Thursday, January 26, 2012

EULA Be Sorry

Fan handcuffs himself to goalpost during Everton and Manchester City clash
A message on his T-shirt read: "Europe's greatest training robbers. Ryanair. Lowest wages guaranteed. Stop. Recruitment scamming our children."

If people really hate airlines there are much easier ways to harm their business than this. One way is to ask people to obey their terms and conditions.

Companies are still leaving themselves open to the being moved down search engine rankings as I described in Search Engine Deoptimization? The attack is to remove links to a website using the sites own Terms and Conditions.

1. Find if a company you are annoyed with has rule against linking to them in their Terms and Conditions. Something like 'links to this website without the prior written consent'.

2. Inform all the people who link to this website of this rule. Possibly implying you are from some sort of legal enforcement organisation.

Airlines and insurance companies love having these rules. The Idea I presume is to hinder price comparison websites.

If you do not want to go to the effort of building a spider to get the list of url's that link to a site you can google (or bing)

Where you replace with the company website you want a list of linkers to.

The last example I used was Ryanair, mainly because so many people hate them. The following companies looked to have odd T&C from a quick read. I accept the irony of linking to people T&C that say you cannot link to their T&C.

Aer Lingus: 'to link to our site(s) only through our home page. Please do not link to other pages of our site(s) without obtaining prior written permission from Aer Lingus (such consent may be withdrawn at any time at Aer Lingus's sole discretion);'

Also World Food Program, Web Check in, Vishni capital, Glasgow 7s Rugby Team and NRMA insurance

For something like the only link to the main page rules you would need to modify the "link:" search and the scary email that tries to get the links removed.

It is easy to read the terms and conditions of competitors websites. Many competitors rankings would be harmed by removal of even a small percentage of quality links to their website. I think you could boost a client above a competitor with this technique. If I was asked to bump up an insurance companies websites search rankings I would be tempted to look at the terms and conditions of their competitors and do a "Link:" search on any of them who had these linking rules websites.

A quick google and sending some emails has to be easier than handcuffing yourself to a goalpost.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Mickey Mouse Protection Act

The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years ,..., the Walt Disney Company (whose extensive lobbying efforts inspired the nickname "The Mickey Mouse Protection Act")..supported the act

Disney are very pro copyright. Here is Clay Shirky talking about how you can't let kids draw a picture of Mickey Mouse and put it on a cake without getting sued by Disney for copyright violation

They seem oddly pro remixing, homage and parody when it come to other peoples creative output. I am not talking here about the companies cartoons based on traditional folk tales but about their Joy Division T-Shirt.
Disney's description of the shirt:

Inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures album, this Waves Mickey Mouse Tee incorporates Mickey's image within the graphic of the pulse of a star. That's appropriate given few stars have made bigger waves than Mickey!

This is Disney's photo.

Hook confirmed that he had not given permission for Disney to use the image, adding that it was a legal grey area. "From a legal point of view, the image is in the public domain, as Disney know and, in a funny way, it's quite a compliment for a huge conglomerate like Disney to pick up on a poor little Manchester band that only existed for a couple of years, it's quite startling," he commented. "I'm amazed they're that hard up that they need to prey on little indie bands,
The bassist added that though he spends a chunk of his time "policing" Joy Division bootlegs, all he usually required was that wannabe bootleggers made a contribution to an Epilepsy charity in memory of Ian Curtis and called on Disney to do the same.

Joy Division do not get asked for permission nor do they or their charity make any money from this T-Shirt but Disney will sue a shop for printing children's pictures on a cake? If Disney like to control their creative work to such a huge extent why don't they obey the same rules for others work?

'I hope that [Disney] will be as understanding when we start doing Donald Duck shirts' said Hook

From Wesley Morgan Paraham here
*edit "A representative from Disney says, "As soon as we became aware there could be an issue, we pulled it from our shelves and our online store to review the situation further.""

Friday, January 13, 2012

Teach Yourself Synaesthesia

Can you teach yourself synaesthesia?
A form of synaesthesia in which people experience letters or numbers in colour may be trainable. The discovery could shed new light on how such traits develop.
Synaesthesia is thought to have a genetic component, but some people have reported synaesthetic experiences following hypnosis, so Olympia Colizoli at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues, wondered if it might also be possible to acquire synaesthesia through training.

