A study [PDF] published in a journal of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence found that sites that have a "downvote" button to punish bad comments lock the downvoted users into spirals of ever-more-prolific, ever-lower-quality posting due to a perception of having been martyred by the downvoters.
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Drew from FARK: "the FArQ will be updated with new rules reminding you all that we don't want to be the He Man Woman Hater's Club. This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary."
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Sumana writes, "I gave the opening keynote address at Wiki Conference USA last weekend, and told Wikipedians what needs to change to make the site friendlier and more hospitable. I mixed in wisdom from John Scalzi, XKCD, Hacker School, and the Ada Initiative. The transcript and a thirty-minute audio recording (Ogg) are now up."
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Community is here to let you know everything will keep going when the show ends [TV Recap: season 5, episode 12]
At some point, it all has to end. NBC's Community will close up shop, whether it’s later this spring when NBC announces its fall schedule, after six seasons and a movie, or after it somehow incomprehensibly surpasses The Simpsons for longest-running sitcom and everyone complains even louder how the show isn’t as funny as its earlier golden years. But Community isn’t like other shows. It staved off cancellation due to low ratings thanks to a fervent fan base; it survived the departure of creator Dan Harmon and a creatively tepid fourth season; and now it sits a half hour away from yet another uncertain future after Harmon’s return. Community wants everyone to know that no matter how many stays of execution it earns, the end of a show is ultimately inevitable.
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'Community' knows Jeff Winger’s real age, and knowing is half the battle [TV recap: season 5, episode 11]
Many of the episodes in Community’s fifth season have been modified sequels to previous fan-favorite from previous seasons. “Cooperative Polygraphy” echoes bottle episode “Cooperative Calligraphy.” “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality” has strains of “Mixology Certification.” “Repilot” and “Advanced Dungeons And Dragons” have easily identifiable equivalents. “G.I. Jeff” is this season’s attempt at a storyline similar to “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” the second-season standout that takes place entirely inside Abed’s rattled mind as he grapples with his mother’s absence.
Community revisited one of its best episodes and avoided the sequel curse [Recap: season 5, episode 10]
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” stands as one of Community’s all-time greatest episodes, both stylistically impressive and narratively heartfelt. It’s an immensely satisfying episode of television that forms the peak of the show’s run in the heart of its second season. For the show to tackle that style again flies in the face of how the show has normally operated. The paintball sequel was a chance to make a stylistic adventure cap the emotional narrative struggle within the study group. But this is much riskier. And Abed blatantly states the meta-joke that everyone will ascribe to Dan Harmon, as the group makes the plan for a second role-playing game intervention: “A satisfying sequel is difficult to pull off. Many geniuses have defeated themselves through hubris, making this a chance to prove I’m better than all of them. I’M IN.”
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Never let it be said that Community goes halfway in its genre homage episodes. “App Development And Condiments” is a full-on dystopian meltdown that pitches Greendale into a disastrous state of rigid social classes determined by an upstart social network. It’s not as airtight as some of the show’s other clear homage episodes, nor is it as coherent as some of the more sprawling, cafeteria-homage episodes (like the David Fincher Ass-Crack Bandit episode earlier this season), but at least it has a kernel of a clear message. If I’m placing this on my scale of Community styles, this is a batshit insane, throw-everything-at-the-wall stylistic extravaganza, but not everything sticks.
The fifth season of Community isn’t breaking new ground, but it’s a perfectly satisfying addition to a catalogue of episodes that now breaks down into a number of categories. Right now, I think there’s a bit of a gradient along which episodes fall: Conceptually ambitious and serious (“Virtual Systems Analysis,” “Critical Film Studies”), the lightly serious (“Mixology Certification”), the lightly comedic (“Introduction To Teaching,” basically most of the first season), and the structurally adventurous joke factories (“Epidemiology,” “Paradigms Of Human Memory,” “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics”).
