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Help ocean scientists build open-source research tools

CTD units are incredibly important to ocean research, measuring three basic factors of sea water — conductivity, temperature, and depth. Almost every major research vessel has one. But the units are part of what ensures that it's expensive to get started doing ocean science. Each one can cost between $5000-$25,000. Now, a group of ocean scientists are trying to finance the design of an open-source CTD that could be built by anyone for less than $200. You can help fund their efforts at Rockethub. Maggie 1

Help transcribe ancient Egyptian texts

You don't need to know an ancient language to help scientists read ancient literature. Researchers are looking for volunteers for a crowdsource project aimed at transcribing (and, later, translating) the words written on a series of crumbling papyrus scrolls, found in a trash heap at the site of what was once Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. Maggie

Science needs your money (and your gut bacteria)

Here's an interesting project that combines participatory citizen science with crowdsource funding models.

American Gut is a project to catalog, analyze, and compare microbiomes of a diverse swath of Americans. Microbiomes are the bacteria that live in you (and on you). They're both separate from your body and a part of it. Scientists want to better understand what bacteria live with us, what they do, and how the populations of bacteria change depending on factors like your diet, where you live, and your ethnicity. The project is entirely funded by crowdsourcing, so how you participate is also how you donate. For instance, in exchange for a $99 donation, you'll get a kit that will enable scientists to do DNA extraction and 16sRNA sequencing on the bacteria they find in a sample of your skin, saliva, or poop. After they've studied the sample, the researchers will present you with information about your microbiome and how it compares to those of other participants.

You can sign up to donate/participate anytime between now and January 7. There are also a few opportunities available for people who want to participate, but can't donate any money right now.

Crowdfunded journalism + crowdsourced expertise = ?

This is a small thing now, but could become more interesting in the future. American Public Media (the people behind a lot of the shows you hear on NPR) have a project called the Public Insight Network, which connects journalists with average people who want to share information about their hobbies, passions, or areas of expertise. The PIN is pretty cool and it just acquired Spot.Us—a crowdfunding site aimed specifically at producing high-quality journalism. Like I say, I have no idea where this is headed. But it could be neat. It's definitely a collaboration I'll be keeping an eye on. Maggie

Safecast draws on power of the crowd to map Japan's radiation

[Video Link: YouTube, PBS.org]

I traveled to Japan with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien to help shoot and produce a series of NewsHour stories about the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters.

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Pittsburgh Signs Project: appreciation of the glorious signage of Pittsburgh

Earlier this summer, a nice group of people approached me at my signing at the CMU bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA and handed me a copy of Pittsburgh Signs Project, a photography book that features glorious photos of Pittsburgh's beautiful vintage signs. It turns out that two of the people giving me the book were among its editors, and they'd come by especially because I'd played an unwitting role in the project's genesis. Back in 2003, I blogged a set of photos of I'd snapped of Denver's signs (I'd been there for a conference and after a couple days I was so overwhelmed by the signs I kept seeing in passing that I jumped in my rental car and spent the afternoon shooting), and this, in turn, had inspired the founding of the Pittsburgh Signs Project, which invited the pittsburghese to send in their favorite images. Before long, they had a book's worth of astounding signs from many eras and of many genres, from every county in the area.

The editors -- Jennifer Baron, Greg Langel, Elizabeth Perry and Mark Stroup -- then gathered up their favorites and arranged them thematically, with brief essays and short snips of text from the photographers. But the words aren't the important bit, the photos are, and they're really something. The layout of the book hints at the lineage of the signs; of rival liquor store owners who duelled with typography; of peeling hand-painted ancestors from the dawn of commercial advertising; of careful, handmade steel typography over a metal-shop's awning. Put together, they make a sort of poetry.

I've always said that the way to make something beautiful is to make a million near-identical versions of it, let the ravages of time remove nearly all those versions, and put the remainder under glass (this is why we love Craftsman houses, Victorian row houses, old comic books, etc). Here's a great example of the phenomena: merely by withstanding time these totally quotidian objects have become evocative relics.

Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania (order book)

Pittsburgh Signs Project (website)

Walter Jon Williams uses pirate ebooks to rescue his backlist

Krid sez, "To save time and money in getting his out of print back catalog books into ebook format science fiction author Walter Jon Williams is asking his readers for help in proofreading pirated copies of the books he downloaded with Bittorrent."

Some of Walter Jon's books haven't been scanned by anyone -- not even dedicated bookwarez folks. So he's offering a reward to anyone who can produce a scan of these rare titles.

I discovered that my work had been pirated, and was available for free on BitTorrent sites located in the many outlaw server dens of former Marxist countries. So I downloaded my own work from thence with the intention of saving the work of scanning my books-- I figured I'd let the pirates do the work, and steal from them. While this seemed karmically sound, there proved a couple problems...

Should any of you volunteer to provide scans of Days of Atonement, Angel Station, and Knight Moves, that lucky individual will get a signed, personalized copy of the WJW book of his or her choice (assuming I actually have a copy, of course). Plus, whatever book you scan will spend digital eternity with your name in it, along with my eternal thanks. Sound good?

Crowdsource, Please (Thanks, Krid!)

Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community -- the book!

Threadless co-founder Jake Nickell’s Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World’s Most Inspiring Online Design Community is just what you’d want in a history of one of the Internet’s most consistently interesting and creative commercial endeavors.

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Translated.by: crowdsourced volunteer translations to Eastern Euro languages

Translated.by is a service for groups of volunteers working to group-translate texts into their native language, intended primarily for use on magazine articles, blog posts, and other short works. Presently, the language options are English, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Lithuanian, though the creator, Ruslan Grokhovetskiy notes that he can switch on other languages "on request." Ruslan and friends have used the service to translate a bunch of my articles and stories into Eastern European languages, and they're on the lookout for others interested in playing along!

Translated by humans (Thanks, Ruslan!)