Wednesday, March 29, 2006
1. If everyone on "24" followed Jack Bauer's instructions, it would be called "12".
2. If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.
3. Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.
4. Nobody says 'hit me' when Jack Bauer deals Blackjack.
5. When Kim Bauer lost her virginity, Jack Bauer found it and put it back.
6. If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.
7. Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
8. Jack Bauers calender goes from March 31st to April 2nd, no one fools Jack Bauer.
9. Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
10.When Jack Bauer asks for your help, he's not asking.
11. - 1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.
12. When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer fucking hates lemonade.
13. Lets get one thing straight, the only reason you are conscious right now is because Jack Bauer does not feel like carrying you.
14. If it tastes like chicken, looks like chicken, and feels like chicken, but Jack Bauer says its beef. Then it's fucking beef.
15. Jack Bauer played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
16. Jack Bauer once won a game of Connect 4 in 3 moves.
17. Jack Bauer was never addicted to heroin. Heroin was addicted to Jack Bauer.
18. Osama bin Laden's recent proposal for truce is a direct result of him finding out that Jack Bauer is, in fact, still alive.
19. Jack Bauer is the leading cause of death in Middle Eastern men.
20. Jack Bauer removed the "Escape" button from his keyboard. Jack Bauer never needs to escape.
21. If you're holding a gun to Jack Bauer's head, don't count to three before you shoot. Count to 10. That way, you get to live 7 seconds longer.
22. Jack Bauer doesn't miss. If he didn't hit you it's because he was shooting at another terrorist twelve miles away.
23. Jack Bauer arm once wrestled Superman. The stipulations were the loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.
24. Killing Jack Bauer doesn't make him dead. It just makes him angry.
25. Every mathematical inequality officially ends with "< Jack Bauer".
26. If Rosa Parks was in Jack Bauer's seat, she'd move to the back of the bus.
27. When Google can't find something, it asks Jack Bauer for help.
28. Simon Says should be renamed to Jack Bauer Says because if Jack Bauer says something then you better fucking do it.
29. When Jack Bauer was a child, he made his mother finish his vegetables.
30. The cartoon that the Muslims are so angry about is really a drawing of Jack Bauer.
31. Jack Bauer's favorite color is "severe terror alert" red. His second favorite color is violet, but just because it sounds like violent.
32. Jack Bauer killed 93 people in just 4 days time. Wait, that is a real fact.
33. Superman's only weakness is Kryptonite. Jack Bauer laughs at Superman for having a weakness.
34. When President Palmer quit to start doing Allstate commercials, it took him 43 takes before he could stop saying, "You're in good hands with Jack Bauer".
35. When you open a can of whoop-ass, Jack Bauer jumps out.
36. Jack Bauer once double teamed a girl.. by himself.
37. If Jack Bauer misspells a word, your dictionary is wrong.
38. Jack Bauer once won a game of rock paper scissors using niether rock, paper nor scissors.
39. Jesus died and rose from the dead in 3 days. It took Jack Bauer less than an hour. And he's done it twice.
40. In 96 hours, Jack Bauer has killed 93 people and saved the world 4 times. What the fuck have you done with your life?
41. Jack Bauer is allowed to leave his phone on during a movie.
42. Jack Bauer and Chuck Norris were stuck in a room together once... After 3 minutes, Chuck Norris left crying without a scratch on him.
43. Jack Bauer can get McDonald's breakfast after 10:30.
44. When the boogie man goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Jack Bauer.
45. Due to Jack Bauer, no one looks forward to the weekend anymore, they look forward to the weekend being over, and watching 24 on Monday.
46. Your attraction to Jack Bauer in no way affects your sexual orientation.
47. There are no such thing as lesbians, just women who never met Jack Bauer.
48. Jack Bauer got Hellen Keller to talk.
49. You can lead a horse to water. Jack Bauer can make him drink.
50. Guns dont kill people, Jack Bauer kills people.
51. When Jack Bauer goes to the airport and the metal detector doesn't go off, security gives him a gun.
52. Men are ok with their wives fantasizing about Jack Bauer during sex; because they are doing the same thing.
53. During the 18 months Jack Bauer was believed dead, CTU saved over $1 billion on ammunition.
54. It is a known fact that when Time magazine awards "The Man of Year*", there is fine print on the bottom of the cover that says, " *besides Jack Bauer."
55. In kindergarten, Jack Bauer killed a terrorist for Show and Tell.
56. Jack Bauer has been to Mars. Thats why theres no life on Mars.
57. If Jack Bauer was gay, his name would be Chuck Norris.
58. Finding Nemo would have been vastly more exciting had Jack Bauer been looking for him.
59. In Poker, Jack Bauer doesn't need to bluff. He looks at opponent, tells them to fold, and they do so. Always.
60. Once a year, Jack Bauer kills and eats an entire blue whale. This is why he is never seen having lunch.
61. The quickest way to a man’s heart is through Jack Bauer’s gun.
62. Jack Bauer can beat the gay out of Elton John.
63. No man has ever used the phrase, “Jack Bauer is a pussy” in a sentence and lived to tel.....
64. People with amnesia still remember Jack Bauer.
65. Jack Bauer makes onions cry.
66. It would only take 1 bullet for Jack Bauer to kill 50 Cent.
67. The real reason the Army ditched the “Army of One”campaign? Jack Bauer sued for copy right infringement.
68. Jack Bauer named his cat ‘Chuck Norris.’ Why? Because He’s a pussy.
69. Jack Bauer doesn’t urinate or defecate. He secretes waste through his pores as two chemicals which can be combined to create napalm.
70. The only reason terrorists keep attacking LA is so they can meet Jack Bauer.
71. The ancient Chinese built the Great Wall of China not to repel the Mongols, but rather to repel Jack Bauer. It failed when he attacked over the Himalayas.
72. Chase wasn’t actually in any danger from that terrorist virus. Jack Bauer just cut off his hand because that’s how he warns all of Kim’s boyfriends.
73. Jack Bauer creates an “airtight perimeter” by yelling at the air and calling it a pussy until it gets its shit together and falls in line.
74. Jack Bauer parts LA traffic with his enormous penis. That’s why he can reach anywhere in the city in the span of a commercial break.
75. The reason CTU’s superiors are called “Division” is because Jack Bauer broke their building in half in a fit of rage because they couldn’t bring him a sandwich in 24 hours.
76. Jack Bauer actually finishes every mission in under five minutes. The 24 hours is just creative editing.
77. CTU stands for "Jack Fucking Bauer".
78. God rested on the 7th day. Jack Bauer will be spending his 7th day working his usual triple shift without sleep. Lazy ass God.
79. Jack Bauer would have gotten the ring to Mordor in 24 hours.
80. Jack Bauer knows where Carmen Sandiego is.
82. In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Jack Bauer could use to kill you, including the room itself.
83. Jack Bauer could get off the Lost island in two hours; the inhabitants have been there for two years.
84. Jack Bauer gives cigarettes cancer.
85. Muslims don’t eat pork because of a deal Jack Bauer made with Allah. Allah agreed to tell his followers to stop eating swine, and Jack Bauer agreed to stop turning Muslims into sausage.
86. The quick reaction teams are to Jack Bauer what the red shirts in Star Trek are to Captain Kirk. They show us how the monsters work.
87. Every time you masturbate Jack Bauer kills a terrorist. Not because you masturbated, but because that is how often he kills terrorists.
88. If you look up terrorist in the dictionary you will not see Jack Bauer, but Jack Bauer will see you.
89. "I think, therefore I am" can be shortened to "Jack Bauer".
90. If Jack and MacGyver were locked in a room together, Jack would make a bomb out of MacGyver and get out.
March 29, 2006
Time to Think
By MARK FRANEK
AS high school juniors file into classrooms for their SAT's on Saturday, there will probably be some chatter about how more than 4,000 of last fall's tests were scored too low. What they probably won't be aware of is how many of their fellow students may end up with higher scores because they are allowed more time to take the test. Last year, more than 40,000 of the two million SAT takers were granted special accommodations, mainly because of learning disabilities. This represents a doubling in the past decade and a half.
In a perfect world, accommodations on the SAT would level the playing field for all test-takers with learning disabilities. Is that the case? The College Board, the overseer of the SAT, declines to give figures on the family incomes of students who get extra time.
It would be a good guess, however, that such accommodations are not being awarded fairly across race and socioeconomic lines — it generally takes a lot of time, energy and, in some cases, money to get on the accommodations list in the first place. A student must have his learning disability documented by a psychologist, and then use the accommodations recommended by the psychologist on tests at his own high school.
The trend in requesting extensions troubles many schools and teachers. While they made no mention of requests for accommodations, more than 200 high-school administrators in January submitted a petition to the College Board that criticized the length of the test and asked the board to give students the option of taking each of the test's three sections (writing, math and critical reading) on different days.
But this recommendation would succeed only in making an already unfair situation worse by increasing the overall cost of the test for students. The SAT is not too long — it's too short. The fairest solution would be to make it untimed for everyone.
Extra-time accommodations fall into two categories: time and a half (so the regular 3 hour 45 minute test swells to just over five and a half hours) and double time. But when scores are reported to colleges, there is no indication whether students had the usual amount of time, or more.
This lack of transparency is untenable. If we continue to look to the SAT as a major gatekeeper to the nation's colleges and universities, we need to understand what got us to this point and also have an honest discussion about the potential solutions.
Back in 1999, a California man named Mark Breimhorst sued over the longstanding practice of flagging SAT scores as "obtained under special conditions" when test takers were given extra time. Mr. Breimhorst, who needed accommodations on tests because he has no hands, argued that this practice violated the rights of students with disabilities by potentially identifying them as disabled to admissions officers (the human gatekeepers) and thus forcing disabled test takers to forgo accommodations.
