Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life during wartime

I've taken to walking the mile or so down to a local coffee shop in the afternoons to work and watch world cup. Atlanta is hot this June, well above ninety by mid-day most days. I am almost always the only one moving about outside. The air is heavy with damp, I can see it, hazy and blue, hanging between me and the tops of the tall pine trees that trace the property lines in this upscale suburb. The haze mutes the grey-green lines of the military cargo planes, rendering them smudgy and seemingly insubstantial as they rumble by, languid and pregnant, on final approach to the Air Force plant in Marietta.

They are a reminder that, all these years later, the war is still hiring. I have two friends with the occupation now, both civilian contractors. I got a birthday card from Kuwait. A product of Hallmark Dubai festooned with rainbow camels and minarets. My department chair sent around a request for people to work on a data visualization job that looks to be connected to the Human Terrain System. I'd love for her to ask me to participate, so I could say something like "I'm afraid my conscience doesn't permit me to participate in the war effort," and feel brave but I'm sure she won't. They will get volunteers. Really, I'm not at all certain my refusal would do anything but lend me an undeserved sense of moral purity. I drive a car. I pay my taxes. I voted for Obama. I'm as complicit in this thing as anybody.

Not sure I'm going anywhere with this. Just saying hello to my two remaining readers.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sneaky Peak

Here is a sneak peak of some diss content. I picked this because it speaks to some issues raised at a recent conference:

Thus, we can see how the adoption of the GFDL was a Wikipedia policy choice guided by the need to secure and retain free labor. Wikipedia's most important content policy, the Neutral Point of View (NPOV), was shaped not only by the need to recruit this labor but by its collective nature as well. The NPOV was one of the first Wikipedia policies to be put in place, and was based on Nupedia's "Non-bias" content policy. However, a comparison of early versions of the NPOV to the Non-bias policy shows how the NPOV quickly evolved to meet the particularly collective needs of labor on Wikipedia. The Nupedia Non-bias policy images lack of bias as the function of a single article author erasing his or her own particular bias in the interest of writing an objective article. It reads, in part, "This question is a good (albeit not infallible) test of a lack of bias: 'On every issue about which there might be even minor dispute among experts on this subject, is it very difficult or impossible for the reader to determine what the view is to which the author adheres?'" ("Nupedia Editorial Policy Guidelines"). From a very early stage, the NPOV reflects Wikipedia's need, not to erase or obscure the bias of a single author, but rather to build consensus and enable cooperation among multiple authors. The earliest revision of the NPOV still retained on the English Wikipedia, dated to November 10, 2001, reads in part: "The neutral point of view attempts to present ideas and facts in such a fashion that both supporters and opponents can agree. Of course, 100% agreement is not possible; there are ideologues in the world who will not concede to any presentation other than a forceful statement of their own point of view. We can only seek a type of writing that is agreeable to essentially rational people who may differ on particular points" (
Furthermore, textual evidence from later versions of the NPOV, as well as early Wikipedia press releases, demonstrates that this consensus building feature of the NPOV was seen by Larry Sanger and others as a key to ensuring Wikipedia would attract, retain, and use collective labor effectively. By December of 2001, the NPOV had been extensively updated and expanded. In a large edit dated December 24, a Wikipedia user known by the alias The Cunctator, who had been a vocal advocate for decentralized processes in Wikipedia governance and against the editorial authority exercised by Sanger, revises the NPOV to remove policy discussion from the page itself (Wikipedia had included discussion of content on content pages, prior to the creation of separate talk pages for discussion) while adding extensive language explaining the policy and what he sees as the reasoning behind it to the page. Among the added content is a section entitled, "Why should Wikipedia be unbiased?" which reads, in part:

Wikipedia is a general encyclopedia, which means it is a representation of human knowledge at some level of generality. But we (humans) disagree about specific cases; for any topic on which there are competing views, each view represents a different theory of what the truth is, and insofar as that view contradicts other views, its adherents believe that the other views are false, and therefore not knowledge. Indeed, Wikipedia, there are many opinionated people who often disagree with each other. Where there is disagreement about what is true, there's disagreement about what constitutes knowledge. Wikipedia works because it's a collaborative effort; but, whilst collaborating, how can we solve the problem of endless 'edit wars' in which one person asserts that p, whereupon the next person changes the text so that it asserts that not-p? (

The Cunctators addition to the language of the NPOV shows how the policy was understood as a means to ensure that Wikipedia was able to recruit the labor needed to build and maintain the site from a diverse pool of potential contributors, and that "collaborative effort" needed to build Wikipedia functioned smoothly, and was not wasted in "endless 'edit wars'." Sanger, who had clashed with The Cunctator frequently and sometimes bitterly in discussions on the Wikipedia-L list and Wikipedia itself, effectively endorsed this language when he proceeded to make an extensive set of copy edits to the page over the course of December 27 without substantially changing the content. Furthermore, Wikipedia's first press release, dated January 15, 2002, quotes Sanger as saying: "If contributors took controversial stands, it would be virtually impossible for people of many different viewpoints to collaborate. Because of the neutrality policy, we have partisans working together on the same articles. It's quite remarkable" ( Like The Cunctators additions to the NPOV, Sanger's language here shows how the policy helped Wikipedia attract, maintain, and coordinate its labor supply. Together, the GFDL and the NPOV helped to ensure that Wikipedia enjoy the large pool of collective "free labor" it needed to grow and thrive, and thus addressed the clear anxieties about attracting and retaining volunteer labor that both Wales and Sanger express in their interventions in the GNUpedia and Spanish Fork incidents.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Buffer overflow

I kicked myself off Facebook to try to get myself to finish my damn dissertation. Maybe I'll post on here occasionally, just as a way to clear the buffer, get a few spare thoughts out of my head.

I've fallen into listening to the new The National album on heavy repeat as I write. This is good because I like it and its mostly faded to background so I can work to it. Its bad because they are the sort of band that smolders, the sort that makes me think of girls with dark eyes a size-and-a-half too big for their heads, makes me wish I'd spent my youth learning to speak French and smoke, so that when I met one I could mutter sweepingly beautiful obscenities at her while dangling a gauloises impossibly from my lower lip.

See that sentence ain't gonna fit in my dissertation... should have written about Godard instead of Wikipedia.

If anyone's reading this, prepare for more inane digital telegrams in this genre. You have been warned.

now we'll leave the silver city
cause all the silver girls gave us black dreams
-The National, "Conversation 16"

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


According to Alexa the warrior forum is the 486th most visited site on the internet. Not sure what its deal is... possibly a community worth investigating!