This just in from the shameless-commercialization department. At the urging of some comrades-in-gripery, I’ve caved and converted everything in my hitherto-defunct CafePress store to the 32-bit hexadecimal processing key for the AACS.
Products are here.
All of the markups have been set to $0.00; that is, I’m not getting any money for this. Please estimate how much extra you would have been willing to pay for whatever product you purchase, and consider donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Software Freedom Law Center, or other marginally relevant nonprofit of your choice.
These insights just in from suitemate and digeratus Casey Callendrello.
So, seniors in the Engineering School get the following email recently, asking us to fill out a survey. It purported to be from Dean Galil, the head of the engineering school. We’ve gotten a few surveys before:
From: “Zvi Galil” email@example.com
To: “Casey Callendrello
Subject: your experience at SEAS
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2007 01:00:03 -0500
Casey Callendrello: I know — you are bombarded with surveys. However, this one is different. I am inviting you to let us know what your Engineering experience has been like. Your vantage point as a graduating senior is extremely valuable to me and my faculty. Please let me know what you think. Click the link below to begin your survey - https://wess.webebi.com/wess/language.aspx?sid=PNPN2848700 (This link is unique. Please do not forward it.) Congratulations on nearing the end of your undergraduate education and thank you very much for completing this survey.
Dean Zvi Galil
I decided to fill it out later. I’m glad I waited: later, we received an email, this time actually from our dean. (Email addresses removed to protect the innocent)
Dear SEAS Senior,
You may have received an email inviting you to take a survey about your experiences at SEAS. I did not send this email, nor does the University know anything about the survey itself. While we do occasionally ask you to participate in surveys to help inform us about your experiences at Columbia, these invitations are always sent to you from an official Columbia email account. If you ever have any questions about whether a survey is authentic or not, you should email (list of Columbia officials) We value the feedback that you provide to us through official surveys.
Sincerely, Dean Galil
Hmm! So I decide to go to webebi.com to find out what they’re about. EBI, it seems, stands for Educational Benchmarking, Inc; a company that surveys college students to determine student satisfaction.
“Mission statement Educational Benchmarking provides the most comprehensive, comparative assessment instruments and analysis to support quality improvement efforts.”
That’s all well and good, but I don’t understand how a reputable company can fraudulently represent themselves as being authorized by Dean Galil and Columbia University, when they are clearly not. Think about it. Survey companies need students to be as unbiased as possible. It seems like a serious breach of ethics to me. Claiming to be authorized by the administration of the school is very different than the truth: they are selling our responses for profit. What I find to be most ironic is their privacy statement at the beginning of every survey:
Confidentiality: Educational Benchmarking, Inc. is an independent organization dedicated to protecting your anonymity for this survey. We have taken several steps to insure the confidentiality of your responses. First, all survey responses are submitted utilizing the identical data encryption methodology used to protect financial transactions conducted over the Internet. Second, your responses will be sent directly to EBI. Third, your survey responses to the personal demographic and survey questions will be analyzed by EBI, and returned and reported in summary form only. The organization sponsoring this survey will never have access to data that contains your personal identifier. Finally, EBI will never sell your email address or the demographic data collected in its surveys to third party data vendors.
I guess that’s true. They won’t be selling it to data vendors. It’s still up on the auction block, though. I certainly hope the university pursues legal action against “Educational Benchmarking, Inc.”
I know, when I filled out the survey, I lied on every question. If they can lie about who they are, I can lie about the survey data.
Episode 5 of …ugh. It’s here. Spectator staff apparently can’t handle words with more than four syllables (the title was shortened to “Transparency and its discontents”), is blissfully unaware of seminal literature on the political-economic development of the 20th century—even when it’s written by the most outspoken Nobel laureate on campus—missed entire swathes of fundamental economic theory covered in Econ 101, doesn’t bother or know how to look things up on wikipedia (”the externality” was changed to “externality,” rendering an entire paragraph meaningless), and, adding insult to injury, has forgotten how to spell my last name for the third time this semester.
Honestly, I give up. The next episode was going to be exclusively about educational sucktitude, but I’m sure I can draw a few parallels to journalistic sucktitude. And that’s going to be the last one. Promise.
I stand by my assertion that the copy editing department at Spectator serves the sole function of introducing errors where before there were none. And quite frankly, in a web-enabled world, any medium where errors are irrevocable is patently idiotic. At some point in the next few months I’ll be putting all the original columns up here so I don’t look like such a dumbass.
