Posts Tagged ‘hive mind’

John Doe blogger is 'Person of the Year'

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Time

Few publications in the world take themselves as seriously as Time magazine, and Christmas each year finds it at its most unctuous and self-important, as Time chooses its “Person of the Year”. This year, the award for newsmaker of 2006 is given to “You” – the internet user.

But perhaps not you or me. The kind of internet user lauded by Time doesn’t do what most of us do – window shopping on eBay, adding bon mots to Popbitch or Something Awful, or grazing for free music. It has in mind a special idealised kind of “You” – the wiki-fiddling, bloggers of Web 2.0, or the “citizens of the new digital democracy” as Time editor Richard Stengler calls them.
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10% of US net users 'addicted, needing therapy' (other 90% too burned out to respond)

Friday, December 1st, 2006
Interesting quotes here. But why the social pressure?

The American obsession with therapy may almost be considered as a neurosis in its own right. But quacks see promising material in a growing number of internet addicts.

“6 percent to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this country have a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction, and they are rushing to treat it,” reports the New York Times.

Staff at an Illinois hospital said they see similar signs of withdrawal in net addicts patients as in alcoholics or drug addicts, including “profuse sweating, severe anxiety and paranoid symptoms”.

But is it so harmful?

Something very strange is happening, to be sure. Consider the reaction around the web to a column in the Los Angeles Times this week by linguistics professor Naomi Baron. She expresses concern that the shallow nature of reading on the web diminished her students ability to reason.

She’s isn’t the first to observe this. Academic researchers have found that net use creates a “problem solving deficit disorder” amongst children, and cognitive scientists have discovered the bombardment of email depletes IQ “faster than marijuana”.

Baron wrote,

“If we approach the written word primarily through search-and-seizure rather than sustained encounter-and-contemplation, we risk losing a critical element of what it means to be an educated, literate society.”

Two years ago one would have expected bloggers to leap up on the Professor, admonish her for being a Luddite, and give her a generally thorough ‘Fisking’.

But instead her column provoked an outpouring of empathy.

“It actually destroys brain cells or something, because if I’ve been doing too much online reading, I lose the patience for following a sustained or subtle argument, or reading a complex novel,”

wrote Body and Soul blog’s ‘Jeanne D’arc’.

“As a fellow sufferer, lemme tell ya, the phenomenon that Jeanne D’arc is describing up there is real, and more than a little worrisome when you first notice it. It just feels so … organic, somehow, like you’ve damaged a part of the brain itself,”

sympathizes blogger Jack O’Toole.

” I’ll run into a sentence that suddenly reminds me of something — and then spend the next minute staring into space thinking of something entirely unrelated to the book at hand. Eventually I snap back, but obviously this behavior reduces both my reading rate and my reading comprehension,”

writes journalist and blogger Kevin Drum.

“Is this really because of blogging? I don’t know for sure, but it feels like it’s related to blogging, and it’s a real problem. As wonderful as blogs, magazines, and newspapers are, there’s simply no way to really learn about a subject except by reading a book – and the less I do that, the less I understand about the broader, deeper issues that go beyond merely the outrage of the day.”

To which one wag comments –

“I’m not sure if that argument really has any validity….Hey look, a bird!”

Ironically, in a recent survey, 48.7 per cent of bloggers cited ‘therapy’ as their primary reason for maintaing a weblog. So this is a ‘cure’ that’s turning out to be worse than the disease. Says Jeanne D’arc —

“I need to get away from the fast and facile and let my brain heal. It actually feels like recovering a bit of humanity that I forgot I had.”

Whatever happened to… The Wisdom of Crowds?

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Future social historians looking back at the web cult – which met in San Francisco this week for a $3,000-a-head “summit” – may wonder what made them tick. Scholars could do worse than examine their superstitions. We’ll bet that lurking on the bookshelf of almost every “delegate” was a copy of James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds. It’s as ubiquitous as Erik Von Daniken books were in the 1970s.

In Silicon Valley this year, “collective intelligence” is the mandatory piece of psycho-babble necessary to open a Venture Capitalist’s cheque book. Surowiecki’s faith in prediction markets appears unshakeable. Writing in Slate three years ago, in an attempt to save Admiral Poindexter’s “Terror Casino” – punters were invited to bet on the probability of state leaders being assassinated, for example – Mystic Jim begged for understanding:

“Even when traders are not necessarily experts, their collective judgment is often remarkably accurate because markets are efficient at uncovering and aggregating diverse pieces of information. And it doesn’t seem to matter much what markets are being used to predict.”

“Whether the outcome depends on irrational actors (box-office results), animal behavior (horse races), a blend of irrational and rational motives (elections), or a seemingly random interaction between weather and soil (orange-juice crops), market predictions often outperform those of even the best-informed expert. Given that, it’s reasonable to think a prediction market might add something to our understanding of the future of the Middle East.”

