madness in the metropolis 

Wikipedia in "not always 100% accurate - yet" shocker

I'm a big fan of Wikipedia; I know better than to rely on it as a sole source for anything, sure, but in general it's an excellent resource, especially when you want an introduction to, or overview of, a particular topic. I find myself pointing people towards it all the time.

So I was interested to read this Guardian article, entitled Can you trust Wikipedia? They have experts from a number of fields give their analysis of the respective Wikipedia entries for their specialist subjects. It's an interesting piece, and as you'd expect, some entries do better than others (8/10 for Bob Dylan, 5/10 for the article on encyclopedias) but with mainly sixes and sevens out of ten. The guy reviewing the encyclopedia entry is particularly sniffy, in fact, calling it "a school essay, sketchy and poorly balanced". Mee-ow! Saucer of milk, table five. Possibly this is something to do with the fact that he's a former editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Now of course, yes, a suitably qualified expert will often be able to pick holes in any given Wikipedia article, or find something to disagree with. But all of the criticisms implied in the Guardian's critique are missing one very obvious point, completely aside from the "well it's only written by amateurs, so what do you expect" argument. And that point is, Mr. Robert McHenry, that if you find something inaccurate, poorly written, or otherwise unhelpful, you can fucking well log in and fix it yourself. Prick.

The point of Wikipedia is not so much that it's written by amateurs, but rather that it's written by anyone who wants to contribute. And that includes slumming professionals as much as zealous but imperfectly resourced amateurs. Furthermore, the fact that anyone can create an account and make changes to the page means that, broadly speaking, over time it's just going to get more and more accurate - not less.

To test this, I performed a simple check. I picked an error highlighted by one of the experts (in the Samuel Pepys article, the name of his wife is misspelt), and checked the corresponding Wikipedia entry. Oh - look at that: fixed already. Another one (a typo in the publication date of the Encyclopédie): fixed. The muddled intro to the Steve Reich entry: rewritten. And another. And another. I got bored after my first half dozen random picks all turned out to have been addressed already, but I'm willing to bet that each article on that list has already been given a good going over, if not by the Guardian experts themselves, then by other interested parties who took it upon themselves to contribute.

And that's. The whole. Point.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not possessed of some messianic fervour when it comes to all things Web 2.0. But it struck me as highly ironic that the Guardian experts, via their list of nitpicks, have inadvertently highlighted Wikipedia's greatest strength instead: it will take those nitpicks, assimilate them, and be all the better for it. It may not be perfect, but it's surely just going to keep getting better and better.

[link via Blackbeltjones]

Posted by chris at 05:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


Forever Protector of Old Ladies

Tokyo Tales is proud to be the first result on Google for Japlish, the misappropriation of English words and phrases for use on t-shirts here in Japan. Or adverts, or song lyrics, or whatever; but t-shirts tend to provide the most fertile ground.

The inverse of Japlish would, I suppose, be 英本語 (eihongo), but knowing how Japanese works, 英和語 (eiwago) would probably make more sense. (Eiwa is at least a word, meaning "England and Japan", or "English-Japanese", whereas I don't think eihon is. Or if it is, it probably means "English book". The final "go" is the suffix for language. But maybe I should deliberately pick a word that isn't a word... aaaanyway.)

If Japlish's natural habitat is Japanese people wearing badly written t-shirts they don't understand, then the inverse's natural habitat is surely... westerners getting kanji tattoos.

As I was doing a bit of browsing this afternoon, I tripped across the excellent Hanzi Smatter, a weblog devoted to critiquing badly done (and often just plain wrong) kanji (hanzi in Chinese) tattoos. Not just tattoos actually, but also t-shirts, rugs, bumper stickers, and so on, but the tattoos are clearly the best part. I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something... schadenfreudelicious about the idea of someone getting "small penis" forever etched into their forearm, when they thought they'd asked for "wild man".

This is going to be my new favourite blog, I can just tell.

The author is a Chinese-American chap with a keen eye for a misplaced radical. I share his amazement that people will happily scar themselves for life with ideograms, the meaning of which they have no hope of understanding. I run (though I haven't checked in on it for a while) The Kanji SITE, which is a resource for people studying Japanese kanji and I am ALWAYS getting e-mail from two kinds of people:

1) American teenagers who want to know the kanji for carburettor, so they can get it tattooed on the back of their neck; and
2) American teenagers who have already gotten what they were told was the kanji for carburettor tattooed on the back of their neck, and just want to check that that's actually what it means. (Sadly, it never means carburettor. It usually means princess. Or tofu. But never carburettor.)

