The Failure of Collective Intelligence

Wikipedia Logo Full SizeI was talking to an associate tonight and we had cause to have a look at the entry for “Podcast” in Wikipedia. My discovery was the bastardized remnants of what was once a very good article.

Not only does the entry now have a warning plastered at the top as to the fact that there may be spam associated with outgoing links. The information in the entry is now totally inaccurate and boarders on heresy. Take this example:

The term “podcast” is derived from Apple’s portable music player, the iPod.

This is total rubbish. In fact this is the exact assumption made by the community at large that we as podcasters are constantly trying to change. More often than not once someone has an idea as to what podcasts are their next question is “Do I need an iPod?”.

The term “Podcast” or “Podcasting” was in fact first coined on the 12th of Feburary 2004 by Ben Hammersley in an article for “The Gardian Newspaper”:

“…all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

– Guardian Unlimited [Emphasis added to quote]

This is but one example of numerous inaccuracies that have occurred over a very short period of time to this entry. Right now someone could include that a podcast is a nocturnal rabbit and it would not damage the article. So corrupted is the information that it is good for nothing. Not only that but a cursory look at associated pages and entries reveal further inaccurate and spam laden dross.

Just when I thought that Wikipedia was starting to gain some respect. This is a demonstration of why it is possible that it will never be fully trusted or respected at any level. I am certainly going to use a lot more caution when using Wikipedia as a source of information or reference, on any subject. Until this article and associated items are cleaned up I would discount the whole article as crap.

This brings into question the whole Wikipedia model in that there is wisdom in crowds. However, this proves that there are indeed flaws to making the assumption that collective intelligence is superior. Clearly people other than experts in this field or at least those that have made some sort of research attempt have edited these entries. This has been done more than once compounding the already inaccurate data. This has occurred much quicker than those qualified to do so. The result is an article that is hobbled by rubbish and dosed with spam for good measure.

At this present time on face value the whole article needs to be rewritten and reviewed and then locked down. I have witnessed the failure of collective intelligence.

Advertisements

3D RSS and Websites: Not as Far Away as You Think

I remember as a kid seeing mock ups of this type of thing in films and TV. If you were to ask me back then if I thought it could ever be true I might have smiled. To my surprise today I have seen the exact thing that I thought would always be science fiction and it was not only fun but made me think of the possibilities.

The page created in 3D is the frontpage of Digg, Technology. Really it is a proof on concept. But in reality it could become mainstream. Sure it is not going to happen tomorrow. Nor is it going to happen with the technology that is the most popular at the moment (think mouse). But I could see it happening if things like eye tracking navigation ever take off. Being able to “explore” an RSS feed in this manner would be totally amazing. Mark an article read with a double blink… maybe. Combined with VR Headsets… Okay I am getting ahead of myself here. But you get the drift.

The thing that I could see happening and sooner, is further uptake and use of 3D controlers. They currently market these devices at the Google Earth hardcore user. But using the device to explore 3D RSS feeds or websites would be ideal and totally within the possibilities of today’s technology. I can see that this is where some of the market will direct their attention. However, it is a niche market in that it does not appeal to everyone, exciting at any rate regardless of the market.

I would imagine that exploring your data and things like RSS feeds in this way would involve a whole new level of thinking. I am not sure if that would be difficult or more intuitive. That would depend on what kind of helps were “built-in” to it. Notice the X and Y axis dots on this site? They are helps for finding your way. But in my mind I can see tags, clusters, sign posts and teleporting for linking content. Wow. Now this concept site takes on a whole new meaning!

So take a look at the page created by Michael Battle that has been expertly crafted and based on flash. A bit of science fiction (no-more) fun. I have had a think about where this might go and it really is exciting. Let your imagination go wild and think about what you would like to see. Because I thought I would never see it happen when I was young. Now I think anything is possible, so you might see something in 20 years that you thought you would never see as well.

