Friday, January 30, 2009

Phases of the 'net

It would be my view that the history of the 'net can be described by breaking it into a number of phases. These phases aren't cleanly distinguished from one another - you can't say that one ends here and thus the other starts - nor are they intended to suggest that the last few decades can't be broken up into other differentlt flavoured segments. Not alone is there more than one way to skin a cat but you can use a dog or bonobo if you prefer, and instead of skinning it you could just stroke it. This is all just a means to take a semi-logical speculative look at the future.

The first phase of the net was primarily focused with connecting things, and people and places. This manifested in the development of URLs, Mosaic and so on. Following on from this, the 2nd phase, once people were able to link to one another, this phase was when people concentrated on the creation of vast amounts of user generated content, much of it rubbish or duplicates of what already existed admittedly. But for all that still very necessary. People were made to get to places, now they needed places to go and reasons to go there.

The 3rd phase which is the one we've seen over the last decade or so was next addressed to the problem of finding that content, or sorting the wheat from the chaff- in essence search. Finding what you wanted to find. You're no longer doing Lewis and Clark cross country discovery journey across the country but are focused on going from downtown Boston to the Drake hotel in San Fran. How do you do that?

Still for all the indexing and vast trawling and spidering that has gone on we are still left with a problem. That is that Google or whatever search engine you use might well find what you're looking for, but will you actually recognise it when it is shown to you? It's why something like Searchme or CoolIris is a sexier prospect than Cuil for the common or gardener user because it mirrors more closely how we as people already flick through artefacts when searching for things that we don't know about. That Cuil might find what you're looking for is less important if you can't recognise that they've found it.

In my opinion, there are two broad types of search. There is the looking for your keys type - you know what it is you are looking for but not quite where it is - and then there is the looking for a present for your nephew if you're an aunt - you know sort of what might suit but don't have a solid idea in your mind.

This is why I reckon that the phase we're heading into now or are already in is mostly about presentation. Showing us what is there. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part, and I'm sure that others are or have already written about it in more depth or greater insight. It is odd how the desktop is still just a mess of a thing, though the likes of BumpTop are seeking to do something around that. We have had connecting, making, finding and now showing. Where after that? I think deciding comes next. How do we choose...

The personal aspect for me in this idea is that I think I've found a way to marry my concerns about the expression and fostering of opinion via blogs and also how to present divergent views in such a manner as to allow a genuine exchange of views to take place, and for those who are reading those views to be able indicate support or dissent for all or merely part of the content. Rather than a Parliament, might we one day talk perhaps of a visualment or scribblement, or just pure divilment! Anyway, the idea would be that there will be more come from The Afterword at some point. Just not quite yet.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maintaining demand in the ecomony

A representative of the CPSU was on the 6.1 News two weeks ago saying that we should have no pay cuts in the public service because above all we must "maintain demand in the economy!". Not a bad idea but is paying public servants the best way to do that? I mean following his logic we could get out of this if we were to pay them all 20% sure that would help us no end by increasing demand by 20% or at least that's what he seems to think.

Only 1/6 of the workforce are in the public service which is roughly 17%, so a 10% cut in those salaries would only amount to a 1.6% reduction in demand while saving 2 Billion for the budget. This potential 1.6% drop in demand is as nothing compared to the actual drop due to people losing their jobs in the private sector. But hey let's all focus on making sure that we don't have that killer 1.6% drop.

In contrast to the above I tend to agree that lying off loads of low paid public servants wouldn't save that much money when you consider that we take back about 1/3 of their pay in taxes and PRSI and it would lead to greater reductions in services. Yet would cutting pay by the same amount have the same effect? If one in ten jobs went it is reasonable to think that even with the remaining 90% taking up some slack that there would be less people around to do the same work so that same work wouldn't happen. However, if you cut salaries by 10% across the board would the people affected really work 10% less? Would members of An Garda Siochana guard us 10% less, would teachers teach 10% less well? There is no requirement that a 10% pay cut should lead to any substantive cut in services while a cut in numbers employed almost automatically means a reduction in services. And haven't many of of those providing public services been telling us that their jobs are vocations? like teachers and doctors and nurses?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gender proofing legislation - a one way street?

