"I need to be honest with you sir," he said. "I really am not feeling like appreciating the joke."
Callaos explained that the conference relies on the hard work of many people, and that the organizers will have to spend even more time and money to institute a more stringent review process. "It's something like the [security] measures after September 11th," he said. "It's not nice, but you have to do it."
| ___About Random Access___ Random Access is a daily column by Robert MacMillan that explores the latest trends in technology and how they are changing daily life. |
Random Access won't tell you why a new gizmo will revolutionize your ad server. It will tell you about episodes from daily life -- exasperated waiters who use blogs to vent about their customers, whole runs of salmon injected with nanoparticles for individual tracking in Norwegian fjords and the growing number of DJs who are sick of being sidelined in favor of iPods. (Only one of these stories is fake.)
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He agreed that scientific language can be difficult to plow through, but said that the circumstances that led to the false paper being submitted ironically stemmed from the organizers' attempt to attract a wider range of talent to the conference. In putting out many requests for papers, he ended up provoking the ire of the MIT grad students who told the Boston Globe that they figured that a conference that sends out so much "spam" might have a low acceptance bar -- in other words, the perfect target for their fake paper experiment.
MIT prankster Stribling told the AP that the episode highlights a continuing problem in the scientific world: "conferences with low standards that pander to academics looking to pad their resumes [and] harm the reputations of more reputable gatherings."
That's a debatable assertion, but what is indisputable is that language is a tool of communication, not obfuscation. Some practitioners of specialized disciplines -- from law to medicine to comparative literature -- argue that it takes complex language to accomplish a complex task. But what the MIT students showed us is that double-black-diamond vocabulary is more often about showing off verbal mastery than cognition. The real reason that many of us get caught up in technology is because we want to apply it in ways that will benefit regular people. So why not make it easier for everyone to understand what you're talking about in the first place?
P.S.: If you want to have some fun with the Mad Libs concept, be sure to check out the Alanis Morissette Lyric Generator. This has been around for years on the Brunching Shuttlecocks site, but it still delivers the goods.
While the MIT graduate students take sledgehammers to the ivory tower, a new copyright debate is reaching a boil at schools across the nation. Wall Street Journal Online reporter Vauhini Vara ran a comprehensive article on the Internet's twist on an old problem -- professors who make journal articles and textbook chapters available to their students for free.
"The use of electronic course materials has soared in recent years, as universities try to cater to a generation of students who grew up using the Internet and are often as comfortable reading words on a screen as on the printed page," Vara wrote. "But publishers are wary of the practice, particularly as sales growth for textbooks has slowed in the U.S. The Association of American Publishers, a trade group, has sent letters to the University of California questioning the school's practice of letting students read course material online."
She cited Shiv Mahajan, a Stanford University freshman who didn't buy a single textbook for his cognitive science course and has taken out only one book from the library so far this year: "In one recent lecture, he hadn't finished the assigned reading ahead of time, but skimmed the last few pages on his laptop as the professor talked. 'I've never been much of a book reader,' he says."
The article points out that this is hardly a new problem, but for the student body's sake I hope they find a less absurd solution than the one presented to me and my classmates. When I went to college in 1991 we received bound packets of paper containing all the same illegally copied material that is at issue in this article. When the publishers complained, my school laid down the law, creating many unhappy professors and students. If we had to read from an out-of-print, but still-copyrighted book, we had to sign up for specific time intervals to get it at the library. The result? A line of 20 students waiting at 11:30 p.m. to get a crack at the work in question.
Will the Real Benedict XVI Please Stand Up?!
Some of you may have read about Rogers Cadenhead, the lapsed Catholic who registered the Web address www.benedictxvi.com. He got a lot of attention in the past few days, not only from washingtonpost.com but from Reuters, CNN, Wired and other outlets because of his good luck in picking the right dot-com address. To be fair, he hedged his bets, also registering ClementXV.com, InnocentXIV.com, LeoXIV.com, PaulVII.com and PiusXIII.com.
Cadenhead is practicing what some of you may know as the term "cyber-squatting," registering a Web site address and hoping that it suddenly becomes valuable. You run the risk of getting sued for misappropriating intellectual property, but if no one sues, you might be able to make a killing by selling it off for thousands and sometimes millions of dollars.
But the last few years have witnessed a profusion of Internet addresses, and depending on how you write your numbers, some addresses might be worth more than others. As the BBC reported, a journalism student from Dublin, Ireland, is trying to help pay off his student loan by selling the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. A Canadian is asking for $100,000 for the Web site PopeBenedictXVI.com.
So which of the lucky squatters will score a papal profit? If they're looking to sell to the Vatican, they're probably out of luck. The Holy See has its own Internet domain -- dot-va -- and maintains a comprehensive Web site, thank you very much. Sometimes the only way to make a few ducats is to sell the domain name to a porn site whose operator relies on callow Internet users thinking they're typing in the Web address of the real thing. But Cadenhead, bless him, said that option is out of the question.
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