Monthly Archives: July 2009

No Country for Old Men

Confused.  Again.  Let’s see if I can piece it together.  Don’t read unless you saw as I will likely ruin the plot.

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Idea: Comment Thread Digests

On a current thread about Russian Neo-Nazis, there was the usual content-to-noise ratio problems.  I found myself commenting on page 13 setting up a strawman argument with some usual suspect on these forums – the “you all suck cause you all idiots” type of commenter…  but he did have one thing right – who gives a rats ass about most of the comments.

Given the last comment I made about people interested in conclusions, this gave me an idea: I am interested in commentary below stories, but I hate all the noise.  Perhaps this is an opportunity for a startup to do comment aggregation?  This could create a whole new dynamic for discussions and how to monitor them.

The idea has two product offerings:

Part I:

Human-driven evaluation of comments and generation of synopses with conclusion parading at the top.  This way, whenever someone looks at a comment, they get to see what valuable content there may be underneath.

Part II:

A commenting engine with a rating system that would drive structure.  I have to think about this a little, but this could run on top of existing comment threads providing a value-add to forums helping deal with the problem of temporal dependence.

So, in case this idea flies, I just took www.commentdigest.com. Might be a good one to sick the prototyping system on.

Also, speaking of comments, this could also be especially interesting as applied to online discussions.  Perhaps something I could use at JoVE.

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Observations on Thought Part II

After a good night sleep…  in two parts (3 to 11 + 12 to 4…holy crap, I am a ridiculous waste), need to formalize what it is I am looking for in a “blog”.  First off, there is one idea we need to shed – not everybody is interested in everything about you.  Or me, in this case.  For instance, chatted with Cyn this morning and her voice betrayed a bit of a disappointment “Oh, this is work related…” until she scrolled down and saw the word “relationships” and I felt a proverbial "Aha!”.

Anyway, point being that people are not interested in everything I do.  Moreover, even I am not interested in everything I do.   A blog is a way for me to verbalize my thoughts, organize my life.  And I will rarely (never so far) go reading randomly from my past posts…  if someone else ever does so, it will probably to dig up dirt for when I am running for president. Which right now is not very likely.  Too verbose.  BTW, I shave my head yesterday.  It felt amazing.

Moving right along.  So what I need is something that is not temporally organized.  Let’s start simple: I need a root, the root needs to grow into a tree, and people interested in various aspects of what I write should be able to track branch growth changes/additions/improvements.

To take this a step further, I would argue that this is not unique to people following individuals.  This should also extend to people tracking ANY information including news tracking of news stories.  Moreover, depending on value of each individual branch, it may be possible to do micropayments.

I know what you are thinking.  But this is what tags and categories are for!  And you are right – there is some measure of scoping, but there is no focus. There should always be an article with conclusions. And, it may be possible to do what I am describing now through the existing systems, but it takes too much work.  Too much work means it doesn’t get done.  (Aside – I wonder how difficult it would be to quantify the energy threshold for when tasks become easy enough to be adopted by the market).

So some conclusions (C: = conclusion):

  • C: my blog is an online notebook that needs to be easy to work with.
  • C: it should be possible to discern importance of information within a particular context (information unit?) 
    • Aside: Perhaps informational units should be identified as content is written?
  • C: blogs should enable writing to accumulate information into a structure that is not temporally dependent.

While writing this, I had another thought – what if I am completely wrong about my approach to this?  what if, in fact, what I am describing is a sort of “refactoring” of material that can most effectively now be supported through workflows combined with the wordpress pages feature?  For example, there are tons of wiki systems and blogs that try to have a plethora of features, but text is still easiest to work with most of the time, so Wikipedia is primarily text-based with regular rehashing (this is an assumption – I don’t know this for a fact) of content to be better organized.

Conclusion: I need to outline conceptual demands for a system and then, even thought it will be annoying, support these systems through workflows rather than through designing as system.  Then a system can be popped into place to support what I need to have done.

While writing this, also some thoughts:

  • Formatting needs to be more flexible to allow presentation to bring additional information.  If you noticed, I was bolding out important concepts to allow skimming of this material.  It would be great if I could also use indentation more aggressively as well as coloring of text.
    • Gray out non-bold text
    • Bullet point symbols should specify what sort of content bullet it is: concept, aside, etc.

Basically, I need richer metadata to allow for less re-organization.

Now, major workflow question – how do I take my thoughts here and make sure that there is сухой остаток (Russian: a dry remainder).  Something actionable.

