Monthly Archives: December 2004

A Reading Diary

Looks like Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary must go onto my reading list. The Washington Post previews part of chapter one.

A couple of years ago, after my fifty-third birthday, I decided to
reread a few of my favorite old books, and I was struck, once again, by
how their many-layered and complex worlds of the past seemed to reflect
the dismal chaos of the world I was living in. A passage in a novel
would suddenly illuminate an article in the daily paper; a
half-forgotten episode would be recalled by a certain scene; a single
word would prompt a long reflection. I decided to keep a record of
these moments. It occurred to me then that, rereading a book a
month, I might complete, in a year, something between a personal diary
and a commonplace book: a volume of notes, reflections, impressions of
travel, sketches of friends, of events public and private, all elicited
by my reading. I made a list of what the chosen books would be. It
seemed important, for balance, that there be a little of everything.

Pop Matters’ review of the book makes it sound like a blog.

Do not anticipate, picking up this book, being guided through the chapters by an obvious, linear argument. The format is, after all, a diary, and as such it ambles between memories of Manguel’s childhood, tales of his current travels, short tangential yarns and quotations, all either loosely or directly tied to the titles being examined.

Faster News Cycles

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz will host an online discussion on how the explosion in media outlets continues to speed our news cycles. The discussion will be on Monday, December 20, at noon (EST).

Open Access Medical Research

Amanda Schaffer of Slate writes about the  Public Library of Science, "an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting open access" to medical research.

To the consternation of journal publishers—many of them not-for-profit
associations that rely heavily on journal subscription fees for their
revenue—the National Institutes of Health has thrown its considerable
weight behind the notion of free access to biomedical research. In
September, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni proposed that all NIH-funded
scientists provide full-text copies of their research papers to PubMed Central,
an online government archive, once these papers have been accepted (and
thus vetted) by peer-reviewed journals; PubMed Central would then post
the work, citing both the author and the journal where it first
appeared, six months after publication. (The original plan called for
immediate access but was mitigated in response to publishers’ outcry.)
The initiative is expected to cost roughly $2 million to $4 million per
year, a small fraction of the NIH’s total budget. As the NIH considers
final guidelines, a vitriolic debate has erupted in the scientific
community: How best to balance the needs of journal publishers against
those of scientists, students, and members of the general public who
would benefit from unfettered access?

Timothy Noah, also writing for Slate, celebrates for "discovering" Amazon’s customer service number.

Super Phone, Phone Home

Om Malik notes rumors of an Apple / Motorola project to develop an "iPhone." Jeff Nolan asks, "when will I be able to untether the phone number from
the device without going through the inconvenience of taking the SIM
chip out?" Until they develop Jeff’s ideal phone, maybe one strategy to consider is Paul Boutin’s suggestion in Slate to "Ditch your Treo for a dirt-cheap Nokia [6600]."

So, why am I telling you to rush out and get a cheap,
ugly phone? Because the Nokia 6600 lets you add the cool features you
want without paying for the ones you don’t care about. For the price of
a calling plan, you’ll start with plenty of gadgetry you’d think they
would have saved for the glitzy, high-end models. There’s a
speakerphone, voice dialing, an audio recorder, a serviceable
640-by-480 pixel camera, a (silent) video recorder, RealPlayer for
playing back audio and video clips, an infrared port, and a flash
memory slot that comes loaded with a 32-megabyte card. Most important,
the 6600 comes with Bluetooth and the Symbian operating system with
Series 60, the same robust, reliable platform that’s installed on
high-end Nokias and the $600 Siemens SX1. […] The combination of
Series 60 and Bluetooth allows you to add pretty much any peripheral
device you can imagine.

Best VC Blogs?

Ed Sim of BeyondVC notes that Fast Company is polling readers on the "Best VC Blogs." Ed also mentions his personal favorites, Jeff Nolan, Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, Steve Hall, Steve Brotman, and Ventureblog.

Washington Square Review Benefit

Laila Lalami of Moorish Girl tells us that Washington Square Review is holding a benefit on December 17.

Pushing for Virgina Research Institution

The Washington Post profiles Eugene Huang, "one of the youngest state Cabinet secretaries in the nation." Huang is Virginia’s secretary of technology.

Yes, he says, he would rather be running or researching than negotiating with state legislators and preaching the virtues of Virginia’s technology community. But he says he also has a sense of how technology has changed his generation, and of what Virginia can do to better compete in a high-tech world. Huang is embarking on a finite opportunity: Because Virginia has a one-term governorship, Huang has 15 months to make his mark on the job, and the state.

He was also covered in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

‘You Google, But Do You Skype?’

USA Today asks, "You Google, but do you Skype?" The article comments on Google’s e-library project, tossing in the cliche that "it’s not so easy or as enjoyable to curl up in front of a fireplace with a 17-inch computer screen." (By the way, in case you didn’t know, that is not necessarily true, although maybe curling up with a PDA is a touch better.) The more interesting tidbit is that Blockbuster is getting rid of late fees.

Abolishing the fees is a great customer-relations gesture, but it’s
also born of competitive necessity. The industry is losing business to
retailers selling discount DVDs and mail-order companies such as
Netflix.

Finally, the newspaper puts in a good word for VOIP company Skype, whose service I use to keep in touch with my relatives overseas. (I saw a map recently that showed that Taiwan is second only to the United States in number of Skype users.)

Forbes on Wikis

In another sign of the mainstreaming of wikis, Forbes profiles them in its article "Extreme Blogging."

So [Jimmy] Wales has recently started two for-profit
wiki companies. The first, Wikicities, lets users develop collaborative
communities around cities, schools or other interests, such as sports
teams, celebrities, etc. This is similar to Yahoo Groups (formerly
Geocities), MSN Groups and the new Google Groups. Like Yahoo’s Groups,
Wikicities’ revenue model is purely ad-based.

Wales’ other profit-seeking venture is Wikia, a wiki that works much like the Open Directory Project
or Yahoo’s directory categories. These operations aim to classify most
of the Web sites on the Internet and to steer you to them through
hierarchical categories. With Wikia, which is also advertising
supported, the organization and description of sites on the Web are
created by users. Everything can be edited except, of course, the ads.

The other big potential market for wikis is
enterprise or small company collaboration. If you’ve ever volleyed
attachments back and forth among officemates, you know that e-mail
isn’t the ideal collaboration tool. Wikis let businesses work with and
from the same set of information and the same set of files. This is
much like Web-based corporate intranets, only a lot more interactive.

Dublin Media Lab Faces Funding Woes

The Boston Globe is reporting that MIT’s Media Lab Europe, based in Dublin, is facing a funding crunch.