Episodes fall into or between those categories, but largely that’s what the show is working with at this point. “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality” falls into that second list. It’s not structurally overambitious, nor is it a consistent laugh-fest. But it’s an earnestly serious episode with many laughs examining two male relationships—a pair of old friends out of touch and a student/teacher interaction—that haven’t been featured previously on the show. Read the rest
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With Pierce’s essence preserved in an energon pod and Troy off circumnavigating the world in a sailboat with LeVar Burton, the cast of Community has thinned out. And instead of another madcap theme episode or a special meta-commentary on death or saying goodbye to friends, Community can now get back to its own special kind of normal. Too much philosophizing can get distracting, so it’s nice that this week shifts to the joke-a-minute pace within a plot that explores the Greendale underbelly as a reflection of the real-world political favors needed to accomplish even the simplest task.
“Analysis Of Cork-Based Networking” divides rather easily into three discrete plots with just a hint of overlap; so this review breaks down to follow that organizing principle.
How do you say goodbye to someone you love? Do you shake a hand, give a hug, and then get it over with? Do you write an epically long letter and leave it under the windshield wiper of a car and hope it’ll get read? Or do you create an elaborate party game designed as a mental coping mechanism and stall tactic to deny that you ever really need to say goodbye at all?
“Geothermal Escapism” is essentially a Community paintball episode without the paintball, and without the external conflict of an invading rival school. In fact, it’s an even more juvenile version of those episodes, since “Hot Lava” is a game for little kids (and the occasional freshman dorm), and the logic behind the game starting stems from Dean Pelton’s affinity for the study group, as opposed
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“Cooperative Polygraphy” attempts to wrangle an incredible amount of different goals that it wants to accomplish in the span of 20 minutes. It’s an episode that deals with the death of a major character, beginning the arc that will see off a second character, comments on both actors leaving the show behind the scenes, loops in references to those actors’ relationships with creator Dan Harmon, and once again attempts to air all grievances between a group of longtime friends prone to secrecy and frustration.
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Kevin McFarland reviews the latest episode of Dan Harmon’s beloved television series.Read the rest
“Repilot” and “Introduction To Teaching”
I’m at a loss on how to properly describe something like the fifth season of Community. It shouldn’t exist. It makes no sense that it exists, especially with original creator Dan Harmon, a singularly gifted showrunner who is at the same time cursed to be a hellish guy to work with despite frighteningly astute comedic instincts.
When Chuck Klosterman reviewed Guns N’ Roses’ mythic Chinese Democracy, he said that writing about the long-in-progress album was “not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn.” That’s how I feel about the episodes NBC sent out to critics for this fifth season. And not just about the fact that I have now seen three new episodes with my eyes—but the fact that Dan Harmon’s epic odyssey of getting fired by NBC following the show’s third season, then taking his podcast Harmontown on a barnstorming national tour while a listless fourth season aired, has ended in his miraculous and unprecedented return to the helm. Community is an improbably beautiful, lovable cockroach—like Wall-E’s little friend on Earth—that just refuses to die. And we’re better for it, because having Dan Harmon back means Community has regained its soul.
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One of Community's most notable and popular writers, Megan Ganz, has announced in a Reddit post that she's taken a position at ABC's Modern Family. While it's sad to see her go, it's hard to blame her for leaving when there is constantly a question about Community's future. But at least we'll get to see two more episodes in Season 4 that were written by Ganz, and she'll be staying on to oversee the editing of those two episodes ("Paranormal Parentage" and the season finale, "Advanced Introduction to Finality"). Said the scribe:
We filmed the bottle episode in chronological order so this was the first line that we shot and I remember sitting at the monitors at 7am on the first day thinking, "If they call action and no one runs in here screaming 'stop the TV-equivalent of presses,' then I will have written a line that will appear on a television show. I'll be a television writer." And the director did call action–as they do–and so I was. Just like that. ...
This isn't the end of me and Greendale. Community was my world for four seasons and my job for three, and has hold of my whole heart like a bad-news high school boyfriend. I'll never really get away. The chemistry is too perfect and the writing room couches aren't really that uncomfortable to sleep on and I just can't stop writing for Britta. Plus I still have to do my editing pass on the finale. I think I left a box in my office, too. Bobrow probably misses me. Better stop by on my way home.
Ganz's voice on Community will definitely be missed, but I prefer to see her gainfully employed rather than suddenly silenced or underutilized. I will probably also really, truly have to start watching Modern Family now.
Photo of Megan Ganz and Annie's Boobs via Community Wiki
Klippel–Feil syndrome is rare and it likely doesn't describe one single disorder. Instead, it's more of a catch-all, a name for a variety of conditions that all share one common feature — being born with some of the vertebrae in the neck fused together.