I never reply. Recently I just haven't had time, but more fundamentally there's just no way I'm comfortable with telling people "Hell yes, tattoo this on the back of your neck. Of course it means carburettor!" because... I'm... not... Japanese. Or Chinese. Or anywhere good enough at either language to be an authority on the subject.

If someone mails me a request for the Japanese kanji for the Japanese word "budo", which they know means "martial art", then I can do it (武道), because I can't really get that wrong. But I'm not about to offer a translation of my own. Nuh-huh. Perhaps I'll set up a proper tattoo service on the site when I finally overhaul it, but I'm making damn sure it's plastered with more comprehensive disclaimers than those waivers you have to sign when you volunteer for medical trials: "Warning! You may end up with 'princess' tattooed on the back of your neck!".

Let me say it again: I will not take responsibility for your tofu carburettor. Thank you.

Posted by chris at 12:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


駅はどこですか?

Tripped over a good resource earlier today: this section of the JR East Web site (Japan Railways) gives you tons of information about pretty much any JR station you care to name (I haven't checked them all, you understand, but it seems fairly extensive). Access Mapion data, train routes, timetables, three-dimensional concourse / platform maps in a choice of PDF or HTML, car rental locations, lists of recommended accommodation, yada yada yada. The whole thing is about as comprehensive as Antarctica is big, white and cold.

Fewer penguins, though.

Posted by chris at 07:33 PM | Permalink


Say "cheesy"

I've added a page of messy, blurry, madly exposed photos taken with my four-lens Lomo Action Sampler to the gallery section - some of which actually came out okay, contrary to expectations.

Posted by chris at 07:58 PM | Permalink


What goes up...

Dimensionality - The latest Mid-Tokyo flash movie is on-line. #22 explores Tokyo's three-dimensionality - or, rather, its lack thereof. I'm sure many people have a vague mental image of Tokyo as the ultimate highrise city but in fact it's flatter than a three-day-old coke. Unending urban sprawl, on the other hand, we do very well.

Posted by chris at 12:32 AM | Permalink


Care for some gopher?

It's already on the sidebar down there, but anglepoised.com just deserves an extra-special dose of pimping.

Posted by chris at 08:45 PM | Permalink


Blogroll 'em if you got 'em

I really ought to choose to be sick on bright sunny days that could be spent convalescing in the park, as opposed to ones that are grey and filled with relentless rain. Better planning next time, methinks. Time to slope off somewhere and drink hot chocolate, anyway.

Meanwhile, I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out that the right-hand sidebar is finally up and running. PHP and MySQL might not be able to solve all the world's ills (though I reckon either of them could have Jamie Oliver in a straight fight) but boy are they useful for building your own hand-rolled content management system. I feel my geek quotient rising as I type this.

But here's the important stuff - a bunch of blogs newly added to the disperse sidebar, including a few good Japan-based ones: links.net and antipixel make their debuts, and denbushi.net returns at last.

Posted by chris at 01:07 PM | Permalink


Mirror in the bathroom

Oh, cool - my first mirror project submission was accepted.

Posted by chris at 12:10 PM | Permalink


The 2002 Weblog Awards

Well, that's certainly *one* way to force me back to the keyboard - get nominated for a Bloggie. I'm... stunned.

I've been neglecting the blog a little recently - it's not been anything as formal or strictly-defined as an official hiatus, a New Year's break or a short prison sentence (who'd have thought encouraging your kid brother to eat the yellow snow would be a crime? I ask you! But anyway) but rather a brief period of non-bloggingnessosity due to work pressure and stuff. Rather than coming home and forgetting about the office by means of a nice cathartic blog, it appears that I deal with the pressure of detailed project work by coming home and staring zombie-like at my screen, my mind still reeling. I get the distinct impression I wouldn't know how to relax if I was in a coma, sometimes.

But I've been planning my return - and now seems as good a time as any. If I'd realised all I needed was an (largely undeserved, I'm sure) award nomination to shock me out of my torpor then heck, I would have nominated myself for something a week and a half ago. The Most Dangerously Past Their Use-by Date Refrigerator Contents Featured on a Weblog Award comes to mind, for example.

If you want to vote for me, then, uh... well, a) thank you very much and b) you should probably read some of the rest of the site first, so you know what you're letting yourself in for with your endorsement. And you should *definitely* read the other nominees' sites too.

Or even instead.

Posted by chris at 11:57 AM | Permalink


I'm not about to program it myself...

I'm not about to program it myself, but I'm surprised no-one's come up with a "What on-line personality test are you?" on-line personality test yet. The laws of meta and memes practically demand it, after all...

