some SF photos, and experimentation with WP 2.5 gallery

Probably can’t quite use the WordPress gallery full-time yet. In particular note the picture that is not rotated correctly, the lack of f-spot support, and some UI quirks. But I’d guess that within another wordpress release or two I’ll switch away from gallery after seven years. As usual, the product that combines ease of use with extensibility wins.

[Edit later: apparently also it doesn’t actually create thumbnails, at least not by default or perhaps in this theme. Apologies to all who tried to grab these huge files.]

podcast recommendations?

I find myself with lots of podcast-appropriate car time1, and correspondingly my blog-reading time has cratered. And I was given an ipod on my first day of work.2 So… anyone have any recommendations for podcasts worth listening to? I’ll probably try to catch up on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum music podcasts, these boneheads,3 and the Redmonk crew, but otherwise I really have never listened to podcasts and don’t even know where to start. Recommendations either technical or non-technical (like the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum feed, or good legal podcasts?) welcome.

  1. So far about 90-100 minutes a day worth of driving. I am looking at ways to make that public transit instead of driving, but it looks unlikely to be fixable over the summer. Hopefully fixable next year. []
  2. sadly a third-gen nano; apparently no rockbox love for that? []
  3. I kid because I love []

in san francisco

Spirals as eyes? by Brett L.. License:

I have arrived in the south end of the Mission district in San Francisco, near Precita Park, and will be here (and/or near Menlo Park for work) until the beginning of August. Party invites for a housewarming will probably be going out soon for friends that I know are in SF, but if for some reason I’ve forgotten you or you’re here at some point over the summer, drop me a note and we’ll have a beverage of choice.

interesting research on ‘conditional cooperation’

Interspecies cooperation by Barry Rogge. License:

For those interested in some of my previous writings on intrinsic motivation, this survey paper by Simon Gächter may be of interest.

Key sentence:

[W]e find strong evidence that many people’s attitude toward voluntary cooperation is conditional on other people’s cooperation… Moreover, the fact that many people contribute more the more others contribute also speaks against pure altruism explanations, because they predict that people reduce their own contributions when informed that others already contribute to the public good.

Basically, the paper argues (and justifies through a survey of experimental evidence) that a majority of people are ‘conditional cooperators’ who cooperate in community projects (voting, paying taxes, charity work, etc.) if and only if other people cooperate. If they think others are ‘defecting’ (i.e., not cooperating) then they will stop cooperating as well.

The paper also has some more detailed observations that come out of the experimental work; among them that voluntary cooperation is fragile; group composition matters (i.e., groups with more conditional cooperators will be healthier); and that ‘belief management’ maters- i.e., if people think that they are in a group with more conditional cooperators, that group will be more robust. None of these will come as a huge surprise to anyone who has been involved with volunteer communities, but still interesting to see it experimentally confirmed.

I’ve always suspected that something like this is the case, and that it explains in part why the GPL is so successful, since it uses copyright to force cooperation and penalize defection, and (importantly) makes a clear public statement that that is the case, which serves a signaling function (everyone in the community knows these are the ground rules) and a filtering function (people who aren’t interested in collaborating don’t join as much as they join other groups.)

The paper is only 25 pages and fairly readable; if you’re interested in the dynamics of volunteerism I recommend it.

Those of you who aren’t into economists and their fancy ‘measurements’ may also want to look at this related early paper, which is somewhat dated (the concept of low and high authoritarians is sort of discredited at this point) but still possibly of interest in explaining some of the psychological mechanisms at work here.

(Came to this by way of this paper on tax evasion, which looks to have many other interesting citations that I should investigate once exams are done. Only Telecoms left…)

new altlaw feature

Altlaw, the restoring-caselaw-to-the-public-domain-where-it-belongs project I’ve been involved with on and off since last year, just got a new feature; it now parses the cases that are cited and shows them as sidebar links. It hasn’t propagated to all cases yet, but you can see an example here. (I stumbled across this by looking up that case for my exam tomorrow, rather than because anyone actually told me what was going on. Clearly I should be subscribed to the site’s news feed. :) Still needs some love, but it is great to see it getting there- impressive what can be done these days on a very serious shoestring.