Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Off Topic

Studio 60, Kaus on Iraq...

  • I did actually catch Studio 60 and had the following thoughts.

    • It was amusing to see the actor who had played Josh Lynam fumble for what EEOC stood for.
    • Didn't everyone know what was going to happen to the baby doll as soon as the guillotine appeared on screen? Since I had my laptop with me, I almost posted about it before it happened, but it happened before I could.
    • Advice to new parents: The last thing you want to do in the final months before you have a baby is "practice" having to respond to the demands of a pretend baby at all hours of the day. You will have plenty of time for that.
    • Gee, could Harriett's suitors be a bit more creepy? Perhaps I've been reading a bit too much of Amanda Marcotte, but I think it's interesting that the character of Matt (who is a bit of a stand-in for Sorkin) seems more attracted to the idea of "saving" Harriett from this series of assholes and exploiters than she is in the independent lawyer who comes on to him.

      And really, isn't it possible that someone as attractive and basically decent as Harriett would be able to attract a better class of boyfriends than what we've seen so far. The message seems to be, "Matt may make fun of Harriet's religious beliefs, but at least he respects her and won't make her work 3 hours of overtime just to be an asshole." Why should she have to choose?

  • Kaus is is all over Hillary Clinton's pro-war anti-surge position. He quotes Iraq the Model's Mohommed, and writes:

    But now that we've made the mistaken gamble, it also seems clear--to Mohammed at least--that the surge might do some good. The correct position, by these lights, was War No, Surge Yes.

    It seems to me that concluding that the war was a mistake, but that we have to do right by Mohammed, is not a coherent position. After all, Mohammed supported the invasion. If Saddam were still in power, I suspect Mohammed would not be free and maintaining a blog. From his perspective, the correct position was War Yes, Surge Yes.

    Maybe because we did invade, we have a special obligation to people like Mohommed that we did not have before the invasion, and thus have a stronger moral imperative to do right by him. But then, there were those who said that because the US had at one time supported Saddam, it had a special obligation to remove him.

    I just don't think it's as simple as doing whatever is right by someone like Mohammed, as much as we want to see this end with a positive outcome for him.


august said...


Continuing our earlier conversation on matters wiki, I thought the issue brought up in this post was interesting.

The question is, if you are a wikipedia administrator, and you are aware that there is a tendency to screw things up, how do you deal with it? Timothy Noah seems to me to have totally missed the point. It's an interesting problem, one with more important implications than a yes/no for a Slate writer.

JohnMcG said...

I think the fundamental issue is how to align the organization's goals with its incentives. I don't think Wikipedia is positioned to offer incentives that will lead to its goal of being an authoritative encycopedia.

It seems the central assumption behind it is flawed -- that people will contribute content to Wikipedia motivated by the desire to enrich the word's knowledge on a particular subject. The reality is that people don't. I suspect a lot of people add articles for the purpose of raising the profile of a person or entity they feel deserves more attention (IMO the BotF entry is a prime example. I suspect this is also how Noah's article got started. This isn't really malicious, but not aligned with the goal of having an authoritative encyclopedia. Then there are the more malicious uses -- putting virtual graffiti on the entries for political enemies.

One response is to appoint gatekeepers, but this raises the issue of the motivations for the type of foks who would be attracted to the gatekeeper role.

Honestly, if I were put on the Wikipedia board, I would probably alter its mission to one that's more realistic. I think it can be a good non-authoritative source of general information of a wide variety of topics. There's nothing wrong with that. But, I suspect that the folks who run Wikipedia want to prove something that I don't think they can prove.

JohnMcG said...

On a side note, I think that blogging in general and this blog in particular benefit from having incentives aligned with the goal. I think most of us are seeking a wide, thoughtful audience for our writings, and this leads us to want to submit quality posts.

Now, if this takes off, we may encounter other problems, but for now, we seem to be in alignment.