Friday, December 14, 2007

Taser party!

By women, for women, modeled after Tupperware parties.
She has had parties in Phoenix and Scottsdale by invitation. Guests have the opportunity to shoot the Taser for the first time at a cardboard cutout during the parties. For safety reasons, no alcohol is served and no one is actually Tasered.
Tasers: The Tupperware of 2007 | Danger Room from

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Online word processor roundup


Write Here, Write Now, Write Anywhere: 13 Free Web-Based Word Processors -

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Collaborating on writing projects

Early this year I put together a presentation for the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs about collaboratively writing reports. Writing teachers -- and, I think, many in other fields -- tend to assign group projects without offering any guidance on how to plan, coordinate, or collaborate on them. No wonder students hate them. My presentation describes two complementary ways to deal with this issue:
  • planning the project strategically
  • using collaboration software
I've used this in my writing classes as well, and the results have been generally positive. What do you think? Leave feedback in the comments section.

Facebook more cluttered than MySpace

MySpace always seems to be designed like the Sunday Wal-Mart circular. But thanks to the proliferation of third-party apps, one user says, Facebook is now worse.

Ladies And Gentleman, I Present To You: Facebook Hell at franticindustries - web 2.0, social networking, IT technology trends.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Battle of the Book

Via Ann Althouse: The New Republic's editors have written a poor defense of traditional books, an unthinkingly conservative argument that confuses a particular medium with great literature -- and great literature with worthwhile reading. I have no brief against books, but TNR's argument amounts to hand-waving generalities underpinned by warrants that are generally indefensible.

In Althouse's comments:
A good comeback is "How can you call it reading if it's not carved on a clay tablet or a written with a feather on a papyrus scroll?"

The Battle of the Book

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gun plus person plus God

The recent story of an averted massacre at New Life Church in Colorado Springs made me think of Latour's famous discussion of guns in Pandora's Hope. Latour examined the dueling arguments that have often framed the left-right debate on gun control:
  • "Guns kill people"
  • "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
Neither frame is satisfactory, he says, because they locate agency entirely in a human or a nonhuman. Instead, he argues, we have to think in terms of a hybrid: gun plus person. The gun can't fire itself; the person can't kill as readily by herself; put the two together and you have a complex or assemblage that acts in a way that the individual components don't.

Latour's formulation gets interestingly complicated by the story of the volunteer guard, a former police officer who responded to the gunman -- who had over a thousand rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle -- and faced him down with a handgun. She credits the Holy Spirit for keeping her hands steady.
"I was praying to God that he direct me" in what to do in life, Assam said. "God made me strong."
Gun plus person plus God? You don't have to believe in God to think that this is an interesting phenomenon. Did the guard's faith in God cause her to act differently from how she would have acted without it? Clearly. What else gets folded into such assemblages?

Security Guard: 'God Guided Me And Protected Me' - Denver News Story - KMGH Denver

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Basecamp inside out

RivalMap is like Basecamp, but instead of managing your own projects, you monitor those of your competitors. Brilliant -- another step toward total information awareness for a given project.

Scheme to Destroy Your Competition with RivalMap

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Learning our ABCs

I'll be speaking to the Austin STC on January 8. Trip on by if you're in the area. Newsletter: January Chapter Meeting and Program

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Forget the phone ring, get a phone bracelet

A Bluetooth-enabled bracelet that vibrates when your phone rings. Thirty pounds (about $60). I could use one of these.

Net PC Direct - Bluetooth vibrating Bracelet

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Saving lives with checklists

I've been fascinated with checklists, which appear constantly in my studies of office workers. This useful genre has spread out into various facets of literate work, along with close cousins such as the stack of papers, and serves to regulate work sequence. Now it's being picked up in medicine:
If a new drug were as effective at saving lives as Peter Pronovost’s checklist, there would be a nationwide marketing campaign urging doctors to use it.
My flagger sent me this New Yorker article, which is longish but fascinating. Technical communicators really should get involved in helping to developing and studying these checklists -- and grabbing some of the grant money involved.
Annals of Medicine: The Checklist: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

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Comfort your baby with disembodied hands

Via my flagger, pillows in the shape of human hands:
If you’ve ever wished for a “hand” to leave behind so that your baby would feel as if you’ve never left the room, your prayers have been answered with the Zaky.

The Zaky is an ergonomic infant pillow designed by a mom to mimic the size, weight, touch, and feel of her hand and forearm to help her baby with comfort, support, protection, and development. The Zaky can help calm your baby and help your baby sleep better through the night.
Yes, that should help your baby sleep, up until the point that she wakes to find that she has been comforted by the disembodied hands that you have left behind.
Zaky Infant Pillow – Simulates a Mother’s Hand

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Dutch Student Protests organized via instant messaging, text messaging

The WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, known as the "Battle for Seattle," is a fairly famous case for those who examine networks and netwar. In that case, protesters coordinated on the fly via mobile phones, a tactic that had not been seen before on that scale.

Now, Dutch student protests are being coordinated via instant messaging and text messaging.

Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Dutch Student Protests organized via instant messaging (2)

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Mobile versions of sites

Yesterday, I noticed two mobile versions of websites I frequently visit on my mobile phone.
  • MySpace's new mobile interface looks really good -- much better than the previous effort. It compartmentalizes the overwhelming amount of information you get on MySpace, although perhaps a bit too much. I'm still trying to decide whether I like this better than the much more expanded Facebook mobile interface.
  • The Drudge report also has a mobile version at <>. All text, just headlines. Much easier to browse.

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Microsoft's answer to GDocs, Zoho, et al.

Doesn't sound good.

Office Live Workspace (Beta) Finally Goes Live. Still Needs Work.

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Doris Lessing: The internet is making you dumb

TechCrunch rips into Lessing's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in which she points the finger at computers to help explain the fragmentation in our culture:
Whilst Lessing’s words should be taken somewhat in context: the ditherings of an ignorant old woman, Keensian (as in Andrew Keen) anti-internet speeches grow as the cultural elite in society continue to have their previous (often born-in-to) positions eroded. The likes of Andrew Keen and Doris Lessing ignore the many benefits the internet has provided in expanding access to knowledge to many, many more people than who may otherwise have had no access before. Whilst it may be easy to mock the utterances of hundreds of millions of bloggers and social networking site users, the 21st century will be remembered as the time that communication was democratized, a time where the power of a few was replaced by the power of many. Let them eat their elitist intellectual cake, because the world is changing for the better, and there is nothing they can do to stop this.
I'll just point out that the computer is way, way behind the automobile in terms of fragmenting culture.
Nobel Laureate Says The Internet Makes Us Dumb, We Say: Meh

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LinkedIn to get new API, homepage, tailored news aggregator

LinkedIn, the business networking site whose individual profiles look just like resumes, has been in the news here and there recently -- often not in a way that inspires confidence. Some have been suggesting that Facebook's new and upcoming features make LinkedIn redundant; others have floated rumors (apparently untrue) that it would be acquired by NewsCorp.

Now it emerges that LinkedIn is going to be upgraded with features such as an API a la Facebook, so third-party developers will be able to write LinkedIn apps the way they write Facebook apps. A new homepage will go live this Monday, which includes on-site messaging, network updates (that is, a news feed displaying your contacts' activities) and a news aggregator. The news aggregator will automatically pull news items of professional interest to each member.

These features seem like good adaptations of the sorts of things we're seeing on Facebook, MySpace, and elsewhere, and the aggregator in particular sounds interesting. Good news for LinkedIn, and for consumers.

LinkedIn API and New Homepage Drawing Near

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