OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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October 10, 2013

Eradicated Alphabets and Radical Algorithms
Ruth Miller, CTheory, October 10, 2013

It's pure coincidence that this essay comes out while I am in Turkey, but it works for me. Part of my own thinking about online revolves around the idea that we are replacing alphabet-based communication with a wider set of digital artifacts; I outline this in my 'Speaking in LOLcats' presentation. The present essay examines the implications of the government mandated conversion from Arabic to Latin script in Turkey in 1928, and the impliucation this had with respect to the secularization of Turkish society. It's a view that sees the script as more than a communications object, but rather, a communications algorithm. That is, we don't think with the script, we let the script in some important ways do the thinking for us. If that's true - and you can read the essay to make the case for yourself - then what does this say about a conversion from script to non-script communications. Even if linguistic elements remain as signs within the LOLcat context, the sort of thinking these do for you will be fundamentally different - and may change society in as-yet unrealized ways. My own thinking is that as LOLcat-based communication is more associationist in nature, the character and demands of inference and reason will change, becoming more organic, and less linear. But then, so will our view of the world, maybe.

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Semi-automatic method for grading a million homework assignments
Ben Lorica, O'Reilly Strata, October 10, 2013


This is an interesting approach to the question of machine grading: "Clustering submissions along key metrics is a natural way to reduce the amount of work required. The hope is that homework submissions within the same cluster are similar enough, that feedback for one member can be propagated to the rest of the cluster... While this approach has yet to be used for grading, some instructors have used it to highlight common mistakes: clusters can also be used to identify common errors found in homework submissions."

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Alice Munro is 1st Canadian woman to win Nobel literature prize
Unattributed, CBC News, October 10, 2013


So once again the prose in these pages has been overlooked by the Nobel committee. Still, while I carry on, I am delighted to be able to report that my compatriot, Alice Munro, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. "Munro's stories focus on striking portraits of women living in small-town Ontario. They revolve around small epiphanies encountered by her characters, often when current events illuminate something that happened in the past." Here is her Wikipedia page. I remember studying her work in high school, along with that of Gabrielle Roy, Margaret Atwod and Margaret Laurence; they form a set in my mind. Anyhow, congratulations to Alice Munro, your nation is thrilled for you.

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Bye, Bye Cookie: Microsoft Plots Tracking Tech to Span Desktop, Mobile, Xbox
Tim Peterson, Ad Age, October 10, 2013

One of the nice things about cookies is that they can be read, analyzed and turned off. But the coolie may have had its day as Microsoft works with other companies to produce a post-web tracking system that will work on mobile devices, televisions, and the like. This follows reports that "Google is similarly plotting its own cookie replacement, and others such as Facebook, Apple and Amazon are expected to pounce on the third-party cookie's vulnerability." It's nice to have the increased flexibility. But advertisers want tracking. Right now, "an advertiser can't know if the desktop banner they ran led to a purchase made on the smartphone." But what's good for advertisers is generally bad for personal privacy and security.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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