Posted by chris at 03:48 PM | Permalink


Mid-Tokyo updated

Mid-Tokyo has had a couple of updates since last I mentioned it - more flash movie goodness, historical photos, maps, documents and the rest of it, all nicely charting Tokyo's recent history. Recent updates have included the post-WWII firebombing recovery project and the "aftermath" of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Posted by chris at 05:58 PM | Permalink


Blog of the day

Gosh - little old me gets a mention on blog of the day. I'm sure the only reason I made it on is because the editors have run out of truly interesting sites to mention, but hey - a big arigatou gozaimasu (lit.: "fetid octopus balls") to them anyway. Thanks guys.

Posted by chris at 10:23 AM | Permalink


In Defense Of Cities

In Defense Of Cities - an interesting (if disappointingly short) article on why the Internet model of decentralization isn't appropriate for cities.

One thing, though: the author says, "New York is big because over time more people came than left, because millions of uncoordinated actors decided independently to move to New York." Shouldn't that be "millions of unemployed actors"?

Posted by chris at 12:11 PM | Permalink


Web design goodness

Mmm, more theory of Web design goodness, again via plasticbag.org

Posted by chris at 08:47 PM | Permalink


Rulespace

Thought-provoking presentation from Matt of blackbeltjones.com on Rulespace, an interpretation of some of the concepts of information architecture. (via plasticbag.org).

Posted by chris at 05:12 PM | Permalink


Religion's ace, isn't it?

I wish I were in a better mood, really I do; in the meantime you'll have to put up with my blogging this kind of thing: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Osama bin Laden - Can you tell the difference? Amazing and terribly depressing by turn. (via mswoo)

I'm going outside to sit on the roof.

Posted by chris at 12:36 PM | Permalink


weblogs.com admin

Oh for god's sake. I can see this weblogs.com switchover (now *I* have to tell *them* every time I update) is going to get on my wick very very quickly indeed. Bah.

Posted by chris at 10:47 AM | Permalink


Diversify

trivial update: the right-hand sidebar has had a diversify section added, to more fully reflect the fingers in which I have pies. I mean, the pies in which I have... oh, screw it. I liked it better the first way.

Posted by chris at 02:12 AM | Permalink


"It's really hard to say"

Heh heh heh - Kristen quizzes AIM's SmarterChild about the recent terrorist attacks...

Posted by chris at 10:29 PM | Permalink


Mid-Tokyo update

Mid-Tokyo Maps updated again; this edition's offering is a Flash timeline charting Tokyo's history. It uses period photos, artwork and maps of Tokyo (and some of London and New York for comparison) to illustrate how modern Tokyo grew out of pre-Meiji Restoration Edo. If you haven't been to the site before, then you should also check out their extensive archives, addressing various aspects of urbanology.

Mmmm, urbanology.

Posted by chris at 04:04 PM | Permalink


The future is superfuture

Superfuturecity is a great resource for disciples of urban street culture; it features New York and Sydney but the main focus is Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo. Mapping any one of Tokyo's component mini-centres is a logistical nightmare, but these guys do it admirably well. In particular check out the frenetic clutter of the Harajuku and Shibuya maps, which manage to give a sense of the makeup of the narrow backstreets as effectively as anything I've seen.

Posted by chris at 11:35 AM | Permalink


Jen-X shout out

Of the various bloggers arranged below and to the right in serried glory, a special mention must go out to Jen of Jen-X, who it turns out is a fellow Japanophile, even to the extent of getting herself born in the country. I mean, I like it a lot myself but wow - *that's* dedicated. She has a great blog, so "access shite kudasai", gang.

Posted by chris at 11:55 PM | Permalink


Niceties of corporate blandness

I'm bemused by rather than chuffed at my rather flukey score on this brand-awareness quiz - 9 out of 10. Clearly I am a marketing department's dream, finely attuned to the niceties of corporate blandness. (via lukelog)

All this, despite the fact that my desk, chair, washing machine, hoover, all my stationery and a good part of my wardrobe are all Mujirushiryohin - mercifully shortened to Muji in the UK. Hmmm. Imagine Habitat being called just "Habi"; I suppose Ikea could become "Ik", but would boo.com have developed (into) BO?

Posted by chris at 11:33 PM | Permalink


A group blog with a difference

The road less travelled is an excellent little sapling of a meme whose progress I'll be following with interest. People (you, actually) install pop-up windows on public computers anywhere in the world, and leave them there for others to stumble across; submitting the form posts to the blog whatever they write. And, as Arthur at blog of the day points out, most of them will not have a clue what they're contributing to...

