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Augmented Speakers’ Corner Infiltrated by Spammers!!

Posted by admin on September 10th, 2008 filed in Meta

In a sign that this website was in neglect, ASC had a handful of new user accounts created over the past 15 hours who then most ungracefully proceeded to flood the front page with all manner of pornography. While free speech is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, I still feel it is my responsibility to apologize, in the event anyone had subscribed to this sites’ RSS feed and received the unwanted content. Sorry, I will be more vigilant in future.

I think this is how it works: programs sniff out blogs that allow users to create new accounts with automatic posting privileges to the front page (up to today, this was how ASC was setup). They do this by creating gibberish user names, pushing gibberish URLs and email addresses in the comment spam. This had puzzled me in the past - why would a spammer take the time to spam gibberish? You’d think at least Viagra or penis enlargement would be among the links in the comment spam. But these posts are “hello world” posts - designed just to see if the bot succeeded in creating an account with authoring privileges. Once the spammers realize they have found a host blog that they can publish from, they then use the accounts to post to the site- in this case, interracial porn.

A note to the spammer - would you care to comment on whether the above analysis is correct? I’d like to know whether I got it more or less right.

I am Presenting the ASC Project Today!

Posted by admin on May 8th, 2008 filed in Meta

Here is the link for the live stream & archive page. I go on at 2:20pm.

Here is a link to the lineup of all the thesis projects.

Thank You ALL!!!!

Posted by admin on April 23rd, 2008 filed in Meta

I am overwhelmed by the response to the AskUnionSquare project. I have been sitting at my computer for the last 4 hours, and everything I begin to write soon has two versions: short and long. So I am forcing myself to put up a post right now, under 200 300 500 words, stating the following:

1) more to come shortly

2) ASC succeeded in every important way, as the technical failures are now a part of the conversation that will happen on this website between now and the next ASC.

3) The next Augmented Speakers’ Corner will be sometime in late May/early June.

I want to sincerely thank all the participants of the ASC in Union Square for an excellent beginning. Also, special thanks to Patricia, Brian, Lucas, Matt, Lindsey, Liz, and Gabe for their time and energy. Thanks guys!!

While the ASC had several technical malfunctions which effectively disabled the implementation of the cell-based interactivity, I am proud to say that I plan on continuing to improve the interface based on what I witnessed in Union Square yesterday. The core of this project was to erode the barriers to honest & constructive public discussion, of which there are many. I theorized that using a cellphone would remove some inhibition from speaking on a microphone. Despite the technical malfunctions, ASC-US was able to get first timers to feel comfortable speaking, on the microphone. Part of that was the visual representation (”Amateurs Wanted” is a pretty good slogan for this project, if I can say so myself). I think the other part was the emergent nature of the conversation. I will be posting some thoughts on this over the next few days, as well as photos, video, and audio from the event. This site will be a place to discuss the evolution of the interface, as well as the implementation of future Augmented Speakers’ Corner events.

Congratulations to All!!


[PBX]: New message 5 in mailbox 2

Posted by admin on April 22nd, 2008 filed in Uncategorized

[PBX]: New message 4 in mailbox 2

Posted by admin on April 22nd, 2008 filed in Uncategorized

[PBX]: New message 25 in mailbox 1

Posted by AskUnionSquare on April 21st, 2008 filed in Audio Questions for Union Square

Asking Union Square

Posted by AskUnionSquare on April 20th, 2008 filed in Audio Questions for Union Square

First Post, Testing Speaker Feedback Category

Posted by admin on April 18th, 2008 filed in Audio Comments for Speaker

This is where the audio comments for the speaker are going to appear.

Incoming Audio Posts Will Occur Here!

Posted by admin on April 18th, 2008 filed in Audio Questions for Union Square

This is a placeholder post, delete when audio posting.

Control or Suggest?

Posted by admin on April 15th, 2008 filed in Meta

For anyone who wants to create a collaborative space online, there is a tension between two opposing forces: the need to steer the discussion, and the need to allow discussion to emerge. As the designer shepherd steward instigator of this space, I am attempting to bridge these two tendencies. On the one hand, I think the emergent nature of discussion is really important to building a vibrant community. Not only would it be silly to think that I can anticipate all the kinds of ideas and conversations are going to live in this space, but it would suffocate the evolution of the environment if I tried.

Instead, I think it might be neat to create an open category and simply allow users to submit and tag their submissions however they see fit. After a while it might be possible to pick out some patterns and see how I can provide other ways to slice and dice the content.

On the other hand, too much openness makes things too vague and therefore uninviting. So here’s a start: there are two different “channels” (ie categories for content on this site) that I think would be useful to pick out. One relates to your feedback and ideas about this project itself - your suggestions and observations on how to improve any aspect of it. This is a pretty broad conversation. Appropriately, this channel is called “Suggestions”.

