Thursday, 28 May 2009

viva la revolution!

Well ok maybe not revolution but this is a excellent article on the affect that the internet is having upon the world.

More precisly it explores the emerging digital socialism that the internet has helped breed. More and more systems are being developed collaborativly (linux, wikipedia etc) and for free.

I won't go on because right now my brain is hungover and I can't form thoughts properly but to quote my friend

"You're foolin' yourself mate, we're living in an ad-hocracy. Come and see the meritocracy inherent in the system!"

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I hope this is a hoax...

This is a wonderful money spinner and a horrible idea.

I'm all for highlighting the general daftness of most religous views but the thought of people paying money into a bank for the express reason of coming back from the dead and claiming the money is just painful.

I dearly hope that they get shut down or DDoS'd.

This (like most woo) just prays on those who are gullible.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Age of obession

This is an idea that I've been bouncing around for a while and still keep coming back to so I'm going to inflict it upon you (who ever you are).

The premise is simple, over the last few hundred years society has changed drastically (in case you've been in hibernation or something). A few hundred years ago we were mainly rural family/village centred, with the industrial revolution we became urban but remained locally focused (either about jobs or just road/church what ever). As last century progressed the focus has changed again from job to friends who may be much more spread out than previous networks. With the advent of the internet this has become global and based much more upon common interests, for example I could go to most major cities of the world and have crash space through friends I've made juggling.

This is the age of obsession, a lot of people now meet via the internet, its no longer taboo to meet someone from online or even date/marry someone met via IRC or WoW. Now more than ever we can group with people not because we have to but because we want to through common interests.

These groups form a double edged sword on the one hand its utterly possible to realise your not freak for liking Bavarian folk music as played by chinchillas on the other hand the same is true for being a fascist or snuff-film enthusiast. Hopefully the internet will still help people account for this and experience the lovely corrective glow of peer pressure.

While often labeled a bad thing peer pressure is vital, it acts as a normaliser, I'm all for weird but when it is considered normal your get into trouble. This is where peer pressure comes in, those dirty little habits you have don't get worse because of peer pressure - unfortunately it is also through peer pressure that shame for normal things can occur - for example enjoying that most dirty of acts - sex. It still amazes me that people are more worried about sex than seemingly any other act that humans perform on one another.

Anyway I would be very interested to ear whether people think that this new 'Age of the obsessive' will be good bad or indifferent. Personally I think it will be for the better as it will allow people passion that has until recently been frowned upon, I'm sick of hearing "you have too much time on your hands - how else do you do all this fun stuff?" most of the time the answer is simple - I'd rather be messing about learning to program than watching 99% of whats on TV.

Roll on the age of the geek where passion for the strange is respected!

this is more for me than you

This is cool.

I like steampunk, I have a PS3. I want this.

4chan iz in ur mainstream, corruptin ur yoof!

This made me smile this morning. 4chan (for those of you sane enough to avoid it) is the internet cess-pit. All those mind searing images? those terrifying memes? They come from 4chan (and a few similar sites).

I've been wondering how long before it was mentioned by name in the main stream news for a while. Whats interesting is that obliquely 4chan and its ilk are mentioned often - normally confused with the 'terrorist group' anonymous. This is explicitly wrong. Anonymous is not a group - it is the outward affect of the anarchy of 4chan and co. These are the places that have no rules and upon which anything goes.

The reason anonymous isn't a terrorist group is that it is not organised, Project Chanology was a meme. Lots of people thought it would be fun or interesting or agreed - so it happened.

This is the new face of protest: flash memes that spread across the internet in a matter of days and then die or explode. Two other good examples are the circle line pub crawl last year (spread via facebook) and the G20 protests this year (spread via facebook and twitter). These are the early sightings of the net truly showing its power - not just breaking news faster and better but impacting upon the world.

The original version of these phenomena were flash mobs - these were light hearted displays of surreality. They have changed and become a method of demonstration as well as a method of anarchy. Which is the only way to describe a lot of the internet.

Stories like the one on the bbc today are just a way of showing how powerful peoples urges and mob mentality can be and online a mob can be huge (4chan's /b section has several million hits a day and managed to get its founder posted as the Time magazine's number one person in the top 100 as a prank as well as a proper interview).

It's things like this that make it easy to see why so many people want to control the internet. It also makes it pretty clear why they will fail. The music industry tried to stop napster and got winMX and so on - these got shut down and we got bittorrents if these die more dark nets will occur (invite only networks for p2p file sharing). The same is happening more generally with content. A lot of the reactions to this story on the bbc page were "why doesn't every youtube video get checked" and "how can this be allowed to happen". This kind of thinking doesn't work online. The responsibility is for the person to stop things to moderate themselves.

Big brother may be watching you online but can't really stop anything - only the people online can change the internet. This doesn't mean that 4chan will be stopped - but it does mean that people need to take things into their own hands and moderate, mark down and report.

oh and supervise their kids online if they don't want them to see porn.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

worth reading

Charles Stross is a dude - near future sci-fi is a) VERY interesting and b) not often done well. He pulls it off - if your interested I highly recommend accelerando.

