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Wednesday, July 21

Duke Gives IPods to Freshmen
Duke University will give each of its 1,650 incoming freshmen a free iPod this fall
as part of an initiative to foster innovative uses of technology in the classroom,
the school said Monday.

Duke wants to experiment with creative academic uses for the devices. The school
will preload the 20-GB iPods (retail price, $300) with freshman-orientation
information, an academic calendar and even the Duke fight songs before handing
them out to the incoming class Aug. 19.

Students also will be able to use the devices to download course content, recorded
lectures, foreign language lessons, audio books and music from a special Duke
website modeled after iTunes. The school will supply voice recorders for some
classes, enabling students to record notes while working in the field.

What is the Power of Internet Mobs?
A few weeks ago, Wikipedia—an "open content" encyclopedia where anybody can
write or edit an entry—produced its 300,000th article. At 90.1 million words,
Wikipedia is larger than any other English-language encyclopedia, including the
latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which has only 85,000 articles and 55
million words. This is all the more impressive when you realize that Wikipedia came
into existence a little more than three years ago, and not a single contributor has
been paid. Every word was written by volunteers, an enormous army digging out a
massive anthill, grain by grain.

Yet the process has its flaws. When the mob tried to draw a few simple pictures, it
couldn't. The group agreed that a television tube should be represented by empty
space, but it couldn't generate any other details. An attempt at drawing a face
produced an even more shapeless mess. The only partially successful picture was
a goat: At around 4,000 votes, it looked pretty goatlike, and at 5,000 votes the
mob revised it to make the horns curvier. But after 7,000 votes the picture
decayed into a random jumble of pixels, as if the group could no longer agree on
what a goat should look like. Mobs, it seems, can't draw.