My latest harebrained idea

A Few Euros More is not quite on hiatus, but clearly on the backburner right now. I thought I’d use this opportunity to do a little experiment. Anyone who feels like it is invited to post on AFEM this week. Just drop me a line at editors at and I will give you access to the blog. Yes, you heard me, anyone who asks gets to post, until we tire of you.

Secret Sources

Germany’s Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb, Germany) now publishes a nice, daily, free round-up of the European press. It’s by no means comprehensive, and thank goodness or it would be impossibly long, but I like the eclectic selection of papers and topics. Today brought items from Czech, Austrian, Francophone Swiss, German, Francophone Belgian, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Polish, Cypriot and French papers. Nifty. Plus it’s available in English, French and German.

The bpb is doing it in cooperation with Perlentaucher Medien GmbH (Berlin) and Courrier International (Paris). More details at Eurotopics.

One Laptop Per Child

Well some may be laughing, but Nicholas Negroponte and the MIT Media Lab people really do seem to be moving this project forward. More power to their elbow!

Taiwan’s Quanta, the world’s largest maker of notebook computers, will manufacture an ultra-low-cost laptop developed by Nicholas Negroponte, the chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

Negroponte, who is also chairman of the One Laptop Per Child non-profit group, has said he expects the laptops to be available to governments next year at a price of $100 each. A prototype of the laptop was unveiled at the recent U.N.-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis.

Under terms of an agreement with One Laptop Per Child, Quanta will devote engineering resources to develop the $100 notebook design during the first half of the year, according to a statement issued by the group. At the same time, Quanta and the non-profit organization will explore the production of a commercial version of the laptop.

Corporate Alzheimer Threat?

Sun Microsystems really do seem to have an important point here. If there aren’t some common underlying standards then reading todays documents fifty years from now could become just like trying to read Linear B today:

Speaking to a group of reporters, Sun’s top open-source executive said that a format like OpenDocument (ODF) is needed to prevent a permanent condition of what he dubbed “corporate Alzheimer’s.”

“I want to make sure that when my grandchild studies history at university, that they can study source documents,” said Chief Open Source Officer Simon Phipps. Phipps said that without a standard that remains stable and is widely adopted, documents won’t be able to be opened decades later.

How Reliable is Wikipedia?

Well, pretty damn reliable apparently. Or at least that is the view expressed by the scientific journal Nature who have just carried out the first peer based comparative review of Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica in terms of their science coverage. Clearly cases like the Seigenthaler one are the exception rather than the rule, and Britannica itself is not without its problems since of the eight “serious errors” reviewers found – including misinterpretations of important concepts – four came from each source, the journal reported. Maybe people should be thanking John Seigenthaler for raising Wikipedia’s profile. Well done Wikipedia.

One of the extraordinary stories of the Internet age is that of Wikipedia, a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. This radical and rapidly growing publication, which includes close to 4 million entries, is now a much-used resource. But it is also controversial: if anyone can edit entries, how do users know if Wikipedia is as accurate as established sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica?

… expert-led investigation carried out by Nature — the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia and Britannica’s coverage of science — suggests that such high-profile examples are the exception rather than the rule.

The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.

Old Bailey database symposium

The Head Heeb: Call for papers

I’m pleased to formally announce a project that Sharon Howard and I have been discussing for some time: the first online symposium on the Old Bailey Session Paper database. The Old Bailey database is, quite simply, the largest primary source collection currently available online, with reports (and often complete transcripts) of more than 100,000 criminal trials from 1674 to 1834. As such, it provides almost unlimited opportunity to use the online medium for original historical work.

Revolting High Rises

Revolting High Rises

Le Corbusier called houses “machines for living.” France’s housing projects, as we now know, became machines for alienation. In theory, the cause of this alienation is some mix of the buildings themselves and the way they’re joined to the city. But in practice, the most effective urban renewal has tended to focus on the buildings. It focuses on the buildings by razing them.