Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Monographs should be E!

October 3, 2011

Here is what John Hawks says:

But I disagree that the scholarly monograph is dead. Personally, I expect monographs to undergo a renaissance as more academics adopt e-publishing. Academic presses affiliated with universities should be going all-digital, and should start massively promoting their back catalogs as e-books at fire-sale prices. The smart ones will take the opportunity to change their agenda, competing to publish new books by a new generation of scholars who are building a broad readership both inside and outside academia. There’s no reason why we need to constrain our scholarship to books so boring that nobody wants to read them. Tomorrow’s scholars should be engaging with a much broader public than university presses have historically cultivated.

I agree; of course, there is a stumbling block, and remedies for the same are discussed in the piece. take a look!

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The real wizardry of Potter

September 14, 2011

I will leave you with the teaser from the piece How Google translate works:

A good number of English-language detective novels, for example, have probably been translated into both Icelandic and Farsi. They thus provide ample material for finding matches between sentences in the two foreign languages; whereas Persian classics translated into Icelandic are surely far fewer, even including those works that have themselves made the journey by way of a pivot such as French or German. This means that John Grisham makes a bigger contribution to the quality of GT’s Icelandic-Farsi translation device than Rumi or Halldór Laxness ever will. And the real wizardry of Harry Potter may well lie in his hidden power to support translation from Hebrew into Chinese.

As usual, I have Jenny to thank for the interesting link of the day!

HowTo: fix patents pro-actively

September 7, 2011

Paul Graham has a suggestion and a site:

The patent pledge doesn’t fix every problem with patents. It won’t stop patent trolls, for example; they’re already pariahs. But the problem the patent pledge does fix may be more serious than the problem of patent trolls. Patent trolls are just parasites. A clumsy parasite may occasionally kill the host, but that’s not its goal. Whereas companies that sue startups for patent infringement generally do it with explicit goal of keeping their product off the market.

Companies that use patents on startups are attacking innovation at the root. Now there’s something any individual can do about this problem, without waiting for the government: ask companies where they stand.

There is also a link at the end of the post about a company called Modista got shut down in one such move by another called Like.com. Take a look!

The code is not neutral 

March 30, 2011

The proof is no longer in the pudding. It’s in the search results. And baked into those results are the biases, ideologies, and business interests of the people running the search engines. The code is not neutral.

That is Nicholas Carr; I have to ask my wife is she uses the “search for recipes” option.

Transcending the personal

March 13, 2010

In blogs:

To really work, Sierra observed, an entrepreneur’s blog has to be about something bigger than his or her company and his or her product. This sounds simple, but it isn’t. It takes real discipline to not talk about yourself and your company. Blogging as a medium seems so personal, and often it is. But when you’re using a blog to promote a business, that blog can’t be about you, Sierra said. It has to be about your readers, who will, it’s hoped, become your customers. It has to be about making them awesome.

So, for example, if you’re selling a clever attachment to a camera that diffuses harsh flash light, don’t talk about the technical features or about your holiday sale (10 percent off!). Make a list of 10 tips for being a better photographer.

If you’re opening a restaurant, don’t blog about your menu. Blog about great food. You’ll attract foodies who don’t care about your restaurant yet.

If you make superior, single-source chocolate, don’t write about that great trip you took to the Dominican Republic to source cocoa beans. That’s all about you. Instead, write the definitive article about making chocolate-covered strawberries. For the next 10 years, whenever a gourmand or a baker searches Google for a recipe on how to make chocolate-covered strawberries, he or she will find your post. Helping your users make awesome chocolate-based confections is likely to attract readers who might buy fancy chocolate, and that’s the point of a successful blog. Writing about trips to the Dominican Republic is going to attract only people who might want to travel to the Dominican Republic. Unless you’re selling that, you shouldn’t be blogging about it.

Google, warlords and roving bandits

January 19, 2010

Tom Slee and Whimsley’s turn at analysing the actions of Google:

In his posthumously published Power and Prosperity, Mancur Olson tells a story of China in the 1920s, when the warlord Feng Yu-hsiang defeated “a notorious roving bandit called White Wolf”. Most people in Feng’s domain preferred life permanently under the thumb of a warlord to life prone to the periodic invasion of roving bandits, and Olson wondered why? His answer was that even a warlord who wants to extract as much tax from his citizens as possible must look to the future, and unlike a roving bandit that future depends on having a relatively productive population. There is an alignment of interests between the population and the warlord that does not exist between the population and the bandits: it is in the interest of the warlord to restrain his takings and so ensure that his victims have a motive to be productive. The warlord also has a motive to clamp down on crime (other than his own), and to provide public goods that benefit those he taxes. Olson describes this as a “second invisible hand”, by which autocrats are guided “to use their power, at least to some degree, in accord with the social interest.” In a similar way, in a neighbourhood under the control of organized crime there will be no robberies, only a protection racket.

In many ways the Internet is, of course, a place. There is even a word, netizen, to describe us in our role as citizens of the Internet. And if the Internet is going to be a reasonable place to spend our time someone has to provide those common goods that keep it so – security, community standards, and so on. Who will do so?

Google is a warlord of the Internet, surrounded by bandits. It provides public goods because its revenue (advertisements) depends on a safe and yet wide-open Internet. For Google to make money the Internet must be accessible from Google’s search engine: enclosures are a threat to its business, whether they be ad-funded like Facebook or subscription-funded like the Wall Street Journal. Netizens must be comfortable and safe from bandits as they go about their daily electronic lives. Google also clamps down on attempts by companies other than itself to generate revenue from the Internet, for example by pushing the limits of copyright in its book-copying efforts, or by pushing open source software at the client side of applications.