I'm coming to this late but it is interesting to consider that the mother in the Roscommon abuse and neglect case could only be sentenced to seven years for her crimes because the legislation as it pertains to women is over a century old. This despite legislation for the same crimes having been updated in the last ten years but only it appears it was only updated as it applies to male perpetrators.

I had understood, perhaps incorrectly, that when new legislation was being proposed that the relevant department engaged in what is termed 'gender proofing'. Such gender proofing is supposed to work so as to ensure that any new laws don't unduly affect one gender over the other. Yet it would appear from this example at least this works primarily in one direction when it comes to the criminal justice system, new legislation must not impact negatively on women but it can do so on men. In fact when revising the law it doesn't occur to anyone to check that it applies equally to men and women.

It does make one wonder if the state (or those working for the state) realises that both genders are capable of committing crimes. Even if the incidences of particular crimes may be more prevalent in one gender than the other, both are still able to commit them. There again looking at the response to the C case should we really be all that surprised at the distinction?

As Brendan Howlin noted at the time "That is above and beyond the bizarre and absurd position that girls will be criminally liable for foreplay but not for sex. To put it bluntly, the incoherence behind the present proposals is demonstrated by pointing to three conflicting propositions, each of which the Government is seeking to advance in this Bill. Each of them relate to consensual acts between two 16½ year olds.

· If they engage in sexual intercourse, the boy is guilty of a serious offence but the girl is not.
· If the girl performs oral sex on the boy, they are both guilty of a serious offence.
· But if the boy performs oral sex on the girl, then neither of them is guilty of anything.
Most bizarrely of all, where a boy attempts sexual intercourse with a girl but fails, she is guilty as well as him. But if he succeeds in sexual intercourse with her, she is innocent of any offence.

The Minister is, for reasons that defy logic, on rewarding a girl who insists, in order to protect her legal innocence, on proceeding to full penetrative sexual intercourse." And we're coming up on the third anniversary of that piece of sexist legislation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Political blogs - guess who is not coming to dinner

I’m only going to talk about the political blogs that are nominated as they are the ones I'm most familiar with. A good representation from our friends in the north. And a decent number from local election candidates too. Nice to see the political journalists joining the fun. And the entries from the journalists new and not so new are very strong too, quality writing, consistent posting and a key aspect for me - good engagement and discussion with their readers. I would take the personal view that it is very hard for the solo blog efforts to compete with the group efforts, and let's face it the likes of Slugger and CedarLounge are simply fantastic reads and resources. Still that which does not destroy us makes us strong, eh!

Yet looking at the list I can’t help feeling there are a good few missing that you would really expect to have seen at least one or two of: the likes of Damien Blake, Dominic Hannigan, Ciaran Cuffe and Richard Delevan spring to mind. Does this mean they will now be banned from the top table for blog events in future? Have they been shunned by the politiarati who long only for the delights of the new and shiny, or did people just reckon they would be nominated anyway and people instead sought out those who might not be so popular. That would be a real pity if they were lost for good from the scene but if the awards are genuinely meant to be a reflection of the current state of play for blogging then the logic of doing exactly that would appear hard to avoid. Of course, by saying "banned from the top table" I am being more than a little facetious.

I've said it already but if there was a live nomination process so you could see who was already nominated then this sort of situation would be avoided. After all, this is just the nomination stage and it would be good for the categories to be as inclusive as possible. There again they could have been lost or mislaid, my own nominations for example don’t appear to have made it through even though I did get a confirmation mail. But adding those mentioned above in now would have all the appearance of favouritism so I guess they'll be missing for this year.