- Analyzing mbostock’s queue.js — beautiful walkthrough of a small library, showing the how and why of good coding.
- What Job Would You Hire a Textbook To Do? (Karl Fisch) — notes from a Discovery Education “Beyond the Textbook” event. The issues Karl highlights for textbooks (why digital, etc.) are there for all books as we create this new genre.
- Neutralizing Open Access (Glyn Moody) — the publishers appear to have captured the UK group implementing the UK’s open access policy. At every single step of the way, the RCUK policy has been weakened. From being the best and most progressive in the world, it’s now considerably weaker than policies already in action elsewhere in the world, and hardly represents an increment on their 2006 policy. What’s at stake? Opportunity to do science faster, to provide source access to research for the public, and to redirect back to research the millions of pounds spent on journal subscriptions.
- Turn the Raspberry Pi into a VPN Server (LinuxUser) — One possible scenario for wanting a cheap server that you can leave somewhere is if you have recently moved away from home and would like to be able to easily access all of the devices on the network at home, in a secure manner. This will enable you to send files directly to computers, diagnose problems and other useful things. You’ll also be leaving a powered USB hub connected to the Pi, so that you can tell someone to plug in their flash drive, hard drive etc and put files on it for them. This way, they can simply come and collect it later whenever the transfer has finished.
Master Coding, Rethinking Textbooks, Blocking Open Access, VPN from your Pi
Equity of Access, Smartphone Rare Earths, Nanoquadrocopter, and Macmillan Expands in Open Science
- Myth of the Free Internet (The Atlantic) — equity of access is an important issue, but this good point is marred by hanging it off the problematic (beer? speech? downloads?) “free”. I’m on the council of InternetNZ whose mission is to protect and promote the open and uncaptureable Internet. (A concept so good we had to make up a word for it)
- Periodic Table of the SmartPhone (PDF, big) — from Scientific American article on Rare Earth Minerals in the Smartphone comes a link to this neat infographic showing where rare earth elements are used in the iPhone. (via Om Malik)
- CrazyFlie Nano Preorders — 19g, 9cm x 9cm, 20min charge time for 7m flight time on this nano-quadrocopter. (via Wired)
- Changing Scientific Publishing (The Economist) — Nature buys an alternative journal publisher (30 titles in 14 scientific fields), which comes with an 80k-member social network for scientists. Macmillan are a clever bunch. (O’Reilly runs Science Foo Camp with Macmillan’s Digital Sciences and Google)
- Bruce Sterling Interview — It changed my work profoundly when I realized I could talk to a global audience on the Internet, although I was legally limited from doing that by national publishing systems. The lack of any global book market has much reduced my interest in publishing books. National systems don’t “publish” me, but rather conceal me. This especially happens to writers outside the Anglophone market, but I know a lot of them, and I’ve become sensitized to their issues. It’s one of the general issues of globalization.
- bAdmin — database of default usernames and passwords for popular software. (via Reddit /r/netsec)
- Just Post It: The Lesson from Two Cases of Fabricated Data Detected by Statistics Alone (Uri Simonsohn) — I argue that requiring authors to post the raw data supporting their published results has, among many other benefits, that of making fraud much less likely to go undetected. I illustrate this point by describing two cases of fraud I identified exclusively through statistical analysis of reported means and standard deviations. Analyses of the raw data behind these provided invaluable confirmation of the initial suspicions, ruling out benign explanations (e.g., reporting errors, unusual distributions), identifying additional signs of fabrication, and also ruling out one of the suspected fraudster’s explanations for his anomalous results. (via The Atlantic)
Free Books, Analytics Goofs, Book Boilerplate, and Learn CS with the Raspberry Pi
- Free Book Sifter — lists all the free books on Amazon, has RSS feeds and newsletters. (via BoingBoing)
- Whom the Gods Would Destroy, They First Give Realtime Analytics — a few key reasons why truly real-time analytics can open the door to a new type of (realtime!) bad decision making. [U]ser demographics could be different day over day. Or very likely, you could see a major difference in user behavior immediately upon releasing a change, only to watch it evaporate as users learn to use new functionality. Given all of these concerns, the conservative and reasonable stance is to only consider tests that last a few days or more.
- Web Book Boilerplate (Github) — uses plain old markdown and generates a well structured HTML version of your written words. Since it’s sitting on top of Pandoc and Grunt, you can easily make your books available for every platform. MIT-style license.
- Raspberry Pi Education Manual (PDF) — from Scratch to Python and HCI all via the Raspberry Pi. Intended to be informative and a series of lessons for teachers and students learning coding with the Raspberry Pi as their first device.
Bitcoin Numbers, Augmenting People with Computers, EBook Creation, and Answering Your Questions
- BitCoin in 2012, By The Numbers — Over the past year Bitcoin’s value when compared to the US Dollar, and most other currencies, increased steadily, though there was a large spike and subsequent dip in August. Interestingly, the current market cap is actually at a peak for 2012, exceeding the spike in August. This can be attributed to the fact that tens of thousands of Bitcoins have been introduced into the economy since August, though now at the slower rate of 25 per block.
