dimanche 25 janvier 2015

One annotation site to rule them all?

from the my-kinda-people department

I did not know that Marc Andreeson, programmer of the first graphical web browser, NCSA Mosaic, had originally included a built-in commenting feature, but rapidly disabled it when the resource implications of hosting the entire web's remarks about the entire web's content sank in (!) Fair enough. But the reason why commenting is a personal itch for me is because this is the bit of the web that so obviously represents a novel departure from traditional publishing processes. A web "page"? Meh, 2000 years off the pace, dude. Anyone anywhere can comment instantly on what's just been written? Now that is wow! like WOW! Though of course, as Gary Wolf so memorably wrote in his article about Craig's List in Wired all those years ago, the public is a motherfucker.

But from Slashdot to BMJ Rapid Responses, to Comment is Free and a slew of comments across a heap of blogs that I read on RSS, commenting is something I do, and something I follow. It seems to be where the action is. So I was very excited to come across http://hypothes.is this morning, which, as I understand it, has the ambition of taking up where Andreeson left off, and providing a reliable annotation framework for the whole web:

Digging around a bit deeper, hoping to join in, I came across this design document, written by a leading light in the project back in 2013 which outlined the approach the project is taking to facilitating the quality, and eliminating the spammy*:
The reputation of a user represents our trust of the user. In mathematical terms, we can think of the reputation as of a probability of the user telling us a correct statement. If reputation is zero then the user always gives wrong information. If reputation is 1 then the user always correct. If reputation is 0.5 then the user gives correct information in 50% of cases.

From other point of view, reputation expresses how much useful content a user has contributed. For example, in stackoverflow, more good answers I contribute, more reputation I have. Intuitively, this reputation is proportional to amount of useful work the user has done.
I was impelled to comment:
The idea of "one reputation score to rule them all" is obviously seductive when considering the ranking of multiple comments. But reputation in whose eyes? Surely a reputation system worthy of world wide use should reflect the reality that different people have different assessment of each other's reputations (particularly when we consider--ahem!--interdisciplinary contributions).
I'd certainly be interested in a system that enabled me to deprecate or appreciate comments made by other persistent identities in the knowledge that so doing would reduce or augment my probability of **me** seeing comments by that commenter in future. But I'm sure it would be a bad thing to impose my own assessment of someone else's reputation on anyone else.

But (ironically) that comment seemed not to be registered. So I'm posting it here.

FWIW: The current federated system seems reasonable. We just need better meta-information about sites that host discussion well (including archiving), and sites that cheat: pretending to host comments, but then not doing so, so we can avoid them in future. (cf SourceWatch)

* This plan involved:
Phase 1 - Simple spam triage
Phase 2 - Simple voting
Phase 3 - Metamoderation based on social graph
Phase 4 - User notifications

Update 7/2/14 1423h: 

samedi 10 janvier 2015

May the earth hear the words of my mouth

from the truth-is-still-getting-its-boots-on dept

Email to the Editor, JewishVoiceNY.com [sent 16:39h, 30/12/2014]

Dear Editor,

I live in Nantes, and I have a google news alert set up for Nantes, which is how I came across your story entitled: ' "French Rampage Attack Injures Ten; Driver Shouted "Allahu Akbar" ' (http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9591:french-rampage-attack-injures-ten-driver-shouted-qallahu-akbarq&catid=106:international&Itemid=289)

I was in the area that evening, and have followed the press coverage of this event particularly closely. Your account is at variance with the local press reports, which clearly state that there was NO reputable report that the driver shouted "Allahu Akbar;" indeed this was categorically denied:

e.g. https://twitter.com/OuestFrance/status/547125894389977089

If the driver had indeed made such an utterance, there were certainly plenty of witnesses available to hear it.

I accordingly submitted a comment at the foot of your story which read:

All official sources reported by Ouest France are quite categorical that the driver in Nantes did NOT shout Allahu Akbar: http://www.ouest-france.fr/accident-place-royale-des-blesses-au-marche-de-noel-3076473 (Fr). There were certainly plenty of witnesses to hear him, should he have done so.
Place Royale is a public square in the centre of Nantes, not an "area."

This you have yet to publish. I wonder if you have any plans to do so? I would be interested to know of your decision.