Digg in 3D Screenshot

Nine News Video Podcast

I am enjoying iTunes and I have subscribed to a fair few podcasts and got all my feeds organised. Since I have had the iPod I have been utilizing the video capability a lot more and I have been liking it. I have small children and when the news is on we are sorting the kids out and I miss it all the time. So the answer is that Channel Nine actually both podcast audio and video the news week days. I am subscribed!

The news is an abridged version of the headlines which is all that I want. The video version in my opinion is better because the audio version is based on the video so you get the audio version only with that one, not so good. I had been subscribed to the video podcast about a week ago and it suddenly stopped. No explanation given. It turned up again today. So we have a professional television network doing a video podcast which if you want the content is great, but I have one major criticism.

You would think that the basics are all covered with this video podcast. Professional video equipment, yeah the video is excellent. Professional studio, yeah the audio is great. It is a shame given the professional set up they have they can not synchronize both the audio and the video! About five to eight minutes into it the audio goes all out of sync with the video. Most indie videos casts seem to be able to accomplish this yet a professional one fails.

If they want to be competitive in this space they had better get with the program. I’ll put up with it because I am after the content. However, as this space becomes more competitive and Channel 7 start offering similar type services for example then I will consider the alternative.

So indie podcasters kick arse and the pros are crap at the moment. I am not sure if we should congratulate the indie’s or really rubbish the pros because this is what I would call a basic requirement. The basic requirement is that they should take notice of what the 15 year old kid can accomplish using their home PC and less than $1000 bucks!

Subscribe to the Channel Nine News:

In iTunes

Video Version

Audio Version Only

Streaming from NineMSN: Note you will need to use IE Tab If you are using Firefox to view this streaming content.

iTunes Screenshot

Area 51 Altered in Google Earth?

I was having a bit of fun yesterday with Google Earth. I was joined by Tim King of style:guide podcast. Apart from Tim finding my house only using text messages (quite an acheivement I thought) we found something quite strange in Area 51.

I was looking at Area 51 because I heard that there were aliens there (inserted by the Google crew), but apparently that was only an April Fools gag. But what I did find was not.

I found an area that upon first glance looked like just another strip of dirt. But on closer inspection the dirt colour looks like it has been “pasted” onto a structure. The image looks to have been altered in some way. There are a few points that you might want to consider when you look at it:

  • It could be something white, like roofing iron; laying on the ground but it seems an odd shape for that
  • Note the edges of the dirt colouring, it looks to be pixelized and uneven, especially where the white is
  • Have a look at the shadow at the top right, something with height is casting that shadow
  • If the dirt colour is just the colour of a structure then why is there no shadow at the top of the image? Compare this with other structures that are in close proximity and the shadow direction and length
  • The colour that looks to have been pasted over the top doesn’t match at the top and left side

So it might be nothing and just a quirk of the image. However, Tim is a web designer and works extensively with image software. He maintains that the image has been altered in some way. He does admit though that he is not an expert in satelite imagery. Then there is the “… it just doesn’t look right” feeling you get when you look at it, and it does’nt.

If there is someone with some expertise that can tell us what is going on with this image then that would be great! Because it has us stumpped. We tried to think of just what would do it without manipulating it. We could not think of anything.

Here is a link to the specific building/structure in Google Earth, this link is a .kmz link and requires Google Earth to work. Note that the placemark in Google Earth is not on the area of interest the “>>>>” point to it. If you do not have Google Earth then you can link to the image on Google Maps.

The exact co-ordinates of the building are:

Lattitude: 37°13’24.41″N

Longitude: 115°49’7.51″W

Google Earth Image

This image has not been resized or altered by the author of this post

Changing the World

I have had the most amazing conversation today. It turns out that one of my fellow hosts on The Podcast Network is a Registered Nurse, Molly Carlile. Her area of expertise is Palliative Care. The podcast is called Dead Serious. Molly has heaps of bits of paper but most importantly to me she gets the whole Internet thing and the huge impact that it can and will have as a platform for media delivery and communication. Especially in relation to healthcare and professionals alike. Plus she believes that one person can change the world. That is the thing that blew me away. We have things in common, we are vastly different practitioners yet this technology drives us together. Now that is why I am so passionate about what I do, and why I think nursing and related professionals, leaders, managers and everyone else that might keep the healthcare ball rolling should stop and take notice!

