Feb 20 2007
– the ever-awesome xkcd translates George Washington’s Farewell Address into the vernacular. I have to confess I’d never read the original; the modernized version is wonderful. I am absolutely in favor of this kind of modernization: for one thing, the content is informational (not primarily poetic), and modern language is a far better way of getting information across in modern times; for another, it will make people curious about the original, and will probably get more people (i.e., me) to slog through the 18th century curlicues. All texts considered “important” like this should be translated into as many variations of the vernacular as possible.
– I am consistently impressed with
– I was told to join Facebook so I did. I am approximately one million years behind the times. The last time I took a look at it (some time ago, at another university), it was only really big on the east coast; things seem to have expanded since then with nearly half my email contacts, both professional and not, having accounts. Partially this is because I know more people on the east coast now, and the people I know are better connected; but not entirely. I would like to superimpose geography against cyberspace and see how they match up. Facebook started at Harvard, and Livejournal started at the University of Washington. I’ve had an LJ account for years and years, ever since I first started going to UW, even though the circumstances of me joining had little to do with this; now Facebook, due in part to spending time hanging around Harvard, though again these things are not directly related. Funny how these things work. In truth I joined because lots of things at this school seem to be organized directly through Facebook; I am curious how this works and whether this community overlaps with the ones I already know. As I said, behind the times.
– This weekend a friend came up with a lovely idea: what about a child’s version of Wikipedia? We already have Simple English; but for the most part it is poorly written (and written for ESL learners), and there is confusion about its mission. There are no simple versions for other languages. Children’s encyclopedias are marvelous things: they break the text into smaller sections, use simpler language, and illustrate profusely. Even I have trouble with the text of some of Wikipedia’s longer or more complex articles; there is very little effort made in some fields to simplify abstract ideas. At any rate, a children’s encyclopedia, perhaps hosted separately with all languages together like WiktionaryZ, would be a fine idea. Because it’s Wikipedia, there’s no danger of dumbing down the articles too much; you can always just link back to the original, hopefully complete, article. All of this was brought up in the context of brainstorming about content for OLPC; the laptops are using a stripped and edited selection of Wikipedia articles in various languages, but since the audience is children and many of the articles are much too difficult, there’s talk of re-editing them (on the laptops) for kids. At any rate, ideas about OLPC content may be posted here.
– And now, to work. Today I am giving a quick presentation to my boss’s boss about wikis, in general. I’m explaining the technology and explaining why they might be useful. I actually love this kind of thing; I am not generally a fan of using technology for it’s own sake, and often in technological presentations there is very little contextual information, or people make up context (Second Life and libraries!) to help the technology seem more appealing. My rule is: when explaining things, either: a) accept coolness for its own sake, and see where it will take you; or b) explain how it will specifically help you with concrete problems. I don’t see a) happening in this library anytime soon, so b) it is!
I may have to work on my big list of Things Not To Do When Giving Educational Presentations, adding this to the list. I had some idea once of working on a wikibook about how to give a presentation/poster; it’s still something I’d like to do, though I am no great expert on the subject. After the last conference I found someone who was interested in working on a similar project, though; maybe we can get something started soon.
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