It was an effective argument, and the College Board, after some foot-dragging, agreed to drop the notation in 2002. What has been happening ever since is a little hard to quantify, but it is happening in just about every high school. More students are documenting their learning disabilities and using accommodations in their classes, the prerequisite set by the College Board for using accommodations on the SAT. For the record, I am not against accommodations for students at their own schools. In my 15 years of teaching, when students have asked me for an extension on an assignment for any reasonable reason, I have given them one.
But what my colleagues and I are noticing is that accommodations for the SAT in other areas — using tests with large type, for example — are not increasing nearly as quickly as extended time (the College Board said it couldn't say if this was the case). It is clear to all of us on the inside that what is driving this phenomenon is the pressure cooker known as the SAT.
The solution is simple: keep the test to one day but end the time limits. The College Board can surely reduce the number of overall questions on the test (there are now a whopping 170, mostly multiple choice, plus one essay) and design them so that they go from embarrassingly easy to impossible except for the top percentile of students to answer even without a deadline.
That goal should be to give everyone a chance to tackle every question and eliminate time as a factor — thereby accommodating the learning style of all children, including those with disabilities. The College Board needs to take its test back to the drawing board. The answers to these design challenges and issues of fairness may not be as easy as multiple choice, but they can be found.
Mark Franek is the dean of students at the William Penn Charter School.
Monday, March 27, 2006
March 21, 2006
[Note: this is an essay that would've been a blog post but it got too long.]
A lot of folks have asked me "What went wrong with Friendster? Why is MySpace any different?" I guess i never directly answered that question, even though i've addressed the causes in other talks. Still, i guess it would be helpful to piece some of it together and directly attend to this question.
There is no single answer, but there are a lot of factors that must be considered. To an outsider, Friendster and MySpace seem identical. But they are far from that. They are rooted in different cultural practices and values. People use them differently and they relate to them differently. If you want to understand the differences, you need to understand the history, the decisions that were made, and how these decisions affected practice. Let me address some of the most critical components.
Social technologies succeed when they fit into the social lives and practices of those who engage with the technology.
When Friendster launched, it was quickly inhabited by populations who had good reasons to connect with each other. By and large, the early adopters were living in a region different from their hometown (or living in their hometown post-college and cranky about it). Finding "lost" friends was a fun game - people wanted to connect. Of course, connecting is not enough and it was bound not to last, but it was fun.
Connecting is also the initial activity of newcomers on MySpace, but they move beyond that quickly. Of course, it never completely goes away, especially since MySpace acknowledges that not all "friends" are friends and no one bats an eye if someone collects hundreds of people. It's more like a process of namaste - i acknowledge your soul and you acknowledge mine. MySpace did not try to force people's connecting practices into pre-existing ideas of what should be. They let the practice evolve as users saw fit, without criticism, without restriction. As it evolved, people did new things with it. They used it to flirt, to advertise bands and activities, to offer cultural kudos.
Friendster's early adopters were 20-somethings. While many did not come to Friendster to get laid (just as they say they don't go to bars to get laid), places where large numbers of hott singles hang out are bound to attract other singles, regardless of whether or not they want to admit that they're looking for sex. Friendster was a free site where people could meet other interesting people; at the same time, rejection was OK because no one was actually _looking_ to meet someone. Sex is still the reason why people use the site, particularly gay men. This was a big gain for Friendster and, also a gain for MySpace. Given its singular focus, Friendster was much more successful at supporting this than MySpace, making certain that search worked and was meaningful and that relationships meant something. Of course, that also curtailed its growth tremendously.
Friendster launched at a time when the economy was slow and many web-minded 20-somethings were slacking at menial jobs that they didn't care about (particularly in the SF region where people were only coming out of post-bust depression); many web-minded folks were happy to spend hours futzing online. Economic factors have changed and many web-minded have found interesting jobs. This is only a small cause of Friendster's loss of this group, but one that should be acknowledged.
Friendster was a new thing, full of interesting content that motivated people to surf and surf and surf. Surfing motivated people to post more interesting things. Games emerged. Games were squashed by the company. Surfing got super duper slow. Friendster became less novel and more restrictive and, thus, more lame.
MySpace launched at a time when some of the game-minded were still enthusiastic and the enthusiastic surfers wanted to find more kitsch crap. They jumped on MySpace, created all sorts of culture and profiles complete with massive amounts of media, and helped figure out how to hack the system to make the profiles more expressive. MySpace didn't stop them. As a result, the cultural enthusiasm was nurtured and it grew and grew and grew...
MySpace realized that people were promoting events on Friendster. They contacted promoters and got them to engage with the "cool" people on the site by promoting LA-based events. From this, there was the emergence of band profiles, giving musicians an opportunity to create identity and have a place to point fans to. Music is cultural currency. 20-somethings want to know how to get on the list. Young people follow music and celebrities. Other young people follow the young people that follow music. Music played a critical role in increasing its popularity, simply by giving it cultural currency amongst celebrities and by marking MySpace as "cool." (Even teens who don't care about music recognize that music differentiates people and is part of the "cool" narrative.)
Both Friendster and MySpace saw a drop in ages. Friendster squelched this fast because they saw themselves as a dating site. MySpace supported it with different features and a drop in age limit as they realized there was more to sites like this than dating.
Youth and alienated populations are inclined to spend more time going through identity development processes because they are trying to "figure out who they are." Blogs and profiles are particularly supportive of this. Of course, blogs require having something to say while profiles let you write yourself into being via collage. People do grow out of ongoing identity production, but not for quite some time. (Hell, i still haven't.) Friendster tried to stop this, wanting people to be serious and fit into pre-defined checkboxes - to know who they are. MySpace let these groups run wild and these are the two populations who dominate MySpace - youth (14-24) and 20/30-somethings who participate actively in cultural development (from performance artists to clubgoers to sex divas to wannabee celebrities). These sites are ideal for these populations, even if they make no sense to parents and professionals.
For many teens, MySpace is the first asynchronous messaging system that they use regularly. Sure, they have emails but those are to communicate with parents/teachers/companies, not with friends. People check in daily to see what messages they get. This was starting to happen on Friendster, but server slowness killed this practice. This will make it quite tricky for teens to fully leave MySpace while their friends are still using it.
Identity development requires taking ownership of your presentation of self and really being able to personalize it, morph it to be "you" (even if you is copied from a site that tells you how to be you). Templates are not personalization. MySpace allowed users to really make the site their own, asking one favor: don't overwrite the advertising. Out of respect, most users complied. Think about that: Out. Of. Respect.
Basically, MySpace evolved with its users, building a trusting relationship, figuring out how to meet their needs and cultural desires, providing them with features and really trying to give them what they were looking for. Friendster did not - it fought its users hand and foot, telling them how to behave.
People use the social technologies that all of their friends are using.
Freaks, geeks and queers all invaded Friendster in the early days and they made certain that all of their friends were there. They did so organically in clusters. This was very successful, until they felt alienated from the site. There is a tipping point to get on and a tipping point to get off. Once mass departure began with a few pissed-off folks, it spiraled quickly. While the early adopters left storm-like, canceling their accounts, most users simply stopped logging in frequently because it was no longer the place where their friends were.
Friendster was beginning to get mainstream American 20/30-somethings when it got bogged down by dreadfully slow servers. Mainstreams would (and did) irritate the early adopters, but not enough to make them leave. Yet, both mainstream-ification and slowness played a role in the departure of early adopters. Mainstream-ification played a greater factor in early adopters' lack of interest in returning once the site was fixed.
The slow servers made it very difficult (if not impossible) for mainstream users to engage. Frustrated, many lost interest before they really engaged. It should be noted that slow connections are more common in foreign countries and so this did not serve as the same kind of barrier elsewhere - growth continued during the slow period in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Because of this (and a few other factors), Friendster survived the server disaster in these regions and continued to grow into the mainstream there. And into the youth.
Mainstream American users came on because of mass media, not because of organic cluster effects. When they joined, they couldn't see anything or anyone. It was also not where all of their friends were and often they got bored before their friends arrived; there was never enough of a tipping point for many mainstream clusters.
MySpace stayed out of the media for the first two years. Their growth was completely organic, allowing for significant cluster effects. Additionally, those who heard about it but didn't have many friends there could join and still participate, still see what people were doing. They got a friend - Tom - and could wander around looking at all of the profiles. For cluster influencers, this was critical, and looking around would often motivate them to drag in their friends.
When clusters of friends are all on a social site, watercooler effects emerge. The limited amount of things people could share made this difficult on Friendster; people mostly shared profiles as cultural currency and testimonials did allow for some marking of turf and social hierarchy. Yet, on MySpace, there are a bazillion things to find deep in the nooks, allowing lots and lots to be shared. Allowing media in comments and the ability to share video/pictures via profiles enhanced this.
Testimonials on Friendster took the form of singular acknowledgments of others' existence. Fakesters started turning it into a communication space, but that practice died with the Fakesters; very few users took that on. The comments section on MySpace took the form of a performative guestbook. Whenever someone thinks of someone else, whenever they stop by, they leave a comment... They let both the owner and the owners' visitors take note of their presence. They're writing presence into being in addition to writing themselves into being. This is a very important turn and it really solidifies people's engagement in the site.
Social technologies need benevolent dictators who love their constituents.
Online communities are more like nation-states than technological tools. There is a master behind the architecture, a master who controls the walls of the system and can wage war on her/his people at any point. People know this. They have to trust that the creators have their best intentions in mind. They invest a lot of time and energy into creating an identity in the system - they want to believe that it is worth it.
Killing off profiles destroys the trust that users have in the leader. Doing so will alienate users and their friends. There are good reasons to alienate some groups - spammers, malicious users, etc. But if you start off treating all of your users as potential criminals, you will not build a healthy environment. Kinda like in real life...
