Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Making websites with WordPress

Tonight I’ll be giving an introductory presentation on using WordPress as part of the Trade School workshop series. Unfortunately my session is already full, but I’d like to do this again in the future (perhaps for The Public School?). In any case, here are my presentation slides (pdf).

Trade School has an interesting model: students bring an item or perform a task in exchange for the teacher’s time. In my case these objects (no tasks in my case) fall into two categories: personal enjoyment and materials for my projects. They range in “material value,” but the point for me isn’t so much that I get a fair exchange. Besides, our society is really bad at arriving at a reliable price on education.


When Is Transparency Useful?

Aaron Swartz is skeptical of politicians who trumpet “transparency” as the solution to government corruption.

When you create a regulatory agency, you put together a group of people whose job is to solve some problem. They’re given the power to investigate who’s breaking the law and the authority to punish them. Transparency, on the other hand, simply shifts the work from the government to the average citizen, who has neither the time nor the ability to investigate these questions in any detail, let alone do anything about it. It’s a farce: a way for Congress to look like it has done something on some pressing issue without actually endangering its corporate sponsors.

Link (See also)

Cass Sunstein on group decision

A little economics geekery on topics including the wisdom of crowds, futures markets and group deliberation. I was most interested in the deliberation part, which starts about 25 minutes in.

MP3 link

It’s even worse than garbage in, garbage out in deliberating groups. Typically some garbage in leads to more garbage out. So errors with respect to human cognition are frequently not just propagated in a deliberating group but actually amplified.

Often groups emphasize shared information at the expense of uniquely held information. So if you’re a deliberating group where a bunch of people actually know something, little bits of information that no one else has, those tend to play very little role in the deliberation. And the shared information, what everyone knows, that isn’t dispersed, that has the dominant role.

And this can get groups in big trouble where the uniquely held information, that is crucial, is downplayed or disregarded. And the deliberating group marches happily in the direction indicated by the shared information.

Link (See also)

MoMA: big in

Going through our site statistics this morning Allegra discovered that our largest spike in traffic (ever, it seems) happened on February 1st. A significant portion of that day’s site visitors came from a Korean site called Naver. I haven’t explored the details much, but it seems that on that one day Naver sent us around 64,000 hits (uniques?) to the Tim Burton exhibition subsite.

Crap, it’s becoming a regular feature isn’t it?


The Casio F91w digital

There is a specific model of Casio digital watches that supposedly has desirable qualities for bomb detonation. Anonymous LiveJournal user tongodeon has been following this story for over a year:

A while ago I made a big deal out of the Guantanamo detainees accused of owning Casio F91w wristwatches. In my letter to then-candidate Barack Obama I wrote that “Some have done far worse than wear a cheap digital watch. Some have done little else. In all cases the watches that they were wearing appear to have had nothing to do with anything. The tenuous link between this watch and terrorism is being used as an excuse to detain the innocent alongside the guilty; an excuse for the inexcusable.”

Of the 28 prisoners accused of owning Casio F91w wristwatches, 21 have been released, mostly under the Bush Administration. Prisoner #33, Mohammed Ahmad Said Al Edah, won his habeas petition but it doesn’t say whether he’s actually either been cleared to be released or actually been released. No info on the remaining six.


Rhizome’s Seven on

This one day conference at the New Museum sounds interesting.

Seven on Seven will pair seven leading artists with seven game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenge them to develop something new — be it an application, social media, artwork, product, or whatever they imagine — over the course of a single day.

$250 registration ($75 for students) until the February 23rd early bird deadline.


International Year of Astronomy

Riffing off another of Jason Kottke’s linkages, these minimalist posters are at once timeless and retro looking.

Initially designed as self-promotional pieces, the posters eventually caught the eye of the IYA 09 organisation which approached him a few months ago to see if they could use them in their own promotional work.

International Year of Astronomy posters


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