Time is short this week, so it's time for Yet Another Link Dump (YALD!):
  • Who Writes Wikipedia? An interesting investigation of one of the controversial aspects of Wikipedia. Some contend that the authors are a small but dedicated bunch, others claim that authorship is large and diverse (meaning that the resulting encyclopedia is self-organizing and emergent). Aaron Swartz decided to look into it:
    When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site -- the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it's the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.

    And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Writing an encyclopedia is hard. To do anywhere near a decent job, you have to know a great deal of information about an incredibly wide variety of subjects. Writing so much text is difficult, but doing all the background research seems impossible.

    On the other hand, everyone has a bunch of obscure things that, for one reason or another, they've come to know well. So they share them, clicking the edit link and adding a paragraph or two to Wikipedia. At the same time, a small number of people have become particularly involved in Wikipedia itself, learning its policies and special syntax, and spending their time tweaking the contributions of everybody else.
    Depending on how you measure it, many perspectives are correct, but the important thing here is that both types of people (outsiders and insiders) are necessary to make the system work. Via James Grimmelman, who has also written an interesting post on Wikipedia Fallacies that's worth reading.
  • Cyber Cinema, 1981-2001: An absurdly comprehensive series of articles chronicling cyberpunk cinema. This guy appears to know his stuff, and chooses both obvious and not-so-obvious films to review. For example, he refers to Batman as "a fine example of distilled Cyberpunk." I probably wouldn't have pegged Batman as cyberpunk, but he makes a pretty good case for it... Anyway, I haven't read all of his choices (20 movies, 1 for each year), but it's pretty interesting stuff. [via Metaphlog]
  • The 3-Day Novel Contest: Well, it's too late to partake now, but this is an interesting contest where entrants all submit a novel written in 3 days. The contest is usually held over labor day weekend (allowing everyone to make the most of their long holiday weekend). The Survival Guide is worth reading even if you don't intend on taking part. Some excerpts: On the attitude required for such an endeavor:
    Perhaps the most important part of attitude when approaching a 3-Day Novel Contest is that of humility. It is not, as one might understandably and mistakenly expect, aggression or verve or toughness or (as it has been known) a sheer murderous intent to complete a 3-Day Novel (of this latter approach it is almost always the entrant who dies and not the contest). Let’s face it, what you are about to do, really, defies reality for most people. As when in foreign lands, a slightly submissive, respectful attitude generally fares better for the traveller than a self-defeating mode of overbearance. As one rather pompous contestant confessed after completing the contest: “I’ve been to Hell, and ended up writing about it.”
    On outlines and spontaneity:
    Those without a plan, more often than not, find themselves floundering upon the turbulent, unforgiving seas of forced spontaneous creativity. An outline can be quite detailed and, as veterans of the contest will also tell you, the chances of sticking to the outline once things get rolling are about 1,000 to 1. But getting started is often a major hurdle and an outline can be invaluable as an initiator.
    Two things that interest me about this: plans that fall apart, but must be made anyway (which I have written about before) and the idea that just getting started is important (which is something I'll probably write about sometime, assuming I haven't already done so and forgot).

    On eating:
    Keep it simple, and fast. Wieners (straight from the package—protein taken care of). Bananas and other fruit (vitamin C, potassium, etc.). Keep cooking to a minimum. Pizzas, Chinese—food to go. Forget balance, this is not a “spa”, there are no “healing days”. This is a competition; a crucible; a hill of sand. Climb! Climb!
    Lots of other fun stuff there. Also, who says you need to do it on Labor day weekend. Why not take a day off and try it out? [via Web Petals, who has some other interesting quotes from the contest]
That's all for now. Sorry for just throwing links at you all the time, but I've entered what's known as Wedding Season. Several weddings over the next few weekends, only one of which is in this area. This week's was in Rhode Island, so I had a wonderful 12-13 hours of driving to contend with (not to mention R.I.'s wonderful road system - apparently they don't think signs are needed). Thank goodness for podcasts - specifically Filmspotting, Mastercritic, and the Preston and Steve Show (who are professional broadcasters, but put their entire show (2+ hours) up, commercial free, every day).

Shockingly, it seems that I only needed to use two channels on my Monster FM Transmitter and both of those channels are the ones I use around Philly. Despite this, I've not been too happy with my FM transmitter thingy. It get's the job done, I guess, but I find myself consistently annoyed at its performace (this trip being an exception). It seems that these things are very idiosyncratic and unpredictible, working in some cars better than others (thus some people swear by one brand, while others will badmouth that same brand). In large cities like New York and Philadelphia, the FM dial gets crowded and thus it's difficult to find a suitable station, further complicating matters. I think my living in a major city area combined with an awkward placement of the cigarrette lighter in my car (which I assume is a factor) makes it somewhat difficult to find a good station. What would be really useful would be a list of available stations and an attempt to figure out ways to troubleshoot your car's idiosyncracies. Perhaps a wiki would work best for this, though I doubt I'll be motivated enought to spend the time installing a wiki system here for this purpose (does a similar site already exist? I did a quick search but came up empty-handed). (There are kits that allow you to tap into your car stereo, but they're costly and I don't feel like paying more for that than I did for the player... )