There are 10 kinds of people in the world – those who understand binary, and those who don’t.
Archives for February 2007
Three groups of researchers claim to have untangled the process by which many Wikipedia entries achieve their impressive accuracy (1, 2, 3). They say that the best articles are those that are highly edited by many different contributors.[…] The main lesson for tapping effectively into the ‘wisdom of crowds’, then, is that the crowd should be diverse. In fact, in 2004 Lu Hong and Scott Page of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor showed that a problem-solving team selected at random from a diverse collection of individuals will usually perform better than a team made up of those who individually perform best — because the latter tend to be too similar, and so draw on too narrow a range of options (5). For crowds, wisdom depends on variety.
The story covers at least five different studies of Wikipedia accuracy and community structure. I’m not about to choose which paragraphs to excerpt and which to leave out, so go read the whole thing. Some studies raised my eyebrows, for example one group’s apparently circular decision to measure the quality of an entry based on the Wiki community’s internal ratings. But overall the article is well worth the time.
To me the most interesting point is the way that Wikipedia turns the old rule that people are smart, crowds are stupid entirely on its head. Wiki entries, which you can think of as a form of extended conversation or debate, only get more accurate the more people jump in, and diversity seems as important as total numbers.
Bloggers ought to pay attention to this. I would even extend the point to say that a diverse commentariat should be a good measure of accurate writing, although it presents a chicken and egg problem in that increasing the number of readers who will howl if you screw up one way or the other often makes writers more careful to get things right, or stick to verifiable facts. In my view that ought to to count strongly in favor of blogs like Obsidian Wings which take considerable care to maintain a multipartisan community.
What distinguishes internet communication from crowd behavior? For collective action like bulk emailings and phone campaigns, not much. People can subsume their will to a collective just as easily online as in a noisy mob. But in Wikipedia as in blogging silent agreement is death. We’re less like a mob than an enormous coffeehouse full of well-read people, or at least well-Googled, arguing with each other. The main effect of technology is to streamline that argument and facilitate communication, cross-referencing and fact-checking on an unprecedented scale.
Testing the converse principle, intellectual monocultures like LGF and the Office of Special Plans ought to, and do, put out unreliable crap. Surprise, filtering out the noisiest critics also shuts down your most enthusiastic fact-checkers.
While we’re talking about Stephen Colbert, note the very next story at Nature News:
South Africa expected to propose elephant cull
Public consultation could suggest killing to control population.
I wish I had written this:
Madonna getting upset with her daughter for dressing too slutty is like Mr. T getting upset with his son for pitying too many fools. I think there was a period in Madonna’s life where all she wore was spaghetti pasta and condoms.
I give that two thumbs up.
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.
They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
Punish them for speaking out, then hide them from the media.
And again, this isn’t POWs or unlawful combatants or whatever. These are our wounded guys.
Matthew Cole, writing for Salon.com, has a discouraging dispatch from an outpost in the border region between Afghanistan and tribal Pakistan. The article gives a useful sense of the daily grind in America’s “other” war, but take care to read the passages where US troops describe exactly why we are losing and may entirely lose the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
[T]he troops in Nuristan have also suffered from sheer isolation and the topography of the Hindu Kush. At Lybert (altitude 6,500 feet), the 3-71’s Charlie Company had gone 70 days without a hot shower or a hot meal. They have sustained deaths and injuries from hiking and falling. Soldiers who have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before said their current living conditions are much worse. “Leadership doesn’t care about us,” said one officer, who requested that his name be withheld to avoid punishment for his comments. “We’ve gone on mission after mission after mission where we’ve gone black [run out] on food and water. They tell us, ‘Pack light, your mission will only be four days tops.’ But then we end up stuck on a mountaintop for two weeks. We didn’t have anything, not even tents. If you can’t get us off a mountain, don’t put us on there.”
Several soldiers and officers I spoke with told me they were unprepared for their mission in the north of Afghanistan. No one, it seems, told them they would have to fight a Vietnam-style war at high altitudes. One officer told me the 10th Mountain’s limited resources and poor planning frustrated him. (He also asked that his name be withheld for fear of retribution.) “Leadership has failed us,” he told me. “They don’t give a shit about us. We’ve been shorted everything we needed. Our training didn’t prepare us for this terrain or this mission. We’re doing the best we can but we’re not getting support.” He said the summer of 2006 had been filled with air-assault missions in which Chinooks delivered 20 to 30 troops to a ridgeline with little food or water, and no plan to pick them up.[…] Adding to Charlie Company’s frustration, it cannot go on manned patrols in the villages below. Capt. Mike Schmidt, the commanding officer, told me the location of the base and size of his troop limited how much he could do. “We depend a lot on locals walking up from the neighboring villages to give us information,” he said. “We can’t leave the base and do patrols or visit the villages. We don’t have enough soldiers. We’d come back and there would be nothing left — the Afghans would steal everything and the insurgents could take the base.”
