The Book of Knowledge: 1

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When I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, having an encyclopedia in your home was the bee’s knees, to use my grandmother’s phrase. It was a sign of sophistication and learning, of culture and wisdom. And being reasonably well-off, because encyclopedias were not inexpensive. I can still hear Jimminy Cricket singing the song (it’s how I learned to spell encyclopedia). Many school libraries had them, although usually only one set and not always the most current or the … click below for more!

The day that reason died

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I’m not a believer in alien visitations and UFOs, but I’ll bet if an alien did swing by, after an hour or two observing us, checking out Facebook or Twitter, they’d lock their doors, hang a detour sign around our planet, and race off. They’d tell their friends not to visit us because we were all nuts. Scarily, dangerously crazy. Seriously. What sort of world can be called civilized when it has people touting — and believing — homeopathy? Reiki? … click below for more!

Goodbye, Information Age

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“Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now,” is the headline of an article by Italian philosopher and professor Gloria Origgi, published recently on Aeon Magazine’s website. She writes: …the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced. I no longer need to open a … click below for more!

Dictionary vs Dictionary.com

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Did you know that doxastic is a philosophical adjective relating to an individual’s beliefs? Or that doxorubicin was an antibiotic used in treating leukemia? Or that doxy is a 16th century word for mistress and prostitute? That drack is Australian slang for unattractive or dreary? Drabble means to make wet and dirty in muddy water? A downwarp is a broad depression in the earth’s surface? Drail is a weighted fish hook? Dragonnade means quartering troops on a population while dragonet … click below for more!

The bucket list, kicked

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Nowadays the “bucket list” concept has become a wildly popular cultural meme, thanks to the movie of the same name. Subsequent marketing of the idea to millennials has proven a successful means to derive them of their income, with which they seem eager to part. I don’t like the concept. The list, I mean, not necessarily the plucking of the millennial chickens who willingly hand over their financial feathers. They get what they deserve. Bucketlist.org has, at the time of … click below for more!

Server upgrade coming

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Sometime in the next two weeks, I will be amalgamating servers for the several sites I manage and conflating them onto one, new and (I hope) faster and more efficient server. There may be some downtime while the files and databases migrate, like virtual birds, to their new home. I hope that the digital gods of server migration allow my moves to go smoothly. I would sacrifice a virtual dove to propitiate them, if I could only find their virtual … click below for more!

Facebook, Likes and Big Data

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I suppose you could call it ironic. There was a story from a ‘friend’ on my Facebook news feed today called “Quitting the Like” all about escaping Facebook’s data collection processes by simply not “liking” items or comments you see. Right below this ostensibly anti-Facebook story were three related links produced by one of the Facebook data-collection bots all about the same thing: breaking free from Facebook’s data mining. I suspect the FB programmers hadn’t planned it that way. But … click below for more!

No Data Are Better Than Bad Data

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The full name of an article I read today is, “The Fallacy of Online Surveys: No Data Are Better Than Bad Data.” It’s from 2010 and very good. You can find it on the Responsive Management website. It makes some key points about the invalidity of online surveys: For a study to be unbiased, every member of the population under study must have an equal chance of participating. When online surveys are accessible to anyone who visits a website, the researcher … click below for more!

Social media and social dialogue

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A recent poll done by Pew Research reiterated what I’ve been saying for the past two years: social media (SM) doesn’t necessary facilitate social debate and in fact may be stifling it. Discussion on many SM platforms tends to reinforce existing beliefs because in general only those who feel their beliefs are shared by their circle of “friends” or followers will express them. It’s called the “spiral of silence.” The Pew report noted: …social media did not provide new forums for … click below for more!

Crossing the line

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There’s a story on ipolitics that in part echoes my own thoughts about media and responsibility. Yet the author draws different conclusions than I believe I would have, were I still in the media. It’s called “Paul Calandra and the tale of the naked senator” and it’s written by Paul Adams. Worth reading regardless of whether you agree or not. Adams writes about the quandary many reporters and editors find themselves in: trying to define the boundary between public interest … click below for more!

Six Rules for Politicians Using Social Media

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This is an updated version of the talk I presented at the the eighth annual Municipal Communication Conference in Toronto, November 2013.   I use social media regularly and frequently. As a politician, that makes me either very brave or very stupid. But I’ve been doing this for the last 30 years, long before I ever got elected. Social media isn’t new to me.* It may be slicker than it was in 1983, but it’s essentially the same text-based, monologue, … click below for more!

We have heading up for your net

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I have to admit that I frequently read the spam comments WordPress traps for my moderation, and I often do so with a smile. The clumsy, crazy constructs, the awkward English, butchered punctuation and the twisted word use just make me laugh. Yes, like everyone else, I detest spam, and I quickly delete the comments into whatever digital wastebin they descend to. But I often chuckle to read them first. They make me wonder: are they deliberately written poorly, are … click below for more!

Anti-Intellectualism: The New Elitism

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There’s a growing – and disturbing – trend in modern culture: anti-intellectual elitism. The dismissal of art, science, culture, philosophy, of rhetoric and debate, of literature and poetry, and their replacement by entertainment, spectacle, self-righteous self ignorance, and deliberate gullibility. These are usually followed by vituperative ridicule and angry caterwauling when anyone challenges the populist ideals or ideologies. As if having a brain, as if having any aspirations to culture, to art, to learning – or worse, to science – … click below for more!

Words, words, words

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Writing before the arrival of the internet*, Bob Blackburn commented on the nature of exchange on then-prevalent BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), words that could as easily be written today about the internet: “…the BBS medium reveals not only a widespread inability to use English as a means of communication but also a widespread ignorance of that inability, and, in consequence, a lack of interest in doing anything about it.” Words that were prescient. As if he could foresee Facebook. Blackburn … click below for more!

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