Voting and the tyranny of the masses

College startup askes:

What if the New York Times let users vote on stories on their webpage the way Digg lets users vote? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to visit the website and see what real people found interesting? Wouldn’t that help the editors figure out which authors were most interesting to the public?

The internet has changed a lot in just the last two years. Despite social pundits predictions of saying that the internet separates people, we find that more and more internet applications are social, and brings them together in different ways. There isn’t just IRC, homepages, newsgroups, forums, and eBay anymore; but now there are blogs, digg, and del.icio.us.

And where we find ourselves right now are social web applications–things that connect people to each other through some medium. I too am excited by the democratization of mediums, such as keyword tagging in flickr and del.icio.us, and the voting by members of digg. It allows fridges and innovations not normally seen in mainstream to rise meteorically to the attention of the masses.

The concept of decentralized thinking is alluring in that it is the anti-thesis of traditional centralized mediums, such as radio and TV. Also, it allows the individual more power, especially individuals on the outside of established paths.

The current political climate also allows such decentralizations, as opposed to the red-scare in America 40 some odd years ago.

However, despite the good movement towards democratization (used in the sense of giving more power to individuals not in established institutions), I don’t believe it’s applicable to all mediums.

There’s a reason why the American founding fathers did NOT make a democracy; rather they deliberately made a republic. The distinction is that it respects the rights of minorities, and hence the existance of the electoral college.

Currently, Digg is a direct democracy–a dictatorship of the majority. While this is good for any type of fringe news, I don’t think it is good for the type of news that the New York Times intends to deliver, which is informative in the public interest.

If the New York Times gave a direct democracy for all its news, then only the “fun” and “quirky” stories will rise to the top. You’d probably see more stories about Hollywood than about police corruption in the city.

There would need to be some type of segmentation for categories, so you can see the most voted for a particular category. Or, there would be a need for some type of electoral college for the New York Times.

Decentralization of new mediums is exciting and enables new things to happen, new innovations, and new ways to communicate. However, it would be a mistake to think that the new transplants everything old. The old is sometimes that way through intent, not by limitations.

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Try Ruby in Second Life

Secondlife really amazes me more in the fact that the company had enough foresight to make secondlife a platform more than it is just a playground or game. The fact that you can try out ruby in-game is pretty amazing to me, and should draw more builders (developers) into the game. I should really try it out (been meaning to since college) to see what it’s all about.

Oh, here we go. Teach your avatar Ruby and double the population of Rubyists at once. If you want to toy with it, contact Jesse Malthus.

I wish ther were more companies that would provide new platforms for developers to create on. The traditional car and home industries has been really slow on the uptake with this one.

Internet pizza ordering should make sense like everything else

My roommates and I ordered pizza over the web yesterday, just to try it out. It was not as easy as calling yet. Besides not being able to find a couple links as to how to pick up instead of deliver, there were two things that struck out at me.

One, when selecting toppings, the interface was a pulldown menu. If this was in beta, I’d forgive it. But I don’t think they’re going to improve on it any time soon. What they should have used was an ajax “shopping cart” where you can drag and drop. But instead of “items and cart”, you’d call it “toppings and dough”.

That interface would make much more sense.

Second, there was no time estimate as to when the pizza would be done. Even if it said in hardcoded text, “about 45 minutes”, it would be better than nothing. But ideally, it would be able to communicate back and forth to the pizza place’s oven, to know approximately how much time is left in making the pizza.

Basic concepts goes a long way with SVN

bash$ svn commit . -m "delete feed_tool tests"
Authentication realm: xxxxxx.com
Password for 'xxx':
Sending .
svn: Commit failed (details follow):
svn: Your file or directory '' is probably out-of-date
svn:
The version resource does not correspond to the resource within the transaction. Either the requested version resource is out of date (needs to be updated), orthe requested version resource is newer than the transaction root (restart the commit).

I was wondering why it wasn’t committing, and honestly, it’s pretty easy once you figure out what subversion’s concept is…and I for one, had never read it.

Simply update your version with

svn update

And it should work. The version that the repository had just wasn’t the version you had.

Medallia Blog: SmackBook Pro Archives

Medallia Blog: SmackBook Pro Archives

This is pretty cool. The guy took the accelerometer in hard drives and used it as a sensor to detect slaps on the laptop. Then, he hooked it up to a desktop manager so that he can change virtual desktops by slapping his laptop on the left or on the right.

This is pretty cool by the sheer fact that he combined things that weren’t meant to be used together for something novel. And most of all, the user interface MAKES SENSE.

I too want the capability, but I’d have to build my own accelerometer from the USB drive. Do you think people will want them?

Wired News: A Sixth Sense for a Wired World

Wired had an article on added a magnetic sense to your touch. It’s interesting to see another way to add senses that isn’t technologically prohibitive. However, getting surgery done, however small, for it is a little insane. I can’t imagine a knife to my finger tips. That’s gotta hurt.

It reminds me of the article in BBC that I read about using the tongue as an interface conduit for spatial information. They fed sonar information to a tongue actuator so that people can find their way through a maze with sonar information. It’s actually kinda neat, though it’s still in its preliminary phases.

I wonder if remote-sensing and remote-controlling augmentations of humans would combine as tools for specialized human workers.

I’m sure the military is interested in something like this, though I can imagine it being a fad or fashion.