With best wishes,


Update: 1110h 10/1/15. No reply has been received from the editors, and the comment has yet to appear at the foot of the page, so it is published here.

It is interesting to consider how sketchy the evidence is for anything said amidst the understandable distress occasioned by violent events, even when immediate formal investigation of living witnesses is possible, as here. And how easy it is invent any old nonsense that suits your agenda, and broadcast it to the world. But the truth will out, even if, as it would appear, that's not a business that Jewish Voice NY is in.

[About the title: "May the earth hear the words of my mouth" is the masthead slogan of Jewish Voice NY, may peace be upon them]

vendredi 9 janvier 2015

Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool...

from the all-doubts-removed dept

I quite liked the Three Percent podcast in many ways: those guys served my mental model of conversation with a couple of smarty pants east coast literary types. Host Chad Post seems a knowledgeable guy, if slightly pressured in his speech; the lofty drawl of regular guest the bookseller Tom Roberge served in pleasant contrast to him—their chemistry is good. And their objective—of promoting the sale and reading of translated books in the US—is entirely honourable.

So it is with modest regret that I write this post (and hit unsubscribe), following my strict artistic rule that comments that I write for publication in situ "below the line" of a blogpost that do not get posted (for whatever reason) must be logged here.

Briefly, the setup: about 45 minutes into podcast #85, Chad and Tom start to discuss the translation of various English language titles that have been translated into French, and also French titles that have been translated into English. Unfortunately, in so doing, Tom Roberge revealed some rather basic ignorance of the French language, which, considering some of his claims in previous podcasts—to have been welcomed as an honorary member of "Oulipo" for example—are is plainly an embarrassment for all concerned.

Now, ignorance is not to be condemned wholesale—anyone that tussles regularly with the French language knows it's a tricky beast that's best not provoked—and we're all at where we're at in our knowledge of it.

But still, given the academic pretensions of the host, it seemed important to set the errors straight—to leave them unremarked would be to foster ignorance.

Turning to the comments to contest the matter, I found that someone called Marc had already beaten me to the correction of the most egregious errors—Chad and Tom had seemed unaware that the verb "tirer" does indeed mean "to fire [a shot]" as well as "to pull"; and that "personne" does indeed mean "nobody/no-one" as well as "person." As these matters can be resolved simply by consulting a dictionary, these are hardly worthy of further discussion. (Though obviously it would have been worth actually doing this before slagging off the translations in a podcast).

It is more challenging to consider the adequacy of "Whatever" as a translation for Michel Houellebecq's "Extension du domaine de la lutte," but emboldened by the evidently blank terrain that had opened before me, I wrote:
Wot Marc said.
And I would add Houellebecq's title "Extension du domaine de la lutte" is not so nonsensical as all that: "Lutte" (~struggle, but also wrestling (the sport), and political movement) is a common enough word in French. The protagonist's failure with women and incipient racism set up two areas of struggle in his life: what's not to translate?
It is understandable that a title along the lines of 'Expansion of the struggle into new areas'** was not felt to be a commercial proposition by the publisher. We can only surmise the editorial process that led to the choice of 'Whatever', but I sense loss (as in someone lost)—and mischief—all the way.

—**Maybe seek out some retro Trotskyist newsprint before committing to a precise phrase.
I just wrote the comment, clicked submit, and moved on. Someone was wrong on the internet, correction supplied, we've all learned something. But what is totally unacceptable to me (and it is for this reason that I have unsubscribed from the podcast) is that when I went back later to check the comments, I found that they've suppressed the comments altogether.

Fortunately the Disqus commenting system used makes it possible for me to reconstruct the discussion here. But how dishonest! If I have a bête noire online, it is sites that pretend to host comments, but then don't post the ones they don't like. Of course that is their right: but it's also contemptible, and I'll always call it out here.

Update 12:09h, 13/1/15. Both Chad and Tom have responded to this post on Twitter so I have Storify-ed the relevant tweets. (This was a good opportunity to play with Storify for the first time. Verdict: OK to meh). In setting up the comment in this post I mistakenly conflated two different Three Percent contributors in my own mind, Tom Roberge and Daniel Levin Becker. Becker is the Oulipo man, not Roberge. Sincere apologies for this error.