A heart-warming fable, then, for a population robbed of their pensions, and beset by uncertainty after the dot.com bubble. Suroweicki failed to mention however that experts are regularly outperformed by chimps, or dartboards – but no one talks about “The Wisdom of Chimps”.

This week however the people spoke – and the markets failed.

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Management consultants on the march, powered by Junk Science

Friday, October 13th, 2006

AOL's search logs: the ultimate “Database Of Intentions”

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Google's IMsearch [click to enlarge]

AOL Labs prompted a weekend of hyperventilation in the ‘blogosphere’ by publishing the search queries from 650,000 users. This mini-scandal may yet prove valuable, however, as it reveals an intriguing psychological study of the boundaries of what is considered acceptable privacy.

In his turgid book on Google – one so obsequious and unchallenging that Google bought thousands of copies to give away to its staff – former dot.bust publisher John Battelle enthused about something he called the “database of intentions”. The information collected by search engines, he trumpeted, would be a marketer’s dream, and tell us more about ourselves than we ever realized we could know. AOL’s publication is the first general release of such a database to the public.

But hold on a minute. Is it, really?
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People more drunk at weekends, researchers discover

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

A parody from 2000

It’s open season on Wikipedia these days. The project’s culture of hatred for experts and expertise has become the subject of widespread ridicule. Nick Carr christened it “the cult of the amateur”.

But what has professional academia done for us lately? Here’s a study from the University of Amsterdam to ponder.

New Scientist reports that researchers for Professor Maarten de Rijke at the Informatics Institute have been recording words used by bloggers, in an attempt to find interesting or unusual patterns. What revelations did the team’s MoodViews software unearth?

The team discovered that the LiveJournal label “drunk” becomes increasingly popular each weekend. And around Valentine’s Day, “there is spike in the numbers of bloggers who use the labels ‘loved’ or ‘flirty’, but also an increase in the number who report feeling ‘lonely’.”

It gets better.

The team also noticed that on the weekend of the publication of the most recent Harry Potter book, bloggers used “words like ‘Harry’, ‘Potter’, ‘shop’ and ‘book’,” PhD student Gilad Mishne reveals.

This work really should put the Nobel Prize Committee on Red Alert. Alongside the existing scientific prizes for Chemistry, Physics and Physiology and Medicine, the Laureate Committee should design a new category for the “Bleeding Obvious”, or the “Dying Ridiculous”.

More seriously, let’s look at what this episode teaches us.

Two things are immediately obvious: Mishne’s study was considered worthy of academic funding, and it was considered worthy of an article in a popular science magazine.

The study doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know before: unless you’re surprised by the revelation that people get more drunk at weekends, or people talk about Harry Potter books more when a new Harry Potter book goes on sale. The study is really considered funding-worthy and newsworthy because of what’s unsaid – the implication that the aggregation of internet chatter will reveal some new epistemological truth.
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Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed … in 42 days

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Second Superpower


In early 2003, the phrase “Second Superpower” became a popular way to refer to the street protests against the imminent invasion of Iraq. The metaphor had been used by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and on the cover of The Nation magazine. A small number of techno utopian webloggers hijacked the phrase.

The narrower sense sprung from a paper by a technocratic management consultant Jim Moore, who referred to direct democracy mediated through technology. It belongs to the school of literature in which the Internet is the manifestation of a “hive mind”. Only a few links from weblogs were sufficient to send the paper to the top of Google’s search results for the phrase “second superpower”.

In the New York Times, UC Stanford Linguistics professor Geoffrey Nunberg, wrote:

“Sometimes, though, the deliberations of the collective mind seem to come up short. Take Mr. Moore’s use of “second superpower” to refer to the Internet community. Not long ago, an article on the British technology site The Register accused Mr. Moore of “googlewashing” that expression – in effect, hijacking the expression and giving it a new meaning. The outcomes of Google’s popularity contests can be useful to know, but it’s a mistake to believe they reflect the consensus of the ‘Internet community’, whatever that might be, or to think of the Web as a single vast colloquy – the picture that’s implicit in all the talk of the Internet as a ‘digital commons’ or ‘collective mind’.

While in Le Monde, Pierre Lazuly observed:

When you search the net you are not examining all available knowledge, but only what contributors – universities, institutions, the media, individuals – have chosen to make freely available, at least temporarily. The quality of it is essential to the relevance of the results.” Lazuly drew attention’s to Google’s description of its algorithms as “uniquely democratic”:

“It’s a strange democracy where the voting rights of those in a position of influence are so much greater than those of new arrivals. ”
Lazuly concluded –

“Those who got there first in net use are now so well-established that they enjoy a level of representation out of proportion to their real importance. The quantity of links they maintain (especially through the mainly US phenomenon of webloggers) mathematically give them control of what Google thinks.”

