Michael Nielsens’ essay on the future of science

Boy, my impulsive action to sign up for FriendFeed.com has led to the discovery of lots (too much) very interesting stuff. There is a much higher signal/noise ratio there than in Facebook. Here’s one such discovery, mostly so that I will remember to read it and comment on it later.

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Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody”

Shirky has some good ideas and explains them so well that they seem obvious. The book is not written as a scholarly monograph, yet it has good argumentation. A brief encapsulation of Shirky’s thesis follows.

Ages ago (in 1937) Ronald Coase came up with a framework for thinking about firm formation by making transaction costs the focal point. Shirky says that the internet has made the transaction costs of organizing ad hoc groups of people so small that people can now achieve things that a few years ago required massive expenditures of resources by large, institutionalized, organizations. These days, even huge organizations such as Microsoft or the media companies find it impossible to compete with some open source efforts, because open source can easily afford making mistakes. Indeed, it prospers by exploring a tremendous number of ideas and simply ignoring the unproductive ones. (Those who have read the book can tell that I am currently completing chapter 10 from the emphasis here.) The ability of individuals to casually organize and use small contributions by many combines with the ability to tolerate errors into something very powerful, for good but also for evil.

I don’t think all the ideas he expounds are original with Shirky. Many seem to have been in the air for a while now. I wish I could follow through on a vague citation he makes in an endnote on page 317 to the Harvard Business Review, but my online searching has not found the article he credits there. It does appear that the formal modeling of some of these ideas in the fashion of economics could be carried out more than it has so far.

Zotero.org

To say goodbye to 2007, a little post on zotero. Oh, and a pledge for more frequent posting next year…

I have seen zotero.org before. I just read an article on washingtonpost.com which reminded me of it (Internet Access is Only Prerequisite for More and More College Classes) and I thought I would look at zotero again.

Zotero is a Firefox extension built to help scholars organize their documents, research, bibliographic information, and notes. It is a creation of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University; see zotero.org for all the info, and to download it. Don’t miss the video clips in the Quick Start Guide page.
There are such programs for various operating systems already. For instance, I have DEVONThink on the Mac, and in the past have used a shareware”knowledge-base” program on Windows. But because zotero runs on Firefox, I can use it on my Ubuntu Linux-running laptop and my Mac and on whatever new computer comes along. I’m looking forward to getting to know zotero better in the weeks to come.

Yet another report of a very cheap Linux laptop

This one is coming from Asus, and slashdot.org does not seem to consider it a scam, as they did the “medison” I blogged about earlier. They are debating whether it’s worth the money though, because it has limited storage and a small screen, but read the review from Hot Hardware that slashdot pointed me to and see what they say.

Laptop for $150!

Via slashdot.org, this Swedish company’s site sells a Linux laptop very, very cheap. They say they will have more models, with more memory and so on, soon.

Addendum: Erm, slashdot.org comments speculate on whether this offer is a fraud. I wouldn’t buy until I learn more about them and in particular that they have fulfilled orders. People who want Linux preinstalled should probably head for Dell, until this company is verified as bone fide.