Friendster killed off anyone who didn't conform to their standards, most notably Fakesters and those with more creative non-photorealistic profiles. When MySpace users didn't conform, they were supported and recognized for their contributions to evolving the system. (Exceptions made for pornography, spammers, people using hate speech.) When Friendster was faltering because it was "uncool," Friendster users did not stick up for the site. When MySpace began to falter over the predator crisis, many users got outraged at those attacking the system. They wrote supportive notes to Tom, made YouTube videos, wrote messages on their MySpaces. They didn't want outsiders telling them they couldn't have their space.
People need a figurehead to both love and hate. No figurehead can expect that the users will love her/him all of the time. But lashing out at users makes things much much worse. Figure heads need to operate as rockstars - making public appearances, putting on a good show, keep a happy face even when pissed off.
Jonathan Abrams made it clear that he thought very little of his users. Tom Anderson comes across as loving his users, listening to them, being present with them. Abrams wrote nasty-grams and the language he used when writing to everyone was either obnoxious or so corporate-y formulaic that users could not relate to him. Tom apologizes candidly, writes funny messages to users, welcomes comments on his page, responds to users. Users either love Tom or they think he's lame. But very few actually hate him. Friendster users loathed Abrams.
It should be noted that one of the reasons that Friendster continued to grow abroad is that Abrams did not seem like as big of a dick there. He was much more savvy in addressing the press (or they were nicer to him). He killed off fewer profiles and let it grow amongst youth (probably due to being overwhelmed rather than insight). He had a more hands-off approach. He's less hated there and thus, by default, more trusted.
It's not all about productivity.
People often say that social networking sites will succeed when people have something to do. They point to sites like LinkedIn where business people can social network and actually get "value" out of the site. There is no doubt that LinkedIn is great for brownnosers, but there are a lot of folks out there who don't care about "getting ahead" by hegemonic standards.
Suggesting that formalized action and tangible benefits are the only path to success is hogwash. These are simply ideals that contemporary America holds onto in a capitalist society where people are only valued based on their productivity. It is reproduced by technologists who are living in a society full of venture capitalists and stockbrokers and other people who live by the "do or die" mentality. But the reality is that most people's social lives are not so formal, not so action-oriented. Or, at least not in the sense that technologists speak of.
Even when there's no prescribed activity, people are doing things on these sites. They're hanging out. They're dancing in front of digital mirrors. They're patting their friends on their digital backs. They're increasing the strength of their relationships through sharing. They're consuming and producing cultural artifacts that position them within society. They're laughing, exploring and being entertained.
People were hanging out on Friendster before they hung out on MySpace. But hanging out on Friendster is like hanging out in a super clean police state where you can't chew gum let alone goof around and you're told exactly how to speak to others. Hanging out on MySpace is more like hanging out in a graffiti park with fellow goofballs while your favorite band is playing. That said, there are plenty of folks who don't want to be hanging out in a graffiti park and they are not sticking around on MySpace as a result.
It is not about technological perfection.
Portability of identity doesn't matter. Easy-to-use interfaces don't matter. Visual coherence doesn't matter. Simple navigation doesn't matter. Bugs don't matter. Fancy new technologies don't matter. Simple personalization doesn't matter.
Before you scream "but it does to me!" let me acknowledge that you're right. It does matter to you. The question is whether it matters to the masses. And it doesn't. Especially for teens.
What's at stake here is what is called "subcultural capital" by academics. It is the kind of capital that anyone can get, if you are cool enough to know that it exists and cool enough to participate. It is a counterpart to "cultural capital" which is more like hegemonic capital. That was probably a bit too obscure. Let me give an example. Opera attendance is a form of cultural capital - you are seen as having money and class and even if you think that elongated singing in foreign languages is boring, you attend because that's what cultured people do. You need the expensive clothes, the language, the body postures, the social connects and the manners to belong. Limitations are economic and social. Rave attendance is the opposite. Anyone can get in, in theory... There are certainly hodgepodged clothes, street language and dance moves, but most folks can blend in with just a little effort. Yet, the major limitation is knowing that the rave exists. "Being in the know" is more powerful than money. You can't buy your way into knowledge of a rave.
"Coolness" is about structural barriers, about the lack of universal accessibility or parsability. Structural hurdles mean people put in more effort to participate. It's kinda like the adventure of tracking down the right parking lot to get the bus to go to the rave. The effort matters. Sure, it weeds some people out, but it makes those who participate feel all the more validated. Finding the easter egg, the cool little feature that no one knows about is exciting. Learning all of the nooks and crannies in a complex system is exhilarating. Figuring out how to hack things, having the "inside knowledge" is fabu.
Often, people don't need simplicity - they want to feel proud of themselves for figuring something out; they want to feel the joy of exploration. This is the difference between tasks that people are required to do and social life. Social life isn't about the easy way to do something - it's about making meaning out of practice, about finding your own way.
Bugs make technologies seem alive, particularly if they're acknowledged and fixed. They give texture to the environment and people are impressively patient with it if they feel like the architects are on it. It makes the architects look vulnerable which brings them back down to earth, making them real and fallible, but giving them the opportunity to do good. They let the benevolent dictator really serve the people.
Friendster focused on simple and narrow, giving users very limited options and cracking down on all hacks. For a long time, they took away features rather than adding them. They worked to mainstream-ify, to be equally generic to all users. MySpace added features all the time, making it a game to see what had changed, to find new ways of navigating the site. Hacking the site became a cultural phenomenon with websites being dedicated to hacking techniques (brought to you by fellow cultural participants not O'Reilly). MySpace let users define the culture.
Is it all a fad?
MySpace might be a fad, but it will fade for different reasons than Friendster. Friendster has itself to blame - it never loved its users... it never treated them with respect, or learned to understand why they were there... it never give them what they needed to make themselves at home. Friendster never learned to provide for the diversity of users it had - it wanted them all to be the same.
MySpace is in a different position, one far more harrowing. MySpace has grown so large that the needs, values and practices of its users are slamming into each other. It's facing the archetypical clashing of cultures. Yet, interestingly, most users are not that concerned - they're trying to figure out how to live in this super public. The challenge is that outsiders are panicking about a culture that they are not a part of. They want to kill the super public rather than support people in learning how to negotiate it. No one knows how to live in such a super public, but this structure is going to become increasingly a part of our lives. It is no wonder that youth want to figure it out. And it is critical that they do, especially since our physical worlds have become more segregated and walled off, partitioned by age, race, class, religion, values, etc. Yet, it is the older generation that did that segregating and they're not really ready to face collapsed contexts at every turn or to learn how to engage with people who have very different values on a daily basis. Because of their position of power, outsiders are pushing the big red emergency button, screaming danger and creating a complete and utter moral panic. Welcome to a generational divide, where adults are unable to see the practices of their children on kids' terms.
If MySpace falters in the next 1-2 years, it will be because of this moral panic. Before all of you competitors get motivated to exacerbate the moral panic, think again. If the moral panic succeeds:
- Youth will lose (even more) freedom of speech. How far will the curtailment of the First Amendment go?
- All users will lose the safety and opportunities of pseudonymity, particularly around political speech and particularly internationally.
- Internet companies will be required to confirm the real life identity of all users. At their own cost.
- International growth on social communities will be massively curtailed because it is much harder to confirm non-US populations.
- Internet companies will lose the protections of common carrier which will have ramifications in all sorts of directions.
- Internet companies will see a massive increase in subpoenas and will be forced to turn over data on their users which will in turn destroy the trust relationship between companies and users.
- There will be a much greater barrier for new communities to form and for startups to build out new social environments.
- International companies will be far better positioned to create new social technologies because they won't have to abide by American laws even if American citizens use their technology (assuming the servers are hosted outside of the US). Unless, of course, we decide to block sites on a nation-wide basis....
If the moral panic over MySpace succeeds and causes a change in law (which it is looking like it will), everyone invested in social technologies will lose. In other words, stop celebrating the crisis and get off your asses and engage. This panic is not just a funny side note. It is an industry wide problem concerning speech, property and responsibility. I find it deeply disturbing that we are suggesting that technology companies should be operating in loco parentis.
MySpace is in trouble because of its size and rapid growth. As a result of this, there are so many conflicting practices that people are panicking. Even if your kid has a perfectly PG profile, the idea that s/he can hang with R-rated ones is flipping people out, even when the R-rated ones are perfectly normal in the context in which their created. Collapsed contexts due to size. All of you who want to grow in size better be paying attention, because there are severe complications when you grow. MySpace is facing them right now.
We have faced seen massive communities with collapsed contexts before, but the additional factor of youth has elevated this issue to new levels. And, besides, we've never actually seen such rapid growth in a social technology, nor have we seen such a large coherent social community. Note: Usenet, MOOs and YahooGroups don't count because they were far more segmented structurally, especially pre-search. When they emerged, a much larger proportion of the online population used them, and these technologies did not threaten cultural norms (mostly because hegemonic society wasn't online and didn't recognize the power of digital interaction). Other social technologies did not attract an entire generation while alienating their practices from the previous generation. Finally, while people did expose themselves in other technologies, explicit profile creation of this multi-media form takes it all to a new level.
Back to the fad question... No, it is not just a moral panic that could make MySpace a fad. The primary value right now has to do with identity production and sharing, practices that are more critical to certain populations at certain times in their lives and it is possible that "growing up" will be marked by leaving MySpace (both for the teens and the 20-somethings). It is also possible that getting on MySpace will be marked as "uncool" by the next generation (in the same way that fashion changes across generations). Feeling spammed and invaded by advertisers (or musicians) who seek friendship might turn off users and an increase in this could cripple usage. It is possible that the site will stop evolving with its users. It is possible that people will find new, more interesting ways to do identity production and sharing. It is also possible that the next blinky shiny object will attract users away in clumps, particularly if they better support users' desires in an innovative way. But none of these are right around the corner.