The second channel is related to why the ASC project exists in the first place: your voice taking part in a public discussion. This channel is called “Questions for Union Square”. And this is the beginning of the ASC project: How do I seed the conversation online to generate a dialog in Union Square that can build upon itself into something cumulative, something uncommonly solid?

To re-state my line of inquiry: What questions should be asked that will generate the best and most productive set of questions and answers thereafter? I think one excellent question that goes in this direction is this:

If you could ask one question of millions upon millions of people, what would it be?

Can you think of a better way of putting it? Maybe that question is too open-ended. What is your question?

Please post it to the “Question for Union Square” category. If the audio interface is unavailable, don’t hesitate to create an account and simply post it in text form. Otherwise, you can also email it to me.

Ahem… Is this thing working?

Posted by admin on April 8th, 2008 filed in Meta

This is the first post. Well, then. On with it.

Do you ever wonder why it is always the lunatics that are compelled to get up and shout their political opinions at everyone else in a public setting? Have you ever reflected how unfortunate and ironic it is that yes, although this constitutes free speech and democratic expression, (etc. etc.), this display of witlessness usually serves to steer people away from political debate, and not towards it? What if you had a way of telling that crackpot to get off the “stage”, and could have someone else, perhaps someone less foamy, and who knows, maybe approaching coherence, to have their say? What if you could respond to the conversation - assuming you wanted to - publicly, (that is, addressing the speaker as well as the audience) without having to stand up in front of everybody?

I want to give you a very brief description of my thesis, so you know more or less what is involved. I’ll save the theory and the “why it matters” part for later. The name of this project, as you may have guessed, is “Augmented Speakers’ Corner: Union Square”. I am creating a physical installation in Union Square consisting of a digital display (flat screen or projector), a software application running on a laptop, and a microphone and sound amplification. What is this installation for, you ask?

A speaker on the mic gets three minutes to speak. If he wants more time, the crowd gets to vote in real time, using their cellphones, on whether to award the current speaker more time or whether they prefer a new speaker. Furthermore, when the time has come to change speakers, any member of the crowd who wants to respond (but maybe not enough to talk into a microphone in front of everyone) can use their cellphone to call a local number and be patched in to the audio feed live, in real time. Then the next speaker is up, and on it goes. Voilá! Free public discussion, but with a degree of audience feedback and control.

But that’s not all! The entire event is recorded and streamed live to a website. The questions and answers raised are debated online, with further material generated until the next live event in Union Square. The idea is to use the merits of both environments (physical, online) as methods of augmenting each other. The real world does wonders for keeping the signal level of a group conversation relatively high, and the online world is pretty good at the scale issue. So what happens when you combine the two, using the best properties of each to guide one another? That’s the theory, anyway.

But without getting into specifics just yet, I need to state at the outset that the obstacles are considerable. For starters, I am not entirely positive exactly how to seed this whole conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely opinionated about politics. My friends have endured evidence of this fact many, many times. It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to say that the reason I am setting up this project is personal therapy. I need a place to vent! But this channel can’t be about my preferences or the way I see the world.

The conversation is deep here because I know it will be difficult to look at this project from the perspective of an interaction designer as well as a user. So I will be opening up the design questions regarding form and content early on. On top of having more questions than answers about the discussion formats and whatnot, I am a little somewhat considerably behind in my technical implementation of the above software application that allows the call patch-in and voting functionalities. If I succeed in pulling this off in the next two weeks, it will be because you - friends, classmates, and lovers of democracy, decided to jump in and see if you couldn’t play a part.

So this site serves as a registry. I am hereby publicly stating my intention to make this happen in the next two weeks, to the best of my ability. I will be posting like a lunatic in this space, as often as possible, to document exactly where I am with each and every aspect of this project. If you see a way to jump in, please feel free.

Things will start to get exciting for onlookers when I get around to asking what kinds of formats you would think are useful in a public forum. (Audio? Video? Spoken Word? Favorite Questions? Favorite written passages or quotes? Original Manifestos? Declarations?) Or, for that matter, whether it is advisable to even try to control it and separate content into channels. Maybe a podium with a set of instructions to the crowd on how to operate the equipment & interface distributed are all that is necessary. But that’s material for another post.

It is now 4:34am. on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008. My name is Felipe Telles Ribeiro. I currently have a NYC Parks Department permit to legally make use of the south side of Union Square in order to hold an event on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008. That’s exactly two weeks from today. I’m curious what form it will take. But it’s bedtime.

(Disclosure: I published this post last night, re-read it this morning, and made some changes. Publishing at 4am has its drawbacks.)