Besides that, Klippel-Feil syndrome is pretty diverse. It's associated with a wide variety of birth defects that not everyone with the syndrome has. So it's hard to say what an absolute outcome for Klippel-Feil would be. But, for one man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam, Klippel-Feil syndrome likely meant complete paralysis of the lower half of his body. There's a good chance his arms were at least partly paralyzed, as well. His head would have been torqued to the right. It was probably hard for him to chew. Basically, he couldn't have easily kept himself alive with no help
And yet, this man — known as Burial 9 — lived into adulthood. Discovered in 2009, he is only one of a collection of prehistoric burials demonstrating that, even while living under harsh conditions, our ancestors went out of their way to care for people who couldn't care for themselves and make space in the community for people who had to live differently than the norm. In the New York Times, James Gorman writes about this archaeology of compassion:
Among archaeological finds, she said, she knows “about 30 cases in which the disease or pathology was so severe, they must have had care in order to survive.” And she said there are certainly more such cases to be described. “I am totally confident that there are almost any number of case studies where direct support or accommodation was necessary.”
Such cases include at least one Neanderthal, Shanidar 1, from a site in Iraq, dating to 45,000 years ago, who died around age 50 with one arm amputated, loss of vision in one eye and other injuries. Another is Windover boy from about 7,500 years ago, found in Florida, who had a severe congenital spinal malformation known as spina bifida, and lived to around age 15. D. N. Dickel and G. H. Doran, from Florida State University wrote the original paper on the case in 1989, and they concluded that contrary to popular stereotypes of prehistoric people, “under some conditions life 7,500 years ago included an ability and willingness to help and sustain the chronically ill and handicapped.”
In another well-known case, the skeleton of a teenage boy, Romito 2, found at a site in Italy in the 1980s, and dating to 10,000 years ago, showed a form of severe dwarfism that left the boy with very short arms. His people were nomadic and they lived by hunting and gathering. He didn’t need nursing care, but the group would have had to accept that he couldn’t run at the same pace or participate in hunting in the same way others did.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is stepping up its open wireless campaign, which encourages people and businesses to leave their Internet connections open to the public, and offers advice on doing this safely and sustainably. As EFF points out, most WiFi networks are latent for most of the time, and there are a million ways that leaving your network accessible to passersby or neighbors can really help out, from emergency access during disasters to the urgent need to send an email, look up a phone number, or check directions. EFF's Adi Kamdar writes,
We believe there are many benefits to having a world of open wireless. Two of the big ones for us have to do with privacy and innovation.
Open wireless protects privacy. By using multiple IP addresses as one shifts from wireless network to wireless network, you can make it more difficult for advertisers and marketing companies to track you without cookies. Activists can better protect their anonymous communication by using open wireless (though Tor is still recommended).
Innovations would also thrive: Smarter tablets, watches, clothing, cars—the possibilities are endless. In a future with ubiquitous open Internet, smartphones can take advantage of persistent, higher quality connections to run apps more efficiently without reporting your whereabouts or communications. Inventors and creators would not have to ask permission of cell phone companies to utilize their networks, both freeing up radio spectrum and reducing unnecessary barriers to entry.
This movement is just beginning, but in a sense it has always been around. People, businesses, and communities have already been opening up their wireless networks, sharing with their neighbors, and providing an important public good. We want this movement to grow without unnecessary legal fears or technical restraints.
I really enjoyed reading a recent story in The New York Times Magazine about attempts to understand extreme longevity — the weird tendency for certain populations to have larger-than-average numbers of people who live well into their 90s, if not 100s.
Written by Dan Buettner, the piece focuses on the Greek island of Ikaria, and, in many ways, it's a lot like a lot of the other stories I've read on this subject. From a scientific perspective, we don't really understand why some people live longer than others. And we definitely don't understand why some populations have more people who live longer. There are lots of theories. Conveniently, they tend to coincide with our own biases about what we currently think is most wrong with our own society. So articles about extremely long-lived populations tend to offer a lot of inspiring stories, some funny quotes from really old people, and not a lot in the way of answers.