When Friendster users left, they didn't go to the next thing. Yes, many Burners went to Tribe.net and created a really flourishing community there; this community is still alive and doing really well. And some of the gothy humans went to MySpace. But the vast majority of Friendster users simply went back to email and IM, web surfing and the occasional blogging. Friendster didn't meet their needs and the core practices of identity production and social sharing that MySpace offered were not significant enough for this group. A huge part of the success of MySpace is an age and culture thing. Part of being an American teen is figuring out who you are, how you fit into society and culture, how social relations work, etc. Part of this process involves sharing cultural objects, hanging out and trying out different self-performances to find the one that feels "right" (think Goffman "faces"). There are plenty of adults who are doing this as well, but it is central to youth culture. Youth will always do this, using whatever medium is available to them. MySpace is far more deeply situated in the cultural values and practices of its constituents than Friendster ever was. MySpace teens may jump ship, but they are not going to stop doing identity work, at least not for a few years.
I began this as a blog post and it grew and grew and i want to put it out there even though i know that i'm missing factors. Still, i think that this should answer many of the questions that people have. MySpace is not the same as Friendster - it will not fade in the same way. Friendster was a fad; MySpace has become far more than that. If it doesn't evolve, it will fade, but MySpace is far better positioned to evolve than Friendster was. That said, i think we're seeing a huge shift in social life - negotiating super publics. I kinda suspect that MySpace teens are going to lead the way in figuring this out, just as teens in the 60s and 70s paved the way to figuring out globalized life with TV. I just hope law doesn't try to stop culture.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I hear my mother get up downstairs, she looks out after the dog continues to bark. Eventally she asks me to come down because someone wants help, me being a large male will provide security from a "clockwork orange" type intrusion ;). Turns out that this person is a distraught female, although looking pretty shabby.
So she asks for some kind of help because aparently her ankle was broken and is in a wrap, yet without crutches or a brace. I being barely awake forget to observe if she even limps, though I guess not by now. The story is "I live 50 something miles away in some town you've never heard of, I broke this ankle and the hospital a block over called the police for me but they can only take me to city limits". She asks if we could spare money for a cab, which would come out to $38 (She stated she'd already called a cab company). We literally don't have any cash on hand so no...
My mom gets the bright idea to "try the cops" again but the woman gets nervous at mentioning that. My mom gets through and details the situation and they say they will take her, but tell my mom that this is the 5th call they've had. So without letting on she knows this info she says the popo are on their way to help and then the woman gets suddenly "uncontrolable nervousness", aka "I think I'm going to be sick, I'll wait on the front step". My mom urges to stay inside, to no affect.
So she sits on the front step after bitching about almost throwing up (yet not wanting to just use the restroom) and after 30 seconds she calls back inside and says she got a ride from her brother despite an earlier statement that the only family in the state was an invalid mother. How conveinent..."my cell works now, I didn't know I had any minutes left"
She takes off, and we figure out it's probably a serial scam for drugs since there are some dealers at the very tip of the street at the bad end. (we live on the good end, at the other tip)
She only chose the house because the light was on, so moral of the story is. "Lights might intimidate burglers, but they attract crazies".
March 26, 2006
On the Brink: Guinea Worm | A Long Crusade
Dose of Tenacity Wears Down a Horrific Disease
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
OGI, Nigeria — Whatever secrets the turgid brown depths of the Sacred Pond of Ogi may keep, there is one they betray quite easily: why it is so infuriatingly hard to wipe even one disease off the face of the earth.
Ogi is one of the last areas of Nigeria infested with Guinea worm, a plague so ancient that it is found in Egyptian mummies and is thought to be the "fiery serpent" described in the Old Testament as torturing the Israelites in the desert.
For untold generations here, yardlong, spaghetti-thin worms erupted from the legs or feet — or even eye sockets — of victims, forcing their way out by exuding acid under the skin until it bubbled and burst. The searing pain drove them to plunge the blisters into the nearest pool of water, whereupon the worm would squirt out a milky cloud of larvae, starting the cycle anew.
"The pain is like if you stab somebody," said Hyacinth Igelle, a farmer with a worm coming out of a hand so swollen and tender that he could not hold a hoe. He indicated how the pain moved slowly up his arm. "It is like fire — it comes late, but you feel it even unto your heart."
Now, thanks to a relentless 20-year campaign led by former President Jimmy Carter, Guinea worm is poised to become the first disease since smallpox to be pushed into oblivion. Fewer than 12,000 cases were found last year, down from 3 million in 1986.
Mr. Carter persuaded world leaders, philanthropists and companies to care about an obscure and revolting disease and help him fight it. His foundation mobilized volunteers in tens of thousands of villages to treat the drinking water the worms live in.
But the eradication effort has already taken a decade longer than expected. And sometimes, when the world beyond their farthest sorghum field or camel-grazing spot takes an interest in them, the villagers fight the message.
Guinea worm's Latin name is dracunculiasis, or "affliction with little dragons," but in Africa it is often called empty granary because of its tendency to erupt at harvest time, rendering farmers unable to work. It ought to be almost ridiculously easy to wipe out, because it has a complex life cycle in which humans, worms, fleas and shallow ponds each must play their parts perfectly. Any missing link disrupts the chain of transmission.
Wells can be drilled to prevent the afflicted from plunging their limbs into the village's drinking water. Or local water sources can be treated with a mild pesticide that kills the fleas that swallow the worm larvae and are, in turn, swallowed by the humans. Or every family can faithfully pour its water through a filter cloth each day, or drink through filtering straws. With unremitting effort, experts at the Carter Center now estimate, purging the last nine African countries of the disease could take five more years. Dr. Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, technical director of its campaign, says he is sure that, at long last, victory is in sight.
Nigeria is in the homestretch. Last year, it reported only 121 new cases, down from estimates of 650,000 two decades ago.
Dr. Ruiz-Tiben has been fighting it for 22 years. And for all the success, he groans, "sometimes it's like dragging a dead elephant through a swamp by its tail."
A Pond's Dangers
In 2001, Jacob Ogebe, a field officer for the Carter Center Guinea Worm Eradication Program, was trying to track down every pond in the area surrounding Ogi. He treated each with Abate, a mild pesticide that left the water potable, but killed the microscopic fleas that carry Guinea worm.
But slowly, he realized that Ogi's villagers were misleading him. He heard rumors of a sacred pond, but no one would take him to it. "They kept leading me to other places," he said. "Then one day, I was treating another pond, and I got lost and discovered it."
Though it is only a triangular puddle about 20 feet on each side in a heavily trodden grove of trees, the villagers revere it. "We have laws here, so no one dirties it," Gabriel Egba, the pond's high priest, said in an interview on its edge.
The rules are painted on a metal sign. The sacred water may not be sold or bartered. Any animal that drinks must be killed. Anyone who bathes, fishes, urinates or dips an oily pot in it is to be fined. Fines range from 35 cents to a live goat.
The pond teems with whiskery fish, turtles and snakes. More important, villagers say they believe that the souls of their ancestors also dwell in it, and Mr. Egba officiates at the sacrifices of roosters and rams for anyone wishing to talk to them.
After Mr. Ogebe found the pond, he said, villagers tried to dissuade him from treating it. "Some of them offered me money to hide it," he said. "But I told my boss at the Carter Center. Then, each time I went to the village, people followed me around. There were threats on our lives."
But by November 2003, the Carter Center's office in Jos, the regional capital, had persuaded village leaders to treat it. Nigeria's political leaders, constantly on the defensive against foreign accusations that the government here is inept or corrupt, had developed a sudden interest in the country's increasingly successful Guinea worm eradication campaign. The Carter Center's office was able to send in its biggest gun, short of a visit from Mr. Carter himself: Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who ruled Nigeria from 1966 to 1975.
For General Gowon, whom Mr. Carter had met in 1997 and asked to join his work, the Guinea worm campaign had become a point of personal pride. At 32, he took power in a coup against military rulers who had overturned Nigeria's first democratic government, and he crushed a war of secession in Biafra that cost a million lives. Now in his 70's, he is an elder statesman with his own foundation, the Gowon Center, modeled on Mr. Carter's.
He feels, he said, "a sort of guilt" that he did nothing about the disease while he was in office. "It was never reported in those days," he said. "If we had known, I would have done something about it."
On the day of his visit to Ogi, he was greeted politely beneath the village's central tree and was personally invited to pour the Abate into the pond. But when he and the other dignitaries walked the several hundred yards through tall grass to it, they found many of the village's women forming a human wall around it.
"They had colors rubbed on their faces to show resistance," like Indian war paint, Mr. Ogebe said. "They were chanting songs of their refusal."
Sarah Pantuvo, General Gowon's Guinea-worm eradication director, said the women shouted: "This disease is a curse from our ancestors, it has nothing to do with the pond water! If we let you touch anything, the ancestors will deal with us. We heard them crying all night!"
"I was very angry," Ms. Pantuvo said.
But General Gowon tried to defuse the situation, telling the women: "You, the women who fetch water from this pond, were not consulted about treating it? You should have been."
He assured them that the Abate would not harm the fish, and he told them that if their ancestors were benign, they would not want their children to be sick, and would like the pond treated.
But the women would have none of it. "Why don't you go treat AIDS instead?" they shouted.
Finally, he backed down, saying he would return when the women were ready.
That evening, he visited Matthew Ogbu Egede, the paramount chief of the area around Ogi. Chief Egede was mortified.
"I am a Christian," he said in an interview. "I don't believe in anything about juju. These people objected out of ignorance. The devil made them object."
He convened a meeting of "the elites," a local chiefs council. Furious, they ordered the village to accept the pesticide treatment and pay a fine of "one very mighty native cow, plus goats, yams and kegs of palm wine," Chief Egede said. The council sent the general an effusive letter of apology.
"As Socrates of the old Greek people took a cup of hemlock poison from his people for the love of his state, so have you borne our people's churlish misbehaviour," it said, further comparing him to William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English and was martyred for heresy, and to St. Polycarp, who smiled as he was burned at the stake.
