predicting open-source community development

April 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s a thought. If you’re developing something that relies on an open-source project, one of the big uncertainties is what is going to happen to the community in the future. Is this project going to wither away next year?

We could gather a lot of data on this. Mailing list use, code commits, blogposts, google hits, etc, etc, etc. Then we can try to see characteristics which are correlated with growing/declining projects, and develop a quantitative prediction of the likely future of a project.

not just datamining

April 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Currently at the Berlin Open Data Hackday. Mentions David Eaves, who has just launched a Canadian government data transparency project

The Three Laws of Open Government Data:
1. If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist
2. If it isn’t available in open and machine readable format, it can’t engage
3. If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower

I’m not entirely convinced by this focus. Data-mining is good, but there are plenty of other important areas that will only be identified by a competent journalist or activist asking the right questions.

Pipi Le Pew, flushed down the loo

April 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Hebrew/greek confusion:

In Hebrew the word YHWH looks like this: יהוה — read from right to left. But by the time of Jesus Hebrew had become virtually a dead language even in Israel. Someone encountering this Hebrew word in a Greek text might well have thought it looked like the nonsense Greek word πιπι — read from left to right, that’s pipi. According to St. Jerome this is exactly what happened

Kyrgyzstan: 2005 reloaded

April 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Sean Roberts, unsurprisingly, has a decently-informed take on Kyrgyzstan:

The news coming out of the country looks all too similar to that which we saw in Spring of 2005, only more violent. In general, the events of the last several days taken together with those of March 2005 suggest two things about this country in the twenty-first century – 1) that the Kyrgyz people, unlike most former Soviet citizens, are unwilling to allow a corrupt government to stay in power through its control of the political system and are ready to risk personal safety in order to prevent this; and 2) the elite of Kyrgyzstan has yet to demonstrate that it is capable of establishing a viable government that meets people’s demands and moves Kyrgyzstan’s development forward.

The ultimate weapon

April 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night, to a reading by Catherine Hales. [a few of her poems — some of which she read — are online here, here, here, and here.

Back, and unsure about the whole enterprise. Hales seems to be pretty good at what she does — as far as I can tell, the poems work pretty well on her own terms, and the reading went much more smoothly than I would have expected.

But it makes me realise just how adrift I am when it comes to poetry. I go to readings from time to time, hoping to find something that will describe, explain or enrich the world. Instead I just end up feeling baffled, stupid, underread, and resentful about the entire enterprise.

Partly, this comes down to my old grumble that poetry would be much improved by footnotes. When I don’t understand the origin of a quotation, or the significance of an allusion, entire sections devolve towards being just patterns of meaningless words. There’s little way to know what you’re missing; just a requirement that you spend a lifetime reading the language whose fragments are regurgitated into the poetry. This I won’t do, any more than I’m willing to inhale the canon of Star Wars and Doctor Who so I can follow in-jokes on Livejournal.

It’s a different feeling of stupidity to what comes from not understanding science. There, every moment of ignorance has a solution; understanding some area is mainly just a matter of reading textbooks and papers until it makes sense. Maybe it’ll take more time than I’m willing to put in, but I always know that the answer is out there.

Whereas, poetry? [I mean, this kind of poetry, academic poetry. Poetry that gets listened to by non-poets is a different matter] I have the sense that the only way to understand it is through slow cultural acclimatisation, spending years bouncing around the English department of some anglophone university. And I have plenty of ways to waste my life already, without going down that route.

This shouldn’t irritate me as much as it does; I should be able to accept that poetry is just an enclosed, self-referential world, that I can amicably sidestep in the same way I do Warcraft players. But I can’t; I’m somehow still hooked by the cultural status, by the feeling that I *should* be able to grok poetry, by the wariness that people are doing things with words that I can’t even work out how to comprehend.

The saving grace is the knowledge that, even if I did acquire understanding, perhaps through years of rigorous training in some remote poetry-temple, it still wouldn’t do me any good. As CH describes her work:

‘Look in vain for (linear) narrative, for anecdote, for epiphanies, for messages, for making-the world-a-better-place: the world is a mess and language is messy and the world is language and any attempt to tidy it up with poetry is falsification. There is no utopian vision…’

But what is the use of a book (or anything else, for that matter), without epiphanies and making the world a better place? I’m well aware of the messiness and meaninglessness of the world; the challenge is to tie it into some kind of plausible structure, to give yourself a reason to carry on living. Catherine Hales, by her own aims, isn’t going to do that.

So, in the end, I turn back to rabble-rousing slam poetry. Not only is it easier to understand, but it hints at the possibility of a life not based on continual self-doubt and self-examination, where it is possible to change the world rather than just passively complaining about it. I prefer my poetry weaponized:)

England is Mine

April 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Bracewell’s “England is Mine” turns out to be excellent page by page, but a bit of a letdown overall. He’s taken as his basic thesis something entirely vagye and anodyne, namely nostalgia for the countryside within English culture and pop music. He calls this “Arcadia”, although it’s unclear what makes this a peculiarly English form different from the adoration of an imagined countryside that is present in just about every country in the world. Likewise, the breadth and commonness of the subject makes it hard to trace any intellectual ancestry for the views he describes: who is to say whether different longings for “Arcadia” are directly related, or just parallel expressions of the same common human urge?