To test the idea, they gave seven volunteers a novel to read in which certain letters were always written in red, green, blue or orange (see picture). Before and after reading the book, the volunteers took a "synaesthetic crowding" test, in which they identified the middle letter of a grid of black letters which were quickly flashed onto a screen. Synaesthetes perform better on the test when a letter they experience in colour is the target letter.

The volunteers performed significantly better on this test after training compared with people who read the novel in black and white.

The findings suggest that natural synaesthesia may develop as a result of childhood experiences as well as genetics, says Colizoli, who presented the findings at the Forum of European Neuroscience in Amsterdam last week.

I liked the idea of training myself to have Grapheme → color synesthesia. It is is a form of synesthesia in which an individual's perception of numbers and letters is associated with the experience of colors. Nabokov had this, he wrote in Speak Memory "Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape, I see q as browner than k, while s is not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl". Training yourself to be a poundland Nabokov sounded cool so I wrote a script to do that.

A quick look at stack overflow lead to this question "Changing color of every “r” in html document and I copied Boldewyn's answer. There is probably a better way to do it. If I find it I will post an update.

Warning the ColourChange script which I put here is a greasemonkey script that will make the web look like a geocities Christian site circa 1996

// ==UserScript==
// @name ColourChange
// @namespace http://localhost
// @description change the colour of characters
// @include *
// ==/UserScript==

var body = document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0];
var html = body.innerHTML
.replace(/(^|>[^<a]*)([a])/g, "$1<span style=\"color:red\">a</span>");

body.innerHTML = html;
var html2 = body.innerHTML.replace(/(^|>[^<o]*)([o])/g, "$1<span style=\"color:violet\">o</span>");
body.innerHTML = html2;

If people want me to and I remove any bugs I will stick the script up on userscripts to make it easier to install. If you survive the web via the medium of nyan cat let me know.

Many musicians are Sound → color synesthestic Leonard Bernstein, Franz Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder for example. Mnemonists with extraordinary powers seem to also associate sound with colours. like Solomon Shereshevskii in Luria's A Little Book About a Big (Vast) Memory. One of my favorite bands of last year was Colourmusic though so because of their name, their epic beards and mental videos here is one of their songs

I have set the synaesthesia script to colour a and o as these are letters I mix up. I also mix up p and b but I'll write a script for that if the vowel one helps. I was tested as a kid for dyslexia but they decided I was just stupid.

You could change it to match Dee Adams or Cassidy Curtis or whatever colours match up to letter for you. If you install the script using greasemonkey or you want to and need a hand doing that let me know.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Irish Religious Copying that Saved Civilisation

Sweden Formally Recognizes File-Sharing as a Religion
The Church of Kopimism, whose principal tenent is the right to file-share, has been formally recognized as a religious organization in Sweden...
“For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament,” it said in a statement.

This is a pretty good troll but more weirdly there is a history of religious copying in Ireland. One that we may have to thank for western civilisation.

How the Irish Saved Civilisation (on amazon for $8) ultimately argues that it was the Irish love of copying books that saved much of classical literature and combined with their spreading these copies as they set up new monasteries allowed an ember of literacy to be saved until the renaissance reignited it. During the dark ages after the Roman empire fell Irish monasteries with their book copying scriptoriums were one of the few bastions of literacy left in Europe.

This book is full of good anecdotes. For example that for her near contemporaries St Brigid's most famous miracle was performing an abortion.
"Brigid makes the fetus of a nun (whose womb had "through youthful desire of pleasure, .. swelled with child") magically disappear ("without the coming of birth, and without pain")"

I think the book places too much emphasis on St. Patrick and how he converted the Irish to Christianity. I always got the impression St Patrick was sort of a Arthur Guinness character. Used after his death by a giant corporation to try and sell their product to the locals. They both even have a celebration day. The Beer Nut has a great post "Interlude" that goes into the political machinations that went into the creation of the St. Patrick story.
It was a turf war: plain and simple. The independents had all been swallowed by the Big Three who were now each using the political influence they'd garnered along the way to try and crush the other two. The prize was total national dominance of the market, and a hefty slice of the action abroad where the product had been zealously pitched to a receptive customer base, building up a lucrative following among locals and ex-pats alike.

