Monthly Archives: February 2005

my life as a techno-idiot (and why constants suck)

Once again, i managed to find wacky behavior in technology. I went to create a blog entry this morning and only half of it uploaded. It didn’t save to database and crash like normal – it just saved half. It was weird. I flipped out (like always) and whimpered (like always). Boris once again came to the rescue.

It appears as though my comments template has a lastn of 5134 (which y’all exceeded). And it appears that my Atom template is trying to find 1M entries (which i haven’t written yet). What’s up with the constants? Why do we need constants in code. ::groan::

The wireless in my apartment still isn’t working right even though my angelic roommate has spent a bazillion hours trying to hack the firmware to amplify the antenna and now he’s trying to buy a new antenna because it can’t reach to the other end of the apartment. I feel completely clueless.

Everyone around me is obsessed with camera phones and i still can’t figure out how to take a goddamn picture and get it to send. Worse: i have zero motivation to take a picture.

I realized something this evening: in terms of techno-capability, i’m your generic user and completely techno-clueless… I am not capable of using any interface and i think that the black box should just work but it never does. The only difference is that i adopt early and pay attention to what people are doing, even if i think it’s completely pointless. But i don’t have the mind of a technologist and i can’t figure out how anything works (or, as my roommate likes to tell me, i refuse to try).

Can a Biologist Fix a Radio?

There’s nothing like science humor to brighten my day so i was laughing hysterically when a friend read to me from Can a Biologist Fix a Radio? – or, What I Learned while Studying Apoptosis.

How would we begin? First, we would secure funds to obtain a large supply of identical functioning radios in order to dissect and compare them to the one that is broken. We would eventually find how to open the radios and will find objects of various shape, color, and size. We would describe and classify them into families according to their appearance. We would describe a family of square metal objects, a family of round brightly colored objects with two legs, roundshaped objects with three legs and so on. Because the objects would vary in color, we will investigate whether changing the colors affects the radio’s performance. Although changing the colors would have only attenuating effects (the music is still playing but a trained ear of some people can discern some distortion), this approach will produce many publications and result in a lively debate…

[Note: said friend sees this article as a call-to-arms, not simply science humor… apparently i’m not as big of a nerd as i think.]

Social Software in the Academy Workshop

I am helping organize a workshop on social software in the academy along with Sarah Lohnes. Todd Richmond, Mimi Ito, and Justin Hall. It will take place at USC’s Annenberg Center on May 13-14.

We are currently looking for papers, panels and demos on all aspects of how social software affects and reflects academia (deadline: March 31). Please check out the Call for Participation for more information.


I have zero tolerance for company bullshit and threats. First, had all of my friends spam the hell out of me with their scam-like service (most of whom apologized immediately afterwards). Now they’re sending cease and desist letters to friends who apologized publicly, calling this defamatory. It’s not defamatory – it’s an apology for inappropriate social behavior brought on by autistic software.’s C&D is uncool, inappropriate and a complete abuse of the legal system to threaten people into submission. I was annoyed before, now i’m outright pissed.

simpsons, gay marriage & kids

In the NYTimes article covering last nite’s Simpsons, the president of the Parents Television Council is quoted as having said: “You’ve got a show watched by millions of children. Do children need to have gay marriage thrust in their faces as an issue? Why can’t we just entertain them?”

My immediate reaction was to laugh my ass off. So, in other words, we’re supposed to teach when it’s a conservative value that the Council supports but supposed to only entertain when it’s a value that the Council doesn’t share? Hmm… But seriously, when did a parent’s council ever support media that just entertains? ::laugh::

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crash course in professing

At the request of my advisor and department, i took over his undergraduate class last week – “Foundations of New Media” (co-taught with another professor). I always knew that i wanted to teach and i absolutely love undergrads but this wasn’t quite how i envisioned myself beginning this process.

So, i spent a chunk of time last week trying to catch up on where the class was. I had only read a fraction of the actual texts before (mostly for fun when i was at MIT). Thus, i had to do a lot of catch-up. Luckily, i found that i was familiar with 95% of the concepts and that many of the texts were just overviews of things that i knew and loved – gotta love Open University textbooks.

I prepared lecture slides and gave my first lecture on Thursday. It was almost stunning how much i remembered about teaching. My years of teaching computer science at Brown paid off and it was fun to be in front of the classroom, particularly since some of the students were already accustomed to speaking up. We talked about culture, ethnography, bias, interpretation, etc. They had just come back from their first effort at interviewing (in preparation for doing truly user centered design).

And now i’m off and running, preparing assignments, grading and trying to figure out how to narrow down the gravity force field of a course reader to something manageable (since it’s kinda clear that the students aren’t actually reading the material since it’s far far far too much). The course is both completely in place and still at flux – a foundation i can work with but also changes that i can make. And conveniently, i’m not entirely on my own – there’s another professor and two TAs, all of whom rock.

As odd as this all is, it’s going to be a great learning experiment (although it will kill my time in unprecedented ways). This is certainly a trip of a way to start professing. One day, it will be real.

[Unfortunately, though, my brain is chewing on things like Foucault and Saussure instead of blogging and email so i don’t know when i’ll be back to dialogue again.]

“nobody’s ever been fired for blogging”

I think Anil is probably dead-on with this post of his and it really made me think. In essence:

“Nobody’s ever been fired for blogging.” Instead, they are fired for bad judgment, in the same way that they would be if they said anything else in a public forum of any sorts.

But the zinger to this is “Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re hurting us. You’re hurting all weblogs.” (I originally read the ‘you’ as referring to the fired bloggers who are engaging in poor judgment, but a closer look makes it clear that the ‘you’ also includes us bloggers who spread the gossip.)

– The political bloggers are framing blogging as the thing that gets journalists fired
– The tech bloggers are framing blogging as the thing that gets regular people fired

Why on earth would anyone want to blog when it seems like all blogging is is a way to get fired? Worse: the ‘firings’ get framed as a free speech issue instead of a good judgment issue.

I should note that i don’t know the specifics of any case of ‘firing’ except what i read in the media/blogs. Anil’s post made me really think about what our responsibility as “gossip spreaders” is and should be. I’ve definitely posted information about firing rumors in the past, thereby engaging in exactly what Anil points out is harmful. I’ve done so more because i’m curious about the situation than because i believe that it is true. That said, i can totally see how this can be misinterpreted by people that read what i write. In other words, if i accept that everyday people read my blog or that my blog becomes a source of material that eventually gets to everyday people, i’m engaging in precisely the problematic behavior that results in giving everyday people the impression that blogging can get you fired. ::gulp::

I think that’s the key to Anil’s post – realizing that as much as i want to think that i’m blogging just for my friends, i’m not and it wouldn’t matter because i am being read by at least someone. As such, as a blogger with an audience >1, i’m actually accountable for representing blogging to the public. So, my bitching represents blogging… as does my gossip spreading. I hate that weight, but he’s right. Grr.