Addendum: I’m not particularly interested in bitching without offering some sort of suggestion about how to improve things; said suggestions are forthcoming, and will probably be publicized via the facebook groups “My education is getting in the way of my learning” and “If Wikipedia Says It, It Must Be True,” which, predictably, have a combined distribution that exceeds Spectator’s by approximately a factor of five. Enablers of democracy, take note: effective solutions are at least as much about form as they are about content. The optimally effective medium for enabling democracy used to be newsprint. That’s over now. If it’s an information problem, the solution is probably a web application. And it’s an information problem. I may have some coherent suggestions about how to proceed.
The fourth episode of my Spec column, “Un|sustainable futures,” is up. It’s called “Externalize this,” and begins:
This episode, I’m unleashing my inner economist. This episode is about capitalism. Specifically, it begins the discussion of how to make capitalism suck less.
It’s online here. Next time: “The externality strikes back.” (…maybe.)
Discussion among campus activists often has the word “Bollinger” in it. As in: “Bollinger has hired a new PR flack,” “Bollinger is dodging the real issue here,” or more concisely, “WTF Bollinger?!” Apropos of recent discussions, which have involved the word “transparency” with increasing frequency, I wish to offer a (possibly) new hypothesis of the Bollinger, and of the university decision-making apparat in general. I frame it in the context of the Manhattanville expansion discussion, but if it turns out to be correct (which I by no means vouch for), I suppose it might be useful in other contexts as well. Anyway, the hypothesis is below; folks who are in the know, tell me if it’s right. Let’s apply some collective intelligence to this, and maybe we can make some progress towards that other word that’s been bandied about so much as of late: “accountability.” More »
In the ongoing and increasingly repetitive saga of general managerial collapse that is Spectator, the editorial I cowrote with Nathan Morgante for the Columbia chapter of FreeCulture.org about the fatally lackluster music service Ruckus has been epically botched. So I’m going to reproduce it in its entirety here. Spectator probably has the copyright on it, but hey—they’ve printed an edition with an entirely different meaning. Anyway:
Ruckus not a terrible idea, but misunderstands file sharing, music, culture, life, business, internet, everything else
M. Six Silberman and Nathan Morgante
Greetings fellow pirates! Arrrrr!
I use wikipedia a lot, so much so that I spell it with a lowercase ‘w’ because I think of it in the same way as I think of ’subway’ or ‘plumbing.’ I can’t, to be honest, imagine what I would do without it, and have been known to say—as my friends call it—’inflammatory’ things like “half of my brain is wikipedia” or simply “I am wikipedia.”
But while I no doubt had some idea, I didn’t—until yesterday—realize just how true that was. To access entries on wikipedia, I hit Command-L and type ‘en’, which brings up
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ (I use primarily the English wikipedia). Yesterday I hit the down-arrow a few times, and realized that my address has a lot of entries that begin with that string. I checked my history settings and realized that in the last nine days, I’ve accessed 211 different articles on teh wikipedizor. And here they are (sorry, no links; just type ‘en’ :)—
A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines
A Mathematical Theory of Communication
A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits
Ad astra (phrase)
Anteros More »
I wrote this for music hum after attending a concert of the International Contemporary Ensemble at St. Paul’s Chapel—and also after attending a lecture by Julia Kristeva. (This last will become important.)
It seems reasonable to claim that the variety of sonic expression offered by a harp—or indeed by any instrument—is difficult to appreciate without having witnessed, in person, at least one performance of the instrument by a master of the practice. Certainly it has been said that the only feasible and trustworthy method of defining the possibility space is to explore it, and in considering the experiential understanding of music this seems to be a compelling argument.
Why, however, this ought to be the case is a question worthy of some investigation. More »
The third episode of my biweekly column in the Columbia Spectator is…okay, alright, went online more than two weeks ago. I’ve been behind. I invoke the ‘midterms’ defense—products of which to be posted soon.
Anyway, this episode is called ‘infrastructural adjustments,’ and it begins the discussion of how to muck about with our infrastructure so that ‘it stops killing us.’ So yes, I was feeling dramatic.
Alright, this is going to have to be good enough for now. I’m going to get some sleep, then write a paper, then get some inspired design ideas and deploy one.
So I’m playing around with my CSS file one day, and everything looks fine in Firefox, and then the next day I check it in Safari, and it looks less okay. Anyway, I’ve got a (small) welter of new stuff to post and some obligatory presentation-tweaking to do, so hopefully this will all blow over in a few…hours. First though, I have another website to fix.
The second episode of my biweekly column in the Columbia Daily Spectator, complete with obligatory misspelled surname, is online here. (I wonder if it’s misspelled in the print version too—) This one’s about “the scope of interventions relevant to the task of realizing civilizational sustainability.”
But my other readers don’t know that, ’cause that sentence was cropped. In totally unrelated news, I’m glad that Jay Rosen over at NYU Journalism is thinking about how to leverage our clever new technologies to create useful new informational infrastructures.