Archive of Posts from November 2004

Chinese Weblogs

I've been thinking about this New Science article on weblogs—The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China—and differing approaches to censorship. (Spotted on Joho the Blog: Bo ke.) This part about blogs being good at finding euphamisms is great:
But the net police found it much harder to purge discussion of Yitahutu's closure in the blogosphere. Bloggers are quick to find euphemisms so that they can continue conversation despite keyword filtering.
Keyword filtering and banning seems like a quaint way to control language. If Lakoff, Luntz, and Orwell have taught us anything it's that the power is in redefining words. I think about this whenever I hear the phrase activist judges. If you want to take power away from the judicial branch of the government, one way to do it is to make the word judge itself into a slur. (It worked with the word liberal.) And hey, why not take down the word activist while you're at it? That's so much more effective than trying to stop the use of the words judge or activist. People have to use these words to communicate, and by attaching negative meanings to them you force people to think negatively about the concepts these words represent. Philip K. Dick also nailed this idea:
The basic tool for manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
Chinese bloggers are practicing the new style of word-manipulation to route around an old style of control.

Oregon Photo Contest

Hey Oregon amateur photographers, you may be interested in this photo contest: Photo of the Year. There's a $15 submission fee that goes directly to the Multnomah Outdoor School.

RAW image format

After reading this article about the RAW image format—Raw Advantage (click this title on the lefthand menu)—I decided to try shooting some photos in RAW instead of JPEG. After playing around with it, I feel like I have a new camera. When you bring up a RAW file in Photoshop, you get a RAW import dialog that lets you make level/color adjustments:

RAW file import

The adjustments here seem much more flexible than the standard levels dialog. One drawback is a much larger file size—RAW files on my camera take up around 5MB per photo instead of the 1-2MB JPEGs. Another is that the built-in thumbnail viewer in XP doesn't understand RAW files, so if I make the switch I'll have to go with a 3rd party thumbnail viewer. This article at Microsoft, Managing Your Digital Camera's RAW Files, recommends IMatch so I'm trying it out now. I don't necessarily need all of the image-catalog stuff that goes along with it. Any other good (hopefully free) RAW thumbnail-viewing programs out there? And, of course, going through this import with each photo will add more time to the whole process, but it seems like it'll be worth it.

Amazon Citations Touchgraph

Sweet! Alf over at HubLog, hooked up Amazon.com Citations and Touchgraph: TouchGraph browser for Amazon Citations. He set it up as a bookmark, so you can launch it from any Amazon page. He also has an example set up using the book I mentioned: TouchGraph citations for Moral Animal. Since the data isn't available via the API, he must be scraping the HTML.

The coolest part: double-clicking a book reference brings that book up in the graph, and you can see which citations the books have in common.

Talk about the LazyWeb in action—thanks for the fun, Alf!

Update: Looks like the citations feature may be in flux at Amazon, so the HubLog TouchGraph browser isn't working at the moment. (It was fun while it lasted!)

Amazon.com Citations

Cool new Amazon feature: Amazon.com Citations.
Amazon scans every book in the Search Inside the Book program looking for phrases that match the names of books in our catalog. We make a note of these "citations" and display them to you...
For example, a book I'm currently reading—Moral Animal—contains references to 96 other books. This feature can help situate books within a larger context than the Customers who bought this item also bought-list can. I hope they make this data available through the API so we can see some Touchgraph maps of book-citation connections.

And they should start scraping the URLs mentioned within books too. And while I'm wishing, how about citing weblogs that cite books? ;)

Web logs at the Daily Emerald

I talked with UO Journalism student Tony Lucero a few days ago, and he included some of our conversation in an article about weblogs in the University paper: Web logs transform expression methods. (Though I call them weblogs.) He mentioned that he's been following Blogger since I was working there, and we talked a bit about that time. I was surprised at how much he knew about the company, but I guess we did have a webcam on every desk back then.

jjg fires up a blog

Jesse James Garret resurrected his blog: jjg blog!

onfocus.com is six

onfocus.com turned six sometime last week. Adding thoughts and photos to this space has been a part of my life for a long time. I don't see an end in sight.

Thanks to the Internet Archive, here's a look at what this site has looked like over the years—

onfocus past

reactionary? nah.

Matt's placing some blame on himself for TiVo-ad backlash posts like mine. The PVRblog post that I linked to was picked up and syndicated across many blogs, and Matt feels like he could have kept the negative reaction from happening: Behind the website: when you're at the helm of a shitstorm. Even having a more detailed view of the feature now, I still feel the same way. Will the genuine concerns of weblog authors be dismissed as irrational or reactionary every time they're voiced against a bad business practice? I hope not. (Though maybe I'm just being reactionary to the reactionary label?)