I make a point of not crossing the boundaries between my professional career and what I do online. I rarely touch on what I do or have done as far as work goes in my blog or the podcast. The reasons are many and I have blogged about it before. But this time the two worlds have collided and I feel that it is okay to meld the two. Because that is what I really have a passion for, that is for the medical industry and associated fields to embrace new technology and methods of communicating and apply them.

So Molly and I had a great discussion and we shared some great ideas for some projects that might eventuate next year. I’ll add it to the pile! But this is something that may have a huge influence on nursing and the way that we do things. Not to mention the turns my life may take as a result. That is hugely exciting and frightening for me. It is starting to look more and more like I am never going to be able to win people over by trying to convince them. So what about showing them how it is done? Lead by example and demonstration; showing the effectiveness of new mediums to convey concepts, ideas and access to information.

Molly has some great insights into quantum physics, spirituality and personal existence in the universe. Although she has found it difficult to get a show out lately there are regular blog entries on the Dead Serious Homepage. I am now off to check out some the shows that are available. Keep up the great work Molly and a pleasure to have meet you. Our introduction is a perfect example of the power of this medium.

About Dead Serious:

“Molly produces and hosts a weekly program on The Podcast Network called Dead Serious which addresses issues of spirituality, life, death and how we make meaning in an increasingly isolated social world.”

From Molly’s About page

Dead Serious Homepage

Feed Your Zune, What Microsoft Failed to Deliver

Feed Your ZuneAs regular readers of this blog would know the Zune will ship without podcasting support software. But that is okay, what Microsoft could not or would not deliver an independent 3rd party developer has managed to do just fine. Not as hard as Microsoft would have you believe. But then podcasts are free quality content, there is no money in that.

Feed Your Zune™ is a featured RSS reader and a media player. It has some great features and looks to be very slick and well designed. It is a pity there is not more about the features on the site or some larger screenshots. With this development so close to the release of the Zune it beats me why Microsoft failed to deliver a product that could give the user access to features such as:

  • Automated downloads of video and audio content and synchronisation to your Zune
  • RSS playback of Video Podcasts, supporting all video formats
  • Built in channel guides from Network2 and FireAnt (with the promise of more to follow)
  • Open web architecture supporting RSS, Bit Torrent and permalinks
  • The ability to create playlists, favourites and manage disk space

The program is a pretty hefty 12MB download. But it looks very shiny with a clean design and lots of functionality. The interface looks simple and uncluttered with a typical looking RSS feed layout. Clearly some time has been invested to bring a quality product. Did I mention that it is free? It even looks a bit like Windows Media Player 11, I wonder if this was a jibe. Or was it good marketing, to give the user a strong brand association with a product that they know?

We talked about the Zune release on the latest episode of The Global Geek Podcast. My co-host Knightwise; suggested that perhaps the lack of Zune podcasting support was due to the fact that podcasts are free. Microsoft would not be interested in promoting free content when they are trying to push their own online music store. With the quick release and functionality of this client it does not seem to have been beyond the reach for Microsoft to have provided something like this on release. So perhaps his opinion has some weight. Money may well come first for Microsoft, at the expense of making podcasts more accessible to the user.

This could also make way for other 3rd party applications to be developed in the near future. I hope so. As has been proven time and time again it is often the first iteration of a product in which users make their choice, anything else is a clone. Digg and YouTube are good examples of this trend. In which case users may well disregard and openly reject any offering from Microsoft that supports podcasting in favour of the applications that they are used to. Microsoft could have just shot themselves in the foot. Or will it be another case of the browser/operating system scenario? Where built in software overrides any other third party application to the point it is impossible to use anything but theirs.

