May 2005


My brother is finishing up his Masters of Fine Arts at SUNY Buffalo, and just recently debuted his main dissertation project: a 20-minute experimental film about Eadweard Muybridge called tesseract (downloadable here).

Even to my relatively untrained eye it’s a beautiful piece (it just won the award for Best Photography at the Jutro Filmu international film festival in Warsaw), but the part that’s most interesting to me is how he’s applying ideas from Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics to film. Take a look and see for yourself.

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Interesting information flow-control models

I’ve run into a few interesting models for information flow-control in the past months:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education gives paid subscribers full access to their archives and lets them email / blog links to those articles which expire after five days. That gives them the advantage of word-of-mouth draw to their articles while still limiting the number of people who feel compelled to cut-and-paste repost their articles on their own sites.
  • The online museum site lets you follow any link from an external website into their site (for example, this one) but any link you type directly into your browser, follow from email or click from their own site redirects you to a “you must become a member” page. (They also open their site to non-members every Friday.) They’re just redirecting any request that either has no referral header or that has as the referrer.
  • I should also mention how the New York Times allows blogs to create non-expiring links to Times articles (that is, they don’t become subscriber-only or pay-per-view after a week). Unfortunately, the link generator over at BlogSpace is down at the moment (as is the rest of BlogSpace), so I can’t show an example…

All three cases are creating two classes of info-users: people who can disseminate their information (paid subscribers, plus people who read the Times when it’s still fresh) and consumers who can read what the first class of people point to but can’t go further without paying. While it’s a little Tom Sawyerish to essentially force people to pay to drive potential new subscribers to your site, I can see the basic model working if the balance is gotten right and fit the content well. At the very least, it’s nice to see models that are more subtle than the all-free / ad-based / subscriber-based triple that’s so common today.

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Concerned about the influence Google‘s PageRank algorithm has in determining what information people see? Think that ranking pages by how many people link to them isn’t objective so much as automated mob rule? Want a search engine for people who don’t want to just follow the herd, or just want to see the dominant paradigm get a little more subverted?

If so, then you’ll be interested in Shmoogle, the Google-randomizer developed by Tsila Hassine. Shmoogle forwards your query on to Google and then randomizes the results, presenting them in the same no-nonsense interface you’d expect from Google along with the original rank of each result. Shmoogle is more of an art project than a practical alternative to Google, designed to encourage us to question whether “everyone else thinks this is good, so you should too” is really the best assumption upon which to base the library of first resort. Random order is at least diversifying, but to me it seems so arbitrary — and has me thinking of all sorts of alternatives:

  • Dictoogle: rank sites in the order the elite think you should see.
  • Diversoogle: give higher rank to those that have the fewest incoming links, in an effort to increase diversity and raise up websites less fortunate than the more popular ones.
  • Novegle: give higher rank to sites that you’ve never seen before, in the interest of keeping up with the now. (I was sure I found it using this query just yesterday!)
  • Capitoogle: give higher rank to those who pay for it (we’ve got this one already).
  • Confugle: Instead of giving results directly related to your search, give results that are only metaphorically related. Include a Wiki for users to write their best guess as to why a page was included. (Actually, this one is probably already commonplace as well…)
  • Voyeugle: See the results from the previous person’s query instead of your own.

If you can think of more variations feel free to comment…

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Court shoots down Broadcast Flag

As is being reported all over the net, the U.S. Court of Appeals just ruled that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to force all manufacturers of video hardware (televisions, computers, video recorders, etc.) to disables the ability to make copies of shows where copying doesn’t fit the broadcaster’s business model.

As Declan McCullagh at C|net points out in more diplomatic terms, now the MPAA will actually have to lobby congress to extend their government-enforced monopoly rather than force it through the less-accountable FCC.

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