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Wednesday, August 28, 2002
What do journalists, educators and researchers have in common?

In my ongoing quest to understand why personal knowledge publishing is becoming especially popular with certain professions, it occurred to me that people in these professions have another thing in common: they generally have little to hide, and sharing improves the quality of their work output.

Stephen Downes explains what journalists and educators have in common, which seems to resonate well with my previous characterization of them as pattern recognizers:

Educators play the same sort of role in society as journalists. They are aggregators, assimilators, analysts and advisors. They are middle links in an ecosystem, or as John Hiler puts it, parasites on information produced by others. And they are being impacted by alternative forms of learning in much the same way, for much the same reasons. "By adding to the diversity of original content, weblogs have added a whole new layer to the Media Food chain. That puts weblogs at the base of the food chain, generating the sort of grassroots journalism that the new Media Ecosystem has grown increasingly dependent upon. Because bloggers are closer to a story, they'll often pick up the sort of things that traditional journalists miss."

Where a journalist might be described as someone who uses plain language to explain the things that are changing, I think one could describe an educator as someone who uses plain language to explain the things that are stable, i.e. help people acquire thinking frameworks that can be reused over a certain amount of time. Researchers would at the same time be journalists in that they are explaining new developments, but also educators in that they are (hopefully) erecting stable scaffolding for the further growth of knowledge and explaining it to their peers. However, very few researchers communicate using plain language, but reporting on interdisciplinary work usually requires it.

What do you think? []  links to this post    8:32:27 PM  

H. Mumford Jones. "Ours is the age that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to." [Quotes of the Day]
What do you think? []  links to this post    9:50:52 AM  
Keeping bookmarks under control

Bookmarks out of control. My bookmarks are totally out of control. I bookmark a few sites a day, just so that I can get to them later (in an unlikely event that I'll actually need to do it). But I just add them to the very long list without trying to arrange in categories (both IE and Mozilla don't have good tools for that) and that doesn't scale. There must be a better way. [Krzysztof Kowalczyk's Weblog]

Browser bookmark systems are awkward. Bookmarks should store a little context along with the link. They should be hyperlinked to one another. They seldom fit any nice single-parent hierarchical scheme. Personally, I use a wiki to keep my bookmarks. It's a little more work but it pays off in the retrieval phase. You better remember things when you take a little time to reflect upon their significance before committing them to your outboard memory. See also how Stephen Downes does it.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:50:01 AM  
The necessity of self-critical thinking

Confirmation bias. "Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons."

—Michael Shermer, Sept. 2002 Scientific American

When you believe something, you tend to prefer facts that confirm your belief, but ignore or rationalize anything that contradicts it. The smarter you are, the better you are at rationalizing whatever you want to believe.

Is there a way for a smart person to escape this self-made trap? Maybe. As a passing statement made in his controversial book On Aggression, Konrad Lorenz suggested that a scientist should begin each day by throwing out one of his pet theories, just to stay sharp.

The point seems to be that if you get used to giving up things you hold close to your heart, you won't feel instantly compelled to resist something that'd pull the bad ones away.

[Disenchanted Dictionary]

Reminds me I should take the time to carefully reread this critical thinking piece.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:41:54 AM  
Home recording for fun and [no] profit

After many months of doing research, reading books, hacking code, and otherwise wasting time and aggrivating my significant other by talking about the 16 channel limits of MIDI, I've finally got my home recording setup complete. This is the first of what will, provided there's enough interest, become a set of articles on how to build your own home recording studio (on the cheap), and, more importantly, how to use it. []

Now is a fantastic time to be(come) a musician, what with all the nice, not-so-expensive recording technology being thrown our way, and the Net to share it with the world.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:31:43 AM  
Selected content and the ArsDigita saga

The Legacy of Eve Andersson. Adam Barr takes to task the insider-y side of the blogosphere's hypocrisy in this article posted to kuro5hin:

[...] The basic facts remain unchanged: information in a blog is non-selected information, non-selected information has always been around, and it is never going to replace selected information.

I think Adam may be overlooking the context-building projects, from blogdex and daypop to this new metadata initiative that may at least assist in the selecting and filtering. I do think that human channels of attention will always be the most salient.

[Radio Free Blogistan]

I agree that Adam missed the mark here. A blog's content obviously is selected, by its editor, just the same as happens for any other edited publication. Choosing to read an edited publication simply means that you trust its editor to some extent. It's up to each person to choose their gatekeepers.