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Observations on Thought

First off, we [people] are generally not interested in the process. Sure, there are scenarios when people do for the sake of doing (ends=means: music, snowboarding, leisure reading, watching movies, etc.), but I am talking about things like studying, working, doing things with an end-goal in mind.

The present blogging structure is not fit for this workflow – it is more of a pleasure-oriented medium so far.

So, two main points:

  1. Since this blog is intended to be my notebook, I need to change it.  Specifically, I need a product that would:
    1. Allow my readers (assuming someone other than me cares about content here), to get a present state and historical updates.
    2. Ability to interact with content on a constant basis.
  2. I am interested in answers to questions, which defines how I do research. For example, question that I have are:
    1. What is the most efficient way to exercise and why?
    2. How do I learn how to speed-read?
    3. Is what I am eating adequate?

Both have straighforward ways of being addressed, but need to sleep now.  Will post more later.

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Democamp Boston

Checked out DemoCampBoston last night. Overall, the venue was great, but the event was a strange mix of interesting stuff with some stale and some downright lame presentations.

Brief synopsis:

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Goodbye LJ, Hello WordPress

So I decided to move from my LiveJournal to WordPress.  Considered paying for an account, but first I think I’ll try the generic offering.

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Amazon Turk

Went to a talk about the Amazon Turk.  Overall, the talk was ok, despite being a general introduction.

To start, some judgmental bitching on my part:

I am not sure I understood the purpose of this talk.  All points were touched upon briefly and, as far as introductions go, Aaron Shaw carried the point across keeping the attention of, what looked like a fairly bored, even if a very intelligent-looking crowd.  So the talk was ok – some humor, made his point, but what ensued then was just average mixed in with straightforward dull.  And the answers were much too long and the substance…  drove me up the freaking wall…

Here we have a technology that has been around for a while – on average, it allows people to generate a wage of somewhere between $3 and $4 an hour.  At the same time, we have Iraq with about 20% unemployment significantly contributing to destabilization and, according to a friend of mine who worked there, a need for jobs providing $4 to $5 an hour…  yet what was discussed?  Questions/discussion included stuff like: "Is it ethical to pay someone 1 cent per task? That’s exploitation…" and "What about the ethical implications of using other people’s work that you pay little for but give no recognition" to the hilarious "Shouldn’t we discuss potential for racial discrimination?".  AT FUCKING HARVARD!  Where is the brilliant imagination and concern for humanity?!  Did I miss something?  Are these topics so jaded and did they cover, in the beginning of the talk, why the Turk model is not of significance for humanity?  Don’t get me wrong: these may be all good subjects for discussion in a philosophy class, but how detached must you be to discuss ethics before socio-economic implications?  Ugh…

I mean, either these people live in some sort of a protective bubble, or I am really missing something.

Although, to be fair, as far as being a douche, I contributed my fair share of idiotic commentary after the meeting…  jumped to all sorts of conclusions about all sorts of people, but I am not a Harvard academic.

The atmosphere felt stale and rigid with people more concerned about their egos than about the actual issues.  I don’t get it.  Apparently, judging by the commentary at the bottom of this page, I was not the only one frustrated.

Enough bitching – I am becoming as petty as the people I chastise.  Some constructive thoughts/questions that I think would be very interesting:

1. Why has this not been deployed internationally? (or has it?)  According to Aaron, Amazon’s Turk is subject to the Patriot Act, and they dealt with it by requiring US-based accounts.  Interesting point.  I remember a good article about Ebay vs. Paypal (sorry, can’t find the link – main idea was that, because Paypal had nothing to lose, they broke lots of rules and were able to consequently beat out Ebay despite having an inferior product)- could this mean an opportunity for an Amazon competitor in this space who doesn’t have much to lose?

2. I still don’t quite understand the problems that are being solved through this system.  I think it would be very productive to categorize and ascertain marketing strategy for how to drive project providers to use Turk models.  My brother gave the Turk a try, but ran into low quality of results, which should be easily addressed through building a self-referential system: pretty much same models as ones that must have been used to verify quality of human subjects back in the day.

3. What are deployment strategies?  I understand that there are mobile-phone-oriented strategies that may work?  Could this be used to provide jobs in areas with high levels of poverty both in the developing and the developed world?

4. Could this be coupled with education systems so that people who participate must solve problems and read material that relates to problems at hand?  So, for example, if you get people in Africa use this system, provide questions that would improve skill/knowledge levels in immediately applicable fields.  Ex: agriculture, math, marketing, etc.

Lots of other questions should come to mind, but don’t as am tired and cranky and need sleep.

Nikita’s LJ Tags: , , ,

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