Mr. Ogebe was allowed to treat the pond. Slowly, cases of Guinea worm disease died out in the area.
The mud hut in Ogi called the Guinea Worm Containment Center recently housed four patients, including Mr. Igelle, the farmer. There they are given buckets of water to cool their burning limbs, and three simple meals a day to keep them from working in the fields, where they might be tempted to soak a painful blister in a drinking pond.
Each sufferer had at least one yardlong worm painfully emerging, a few agonizing inches a day, carefully wound around a twig or bit of gauze.
"I blame myself, because I drank that water," said Mr. Igelle, 55, admitting that he had drunk from a stagnant pond when the water his wife had carefully filtered had run out as he worked in his far-off yam field. "Now my children go to the field to fetch food, and I tell them not to drink."
Though Mr. Igelle may be one of Ogi's last cases, migrant herders and farm laborers still pass through, and any one of them could have picked up a worm in the last year. It could come back.
A Cause in Need of a Leader
That such a mighty struggle would erupt over one pond gives a sense of how daunting a disease eradication campaign can be. Without a relentless leader, it will go nowhere. In the case of Guinea worm, that role is played by Mr. Carter, who in 1986 was hunting for projects for his new foundation.
He had a chat with a former aide, Dr. Peter Bourne, who was then leading a very ambitious effort, ultimately abandoned, by the United Nations to bring clean drinking water to every village in the world.
"He had slides of Guinea worm to show me," Mr. Carter said. "I was intrigued."
Soon after, on a human rights mission to Pakistan, he mentioned the disease to Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, then the president. "General Zia didn't know anything about it," he said, "but his prime minister had come from a village with Guinea worm."
It turned out that 2,000 villages did, but villagers never reported it, thinking it was "a curse of God, or some confluence of planets, or came from drinking goat blood."
President Zia told a general to wipe it out, and in 1993, Pakistan became the first country to do so.
Mr. Carter himself first saw the worms in Ghana in 1988, in a village where 300 of 500 inhabitants were disabled by it.
"My most vivid memory was of a beautiful young 19-year-old-or-so woman with a worm emerging from her breast," he said. "Later we heard that she had 11 more come out that season."
He arranged for a well to be drilled, "and when we went back a year later, they had zero cases — zero."
But drilling, at $1,500 a well, is prohibitive. Filtering out the larvae-carrying fleas is cheaper. At a 1989 lunch with Edgar M. Bronfman, the Seagram's liquor heir, Mr. Carter explained the technique with a damask napkin. Mr. Bronfman, who held a major stake in the DuPont chemical company, had its scientists develop a tough but fine mesh.
Other donations followed: Abate larvicide from the BASF chemical company, pipes with steel mesh filters from a Norwegian power company, $16 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
When Mr. Carter started organizing his campaign, his experts estimated that eradication would take 10 years. Asked if he worried that the worms would outlive him, he grinned and shook his head.
"I don't have any doubt that it will be eradicated during my active service," he said. "The discouraging thing is the extreme cost. I have to keep explaining to donors why it costs so much for these last few cases."
An Army of Volunteers
While his campaign could not have succeeded without a large vision and contributions to match, the eradication of a disease ultimately depends on the dedication of workers in the field.
In rural Nigeria, as is true everywhere when literacy rates are low and telephones rare, everything must be done face to face. Twenty years ago, the Carter Center began its campaign by surveying 95,000 villages in Nigeria alone, sending someone to each one to ask if it had any cases of Guinea worm.
In each of the 6,000 villages that did, a team had to be formed to visit the authorities, explain the campaign and ask them to pick a "Guinea worm volunteer," someone who could read and write, would be willing to track each case, teach others how to roll worms out on a stick and keep their larvae out of drinking water.
The volunteers are unpaid. "They get a T-shirt, and people look up to them," said Dr. Cephas Ityonzughul, a consultant for the Carter Center's program in central Nigeria.
Supervisors like Mr. Ogebe are also unpaid but may get the use of a bicycle or motorbike, which in rural Africa are major status symbols. They also receive a Carter Center backpack full of sterile bandages.
Part of their job is to fight folk-medicine habits that sometimes die harder than any disease.
In a village north of Ogi, a traditional healer, Yahaya Sarki, demonstrated his own "worm treatment." Plucking a short iron blade from his straw roof, he whetted it on his stone doorstep and heated it on a hot coal. Then he mimed how he would plunge it into the emerging worm's head.
"The idea is to burn the worm to death," Dr. Ityonzughul explained, "but as soon as you touch it, it recoils and tries to find an exit elsewhere. It's very brutal, and it frequently causes tetanus. In 2002, we lost two volunteers to it. But in northern Nigeria, it's used in almost all cases. I've given up fighting it. No matter what I say, they do it anyway."
"Besides," he added of the victims, "it incapacitates them. They can't walk, so they don't put it in the water."
People also pick off their dressings, saying "the worm must breathe," he said. He has tried paying them a few cents to keep wounds bandaged, but it rarely works.
Still, he is not easily put off his mission, though tactics are not always as public and confrontational as they were in Ogi.
"We have paid people to put Abate in the sacred ponds secretly," he admitted.
He described a northern village that practiced both ancestor worship and Islam, which considers dogs unclean.
"They refused the Abate," he said, adding with a grin: "But someone killed a dog and threw it in their sacred pond. People stopped drinking the water — and Guinea worm cases went down."
It seemed like something I was supposed to do, but the truth is I don't really use it, or even understand why we're on there.
Can someone explain why everyone is on it?A: "I'm on it, but I don't know why - it does have some good stuff music-wise, though, so that could be it. It's only good as long as the musician in question hasn't 'customised' the page though, cause some of the page customising going on at MySpace is awful. I don't know why, but apparently, in some people's minds, bright purple on neon green = OMFG AWESOME."
"I am not on it because it seems that it is just a place where people try to act like they are cool and try to tell us people about their boring lives.I have many friends who have one. I just don't see the point. I don't understand that some people do have a myspace to let someone far away know what it is going on. But that is only reason I see to have one."
"Just go around and find pictures to stare at, pretending you're a single, 22-year-old college kid, wishing the babe in the pictures in front to you was on the same campus as you."
"Most people dont know this, but myspace was originally created to be a page where new and upcoming bands could advertise themselves and put their songs on the internet to try and get some fame.
It came over new management somewhat recently and the new person changed it so that singular people could get their own profiles. It became a sight to whore yourself and your friends
What's myspace for? It's for bands to get some notoriety. Why are people like me and you on it? Because we're fuckers, that's why.""The term 'lemming' comes to mind."
"I know that I'm on myspace because I'm a conformist asshole. It's a bit like facebook, except you don't have to be in college so all of the dropouts and seventh grade whores can be in on the fun too."
"Why do you have a myspace?
Because you have finally cracked.
The only thing myspace is good for is getting a couple of pedophile stalkers for whorish prepubescent girls in bikinis.
Or, I guess, getting some publicity if you're some kind of band that no one has heard of or cares about.
But mainly the first one."
but i think i'm going to delete my profile soon. it's getting a lot of bad press lately."
"Myspace is just part of the entire Web 2.0 bubble that will eventually pop like every other fad. Flickr, Zooomr, LinkedIn, and thousands of other useless sites make money off teenagers trying to find other people interested in the same things. It's a social network, and it sucks. Forget finding friends near you which you can actually hang around with, digital friends are good enough for actual users of Myspace.
I personally think it's ironic that Myspace (and others) help you be social using a device that is notoriously anti-social, and find people with similar interests in a medium where it is so easy to lie."
"It's one of those teen-networking places, somehwere, much like blogger or livejournal, where children can post their angst online and pretend that the world cares.
But it does more than that, too! It's a popularity contest - everyone wants to have more "friends" than everyone else. It's a place for the socially marginalised to meet up, and complain about how the world hates them. It even acts as a hunting ground for scary old men looking for children to prey on ...
Finally, it does what the entire internet is for - allow people to pretend that they are someone and something that they are not - culturally, socially, physically, chronologically (well, ageically sounded even more stupid), and even genderifically. If you don't like who you are - you can be someone else on myspace."
"I got a MySpace a while back because a friend made me. I thought it was stupid, but I gave it a chance, expecting to delete it a week later. But I didn't. I kind of liked it, and I don't know why. It's like drugs. It made me feel good when I was on it. "Glee! A picture comment! Let's see what they have to say! ...I can't read that! Oh well! Somebody said something about me and my stupid toothbrush ninja picture!""
"I don't know why I'm on Myspace, either. I think the draw is simply the sheer number of people that have accounts. It's pretty cool to find people that, up until that point, you were pretty sure were dead or in prison. The "Holy crap! I remember you!" factor is pretty high. So I check back every now and then to party like it's 1997."
"Myspace is just....one big 'away message.' It's like, instead of talking to your friends face to face, you leave them lots of online post-it notes. What's the fun in that?
Also, if you ever plan to delete your Myspace account, brace yourself to face the wrath of your friends. When I told all of my friends that I was deleting it, they suddenly transformed into these gross zombie-esque creatures, with wide, blank eyes and slurred speech, all creeping closer, asking 'why would you do such a thing?!' and 'do you even want to be my friend anymore?!' Scary."
"oh my dear. it's alright, the thing with myspace is that you think it's really stupid before you use it and then after you get into it you STILL think it's stupid but you can't stop.
it's a little bit like crack cocaine.""And NOTHING is worse than those people that are constantly using the school computers to browse around Myspace land. Well, I guess child molesters and rapists are, BUT THAT'S IT."
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
By SERENA FRENCH
March 20, 2006 -- Frustrated husbands and boyfriends now have some ammunition. According to a recent survey, women spend two years of their lives getting ready to leave the house. Men, meanwhile, spend less than a year. That's a lot of tapping feet and staring at watches.
Women take an average of 90 minutes to get dolled up for a night out - compared to the half an hour that men said it takes them to look presentable.
