Environment Events of note

Unnatural Acts

Reporters checked with the Missouri state park system and found out, yes, the flood yesterday did a massive amount of damage to the Johnson Shut-Ins, most likely part of the Ozark Trail, and surrounding area. The trees and landscape in the following photo are most like gone now.


It also sounds as if the park superintendent and his family who were hurt by the flood will recover, though the children are still in serious condition. All of us are thinking about what would have happened if this had been a peak weekend in the summer when the area gets anywhere from a thousand to two thousand people, on the trails and river, or in the campground.

Several people in the comment thread to the Topic of the Day discussion at St. Louis Today (the online site for the local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), mentioned about how this was a ‘miracle’ that no one was hurt. Thank God, they would say, that this wasn’t in the summer when more would have surely been killed; thank God that the family was found while they were still alive.

I wrote last night in the thread that this wasn’t a miracle; do they see God as this capricious being that destroys the dam just so he can swoop the family to safety, after first almost drowning them?

As sad coincidence would have it, I’m currently re-reading, Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America by Ted Steinberg. He writes in the introductory chapter:

Once, the idea of invoking God in response to calamity was a strategy for eliciting moral responsibility. In the twentieth century, however, calling out God’s name amounted to an abdication of moral reason. With the religiously inclined less disposed than ever to take acts of God seriously, the opportunity has arisen over the last century for some public officials to employ God-fearing language as a way–thinly veiled though it might be–of denying their own culpability for calamity. In this sense, the act of God concept has become little more than a convenient evasion.

A person who wrote that they were an employee of Ameren, wrote in comments to the Topic of the Day thread:


Yes, a miracle.

(Photos from St. Louis Today)


Zoe says read this or Scoble gets it

Zoë, via her goduncle Danny Ayers, sent me an email telling me I should write about an excellent Semantic Web Tutorial by Ivan Herman.

I told her, well I told Danny to tell her, that I wrote the Bad Words (”Semantic Web”) once today, and that I may end up banned from *Scoble’s RSS feed aggregator for this. She, through Danny, said no problem–including a cat picture would make it all okay.

So here I am, pointing you to probably the most in-depth and comprehensive tutorial on RDF I have seen (not to mention a fun use of Ajaxian-like technology in presenting it).

Here, also, is the cat picture so that Scoble won’t ban me from his RSS feed aggregator.

* “I mean it, I really mean it this time. If you don’t provide full feeds I’m going to stop reading you! I know I’ve said this 73 times before, but this time I’m serious! I’m re-a-a-a-ly serious. Here I go…I’m going to unsubscribe you…there you go…you’re gone…no more billions or readers because I stopped reading you! No one knows who you are, now. Who are you? Nobody, because I’m not reading you!”


I am an evil woman

I don’t work for Google, therefore I am exempt from the pledge of “Do no evil” and do evil. Daily if I can.

I don’t smoke, fool around with other people’s husbands (or wives, dogs, or horses for that matter); nor do I do drugs, and I drink in moderation. I don’t run old people down in the streets, nor steal candy from children. I pay taxes, stop at red lights, and rarely go over the speed limit. There isn’t much of a chance for evil doing in my day to day living, so I have to exercise my evil doings online. Luckily, there’s much opportunity for evil doings online.

Take my metadata interest. I’ve been a metadata pusher for years now, even before Google made its noble sounding pronouncement. The only thing is, I’ve been able to quietly go about my evil doing because no one knew it for what it is. Yesterday, though, Greg Yardley recognized what I, and others, have been doing and has sounded a clarion call of warning:

“Profiting off user-generated content is Web 2.0 colonialism.”* That sums up how I feel about the much-praised (and widely backed) Structured Blogging initiative, which makes it easy for bloggers to use microformats to mark-up specific genres of blog posts – reviews, classified listings, and so on. Microformats make blog posts machine-readable, which in turn allow them to be used by applications. Jeff Clavier sees Structured Blogging “eventually pushing blogging into richer types of applications – and enabling new types of aggregation.” Indeed – if adopted, it will. Which is what irks me.

