distraction sunday

According to this site's sub-title, 'they distracted us, so now we're distracting you'. Ignoring the pretensions of the editorial 'we', I'm clearly not doing as much distracting as I might. Twelve posts in four months is hardly record-breaking.

And, I think I know what the problem is. It's not that I'm being distracted any less than usual. Rather the opposite, in fact.

Thanks to web feeds and NetNewsWire I'm bouncing around a wider range of opinion and information sources than ever before. This isn't an un-alloyed joy.

This morning, for example, I fired up NetNewsWire and, as is my wont, started with the feeds with the fewest un-read items for me to read.

This means personal, single-author or small-group sites are the first places I visit, beginning with Janko Roettgers' notes on enforced sharing ratios in the peer-to-peer world of BitTorrent. Next stop: a Slate article by Michael Kinsley arguing the free market in corporate shares doesn't produce well-run companies.

Apropos of nothing more than being subscribed to a feed that linked to it, my next stop was an article by John Cox detailing efforts to understand how the Antikythera Mechanism works. I've sounded off on this topic myself and, given that little rant, the portion of Cox's report that most obviously migrated into medium-term memory is on page 3. It's here that Cox quotes Michael Edmunds, a professor in the Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy, as describing the mechanism as a calculator rather than a computer since:

it multiplies, divides and subtracts, but you can't program it

Next, I backed up a bit, re-visiting a post by Joel Spolsky from a few days ago on the lameness that is the 'off' button in Windows Vista. I came to this because Joel has posted a follow-up that briefly notes an absurdity in Microsoft's development infrastructure and links to a rather longer article by Moishe Lettvin on exactly what it was like to work on the off button in Windows Vista.

I came upon all of the above because I'm subscribed to the Joel on Software feed. I'm not sure what it says about my range of interests that I'm also subscribed to John Gruber's DaringFireball.net feed and Gruber's Linked List feed (yes, having access to this feed does mean I've bought a t-shirt from John) includes links to both Moishe Lettvin's article and the two Joel Spolsky posts which relate to it.

I like to think it says nothing more than that John Gruber's and my interests overlap somewhat. And I hope it doesn't mean that I have to start reading Rob Enderle to avoid the 'reading only views you agree with tends to make you more extreme' problem. I read Paul Thurrot and Ars Technica regularly. I'll continue to presume that's enough to keep me on an even keel on this particular front.

Before heading off from this corner of the web, however, Gruber pointed me to an article by Niall Kennedy on The Spam Farms of the Social Web. This connects -- in my head at least -- with the Roettgers and Kinsley articles noted above. Mostly as vague semi-formed thoughts about trust and reputation in different social systems, but it makes a connection nonetheless.

Jumping again, we come to Michael Starr's article for the New York Post on a L&O CI episode described as "'pre-ripping' from the headlines," by L&O CI executive producer/head writer Warren Leight. Some interesting stuff here about US law and cyberspace being out of sync with each other. Starr doesn't mention other jurisdictions in the article but I'd be surprised if any legal system is on top of the questions being posed by this episode.

I'd say there's a story to be told about this disparity but, this is already a reference regarding an article about a story being told about this disparity. Suggesting there might be other stories to be told on this front (even if there are) is a little too meta-narrative even for me.

Another press of the up-key on my keyboard brings me to Bad Vilbel and his thoughts on the exodus of Lebanon's best and brightest. Not a particularly uplifting collection of thoughts, but Vilbel's been oscillating between despair and cautious hope for weeks now. (FWIW, I suspect Bad Vilbel is a nom de plume, perhaps even a nom de guerre. I'm not especially interested in his real name but I am curious as to why he adopted the name of a small town in the middle of Hesse, Germany.)

FWIW, as someone with a vested emotional interest in Israel getting along with its neighbours, I'm inclined to maintain the fragile hope expressed by folks such as Free Cedar and most of those adding comments to this post from John Chilton on the UAE Community Blog.

Chilton's post isn't much more than an extensive quote from a Washington Post article on the Diamond trade between Dubai and Israel but most of the people adding comments to the quotage are at least pragmatic enough to argue for getting along as a preferred alternative to the current mess.

And, yes, before anyone asks, I'm aware of the ethical and moral abyss that is the diamond trade. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme has loopholes and failures and is only half-a-reluctant-step in the right direction in any event.

The trade between Dubai and Israel is breaking down barriers of fear and mistrust because the trade is fair, the people involved are being paid decently and their working environments are clean and healthy. Insisting on just labour practices, decent environmental standards and fair trading terms for the African diamond industry should be an automatic extension of the hope we garner from the Israel/Dubai contacts.

Meandering along, my next click takes me to Joel [no surname] and his Far Outliers. Joel's habit of quoting multiple paragraphs from books in print has lead me to spend money I probably shouldn't have.

Today, however, he's quoting from a Wikipedia article on Morris "Two-Gun" Cohen. An interesting fellow. Not necessarily a nice or decent bloke, but an interesting one. The Wikipedia article notes two biographies and the more sober effort by Daniel Levy looks like it's worth hunting down.

Which is about where I stopped, at least so far as this little reading-record is concerned.

It's not the end of my reading, of course. For this little record I've not mentioned the distractions afforded by Chuq Von Rospach and Tim Bray and Cabel Sasser and the folks at Cosmic Variance and Guy Kawasaki and Jim Puls and Rafe Colburn and Daniel Jalkut and Peter Ammon and Lisa Goldstein and Romana Branden

Then there's the further productivity-reducing, brain-distracting information offered by the array of news and aggregation sites I'm taking feeds from, including reddit.com and BBC News and ABC News and Al Jazeera and AllAfrica.com.

All of which adds up to something close to information overload. How to pick out the distraction-worthy material from this? Other than by noting in passing, like I have just now, I mean.

Author: Brian Forte