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390 Final

Here is my final project on the influence of hacker culture in our society.


The security and preservation are both the same, I plan to keep digital copies on my hard drive as well as a flash drive that contains my school assignments.  The visualizations for the maps, timelines, and text analysis can only be found on the sites in which they were made, and if they shut down, then the visualizations will be lost.   After the semester is done, I plan to delete the Wix website, taking my project off the internet.  Taking my site off the internet is the best way to make sure other people do not distort the information, and makes sure that the links were accurate in the frame of time when my site was active.

Alex Lederer, Blog Post #12

Well, I looked at Scratch with the intent to use it in my project somehow, but I don’t think that is the correct way to do it.  Scratch is a more technical Kids Pix, and it reminds me of all the old web hosting sites that would have their own programs to visualize information on a webpage (like blogspot! but more like geocities), except with flash.  It seems basic at first glance, but looking at the community additions to it, it’s  insane.  The videos they show just make it seem like newgrounds videos back in 2004, but some of the stuff programmed is insane.  The regular blocks they show you on the slide show give the illusion that it’s basic, but people replace the sprites of cats or whatever with data values, then use the blocks in Scratch to  give visualizations of complex formulas.  Maybe it’s not complex, but people programmed calculators and stuff.

Scratch is kind of like the educational Minecraft.  Minecraft is an indie game that got really big, and the game’s code is open to mods, and some of these mods make it into the game.  In Minecraft, redstone is used to create circuitry, and the layout in game is pretty simple, and most people only use it to create doors powered in a certain way, or have lights turn on.  Most are simple switches, but redstone creations can get ridiculous.

Its kind of the same thing, they created an interface that’s not too complicated, but people took it to the next level.  Unfortunately, I don;t think I’m going to use Scratch for my projects, since none of the ideas I have now really work easily with Scratch.  I would have to bend over backwards to work with Scratch.  It does add something new to previous programs though, maybe I can create something else, not really advertised by that program, but possible, and it would work out.  I don’t have any ideas off the top of my head, but I think it would be interesting to see if people make any complex WordPress pages or something.

Alex Lederer, Blog #11

Roy Rosenzweig’s post reminds me of “web art.”  He talks about the changes the internet has gone through since the mid 90s, how the technology of digital data might not be compatible with developing technology, and how this is already a problem with digital works from the 80s.  All the technological reasons aside, there are also copyright issues that could destroy a large chunk of our history from the early digital time period, since that tech needs to be addressed now, but under current copyright laws we can;t touch it for awhile and all those records go to the next of kin.  Whenever I read articles about preserving digital records, I always feel bad for the small amount of historians compared to the GIANT amounts of data created on the internet.  I can’t even imagine trying to look through message boards or forums of a certain group to look for information.  The amount of content created on one message board a day can be overwhelming, having all that data about 20 years worth of digital content would take a lifetime to look through; trying to preserve all this data and create better search tools to look through it seems exhausting.

The part in Rosenzwieg’s article about the September 11th attacks and the Bert is Evil crossover was pretty cool, I know that it was supposed to highlight how information can be deleted so easily in the digital age, but I think it also highlights how the digital medium allows for spinoff terms to be created. If you are trying to look up a certain term from a certain age on the internet, yo have to realize that the internet is a plane on it’s own.  Wikipedia had the problem of it’s niche and cultural articles popping up when looking for historical information, and the internet is definitely going to have this problem when people look up certain terms.  In the future, when people try to look up something like the Olympics, they are going to get a lot of hits for cultural content, like the “McKayla is not impressed” image macro or terms like that that have a very strong presence on the internet.

The 9-11 memorial is a weird historical site that is a history of an event.  The archive has all these strange Photoshop pictures, personal stories, and art submitted to create a history of the event, but not in a traditional way.  So many different faucets relating to 9-11 are covered on the site, but the personal information is pretty goofy. The testimonials are good to have but it almost seems like they tried to compile as much data they could without really seeing if it was relevant or useful.  The documents, timelines and maps are straightforward and the usefulness of those documents is pretty clear, but the images an art feels like trying to get meaning out of a Google image search.