What irks Mr. Yardley? The fact that providing metadata will enable organizations to profit from the metadata. More, to do so without his being recompensed:

But I really don’t want to be placed in a position where I get nothing for my small part in someone else’s eight-digit payday. I don’t want to come across like too much of a tool, but if I’m going to structure my content, I need better ways to control its commercial use.

And thus the evil efforts of those people like me are exposed. I lay before you now: a cyber thief; a stealer of data; no, a pusher if you will — trying to lure you all into the power of Meta.

Pssst. You wanna buy a dream. This is a class A dream.

I dunno. I don’t have any money.

You can’t buy this dream with money.

Well then, what do you want for your dream?

I want your metadata.

My metadata?

Yes, when you publish online, just insert this subliminal message into your page and you’ll have bought a piece of the dream.

But that means I’ll have to do a little extra work.

Yes, but isn’t it worth it, for dreams?

Dreams of what?

The Semantic Web

*gasp of horror, sound of footsteps running away*

There I am, being evil again. As Stow(e) Boyd writesthis is a kinder, gentler blogosphere, and my response to Mr. Yardley is neither kind, nor particularly gentle; especially when you consider that he expresses the concerns that others share. So let me put aside my essential evilness for a moment, and see if I can’t get in touch with my inner Mr. Rogers.

I notice that Greg and Stowe both have Technorati Tags at the bottom of their posts. Stowe must do so because he believes in the messy semantic web; Greg specifically mentions why he does, and that’s because Technorati gives him traffic. He also considers that the traffic from Google compensates him for Google exploiting his published material.

Oddly enough, both instances of traffic generation result from semantic web activity, though neither is particularly precise. For instance, I’m sure that Greg has received many visitors from Google for accidental search results; where a happenstance convergence of words from many posts meet some person’s odd, or not, search request. I imagine, also, that he’s received visitors from Technorati for publishing content under the tag name of “General”. But then, haven’t we all?

Is it a case, then, that when we get traffic in error, we should charge both Google and Technorati for using our bandwidth? Or is the important aspect of the exchange the traffic, regardless of accuracy?

You see, that’s where my evilness truly reaches inspired heights: I want to lessen the traffic that both Stowe and Greg get. Yes, I confess–this is my ultimate goal: to steal hits from webloggers.

By attaching more precise and detailed metadata to their posts, and by convincing search engines to become less enamored of their algorithms (or their horribly misbegotten ideas of centralized metadata stores), I hope to decrease the accidental traffic that both Stowe and Greg get.

But, you say, doesn’t this mean that ultimately Stowe and Greg will get visits that are based on true interest in a specific topic? And couldn’t they, in the end, actually get more traffic because of an increased exposure to the true meaning of what it is they are writing? After all, if Stowe writes on an event and marks it with microformats or structured blogging or even RDF, and if Google or Yahoo or MSN eventually catch on and grab this information, when a person enters a request for information on event into a search engine, wouldn’t Stowe’s entry pop up? Now, this match-up occurs only if the person’s search request happens to match the words that Stowe uses, and Stowe’s page rank is high enough to push other entries down that may, or may not, also be about the event.

True, I say.

But then, you say, isn’t this a good thing?

True, I say.

But then, you ponder, where is the evil?

Ah, I reply, with a smile that exposes far more teeth than is normal: Google and Yahoo and MSN and other companies that aggregate this data make money from the results. And, I smirk, we all know that money is the root of all evil. After all, only the homeless are true saints.

But, but, but, you sputter–they make money now, and for a lot less accuracy!

That’s the kicker, I cackle gleefully! Because now the search results are authenticAuthentic is good, I cry, and I only do evil!

So, you murmer–ears twitched, eyebrows furrowed–you’re exchanging authentic for accurate, and by doing this, you’re therefore turning good into evil?


You look perplexed, you look confused and then you say: I’m sorry, but I don’t see the evil in what you’re doing.

I lose my smile, my shoulders slump, my butt droops, and my cat cries. Saddened by your loss of comprehension at my Plan, I can only shake my head and wonder how a woman can continue to do evil when those around her just don’t get it.