Category: Other Folks’ Say

Happy 75th Birthday, Iowa Writer’s Workshop

MFA. Three letters that mean a world to writers new or experienced, though it’s difficult to put into words. Which is funny considering… And though the non-debate over the possibilities of being able to teach writing rages on (quietly), anyone in or has matriculated through an MFA program, owes their thanks to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop for its help in establishing, at the very least, an awareness of the importance of granting writers a place and time to write. And though I think this clip by PBS’s Newshour is very general, it does a good job at showing people a glimpse between the fence slots that line the backyards of some people who are trying to put their writing first in their lives and the difficulty that entails. My thanks to Pop for telling me about the piece.


Pen input is retro?

I was both elated and miffed by an article today on PC World’s site that says of HTC’s new Android tablet, Flyer, that “HTC reaches back to yesteryear by including a pen stylus with the Flyer.” I’m miffed because of the inherent bias that typically comes with the use of a stylus in a computer world (don’t get me wrong; the reviewer loved this function on the Flyer, but the author makes it seem like a retro feature). Finger based computing is great for many things such as navigation, but it is not the end all of inputs. True, I like to type most of my notes, but I also like to be able to scribble them–especially diagrams or directions. I also like annotation. Annotation is the lifeblood of scholars (for professors as well as students). Using a keyboard, mouse, or finger to highlight or insert comments on an ebook, pdf article, or text document just is not as good as being able to use a stylus. The pen is much more precise and quicker.

I’ve been waiting a long time for word on inclusion of a stylus with the new phone-centric tablets. After all, that is one of the key features of  the more mature laptop-based tablets. I’ve seen a couple of manufacturers include a stylus for selection and even a few for drawing and some handwriting-within-a-window uses (reminds me of Apple’s Newton) but nothing (again, on the phone-based tablets) that lets me use a pen the way I use a pen.  So bravo, HTC! I hope other manufacturers follow.

NYT article: The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

It’s not like search engine optimization uses and abuses haven’t been in the news before, but this is a good reminder that our World Net View comes filtered, not at the least by anything we ourselves do, but by the whims of one company. Don’t get me wrong; I like Google and really do believe their shtick about doing no evil (unlike Apple). However, they are a business. And a business’s continued existence relies on earning money.

That kind of control makes me nervous.

However, what this article did was to highlight a secret even dirtier than the “Black Hat” tactics: search engines require secrets. Right after my initial response to the article (thumping my desk, saying this is a problem in need of an open source solution!), I realized that an open-sourced search engine, whose search and ranking algorithms were publicly known, would not only be open to abuse out of the gate, but would encourage it. And so the searches would fail.

And so must we live with One Engine to seek them all and in the darkness find them, trusting that market competition will keep it from doing evil? Or should this become a government operated function–like a utility or even more so, like the Mint? After all, part of that function is to prevent counterfeiting. But do we really want the”success” and “efficiency” of government control involved? It seems that there would be as much temptation for abuse as there is in the private world.

What then? Does anyone know of an open source plan that could prevent search algorithm abuse?

The article can be found here (and speaking of  link manipulation, note that this link includes a variable being passed to the NYT that gives credit to the site from which I discovered the article. This is a legitimate way to give credit to the people who find and share this information (after all, I didn’t originally go to NYT’s site); but just in case it bothers you, here is the direct link)

What’s in a word?

Apparently that depends on whether you spoke the word or heard it.

Dan Amira posted this word cloud comparison on New York Magazine’s website of President Obama’s State of the Union speech vs. one created by NPR, based on a request of its listeners to describe the speech in three words. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. But it does highlight the power of word clouds. I hope more people and events are subjected to this type of tool. But the usual precautions should be taken when citing such information’s accuracy and context…