Either way this is his keynote speech from a recent MMO conference - which doesn't have too much to do with MMO's but a lot to do with the future of the internet and computing in general.

The concept that I think is most interesting and already semi-visible within current high-end gadgets (ie the iphone) is the dissolution of the net-space/meat-space boundary (ie internet becoming part of the real world rather than something on the other-side of a screen). This is something that will be most likely the next paradigm shift (the advent of the 'net was the last one). Moving to a society that treats information and the access of it as a basic human right. Currently its only the hard-core netizens (ie me) that get annoyed when they are cut off from internet access but this is rapidly changing.

The business and academic worlds have accepted email as the standard method of communication, Twitter and its blogging brethren are becoming the accepted methods of breaking news (see swine flu and the Mumbai bombings). While much of the populous consider the internet a hobby or something to use to send the odd email it is rapidly (for people under 30) becoming the only method of communication and research.

In my case more and more of my 'luxury' purchases (ie DVDs) come from online and using google maps on my phone has saved me several times (can't wait to get my iPhone once i can afford it). With things like the sixth-sense in development and pushing more of the internet into the real world.

Going back to the speech I think one of the most interesting aspects of this is that it is predicted within the next 20 years - with e-readers and similar already hitting the market as well as the iPhone considered the bench mark for next-gen mobiles I wonder if a lot of this won't be here sooner. It's also interesting to see how the rate at which we lose the ability to predict the future is lessening. In the 1900's people thought they could see clearly to about now. Now people are un-willing to bet beyond the next 5-years let alone several decades.

Weighing in (feather weight stylee) on Simon Singh..

For those of you haven't heard of this story click here otherwise keep reading (a copy of Simon's piece can be found here).

This is going to be pretty quick as I expect what I'm about to say has been said before by people much better at it that myself but here is my take.

Firstly Simon did say something a bit dumb.
You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

That is not a statement to win friends. Equally though it doesn't deserve to be labeled libel. The piece is clearly comment/opinion to begin with and within the realms of comment/opinion the claim that there "is not a jot of evidence" should be reasonably permissible - the argument should be clearly that within the author's opinion there is no reputable evidence that supports the BCA's claims.

This isn't how the court has seen it.

In fact the court didn't even hear the case as the judge read a pre-written judgment as soon as the parties had said their piece.

This judgment was impressive in taking the case far beyond what was expected (even I expect by the BCA) in that by using the word "bogus" Simon supposedly meant that BCA made its claims with fore-knowledge that they were harmful (some of them are but I don't think many chiropractors believe this). That the BCA practices maliciously is clearly far more than Simon meant through the use of the word "bogus" (in fact I've never known it to have the connotation that something was maliciously false just false).

This case is terrible on two fronts - firstly it highlights some of the problems with libel rules, secondly it shows just how important good scientific reporting is and how hard it is to produce.

In terms of libel like a lot of the grayer areas of law its a very difficult thing to balance - too much on the side of the plaintiff and it becomes to write anything without either filling it with 'apparently's and 'maybe's or being sued. Too far the other way and you can say what you want with impunity.

Whats interesting about this in terms of the law though is it highlights the problem of online blogging. If Simon had initially published his piece as a blog would the reaction have been the same? whats going to happen when blogs start getting picked up and published by papers? Will it be libel in the country posted from? from the country its hosted? In the US blogs are protected speech and cannot be sued for libel. As more of our journalism is done from the net these sorts of problems will arise.

Moving on from the legal aspects (which I can only question as my law knowledge is pretty poor) the journalism aspect is even more interesting. This sort of case is a huge problem for scientific reporting. The bottom line is that this case represents a large group suing someone for being critical of their methods.

Scientifically Simon is reasonably well supported - there isn't much good evidence that chiropractic treats much other than bad backs. Saying that shouldn't get you sued. Even in a national paper - if there is a genuine scientific basis for a statement saying so shouldn't land you in trouble.

If we're being fair so long as you set it as opinion you should be allowed to say pretty much what you want. It doesn't work but it might encourage people to be a little more critical in their assessment of claims made by people. Libel laws are their to protect people from unfounded claims - unfortunately a lot of organisations know how to avoid them and a lot of individuals don't.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

back - kinda

Well I am now a free man - at least until September.

Today is my first day online post celebratory boozing and as expected the weather has been mainly cloudy and I think I have a cold. Ah well.

anyway I'm still alive but I need to exorcise my room and start plotting/planning for the summer.

Monday, 11 May 2009

i recommend that you sign this

Who ever it is that actually reads this I suggest you sign this as woman should be well represented in politics.

back to revision with all its joys

Sunday, 10 May 2009

awesome parable

This is a very nice little story that highlights the difference between a lot of faith based thinking and scientific thinking.

Unless your willing to change your mind (which a good scientist should be) your doomed to failure.

Saturday, 9 May 2009


This is win...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

words cannot describe how cool this is

Its been a few days since I saw something blog worthy (also been RL busy with exams, revision and friends) but this is amazing. Takes a few min to get to the mind blowing stuff but its all good to watch and worth the wait.

Parkour (urban free running with gymnastics) with a BMX....

I'm a big fan of watching parkour etc (too unfit to actually do it myself) and this is just awesome... enjoy!