Buettner's story has all those elements, but it also proposes some ideas that were, for me, really thought provoking. After spending much of the article discussing the Ikarian's diet (it's low in meat and sugar, high in antioxidants, and includes lots of locally produced food and wine) and their laid-back, low-stress way of life, Buettner doesn't suggest that we'll all live to be 100 if we just, individually, try to live exactly like the Ikarians do. In fact, he points out that other communities of long-lived individuals actually live differently — Californian Seventh-Day Adventists, for instance, eat no meat at all and don't drink, and they live with the normal stresses of everyday American life.
What these groups do have in common, though, is a strong social infrastructure that ties people to each other emotionally and connects individual choices to a bigger community lifestyle.
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While everyone is enthusiastically awaiting the return of NBC's Community this fall, news broke today that the network was delaying its fourth season premiere indefinitely. Now, when I first read this, my first thought -- and many probably thought the same -- was that NBC was screwing over Community, yet again. But, as it turns out, it's the total opposite. Instead of just taking it off the schedule, launching it into further obscurity so it can die a quiet death, the network wants to put the proper spotlight on it and spend more time marketing it.
NBC released a statement saying that their current lineup of new shows is benefiting from their attention, so they've chosen to shelf the premieres of both Community and Whitney, which were originally going to premiere next Friday.
"Without having to launch these comedies on Friday at this time, we can keep our promotion focused on earlier in the week; plus, we will have both comedies in our back pocket if we need to make any schedule changes on those nights. When we have a better idea of viewing patterns in the next few weeks, we will announce new season premieres of Whitney and Community."
So, it's very nice of NBC to spare Community from being overshadowed by all the marketing they'll be doing for their new shows. It's also amazingly ironic, considering how they have had Community on their channel for three years and barely promoted it at all, then wondered why the ratings were so bad, and then banished it to Friday nights next to one of its most reviled new shows. So, now they're going to take the time to promote it? I suppose that if it has to be on Friday nights, it's a good thing they're finally going to give it the attention it deserves. But isn't that like having an aunt who says you never, ever visit her, then when she ends up in the hospital and you realize she might die, you go see her once -- for your own peace of mind?
NBC -- your best fair-weather nephew. Check this space for the new premiere dates.
Photo credit: Trae Patton for NBC
NBC Delays 'Community,' 'Whitney' Returns [The Hollywood Reporter]
The WELL, the online community which started out life more than 20 years ago as the Whole Earth Lectronic Link, has been sold to a company founded by some of its long-time users. It has had many owners in its storied history, but its most recent owner, Salon, is the first public company to own the WELL, which raised numerous questions about whether Salon could legally sell the site to the users without trying to realize greater value for its shareholders, including through the sale of the well.com domain name.
Many WELL users have pledged money for a user buyout, and a group of them negotiated with Salon to make the purchase.
I have been a WELL user since the early 1990s, and have enormous affection and respect for the community there. Though I don't often use it actively any longer, my experiences there were formative to my understanding of the online world. Congratulations to the Well Group folks for navigating these waters. Below the jump I've included the press-release.
On John Scalzi's Whatever, a list of ten excellent rules for being a better commenter -- it's certainly stuff that I'll keep in mind the next time I leave a comment somewhere:
1. Do I actually have anything to say? Meaning, does what you post in the comments boil down to anything other than “yes, this,” or “WRONG AGAIN,” or even worse, “who cares”? A comment is not meant to be an upvote, downvote or a “like.” It’s meant to be an addition to, and complementary to (but not necessarily complimentary of) the original post. If your comment is not adding value, you need to ask whether you need to write it, and, alternately, why anyone should be bothered to read it. On a personal note, I find these sort of contentless comments especially irritating when the poster is expressing indifference; the sort of twit who goes out of his way to say “::yawn::” in a comment is the sort I want first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
2. Is what I have to say actually on topic? What is the subject of the original post? That’s also the subject of the comment thread, as is, to some extent, the manner in which the writer approached the subject. If you’re dropping in a comment that’s not about these things, then you’re likely working to make the comment thread suck. Likewise, if as a commenter you’re responding to a comment from someone else that’s not on topic to the original post, you’re also helping to make the comment thread suck. On a busy blog or site, there will be many opportunities to talk about many different subjects. You don’t have to talk about them in the wrong place.