Andersson worked at ArsDigita for some time. The ArsDigita saga was something to behold. They even founded a free University! (by the way, fellow blogger Aaron Swartz was there.) Then venture capitalists came in and crashed the company into the ground, but Greenspun got out of it a rich man.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:24:21 AM  
Blogging for Reputation

Small Business Blogging. Rereading Bricklin's Aug 12 article on small business blogging, I realized that his first example is a pretty close fit for the intangibles I get from doing this blog:
One type of small business is the "consultant". This covers a wide range of areas, from engineers, to marketers, to event planners, to freelance writers and designers, and more. Consultants are already very common users of blogs. A normal part of the job of many consultants entails going to meetings and conferences and being active in trade associations where they "network", show off their expertise, appear on panels, etc. A blog is a way of showing your expertise and establishing yourself as a trustworthy authority without doing the travel. The time necessary to maintain the blog comes out of the time that would have been spent at some of the meetings. (A blog is an excellent way to build up your "authority" to move up politically in a trade association, too. Your readers would be others in your field, not customers.)
[Radio Free Blogistan]
What do you think? []  links to this post    9:10:15 AM  
A memetics experiment - pass it along

Life in the Aggregator. An Experiment: Life in the Aggregator. How far can it travel?  Please play by passing it along, including all source links... [] I'm willing to play [McGee's Musings]

There we go.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:06:37 AM  
Virtual Worlds Timeline

Very, Very Cool: Even though I'm not a gamer at all, this online gaming timeline is awesome. (NOTE: It's not really online gaming, they cover Ted Nelson, hypertext and more.  Invaluable if you're interested in the history of high tech.) [The FuzzyBlog! via McGee's Musings]

Very comprehensive also.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:05:09 AM  
The holy grail of individualized teaching

Differences between teaching and knowledge sharing (2). [Roland Tanglao's Weblog]

[...] Individualization describes the ability to focus on the differences between individuals, and to build on that recognition. So a manager who treats each employee uniquely, or an interior designer who can put together just the right look for someone, might have this strength. In a teacher, it could be awesome. [Ron Lusk's Radio Weblog]

But is it possible to teach in an individualized way when you have 30, or 300, individuals in a class? Individualized teaching is expensive. Unless you count self-teaching, which costs "nothing" and is the best of its kind as far as I'm concerned.

What do you think? []  links to this post    8:58:01 AM  
The "Yes, and..." Game

The game, which I found on a website called "Sheer Idiocy," goes like this:

Yes, and...

Number of actors: 2. Not usually a performance game, can get a relationship or setting, but usually start with nothing.

How it works: After the first line, every line of this scene must start with "yes, and". This is an exercise in accepting offers, you should never deny anything in improv and always try to further the scene. By saying yes, and you are forced to accept what the other person said and move on from that point. One rule is that you can't ask questions. Also, never say "yes, and" and then turn around and deny it later in the line. 
[DeepFUN Weblog]

Some bosses really like it when you play this game with them at work.

What do you think? []  links to this post    8:40:38 AM  
Speaking versus writing, cont'd; debating over the Internet

Lynn and Ron are discussing their experiences in communication, contrasting writing and speaking. In the recent piece Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, the folks over at Disenchanted make an interesting point about this in the context of debate:

In a written, asynchronous forum, you can entertain many debaters with little stress because each one can read the thread at their own leisure. It's not the same as a live forum where a challenge has to be rebutted in seconds before the conversation surges in another direction. Virtual shouting matches could ensue, but they can't be as effective as a real one: it doesn't matter how hard you hit the keyboard, you can't drown out another person's voice, and they can take their own sweet time responding to you.

The aforementioned essay (summarized thus: Debate is at the heart of our culture and legal system, and the Internet offers some benefits that boost the power of debate like gasoline on a fire), enumerates "the unique freedoms offered by the Internet.

  1. When you pay for your own bandwidth, you can make your arguments as expressive as you want, and it doesn't come at the expense of everyone else.
  2. linking would be the next important freedom. If one forum becomes too restrictive, noisy or overmoderated, the debate—which exists independently of the forum its hosted in—can migrate to more fertile pastures. The hyperlink means that when it does, followers and would-be participants don't get stuck wondering where it's all gone to.
  3. the ability for anyone to join a debate quickly and easily."

Point 1 underlines an important observation, one that hasn't sunken in enough in our minds yet: whereas in the "real world" making your words accessible to large numbers of people, (say, by publishing them in a newspaper or on billboards all over town) usually means that you will get exposure, the Internet decouples these things. So while the Net lets you say anything you want, getting people to actually read what you said is another thing entirely. The Net is a largely a pull medium - God bless the hyperlink.

Point 3 means that communities are more permeable on the Internet than they are in the "real world". I've argued that this helps fight intellectual inbreeding and keeps culture from becoming stale in the essay Online Communities and the Future of Culture.

By the way, I've found Disenchanted to be a quite insightful blog. In addition to the regular content, they maintain a knowledge base in the form of an expanding series of dictionary articles. I've read a few and walked away a smarter person. Plus, they automatically link to you if you link to them. I've subscribed.

What do you think? []  links to this post    8:30:26 AM  

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