Webloggers had enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Google. The dense interlinking between weblogs gave them a higher ranking in Google’s search results. This had not been written about before, and they didn’t like it one bit.

Search engine expert Gary Stock described it:

“[Google] didn’t foresee a tightly-bound body of wirers, They presumed that technicians at USC would link to the best papers from MIT, to the best local sites from a land trust or a river study – rather than a clique, a small group of people writing about each other constantly. They obviously bump the rankings system in a way for which it wasn’t prepared.”

“Each of us gets vote,” jokes Stock. “And someone votes every day and I vote once every four years.”

The act of being observed changes everything. As Slate‘s Paul Boutin concluded:

“Bloggers determined to prove they can be just as clueless and backbiting as the professional journalists they deride scored a major milestone this week …”

Read the original article below the fold.

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The cost of an "Always On lifestyle"

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

About a year ago, a man I’d never met before showed me pictures of a dramatic episode in his life. These showed him driving his wife to the hospital, where she was about to give birth. There were dozens and dozens of these pictures, and in each one his wife was looking progressively more grumpy.

As you’d be, too, if your waters had broken, and your husband had only one hand on the steering wheel.

He was as proud of this act of obsessive recording as I, a total stranger, was embarrassed.

The man then enthused at length about “emerging technology”. Shortly afterwards, I was not surprised to hear that he’d decided to start a new life in California.

The fellow was Christian Lindholm, and the irony of this review is that while he was at Nokia, Christian helped make a hostile technology usable for ordinary people. Mobile phones are indisputably the one technology success story over the last decade, and Lindholm’s team developed the Navi-key user interface, which I believe has never been surpassed in terms of grace and simplicity.

Now’s he’s at Yahoo!, Christian is helping make technology hostile again – something he’d already begun to do with at Nokia, with his work on the Series 60 user interface for Symbian smartphones.

I’ve been testing Yahoo!’s Go! software for mobile phones for six weeks now, and it’s the most presumptuous and irritating piece of software I’ve ever used. I value some of Yahoo!’s services, and I’m more forgiving of my phone’s idiosyncrasies than most people. But Yahoo! Go is a poster child for what happens when scientists or technologists lose sight of the needs of ordinary people. Judged purely on some narrow technical parameters, it’s amazing. Judged by how well it fits into a corporate Yahoo! marketing strategy, it fills all the tick boxes. Someone’s even created a Yahoo! theme and bundled it in the package.

The problem is much deeper than that, and as a result, everything that made Navi-key a success has been forgotten, or thrown away, in Y!Go.

I don’t mean to pick on Christian personally, he’s a super fellow. The Y!Go project was underway before he joined Yahoo! as its VP of Global Mobile Products in September. It’s much more about what misinforms corporate technology decisions.

There’s something about people who, once they get smitten by the idea of a “Hive Mind”, often lose their own (usually it’s temporary, but sometimes it’s not). When the basic philosophical assumptions are misguided, then the plumbing is wrong, and that takes a lot of fixing.

read more at The Register

The Hive Mind has spoken: 'I need help!'

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Bloggers blog for therapy – Official

Half of American webloggers cite self-help as their primary motivation for maintaining their online diaries, a survey has discovered.

48.7 per cent of the sample say that blogging “serves as therapy”, and it’s the most popular reason for publishing an online journal. The second most popular reason, to stay in touch with family and friends, was cited by 40.8 per cent of respondents.

Only 3.3 per cent say they blog to achieve fame or notoriety. And only 7.5 per cent of respondents blogged to “expose political information” – suggesting the pyjamahadeen of ‘citizen media’ are far outnumbered by the neurotic.

As one would expect, Group-think is well in evidence in the survey. Over a third of bloggers cite peer pressure of one form or another. One in five say they blog to go with the herd, and more than one in eight say they blog because “it’s the latest trend”.

And we thought happy slapping was the latest trend. We can’t keep up!

It’s hardly surprising that this most solipsistic and egotistical of communications tools attracts people looking for help. But the survey was conducted in the United States, where therapy doesn’t have the social stigma that it does in Europe, and comes as naturally to an American as shooting a road sign. In other cultures, would the results have been different? And would say, Europeans or Asians be as honest as US citizens, who are consistently, and admirably frank on such issues?

The survey was conducted by DMS for AOL this month. More here.

SCO, Groklaw and the Monterey mystery that never was

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Over the past two years, the influential web site Groklaw has become a focal point for open source advocates discussing The SCO Group’s litigation against Linux companies. The community of knowledgeable experts has helped with clarifying contract technicalities, dug through news archives, and filed on-the-spot reports from the Utah the courtroom, much to SCO’s discomfort.

But over the past month the site’s maintainer Pamela Jones has run a series of articles which could offer SCO some elusive ammunition to discredit the site. [We now understand this series, after some input from your reporter, has been amended.]
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