Mon, 30 July 2007
Well, it’s back in the news – the Chiang Mai Zoo in
Now, we last heard about the doings of pandas and the good use they could be put to a few months ago, when reports came out that they could and were being made into paper…
Yes. Paper. A marvelous invention. You can fold up a sheet and easily take it with you. You can bind it in a book, which has the advantage of what I call "reliable locatability." Even perma-links don't have this. The web site can be down when you need to access the page. But the pages in books are never down - until or unless they're lost or destroyed. The natural state of paper is that what's on page 30 today will be on page 30 tomorrow - and, if not forever, for however long the book lasts.
You don't even need an energy source to read a book during the day - nice old sunlight works just fine. Even on cloudy days.
Paper was invented way back when - actually by Cai Lun in China in 105 AD - and was in use in the first golden ages of learning by the Chinese, Alexandrians, and Romans. It had its pros and cons in comparison to parchment, papyrus, and similar media. But flimsy paper outlived them all.
In our ecology-conscious age, people sometimes lash out at paper as destructive of the trees from which paper is made. We probably plant enough trees to make up for any damage, but, ok, I like trees, too.
Crazy? Well, pandas eat lots of bamboo, so the Chinese figure the paper content that comes out of this process should be pretty good.
And there's plenty of raw material - pandas apparently produce about 20 kilograms of droppings a day...
Freud would have had a good time with this - he thought that writing was an anal process. And there's a poetic reunion possibility if you think of one of the other uses of paper.
Come to think of it, panda paper would be particularly fitting for ... publication of nasty reviews.
Hey, I've gotten them, all writers do, and I'm a great believer in the maxim that the worst publicity is no publicity - but if I received a lousy review, it would be especially appropriate, in the greater theme of things, if it was printed on panda paper.
Because then I could quote with enhanced effect what the composer Max Reger (1873-1916) communicated to critic Rudolf Lewis after receipt of a stinging review:
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me."
See also The Durability of Paper
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 7:22pm EDT
Sun, 29 July 2007
Continuing my adventures in un-gate-kept media - or Web sites, which unlike The New York Times, TV news, and in fact all traditional news media and networks, publish what users and participants, not editors, decree as important or newsworthy.
Wikipedia and Digg, as I've been writing and talking about for almost a year, are both shining examples of these new, participatory approaches. But like all things human, neither operation is perfect. Both are beset by online vandals, who enter false or otherwise ridiculous information on Wikipedia, and similar kinds of stories on Digg.
The remedy for this comes from participants who call these stories out - making them candidates for removal on Wikipedia, or "burying" them on Digg. Wikipedia, in fact, has self-appointed groups of "exclusionists," who look to prune unnecessary information, and in effect keep an eye on the "inclusionists," whose philosophy is that more good is usually done by being open to unnecessary information (I'm an inclusionist). And Digg has unofficial "bury brigades".
But sometimes, as in the application of any medication, the cure or the antidote can be more damaging than the problem it seeks to redress.
Digg seems to have allergy to, among other things, articles about Ron Paul and articles about the iPhone. The stated reasons given by those members of Digg who bury such stories is that the system already has too many of them, and/or they are doing well on the system - making Digg's front page - not so much because of genuine interest of readers, but due to hyping of the diggs by Ron Paul supporters and iPhone fanatics.
Such charges are all but impossible to conclusively prove or refute. But let's assume, for a moment, that they are true. Does this mean that stories about Ron Paul, and iPhone, and anything else with devoted adherents ought not make the front page of Digg? Do devoted adherents negate the value of any story? If anything, I would say they are evidence of the story's value.
I am sure these battles - between exclusionists and inclusionists, between burial squads and diggers - will continue. It's all part of the opening of the gates. And whatever their inevitable flaws, Wikipedia and Digg both beat "all the news that's fit to print" at The New York Times (meaning all the news that the NY Times deems fit to print) or "we report, you decide" at Fox.
Self-reflexive irony department:
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 8:40pm EDT