Wikimedia chair, lawyer at Creative Commons, tech policy geek, FLOSS advocate, bassoonist, violist, nerd.
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Color Pattern

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♫ When the spacing is tight / And the difference is slight / That's a moiré ♫
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mindspillage
3 days ago
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see also: http://www.perspicuity.com/?lightbox=image_104h
Mountain View, California
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4 public comments
Lythimus
3 days ago
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This just made me realize WaveNet/Deep Voice could be used to match regular sentences to the cadence of a library of pop songs. This would have no practical use, but it would mean you could pick out pairs of sentences from a speech and sing them all to well known pop songs.
FlyingRat
3 days ago
That would be fun. Certain things are well known, like the fact that you can sing almost any Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas or the Gilligan's Island theme, but expanding the canon would be great.
kbenson
1 day ago
In the future, our robot overlords will speak to us exclusively in verse set to ear-worm songs, to both torture us and prevent us from forgetting their commands.
JayM
3 days ago
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ROFL
Atlanta, GA
jepler
3 days ago
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hee hee
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
alt_text_bot
3 days ago
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♫ When the spacing is tight / And the difference is slight / That's a moiré ♫

Socrates Gets Socrates'd

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mindspillage
4 days ago
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Mountain View, California
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2 public comments
jlvanderzwan
4 days ago
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Hahaha, I love how they lean in in the last panel just to make it more awkward
CallMeWilliam
5 days ago
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Flashbacks. Fucking Gettier problems.

Chat Systems

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I'm one of the few Instagram users who connects solely through the Unix 'talk' gateway.
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mindspillage
12 days ago
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Also, NewsBlur comments.
Mountain View, California
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9 public comments
tante
11 days ago
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The Internet will connect us all ... just not really
Oldenburg/Germany
bitofabother
11 days ago
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Too real.
francisga
11 days ago
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I love that AIM users are not reachable any other way.
Lafayette, LA, USA
adamgurri
11 days ago
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THIS
New York, NY
mrobold
11 days ago
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The struggle is real.
Orange County, California
JayM
12 days ago
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No bubble for: Email-SMS-Jabber-iMessage-Skype-IRC-TwitterDM-LinkedIn-PrivateForums-NewsBlurComments
Atlanta, GA
jth
12 days ago
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POST /inbox/new&msg=Hi!%20How%20have%20you%20been%3F%20It%27s%20been%20years%20since%20I%27ve%20seen%20you%20around.
Saint Paul, MN, USA
drchuck
12 days ago
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Nobody uses Wikipedia talk pages?
Long Island, NY
alt_text_bot
12 days ago
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I'm one of the few Instagram users who connects solely through the Unix 'talk' gateway.
HarlandCorbin
12 days ago
I found me on the diagram, i seem to be in a lonely group.

Lawyer’s Pants on Fire During Closing Argument

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This happened:

A Miami defense lawyer’s pants burst into flames Wednesday afternoon as he began his closing arguments in front of a jury—in an arson case.

Stephen Gutierrez, who was arguing that his client’s car spontaneously combusted and was not intentionally set on fire, had been fiddling in his pocket as he was about to address jurors when smoke began billowing out [of] his right pocket, witnesses told the Miami Herald.

He then rushed out of the courtroom. When he returned a few minutes later—extinguished and “unharmed, with a singed pocket”—he told the judge that the problem was a bad battery in an e-cigarette. If he explained why he had an e-cigarette in his pants during closing argument, or why he had been “fiddling” with (I assume) that e-cigarette at the time, the Herald didn’t report it.

It does say he “insisted it wasn’t a staged defense demonstration gone wrong,” suggesting, of course, that the judge wondered whether the sudden outbreak of a fire during closing argument in an arson case where the defense was based on spontaneous combustion had been entirely coincidental.

We don’t care, because it’s remarkable either way: either (1) it was an astounding coincidence in which a lawyer’s pants actually caught on fire during an argument, or (2) a lawyer planned to set something on fire in the courtroom, on purpose, as a demonstration in support of a spontaneous-combustion theory. I’m not sure I even want to know the truth.

But the truth will probably come out, because police are looking into the matter and seized “several frayed e-cigarette batteries” as evidence. That doesn’t sound good for Mr. Gutierrez, who might face a contempt-of-court charge if this turns out to be shenanigans. Such a charge seems unlikely to me unless he floated the idea of a demonstration beforehand and was told not to try it, which is possible. Personally, I’d say he’s suffered enough anyway. The incident didn’t do his client any good—deliberations went forward and the jury convicted him of second-degree arson. So his client may not be happy with him, plus now he needs a new pair of pants, and he’s in the news. Seems like enough to me.

In 2009, a Kansas lawyer pulled the pin on a hand grenade during his closing argument, apparently for a somewhat similar purpose. It was a dud (and so was the grenade). That was also a bad idea, but at least it didn’t involve any chance that the lawyer’s pants might actually catch on fire during an argument, which is sufficiently remarkable that I felt the need to italicize it again.

You need to be careful with courtroom demonstrations anyway, because they can easily backfire. Demonstrations that involve (a) your pants or (b) fire seem like especially bad ideas, even separately.


UPDATE: In an email to the Miami New Times on Thursday, Gutierrez provided some further details in re: the accidental nature of the pants fire:

Shortly after beginning my argument, I noticed that my pocket began to feel hot. When I checked my pocket, I noticed that the heat was coming from a small e-cigarette battery I had in my pocket. I noticed the heat was intensifying and left the courtroom as quickly as possible – straight into the bathroom. I was able to toss the battery in water after it singed my pocket open.

