Dec 11, 2007

Life for life: a wasted effort

Wasting one's time is bad. Wasting's public money is worse. How often do we see that? Yes, a rhetorical question. Here's one of the most recent examples, this time, from Poland.

Polish Ministry of Culture and the Institute of National Remembrance have sponsored a new documentary. "A Life for a Life" (Polish: "Życie za życie"), is a 33-minute film that recounts the heroic efforts of Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust premiered Wednesday; efforts that often ended in death (Poland was the only country where helping Jews was punishable by death). Notably, more Poles than any other nationality have been honored by the Yad Vashem institution in Israel as "Righteous Among the Nations" for rescuing Jews.

Such documentary is certainly a commendable action. Yet... there are no immediate plans to show the film abroad, reports the press. Ummm... so what's the point of making the documentary? To show it in Poland, where most people are quite aware of those facts?

Of course, I hear you say, we live in the age of the Internet. Those who want should be able to download the film from the dedicated website or buy a DVD. Right?

Perhaps if the documentary makers lived in the 21st century. There are no plans to distribute the film online. There are no plans to sell DVDs. There are no plans to show the film anywhere in Poland (at least, no such plans were annouced on the documentary website as of today).

It's a shame Polish taxpayers have to waste their money on such obsolete thinking; if it was made available online - even on youtube - and popularized by bloggers - it could have achieved something. With no extra cost to the makers or the current sponsors. As it is, it is a wasted effort.

I wonder who is at fault. Some government bureaucrat? The producers? Did they not even think of the possibility of free online distribution and reaching millions? Or are they constrained by some idiotic copyright issues? Either way, whatever effort and money went into making this documentary, it's unlikely to be seen by more than few hundred people in Poland (at best), and it certainly will not be remembered by anybody. A footnote in the Polish documentaries, and an item on the CV of people involved in its production. Yes, that's how we want our governments to spend money, right?

Here's hoping somebody will pirate the movie online. This way it may, just may, do some good.


Nov 28, 2007

P-blogs revisited once again

Back in 2004, and later in 2005 I wrote why politicians should be blogging.

Indeed, the number of people - and politicians - blogging has been increasing. A month after I blogged about it a second time, Wikipedia got an entry on "political blog" - and not by me (although it would be too much expect that I've coined that term, I am proud to have foreseen that).

Blogs are becoming a force that can 'make or break' people. Consider Dean US presidential campaign, or various politicians that have resigned after blogosphere shined light onto some of their more shady activities. I am sure there are and will be more politicians podcasting and videocasting, too. But the most important thing on the Web 2.0 is the 'human to human' interaction - or in that case, 'human to politician' (pun partially intended).

On Web 2.0 people consider themselves more equal and deserving a reply. A politician that will reply to his blog comments, that will show he is ready to discuss issues with his constituents 24/7, will surely be more popular than his more traditional counterpart (let's not forget the generational change, too - this simply will be expected and normal for the future generations).

Consider, now, how this can impact political decision making. The representatives will be brought closer to the electorate; some may even start polling the readers of their blog on what they should do.

Perhaps we will even see a form of direct democracy with representatives reduced to little more than voicing the demands of their blog readers.

Likely it will not happen exactly like this. But one way or another, Web 2.0 will change quite a few things. And our politics will surely be no exception.

Sep 23, 2007

Real voice of the Prokonsul

I got interviewed by Wikipedia Weekly!

Among other things, I blabbered about: Is there a cabal? Are Polish Wikipedians different? Is Wikipedia facing a crisis? How to encouraging civility and cooperation? How to use WP in the classroom to benefit both the student and the project?


Aug 28, 2007

WikiScanner: more good stuff to come?

WikiScanner seems to be the hot wikitopic of the month (read more: Wikipedia Signpost, Wired).

Instead of repeating the things that others have wrote about already, I'd just post you to a slightly more hidden but quite interesting link: this Wired article is a gateway to their "report an edit and sort them by most popular/new/etc."

My personal favorite: NSA removes link to ECHELON

That said, this is all a tip of iceberg. It is still not that easy to just specify an organization and see what it has done. And the concentration on US government and corporations, while not suprising, is probably missing over the "really interesting" stuff. I am waiting to find out what edits have come from such interesting entities as State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, Ministry of State Security or Gazprom...

Unfortunatly, the IP ranges of those organizations are not well known. Or are they...?

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Aug 3, 2007

The conversion of Kniaz Jarema

Translation of Kniazia Jaremy nawrócenie (song by Jacek Kaczmarski, translation by yours truly).

Tremble in fear Cossack masses,
horsers rear high,
Knyaz Jarema is converting,
Discarding Orthodox faith.
Storm is coming, hearts are uneasy,
Peasants - bearded priests and icons,
And him - Lord King of Rus,
Duchy bringing to the Crown.

Twenty years his soul slept,
Till he saw Rome's cross' light,
Knyaz Jarema, Knyaz Jarema,
His children will fear his wrath.

Louldy plead Ruthenian folk:
- Look into your soul, lord,
Cause you give up all for nothing!
And forsake us with your politics!
Their pleas powerless,
Knyaz prayed all night,
- Who loves me - will go with me
Or I will see him on stake!

