Wikipedia News

Wikipedia has been in the news a lot lately. Some of the articles are quite insightful:

Each article examines a different aspect of Wikipedia knowledge and culture, and they fit together nicely (although presumably unintentionally). Both articles are proof that traditional print media can still be relevant and coexist semi-peacefully with peer production efforts like Wikipedia. They are also excellent examples of something other than a knee-jerk defensive reaction by incumbent media to a perceived threat (e.g., this FOX news story or Britannica’s response to Nature’s article comparing Wikipedia to Brittanica).

Meanwhile, an interesting unrelated Wikipedia commentary in the blogosphere:

Real Gone

Great Tom Waits album that had slipped my memory: Real Gone. Actually, add to that every other Tom Waits album. I can’t think of many artists 35 years into their careers who are still pushing their edge.

Return to Traverse City Film Festival

We spent last week at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. This was the second year of the festival as well as our second year attending. Unlike last year, there was no “Freedom Festival” organized by Michael Moore-haters this year. Perhaps they are still recovering their debts from last year, when they lost money and had to stop their showing of “Michael Moore Hates America” after discovering it had inappropriate language for the family audience they were targeting.

We saw nine films in just five days — four in one day was our max. (Rachele saw one more — The Beauty Academy of Kabul — that I missed, unfortunately, and we gave our tickets to Jesus Camp to Rachele’s parents.) Our selections were:

The one that sticks most in my memory is La Moustache. The essence of the plot is revealed in the first minute of the movie: a man shaves off his mustache. His wife of fifteen years doesn’t notice. In fact, she doesn’t remember he ever had a mustache. While the film starts as vaguely comic, it quickly spirals into a psychic breakdown with a possibly unreliable narrator. It was quite nearly perfect.

The beautifully restored virgin print of Monty Python’s Holy Grail was astonishing. The film was shown for free on a large outdoor screen by the lake, and the sound was crystal clear (now in stereo!) no matter where you sat. There are a bunch of scenes everyone always remembers in the Holy Grail. I realized after watching it again that the movie is composed entirely of these memorable scenes. (I had the same feeling watching the Wizard of Oz after a ten to fifteen year hiatus recently.)

Finally, Stanley Kubrick’s first film, The Killing (1956) also merits the maximum rating, whatever that is (5.5 stars?). While it lacks the surreal/experimental feel of his later films, Kubrick was already beginning to play with narrative structure and sequencing. The film walks through the events leading to the climax several times, each time from a different character’s point of view. But really it’s just a great heist flick.

Mani Haghigi, the Iranian director of Men at Work, had an interesting observation about the festival. Unlike most other film festivals, he, as a director, could just hang out and enjoy the films and the company and not worry about impressing executives and distributors. The festival’s motto is accurate — “Just Great Movies.”

Cell Phone Interface Design Principles

Are there any cell phone interface design principles? (Google’s answer is inconclusive.) I would think a multi-billion dollar industry would have developed some best practices at this point, but it seems like each new phone is designed by monkeys jumping on typewriters. Maybe eventually they’ll get it right, but I’d rather not wait until infinity.

A persistent flaw that has always puzzled me across nearly all models is the “shut down sound” feature. If you are shutting off your cell phone, do you really need a distinctive musical reminder? Did the designers of this feature ever consider that, in many instances, the user is shutting off the cell phone because they are in a silent theatre or a business meeting? Who are these designers, anyway? Of course you can always turn the volume down first (or probably better — just silence the phone and keep it on), but that is not going to be the first inclination for most users.

I was reminded of this flaw last night at a Counterpoint Concert that was being recorded for VPR radio broadcast. After the chorus director reminded people to turn off their cell phones for the recording, a symphony of shut down sounds followed shortly thereafter.

Cell phone gripes aside, the concert was great — particularly the performance of They Called Her Moses.

On a related note, see this petition regarding cell phone user interfaces and software. Joel on Software also has some nice observations on this topic.


Falsiness. At some point, meta-humour became the new humour. I happen to love it.

Incidentally, when are we going to get a flash player for linux that doesn’t have a/v sync problems? It seems like flash may be winning the video format war, and it would be nice if it really worked cross platform.

Caltrain Goes Wifi

Via tikirobot: CalTrain goes WiFi:

The train reached 79 mph while testers watched streaming video, composed e-mail and completed a large file download at broadband speeds…

The service apparently will be free.

So when will Boston get a similar service for the subway or commuter rail? Given the MBTA’s dismal performance lately and inability to implement new technology (e.g. e.g. e.g.), I’m not going to hold my breath.

The Onion Still Has It

Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence:

NEW YORK. Wikipedia, the online, reader-edited encyclopedia, honored the 750th anniversary of American independence on July 25 with a special featured section on its main page Tuesday.

“It would have been a major oversight to ignore this portentous anniversary,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, whose site now boasts over 4,300,000 articles in multiple languages, over one-quarter of which are in English, including 11,000 concerning popular toys of the 1980s alone. “At 750 years, the U.S. is by far the world’s oldest surviving democracy, and is certainly deserving of our recognition,” Wales said. “According to our database, that’s 212 years older than the Eiffel Tower, 347 years older than the earliest-known woolly-mammoth fossil, and a full 493 years older than the microwave oven.”

I also thought this Dan Rather/Michael Stipe bit was hilarious, but it only works if you’re already in on the joke.