Gutierrez insisted again that the incident was not staged, saying “[n]o one thinks that a battery left in their pocket is somehow going to ‘explode.'” As the New Times pointed out, people have reported being burned by malfunctioning e-cigarette batteries, but “[n]ot one of those people … was arguing about spontaneous combustion to a jury in an arson case when the malfunction happened.” Not until now, that is.

In his statement, Gutierrez not too surprisingly tried to shift the focus to the alleged dangers of e-cigarette accessories, like for example the battery he happened to have in his pants pocket during closing argument in an arson case. He, of course, had no idea there was a risk it might spontaneously combust while he was explaining the defense’s theory of the case (spontaneous combustion), but that was then.

“After careful research,” he said, “I now know this can happen.” This must refer to something other than the field test he conducted in front of the jury, but he did not elaborate.

        

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mindspillage
13 days ago
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Mountain View, California
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RyanAdams
15 days ago
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Sometimes the headlines just write themselves.
Central Indiana

Loving this gracious offer in the ladies’ room at...

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Loving this gracious offer in the ladies’ room at @the_blacksheeppubandrestaurant. Bars: this is what y'all can and should do. (xpost @thegraciousbook) (at The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant)

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mindspillage
31 days ago
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Mountain View, California
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New Dataset: Five Years of Longitudinal Data from Scratch

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Scratch is a block-based programming language created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group (LLK) at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch gives kids the power to use programming to create their own interactive animations and computer games. Since 2007, the online community that allows Scratch programmers to share, remix, and socialize around their projects has drawn more than 16 million users who have shared nearly 20 million projects and more than 100 million comments. It is one of the most popular ways for kids to learn programming and among the larger online communities for kids in general.

Front page of the Scratch online community (https://scratch.mit.edu) during the period covered by the dataset.

Since 2010, I have published a series of papers using quantitative data collected from the database behind the Scratch online community. As the source of data for many of my first quantitative and data scientific papers, it’s not a major exaggeration to say that I have built my academic career on the dataset.

I was able to do this work because I happened to be doing my masters in a research group that shared a physical space (“The Cube”) with LLK and because I was friends with Andrés Monroy-Hernández, who started in my masters cohort at the Media Lab. A year or so after we met, Andrés conceived of the Scratch online community and created the first version for his masters thesis project. Because I was at MIT and because I knew the right people, I was able to get added to the IRB protocols and jump through the hoops necessary to get access to the database.

Over the years, Andrés and I have heard over and over, in conversation and in reviews of our papers, that we were privileged to have access to such a rich dataset. More than three years ago, Andrés and I began trying to figure out how we might broaden this access. Andrés had the idea of taking advantage of the launch of Scratch 2.0 in 2013 to focus on trying to release the first five years of Scratch 1.x online community data (March 2007 through March 2012) — most of the period that the codebase he had written ran the site.

After more work than I have put into any single research paper or project, Andrés and I have published a data descriptor in Nature’s new journal Scientific Data. This means that the data is now accessible to other researchers. The data includes five years of detailed longitudinal data organized in 32 tables with information drawn from more than 1 million Scratch users, nearly 2 million Scratch projects, more than 10 million comments, more than 30 million visits to Scratch projects, and much more. The dataset includes metadata on user behavior as well the full source code for every project. Alongside the data is the source code for all of the software that ran the website and that users used to create the projects as well as the code used to produce the dataset we’ve released.

Releasing the dataset was a complicated process. First, we had navigate important ethical concerns about the the impact that a release of any data might have on Scratch’s users. Toward that end, we worked closely with the Scratch team and the the ethics board at MIT to design a protocol for the release that balanced these risks with the benefit of a release. The most important features of our approach in this regard is that the dataset we’re releasing is limited to only public data. Although the data is public, we understand that computational access to data is different in important ways to access via a browser or API. As a result, we’re requiring anybody interested in the data to tell us who they are and agree to a detailed usage agreement. The Scratch team will vet these applicants. Although we’re worried that this creates a barrier to access, we think this approach strikes a reasonable balance.

Beyond the the social and ethical issues, creating the dataset was an enormous task. Andrés and I spent Sunday afternoons over much of the last three years going column-by-column through the MySQL database that ran Scratch. We looked through the source code and the version control system to figure out how the data was created. We spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out which columns and rows were public. Most of our work went into creating detailed codebooks and documentation that we hope makes the process of using this data much easier for others (the data descriptor is just a brief overview of what’s available). Serializing some of the larger tables took days of computer time.

In this process, we had a huge amount of help from many others including an enormous amount of time and support from Mitch Resnick, Natalie Rusk, Sayamindu Dasgupta, and Benjamin Berg at MIT as well as from many other on the Scratch Team. We also had an enormous amount of feedback from a group of a couple dozen researchers who tested the release as well as others who helped us work through through the technical, social, and ethical challenges. The National Science Foundation funded both my work on the project and the creation of Scratch itself.

Because access to data has been limited, there has been less research on Scratch than the importance of the system warrants. We hope our work will change this. We can imagine studies using the dataset by scholars in communication, computer science, education, sociology, network science, and beyond. We’re hoping that by opening up this dataset to others, scholars with different interests, different questions, and in different fields can benefit in the way that Andrés and I have. I suspect that there are other careers waiting to be made with this dataset and I’m excited by the prospect of watching those careers develop.

You can find out more about the dataset, and how to apply for access, by reading the data descriptor on Nature’s website.

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mindspillage
49 days ago
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Mountain View, California
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