While autocrats provide some public goods, there is a limit and in Google’s case we see that limit in privacy and to some extent in copyright. When CEO Eric Schmidt says (30 second video) “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”, we have bumped up against that limit. And while we may be grateful to Google for keeping us free from the claims of copyright owners, attempts to restrict advertising on and around content will not find a friend in Google.

Take a look!

Information is anything but free!

January 19, 2010

Nicholas Carr does the math for you!

Do the math. Sit down right now, and add up what you pay every month for:

-Internet service

-Cable TV service

-Cellular telephone service (voice, data, messaging)

-Landline telephone service

-Satellite radio

-Netflix

-Wi-Fi hotspots

-TiVO

-Other information services

So what’s the total? $100? $200? $300? $400? Gizmodo reports that monthly information subscriptions and fees can easily run to $500 or more nowadays. A lot of people today probably spend more on information than they spend on food.

There is also something about the poor artists at the end of that post. Take a look!

Privacy: privilege or right?

January 18, 2010

Nicholas Carr:

Reading through these wealthy, powerful people’s glib statements on privacy, one begins to suspect that what they’re really talking about is other people’s privacy, not their own. If you exist within a personal Green Zone of private jets, fenced off hideaways, and firewalls maintained by the country’s best law firms and PR agencies, it’s hardly a surprise that you’d eventually come to see privacy more as a privilege than a right. And if your company happens to make its money by mining personal data, well, that’s all the more reason to convince yourself that other people’s privacy may not be so important.

There’s a deeper danger here. The continuing denigration of privacy may begin to warp our understanding of what “privacy” really means. As Bruce Schneier has written, privacy is not just a screen we hide behind when we do something naughty or embarrassing; privacy is “intrinsic to the concept of liberty”:

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that – either now or in the uncertain future – patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

Privacy is not only essential to life and liberty; it’s essential to the pursuit of happiness, in the broadest and deepest sense of that phrase. It’s essential, as Schneier implies, to the development of individuality, of unique personality. We human beings are not just social creatures; we’re also private creatures. What we don’t share is as important as what we do share. The way that we choose to define the boundary between our public self and our private self will vary greatly from person to person, which is exactly why it’s so important to be ever vigilant in defending everyone’s ability and power to set that boundary as he or she sees fit.

Take a look!

Google and its compromises

January 14, 2010

Nicholas Carr:

Like many other Western companies, Google has shown that it is willing to compromise its ideals in order to reach Chinese consumers. What it’s not willing to compromise is the security of the cloud, on which its entire business rests.

Internet, Isaiah Berlin and a good thriller

June 7, 2009

A few links from today’s Hindu Magazine and literary review.

Sevanti Ninen on a recently proposed interent security bill which deserves much closer scrutiny than it had received till now:

Last year, a few weeks after the Mumbai attacks in November, a Bill which had been sitting around in a Standing Committee since 2006 was hastily passed, without much debate in parliament. The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 seeks to give teeth to existing laws on information technology and cyberspace. Last month, shortly before Mr. Raja began his second stint, the Department of IT posted on the Internet the results of its labours in drafting rules for this Act. Since the devil is in the details, the import of the Act resides in the rules. These are still at the draft stage, you are invited to send your comments to the Government of India, which does this feedback exercise to show how democratic it is. http://www.mit.gov.in/ default.aspx?id=969.

Navtej Sarna on a book of Isaiah Berlin’s personal essays:

Charming is an inadequate word for the essays the book contains — elaborate, cultured, sympathetic and educated assessments of Churchill and Roosevelt, Chaim Weizmann and Einstein, Aldous Huxley and Virginia Woolf. Berlin’s own intellect, sensitivity and knowledge is the life blood of these essays but it is unobtrusive, almost unseen; there is no attempt to push the self into the picture. There is no “lopping off the heads of the tall poppies”, no deliberate attempt to look for weakness. Instead there is an affectionate effort to decipher genius and in so doing, praise it; the driving force is redemption, not condemnation. As the introduction says: “Like Hamlet he stands amazed at what a piece of work is a man; unlike Hamlet he delights in man.”

Sheila Kumar finds Ravi Shankar Etteth’s The gold of their regrets crackling good:

First, the good news. This is a crackling good yarn, a murder mystery that moves at a rapid pace, is peopled with ingenious characters and at its centre, holds a story that in turn, holds the reader’s interest all through.

Next, the story; without spoilers. The gold of the protagonists’ regrets is a Nazi cache, a German war chest, evil gold, death gold, ill-begotten gold, but of course. The ingots, worth all of £30 million, is what a certain S.C. Bose was carrying with him on what was to be the leader’s last war-time sortie, on the flight that crashed in the fetid jungles on the Indo-Burma border.

And where there is gold, there has to be greed and greedy people; here, a trio makes off with the gleaming bars that came from Nazi coffers and was intended to re-infuse fresh blood into the war against those who ruled India.

Years on, the trio is stalked by a mysterious killer, a man of method, great economy of emotion and movement, deadly of intent and virtually unstoppable. Attempting to stop him are characters from Etteth’s earlier book The Village of Widows, DCP Anna Khan, the improbable Demon Cop, and her companion, Jay Samorin, profiler of crime nonpareil, the man who keeps a couple of fossas (Madagascar hunting cats for those who may not know, which includes most of us) as domesticated pet cats. As the story unwinds, we meet with a motley cast that includes a pair of lesbians, some dwarves and suchlike, and criss-cross briskly across Shan country in Myanmar, Delhi, Rishikesh, Kashmir, Dehra Dun, to end up in a private estate near Palghat, Kerala.

Take a look!