Robert X. Cringely: “So what’s to be done? Well, we can’t ban PowerPoint, which after all exists for the very purpose of making people better informed, not worse. What we can do, however, is lead by example. We can just say no to PowerPoint.”

Alton Brown: “…in the near future ‘racism’ will be referred to as ‘that uncomfortable skin color problem’. ‘Premarital sex’ will be called ‘that bad, bad thing you mustn’t do’, and in geography classes all references to France will be replaced with: ‘Renault-land’.”

Today's song

You live six miles down this trolley car’s trail
up above the red line, where the street musicians wail
Where Baby, we used to chase down coffee
on the sidewalk take in tunes
We’d drink in the waning hours
till we polished off the moon

Find That Feed update

The code that updates Find That Feed nightly from Share Your OPML is nice and stable. I get an email like this every day that tells me how it went:

  To: aegrumet@mit.edu
Subject: SYO: sweep successful

When Started: 2004-02-04 03:30:05
When Finished: 2004-02-04 03:30:25
Feeds: 23607
Subscribers: 678
Subscriptions: 74357

Given the time I’d like to periodically refresh the channel titles, and, what the hell, make the descriptions searchable as well, by pulling these directly from the feeds as described in the comments on this post.
I’ve also got some suggestions for new kinds of reports sitting in my Inbox. I haven’t forgotten them, just have a lot going on.

Happy birthday to me

I’m thirty-three years old today. The double digits and time passing make me think of a song by Morphine:

  On 06/06/66 I was little I didn’t know shit
About 07/07/77 eleven years later still don’t know any better
By 08/08/88 it’s way to late for me to change and
By 09/09/99 I hope I’m sitting on the back porch drinking red wine singing
Oh french fries with pepper

My wife and I had the great fortune to see Morphine perform in Boston a number of times before Mark Sandman’s passing in July, 1999.
I think tonight I’ll raise a glass of red wine to Mark, God bless him.

Yesterday I had my MIT machine’s harddrive upgraded to 120GB from 18GB. It was an in-place upgrade, meaning that we didn’t have to re-install the operating system, applications or data. We used a program called Ghost, which boots from a floppy and copies the entire hard drive to a second machine. After swapping in the new hard drive, Ghost copies the data back. I believe this is about as close as you can get to snapping your fingers and having a bigger C: drive. Hooray!

Internet and Presidential Politics, 2004

There’s been a lot of writing and thinking about the Internet’s role in presidential politics, particuarly in view of the less-than-expected Dean results in Iowa and New Hampshire. What’s clear to me is that the Internet has barely made a showing.
The Dean campaign used the Internet effectively to raise money and help a motivated subset of Dean supporters to organize in meatspace to do the hard work of winning votes. Even if this didn’t push Dean over the top in the first two races, it probably helped. “For all we know, Dean would still be in single digits as an ex-governor of the Maple Sugar state if the online connection hadn’t happened,” writes David Weinberger.
But let’s not go too far. David Appnell makes the following assertion in an otherwise strong essay: “I didn’t vote for Howard Dean because he has a blog or because he used Meetup.com or because his supporters were somehow more wired than anyone else.” For the record: Howard Dean does not have a weblog. A Google search of Blog for America on the phrase “posted by Howard Dean” turns up exactly one match, which turns out to be a bogus comment.
Howard Dean does not have a weblog. Howard Dean has a promotional site run by a paid staff. This is not the unedited voice of a person. There’s a big difference.
In After New Hampshire, Christopher Lydon writes, “the results so far are not about politics. They’re about an assault by commercial media on the very idea of a self-willed, self-defining citizenry.” Okay, but here’s the question back at you: where do you go when you want to hear the voice of Howard Dean? Most of us head straight for CNN. That voice is edited. Even as we moan about the mainstream media setting the agenda we’re ceding control to it. We wouldn’t need CNN if we had better alternatives.
At BloggerCon this October several people noted an irony in the Dean campaign budget: they were rewarding the Internet, which had helped them raise unprecedented amounts of money in small contributions, by pouring the war chest right back into television. The same media that would hurt the campaign with endless, highly-edited re-runs of the The Scream. But we have no choice, said the Dean supporters. “Dean is too busy to write a weblog”, they said. Plus, ordinary citizens get their political information from television.
Double and triple irony, I say. It would cost Dean maybe thirty minutes out of every day to write his own weblog. The dollar cost would be rounding error compared to the sums commanded by television advertising. It would be rounding error on the rounding error. With plentiful access to Dean’s unedited voice, catching a candidate being a human being wouldn’t be such a big deal. And it would make it a lot harder for Big Media editors to sound-bite him out of existence, as is being claimed.
If Dean took a chance and wrote his own weblog, he might make the Web a more appealing destination for everyday people. Not activists or programmers or professional journalists, just regular people trying to get informed.
What else can the Internet do for presidential politics? How about a well-organized, C-SPAN-style archive of all appearances by all candidates. Sure, the TV cameras are there, but what we eventually see on the idiot box goes through substantial editing first. If I want to view The Scream in context, where do I go to watch the video? The C-SPAN site has a searchable video archive, which is a great start. But coverage is sparse and the site isn’t geared towards the 2004 election. Most folks probably wouldn’t think to go there, and, if they did, probably wouldn’t find what they were looking for.
How about Philip Greenspun’s idea of building a dynamic outline of all the political issues that are on citizens’ minds in 2004? “By November 2004,” he notes, “this outline should be filled with information, presented in a way that is useful for making decisions, all stuff that voters could never get from the mass media.”
How about more smart, non-affiliated political weblogs. I can’t help wondering whether Matthew Gross could have done better for the Dean campaign writing under his own moniker. Do you think as many people would read Glenn Reynolds’ site if he were a Bush campaign employee?
In summary, I think the Internet’s barely shown up for the party. There’s so much more we could do. It will cost money, but we can pay for it if we take all that Internet cash and pour it back into the Internet instead of handing the election over to CNN et al.