Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Internet Sociopathy

This post addresses the phenomenon of belligerence and lack of adherence to social mandates in internet communities. Why does this happen, and how can it change?

People are mostly good. That's something that I've heard a lot and I believe it is true. I think the average person out there is good, civil, willing to help out in a pinch. Jay Michaelson, a writer at the Huffington Post, suggests that we are prone to helping and caring for each other on an instinctive level, in common with many social animals, for the preservation of our species. That seems like a reasonable justification, even barring the more spiritual or religious explanation for an inherent goodness of heart.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Interview with a Nonconformist

Can you imagine giving up electronics entirely for a month? It sounds daunting; many might even say it is impossible today. But even within my lifetime (and I'm not even 25 yet), there was a time in which giving up electronics meant nothing more than turning off the TV and the stereo. For most of the twentieth century, kids were perfectly contented to entertain themselves by playing outside, playing board games, or building things. People communicated by telephone, by post, or in person. Most of the information you needed was stored in books. Of course, anyone reading this will agree that times have changed drastically. The many benefits of electronic devices today have rendered our old ways nearly obsolete. Though I am not suggesting that this be considered a problem, a question comes to mind. Have we now become so irrevocably attached to the digital world over the last twenty-or-so years that we couldn't take a step back and disconnect while remaining functional in society?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Objective

Now that I've been blogging for a few weeks, I'm going to take a look back at what I've said so far, what it all deals with, and what I really want to get across. Now, I've definitely digressed on a few items, but I've identified the posts with the common theme that sort of sticks with me as I write all this stuff. The list is below and it constitutes the majority of my substantial blogging:

The Communicator's Conundrum
If Everybody Blogs, Who Will Read?
Huey Lewis, Look No Further
Three Reasons Why I Stayed off the Anti-SOPA Bandwagon
Chopsticks on a Grand Piano
It's Not About Money (Part III)
Technology: Paths of Least Resistance

I don't actually expect that you've gone through all of them (I probably wouldn't have if I were in your shoes), but if you looked at a few you might have noticed that the common theme was a sort of criticism of actions or beliefs that have arisen as common in the digital age today.

I've mentioned every so often that I am not anti-technology. I think that the internet is great. My criticism usually stems from the observation of irresponsible or unreasonable use of technology. In essence, I wish to highlight the necessity of maturity, responsibility, and restraint in the use of digital technology today.

If I have encouraged someone to be more civil, more objective, or more responsible in the use of technology, or to think more critically when receiving new information, then I have accomplished what I wanted to do.

To that end, I'll close this post: don't be stupid.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Nothing for Money

Place yourself, for a moment, in the sweaty seat of a World of Warcraft player. Let me tell you a little about it. You are a level 85 hunter and you need more agility for an epic raid. The agility scroll costs 500 gold at the auction house, you're broke, and your guild is doing the raid in six hours. No way are you getting 500 gold in that time. So you log out of the game, wander on over to a website like, and fork over somewhere between $5 and $15 (That's USD, of course) for 10000 in-game gold.

That's right. You just spent real money for fake moneyMark Knopfler would not approve.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Technology: Paths of Least Resistance

Electricity is really complicated. There are a lot of simple explanations, but as soon as you look at any system complex enough to be useful, those explanations break down at least in part. However, there is one bit of information that is generally helpful enough to be useful beyond the ideal examples: electrons tend to follow the path of least resistance. This is the essence of Ohm's law, named for Georg Ohm, an early pioneer of circuit theory of the nineteenth century. Basically, set up two parallel paths for electrons to follow, and you will get more current across the path with less resistance.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why I'm Not a Humanities Major

This was spurred by a Google+ discussion initiated by the TA for my class. While not strictly associated with anything digital (the ostensible focus of this blog), it is certainly telling of the current state of affairs in education and it addresses the concepts of creation and consumption.

One might assume that I, as one studying physics and mathematics, might look down on humanities majors. I know people in my field who scoff upon hearing about humanities majors, derisively suggesting that they are not in touch with what is "important" or "useful". Jokes abound about people with humanities degrees in dead-end jobs or unemployed. This is not uncommon behavior among "my people", so to speak. However, if you read on you will see that my viewpoint could scarcely be further from this.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Open and Closed

In class I have heard a lot of discussion about openness, and in particular about open science. While I have my opinions about open science, its relative merits are not the focus of this post. Instead, I want to write about an interesting phenomenon in which a movement towards openness eventually becomes the main source of frustration to its proponents. More concisely, due to changes in technology and expectations, a movement for openness created a closed system.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It's Not About Money (Part III)

And now for the exciting conclusion! If you are curious, here are parts I and II. The question is simply this: where do we see large movements for something other than profit today, and should we be seeing more?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Not About Money (Part II)

This is, of course, a continuation of "It's Not About Money (Part I)". I left off having speculating about the possibility of large groups producing results for free becoming a more fundamental part of our economy. Of course, since that time, I have been thinking about this subject a lot and my thoughts have changed on a few things. However, I still have some food for thought on the issue.