyone who puts a Union Pacific logo on a model railroad, photographers who take pictures of Union Pacific trains, and even painters who paint pictures of Union Pacific trains. Model railroaders, photographers, and painters are freaking out, natch.
My argument that government can does not mean to suggest that government will. I’m as skeptical as the next guy, I just think a big chunk of the fault lies in our accepting the de-legitimization of government.
This is a more realistic indicator of the future of what government will do:
FCC Chief Kevin Martin yesterday gave his support to AT&T and other telcos who want to be able to limit bandwidth to sites like Google, unless those sites pay extortion fees. Martin made it clear in a speech yesterday that he supports such a a “tiered” Internet.
Martin told attendees at the TelecomNext show that telcos should be allowed to charge web sites whatever they want if those sites want adequate bandwidth.
He threw in his lot with AT&T, Verizon, and the other telcos, who are no doubt salivating at the prospect at charging whatever the market can bear.
He did throw a bone to those who favor so-called “net neutrality”—the idea that telcos and other ISPs should not be allowed to limit services or bandwidth, or charge sites extra fees. He said that the FCC “has the authority necessary” to enforce network neutrality violations. He added that it had done so already, when it stepped in to stop an ISP from blocking Vonage VoIP service.
The Telcos on Net Neutrality
“There’s been a misconception about the network we are building and how we plan to deliver services,” said Cicconi. “What we plan to do amounts to creating dedicated services.”
AT&T and Verizon already offer dedicated pipes to consumers for Internet Protocol-based TV services. Because they are providing the video service themselves to their own customer base, they control movie packets from the time they enter the network until they reach the subscriber at home.
Cicconi said it is unreasonable for companies offering competing video services that travel over the public Internet to demand AT&T offer the same quality it provides through its dedicated service.
“This debate is all about movies,” he said. “A handful of companies who have plans to stream movies want to ensure their product is as good as ours. Or they want ours to be dumbed down for them.”
Cicconi said that trying to achieve the same level of quality for video over the public Internet would be too expensive, because it requires extra equipment and network resources.
The Times on South Park’s “revenge”
Scientologists can seem peculiar and overly defensive. But so can the executives at Viacom. The media giant has a history of pressuring its subsidiaries to cave under pressure: CBS canceled the mini-series “The Reagans” after a right-wing lobbying campaign threatened a boycott of advertisers’ products. (CBS also disinvited Janet Jackson from the Grammys after her “wardrobe malfunction” during a Super Bowl halftime show, which was produced by yet another Viacom company, MTV.)
“South Park” is an anarchic, sophomorically profane series famous for fearlessly knocking all kinds of taboos; most recently it lampooned Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” and the Terri Schiavo case. So once Mr. Hayes left and Comedy Central canceled the offending episode, it seemed natural to expect its creators to poke fun at Viacom as well as Scientology. Both institutions seem equally ready to sacrifice their members’ freedom to protect their image and well-being, except that Scientology doesn’t pretend to traffic in free speech. [...]
It seems that the only way “South Park” could tweak its parent company was to make even more fun of Scientology, almost daring Viacom to censor it. “The Return of Chef” was funny, and it was even more savage about the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard, than the first, much-contested episode, “Trapped in the Closet,” which was originally shown on Nov. 16 and was scheduled to be shown again on March 15. [...]
The parallel to Scientology could not have been more obvious. But it was the parallel between Viacom and Scientology that made this episode necessary in the first place.