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Comment: Re:Original Research? (Score 1) 385

by takowl (#35673180) Attached to: Wikipedia Wants More Contributions From Academics

Thank-you for being patronising. I did not say that I waste hours every day editing Wikipedia.

In fact, 'outreach', telling the public about your field, is an increasingly important part of what academics are supposed to do. Sometimes that will mean arguing with uneducated people. The aim is to educate them, at least a little bit. And contributing to one of the world's most frequently read websites isn't really what I'd call "low impact".

As for defending content: in most fields, it's not that big a problem. How many 15 year olds care about the poisonous chemicals in tomato plants, or surface catalysis, or the particles of the standard model? Only a few fields (climate change, evolution, etc.) are likely to attract the sort of controversy that requires constant vigilance, and I'm sure there are enough people already guarding those against unwanted changes.

Comment: Re:Original Research? (Score 1) 385

by takowl (#35673046) Attached to: Wikipedia Wants More Contributions From Academics

I'm sorry if I offended you. But as a /. poster, you are certainly in the minority of academics. And I think this is more a cultural than a technical difference: younger people are so much more used to using the internet. An anecdotal example: my supervisor (who is only 40ish, and has made a simple website for the lab) wanted a chi-squared table today. So he stuck his head out of his office, and asked if we knew where his copy of a particular stats textbook was. Only when he couldn't find it did he think of doing what I'd have done straight away: put "chi squared table" into Google. I think my generation see the web as a much more important way to get information, so we'll care more about making that information right.

About the deletions or edits: on the articles I've edited, it's not a huge problem. If you write coherently, and remember to cite sources, it generally sticks (at least in my field; YMMV). The worst I usually see is a proliferation of "In language X, this species is called ...", which is distracting but not really destructive.

Comment: Re:If they want academics to dedicate... (Score 2) 385

by takowl (#35671910) Attached to: Wikipedia Wants More Contributions From Academics
This is a repeating theme in /. discussions of Wikipedia. But it doesn't fit with my experience. I've been editing for a few years now, and for the most part it's perfectly civil. I've had one or two arguments, but even those were fairly mild (no swearing or ALL CAPS). Admittedly I generally pick uncontroversial topics, but I think most topics in an encyclopaedia are quite uncontroversial. So why do other people's experiences differ? Is it just a few complaints getting amplified? Are the people who're complaining unwittingly being jerks themselves? Are technological articles more likely to get over-protective custodians?

Comment: Re:Original Research? (Score 1) 385

by takowl (#35671732) Attached to: Wikipedia Wants More Contributions From Academics

Academics can contribute plenty of general subject knowledge that isn't original research. And they're unlikely to want to contribute original research, because they'd rather get it published in a journal, where it counts for boosting their career. Once it's published there, it can be cited, so it's fair game for Wikipedia.

A much more plausible explanation is simply that academia moves slowly and ponderously, and won't really change to accommodate anything new until long after it's established in society at large. The generation that has grown up with the internet are still mostly undergrads and PhD students (like me). Come back in a decade or two, and I think there'll be a lot more experts contributing to Wikipedia.

Comment: Re:Another explanation (Score 1) 220

by takowl (#35646316) Attached to: Mobile Phone May Rot Your Bones

Yes, that would clearly be a better control. If you want to recruit people to carry around a mobile phone turned off for a year, please do so. Oh, and to do it properly, you should also make sure that the subject is not aware whether their phone is on or off.

Scientists have to work in the real world, and can't do every experiment to perfection. This isn't conclusive, but that doesn't mean it's wrong, or not worth publishing. Lots of science suggests something without proving it.

Comment: Re:Update from most transparent government in hist (Score 1) 369

by takowl (#35630162) Attached to: Using the Open Records Law To Intimidate Critics

The daily mail is probably the trashiest of British journalism: sensationalist, scaremongering, simplistic, and not above straightforward making stuff up. See also this song.

Rule 12 of the internet: citing the daily fail as your only source causes you to lose the argument.

Comment: Re:Republic, eh? (Score 2) 154

by takowl (#35392912) Attached to: Politics: Libyan Rebels Announce Creation of a Republic
Well, there's an important difference. An oil company would bribe dictators to let them make more money by extracting the country's resources. A non-profit organisation producing educational equipment takes their money and supplies educational equipment. I suppose it's possible that the dictator hands out the laptops only to his supporters, but it's hard to really see OLPC as somehow propping up a dictator.

Comment: Re:To hell with revenue (Score 1) 239

by takowl (#35391422) Attached to: What Would You Do With Open.org?
Well, they're pushing the software centre as the main one for users, so I think it will work well enough. Apart from the command line package managers, there's only synaptic, which is hidden away in system -> administration for advanced users. And although I count myself as a power user, I generally use the software centre if I just want to install some application.

Comment: Re:To hell with revenue (Score 1) 239

by takowl (#35352338) Attached to: What Would You Do With Open.org?

Well, in my applications menu, it's called "Ubuntu Software Centre". Technically, it's an an apt/packagekit GUI, separate from synaptic (which can still be found in the administration menu), which also uses some non-apt-standard bits (like ratings) on top. The Ubuntu repositories can still be accessed via standard apt without the extensions, of course.

I fail to see how this is in any way a problem.

Comment: Re:Solutions Database (Score 1) 239

by takowl (#35340594) Attached to: What Would You Do With Open.org?

There are already plenty of lists saying "MS Office -> Libreoffice" and "Photoshop -> GIMP" and so on. It tends to lead to people getting annoyed because they don't feel that the promoted replacement is as good as what they had before (whether or not they're right, they still feel that way).

Also, apart from geeks, people don't really care about openness in their software. If you can't program, the right to change the source code is meaningless. If you want to replace proprietary software, you do it by providing something people prefer. Like Firefox: only a few people choose it because it's open source; most have chosen it simply because it's better than IE. For something like an office suite, the job should be even easier if what you're offering is free (as in beer).

Comment: Re:Most by what metric? (Score 1) 364

by takowl (#35327242) Attached to: Considering the sum of all of my storage devices ...

Only if you count each cell's DNA separately. It's mostly just imperfect copies of the same data, though, and your genome is only about 750 MB (3 billion bases, 4 possibilities at each, so 2 bits per base). There's probably quite a bit more if you count all the bacteria living on and in you (not a comment on your personal hygeine - there are bacteria on everyone), but I'm not sure that counts as "available storage".

Your memory is a much more interesting question. How much do we remember? When you remember the scenery of a holiday last summer, what resolution and colour depth is that memory? How is the memory of a sound encoded?

This is an unauthorized cybernetic announcement.

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