Distributed classification through self-interest

noise between stations – Distributed classification through self-interest: “This worked, meaning 95% of entries were just fine and the other 5% could be easily caught and cleaned up. Classification experts go absolutely bonkers just thinking about this scenario, but this is the scalable way to get the job done. The fact is, the structure of the system was created by non-experts using common sense and the data is added by people using common sense, all without traditional classification training.”

Wireless Internet revolution sweeps through Kerala villages

Wireless Internet revolution sweeps through Kerala villages: “For 71-one-year-old Velukutty Master, a computer linked with wireless Internet is nothing short of a magic box that helps him keep in touch with his sons and grandchildren in Dubai.”

A retired government schoolteacher, Master dutifully walks into one of the many cyber kiosks cum training centres, which have sprung up in recent months in India’s most literate state, to take lessons on computer and Internet from people less than half his age.

I’m looking for helpdesk/ticket software, where customers can open tickets and you can answer/close them. Hotscripts as hundreds (a typical hacker kid project), but after looking at about 15 of them I still haven’t seen one that emphasises usability over functionality. Most interfaces look like you’re looking straight in the database. Any recommendations (I wouldn’t mind paying a small amount)? All I want is an easy to use customer interface, and a somewhat powerful (that lets you define canned answers for example) support staff interface.

I have an OpenOffice complaint. I’m starting to use it, and so far so good. It nicely opens all my legacy (by legacy I mean Microsoft) files, and all is good.

I’ve always thought Powerpoint was one of the most usable pieces of software I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t get said enough – it’s usability is undoubtably partly responsible for its success (which results in, yes, corrupting the minds of everyone who uses it. I know.)

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Powerpoint provides an editable outline view at the left, together with an editable slide view at the right and a notes view below that. Whatever you edit in one of the views updates simultaneously in the other.

For some reason, OpenOffice decided to throw out this innovation. Maybe it’s been patented? Anyways, in OpenOffice, you get an editable outline view, but no simultaneously editable slide view, nor a notes view. Which really spoils it for me, I’ve been trying to start a presentation and I just can’t do it.

Unless I’ve missed some setting somewhere, in which case please let me know.

E:M | My upcoming projects

E:M | My upcoming projects (from the guy responsible for the popularity of blogs in Iran: “The enormous power of Wikis could be exploited in providing some independently and collectively produced textbooks for high school students in Iran. Those books can later be printed and used by parents, who do not agree with the content of the official ministry of education textbooks, as alternatives in a couple of sensitive subjects such as History, Social Studies, etc.”

How eight pixels cost Microsoft millions | CNET News.com

How eight pixels cost Microsoft millions | CNET News.com: “When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds. “It cost millions,” Edwards said.”

Visual Anthropology

I am planning to experiment a bit with doing ethnography-like research and presenting it on the web using a mix of media (video, audio, text). There is a history of using video and images in anthropology, but there is still little work being done (that I know of) on using the web to what I think is its potential in presenting ethnographic research.

I’m looking for examples – tips welcome. visualanthropology.net seems a good starting point. Visual studies seems an interesting publication as well – you can see a sample online but you have to get a free login. (They’re good about providing linking options with each article.)

I have a documentary photography background, so I am all for using visual techniques. What I also want to do is to publish interviews and such, and annotate them, online. I want to publish unfinished, not-very-interpreted results of the study, so they can be re-interpreted by other people. I haven’t seen examples of this online yet. I say not-very-interpreted because I am well aware of the problems with trying to be objective – I won’t even try to be that.

A nice example of having extensive source material online and reinterpreting it through an ethnography is Looking at discipline, looking at labour: photographic representations of Indian boarding schools (PDF, 3M). (I think this direct link should work.) The ethnography looks at the documentary pictures of Indian boarding schools. A fascinating read, check it out. (A lot of classic documentary photography was commisioned by the USA and is freely available online.)

Photographs have the strange property of gaining meaning over time – the older they are, the more we can easily re-interpret them. Video may have the same properties.

Visual Anthropology Papers
Understanding What We See: Subject, Author, and Audience in Visual Anthropology, which includes this quote:

“All over the world, on every continent and island, in the hidden recesses of every industrial city as well as in the hidden valleys that can be reached only by helicopter, precious, totally irreplaceable, and forever irreproducible behaviors are disappearing, while departments of anthropology continue to send fieldworkers out with no equipment beyond a pencil and a notebook. (Hockings 1975: 4)”

Also (this nicely illustrates the reluctance anthropologists seem to have with visual media) : “”Ethnographers worship a terrifying deity known as Reality, whose eternal enemy is its evil twin, Art. They believe that to remain vigilant against evil, on must devote oneself to a set of practices known as Science. Their cosmology, however, is unstable: for decades they have fought bitterly among themselves as to the nature of their god and how best to serve him. They accuse each other of being secret followers of Art; the worst insult in their language is ‘aesthete’.” – Eliot Weinberger, The Camera People”.

Here are some more thoughts on the same issues. A brilliant explanation of the history and issues in ethnographic filmmaking.

Ethnographic screencaps

I’m looking for a piece of screencapture software, or a methodology. I want to use it as follows – recommendations are welcome.

I am interested in studying how people use technology, in an ethnographic kind of way. When I visit someone’s house, I might take pictures of where the computer is. I might also want to take some screenshots. What I need is a way to make screenshots on pretty much any computer (varying OS’s).

As long as it’s Windows, I think I can do this: use CTRL-PRT SCR to make a screencap. Open M$ Paint (which is installed on all computers). Paste in the picture and save it. Then either save it on a diskette (most computers) or email it to myself (internet cafe where diskettes are disabled).

Any tips for macs?

Can a concept exist without words to describe it?

Can a concept exist without words to describe it?
The Pirahã, a group of hunter-gatherers who live along the banks of the Maici River in Brazil, use a system of counting called ‘one-two-many’. In this, the word for ‘one’ translates to ‘roughly one’ (similar to ‘one or two’ in English), the word for ‘two’ means ‘a slightly larger amount than one’ (similar to ‘a few’ in English), and the word for ‘many’ means ‘a much larger amount’. In a paper just published in Science, Peter Gordon of Columbia University uses his study of the Pirahã and their counting system to try to answer a tricky linguistic question.

This question was posed by Benjamin Lee Whorf in the 1930s. Whorf studied Hopi, an Amerindian language very different from the Eurasian languages that had hitherto been the subject of academic linguistics. His work led him to suggest that language not only influences thought but, more strongly, that it determines thought.”

In my experience: yes. At least I can remember many times that I’m trying to explain something (a feeling, …) that I can’t find the right word for. And in different languages there are always words that can’t be exactly translated.

Guide to Ease �

NewsNetwire 2.0 talks about the redesign of the tabs and compares with with Firefox. Funny, they’ve ended up with exactly the same solution I did a mockup for a few months ago. Which makes me think my instincts weren’t so far off :) The only difference is the placing of the x and the icon, I have it the other way round. Presumably because it’s Mac software – Mac closing buttons are alway at the left, Windows at the right. This was my solution:


This is their solution:

Interesting. Organizr is a Flash app that talks to the Flickr API, and is used to organize your pictures. Haven’t tried it, but maybe Google should have bought these guys instead of picture-software makers Picasa.