Convoys lack air support. Troops guarding the border where al Qaeda and the Taliban have regrouped, and from which they launch increasingly effective incursions into Afghanistan, lack the men to go on regular patrols. Troops endure two or three times the planned mission length because their commanders lack either the resources to resupply them, the helicopters to remove them or the manpower to relieve them. Plainly and unambiguously the effort to stabilize Afghanistan is suffering because we lack the resources to do the job right.
It should be plain to the slowest observer that men and materiel would be available in spades if they were not sunk in Iraq. Nobody, as far as I know, can show now that we absolutely, positively needed to go to war with Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan. Today most will tell you that we didn’t need to invade Iraq at all.
It is only so useful to psychologize why attacking Saddam Hussein so thoroughly captivated this administration before 9/11, immediately after 9/11 and every day since then. Each participant no doubt nurtured his own personal pathology, so there isn’t any single answer to why this group went so disastrously wrong. Maybe there exists a group of Democrats who would have driven America just as thoroughly over the rhetorical cliff. President Lieberman comes to mind. Nonetheless it seems reasonable to wonder where we would be today if we had a leadership with the discipline and the competence to focus on the people who attacked us long enough to finish the job.
An encounter from freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy’s visit to Iraq and Afghanistan sums up the entire problem:
Military commanders in Afghanistan told the Iraq war veteran from Bucks County that they desperately needed more troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban. …Murphy said, “they feel like the redheaded stepchild” – forgotten and ignored – as the original battleground in the war against terrorism.
Red-headed stepchild. This in reference to our war against the people who attacked us on 9/11, and who will undoubtedly attack us again. Incredible.
Dick Cheney, wrong about everything. This person has been on the wrong side of literally every policy issue since Bush took office.
Two separate news outlets have revealed the source of those shaped-penetrator super-IEDs that some anonymous official claimed could only come from Iran. Surprise, it wasn’t Iran. The work was done by Iraqis working with material supplied from places in the middle east that don’t lie directly to Iraq’s northeast.
Free advice to anybody who took these reports seriously – when administration officials insist on anonymity for no discernable reason, and when official spokesmen start passing the buck even before the full ridiculousness of the claims comes to light, it means that even they know they are full of shit. Count on it.
Watch this video clip of a bunch of citizens attempting to have Patty Murray arrested for war crimes.
Then ask yourself what would be worse as a politician. Being a Democrat and catering to these guys, or being a Republican and dealing with the Jesus creeps?
I really don’t know.
BTW- I loved the guy at the end of the clip telling the other fellow to calm down. That was the most sedate protest I have ever seen. If he calmed down anymore, he would have slipped into a coma.
Byt now most of you have heard the story about the librarians censoring the children;s book that features the word scrotum. If you have not, here is a link.
At anyu rate, in the student newspaper today, a guest columnist had a piece titled:
Congrats to Martin Scorcese.
It is strange to me that he is finally recognized as the Best Directror for a film that, while entertaining, was not his best work.
It is not unlike the recently departed Anna Nicole Smith, who received wide acclaim for Playboy spreads, but whose genius in Skyscraper is often overlooked.
Consider this an open thread.
Just watched The Departed this afternoon, and one thing is for sure- there won’t be a sequel.
I am really surprised that is a favorite- it really was not one of his best. Hell, it was no Goodfellas, which I still think set the standard for the modern gangster movie.
Because I care what you think.
We have to do something about skyrocketing energy costs:
Perhaps his $24 billion electric bill will teach Richard Redden not to leave the heat running. Thanks to a printing error, Redden and more than 1,300 Weatherford utility customers this week received billion-dollar electric bills marked as late notices.
Irving-bases DataProse, which prints customer bills for Weatherford Electric, said the company was embarrassed by the error.
“Obviously, this is not something we are pleased about,” said Curtis Nelson, DataProse vice president and general manager.
Although in all probability, 24 billion will be peanuts after Bush gets done with his energy initiatives.
You would think that rightwing pundits would take exception to terrorist sympathizer* Dinesh D’Souza’s claim that he is a perfectly mainstream conservative pundit. After all, the idea that terrorists are right to hate America isn’t just edging into Ward Churchill territory. It is exactly the Churchillian sin that got these same pundits worked up into such a frenzy not so long ago. If Churchill’s sins were so heinous then Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin ought to take far more exception when the next Ward Churchill claims to be one of them.
On face value it seems that D’Souza’s claim to mainstream status is, for lack of a better word, perfectly right. He still holds an extremely well-paid post at the mainstream Hoover Institution. His bio lists plaudits from Investor’s Business Daily and an impressive array of prominent media appearances. He served in the Reagan Administration. It is extremely hard to imagine that D’Souza, who finds broad areas of agreement with anti-American terrorists’ about what is wrong with America, does sit squarely in the middle of modern conservatism. Using the Glenn Reynolds rules of punditry, the overall silence from D’Souza’s ideological compatriots indicates quite clearly that they find his ideas largely unobjectionable.
