Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wikipedia mea culpa

I've picked at Wikipedia quality issues a few times of late, such as in this post. Andrew Orlowski has a nice piece in The Register on Wikipedia quality in which he notes
Encouraging signs from the Wikipedia project, where co-founder and überpedian Jimmy Wales has acknowledged there are real quality problems with the online work.

Criticism of the project from within the inner sanctum has been very rare so far, although fellow co-founder Larry Sanger, who is no longer associated with the project, pleaded with the management to improve its content by befriending, and not alienating, established sources of expertise. (i.e., people who know what they're talking about.)

Meanwhile, over at Smalltalk Tidbits, Industry Rants, James Robertson argues that it's really hard to identify true expertise, especially where topics are controversial. For example, historians still argue about the origins of World War I much less recent U.S. presidential elections.

I can't argue with that. Nonetheless, many of Wikipedia's flaws that I've seen aren't about divining hard-to-understand causes and effects but about pretty basic matters of fact--and a lot of really bad writing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


"Continuous Partial Attention," the state of constant interruption that characterizes many of our lives get written about a fair bit in one form or another. See here, for example. Good article on the phenomenon in this New York Times article (with data. Perish the thought!)
Yet while interruptions are annoying, Mark's study also revealed their flip side: they are often crucial to office work. Sure, the high-tech workers grumbled and moaned about disruptions, and they all claimed that they preferred to work in long, luxurious stretches. But they grudgingly admitted that many of their daily distractions were essential to their jobs. When someone forwards you an urgent e-mail message, it's often something you really do need to see; if a cellphone call breaks through while you're desperately trying to solve a problem, it might be the call that saves your hide. In the language of computer sociology, our jobs today are "interrupt driven." Distractions are not just a plague on our work - sometimes they are our work. To be cut off from other workers is to be cut off from everything.

For a small cadre of computer engineers and academics, this realization has begun to raise an enticing possibility: perhaps we can find an ideal middle ground. If high-tech work distractions are inevitable, then maybe we can re-engineer them so we receive all of their benefits but few of their downsides. Is there such a thing as a perfect interruption?

Via this Joel on Software post

Good questions about Video iPods

I'm always a bit hesitant to comment on the usage models underpinning a lot of electronic gadgets when it's pretty clear that I'm not the target demographic. I own a couple of different iPod flavors (a Shuffle and a standard pre-photo 40GB one), but don't have a whole lot of interest in showing off photos on the little screen—much less video. However, I don't typically show snapshots around either or take a lot of video with my digital camera, so I've sort of shrugged and figured I'm just not the audience.

That may be true, but this article from MSNBC about the video iPod mirrors a lot of my thoughts. For example:
You can listen to your iPod at work, at home, at the gym, in the car. Basically, that means everywhere. But watching your iPod might not be as convenient. It will be tough to watch at work or while jogging. And in the car? Passengers, yes. Drivers, no.

Good questions.

[UPDATE: For the opposing view, here's a piece from Information Week.]