It also takes an average of 54 minutes for women to get ready for work in the morning. That means spending nearly an hour on showering, doing hair and applying makeup sucks up almost 10 days a year from women's lives.
Women spend an average of five minutes on a brief breakfast, eight minutes showering, 15 minutes for face cleansing and makeup application, a whopping 18 minutes to style their hair and a mere eight minutes to get dressed.
"The biggest surprise was the spilt between styling your hair and getting dressed," says Lopo Champalimaud, the spokeswoman for lastminute.com, a travel site that conducted the online poll of 3,000 British women. "I would have thought they'd spend a lot more time getting dressed."
So how long does it really take New York women to get ready in the morning? We gave four women stopwatches and asked them to clock themselves, from bed to door, and break down exactly how many seconds each part of their routine takes. The result - pretty much the same. While individuals ranged from 20 minutes to more than two hours, the average was about an hour.
But no matter what your routine, you can cut down on the time, says Kristin van Ogtrop, managing editor of Real Simple magazine.
"Your No. 1 goal is to have a hair style where you're not fighting mother nature," she says. "If you're taking 18 minutes to style your hair, it probably isn't."
Add to that some other ways you waste your life. "We did a study a couple of years ago that told us women spend 55 minutes per day just looking for stuff," she says.
"Some of these are giant 'duh's,' but they really bear repeating."
Such as: Do as much as you can the night before.
Make the lunch, pack the bag, iron the shirt. "There are some things that women know intuitively they can do the night before, or they have read them so many times, such as lay out your clothes out the night before. Or check the weather the night before, so that when you're in the shower, you can be thinking of what to wear," van Ogtrop says.
But others are not as obvious. "Shower or wash your hair the night before. Or something as small as make sure you cleanse your face really well at night so in the morning you don't need to wash it again. You really don't need to wash your face two times a day." Just splash with water or use toner.
Sleep on a silk pillowcase because it tends to mess your hair up less than a cotton pillowcase.
Or if you have an action packed schedule, get really organized. "We did a story on time-management strategies and one woman had a book case by her door and she had a bin for every day of the week. On her yoga class day she would have the blocks and the pants in that bin and I thought that was so organized. It's like a calendar in 3-D."
Look at your morning routine and see if there is something you can eliminate or find clever two-in-ones.
Eliminate hair washing. "You don't need to wash your hair every day. In fact you are not supposed to wash your hair every day. So wash it every other. You also need one fall-back thing your hair can do when you're in a pinch," van Ogtrop says.
On those days that you don't wash your hair, do a touch-up. "Take a cotton ball and use a little facial toner and rub it along your hair line, because that's where your hair tends to look the greasiest." Or you can use dry shampoo.
Use two-in-one makeup products such as a tinted moisturizer with an SPF. "That's a three-in-one actually. You're getting the sunscreen, moisturizer, even skin tone and a little color. There are also products you can get that are lip and cheek. And that's one fewer thing to look for in the morning, too," van Ogtrop says.
But don't make breakfast the thing you skip to save time. "If you have certain things in your refrigerator, even if it's a yogurt drink that you can grab, it's better than not having anything." Van Ogtrop cites a story they did. "How can you modify the things you grab to make them healthier? If what is available to you is a doughnut, what can you do to make it better? A glass of milk and handful of almonds. And that's, like, a 45-second breakfast."
"I used to know this mother who had four kids and she used to set the table the night before, and at the time, when I was a 15-year-old self-centered high school girl, I thought it was just so queer. And now, I think she was way ahead of her time. So things that seem silly and over-planning, if they're going to save your mood in the morning because you're getting out the door with your life somewhat in control, it's worth being anal."
It may also be worth it for your family and significant others. Because no matter what the survey says, two years may be underestimating getting ready time.
"I think people have an image of what it actually takes them to get ready," says lastminute.com's Champalimaud. "But if they're really honest with themselves, or if you actually observed them, rather than ask for self-reported timing, I think you'd come up with a very different number."
Occupation: Executive assistant at Della Famina Rothschild Jeary and Partners, an advertising agency
"Since I don't usually wear makeup, style my hair or eat breakfast, the majority of my morning is spent in a shell-shocked state trying to wake up."
Make bed: 0:48 minutes
Straighten room: 1:15
Pack lunch: 2:30
"I wasted time dropping eggs on the floor and just walking across the apartment a million times. If I just buy an egg on a roll, it will save me almost half an hour."
JEN M.R. DOMAN
Occupation: Founder of Brooklyn-based Get It Together!, a home, office and estate organization company.
"I'm pretty quick: I have very short hair, I work for myself, so for me to get up, shower, do my hair put on what little makeup I wear and feed my cat, maybe we're talking 25 minutes."
Up: 8:11 a.m.
Washing face: 1 minute
Inserting contact lens drops: 0:12
Brushing teeth: 0:41
Taking vitamins: 1:23 "Typically I do not eat breakfast. It makes me sort of nauseous."
Shower: 5:17 "My mom used to tell me I took too long in the shower and it wasted water. I can take 10, 12 minutes, so I've tried to be a little faster about that."
Putting on makeup: 2:59
Styling/drying hair: 1:02
Getting dressed: 3:14
Feeding/caring of cat Zeek: 1:41
Putting on coat/getting bag: 1:00
Out the door: 8:30 a.m.
Total time: 19 minutes
"I don't have any hair. I put one product in my hair, that's it. Even when I was a corporate person, it took the same amount of time, the only difference was instead of casual clothes, I was throwing on a suit. It was like a uniform."
ELENA B. WEISS
Occupation: Yoga instructor, owner of Free To Be Yoga Inc.
"In high school, they would tell me to be ready at 8:30 when they wanted to leave at 9, because they knew, come 9 o'clock, I'd still be getting ready."
Up: 7:40 a.m.
Meditation: 20 minutes
Making coffee: 5:00 "I had to clean out the filter and everything."
Shower: 17:00 "Sometimes I run the water hot then cold then hot. It's supposed to wake up the spine."
Drinking coffee: 2:00
Checking e-mail: 23:00
Drying hair: 19:41 "It wavy so I have to put product in it, clip it and dry it in pieces and style it."
Breakfast: 12:00 "I prepared and ate breakfast and prepared a little bit of food to go."
Out the door: 9:52 a.m.
Total time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
"Some days I've been able to minimize the whole procedure. I can do the faster route of not blowing out my hair. Sometimes I won't check e-mail or not wear as much makeup, or not wash my hair and throw it in a bun. But usually if I'm doing the full morning routine, this is it."
Occupation: Senior manager for integrated marketing, People magazine
Up: 7:05 a.m.
Shower: 17 minutes "I use so many products, it's a joke. I have face products, I have bath gel, I have exfoliants, I have foot products, it's hysterical."
Hair styling: 3:00 - she has a whole routine to manage the frizzing of her curly hair.
Body lotion/etc.: 2:30 After the shower, she has three different body lotions: "firming, leg lotion and scented, for the upper body."
Breakfast/watch news: 14:00
Pick outfit/iron: 8:30
Brush teeth: 0:30
Makeup: 11:00 - also face lotions and gels.
Diffuse hair: 4:00 - dries her hair only in cold weather.
Out the door: 8:05 a.m.
Total time: 1 hour
"I don't think an hour is excessive. But I do a lot in that hour. I wish I could take more time in the morning. I think it starts your day off right."
There are many times in a day when I come across women who would otherwise look fantastic if they cut back on the amount of makeup that they used. Generally, the adage that well-done makeup is when people aren't aware there is makeup holds true.
However, there are certainly many makeup techniques or other things that women do that I think often makes them look better, depending on the circumstance. Cautious use of eyeliner, either on the outer 2/3 of their eye, or lightly applied around, can make a woman's eyes look larger and deeper than usual while not looking like a raccoon or unnatural if done properly. Similarly, judicious use of fairly neutral lipliner and lip gloss can accentuate a woman's features and add to the illusion of larger, plumper lips. Proper shades can accentuate cheek bones. Good use of foundation can smooth out skin, limit shine, minimize pores, and blend out blemishes.
Then there are more unnatural things that nevertheless look good in certain environments. I have to admit that a little bit of sparkle glitter looks nice around the eyes or on cheeks for formals or club nights, even if it gets on everything. Highlights that are colored in are decidedly unnatural, but when done well, they look damn good on people who would otherwise have monochromatic hair. Colored contact lenses can be a nice novelty to add more intense color to one's eyes.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Myspace: Design Anarchy That Works
One Ars discussion
WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?!?!??!
You can't shut down Myspace! Ask yourself this: if myspace gets shut down, where will these taste-deprived barely-literate I-know-enough-about-computers-to-be-Dangerous-but-not-enough-to-know-this morons go? You want them roaming free on the internet? What if they got real homepages? What if they found out about, Beavis help us, domains?!? Say it with me now, 'www.Iamanangel-andhereissomemusic-andsomeguysIlike-andsomeofmypoetry.org'.
Keep them in Myspace! That way, we all know where they are. We can see them all together, and laugh at them. It's like a zoo. You wouldn't ban all zoos and let the animals roam free would you? No, that would suck. Except for the lions, who have had all this wonderful meat they've never tasted 50' from them for years.
If you want to be responsible for more Icy Hot Stuntaz, then by all means, shut em down. But me? I wanna keep all the animals in the zoo, so I can take my kids on the weekend and laugh at em. I for one feel safer knowing they're all in their cages.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Monday, March 13, 2006
Male body image
East doesn't meet West
By William J. Cromie
Harvard News Office
Asian men show less dissatisfaction with their bodies than males in the United States and Europe, according to a Harvard study. This may explain why anabolic steroid abuse is much less prevalent in places like Taiwan than in the United States, Europe, and Australia, the researchers found.
"Disorders of body image, including a pathological preoccupation with muscularity, are growing increasingly common among Western males, notes Chi-Fu Jeffrey Yang, a Harvard senior. "By contrast, such male body-image problems appear to be rare in Asian societies."