If nothing else it will make the space well worth watching. So until Microsoft decides to counter offer have a look at Feed Your Zune™ to keep your Zune happy and well fed.

UPDATE: The links for this site are now dead.

PR Pitching

I was just reading a blog entry by Steve Rubel about the fact that he is receiving more PR pitches (for what he does not say) and that his inbox is full of poor quality pitches. We get a few of these a week from different companies a web site or a developer and I was thinking about what I thought about the practice and agreeing to review their product.

Steve was mainly concerned about the fact that the quality of the PR pitches that he was receiving were getting worse than better. Which is surprising since it seems one of the best ways to get noticed in a crowded space is to get blogged about by an A-lister. You want to put your best foot forward and deliver quality all round, not just your product or site. Even if you have a great new start-up or a good quality product it might be ignored if the pitch is crap.

So we at The Global Geek Podcast get a few of these “pitches” a week. I am sure we are not getting the volume that people like Steve Rubel get! But we get a modest few. Usually it is for a site review or something like that. One of the segments that we have in the podcast is called “Sites and Services”. It is actually one of the most loved segments of the show and the one that generates the most feedback from developers and listeners both. So it stands to reason that we are pitched, plus they get a link in the show notes. Generally, we just get a pleasant email saying something like, please have a look at [site name] and consider for review in the podcast.

It feels great to know that companies want us to look at their product. We are fairly new at this so it is a bit of a buzz. But the way that I respond to these is that I look at them all. We don’t review them all on the podcast though. If it is crap or does not interest us it gets the boot. If we include it in the podcast the the response from the developer is often mixed.

Occasionally the developers and owners are none too impressed at what we have to say. We don’t trash sites but we do give our honest opinion. We do this with a few things in mind. That is we think of our audience and we think about what we stand for. I wonder if the developers thought about this before they sent us an email?

Our policy is that we review or report on a website or service based on the fact that we are users. Not uber geeks, users. If I recommend a site in the show then I do not want our listeners writing to us flaming us that the site was for example “hard to understand” or “had a bad interface” (or just generally shit). If we think it is cool then we say why and how and they are the reactions that we think our listeners will have to it. That doesn’t mean a website or service has to be simple, you might have a bloody unreal website with great features and it might even be revolutionary but if there is no instruction book then your effort is wasted on the user. (This happens a lot)

Yes, we have even had hate mail as a result of a review. But when you put your product out there and ask for it to be judged then you better be confident in your product and also be prepared to accept what has been said. Or we get email back saying that we did not “get it” and here is some more information about the service so we might better understand it. Okay, so if you need to tell us what it is about and how to use it or what is so good about it, then why was that information not included on the site? How do you expect the public and the average “user” to understand and adopt your technology?

The best feedback that we have ever had for sites and services are those which have been unsolicited or non-pitched, sourced with our own resources. Ironic. These are the ones that give us a link in their company blog and are very thankful that we spoke of them. Nice.

Steve Rubel goes on to mention the tatic that Pete Cashmore from Mashable has taken to overcome the in-box inundation of pitches that I am sure he has. That is to post pitches “as is” and unedited on the blog then to add his own take on the service or whatever it is. Good idea but hard to do for a podcast. Although we can just report it and let the listeners judge it. But then we want to let our listeners know where the best or the useful or the special or the remarkable is not just have a look and judge for yourself.

I just hope that The Global Geek in-box doesn’t resemble a Web 2.0 mash-up as time goes on. I don’t have enough time to do what I have to now, but we are always open to suggestions. Just one tip to the potential “pitcher”: Don’t pitch your website or service with an assumption as to what the reviewer might say, it might be glowing or it might be negative it might be mixed. Take that on the chin and agree or disagree or be thankful that it was tops. Or better; use it to improve what you are offering and ask the reviewer back to reconsider their initial verdict. The latter speaks volumes.