Blogger could change its slogan to "push-button publishing for the perplexed", perhaps?

Posted by chris at 04:44 AM | Permalink


Metropolis blogging feature

Oh, it looks like that Metropolis article on blogging has come out at last - and guess who's mentioned in it? Gawsh. One of the quotes attributed to me makes me sound a bit of a prat (when I catch myself saying that the blog has lately been "more to do with a desire to express myself"), but I can't really complain as I did actually say that. Ah well.

So, if you're reading this having come from the Metropolis article, then hi and welcome and so on. If this is your first taste of blogs and bloggers, then don't worry: there are far better examples of the craft out there. In particular I'd like to point you towards the following:

Apart from that, have a rummage through the rest of the site and see what you can find. If you have nothing better to do, I'd be interested to hear what you think - about the site or Tokyo life, that is, not just whatever happens to be running through your addled minds at the time. Unless it's particularly salacious, of course, in which case I'm all ears. Dozo.

Posted by chris at 12:25 PM | Permalink


Veni, Vidi, Hacki

Heh - no sooner do I idly wish out loud for a potential hacker version of the Caesar blog than I get mailed this by the man himself - nice one, Caesar. This son of Londinium salutes you.

Posted by chris at 01:16 AM | Permalink


I came, I saw, I blogged

Tired of reading blogs by American teenagers moaning about their homework assignments, and how their parents won't let them go to Insane Clown Posse concerts? Want to read about a *real* struggle? How about the day-to-day slog of forging a continent-wide empire in the glorious name of Rome? Thought so.

I bring you the blog of Julius Caesar. Seems historically accurate, but part of me can't help but feel that a comedy version, moaning about how Brutus "suxor", and how he wishes the senate would "shut pu", would be even more entertaining. (via Centurion Swerdus Maximus)

Posted by chris at 12:29 PM | Permalink


dnainjapan

I've decided I really like my new php sidebar. Notice, if you will, that not only is the fridge report fully up to date but the disperse list of blogs and other sites is also newly engorged. I'll be updating the listening to part in a few minutes, and then hopfully I'll find it much easier to keep things current. I would update the reading list, but... I'm not actually reading anything at the moment, apart from Wired and my new camera's manual.

Meantime, of the newly added members of the aforementioned disperse list, I'd just like to give special mention to Dave and Anita's web thing, dnainjapan, as they've been good enough to link to me since they started, and I've only just gotten around to reciprocating - gomen ne, guys. They have some good photos from the Fuji Rock Festival (mine are coming soon, I promise), and Dave's made some of his mp3s available for download, too - he's actually a rather shit-hot dubmeister in his spare time, so you should definitely have a listen. Hopefully he'll START DJING AGAIN SOON (spot the subliminal message)... and yeah, sorry Anita - PlayStation + boys with thirty-second attention spans (unless the object of their attention is matte black and electronic) = death of polite conversation. 'S just the way it is.

Posted by chris at 07:41 PM | Permalink


Moody / unamused / calculating

Eeek; I'm all over the front page of GBlogs and their cam portal - "like a cheap soooot".

Shit. Must try to smile more; I look like I've just killed someone. My default setting seems to flick between moody / unamused / calculating, when I'd rather it was contented / amused / approachable. Well, okay - maybe I'm quite happy with "calculating".

Maybe I need a gimmick to soften the image. Or at least a catchphrase. Or, better, a cute sidekick. Any volunteers?

Posted by chris at 08:30 PM | Permalink


Just plain wrong

Eeeuw, god, this is just horrible: a nine-year-old bodybuilder. Just..... eeeuw.

Posted by chris at 05:12 PM | Permalink


bgirl.net

At last: Bethany's site, bgirl.net, is back up and running. And she's got quite a head start.

Posted by chris at 11:57 AM | Permalink


swerdloff.com redesign

swerdloff.com redesigned; Jon finally gave in to the siren call of blogger and is now using it on his front page. It suits him well. Mind you, I might only be saying that because he was nice about me in public.

"Dashing, charming and foreign"... hmmm. Less sure about that, though. One out of three ain't bad, but even that rather depends on the colour of your passport.

Posted by chris at 02:27 AM | Permalink


Mid-Tokyo Maps

Mid-Tokyo Maps is an interesting Flash site which uses a series of interactive maps to explore aspects of urban Tokyo. (Map #06, Tokyo Mass Transit, is particularly groovy.) If the entire site feels rather like it's been put together by a large construction company which advocates rezoning the middle of Tokyo into a high-density vertical metropolis... then, um, that's because it has - and more power to them.

