Wikipedia edits and the perils of community clashes

I read Dave Winer’s post about Wikipedia edits with some interest, particularly the part about his edits to the RSS topic, a topic which has been politicized in the past. He writes:

Then I decided to look at the RSS page to see if it linked to the RSS 2.0 spec. It didn’t, so I added a link. I haven’t been back to see if that has been reverted.

It surprised me that the RSS page wouldn’t link to the spec, so I went and checked it out. Sure enough, I saw Dave’s edit linking the spec into the article, and then someone else taking his edit out.

Curious as to why someone would make the change, I looked at the article and found that there actually was a pointer to an RSS 2.0 spec. But where Dave was pointing to the Berkman spec page, the Specifications section links to the RSS Board spec page.

The point that grabbed me first, of course, is that the RSS Board is making transparent some minor edits that have happened to the spec over time (I wouldn’t have told you that there had been eight revisions of the RSS 2.0 spec). But the other point that caught my interest is the nature of Dave’s change that was reverted. Dave put an external link into the body of a Wikipedia entry. Most Wikipedia entries I’ve seen put external links in a subsection at the end of an article. Two very different philosophies of linking. Dave’s is bloglike, where the external link adds immediate context; Wikipedia’s is … well, weird. I’m not sure why one would separate out that content, except to say that “This is information that is to be treated differently from the main article.” But, Wikipedia being Wikipedia, one doesn’t have to guess at the intentions of the site. There is a general External links policy and a Manual of Style for links. The main thrust appears to be that only external links that function as sources of article information (i.e. footnotes) appear within the article, while other links appear in a ghetto.

Obvious? No. Does it make sense that Wikipedia has evolved this way? Maybe. What it reminds me more than anything else is that Wikipedia is a group of individuals that have evolved collective guidelines and practices for managing a common resource, that they are in fact a community with different practices and standards than the blogging community. I think the blogging way is right and the false objectivity of Wikipedia is going to be problematic over time. But that’s not the direction Wikipedia has gone and I suppose we should respect that.

Links for April 30, 2007

House in Progress: National Rebuilding Day. Very cool concept, a bit like the home renovation version of Habitat for Humanity. See the national site of Rebuilding Together for more details.

Matthew Kirschenbaum has updates on the status of his forthcoming book, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, which is listed as publishing next January.

On Martin Fowler’s Refactoring website, an online catalog of refactorings. Useful for those, like me, whose programming muscles are idle from long disuse.

ITSMWatch: ITIL’s Top 10 Quick Wins. Useful summary of actions that can help illustrate the business benefit of IT Service Management adoption.

Friday Random 10: Oy edition

Oy indeed. If I have too many more weeks like this, I’ll plotz.

  1. Dave Brubeck, “Her Name is Nancy” (So What’s New?)
  2. Little Milton, “Grits Ain’t Groceries” (Oxford American Southern Music CD 2003)
  3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “In This Home on Ice” (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)
  4. Tori Amos, “Angie” (Crucify EP)
  5. Rob Wasserman, “Freedom Bass Dance” (Trilogy)
  6. Justin Rosolino, “Sweet Day” (Music (The Live Recordings))
  7. Moby, “The Sky is Broken” (Play)
  8. Sleater-Kinney, “Living in Exile” (The Hot Rock)
  9. Sting, “We Work the Black Seam” (The Dream of the Blue Turtles)
  10. They Might Be Giants, “Hypnotist of Ladies” (Apollo 18)

Hiring again.

I once again have an opening for a pre-sales engineer at my firm, iET Solutions. Details on our website and on Craigslist.

We’re a pretty exciting place to be right now—a consistently profitable company in the IT Service Management and CMDB space. Not only are we growing, we’re also making some big product investments, so Presales is going to be a critical part of the success of taking those to the market.

If selling isn’t your thing, we also have consulting and support positions open. If you’d like to discuss the job position further, just contact me.

Webex Outlook Addin and Outlook 2007

If, like me, you live and die by Webex, you might have been as frustrated as I was to find that the Outlook add-in for Webex (which allows you to schedule online meetings right from your Outlook calendar) doesn’t install on Outlook 2007. I was quite surprised to find this, actually, since I had happily been running it on my old computer. But I realized I had actually migrated it—I had originally installed it against Outlook 2003, and it had happily continued to work when I upgraded to Outlook 2007.

So I hacked my way into making it work. Basically all you have to do is start from a working installation of the add-in (downloadable from your Webex account page), then copy the binary files from the Webex program files directory to the machine with Outlook 2007, register the DLLs, then add a registry entry that registers the add-in. On my machine, the registry entry for the last step looks like this:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

"FriendlyName"="ADOutlook2K Addin"
"Description"="ATLCOM Outlook Addin"

Note that installing this WILL NOT work unless the DLLs from the add-in have properly been registered.