Setting aside other blame America firsters like Pat Robertson and Jerry Flawell, it might still be possible to d’smiss D’souza as a lone nut if his allies kept their agreement to themselves. That was apparently too much to ask Glenn Beck.
“The things that they were saying about us were true. Our morals are just out the window. We’re a society on the verge of moral collapse. And our promiscuity is off the charts.
“Now I don’t think that we should fly airplanes into buildings or behead people because of it, but that’s the prevailing feeling of Muslims in the Middle East. And you know what? They’re right.”
So much for one lone nut. Glenn Beck is essentially saying that he disagrees with al Qaeda on tactics rather than on principle. If bin Laden limited himself to, say, bombing abortion clinics and beating gays then maybe he’d get on board.
As should be clear by now the common causers represent a meaningful slice of the right, extending from the most extreme Christianists to multiple mainstream pundits with extensive media exposure. It seems impossible at this point to consider these reprehensible views in any way isolated or unique. If conservatives want to escape the impression that they willingly harbor within their ranks an element willing to make common cause with terrorists then it seems time to play their cards a little less close to the chest.
(*) Literally. D’Souza sympathizes with terrorists who hate America because, in his view he hates America for the same reasons.
This is an unrelated, probably unfair cheap shot, but conservatives who want to avoid the appearance of making common cause with terrorists should avoid giving them awards.
The good Glenn:
Thus, when one reads any speech given by President Ahmadinejad, it becomes apparent that his views on the dynamics of international affairs and the need to show “strength” — as well as his understanding of what “strength” means — are, at their core, indistinguishable from those who have been governing our country for the last six years. None of that means that there is (or is not) a moral equivalency between the U.S. and Iran. But it does mean that the efforts on the part of our political leaders to descend to the levels of Middle Eastern tyrants and to model our behavior after theirs are proceeding with full force.
Let me be clear, I think that intentionally misrepresenting somebody’s viewpoint as a form of ridicule is morally and rhetorically wrong. So please don’t take this as any sort of official encouragement. But, ye gods, are these guys begging for it.
From their “about” section, which appears to be down at the moment:
Tired of the LIBERAL BIAS every time you search on Google and a Wikipedia page appears? Now it’s time for the Conservatives to get our voice out on the internet!
Conservapedia began in November 2006, as the class project for a World History class of 58 advanced homeschooled and college-bound students meeting in New Jersey. Conservapedia has since grown enormously, including contributors nationwide.
Conservapedia already has over one-half the number of entries as the Oxford Dictionary of World History. Conservapedia is rapidly becoming one of the largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind.
Try to resist.
On their front page:
Did you know that faith is a uniquely Christian concept? Add to the explanation of what it means, and how it does not exist on other religions.
PZ Meyers has more, plus some very naughty commenters.
Democrats Seek to Repeal 2002 War Authorization
Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military’s role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.[…] “I’ve had enough of ‘nonbinding,’ ” said Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who is helping to draft the new Democratic proposal. The 2002 war resolution, he said, is an obvious target.
“The authorization that we gave the president back in 2002 is completely, completely outdated, inappropriate to what we’re engaged in today,” he said.[…] The new framework would set a goal for withdrawing combat brigades by March 31, 2008, the same timetable established by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Once the combat phase ends, troops would be restricted to assisting Iraqis with training, border security and counterterrorism.
It is still hard to see the threat here. Even granting this proposal’s symbolic nut-kick to sanctimonious war boosters like Lieberman the bill will never draw 60 votes to break a filibuster. Unless…
Senior Democratic aides said the proposed resolution would be sent directly to the Senate floor for action, without committee review, possibly as an amendment to a homeland security bill scheduled for debate next week.
Ah yes, that good old GOP medicine. Attach the poison to a bill that the other party would hurt itself to fight. It is not very hard to see why the GOP and the soon-to-be GOP would get tetchy.
Nasty? Partisan? Sure. In a perfect world I would love to see Congress handle important things with bipartisan fairness. Maybe (call it a dream that I have) we will get there some day. In the meantime we might as well come to terms with the true legacy of Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove. Their permanent Republican majority died on the vine but the next majority seems happy to adopt some of the old spiteful tactics. Now maybe the GOP will grasp why people like me advise against lowering the bar for official behavior. Means often outlive the ends. In the coming years when the right gets itself worked up in a lather about the awful nazi tactics of Reid, Pelosi, and Clinton/Obama/Edwards, it is probably unrealistic to expect even the smarter righties to recognize the unfamiliar smell of personal responsibility.