That said, I’m only on page 37; all this could well be resolved later.


April 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

If we aren’t quite living through the End of History, it’s safe to say that it’s taking a tea break. In Europe at least, there are no huge socio-politico-cultural movements flinging themselves at the organs of power. Whatever’s interesting is happening in small pockets on the edges, or within the closed-off worlds of science and technology. Developments in Asia and the South are regularly noted as Big and Dramatic, but don’t attract our daily attention.

And yet, despite all this, you can still find any number of writers obsessed with the speed of culture, even arguing that “Speed…has become the definition of the present” [Gil Delannoi]. “Internet speed” made some sense in the first dot-come boom, but has lingered as a concept even while the pace of online change has slowed to a crawl.

Where there is speed, it can be not an expression of change, but an alternative to it. So with twitter, which fetishes speed while limiting the possibilities of expression to little more than phatic self-stereotyping. Maybe this is the same as what is happening everywhere; fetishise speed to avoid noticing the (lack of) content.

And none of this is new. Both sides have been around since at least the Industrial Revolution — the one fetishizing speed as a symbol of modernity, the other criticising its emptiness, how it robs us of the ability to appreciate the world. So some of the current obsession with speed (exemplified by this issue of Esprit) has a weirdly retro-futuristic feel to it. It’s like a faint echo of Futurism (“A speeding car is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.” ) — but stripped of optimism, anger and enthusiasm.

April 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Legal abuse of statistics

On April 14, the most spectacular miscarriage of justice in years is coming to a conclusion in the Netherlands. The nurse Lucia de Berk was given a life sentence back in 2004 – and in NL that means life – for 7 murders and 3 attempted murders of babies and earlier of old people in her care. After a long hard fight the trial has been reopened and now it is nearly over. All the deaths and incidents appear to have been completely natural. [from comments]

April 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Or, as Helen puts it: Your goal for this election period is to challenge apathetic non-voters. This has got to stop being a socially acceptable position to take.

April 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

remember, every time Cameron talks about disillusionment with politics, what he’s really saying is “lefties, don’t bother coming out to vote”. I’d bet money that this is a conscious strategy to keep the left home on May 6th.

April 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Why have I never previously encountered Pynchon as essayist:

historical Ned Lud was well absorbed into the more or less sarcastic nickname “King (or Captain) Ludd,” and was now all mystery, resonance and dark fun: a more-than-human presence, out in the night, roaming the hosiery districts of England, possessed by a single comic shtick — every time he spots a stocking-frame he goes crazy and proceeds to trash it.


April 11th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Rereading the start of Charles Stross’ Accelerando. It’s exhilerating, because of how familiar it is: each year, the CCC is filled with proto-Macxs — Stross is just giving the present a shot of narrative adrenaline. And lovingly mocking reality while he’s at it — samba-punk, clothing tics and all.

The later chapters are also good, but I stop caring when it stops becoming recognizably human. Guess I’m a near-future kind of guy, for the same reasons I’m a reformer and not a revolutionary: the utopia that appeals is the one attainable by nudging the present in the right way.

That Ate

April 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

There’s a snowclone in the form of “The X that ate Y”, where Y is usually a city. Examples, mainly via Google:
“The painting that ate Paris”
“The blog that ate Manhattan”
“The cars that ate Paris”
“The database that ate American business”
“The genetic algorithm that ate Calcutta”
“The blob that ate everyone”

Can anybody tell me what the original version is? Is there an original?
[asked for no reason beyond idle curiosity]

April 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Prospect gives Richard Florida a healthy battering:

Florida does not ignore the downsides of the shifts he describes; he just accepts them with a Panglossian shrug. Is income inequality increasing? Well, that’s because the upper echelon benefits from “creativity,” when in fact Florida’s “creative class” is defined to include essentially everyone in the highest-earning third of the work force — including the titans of finance, whose “creativity” has turned out to be deeply destructive. Are good factory jobs melting away? Sure, but that just means the country needs to make service jobs better paying and more fulfilling.

April 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Dealing with shrinking cities in eastern Germany:

One of the IBA’s more radical ideas is that of “city islands” in Dessau-Rosslau. The planners have “kind of disassembled the city into pixels and put it back together again using a cut-and-paste method,” as Brückner explains. According to the concept, Dessau-Rosslau would abandon the model of a more compact central city, leaving only islands of houses. “Buildings will be cut out and in the empty spaces we will insert countryside,” Brückner explains.

Protected: robots and beach balls

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Protected: out in london this weekend?

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