"Our findings suggest that Western men have a distorted view of what they ideally should look like, whereas men in Taiwan don't seem to have this problem," says Harrison Pope Jr., a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. When tested, Western men guessed that women prefer a "buff" body with 20-30 pounds more muscle than average. But when women were asked to choose their preferences, they picked male bodies much closer to average.
Pope also heads the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical affiliate in Belmont, Mass. A few years ago, he and several colleagues gave a computerized test to male college students in the United States, France, and Austria. The students could adjust images of male bodies through 10 layers of muscle and 10 levels of fat. Asked to build bodies they thought would attract women, the males consistently layered on a lot more muscle than females preferred when they looked at the images. The Leonardo DiCaprio types were judged more appealing than the Sylvester Stallones.
Yang and Peter Gray, a teaching fellow in a course Yang was taking, got to talking about this so-called "Adonis Complex," and Gray introduced Yang to Pope. It turned out that Yang, whose parents are from Taiwan, was headed there during a summer break. All agreed that it would be a good idea to test Asian students the same way to see how they reacted to muscles and machismo.
Chicken meat and muscles
Yang gave the computer tests to 55 students at a university, and he interviewed doctors at hospitals and trainers in large gyms. Because the Chinese word for "muscle" sounds the same as the word for "chicken meat," Yang had to explain to confused students, psychiatrists, and trainers that he was interested in pulchritude, not poultry.
When it came to measuring body fat, the Taiwanese were more reluctant than U.S. students to taking off their undershirts and having their skin gently pinched by a caliper-like instrument. "I'm not sure whether they thought it was 'fun' or 'funny,'" Yang says.
The tests revealed that Taiwanese men show less dissatisfaction with their bodies than Westerners. They did not add as much muscle to build an idealized body. And they added a scant five pounds to make a body they thought would be a woman's ideal.
To reach their ideal, more and more Western men are resorting to anabolic steroids. The Taiwanese men Yang talked with had heard of the drugs but did not know anyone who actually used them.
Neither did males in China. During a later trip to Beijing, Pope and Yang asked 125 college-aged men if they used body-building drugs or knew anyone who did. Only two said they knew someone who used steroids. But it was not clear that the two knew what kind of drugs the Americans were talking about. Asked to name the specific steroids used, one of the men answered "Viagra."
Pope and Yang also visited a large pharmacy in populous Beijing. Although anabolic steroids are freely available without prescription, the clerk told them the store only sells them to about one customer a month.
Mental vs. macho
What accounts for the difference in body images and drug use between East and West? Yang, Pope, and Gray propose a combination of three possible answers in their report, which appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. Chinese culture places less emphasis on muscle as a measure of masculinity. Also, Asian men are less exposed to the unending images of pects, abs, biceps, and triceps common in Western media. Finally, Taiwanese men retain a tighter grip on the traditional roles of household and corporate masters than men in the United States and other Western countries.
Western societies have equated muscles with masculinity from Greek and Roman statuary to modern television and print ads. There has been no such emphasis in Asia. Although a macho tradition exists in China, Yang notes, "a cerebral male tradition is dominant. In this tradition, masculinity is composed both of wen, having core meanings centering around literacy and cultural attainment, and wu, having core meanings of martial, military, force, and power. Wen is more highly regarded."
Media displays add to such cultural differences. For example, Yang points out, in the United States, men's health and fitness magazines are often crowded with steroid-enhanced muscular images. In comparison, he found no comparable Taiwanese magazines in a search of some of that country's largest bookstores.
The researchers also checked all advertisements for the year 2001 in two U.S. women's magazines (Cosmopolitan and Glamour) and three comparable magazines in Taiwan. A comparison showed only modest differences in the number of undressed or underdressed Western models of both sexes. ("Undressed" was defined roughly as "you would not go out on the street dressed like that,") However, Asian women were shown undressed only about half as often as Western women in Taiwanese magazines. More striking, Asian men were almost never displayed this way.
Another possible factor centers on the importance of men's roles as breadwinners, soldiers, and business leaders. In the West, that image has plunged precipitously in the past few decades. Women now command spaceships and serve as CEOs of large corporations. Pope and Yang suggest that, to compensate, some Western men are fixating on muscularity as "the last bastion of masculinity."
Yang admits that "it's difficult to say which of these factors is most important. There will be disagreement among our colleagues about reasons for the contrast we found in male body image and anabolic steroid use in Asia and the U.S. and other Western countries. The difference has public health consequences, so hopefully more studies will be conducted."
Yang, Gray, and Pope also call attention to other research showing that Asian cultures are being invaded by Western patterns of body dissatisfaction among women. Two studies have shown that normal-weight women in Hong Kong and Polynesia want to be thinner. Another investigation in Fiji found striking increases in body dissatisfaction among adolescent girls in Fiji after television became widely available.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
A Cancer Drug's Big Price Rise Is Cause for Concern
By ALEX BERENSON
Published: March 12, 2006
On Feb. 3, Joyce Elkins filled a prescription for a two-week supply of nitrogen mustard, a decades-old cancer drug used to treat a rare form of lymphoma. The cost was $77.50.
Jeffrey Malavasic, 58, says that now that his cancer ointment is more expensive, he will use less of it.
On Feb. 17, Ms. Elkins, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in Georgetown, Tex., returned to her pharmacy for a refill. This time, following a huge increase in the wholesale price of the drug, the cost was $548.01.
Ms. Elkins's insurance does not cover nitrogen mustard, which she must take for at least the next six months at a cost that will now total nearly $7,000. She and her husband, who works for the Texas Department of Transportation, are paying for the medicine by spending less on utilities and food, she said.
The medicine, also known as Mustargen, was developed more than 60 years ago and is among the oldest chemotherapy drugs. For decades, it has been blended into an ointment by pharmacists and used as a topical treatment for a cancer called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer that mainly affects the skin.
Last August, Merck, which makes Mustargen, sold the rights to manufacture and market it and Cosmegen, another cancer drug, to Ovation Pharmaceuticals, a six-year-old company in Deerfield, Ill., that buys slow-selling medicines from big pharmaceutical companies.
The two drugs are used by fewer than 5,000 patients a year and had combined sales of about $1 million in 2004.
Now Ovation has raised the wholesale price of Mustargen roughly tenfold and that of Cosmegen even more, according to several pharmacists and patients.
Sean Nolan, vice president of commercial development for Ovation, said that the price increases were needed to invest in manufacturing facilities for the drugs. He said the company was petitioning insurers to obtain coverage for patients.
The increase has stunned doctors, who say it starkly illustrates two trends in the pharmaceutical industry: the soaring price of cancer medicines and the tendency for those prices to have little relation to the cost of developing or making the drugs.
Genentech, for example, has indicated it will effectively double the price of its colon cancer drug Avastin, to about $100,000, when Avastin's use is expanded to breast and lung cancer patients. As with Avastin, nothing about nitrogen mustard is changing but the price.
The increases have caused doctors to question Ovation's motive — and left lymphoma patients wondering how they will afford Mustargen, which is sometimes not covered by insurance, because the drug's label does not indicate that it can be used as an ointment. When given intravenously to treat Hodgkin's disease, its other primary use, the drug is generally covered by insurance.
"Nitrogen mustard has been around forever," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "There's nothing that I am aware of in the treatment environment that would explain an increase in the cost of the drug."
Dr. David H. Johnson, a Vanderbilt University oncologist who is a former president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, said he had contacted Ovation to ask its reasons for raising Mustargen's price.
"I'd like to have some evidence from them that it actually costs them X amount, so that the pricing makes sense," Dr. Johnson said.
"It's unfortunate that a price adjustment had to occur," Mr. Nolan said. "Investment had not been made in these products for years."
Ovation, a privately held company, also needs the money to conduct research on several new drugs for rare diseases, Mr. Nolan said.
He acknowledged that Merck still made Mustargen and Cosmegen, an antibiotic that is used to treat a rare childhood kidney cancer, for Ovation. He said he was not sure when Ovation would begin producing the drugs, and a Merck spokesman said that Merck would continue to provide the drugs to Ovation as long as necessary.
But people who analyze drug pricing say they see the Mustargen situation as emblematic of an industry trend of basing drug prices on something other than the underlying costs. After years of defending high prices as necessary to cover the cost of research or production, industry executives increasingly point to the intrinsic value of their medicines as justification for prices.
Last year, in his book "A Call to Action," Henry A. McKinnell, the chairman of Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, wrote that drug prices were not driven by research spending or production costs.
"A number of factors go into the mix" of pricing, he wrote. "Those factors consider cost of business, competition, patent status, anticipated volume, and, most important, our estimation of the income generated by sales of the product."
In some drug categories, such as cholesterol-lowering treatments, many drugs compete, keeping prices relatively low. But when a medicine does not have a good substitute, its maker can charge almost any price. In 2003, Abbott Laboratories raised the price of Norvir, an AIDS drug introduced in 1996, from $54 to $265 a month. AIDS groups protested, but Abbott refused to rescind the increase.
And once a company sets a price, government agencies, private insurers and patients have little choice but to pay it. The Food & Drug Administration does not regulate prices, and Medicare is banned from considering price in deciding whether to cover treatments.
While private insurers can negotiate prices, they have limited leeway to exclude drugs from coverage based on price, said C. Lee Blansett, a partner at DaVinci Healthcare Partners, which works with drug makers on pricing and marketing.
"Price is simply not included in whether or not to cover a drug," Mr. Blansett said.
The result has been soaring prices for some drug classes, notably cancer treatments. In 1992, Bristol-Myers Squibb faced protests for its plans to charge $4,000 a year for Taxol, a breast cancer treatment.
Now, most new cancer treatments are priced at $25,000 to $50,000 annually. In some cases, companies are pushing through substantial price increases on already-expensive drugs.
