Mitch Kapor speaks at SIMS

open source, SIMS, berkeley, friends, policy, podcasts, education


Image of Mitch Kapor at the podium speaking at SIMS Today, Mitch Kapor gave the last talk of the SIMS Distinguished Lecture Series for the Fall 2005 semester (audio linked to below). His talk, "Thirteen Ways to Look at the Wikipedia", was a superb capstone to the series (as well as a great follow-on to last week's visit by Wikipedia-founder Jimmy Wales.

Here's how Mitch sums up the subject of his talk:

I've called my talk, Thirteen Ways to Look at the Wikipedia... apologies to Wallace Stevens; I'm borrowing his title. The Wikipedia can't possibly work. When I describe it to people who have never seen it or used it, I say 'It's a completely open encyclopedia, written entirely by its volunteers.' Eight times out of ten, this is what I hear. But it does; it does work; it's really amazing. It is now one of the top forty websites in the world. A few months ago, it was fifty; Jimmy said on a good week it's number thirty; I think it's heading towards the top ten of any website. That's eBay, Amazon, Yahoo... it's continuing to grow very very rapidly. I could give you more statistics[...]

But it can't possibly work. It's so counter-intuitive. When I first started using it, I understood perfectly that it was open, and anyone can contribute and it wasn't centralized. I became interested in it precisely because it did work despite the fact that something in me said that it shouldn't. [...] There's really a Zen koan aspect to it; when you're given a paradox to wrestle with you can either go down with it -- because it's insoluble on its own terms -- or you can transcend the paradox because you find out you've had some limiting assumptions that you didn't know you had and it's only an apparent paradox. So, this talk is my effort to recount how I've wrestled with some of the paradoxes of Wikipedia and share that with you.

(The file linked to below is 39.8MB in size and 1:25:39 in length at 64kbps.)

3-part collage image of Mitch Kaport speaking at SIMS

UPDATE [2005-11-24T08:29:39]: Here's a PDF of Mitch's slides for this talk: Kapor_SIMS_talk.pdf

Arnold hits a voting glitch

elections, news, wtf?, problems

Looks like voting glitches do not discriminate (from "Schwarzenegger Hits Snag at Polling Place"):

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election ? and was told he had already voted.

Elections officials said a Los Angeles County poll worker had entered Schwarzenegger's name into an electronic voting touch screen station in Pasadena on Oct. 25. The worker, who was not identified, was testing the voting machine in preparation for early voting that began the next day.

How many other people might this affect? How many people were entered in as test votes and then mistakenly marked as having voted?

Other voting problems

I'll list other voting problems under the fold (largely courtesy of John Gideon of VotersUnite!):

Full story »

Technorati breaks into mainstream media?

blogging, feeds, wtf?, DRM

Like many, I watch my stats... I saw some hits to my recent post, "DRM can kill...", from the Washington Post and was surprised. I mean, who gives a shit what I say? Was it some WaPo staff blogger? Was it a mistake?

Turns out that the WaPo has a new, interesting "Who's Blogging" container that's "powered by Technorati". That is, if I go to the article I was linked from ("Sony Patch Reveals Its Anti-Piracy Files on PCs"), I see this:

image of the WaPos whos blogging container with NQB2 in it

I guess I did link to that article (in a quote).

We might not need totally secret ballot...

elections, reform, news, policy

Thad Hall over at the Election Updates blog rightly points out in "An Interesting Question: Do We Need Secret Ballots?" the flawed thinking of Lynn Landes' article "Scrap the 'Secret' Ballot -- Return to Open Voting". As Hall points out, Landes quickly dismisses coercion and doesn't address vote-selling at all.

However, as Doug Jones once pointed out to me, there's a spectrum of ballot secrecy to consider here; it's not just a simple matter of total secrecy versus ballots identifiable to individuals. In fact, the UK doesn't have pure ballot secrecy; voters have unique numbers and so do ballots. When the voter casts their ballot, the number of the ballot is recorded in a register along with the voter's unique identification number. This register is kept as a state secret and is not examined nor tied to individual ballots unless required by a court.

It might be useful to consider such a system here in the states... although since 49 states (save West Virginia) have ballot secrecy and/or privacy written into their state laws and/or constitution, the case for a more limited notion of ballot secrecy would have to be highly compelling.

DRM can kill...

music, copyright, hacks, wtf?, secrecy, p2p, DRM, legal

Ed Felten has been doing a great job of tracking the unfoling Sony BMG DRM/rootkit fiasco... and there's now some evidence that this rootkit can seriously comprmise system security. Prof. Felten pointed out that the company has claimed that their product is safe:

No doubt they?ll ask us to just trust them. I wouldn?t. The companies still assert ? falsely ? that the original rootkit-like software ?does not compromise security? and ?[t]here should be no concern? about it.

However, it turns out that this rootkit can be used to completely cloak the presence of programs. For example, World of Warcraft hackers are already using it to make cheating programs completely undetectable.

(And I thought "fight fire with fire" was just the name of a song from when Metallica was cool.)

And, so it seems, you too can cloak the presence of files and data by adding $sys$ to the front of any file's name. In the World of Warcraft example, at least it's being used positively to escape the prying eyes of Blizzard Entertainment. However, I wonder how long it will take for a malicious virus or worm to take advantage of this. Predictions, anyone?

Prof. Felten's posts:

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