TiVo Ads

I've been a happy TiVo customer for over four years (I recently bought a Series 2), and I wouldn't watch TV any other way. (Even when I'm cutting back.) But I'm going to have to seriously look at the other systems out there now, or give up on TV entirely. PVRblog: TiVo to add banner ads to service when fast forwarding. Psst, people want technology that helps them avoid ads, that's why they're buying TiVos in the first place.

wordPhoto needs help

wordPhoto needs help or Michael is going to have to shut it down.

hybrid register

As a non-academic, I love to hear academic labels for things. Did you know that written text that sounds like oral speech is called a hybrid register? That's the best title for a blog I've heard in a long time. Hurry—it's still available!

Laura Gurak talks

Laura Gurak gave two talks today at OSU and both were weblog-centric. She described the UThink weblog project at the University of Minnesota, and the exclusively-online weblog academic journal she edits. She also mentioned a system for describing the features of any electronic discourse grouped into the attributes speed, reach, anonymity, and interactivity.

Because I somewhat obsessively note books that are mentioned in talks, I have a list from her talks today that I give you with no context whatsoever: Some other interesting reading that she mentioned— I met and had lunch with Laura today where we discussed everything from weblogs (of course), to disruptive academic technologies, to the tyranny of templates, to tech avatars.

I've been working in and around (and publishing my own) weblogs for so long now that I've had glasses and glasses of the blog kool-aid many times over. I already know the benefits of sharing stuff freely in a public way, even though my writing isn't perfected and polished here as I would strive for in a book or article. It was really surprising to me to hear resistance to the concept of weblogs from the OSU faculty.

Update: The OSU Barometer covered her talk: Leading Internet scholar addresses blogs in education

Laura Gurak speaking at OSU

It's late notice now, but Laura Gurak—editor of a scholarly journal about weblogs called Into the Blogosphere—is speaking at OSU tomorrow in MU 206 at noon. The title of her talk is Steering Technology or Technology Steering?, and is about managing technology in our personal and professional lives. She's the author of Cyberliteracy, and a book about online protests, Persuasion and Privacy in Cyberspace. It looks like she has a weblog at LauraGurakBlog. Her talk is open to the public.

the persuaders

I took a break from my TV-fast to watch Frontline tonight. It was another excellent program about the media by Douglas Rushkoff called The Persuaders. It reminded me of this quote by Marshall McLuhan:
Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commerical interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.
I think McLuhan's point is that anytime we consume electronic media, it's giving control of our senses over to a third-party temporarily. Right now you've entrusted me—some random guy in Oregon you probably don't know—with your eyes and attention. Your nervous system is processing this post and evaluating these words. Once *every* message entering our consciousness is paid-for by a commercial interest, we've given away our ability to have an authentic culture. What's hopeful about this view of media is that the choice is ultimately ours; we have some power over how much control over our nervous system we give out.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Saturday sk and I went to Portland to hear Scott Andrew drop some folkpop on the Red and Black Cafe. It was good to hear an extended set of Scott's tunes, and it was great to witness the energy he pours into performing. (Scott's take: Tour Diary: Portland, OR, and Matt's photo: Red and Black Cafe.)

The TV reduction is going very well. We moved the TV out of the living room entirely, and we've rearranged the furniture. It's amazing how peaceful a room becomes without the dark, reflective screen sucking away the energy. I watched the McLaughlin Group on Friday night, but nothing since then.

Of course the election was the biggest topic of coversation with equally-stunned friends over the weekend. My strategy is to make positive changes here at home, and then I'll think about how they can be extended to the outside world. sk's strategy is to do more volunteer work in the community, and make a difference in some areas that will be affected by the election results.

I haven't taken any photos lately, but I need to get out with the camera while the fall colors are here.

election reactions

Some stuff about the election that, if you read my blog, you've probably already read; but I'm posting here anyway: I feel terrible. My first resolution under the final reign of Bush: watch much less TV. I've already been cutting back, but I think it's time to eliminate the box from my daily life as much as possible.

obscene

nope, it was the obscenities.

thoughtful silence

What this site lacks in actual posts, it makes up for with thoughtful silence. I'll be holding my breath all day tomorrow. Hopefully when I finally exhale it'll be a sigh of relief instead of a steady stream of obscenities.

ps. what matt said, vote.