Lazyweb Search Request: Easy Content Management

Dear Lazyweb:

Can you suggest open source content management software that meets these criteria:

  • Cross-platform
  • Very easy to install and configure (from the admin side) and use (from the user side) — I’m thinking as easy from both sides as vqwiki
  • Drag-and-drop to upload content — ideally, the user could drag a DOC file from desktop into a widget in the browser to upload
  • Quick searching and indexing, at least of common file-types (including DOC and PDF)
  • Ability to set up arbitrary metadata elements and values that can assist as filters to searching

Generally, content will be located by search, rather than via any particular folder hierarchy.

Does it exist? There seem to be a lot of open source CMS options, but at least at first glance they may be overkill with a significant learning curve at least on the admin side.

ISO Kids Game

Dear Lazyweb:

I’m looking for well-designed computer games that meet the following criteria:

(1) Appropriate for a bright four-year-old with low vision (but able to read large print)
(2) minimal/no advertising
(3) preferably Flash/web-based
(4) some educational value (math, reading, etc.)

A few Google searches haven’t turned up much promising. Any suggestions?

MBTA Blocking TPM

I’ve been happy to see WiFi appearing on nearly every MBTA commuter rail car recently. I was less happy to see this:



I guess I’ll have to wait until I get home to find out why this bothered Steve so much.

Oddly, the MBTA’s web filter also blocked access to my WordPress editor, but unlike the TPM block, I could select “yes, I really want to do this” to get here.

I’ve never understood why web filters so often block these sorts of sites on apparently generic settings. “General News/Blogs/Wikis” are dangerous? Reputation “neutral”? I’d be surprised if anyone at the T actually did this on purpose, but I suppose it would fit the general pattern of operational incompetence.

Update: the problem appears to be real.

Clay Shirky on Newspapers

Excellent summary of where we find the newspaper business today:

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.

Oops 3/16/09. “Shirky,” not Sharky.

EOM Is Clever

I’ve used the TLA EOM occasionally, but never considered the full scope of its utility. Lifehacker just made me a full convert:

EOM means much more than End of Message. It means “good use of time.” It means “concise.” It means “clarity.” But GUOTCC doesn’t have the same ring as EOM, so let’s stick with it. Here are eight great reasons for you to adopt EOM while crafting your email messages.

(1) EOM saves your recipient’s time.—Don’t you value your time? Isn’t it nice when others value your time too? By keeping your subject line short and using EOM you are showing the people you send to you value their time. They’ll thank you for it (when they know what it means).

(8) EOM guarantees 100% readership—We’ve all had the frustrating experience of waiting on someone to read our important email and respond. Sometimes we wait a long time and follow up to find out they haven’t even read the message at all. Perhaps the most powerful advantage of EOM is 100% readership. Why? Because your entire message is in the subject line. Your message becomes impossible to ignore because it comes in front and center—no need to double click.

In a job where I receive between 300-1000 emails on most weekdays, every little bit helps.  The main drawback of excessive EOM’ing may be that it breaks threading for some mail readers, and may be incompatible with other email conventions.

[Tags]Email, EOM, Lifehacker, Productivity[/Tags]

In Search of Low-Calorie Slashdot Replacement

I reluctantly include Slashdot in my Google Reader subscriptions. I’ve yet to find another source with the same breadth of news coverage that approximately matches my personal and professional interests. The problem is that I’m increasingly annoyed by the editorial slant. The comments have always been hit-or-miss — mostly miss — but as I’ve gained expertise over the past six or seven years (particularly in legal topics), I’ve noticed that the article summaries themselves are invariably written by someone who has no idea what they are talking about.

So I ask the blogosphere: what’s a good Slashdot substitute? I’m looking for something with a good mix of breaking science, technology, Internet, law, and free-speech type stories, but without everything that makes Slashdot irritating.


“Free” Books

Via Lifehacker, legal cost-free books under copyright from Wowio. This is a great idea, and I give it even odds for being the future of books. (Or at least, part of books’ future).

What is WOWIO?
WOWIO is a new kind of online bookstore that enables readers to download ebooks for free, using commercial sponsorships to compensate authors and publishers. Readers get free ebooks. Sponsors get a powerful new channel to communicate their message to precisely the people they want to reach. Publishers get a new means of distributing their books, expanding their readership, and monetizing their intellectual property.