Alex Lederer, Blog #10

Rosenzweig article is very interesting, I’m so used to Google searches for results that are “in the area” of what I’m looking for that I don’t really think about how these algorithms can be used to find specific, very specific and detailed pieces of information.  Since there are so many different articles that have similar information, that manually going through and finding the right article takes too much time (like the useless pieces of information in The Library of Babel) and the machines we’ve created allow us to find the correct information. Rosenzweig created a few tools to look through massive amounts of texts to isolate data or find similar data that can be useful for the researcher.  I’m especially interested in Term Extraction Web Service that was offered by yahoo in the article, since I’m looking at public perceptions of “hacking” it would be really cool if I could see how these related terms change over the years.  Like really, really, really cool and helpful.

Of course, this article was made in 2006, and now, in 2012, our algorithms for searching are ridiculously good.  Searching things on the internet has become such a valuable craft by itself, that knowing how to direct yourself through different search engines or scholarly databases saves HOURS.  I know that there are crude search engines that still are only useful for finding information you already know, like most of the scholarly databases, but I think once the search engine database is improved, or maybe mixed with the specific searches required by JSTOR or other databases, we’ll be at a good place.

Speaking of the Term Extraction Web Service, the Google Ngram Viewer is also a really cool tool for looking at the popularity of certain terms.  Being able to easily compare certain terms is useful when you look at overall trends, but I think it’s important to realize that these numbers could be artificially inflated due to the term becoming more integrated into culture or the amount of books released each year increasing… a statistic I am not sure about. The amount of texts and articles might be increasing, but I think it would be interesting to see overall numbers of publications from 1900s to today.  If the average number of publications increases per year, I want to see how the increase or decrease of these terms in the Ngram compare to the number of publications.

Alex Lederer, Blog #9

Ya Powerpoint sucks.  I’ve been in the public school system, and I’ve had to witness first hand the affects of such technology.  Who knew that making use of the Microsoft Office Suite for schools would have such terrible side effects.   Whenever I can, I try to avoid using Powerpoint, not just because I hate it and it makes everything boring, but it’s only positive contribution is improving mediocre presentations by trying to fool the audience into thinking that making the Powerpoint would take more time and energy then it really does.

In the Wired article, they highlight some of the main problems with Powerpoint, which is how people interact with the technology and how ingrained the tool is within western business culture.  When people use Powerpoint, things become dehumanized, stale, and the information displayed has to be top notch if you want to effectively convey the proper ideas with quantitative data.  I think that infographs will eventually fall into this realm too, they do a good job at highlighting data but they are very weak at giving in depth, specific data.  Good speech and compelling imagery are so effective by themselves, and somehow we are bad at showing both of them at the same time.

Abe Lincoln’s Powerpoint was pretty funny.  I can imagine everyone being bored out of their minds watching Abe try to fix the display settings, or maybe Abe getting angry because he was using Mac Fonts and they got all messed up when playing it from another computer.  Powerpoint is a technology that takes away meaning from information which is really bad.  Google please fix.

Alex Lederer, Blog #8

The Felton reports are really pretty.  The maps in particular.  The first map of the 2009 Felton report and all of the 2008 report are beautiful, which is probably why he can print 2000-3000 of these little reports and get hella paid for it. The infographs, not just the maps, really help visualize data in context as well, which is a really important element that can be lost in traditional graphs.  It helps to create a mindset when looking at data, and this is a direct reaction to the choices made by the designer, which is an important tool and job not seen before in history.  Pretty interesting stuff.

The actual information does a good job at highlighting the top statistic.  Infographs, if anything, really do help highlight the differences between data, but the smaller or outlier information is generally ignored.  Besides the top 5, all other information is unimportant and ignored or made obscured in order to make the information look better.  Of course, making the data look appealing is a really useful way to remember it, and invite people to look at the data from the start.

The end always says what programs he used to create the reports, but I don’t know whether or not they do a lot of the visualizations or just organize the data.  I need to look into OpenStreetMap, and Amazon Mechanical Turf.  My area of focus, which is the phone phreakers of the early computer age, doesn’t rely of physical area so much, but I think making a map will be helpful regardless.  I know timelines will be very helpful, and  maybe some sort of grid visualization to show the way that the phone cables were connected allowing the phreakers to expliot the system to make free international calls.

