January 2nd, 2008

Chris Keeley

offering a search service that is more transparent to end users

Wikia Search is a new, wiki-inspired search-engine project that attempts to create a transparent set of ranking algorithms that fight spam and promote good stuff to the top. This is in contrast to Google, Yahoo, and other search engines, where the ranking algorithms are treated as trade secrets and high-risk tactics that have to be guarded from spammers.

The idea of a ranking algorithm is that it produces "good results" -- returns the best, most relevant results based on the user's search terms. We have a notion that the traditional search engine algorithm is "neutral" -- that it lacks an editorial bias and simply works to fulfill some mathematical destiny, embodying some Platonic ideal of "relevance." Compare this to an "inorganic" paid search result of the sort that Altavista used to sell.

But ranking algorithms are editorial: they embody the biases, hopes, beliefs and hypotheses of the programmers who write and design them. What's more, a tiny handful of search engines effectively control the prominence and viability of the majority of the information in the world.

And those search engines use secret ranking systems to systematically and secretly block enormous swaths of information on the grounds that it is spam, malware, or using deceptive "optimization" techniques. The list of block-ees is never published, nor are the criteria for blocking. This is done in the name of security, on the grounds that spammers and malware hackers are slowed down by the secrecy.

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Chris Keeley

Sekou Black is part of an outreach group from a Harlem AIDS center that offers H.I.V. tests from an

Sekou Black is part of an outreach group from a Harlem AIDS center that offers H.I.V. tests from an unmarked van. 

New H.I.V. Cases Rise in Young Gay Men

For years he had numbed his pain and fear with drugs, alcohol and anonymous sex. But in a flash of clarity one day, when the crystal meth was wearing off, Javier Arriola dragged himself to a clinic to get an H.I.V. test, years after he stopped using condoms

He knew the answer before he received the results, but it was far worse than he thought: At age 29, he had full-blown AIDS.

He had planned to have a party for his 30th birthday. Instead he was thinking of hanging himself in his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. 

Javier Arriola considered suicide when he learned he had AIDS. Instead, he stopped using drugs and found new reasons to live.

For Mr. Arriola, who struggled with being molested as a child, the H.I.V. diagnosis put him at rock bottom, he said.

He continued to use drugs for several more months, but then, as his suicide plan was becoming an obsession, he called a friend who was a recovering addict. He got clean and sober, joined a 12-step group, started going to therapy and has slowly pieced his life back together.

“For me today, I’ve done a lot of work to accept myself. I don’t drink and drug, I meditate, there’s a lot of visualization of the person I want to be,” he said. “A lot of it is acceptance. I’m 32, I’m Latin, I’m gay and I have H.I.V. And I don’t feel bad about it. It’s very, very important for me to not feel shame about this.”

Chris Keeley

Gerlach & Martin Gerlach Jr.... Postcard (1911, Deutschland).

Gerlach & Martin Gerlach Jr.... Postcard (1911, Deutschland). 

Gerlach & Martin Gerlach Jr.... Postcard (1911, Deutschland). From Press Images for the exhibitions Zoe Leonard – Photographs, The Stamp of Fantasy – The Visual Inventiveness of Photographic Postcards, and NeoRealismo – The new image in Italy, 1932-1960 at the Fotomuseum Winterthur.



Chris Keeley

Grandiose, narcissistic, subject to delusions and extreme mood swings, he comes across as the kind o

Grandiose, narcissistic, subject to delusions and extreme mood swings, he comes across as the kind of maniacally self-centered creep who, if encountered in a bar, would prompt most people to disengage after five minutes of small talk. 

John Lennon’s Death Revisited Through the Words of His Killer

“I was nobody until I killed the biggest somebody on earth.”

Those are the boastful words of John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman (Jonas Ball), who shot Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980, in front of his home at the Dakota, the Manhattan apartment complex at 72nd Street and Central Park West.

Everything Mr. Chapman says in “The Killing of John Lennon,” Andrew Piddington’s devastating re-enactment of events leading up to, including and immediately after the murder, is taken from interviews, depositions and court transcripts. Because much of the dialogue is voice-over, the film takes place largely inside Mr. Chapman’s feverish mind. Lennon appears in the movie but only briefly, and in shadow: a phantom to be slain.

Shot in a quasi-documentary style at the actual locations where the events took place, including the sidewalk outside the Dakota, the movie is extremely uncomfortable to watch. Using a minimum of photographic tricks, it evokes episodes of mental disorientation in which images jiggle and blur into one another. Its fragments from the movies “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver” and “Ordinary People” suggest the volatile interaction of popular culture and mental instability. And its sampling of vintage clips of the Beatles and of Lennon is heartbreaking.

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Chris Keeley

Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thin

Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics

January 2, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Deign or Reign?

AMES, Iowa

Edith Wessel, an 80-year-old white-haired retired nurse, moved slowly up the aisle with her walker after listening to Hillary make her pitch.

She told one of the Hillary volunteers that she had “great admiration” for the senator, but also great doubts about whether her strong negatives would sink her in the general election.

“I can’t understand why people dislike her so much,” Mrs. Wessel said.

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