- Man-Computer Symbiosis (JCR Licklider) — In short, it seems worthwhile to avoid argument with (other) enthusiasts for artificial intelligence by conceding dominance in the distant future of cerebration to machines alone. There will nevertheless be a fairly long interim during which the main intellectual advances will be made by men and computers working together in intimate association. Fascinating to read this 1960 paper on AI and the software/hardware augmentation of human knowledge work (just as the term “knowledge worker” was coined). (via Jim Stogdill)
- Papyrus — simple online editor and publisher for ebooks.
- howdoi (github) — commandline tool to search stackoverflow and show the code that best matches your request. This is genius.
A letter asking for an introduction meets a meditation on self-reliance.
In 1905 Mark Twain wrestled with the sort of request that many readers here have undoubtedly encountered: a new writer with the most tenuous of connections (her uncle was briefly a neighbor in a Nevada mining town) asks Twain to use his influence to get her manuscript published.
It never hurts to carry an introduction from a well-regarded intermediary, as long as your introducer can actually speak to the quality of your work. I think of Twain’s anguished reply every time I’m asked to recommend someone or something I don’t know — or am tempted to ask the same favor of someone else.
Twain’s message is ultimately optimistic: don’t simply try to accumulate influence. Instead, come up with a good idea and sell it on its merits. The world will listen.
MOOCs get the attention, but DIY and peer-to-peer exchange are more fertile grounds for development
Somehow, recently, a lot of people have taken an interest in the broadcast of canned educational materials, and this practice — under a term that proponents and detractors have settled on, massive open online course (MOOC) — is getting a publicity surge. I know that the series of online classes offered by Stanford proved to be extraordinarily popular, leading to the foundation of Udacity and a number of other companies. But I wish people would stop getting so excited over this transitional technology. The attention drowns out two truly significant trends in progressive education: do-it-yourself labs and peer-to-peer exchanges.
In the current opinion torrent, Clay Shirky treats MOOCs in a recent article, and Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, writes (in a Boston Globe subscription-only article) that traditional colleges will have to deal with the MOOC challenge. Jon Bruner points out on Radar that non-elite American institutions could use a good scare (although I know a lot of people whose lives were dramatically improved by attending such colleges). The December issue of Communications of the ACM offers Professor Richard A. DeMillo from the Georgia Institute of Technology assessing the possible role of MOOCs in changing education, along with an editorial by editor-in-chief Moshe Y. Vardi culminating with, “If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear.”
There’s a popular metaphor for this early stage of innovation: we look back to the time when film-makers made the first moving pictures with professional performers by setting up cameras before stages in theaters. This era didn’t last long before visionaries such as Georges Méliès, D. W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Luis Buñuel uncovered what the new medium could do for itself. How soon will colleges get tired of putting lectures online and offer courses that take advantage of new media? Read more…
JSON Tool, Technology Arts, Pentesting Kit, and Open Access Week
- jq — command-line tool for JSON data.
- GAFFTA — Gray Area Foundation For The Arts. Non-profit running workshops and building projects around technology-driven arts. (via Roger Dennis)
- Power Pwn — looks like a power strip, is actually chock-full of pen-testing tools, WiFi, bluetooth, and GSM. Beautifully evil. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Open Access Week — this week is Open Access week, raising awareness of the value of ubiquitous access to scientific publishing. (via Fabiana Kubke)
Open Publishing, Theatre Sensing, Reddit First, and Math Podcasts
- Open Monograph Press — an open source software platform for managing the editorial workflow required to see monographs, edited volumes and, scholarly editions through internal and external review, editing, cataloguing, production, and publication. OMP will operate, as well, as a press website with catalog, distribution, and sales capacities. (via OKFN)
- Sensing Activity in Royal Shakespeare Theatre (NLTK) — sensing activity in the theatre, for graphing. Raw data available. (via Infovore)
- Why Journalists Love Reddit (GigaOM) — “Stories appear on Reddit, then half a day later they’re on Buzzfeed and Gawker, then they’re on the Washington Post, The Guardian and the New York Times. It’s a pretty established pattern.”
- Relatively Prime: The Toolbox — Kickstarted podcasts on mathematics. (via BoingBoing)
A clever data project shows the promise of open and freely accessible academic literature.
There is a huge debate right now about making academic literature freely accessible and moving toward open access. But what would be possible if people stopped talking about it and just dug in and got on with it?
NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS), hosted by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), has quietly been working away since the mid-’90s. Without much, if any, fanfare amongst the other disciplines, it has moved astronomers into a world where access to the literature is just a given. It’s something they don’t have to think about all that much.
The ADS service provides access to abstracts for virtually all of the astronomical literature. But it also provides access to the full text of more than half a million papers, going right back to the start of peer-reviewed journals in the 1800s. The service has links to online data archives, along with reference and citation information for each of the papers, and it’s all searchable and downloadable.
It also makes astronomy almost uniquely well placed for interesting data mining experiments, experiments that hint at what the rest of academia could do if they followed astronomy’s lead. The fact that the discipline’s literature has been scanned, archived, indexed and catalogued, and placed behind a RESTful API makes it a treasure trove, both for hypothesis generation and sociological research.