Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mumbles To Meself

I was just reading a page on the OLPCWiki and came across a comment voiced in the first person:
"With the sucess of projects like the macHeist bundle, 100,000 units doesn't seem like much with a proper internet campaign. I would love to buy 2 give 1 free."

I am pretty sure that this is my first time ever encountering a first person statement in a wiki. It was unexpectedly jarring. I was forced to wonder why I found it to be so strange. My conclusion was that a wiki allows us to take a community of voices and condense them into a singular voice. This voice almost invariably speaks in the third person, like an encyclopedia. I'm not sure anyone has ever explicitly dictated this; it simply makes sense.

The faux pas of writing in a conversational first person on wikis is certain to become more common as the general internet population starts to figure out what a wiki is. To be honest, I'm surprised that it's not already much more common, but I guess that's a testament to the power of self-policing communities.

The thought of a wiki speaking in the first person is almost unnerving. In scifi films about artificial intelligence gone wrong, one of the standard tricks is to give the computer a voice that is actually a composite of many voices. It sounds spooky and aethereal. Wikis speaking in the first person are basically the written equivalent of that. It's creepy.

There is also the pragmatic aspect. The statement I came across in the OLPCWiki is clearly meant to be taken as the statement of an individual. However, since a wiki is not modeled around conversations, the individual making this comment been lost and only the statement remained. This is in contrast to a forum thread or a mailing list, which explicitly tracks the core elements of a conversation: who made which statements, when they made them, and what they were responding to.

This left me with one of those fuzzy feelings in the corner of my brain. (I guess we call them ideas.) I began to wonder what happens if you make a wiki that is entirely voiced in the first person? What if you encourage contributors to have conversations with each other, but solely through the wiki, and solely speaking in the voice of the wiki? It sounds like a glorious mess. Possibly I will call it, or

Does this already exist? Is anyone interested in participating?

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Getting all misty in transit

I've been reading The Time Traveler's Wife while flying between Minneapolis and San Antonio. It's been a long time since a book has captured my emotions in this way. Every few chapters I come across a passage that makes my stomach drop and my eyes well up with salty droplets. I feel so silly sitting there, crying briefly in the airline terminal, in my seat on the plane, on a bench waiting for the hotel shuttle. It's wonderful.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Desert Shrimps

Check out this great photo essay on the BBC News Website.

In pictures: Desert Shrimps

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A great new development with the 100 Dollar Laptop

For the past few years, MIT and a number of partners have been working together through the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project to manufacture laptops for $100 USD. It is a fascinating project. The central premise is that they want to manufacture inexpensive laptops for use by schoolchildren in the developing world.

I have a gigantic crush on the people who started OLPC, and the crush grows every time I read more about their efforts.

Until now, OLPC made it clear that these neat little laptops will only be available for purchase on massive scale by educational systems in developing countries. Recently, that changed. Now they plan to allow the public to buy the laptops, but with a wonderful hitch: you have to pay for two. One laptop goes to you, the other goes to a student in the developing world. How awesome is that?

Learn more from BBC News: Public can purchase $100 laptop

Part of my excitement stems from the fact that there will be so much opportunity to participate in the education of all the children who receive these laptops. I want to buy one for myself so that I can start putting together tools to help kids build music software on their laptops and then share both the software and the resulting music.

I get so excited about this stuff.

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