Does WOWIO use any kind of digital rights management (DRM)?
Since anyone can defeat the most “sophisticated” DRM with the print screen button, we believe that technology-based DRM is essentially a fraud. Our approach takes the market incentive out of misbehaving, rewards people for doing the right thing, and tries to stay out of the way of honest users. To help keep everyone honest, however, readers must authenticate their identity and agree to a licensing agreement when they set up their account. Then, each ebook is serialized with the reader’s authenticated name and a unique serial number, as well as other less visible markers. WOWIO will immediately terminate the account of anyone caught illegally distributing ebooks, and will prosecute serious offenders.

[Tags]Wowio, Books, DRM, Digital Rights Management, Copyright[/Tags]

The Onion Video is the New SNL

Growing up for the most part in the 1980’s, Saturday Night Live was the funniest regularly scheduled part of my week. It’s either gotten less funny over the years, or I’ve changed. Probably both.

One of the biggest problems SNL faces is that it must fill ninety minutes every week, although these days if you subtract out ads, music, and other filler/transitional material,  I expect it’s only thirty to forty minutes of actual comedy. Either way, a lot of SNL skits go on longer than necessary to deliver their comic payload. I expect this was actually true in the 1980’s as well, but I didn’t notice it so much.

Enter The Onion and its video content.  Freed from the confines of the television programming schedule, the Onion can make its online video clips just exactly as long as the writers want, and release them on their own schedule. In recent months, they’ve been batting in the high 800s. E.g., Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results of 2008 Election Early (on a serious note, see Ed Felten’s recent Sequoia discovery and followup); Army Holds Annual ‘Bring Your Daughter to War’ Day. Or any of them, really.

White House Press Secretary Spins Wife’s Tragic Death As A Positive

Army Holds Annual ‘Bring Your Daughter To War’ Day

My only complaint about The Onion video content is that they have only one sponsor at any given time, and they make you watch the same exact ad (both as a short pre-mercial and a longer post-mercial) every time you watch a video. The repetition isn’t effective and I can’t imagine it’s the best use of the Onion’s advertising revenue. I suggest at least rotation ads — or better yet, only forcing an ad on the viewer after every nth video.

Thanks to Steve and Flour for the key insight about clip-length.

[Tags]The Onion, Saturday Night Live[/Tags]

Recycle Your PACER Documents

Brilliant and legal.

[Tags]PACER, PublicResource, Carl Malamud, Public Access, Law[/Tags]

Media for Kids

One great thing about kids — especially kids who have not been overexposed to TV media — is how easily entertained they are. We recently showed Esther some Looney Tunes cartoons from the 1940’s (on a real TV, no less!) and she couldn’t stop laughing. It is refreshing to see someone spellbound by animated content that didn’t require a rendering farm to create. I’m sure she’ll be jaded soon enough, but we’re trying to drag it out as long as possible by providing only very occasional small doses.

This piece on the end of reading as a cultural activity is chock full of interesting statistics. This excerpt, in particular, is relevant here:

In August, scientists at the University of Washington revealed that babies aged between eight and sixteen months know on average six to eight fewer words for every hour of baby DVDs and videos they watch daily. A 2005 study in Northern California found that a television in the bedroom lowered the standardized-test scores of third graders. And the conflict continues throughout a child’s development. In 2001, after analyzing data on more than a million students around the world, the researcher Micha Razel found “little room for doubt” that television worsened performance in reading, science, and math. The relationship wasn’t a straight line but “an inverted check mark”: a small amount of television seemed to benefit children; more hurt. For nine-year-olds, the optimum was two hours a day; for seventeen-year-olds, half an hour. Razel guessed that the younger children were watching educational shows, and, indeed, researchers have shown that a five-year-old boy who watches “Sesame Street” is likely to have higher grades even in high school. Razel noted, however, that fifty-five per cent of students were exceeding their optimal viewing time by three hours a day, thereby lowering their academic achievement by roughly one grade level.

It certainly doesn’t surprise me that television–even educational TV–is generally not good for kids. The “inverted check mark” bit was a surprise, though. Who would guess that two hours a day is optimal for the nine-year-old brain?

On a related note, Kiddie Records Weekly (recommended by here) is an astonishingly extensive source of free children’s books in MP3 format. It’s also an excellent example of the increasing relevance of bittorent in enabling wide economical distribution of legitimate content. The content is primarily (exclusively?) digitized vinyl records from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Fortunately, Alice in Wonderland gets no worse with age.

To complete the nostalgia circuit, who can forget “loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter” (via sketchelement, quite a while ago):


These are good times to be a kid. Or maybe just to be a parent.

[Tags]Looney Tunes, Alice in Wonderland, Reading, TV, Cartoons, Sesame Street, Bittorrent[/Tags]