Alex Lederer, Blog #7

The Difference Slavery Made is a pretty great piece of history.  When linked the first time, I thought it was going to be a paper and I didn’t fully realize the format it was in.  Instead of being a paper, divided by topic points, they used the web medium to help separate and organize the information about these two towns.  I like how they look at the two towns spatially, I don’t hear much about plotting the physical landscape of small towns anywhere except for anthropology (where, the first thing you do in field work is create a sketch of the community in order to have a better understanding of how physical locations could be important relative to other buildings). I really like how using new forms of technology to see a holistic view of these towns has shed light on some stereotypes that are usually pinned down to certain subjects (north being industrialized and urbanized and the south being old fashioned and rural).

I like the start, but I think it needs more work.  I think that each different link should relate back to the point being brought up, and the final conclusion should not feel so isolated.  I also think that with the web medium, the historiography should be more incorporated with the rest of the information.  Since we have the ability to hyperlink and use visual space to show data, the source for these maps should be displayed by the maps and not on a different page.  The website states “we rely on Extensible Markup Language (XML) to connect large amounts of evidence with detailed discussions of the historiography on slavery in the United States” but this could have been improved on.


start of my map n__n

Alex Lederer, Blog Post #6

I’m familiar with the suite of Google applications, but I hadn’t used Google docs seriously since 12th grade in high school.  It’s Google Drive now, which I guess lets it store your documents in the browser cache so you can access it when you’re offline, which is pretty neat.  With all the “cloud computing” going on I figured a tech savvy company like Google would just make the assumption that all users would be connected to the internet 24/7, so this change is really nice.

My first impression way back when for Google Docs was that it was a really useful tool for working with a lot of people.  I’m surprised I don’t use it more, because you get to see other people editing the same article the same time as you are, and in group discussions it’s so useful to have everyone work on it and talk about the project at once.  I feel regret in a bug way right now, all these group projects I could have done in Google Docs when I only did one throughout my entire college career… to make matters worse the times I used it in high school I mostly did it so I could be working on a paper with someone and also chat at the same time, or insert pictures or something.  Looking deeper I see that the GMU student senate uses Google documents when making resolutions.  Really wondering how popular Google Docs is, and why more people don’t use it.  Why don’t I use it.  If I could launch it instead of Word or something that would be great, like a non in browser version.  Gotta check to see all the features of Google drive because Word is so ugly and slow, I would love to uninstall it.

Lots of people familiar with Google Maps, but my experience has only made me search around in Street View or for directions.  Some people are tagging themselves in this, I don;t know if it’s something I would ever do but I should probably know how.  Looking through all these programs and I’m kind of amazed at how many free programs Google is pushing out.  This is kind of ridiculous.

Alex Lederer, Blog #5

The security flaws article was pretty good, but not really “epic.”  The Amazon / Apple conflicting security policies are pretty funny and dumb, but the rest of the basic stuff he puts down could have been avoided. There are more holes in his story then just not having the two way authenticator.  For his home address, those websites need to be given the permission to show the billing information to your home address.  It’s not the default option.  White Pages has the ability to find someone, but it’s not a reliable site.  His backup email was also the gmail he used to hold his name, which is really dumb.  The entire cloud idea seems pretty dumb to me, it’s supposed to convenient but it really just makes it really hard for when you try to separate any of your accounts and information.  The strange assumption made by web designers is that the internet is this holistic entity where you just mash together everything, but there is a large portion of people who have their information separated for a variety of different reasons besides security, and there are tools and programs made for easy use of that, so forcing on something like the cloud to hold everything seems very strange and unnecessary to me, I didn’t think anyone actually wanted to have all their accounts hooked up for no reason.

I didn’t like how the author used “Lulz”

The best part about the article was definitely the reasoning behind the hack.  Getting that sweet, sweet 3 letter username.  People who have been around on the internet know how precious getting the right handle is.  I personally hold some “Alex” handles on popular websites, and I’ve name sniped a few people on gmail. It’s nice that they talked to Mat after the fact they hacked him to give him this information, and they probably thought the hack was mostly harmless.  Mat Honan did lose digital information, but  it could have been worse. Much worse.