The thrust of the books argument about how the copying Irish rescued the western cannon comes from Columcille. He had a major brain erection for copying any books he came across.

On one occasion when he was at the monastery of Moville he came across Finian's book of the Psalms. Colum Cille decided to copy it secretly. He did, and when he was brought before King Diarmait who was to decide who was the rightful owner of it, Diarmait made his famous decision: “To every cow its calf and to every book its copy”. This might be regarded as the first copyright case in history! Later fighting broke out about the decision. After a battle for it Colum Cille got it back and it has since been known as the 'Cathach' or Battle Book. Colum Cille went into exile as penance and landed in the island of Iona in 563 and there he established his famous monastery

From here "he made one hundred fifty monks the cutoff number for the Iona community, and after they exceeded that, twelve and one monks would set off to establish another foundation in a new setting". These new monasteries would take copies of books with them and produce new analysis and in doing so spread literacy back into Europe. For example "More than half of all our biblical commentaries between 650 ad 850 were written by Irishmen".

I think its fascinating that Colum Cille's 150 monastery size number from the sixth century is the same as Dunbar's number. "Dunbar's number is suggested to be a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. ... No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150". Colum Cille was obeying modern social network theory in his monastery rules.

Ultimately I think the dark ages are a rorschach test, we know so little about them that the flimsy evidence can be used to argue any point you want to make. For example 'How the Irish saved civilization? By blogging it.' is a blogpost that argues the point that what the book proves is that blogging and such intellectual mashups are what preserved the culture.

While on the subject of dark ages Irish Monasteries "The secret of Kells" is a great film on this era

How the Irish Saved Civilisation is an interesting quick read. I was not convinced that literacy and the classics would not have survived the dark ages without Ireland. But I do think the lesson that we should copy and distribute our really important information around if we want it to be preserved when the barbarians break through the gates is an important one. It is easy to laugh at the Swedish Kopimism party but remember that an Irish monk who was willing to ignore the courts, go to war, murder and got banished from his country to copy things may have saved civilisation.

*The Taoiseach mentions the effect of these monks in his speeches 'In the sixth century our monks 'colonised the minds of Europe', rescuing the continent from the Dark Ages.' but he doesn't mention they were banished partly due to copyright restrictions.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Peak Farmer

In what year will the most farmers ever be working? We reached peak baby in 1990 and peak manufacturing employee slightly later.

Mass employment in manufacturing just isn't coming back
'I estimate global manufacturing employment to have been between 150 million and 200 million workers in 2002, with those numbers reflecting a global decline of 20-30 million manufacturing employees in 2002 compared to 1995.'

You can never tell exactly what the future will hold but with the increasing use of robots points to reduced manufacturing jobs for example "Foxconn to rely more on robots; could use 1 million in 3 years". Agricultural employment as a percentage of total employment has been declining since the industrial revolution. The percentage of Americans employed in agriculture has dropped from over 90% at the time of the American revolution to around 2% now for example.

The UN says peak rural population will be sometime between 2020-2025. "However between 2020 and 2025, the total rural population will peak and then start to decline," and "Global rural populations will peak in the 2020s, leading to mass abandonment of rural lands.(Data Source: UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division)". Not all rural people are farmers and I think the proportion of farmers amongst rural dwellers is decreasing. If the figures of peak rural population being sometime 2020-2025 then that means the most farmers that will ever be living will occur sometime before 2020.

The first time in human history since the agricultural revolution that most people were not employed as farmers would have been some time before urban population passed rural population. The World Population Becomes More Urban Than Rural in around 2007 so we are not long past the majority of people being farmers. 'Agriculture still accounts for about 45 per cent of the world’s labour force, or about 1.3 billion people' according to this 2007 report. Until recently most people were farmers.

The world continues to urbainse, farms continue to mechanise and population continues to rise slower than it used to. All this means that sometime before 2020 farming will become globally a declining employer. If total farming and manufacturing jobs are declining and transport jobs could do the same soon that means we will have to find new things for people to do.

This prediction of declining numbers of farmers globally sometime around 2020 is one that someone with better google foo could disprove quickly, if you can please correct me in the comments.