Twenty years his soul slept,
Till he saw Rome's cross' light,
Knyaz Jarema, Knyaz Jarema,
Blood of Rus' he offers to God.

- You will not reach through piety,
Royal antechambers,
Firestorm will grip Zaporizhia,
Your inheritance will burn!
- Before the inheritance is my homeland,
Before my homeland is salvation,
For Christ's wounds,
Let the generations burn!

Twenty years his soul slept,
Till he saw Rome's cross' light,
Knyaz Jarema, Knyaz Jarema,
He inflamed the souls of many.

- Blood for you, not the offices,
Hate, not love, for prince of Rus',
We are for Rzeczpospolita,
Like nails to be shortened!
- If he shortens, he will be burnt,
For I will block with my cross,
The Coroniers will yet see,
Wisniowieccy's on their throne.

For hearts content the topic,
Lies in the crypt under glass,
Knyaz Jarema, Knyaz Jarema,
Father of children put on stake,
Knyaz Jarema, Knyaz Jarema,
Neophite, as politician.

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May 10, 2007

Wikis and Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool

I've just learned that my article was published by International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. In January, but let's skip this miscommunication technicality - instead, this little delay allows me to review what, if any, impact my work has had.

First, IJoITaDL makes it very easy for others to read its contents. Being open access journal, it belongs to the still rare but growing faction in the academic community, which argues that making academic works available online free of charge to anyone, thus being true to the science mission of educating the public and spreading knowledge is actually a good idea. Such approach is still being opposed by the "tradional" faction, which prefers restricting access to academic works from "unwashed masses" beyond "pay-per-acccess" traditional databases, which until recently did a splendid job of ensuring that unless you are an employee or student at a rich Western university, or go through slow and cumbersome interlibrary loan (again not available in most non-Western countries), you will have to pay few dozen $ for the privilige of reading anything but an abstract. Guess where my sympathies are :)

Therefore I was nicely - but not very - suprised when the editor of the journal told me today that my article has received 2320 page and an even larger number of downloads as part of the entire January issue :) A brief web search on my article led to some interesting findings:
* Google Scholar doesn't see it? :(
* it is mentioned in blog comments and such - so indeed somebody reads it :)
* somebody thinks its "somewhat scholarly" :)
* somebody discusses it in Finnish :)
* it was mentioned in British Council and various databases

I couldn't find any more in-depth reviews or references, but it's a nice start :)

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Apr 5, 2007

Hilarious reminder

Few months ago I posted 2 photos from Wikimania which had me in it. Now I found a third :)

This is a group of Wikipedians making fun of the semi-serious hate site, Wikitruth.

What's not so fun is that some find the above photo controversial and demanded - and succeeded - in censoring it out from Wikipedia itself...

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Mar 19, 2007

Wales on copyright

Doing some research, I spotted an interesting quote by Jimbo Wales: I am not a thief - I'm the founder of Wikipedia, but bad law treats me like a teen music pirate. The quote comes from Newsweek International (2005-11-28 : 71) - and to much of my suprise, it was not picked up and reffered to anywhere online. With a little effort, I tracked the article - unfortunatly Newsweek's articles are not free. The article can be accessed by subscribers of Newsweek, BL Direct, and Expanded Academic ASAP (via InfoTrac) (sorry, no direct link I could find). The article may be over 2 years old, but what Wales notes is even more applicable today, as the struggle of free culture continoues. Here are a few interesting excerpts from the article:

bad copyright laws are increasingly affecting a much more important group of cultural producers"

*"we [Wikipedians] are forced to become copyright experts, because so much of our cultural heritage is being threatened by absurd limits on fair use of information in the public domain. I get two to three threatening lawyergrams each week; one I just received from a famous London museum begins, typically, "We notice you have a number of images on your website which are of portraits in the collection of [our museum]... Unauthorized reproduction of such content may be an infringement..." I now respond with a two-part letter. First, I patiently and tediously explain that museums do not and cannot own the copyrights to paintings that have been in the public domain for hundreds of years. And then I simply say: "You should be ashamed of yourselves." Museums exist to educate the public about our shared cultural heritage. The abuse of copyright to corner that heritage is a moral crime. "

*"The excuse normally given, that producing digital reproductions is costly and time-consuming, and museums need to be able to recoup that cost, is entirely bogus. Just give us permission, and Wikipedians will go to any museum in the world immediately to make high-quality digital images of any artwork. The solution to preserving our heritage and communicating it in a digital form is not to lock it up, but to get out of our way."

*"This issue, public-domain artworks, is about an abuse of existing law. But the law itself is also a problem. Copyrights have been repeatedly extended to absurd lengths for all kinds of works, whether the author aims to protect them or not. Even works that have no economic value are locked away under copyright, preventing Wikipedians from rewriting and updating them."

*"We have the people to do it. We have the technology to do it. And we will do it, bad law or no. But good law, law that recognizes a new paradigm of collaborative creativity, will make our job a lot easier. Copyright reform is not about kids' stealing music. It is about recognizing the astounding possibilities inherent in the honest and intelligent use of new technologies."

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Voice of the Prokonsul by Piotr Konieczny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.