Once I did the above steps, I simply recorded my sign-in information and was able to start scheduling meetings again. Yee haw.

Update: Apparently WebEx has fixed this issue, though it doesn’t explain why I had to hack and post about it before anyone told us that it was an issue, much less that they had fixed it. Sigh.

Music Review: Christopher O’Riley, Second Grace: The Music of Nick Drake

second grace: the music of nick drake by christopher o'riley

Christopher O’Riley is on a roll. Recently he has parlayed his successful public radio gig into a public television gig; he also has two Radiohead transcription albums and one Elliott Smith transcription album under his belt. Now comes his latest transcription album, Second Grace: The Music of Nick Drake. And for better or worse it’s of a piece with the albums that preceded it: technically brilliant, undeniably deep in its understanding and love of the source material, but somehow less than compelling in overall execution despite some bright points.

The disappointment of this album is that the material O’Riley had to work with was so rich. Nick Drake, who has been wearing the “undeservedly obscure” label for so long that he’s in danger of overexposure, produced both orchestral chamber-pop of high complexity and stark, isolated solo recordings before his untimely death after just three albums (official cause: overdose of antidepressants). The great thing about a Nick Drake song is that he could take that voice that ranged from low murmuring (“From the Morning”) to high keening (“Black Eyed Dog”) and his amazingly proficient acoustic guitar work and make songs of all flavors and descriptions come alive.

But–and here is my bone with all Mr. O’Riley’s pop transcriptions to date–in his hands all Nick Drake’s songs sound alike! Almost every track features the same curse: O’Riley’s technically impressive transcriptions swamp the songs in complexity. Two years ago, I wrote of “Hold Me to This” that O’Riley’s approach “too often … yields a harmonically accurate overload of undifferentiated hemidemisemiquavers.” Translated into plain English, I mean that the songs are occasionally in danger of losing their rhythmic integrity under the onslaught of rolling chords.

Exhibit 1: “Pink Moon.” Made famous twenty years late in a Volkswagen commercial for its wistfulness, here it sounds hurried, busy, and way too cheerful. One supposes that the latter is unavoidable given the beauty and simplicity of the underlying melody; it is, after all, Drake’s words (“And none of you stand so tall/Pink moon gonna get ye all”) that carry the substantial menace of the song. But isn’t this the job of the performer of a transcription: to bring across that unspoken menace through the performance, to compensate for the missing lyrics?

Is there a bright spot in this bleak adaptation of Drake’s music? Generally adaptations are difficult anyway; as Charles Schulz once observed, reading classic literature that has been “adapted” for children is “not unlike drinking diluted root beer.” The good news is that the bones of Drake’s songs are underneath, and what good bones they are. And in places they come through: “Fly,” where the bass voice of the piano carries the melody to good effect, is a good early example. “Harvest Breed”’s unusual chord progression carries through the trappings of the arrangement to grab the listener. And “Three Days” builds suspense through its gradually thickening chromatic language.

Probably the most successful reworking on the album is “River Man,” where O’Riley lets the driving rhythm (in the liner notes he cites Dave Brubeck as an inspiration here) mingle at something like a meditative tempo with an increasingly discordant accompaniment. The bridge is delightful, a storm across the river valley. The second verse introduction after the bridge, where the introductory chords dip down to a minor fourth below the tonic, starts to carry the appropriate amount of menace. I will go so far as to say that here O’Riley may actually best Brad Mehldau, who consistently has gotten to this repertoire first (recording “Everything in Its Right Place,” “Exit Music (For a Film),” and “River Man” several years ago); his version of the song is more complete and holds more emotional range.

So there are some bright points on the album; overall, though, it is too reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln’s supposed observance, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”

I close by noting, as I did in my review of “Hold Me to This,” that the listening experience is greatly helped by turning the volume way up. Listening to the playback at an appropriately high volume level helps to bring out the subtleties of the recording and hold somnolence at bay.

This review was also published at Blogcritics.

Today’s links

Via BoingBoing, an amazingly obsessive recreation and imagination of Bag End, Bilbo Baggins’s home, in miniature. Eight rooms and countless tiny knick-knacks, all to scale for tiny hobbit action figures.

Boston Globe: The bell at Old South Church to toll 33 times. A somber reminder that as Christians we are supposed to care about the soul of the murderer as well as the souls of the murdered. How difficult that is has never been made clearer than today.

The Globe, again: Mom says body found on Cape is her son, a missing MIT student. Daniel Barclay had been missing since April 8. Obligatory eerie note: the last contact he had with anyone was via his AIM away message, which read:
“I have to meet with some sketchy people I thought I’d never have to deal with ever again in east Cambridge.”