3. Does what I write actually stay on topic? As a corollary to point two, if you make a perfunctory wave at the subject and then immediately use it as a jumping-off point for your own particular set of hobby horses, then you’re also making the thread suck. This is a prime derailing maneuver, which I like to dub “The Libertarian Dismount,” given the frequency with which members of that political tribe employ it — e.g., “It’s a shame that so many people are opposed to same-sex marriage, but this is just why government has no place legislating relationships between people, and why in a perfect society government steps away and blah blah blahdee blah blah.” If you can’t write a comment that isn’t ultimately a segue into topics you feel are important, ask yourself why everything has to be about you.
Reddit user creates lost scene from Community in a video game, brings staff writer and fans to tears
Dan Harmon recently conducted an AMA on Reddit, in which he revealed that in the emotionally charged season finale of Community, "Digital Estate Planning," Chevy Chase didn't show up to film a scene that was partially told via an original 8-bit video game. Since it was the last day of shooting, it was their last chance to do the scene, and they lost it. So one Reddit user, Derferman, of /r/hawkthorne, created the scene and made it downloadable for everyone to play out the scene for themselves. Community writer Megan Ganz was positively verklempt and showed it to the cast this morning.
It is a full-on Community-Harmontown lovefest, kids.
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The always wonderful and thought-provoking Venkatesh Rao has a typically spot-on analysis of the ideology underlying the idea that we are heading for a world of either collapse or abundance. Along the way, he drops all kinds of great thoughts, like the Generalized Godwin’s Law: "Every discussion within an online community converges to a zero-information signal characterized by empty assertions concerning the foundational dichotomy of that community."
A resource gets cheap enough to waste when it is cheap enough that you can leave it out of the strategic cost calculations for most products and services that it is a part of.
This is a relative definition of cheap. Global shipping is an example of a wasteable resource today, for value-added manufactured goods. Relative to manufacturing and other costs, the costs of shipping something from China to the US (say) are so trivial that as a first approximation, you can ignore them. You can think about business models and strategic positioning issues without thinking about transport (your accountants still have to include it in their book-keeping of course). The design space for your business model shrinks in useful ways.
Not all resources are wasteable in all industries. Electricity is something you can waste in many contexts in the developed world, but not in the data center business, where it is a big enough cost component that it pays to locate data centers near cheap power.
This suggests a good measure for development actually. A nation or region is as developed as the resources its economy views as wasteable (in the good+strategic sense).
Coming on the tails of NBC's news that they'd be pursuing "broader" projects for their comedy lineup, Fox has announced that they're moving forward on a possible new sitcom being written by the former showrunner of Community, Dan Harmon. There aren't any details about the show yet, just that they've signed him on to write such a series, but is there a chance that Harmon will find himself more at home here than at NBC? Fox is, after all, the channel that brought us Arrested Development. Then again, they also canceled Arrested Development after just three seasons. But considering the shows they currently have on the air -- like Emmy-nominated quirkfests The New Girl and Raising Hope -- maybe Fox has seen the error of their ways?
And could Community pull a Buffy and find more success at a different network?
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Talk about those times when you really wish you could transport yourself to the opposite coast of a country for the nerdiest thing ever. There was a really fun-sounding panel for NBC's Community today, and it featured a reassuring quote from the new guys running the show, David Guarascio and Moses Port. You might recall that they were brought on when Dan Harmon was fired. Dan Harmon, the person responsible for creating the very specific, quirky voice of this hugely unique show. This show that is being banished to Friday nights following Whitney. Whitney. Whit. Ney. Here is what Guarascio had to say about preserving everything we love about Community:
"A couple of months ago, we were a lot like you: just huge fans of the show who thought it was one of the most special things on television," Guarascio said at the panel discussion. "Suddenly we're here, helping to keep it going. The only thing we care about is keeping it this weird, wonderful gem that it's always been. That's not gonna change."
Joel McHale went on to say that while it was going to be different moving forward with different people in charge of what he called "the greatest show in the history of television," he has confidence in them and vouches for their work.
"They're terrific guys and really good and a lot of the writers are back. So it's definitely like this strange transition time, but I'm still insanely excited to do the show. He [Harmon] will be missed and it's gonna be interesting to see how it all goes, but just talking to the writers -- they're breaking stories and they sound great."
But still -- no pressure. It's only the greatest show in the history of television.