Sunday, December 16, 2007

Google's KNOL

As noted in Business Week on December 14, 2007, Google has invited a select group of 'authorities' to write authoritative articles, to be called knols, on a wide variety of topics. Google's driving idea is to create an on-line reference source that competes with wikipedia as a first go-to source for reference knowledge. Instead of a 'neutral' wiki, which can be endlessly modified by a community of readers, knols will have a single authorial slant, much like an entry in a standard encylcopedia.

Rumors are floating around that there will be opportunities to comment and initiate dialogues about knols. So maybe the knol will evolve as a genuinely new form of reference material that takes advantage of the best features of traditional published reference (authorial credibility) and the web, including next-to-no-cost space and storage, and community interaction.

Here is Google's post on knols, from VP of engineering Udi Manber, from December 13, 2007:

Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling "knol", which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. ...

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors -- but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content.

The worry, as many commentators have already noted, is that Google the search engine may slide into ranking knols above other reference sources such as wikipedia, essentially driving web trafiic to itself!

Shitty Art

Santiago Sierra, an artist whose works make use of pollution and toxic materials, has a new show featuring megaliths of human excrement

Elena Crippa, the curator of the London gallery displaying the works, said Sierra’s intention is to confront audiences with the horror faced by scavengers, the so-called untouchables who traditionally clean private toilets and outhouses in India.

The Chicago Sun Times comments:

Art from excrement has a long pedigree. In 1961, Italian Piero Manzoni produced 90 cans of ‘‘Artist’s (Poo),’’ each labeled as containing one ounce of ‘‘freshly preserved’’ material. In 1999, British artist Chris Ofili’s rendition of the Virgin Mary on a canvas spattered with elephant dung brought protest when it went on display with other sensational works at The Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York.

Sierra’s work is on a different scale. His 21 dark, crackled (and odorless) monuments are lined up like headstones. Although their power seems muted in the gallery’s harsh white space, visitors interviewed still seemed impressed, if not exactly shocked, by his choice of material.

Portable Brain Scanner for Fun and Profit

Do you remember the Luscher Color test? The kit came with a set of 8 color cards and a book. You asked your 'subject' to place the 8 cards in order of preference, and then read a unique psychological diagnosis out of the book. VERY SCARY.
But now we have a wonderful portable brain scanner from Hitachi. No more cards, no more book: just an instant read-out that instantly lets you know who you are. VERY SCARY.

Self Exposure Grocery Bag

Here (pictured on the right, above) is a convenience for frequent flyers: a see-through tote for your see-through vials and bottles.

And here (left, above) is another new tote trend: Trend Hunter Magazine has seen Anya Hindmarch’s fashionable "I am Not a Plastic Bag" tote bag worn over the shoulders of celebrity fashionists who are simultaneously carrying loads of plastic bags in hand. Seeing that these celebrities don't "get it," Marissa V. has created a counter-tote with the words "I am not a Smug Twat".

Thursday, November 29, 2007

National Novel Writing Month Comes to an End

In April I spoke about the National Novel Writing Month and its manual, No Plot, No Problem. At that time I did not mention that I would be taking the Nanowrimo challenge and writing a novel in November 2007. The month is over and while my novel is not complete, I have passed the fifty thousand word minimum word limit. I am mostly through part 2 of a three part novel entitled Artemis Alexander.

The process has been liberating for me. I am a fan of Kenneth Atchity's approach to writing non-fiction as developed in A Writer's Time, in which the mantra is "Don't write the first word of the first draft until you know the last word of the last draft." This approach has saved me from many false starts and, despite all of the front loading in the writing process, has made my essay writing more efficient.

But I have wanted to try my hand at fiction, and when i have tried the same approach I haven't been able to get anything going.

So starting on November 1st I took the recommendation of Chris Baty in No Plot No Problem. I conjured up some characters, put them in some scenes, and watched them interact, writing as I watched. Things came together surprisingly smoothly.

I have no ambitions for my novel. But the experience was priceless, and I learned a lot about writing I never could have learned by writing philosophical essays -- or reading anything about writing.

Proof of Purchase

From Norman Oklahoma comes Proof of Purchase, a fascinating meditation on life in these commercial times. Zen like obervations in the here and now, written on daily receipts. As one reviewer on stumbledupon noted, the ordinariness of the reflections and the receipts from familiar places such as Starbucks and Panera create a sense of immediate recognition. Like a story by Raymond Carver, or a poem by William Carlos Williams or Basho.

Getting it On and Getting Down -- Automatically

From South Africa comes the latest in contraception, the pronto condom As the link explains, by the time the young gentleman gets the condom out of the foil and figures out which end is up, there may be little interest left in getting down. Hence the need for a condom that rolls itself on automatically, right out of the foil. There is a powerful demonstration for those with sufficient courage to watch it.