Four short links: 13 April 2011

Social Bots, Google Competing with Non-Profits, Open Source EHR, and Javascript Obscurity

  1. Web Ecology ProjectResearching quantized social interaction. Most recent work was a competition to write social bots that would be followed/friended on social networks–essentially scoring 51% on the Turing test. There are privacy implications (often social network buddies see profile information that strangers can’t). (via The Atlantic)
  2. We Need to Stop Google’s Exploitation of Open Communities (Mikel Maron) — much as Google’s ill-fated Knol smelled like an attempt to sidestep Wikipedia, their MapMaker is directly modelled on OSM [OpenStreetMap], but with a restrictive data license, where you can not use the data as you see fit. Mikel argues passionately and pointedly about this. Also interesting: how quickly OSM’s own community is turning against itself on licensing issues. Nothing else divides open communities as much as the license that makes them possible, not even big companies’ dickish behaviour.
  3. A Truly Open VistA — the Veterans Administration attempts to build an open source community (instead of simply releasing the source code). This article by RedHat’s Chief Technology Strategist outlines some of challenges they’re facing: obscure source and bureaucracy. The obscure source is a significant impediment: it’s written in MUMPS which predates C and combines the elegance of roadkill with all the capability for abstract expression of a brick. Existing businesses aren’t an impediment, though: Linux has shown that deforking (aka “contributing”) makes sound business sense once the momentum of new features builds up in the commons. (via Glyn Moody)
  4. Rare Javascript Operators (Timmy Willison) — enlightening, but reminds me of the important gulf between “can” and “should”: Tilde is useful! We can use for any functions that return -1:

    // We can do
    if ( ~checkFoo ) {


    (via Javascript Weekly)

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