Last year, Genentech raised the price of Tarceva, a lung-cancer drug, by about 30 percent, to $32,000 for a year's treatment.
In an interview last month, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, the president of product development for Genentech, said that the company had raised Tarceva's price because the drug works better than Genentech had anticipated.
"Tarceva was a more powerful and more active agent than what we understood at the time of launch, and so more valuable," she said. In an environment of soaring cancer drug costs, Mustargen's previous price was a comparative bargain, giving Ovation the opportunity to raise it substantially, said Dr. Richard Hoppe, a professor of radiation oncology at Stanford University and an expert in treating cutaneous lymphoma.
Mustargen's patent protection expired many years ago, so any company can make it. But because its sales are tiny, no drug maker has invested in a generic version.
"There's only one company that makes the drug, and they can decide what it's worth," Dr. Hoppe said.
Nitrogen mustard was initially tested as a chemical weapon. Its properties as an anti-cancer agent were discovered more than 60 years ago; today, it has been superseded by newer, less toxic medicines, and it is a niche product, with sales of only $546,000 in 2004, according to IMS Health, a market research firm.
Still, Dr. Hoppe and other oncologists call nitrogen mustard an effective treatment for cutaneous lymphoma, which initially appears as a rash but can turn deadly if it spreads inside the body. Some patients need only tiny amounts of the ointment, but others must apply it every day across large areas of their bodies.
For instance, Ms. Elkins has a severe case of lymphoma and must cover much of her body with Mustargen each day, a process that requires her to refill her prescription every two weeks. She said that the ointment was working, so she and her husband would find a way to pay for it.
Mr. Nolan of Ovation said that his company intended to work to improve access to insurance coverage for Mustargen. But Ovation has just begun to petition insurers to cover the drug. Meanwhile, patients are paying Mustargen's new, higher price out of pocket.
This is not the first time that Ovation has sharply raised the price of a drug it owns. In 2003, the company bought Panhematin, a treatment for a rare enzymatic disease called porphyria, from Abbott Laboratories. While Abbott still produces Panhematin, Ovation raised Panhematin's price, which had been $230 a dose, to $1,900, according to Desiree Lyon, executive director of the American Porphyria Foundation.
"It was a major increase," Ms. Lyon said. But she said that Ovation had worked to improve insurance coverage for Panhematin and to find ways for patients to get the drug even if they could not afford it.
Ovation also financially supports the porphyria foundation in its efforts to increase awareness of the disease and of Panhematin as a treatment, she said.
But many patients who rely on expensive drugs are stuck in a bind. Don Schare of Saratoga, Calif., said he paid $1,260 last month for 200 grams of nitrogen mustard cream, about 10 times what he paid for his prior prescription.
Mr. Schare, 69, said he was covered by the new Medicare Part D drug program and by supplemental insurance from AARP, but that neither of his plans covered Mustargen.
Jeffrey Malavasic, 58, a retired railroad worker in Florence, Ore., said he had decided to fill only half of his Mustargen prescription when he learned of the price increase. He used the drug sparingly in the past and will be even more frugal, he said.
March 12, 2006
Anonymous Source Is Not the Same as Open Source
By RANDALL STROSS
WIKIPEDIA, the free online encyclopedia, currently serves up the following: Five billion pages a month. More than 120 languages. In excess of one million English-language articles. And a single nagging epistemological question: Can an article be judged as credible without knowing its author?
Wikipedia says yes, but I am unconvinced.
Dispensing with experts, the Wikipedians invite anyone to pitch in, writing an article or editing someone else's. No expertise is required, nor even a name. Sound inviting? You can start immediately. The system rests upon the belief that a collectivity of unknown but enthusiastic individuals, by dint of sheer mass rather than possession of conventional credentials, can serve in the supervisory role of editor. Anyone with an interest in a topic can root out inaccuracies and add new material.
At first glance, this sounds straightforward. But disagreements arise all the time about what is a problematic passage or an encyclopedia-worthy topic, or even whether a putative correction improves or detracts from the original version.
The egalitarian nature of a system that accords equal votes to everyone in the "community" — middle-school student and Nobel laureate alike — has difficulty resolving intellectual disagreements.
Wikipedia's reputation and internal editorial process would benefit by having a single authority vouch for the quality of a given article. In the jargon of library and information science, lay readers rely upon "secondary epistemic criteria," clues to the credibility of information when they do not have the expertise to judge the content.
Once upon a time, Encyclopaedia Britannica recruited Einstein, Freud, Curie, Mencken and even Houdini as contributors. The names helped the encyclopedia bolster its credibility. Wikipedia, by contrast, provides almost no clues for the typical article by which reliability can be appraised. A list of edits provides only screen names or, in the case of the anonymous editors, numerical Internet Protocol addresses. Wasn't yesterday's practice of attaching "Albert Einstein" to an article on "Space-Time" a bit more helpful than today's "18.104.22.168"?
What does Wikipedia's system offer in place of an expert authority willing to place his or her professional reputation on the line with a signature attached to an article?
When I asked Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, last week, he discounted the importance of individual contributors to Britannica. "When people trust an article in Britannica," he said, "it's not who wrote it, it's the process." There, a few editors review a piece and then editing ceases. By contrast, Wikipedia is built with unending scrutiny and ceaseless editing.
He predicts that in the future, it will be Britannica's process that will seem strange: "People will say, 'This was written by one person? Then looked at by only two or three other people? How can I trust that process?' "
The Wikipedian hive is capable of impressive feats. The English-language collection recently added its millionth article, for example. It was about the Jordanhill railway station, in Glasgow. The original version, a few paragraphs, appeared to say all that a lay reader would ever wish to know about it. But the hive descended and in a week, more than 640 edits were logged.
If every topic could be addressed like this, without recourse to specialized learning — and without the heated disputes called flame wars — the anonymous hive could be trusted to produce work of high quality. But the Jordanhill station is an exception.
Biographical entries, for example, are often accompanied by controversy. Several recent events have shown how anyone can tamper with someone else's entry. Congressional staff members have been unmasked burnishing articles about their employers and vandalizing those of political rivals. (Sample addition: "He likes to beat his wife and children.")
Mr. Wales himself ignored the encyclopedia's guidelines about "Dealing With Articles About Yourself" and altered his own Wikipedia biography; when other editors undid them, he reapplied his changes. The incidents, even if few in number, do not help Wikipedia establish the legitimacy of a process that is reluctant to say no to anyone.
It should be noted that Mr. Wales is a full-time volunteer, and that neither he nor the thousands of fellow volunteer editors has a pecuniary interest in this nonprofit project. He also deserves accolades for keeping Wikipedia operating without the intrusion of advertising, at least so far.
Most winningly, he has overseen a system that is gleefully candid in its public self-examination. If you're seeking a well-organized list of criticisms of Wikipedia, you won't find a better place than Wikipedia's coverage of itself. Wikipedia also provides a taxonomy of no fewer than 23 different forms of vandalism that strike it.
It is easy to forget how quickly Wikipedia has grown; it began only in 2001. With the passage of a little more time, Mr. Wales and his associates may come around to the idea that identifying one person as a given article's supervising editor would enhance the encyclopedia's reputation.
Mr. Wales has already responded to recent negative articles about vandalism at the site with announcements of modest reforms. Anonymous visitors are no longer permitted to create pages, though they still may edit existing ones.
To curb what Mr. Wales calls "drive-by pranks" that are concentrated on particular articles, he has instituted a policy of "semi-protection." In these cases, a user must have registered at least four days before being permitted to make changes to the protected article. "If someone really wants to write 'George Bush is a poopy head,' you've got to wait four days," he said.
When asked what problems on the site he viewed as most pressing, Mr. Wales said he was concerned with passing along the Wikipedian culture to newcomers. He sounded wistful when he spoke of the days not so long ago when he could visit an article that was the subject of a flame war and would know at least some participants — and whether they could resolve the dispute tactfully.
As the project has grown, he has found that he no longer necessarily knows anyone in a group. When a dispute flared recently over an article related to a new dog breed, he looked at the discussion and asked himself in frustration, "Who are these people?"
Isn't this precisely the question all users are bound to ask about contributors?
By wide agreement, the print encyclopedia in the English world reached its apogee in 1911, with the completion of Encyclopaedia Britannica's 11th edition. (For the fullest tribute, turn to Wikipedia.) But the Wikipedia experiment need not be pushed back in time toward that model. It need only be pushed forward, so it can catch up to others with more experience in online collaboration: the open-source software movement.
Wikipedia and open-source projects like Linux are similarly noncommercial, intellectual enterprises, mobilizing volunteers who will probably never meet one another in person. But even though Wikipedians like to position their project under the open-source umbrella, the differences are wide.
Jeff Bates, a vice president of the Open Source Technology Group who oversees SourceForge.net, the host of more than 80,000 active open-source projects, said, "It makes me grind my teeth to hear Wikipedia compared to open source." In every open-source project, he said, there is "a benevolent dictator" who ultimately takes responsibility, even though the code is contributed by many. Good stuff results only if "someone puts their name on it."
WIKIPEDIA has good stuff, too. These have been designated "featured articles." But it will be a long while before all one-million-and-counting entries have been carefully double-checked and buffed to a high shine. Only 923 have been granted "featured" status, and the consensus-building process is presently capable of adding only about one a day.
Mr. Wales is not happy with this pace and seems open to looking again at the open-source software model for ideas. Software development that relies on scattered volunteers is a two-step process: first, a liberal policy encourages the contributions of many, then a restrictive policy follows to stabilize the code in preparation for release. Wikipedia, he said, has "half the model."
There's no question that Wikipedia volunteers can address many more topics than the lumbering, for-profit incumbents like Britannica and World Book, and can update entries swiftly. Still, anonymity blocks credibility. One thing that Wikipedians have exactly right is that the current form of the encyclopedia is a beta test. The quality level that would permit speaking of Version 1.0 is still in the future.