Friday Random 10: Sun’s Out Edition

I turned on the iPod this morning, and the song that was playing was Lyle Lovett’s “Since the Last Time”:

I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain’t seen
Since the last time
Somebody died

And I decided, you know, I should really listen to something else this week.

  1. The Black Keys, “No Fun” (The Moan)
  2. Peter Hurford (J.S. Bach, composer), “Toccata and Fugue in D minor (“Dorian”) (Great Organ Works)
  3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Stone Free” (Are You Experienced)
  4. The Police, “Invisible Sun” (Ghost in the Machine)
  5. Romano Zanotti, “Michelemma” (Chansons Napolitaines)
  6. Me’shell NdegeÓcello, “Deuteronomy: N*ggerman” (Peace Beyond Passion)
  7. Lee Ranaldo, “The Bridge” (East Jesus)
  8. Kronos Quartet (Osvaldo Golijov, composer), “III. Colmo. Sospeso-Allegro Pesante” (The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind)
  9. Boss Hog, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” (Suburbia Soundtrack)
  10. Belle and Sebastian, “You’re Just a Baby” (Tigermilk)

One more thought…

…regarding the Cluetrainfulness of the Blue State Digital folks vs.’s campaign management toolkit. Does what Blue State Digital enables count as what Doc Searls calls vendor relationship management? After all, it’s about voters taking the process into their own hands and starting to drive the campaign activities of candidates that interest them.

Looked at this way, the contrast between the two approaches becomes clearer. Salesforce sells VRM (Voter Relationship Management), the political analog of customer relationship management), while Blue State Digital provides CRM (Candidate Relationship Management), the political analog of vendor relationship management. Confused yet?

SalesForce: trouble for Blue State Digital? Don’t bank on it

CNet: throws its hat into political ring., already a player in the online CRM market, is marketing a custom edition of its application to manage political campaigns.

Web software as a service in the political market? Sounds a lot like the business plan of Blue State Digital, right? Except of course that it’s an entirely different play. Salesforce’s application focuses on tracking donors, managing campaign budgets, and reporting to the FEC. Blue State Digital does campaign strategy and grass roots enablement—and taking online donations.

The difference appears to be that Salesforce is taking a top down approach, assuming that the campaign is in control and driving the get-out-the-vote events and other campaign activities. Blue State Digital’s approach assumes that its job is to get the voters riled up, harness their energy and ideas, and enable them to identify viable candidates for office and organize their own campaign activities around the candidates of their choice. Big difference.

In fact, kind of the difference between traditional marketing and Cluetrain marketing.

Oh, and the other big difference? Salesforce’s product, Campaignforce, is in use by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who has made his own governorship of Massachusetts into a punchline and retreated from every position he took to win the state. The products by Blue State Digital are in use by the DNC, Democracy for America, and Harry Reid—you know, the folks that led the way to the Democrats regaining power in both houses of Congress last November.

I do have to give credit where due, though: SalesForce’s integration with Google Maps and YouTube sounds cool.

My Founding Father is better than yours

File under amusing: the debate team of Hamilton College challenged UVA’s Washingotn and Jefferson Societies to a debate over whose Founding Father was coolest.


Knowing a few graduated members of the Jeff and the Wash, all I can say is, I hope the Hamilton team is prepared to eat crow. And of course, to drink like fish, since they will undoubtedly be treated to a spectacular display of Virginia hospitality.

But one does wonder where the Hamilton College team expect to find their points of superiority, given that their founding father was allergic to democracy. And who are they calling “plump” anyway? I am especially tempted to speculate about the rent paid by the “tenants of rhetoric” [sic], but we’ll let it slide.

QTN™: Rogue Imperial India Pale Ale

Tonight’s Quick Tasting Note regards the Imperial India Pale Ale from Rogue Ales Brewery. A beer in a big 750 ml ceramic bottle with a flip-top stopper, it’s a 9.5% ABV hoppy monster. Hoppy monster in that the hops are so monstrous that the malt almost can’t catch up. The trick with a beer like this is in the balance between hops, malt, and alcohol, and this one clearly seeks to balance out the hops and the alcohol with some neglect for the malt. That said, it’s a really interesting beer: bracing, citrusy, floral, strong. Good match for a plate of bratwurst with mustard.

This, like the Drie Fontainen Oude Gueuze, came from Warehouse Wine and Spirits in Framingham. Their beer selection may not be as wide as Downtown Wine and Spirits in Somerville, but they have the advantage of being near my office and the exceptional things they have are pretty darned exceptional.