Tree of life

Isn’t this a beautiful picture? It is from the Tree of Life web project, which is a collection of several thousand (so far) web pages categorising all living things on Earth.

See here for the goals of this wonderful project.

Minx said…

A sumptuous feast of un-pronounceable mini-beasts, think that this would be extremely useful for schools as well.

Blogger for Word

I may be very out of date here, but I’ve just discovered that Blogger has an application for Word, so you can write your posts in Word, spell-check them there ;-), and then post them via a toolbar button (or save as draft).

Here’s the link to the application; another link to the details of how it works; and a final link to a list of FAQs and what Blogger ominously calls "known issues".

Got to beat Blogger spell check!

Becoming a press expert

In a post in March, Placeism in the Global Network, I referred to an insightful talk by Danah Boyd about the popularity of MySpace as a social networking phenomenon. Since then, I’ve been following Danah’s blog apophenia :: "making connections where none previously existed".

Immediately after a short but sweet entry about the two gifts one gives one’s children being roots and wings, she has quite a long posting about what it is like to become a press "expert" . I think this is a characteristically excellent post, and I highly recommend reading it. The article works on two levels: first it is a primer for people who end up dealing with the press, and what to expect — how much effort and time you have to put in to get half a sentence quoted. Everything that Danah says about her experience rings true. I imagine if you are a scientist who is just about to publish the biggest paper of your career in Nature (oh, OK then, or Science), and the accompanying press release is going to result in 500 media enquiries, it would be very useful to have read this piece. The other aspect of the article is that it provides a telling account of how the press actually works — how a story that one might read in a newspaper gets put together in terms of content and, dare I say it, quality. From what I know about the process (some), it seems spot on.

Danah Boyd says about herself on apophenia: "My name is danah boyd and i’m a PhD student in SIMS at Berkeley and a social media researcher at Yahoo! Research Berkeley. Buzzwords in my world include: identity, context, social networks, youth culture, social software, performance, Friendster, MySpace. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever i’m thinking about."

She’s a woman to watch — she is widely admired in the community in which she operates and beyond, and I am sure she’s going far.

Parrot held in prison

Parrot held in prison April 28, 2006, © The Daily News

A parrot has spent five days under police ‘interrogation’ in prison in Argentina.
A judge ordered Pepo to be held in custody until he told police who his real owner was.
Two neighbours, Jorge Machado and R Vega, were both claiming ownership of the bird. Judge Osvaldo Carlos decided the parrot should be sent to prison until he said the name of his owner. After five days, Pepo said Jorge’s name and also sung the anthem of his favourite football team San Lorenzo. Machado said: "I knew he wasn’t going to let me down, he is a real friend and we support the same football team."

(Found on Perceval Press)

Readability levels

A week may be a long time in politics but in blogging, anything that old is positively prehistoric. Never mind, I will nonetheless let you know, courtesy of a link from Dave Lull sent "ages" ago, that you need to have had roughly 11.5 years of "schooling" to be able to understand Petrona — 13 per cent of words have three or more syllables, and there are an average of 15.6 words per sentence, according to the algorithm over at Juicy Studio , where you can see the full gory details (a table) for this or any other website. Just enter the url and off you go.

The Gunning-Fog readability index of Petrona (11.47) is about the same as that of the Wall St Journal, apparently; this is higher than Time and Newsweek (10 each) and lower than The Times and the Guardian (14 each). I’m surprised that the index rates WSJ lower than the Times and Guardian. Academic papers weigh in at 15-20.

Many years ago — before blogs were a twinkle in the eye — we ran a Commentary in Nature about an algorithm to measure readability of text, including scientific articles. The author, a Professor Hayes, created his own algorithm for the purpose, which last I heard is still going strong. But I think that it is impossible to rank the comprehensibility of a complex technical document by the length of words used, as opposed to the way in which the sentences are constructed. The Commentary certainly generated a lot of reader comment, though — as was the intention.

Juicy Studio is so named because it is run by someone called Gez Lemon (great name). It is a site that aims to promote "best practice for web developers in a fast moving industry" and has lots of articles about things like accessibility guidelines for Web 2.0 and Greasemonkey scripts. I think my archiving mission is too low level for them, unfortunately, as it looks like a very nice site. I ran the site through the readability test and it came out with a Gunning-Fog index of 10.5, slightly lower than Petrona. Which just goes to prove my point, as I cannot understand very much of what is on Juicy Studio even though I have at least 10.5 years of "schooling". No disrespect to them, it is simply that I lack the specialist know-how to understand the details of many of the posts, however few syllables per word are used.

PS Blogger spell check, a rudimentary beast, wanted to replace Greasemonkey with gruesomeness.

James Long said…
This was most interesting – on your blog and on mine! Thanks for the link.