The Onion on Wikipedia

Two of the most informative resources on the internet collided. I just found an article in The Onion (in my opinion some of the world’s finest reporting) on Wikipedia (the world’s best encyclopedia). I thought you might enjoy it as much as I did.

The Onion on Wikipedia

Wikipedia for President

I have not been a very consistent blogger lately (partially due to the amount of spam that has been coming through my blog lately). However, I had an interesting opportunity last week that I couldn’t help blogging about.

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to US Senate candidate Pete Ashdown. Like other Democratic candidates, he expressed concern for the environment, education, lack of efficient public transportation in many parts of the country, etc. However, something he suggested, which I have never heard before, is the idea of “open source government”. This is geek terminology for using technology to make the government more accessible. For example, Ashdown has a wiki on this site that allows his constituents to actually create what they feel is good policy for key issues. Another example is his offer to provide free webspace from his web hosting company to any political candidate for the duration of the campaign.

While I’m not sure how much of a chance a young democrat will have in the state of Utah, I think this type of forward-thinking about integrating technology into government is an idea that I would hope other politicians would consider adopting. Could you immagine the improved efficiency if we were even able to get key members of the government using e-mail (see story on Rumsfeld).

Relevancy of Google Search

A year ago I thought Google was the answer to all of the world’s problems, today I’m changing my mind. I have two major frustrations with Google. The first is that they do not release any of their products for Mac users. I would pay to have a copy of Picasa for Mac if they would just port it over. Perhaps they think that because Mac users have iPhoto they don’t need Picasa (probably because they’ve never actually tried using iPhoto). Anyway, there is no similar excuse for not releasing Google Earth and Talk for Macintosh.

My other issue is one that effects all users. Lately I’ve been noticing that search results seem to be increasingly less relevant than the other search engines. Back in the day Google blew MSN and Yahoo! out of the water when it came to search relevance, but on several searches that I have done lately I’ve found much more relevant results on Yahoo!. Has anyone else noticed this? If, like me, you hadn’t performed a search in Yahoo! in several years, you may want to give it a shot to compare the differences.

Backstage BBC :: sparking creativity

Anyone who has been watching the news lately has seen a growing amount of tension from media producers to tighten copyright laws and quash unauthorized use of their intellectual property. The worry is that they are losing money from the modification of their products without receiving licensing royalties. However in this time of increasing, and at times very limiting, copyright laws, some companies have taken a very different approach. Recently the BBC released Backstage BBC, a site that allows free access to all of the BBC’s media for non-commercial purposes. In an interview with On The Media, a BBC spokesperson explained that in the short time Backstage BBC has been available they have already seen many exciting and creative products that Backstage BBC users have come up with using their media. It is important to note is that the BBC has recognized that the benefits they receive from the creativity of their users far surpasses the benefits they would receive from penny-pinching over royalties from non-commercial users of their media. It would be interesting to consider how creativity would be sparked in the US if some of the large media corporations would consider taking a similar approach.

Adobe Acquires Macromedia

The plans for Adobe to acquire Macromedia have some potentially huge impacts on the design industry. The transaction, valued at approximately $3.4 billion, combines the two largest developers of multimedia software in the world. The danger of the merger is that Adobe sheds itself of its only true competitor (scary thoughts of another Microsoft come to mind). However, there are some major benefits we can expect to see from this change as well – here are some examples…

More Stability
Since Adobe’s software is consistently more stable than Marcomedia’s, once the Adobe engineers get a hold of Marcomedia’s products we can expect to see many bug fixes.

Improved Usability
When it comes to insuring great usability in their products, Adobe ranks right up there with Apple. Macromedia, on the other hand, has not always been as successful (as products such as Flash and Dreamweaver have proven). Adobe’s influence on Macromedia’s products is sure to produce improved usability.

A Killer Web Authoring Application
For years designers have said that they wish they could take the best features of Adobe GoLive (such as the user interface and multimedia tools) and combine them with the site management and template tools from Macromedia Dreamweaver. Now, it looks like the engineers at Adobe will do it for them! As soon as this happens, the new product will be THE industry standard for web development.

This is an exciting time in the design industry! Combine Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia and Apple’s release of Tiger and their Production Suite, and we begin to see some of the most significant software advances that we’ve seen in years.

> For more information, visit Adobe Systems and Macromedia.

> For more information on Adobe’s aquisition of Macromedia, visit Google News.

Effects of TV on kids

Recently I heard that television watching in young children is strongly correlated to ADHD and other related problems. This is an important question as we consider the place for non-interactive media in our society. An interesting article called Effects of Electronic Media on Children Ages Zero to Six: A History of Research is available for anyone interested in learning more. The article, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, summarizes the effects of electronic media, such as television, on children ages zero to six years old. “Recent studies indicate that even the youngest children in the United States are using a wide variety of screen media. Some children’s organizations have expressed concerns about the impact of media on young children; others have touted the educational benefits of certain media products.”

>View the full article .

Additions to the Violin Site

This week we added some new content to The Violin Site. If you haven’t checked it out yet, then take a moment. This is one of the most useful resources for violinists on the internet.

Take that! Microsoft vs. Google

This week is a great example of why I love Google (and have less-positive feelings about Microsoft). This week Microsoft released it’s LONG awaited “new search engine” (story from the BBC). In the typical Microsoft style, they admitted that they had been left behind in the search engine market, but were coming up from behind to take over and triumph. Sounds a lot like the Netscape/Internet Explorer statements from several years ago. All except for one thing… Google will not be schooled by a company with a “reactive” business style.

The major piece of evidence that Microsoft used to show that they were taking over Google’s space, was the fact that their new search engine indexes five billion pages, while Google only indexed four billion. Yesterday, however, Google quietly released an “update” to the number of pages they index… to over 8 BILLION!

I think of what Sergey Brin said in his interview with Newsweek: “I’ve seen companies obsessed with competition, say, with Microsoft, that keep looking in their rearview mirror and crash into a tree head-on because they’re so distracted,” Not Google.

I hope the gloomy feel in the MSN Search offices today will help them learn a lesson in humility and let them get used to taking second place to Google.

See article Google One-Ups Microsoft (from www.thestreet.com)

On Being Great :: Williamson Quote

In Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love”, we find a quote that has great application in our lives…

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Continue reading On Being Great :: Williamson Quote

I’m changing my title for more clout

This is just a funny thing that I came accross today…

“The name of the Physical Education Department [at BYU] has changed to Exercise Sciences. Courses previously found in the class schedule under Physical Education will now be found under Exercise Sciences.”

It reminded me of the “Learning Science” vs. “Instructional Design” debate. It seems like people will do anything to get “Science” in their title. Instead of “graduate student”, please refer to me as “learner scientist” from now on. Thanks.