The one statistic that sticks in my mind, though, is this: the central four wards of Tokyo and the island of Manhattan are of roughly equal land area - about 6000 hectares. Yet the total area of those four wards' green spaces is only 38% of the area of Manhattan's single largest green area - Central Park.

Pah. Who needs greenery, open space and fresh air, anyway....? *cough* *hack*... damn fumes.... *cough*

[NB: You can see my flat via their Shinjuku webcam... if you have superhuman eyesight and a very good imagination, that is]

Posted by chris at 12:47 AM | Permalink


Yak

"You're a what?"

...is the approximate reaction of the majority of people when I tell them my job title: Information Architecture Consultant. "What prat thought that one up?", they ask. I chuckle and say, "You're looking at him, actually."

Some definitions of information architecture limit it to designing navigation systems for Web sites and intranets - which is certainly one part of what I do. To my mind, though, it's more general than that: the organisation of information in order to make it not only easy to navigate, but also easy to filter, assimilate, and even customize or add to. (I also liked the idea of having an acronym you could pronounce "yak".) This could be Web sites, intranets, databases, spreadsheets or even (gasp!) print. People usually start getting that familiar glazed look by this point - if I haven't already taken the hint and shut up, that is.

It was refreshing, therefore, to find this the other day.

The entire site is worth a read, actually. Lots of good stuff on design, media, urbanism and more. It seems they've (he's?) just moved to Tokyo, too - looking forward to more of the same.

Posted by chris at 06:36 PM | Permalink


GB blogs on GBlogs

I'm finding plenty of good sites via GBlogs; in addition to not.so.soft, which I've been reading for ages, I'd like to point you towards lukelog, orbyn.com and Seething Hatred. More to follow...

Posted by chris at 11:13 PM | Permalink


GBlogs

Groovoir - Tokyo Tales has joined the hallowed ranks of GBlogs - no relation to Joe Bloggs (unless there's something we're not being told) but rather a collection of UK-based or -themed weblogs. I got in on a technicality; there's not much chance that I'll make any of the blogmeets in the near future. I put my joining down to a desire to be among people who spell similarly to myself - though probably better.

I remember being genuinely pleased when I found that GBlogs existed. Statistically they were bound to, of course; but, equally statistically, they (sorry, "we") are also doomed to be rather outnumbered by and lost among (dum dum dum...) "Lord Hailsham?" "The Belgians?" No, Lord Hailsham, I'm sorry but the answer is "The Americans". Whiny teenage Americans, to be unashamedly generalistic and not a little unfair. Expect plenty of sidebar links to fellow GBloggers very soon. Very very soon.

tangent: what would the internet be like if it were the direct descendent of a Belgian, not American, military communications network? smaller but with great beer?

So, if you've happened across this little motel of quiet, perched on a precipitous off-ramp of the information superhighway (remember when that phrase was new and all-conquering? <nostalgia>sigh</nostalgia>) via GBlogs, then drop me a mail and say hi - it'd be nice to hear from you. If you're coming the other way, go check them out.

Posted by chris at 11:44 AM | Permalink


The doctor will see you now

Boy, am I behind. I'll catch up soon, I promise.

In the meantime, go check out the good doctor - DoctorGrosz, that is. The man writes a very readable blog, and he can sing, too.

More link exchanges, medical and otherwise, in the pipeline.

Posted by chris at 01:05 AM | Permalink


There's a frood who really knows where his towel is

What are you doing on Friday, May 25th? Well, whatever it is, don't forget your towel. Clyde at Binary Freedom proposes a fitting way to pay tribute to the greatness of Douglas Adams.

(via not.so.soft)

Posted by chris at 12:13 PM | Permalink


It's been, shall we say,

It's been, shall we say, something of a slow content day. Not much is happening. Still no Nic Cage advert, but I'm coping.

And then, bang, out of the blue, from the Swerdotron, comes this. You will need Flash 5, and you will not regret the wait.

In other news, such as it is, then the Kanji SITE redesign is almost finished. I've been neglecting my Japanese studies and haven't posted any new kanji for over a month, which kind of makes a mockery of having the damn thing in the first place, but it's been in a good cause. Kanjisite 2.0 is on the way, oh yes. Less blurry images, a better colour scheme, expanded content and re-vamped navigation. I'm looking forward to the relaunch - aiming to get it done by the end of the month, though that may yet prove to be optimistic.

Plus I also have to get my mailing list back... grrrr.... it's a long story, and I won't inflict it upon you.

Twenty more minutes of Nic Cage-searching-surfing, and I'm going to bed.

Posted by chris at 01:35 AM | Permalink


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