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A New Kind of Journalism and Citizen Involvement

It’s become a fashion of late to write about the effect the Internet had on journalism, and the way people get informed. Usually the discussion revolves around blogs, twitter, how the newspapers are dying, and so on.

I’d like to point out something different that I’ve observed of late.

It started a few weeks ago, with the story of judge Drori. He acquitted a man who ran over a the clerk at the parking lot, because she refused to let him leave without paying, and stood in the way of his car. After reading the story, and the actual court ruling, there was a public outrage. Judge Drori wrote a ruling of about 300 pages, where he explains the acquittal. Many people commented about the ruling itself, its length, the reasons given in it and so on.

The second story is about the farmer Shay Dromi, who was acquitted today of killing. Two years ago, two Bedouin burglers broke into his farm at night, poisoned his dog, and then went about their business of stealing his property. At least they would have had Dromi hadn’t noticed them, confronted them, shot one to death, and wounded the other. This was amid a wave of crime and break-ins at the area, while the police weren’t doing much to stop that wave. As I said, Dromi was acquitted, the ruling was also published, and many people commented on the subject.

Now we can get to the point: usually, acquittals or convictions of the “small” people don’t merit much press. Judge Drori’s ruling probably would not have reached that publicity if he wasn’t up for a seat at the supreme court. Dromi’s story was publicized heavily a few years back, and the Knesset even changed the self-defense law because of this case.
However, the publishing of full-text rulings is new. Except for a case I was personally involved in, I never read court rulings. I don’t really know a lot about law.

Having these two stories published online, and not only in print, allows publishers to link to the full rulings. Newspapers will never come 300 attached pages of dense law text.
Yet online it’s easy as creating a link – and just like that, you have citizens reading rulings, understanding court processes, having opinions, commenting, and getting involved.

I find this amazing, and it makes me optimistic. The times are a-changing.

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New theme

I usually try to avoid meta posts, and I don’t like Ars Poetica. (Maybe I do like it in programs though, but only to a limited extent.)

However, as you can probably see, I’ve updated the theme of the blog. It took me a long while to choose something I liked, and then work on it until it looked good on the blog. I’ll be happy to hear thoughts and opinions about it.

UPDATE: I’ve had some problems with this theme, so it might be on and off. For those interested in how it should look, here’s a link to a screenshot.

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Facebook and Privacy

So I’ve got a profile on Facebook. A friend invited me there.  So what is there to say about Facebook that hasn’t been said already?

Well, I’ll start with what people have probably already said. It is very much a ‘platform’ as well as a social network. The social network is just the basis for all those little application that exist there. For those who don’t know – Facebook is filled with applications, most of them useless fun, some of them really interesting. Each application uses the details available in your profile and in your friends profile, and adds some small UI to your profile page. One interesting application graphs the connections between your friends. Another application ‘matches’ your friends according to some heuristic. All harmless fun.

Well, one thing I did notice on Facebook is that almost all users have a real picture of themselves. That’s quite new for me. Granted, the ability to put your profile picture has been available for quite some time now on many networks (including the ICQ\Skype variety) , but I find it interesting that on Facebook most profile pictures are real. This also made me think about how people connect on the internet. Let’s take a second to review the progress shall we?

IRC\Usenet\Email -> ICQ and other IM clients -> other social networks, Facebook, blogs and comments

What is clearly noticeable for me, is that the amount of detail people supply in each medium increased. This is notable in itself. Also note the possibility of ads given a service such as Facebook. Up until now, Google ads could have used your search history, as well as your current search, and your Gmail account to target ads. Now, with the data supplied directly by the users, Facebook based ads have a potential to be much more targeted. The beauty of it all is that no underhanded techniques were used. The information is given away freely. I wonder what the next step will be.

And what about me? well, I didn’t put a real profile picture. As far as I know, today there is only one picture of me that is available via a Google search on my name. I’d like it to stay that way for now.

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Putting the keyboard in the dishwasher – it works

After reading about it in several places, I wanted to try it too.

I have some keyboards at my parents’ house, and these were really nasty. So nasty in fact, that they were not used. So, there was no real danger of losing them. So I picked them apart, and put the plastics in the dishwasher.

The keyboards came out clean, and a day later, were completely dry. After a little bit of work – and one keyboard was assembled. A note though, a little bit of work == I kept forgetting parts outside of the keyboard. So after repeatedly opening and closing the keyboard, it finally worked. The second keyboard was a bit more complicated. It had a little rubber thingy behind each key, and when I opened the keyboard those thingies fell out, as they weren’t attached to anything. It was a little annoying to put them back, but I managed. The problem was, there were about 6 thingies missing. The first three were easy – I gave up the ‘power’ ‘sleep’ and ‘wake up’ buttons. I never used those with that keyboard anyway. The next 3 keys were a little more problematic? Which keys should I give up?

I thought about it a little:

  1. The num-lock. I hate that key. No-one should use num-lock! Ever! Unless of-course, you are stuck in the ‘on’ state, and you want to turn it off… So num-lock was a no-no.
  2. Same goes for CAPS-LOCK. Mostly useless, but still…
  3. Although shift, ctrl, and alt have doubles, both sides are still in use.
  4. So I decided to give up the num-pad ‘/’, ‘*’, and ‘-‘. These have doubles, and are rarely used when over there. The only time I did use them was with Pythonwin, when I used the numpad + and – to open and close source folding

So that solved it, and the keyboard worked, sans 6 keys. I could have given up some of the Fxx keys, but by the time I thought of that, the keyboard was already closed, and I didn’t want to lose anymore thingies by opening it up again.

This made me think that the policy of giving up keys isn’t really dependent only on the use-level of the key: num-lock is rarely used but is critical, or only on having doubles: shift has a double, and yet I’d keep them both.

Which keys would you have given up?

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Fantasy books for programmers

I read these two books some years ago, before I was in high school. The concept really appealed to me. For fear of spoilers, I will not say much, suffice it to say reading the books gave me a different perspective on certain things, and some new ideas. The books themselves are not really complicated, don’t have the best characters around, but are a pretty solid read.  When I found them online some time ago, it took me just a few hours to go through one of them.

I recommend.

And I almost forgot… The links. Have fun.

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New Blog

So I decided to start this new blog. Let’s see where it goes.