Author Archives: karan

Subscribing to Wikipedia

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge. — Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

When you think about how many sites around the web are entirely powered off the back of advertising rather than direct money, it’s kind of astonishing something as frequently and widely used as Wikipedia runs without any advertising and serves up dynamic pages as quickly as you can imagine. There’s media and text and an ever-growing reference and resource that has proven invaluable over the years.

Think about how many times a day you use Wikipedia – whether it is because you’re a student and it’s the world’s best secondary source, or whether you want to check up a fact, or whether you’ve just gone to look up one thing and found yourself taking a wiki-walk to discover all manner of trivia. I know I look it up at least 2-3 times a day, often more.

Wikipedia from time to time runs fund-raising drives to try to pay for the upkeep of servers and suchlike, and presumably they’ve been raising enough whether directly or indirectly to keep the show running. I’ve contributed every so often over the last three years, recognising its role in the internet, but what has recently been brought to my attention is that Wikipedia offers an option to have a monthly payment.

“Subscription” was the first word that came to mind, in the magazine sense, or in the sense used these days for software offered on a timed basis, something increasingly common as a way to keep a revenue stream.

However, for Wikipedia, it’s almost more sensible to call it being a patron – in the old school, patron-of-the-arts style, enabling the people behind Wikipedia to do what they need to. I’m telling you all this to try to sell you the idea of paying for Wikipedia – it’s a resource we don’t want to see fail, the most visited site on the internet, all running for free and all built off the contributions of the visitors.

I’m a patron of Wikipedia, all for the miserly sum of $5 a month. You can be one too from as little as $3 – just head over here and sign up to support the best volunteer project in the world.

(And even if I haven’t sold you on being a regular contributor, I should’ve guilted you into throwing a little bit of money Wikipedia’s way, to make up for all those assignments it helped you pass, after all.)

Link

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) asks: what is behind ISIS?

The ISIS story doesn’t pass my B.S. filter because it violates common sense that such a competent fighting force could suddenly emerge and bitch-slap professionally trained (or even poorly trained) military forces with such consistency. I have worked in large organizations and I know that the logistics involved – the planning, training, and resupplying are huge challenges even for organized armies. Did ISIS really figure out all of that while their communications are presumably monitored by the enemy?

Well if that ain’t just some delicious conspiracy. It’s one of those “that’s crazy, but… it might just work.”

Robin Williams, Vale

Walking into work yesterday, I decide to open Twitter to check for news before I get in, and I see a line I never wanted to see – Robin Williams, RIP. No, no, no, no, no, no, this has to be a hoax, surely? But I get to my desk and check, there’s multiple sources confirming, and it can’t be denied.

Immediately I think of Dead Poets Society, of how that was the first movie I was conscious of crying in. I watched it in a dark room for English class, attempting to study the movie, but it was far too easy to get caught up in the content, mirroring the real world, an English teacher leading his class of boys to greater understanding. Our teacher knew well enough the impact, and was more than happy to watch it again to actually look at the content.

Then I thought of all those others, the movies throughout my childhood that I totally loved – Aladdin, Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Hook, Flubber, Jack. Growing a little older, Good Will Hunting, Bicentennial Man, What Dreams May Come… and I knew there was no way I wasn’t a Robin Williams fan. I’d watched almost all of his movies, and all of his standup I remember a few years ago he came to Sydney for a single night at the Entertainment Centre, big enough to seat hundreds; I got the best seats I could, on the floor about 12 rows back. Most of the material I’d seen before, but I still left with my stomach hurting from laughter and a smile I couldn’t wipe off my face. It wasn’t close enough by far.

Celebrity deaths don’t get to me, with possibly the only exception being Michael Jackson 5 years ago, but this one struck, hard. I’m not sure I’m over it a day later. Watching Mrs Doubtfire last night was bittersweet, more than the movie is, because just seeing that performance made it hit that much harder. Here was a man who could make anything funny, who could riff off the smallest things – his outtakes in The Crazy Ones were full of infectious throw-away lines, and I was glad to have seen that show even if it had been cancelled.

Farewell, Mr. Williams, you were the clown that made everyone laugh whenever we needed it.

Count to ten

Where conspiracy theories cross poor interface design:

This was the “bad old days” of computers and the only way to reset her station was from my central console. On this day, I highlighted her workstation and hit the F6 key to reset.  But my screen went temporarily black and then seemed to be starting again.  I realized that I had mistakenly hit F7 and reset all the workstations in the embassy.   This realization didn’t bother me much, because no one except the Agriculture section secretary was usually on the computer system this early in the morning.

It was only weeks later that I began to comprehend the effects of this single keystroke mistake.

F6, restart one workstation, F7, restart all, and the implications multiply. This is a perfect butterfly effect example.

Dunkin’

This … 14 year old? How old is a freshman? Anyway, this kid in high school who is only 6’2″ has the most insane hops I’ve ever seen – and the kid can dunk: