Failed attempt to OwnYourCheckin

The goal of this post was to own my own checkins via foursquare. Alas there’s an issue(s) with the code somewhere, so for those who are seeing this, I’m updating it so you’ll know what happened to the intended post.

If you’re game to try it, give it a shot at

Boffo Socko Now Supports Annotations

I’d played around with many of them in the past, but a recent conversation with Matt Gross about News Genius and their issues in the last week reminded me about internet annotation platforms. Since some of what I write here is academic in nature, I thought I would add native Annotation support to the site.

hypothesisIf you haven’t heard about it before, you might find the ability to highlight and annotate web pages very useful. Hypothesis allows for public or private highlights and notes and it can be a very useful extension of one’s commonplace book.

At the moment, I’m not sure where it all fits into the IndieWeb infrastructure I’m building here, but, at least for the moment, I’d hope that those making public annotations and notes will also enter their commentary into the comments either here on the blog or by way of syndicated versions on Facebook or Twitter so that they’re archived here for posterity. (Keep in mind site-deaths are prevalent and even acknowledges in a video on their homepage that there have been many incarnations of web annotations that have come and gone in the life of the internet.) Perhaps one day there will be a federated and cross-linked version of highlights and annotations in the IndieWeb universe with webmentions included?!

Educators and researchers interested in using web annotation are encouraged to visit the wealth of information provided by providers like and  In particular, the blog has some great material and examples over the past year, and they have a special section for educators as well.

As it’s similar in functionality to highlighting on the web, I’ll remind users that we also still support Kevin Marks’s fragmentions as well.

If anyone is aware of people or groups working on the potential integration of the IndieWeb movement (webmentions) and web annotation/highlighting, please include them in the comments below–I’d really appreciate it.


Inscription in my copy of Amerikan Krazy

Henry James Korn, author of Amerikan Krazy (Boffo Socko Books, 2016) on 4/4/16


I'm honored by the kind inscription from @henryjameskorn in my association copy of #AmerikanKrazy.

Instagram filter used: Clarendon

IndieWebCamp Los Angeles 2016 Announced for November 4-6

For the first time since 2013, when it appeared in Hollywood, IndieWebCamp is coming to Los Angeles! I’m definitely going, and I invite you to join us. For the past two years or so, I’ve been delving into the wealth of tools and resources the community has been developing. I’m excited to attend a local camp, help out in any way I can, and will help anyone who’s interested in learning more.

Join us in LA (Santa Monica) for two days of a BarCamp-style gathering of web creators building and sharing open web technologies to empower users to own their own identities & content, and advance the state of the !

The IndieWeb movement is a global community that is building an open set of principles and methods that empower people to take back ownership of their identity and data instead of relying on 3rd party websites.

At IndieWebCamp you’ll learn about ways to empower yourself to own your data, create & publish content on your own site, and only optionally syndicate to third-party silos. Along the way you’ll get a solid grounding in the history and future of Microformats, domain ownership, IndieAuth, WebMention and more!

For remote participants, tune into the live chat (tons of realtime notes!) and the video livestream (URL TBD).

General IndieWeb Principles

icon 4611.png Your content is yours
When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.
icon 31635.png You are better connected
Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.
icon 2003.png You are in control
You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as These links are permanent and will always work.


1333 2nd Street, Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA, 90401
United States


Friday (optional): 2016-11-04
Saturday: 2016-11-05
Sunday: 2016-11-06


Indie Event

Guest List
For more details see: IndieWebCamp LA 2016

Tentative Schedule

Day 0 Prep Night

Day 0 is an optional prep night for people that want to button up their website a little bit to get ready for the IndieWebCamp proper.
18:30 Organizer setup
19:00 Doors open
19:15 Introductions
19:30 Build session
22:00 Day 0 closed

Day 1 Discussion

Day 1 is about discussing in a BarCamp-like environment. Bring a topic you’d like to discuss or join in on topics as they are added to the board. We make the schedule together!
08:00 Organizer setup
08:30 Doors open – badges
09:15 Introductions and demos
10:00 Session scheduling
10:30 Sessions
12:00 Group photo & Lunch
13:00 Sessions on the hour
16:00 Last session
17:00 Day 1 closing session, break, meetup later for dinner

Day 2 Building

Day 2 is about making things on and for your personal site! Work with others or on your own.
09:30 Doors open – badges
10:10 Day 2 kick-off, session scheduling
10:30 Build sessions
12:00 Catered lunch
14:30 Build sessions continue
15:00 Demos
16:30 Community clean-up
17:00 Camp closed!

Sponsorship opportunities are available for those interested.


Webmentions for Improving Annotation and Preventing Bullying on the Web

Replied to Preventing abuse – Hypothesis by Dan Whaley (

There are potential solutions to the recent News Genius-gate incident, and simple notifications can go a long way toward helping prevent online bullying behavior.

There has been a recent brouhaha on the Internet (see related stories below) because of bad actors using News Genius (and potentially other web-based annotation tools like to comment on websites without their owner’s knowledge, consent, or permission. It’s essentially the internet version of talking behind someone’s back, but doing it while standing on their head and shouting with your fingers in their ears. Because of platform and network effects, such rude and potentially inappropriate commentary can have much greater reach than even the initial website could give it. Naturally in polite society, such bullying behavior should be curtailed.

This type of behavior is also not too different from more subtle concepts like subtweets or the broader issues platforms like Twitter are facing in which they don’t have proper tools to prevent abuse and bullying online.

A creator receives no notification if someone has annotated their content.–Ella Dawson

On March 25th, Ella Dawson wrote a blog post in which she requested that Genius disable its Web Annotator for her site.

Towards a Solution: Basic Awareness

I think that a major part of improving the issue of abuse and providing consent is building in notifications so that website owners will at least be aware that their site is being marked up, highlighted, annotated, and commented on in other locations or by other platforms. Then the site owner at least has the knowledge of what’s happening and can then be potentially provided with information and tools to allow/disallow such interactions, particularly if they can block individual bad actors, but still support positive additions, thought, and communication. Ideally this blocking wouldn’t occur site-wide, which many may be tempted to do now as a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, but would be fine grained enough to filter out the worst offenders.

Toward the end of notifications to site owners, it would be great if any annotating activity would trigger trackbacks, pingbacks, or the relatively newer and better webmention protocol of the W3C which comes out of the IndieWeb movement. Then site owners would at least have notifications about what is happening on their site that might otherwise be invisible to them. (And for the record, how awesome would it be if social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Medium, Tumblr, et al would support webmentions too!?!)

Perhaps there’s a way to further implement filters or tools (a la Akismet on platforms like WordPress) that allow site users to mark materials as spam, abusive, or “other” so that they are then potentially moved from “public” facing to “private” so that the original highlighter can still see their notes, but that the platform isn’t allowing the person’s own website to act as a platform to give safe harbor (or reach) to bad actors.

Further some site owners might appreciate gradable filters (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) so that either they or their users (or even parents of younger children) can filter what they’re willing to show on their site (or that their users can choose to see).

Consider also annotations on narrative forms that might be posted as spoilers–how can these be guarded against? For what happens when a even a well-meaning actor posts an annotation on page two which foreshadows that the butler did it thereby ruining the surprise on the last page? Certainly there’s some value in having such a comment from an academic/literary perspective, but it doesn’t mean that future readers will necessarily appreciate the spoiler. (Some CSS and a spoiler tag might easily and unobtrusively remedy the situation here?)

Certainly options can be built into the annotating platform itself as well as allowing server-side options for personal websites attempting to deal with flagrant violators and truly hard-to-eradicate cases.

Note: You’re welcome to highlight and annotate this post using (see upper right corner of page) or on News Genius.

Do you have a solution for helping to harden the Internet against bullies? Share it in the comments below.
Related stories:

Online Lectures in Information Theory

Replied to Where can I find good online lectures in information theory? (
There aren’t a lot of available online lectures on the subject of information theory, but here are the ones I’m currently aware of:



Fortunately, most are pretty reasonable, though vary in their coverage of topics. The introductory lectures don’t require as much mathematics and can probably be understood by those at the high school level with just a small amount of basic probability theory and an understanding of the logarithm.

The top three in the advanced section (they generally presume a prior undergraduate level class in probability theory and some amount of mathematical sophistication) are from professors who’ve written some of the most commonly used college textbooks on the subject. If I recall a first edition of the Yeung text was available via download through his course interface. MacKay’s text is available for free download from his site as well.

Feel free to post other video lectures or resources you may be aware of in the comments below.

Editor’s Update: With sadness, I’ll note that David MacKay died just days after this was originally posted.

Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles presents Bette, Babs & Beyoncé

What a great show last night!
It was a great buttoned down opening with a free-for-all closing. Standout performances on “Rhythm Nation” and the penultimate song “Maybe This Time” were particularly powerful. The sign language interpreter completely stole the show for me in terms of performance.

Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles presents Bette, Babs & Beyoncé - What a great show last night!

Instagram filter used: Nashville

Photo taken at: Alex Theatre

A new view of the tree of life

Bookmarked A new view of the tree of life (Nature Microbiology)
An update to the €˜tree of life has revealed a dominance of bacterial diversity in many ecosystems and extensive evolution in some branches of the tree. It also highlights how few organisms we have been able to cultivate for further investigation.


The tree of life is one of the most important organizing principles in biology. Gene surveys suggest the existence of an enormous number of branches, but even an approximation of the full scale of the tree has remained elusive. Recent depictions of the tree of life have focused either on the nature of deep evolutionary relationships or on the known, well-classified diversity of life with an emphasis on eukaryotes. These approaches overlook the dramatic change in our understanding of life’s diversity resulting from genomic sampling of previously unexamined environments. New methods to generate genome sequences illuminate the identity of organisms and their metabolic capacities, placing them in community and ecosystem contexts. Here, we use new genomic data from over 1,000 uncultivated and little known organisms, together with published sequences, to infer a dramatically expanded version of the tree of life, with Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya included. The depiction is both a global overview and a snapshot of the diversity within each major lineage. The results reveal the dominance of bacterial diversification and underline the importance of organisms lacking isolated representatives, with substantial evolution concentrated in a major radiation of such organisms. This tree highlights major lineages currently underrepresented in biogeochemical models and identifies radiations that are probably important for future evolutionary analyses.

Laura A. Hug, Brett J. Baker, Karthik Anantharaman, Christopher T. Brown, Alexander J. Probst, Cindy J. Castelle, Cristina N. Butterfield, Alex W. Hernsdorf, Yuki Amano, Kotaro Ise, Yohey Suzuki, Natasha Dudek, David A. Relman, Kari M. Finstad, Ronald Amundson, Brian C. Thomas & Jillian F. Banfield in Nature Microbiology, Article number: 16048 (2016) doi:10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.48


A reformatted view of the tree in Fig. 1in which each major lineage represents the same amount of evolutionary distance.
A reformatted view of the tree in Fig. 1in which each major lineage represents the same amount of evolutionary distance.

Carl Zimmer also has a nice little write up of the paper in today’s New York Times:

Carl Zimmer
in Scientists Unveil New ‘Tree of Life’ from The New York Times 4/11/16


Thoughts on “Some academics remain skeptical of” | University Affairs

Replied to Some academics remain skeptical of (University Affairs)
They warn scholars to €œthink twice€ before sharing their work on the popular social network.
This morning I ran across a tweet from colleague Andrew Eckford:

His response was probably innocuous enough, but I thought the article should be put to task a bit more.

“35 million academics, independent scholars and graduate students as users, who collectively have uploaded some eight million texts”

35 million users is an okay number, but their engagement must be spectacularly bad if only 8 million texts are available. How many researchers do you know who’ve published only a quarter of an article anywhere, much less gotten tenure?

“the platform essentially bans access for academics who, for whatever reason, don’t have an account. It also shuts out non-academics.”

They must have changed this, as pretty much anyone with an email address (including non-academics) can create a free account and use the system. I’m fairly certain that the platform was always open to the public from the start, but the article doesn’t seem to question the statement at all. If we want to argue about shutting out non-academics or even academics in poorer countries, let’s instead take a look at “big publishing” and their $30+/paper paywalls and publishing models, shall we?

“I don’t trust”

Given his following discussion, I can only imagine what he thinks of big publishers in academia and that debate.

“McGill’s Dr. Sterne calls it “the gamification of research,”

Most research is too expensive to really gamify in such a simple manner. Many researchers are publishing to either get or keep their jobs and don’t have much time, information, or knowledge to try to game their reach in these ways. And if anything, the institutionalization of “publish or perish” has already accomplished far more “gamification”, is just helping to increase the reach of the publication. Given that research shows that most published research isn’t even read, much less cited, how bad can really be? [Cross reference: Reframing What Academic Freedom Means in the Digital Age]

If we look at Twitter and the blogging world as an analogy with and researchers, Twitter had a huge ramp up starting in 2008 and helped bloggers obtain eyeballs/readers, but where is it now? Twitter, even with a reasonable business plan is stagnant with growing grumblings that it may be failing. I suspect that without significant changes that (which is a much smaller niche audience than Twitter) will also eventually fall by the wayside.

The article rails against not knowing what the business model is or what’s happening with the data. I suspect that the platform itself doesn’t have a very solid business plan and they don’t know what to do with the data themselves except tout the numbers. I’d suspect they’re trying to build “critical mass” so that they can cash out by selling to one of the big publishers like Elsevier, who might actually be able to use such data. But this presupposes that they’re generating enough data; my guess is that they’re not. And on that subject, from a journalistic viewpoint, where’s the comparison to the rest of the competition including or, which in fact was purchased by Elsevier? As it stands, this simply looks like a “hit piece” on, and sadly not a very well researched or reasoned one.

In sum, the article sounds to me like a bunch of Luddites running around yelling “fire”, particularly when I’d imagine that most referred to in the piece feed into the more corporate side of publishing in major journals rather than publishing it themselves on their own websites. I’d further suspect they’re probably not even practicing academic samizdat. It feels to me like the author and some of those quoted aren’t actively participating in the social media space to be able to comment on it intelligently. If the paper wants to pick at the academy in this manner, why don’t they write an exposé on the fact that most academics still have websites that look like they’re from 1995 (if, in fact, they have anything beyond their University’s mandated business card placeholder) when there are a wealth of free and simple tools they could use? Let’s at least build a cart before we start whipping the horse.

For academics who really want to spend some time and thought on a potential solution to all of this, I’ll suggest that they start out by owning their own domain and own their own data and work. The movement certainly has an interesting philosophy that’s a great start in fixing the problem; it can be found at

Saddened to hear of the passing of Sir David J.C. MacKay, FRS

Earlier this morning, I was saddened to hear that one of my information theory heroes passed away today.

David MacKay blackboard

I’ve been following a Google Alert for “information theory,” and so on an almost a daily basis for over 15 years I’ve seen thousands of notices and references to his excellent textbook Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms, which he kindly chose to freely share with the world. It’s really a great little textbook, and I recommend that everyone download it or purchase it and give it a read. In addition he has a fabulous series of video lectures to go with it as well. (Someone had actually asked me for information theory lectures on Quora last week, and his are some of the best.)

An instant classic, covering everything from Shannon’s fundamental theorems to the postmodern theory of LDPC codes. You’ll want two copies of this astonishing book, one for the office and one for the fireside at home.

Bob McEliece, information theorist and professor, California Institute of Technology

Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms

Sir David J.C. MacKay was the Regius Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University and a former professor of natural philosophy in the Department of Physics at at Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. He was also a leading figure in energy and climate change having written the accessible and highly praised book Sustainable Energy: Without all the Hot Air, which is also available for free on his site. In 2009 he was appointed to a five year term as Chief Scientific Advisor of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, United Kingdom.

His TED talk will give you an idea of some of his work in this area:

MacKay was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2009. His nomination reads:

David MacKay introduced more efficient types of error-correcting code that are now used in satellite communications, digital broadcasting and magnetic recording. He advanced the field of Machine Learning by providing a sound Bayesian foundation for artificial neural networks. Using this foundation, he significantly improved their performance, allowing them to be used for designing new types of steel that are now used in power stations. He used his expertise in information theory to design a widely used interface called “dasher” that allows disabled people to write efficiently using a single finger or head-mounted pointer.

Sir David MacKay was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to scientific advice in government and to science outreach.

For those interested, he a great little blog. Here’s his last blogpost.

Below, from a variety of information theorists, mathematicians, and scientists is just the beginning of the outpouring of loss the world is experiencing today:

RIP David MacKay, former DECC Chief Scientific Adviser. He was passionate, original, brave. A truly good man. Deep condolences to his family

— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) April 14, 2016

How can we be sure old books were ever read? – University of Glasgow Library

Bookmarked How can we be sure old books were ever read? by Robert MacLean (University of Glasgow Library)
Owning a book isn’t the same as reading it; we need only look at our own bloated bookshelves for confirmation.
This is a great little overview for people reading the books of others. There are also lots of great links to other resources.