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The Randomness of Analog


The Randomness of Analog

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Steve Jones
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item The Randomness of Analog

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Hi Steve,

1. The gradual subsumption of the analogue world into the digital world:
I was listening to a podcast over the weekend and the presenters (qualified historians) bemoaned what we are leaving behind for future generations. They have source material on paper to work with. Will the servers of Facebook, Google et al. be available to researchers in centuries to come? I am not so sure. I distrust the availability of stuff on the Internet. As a consequence, I avoid anything streamed (except radio, which has always been streamed ) and I buy on physical media whenever I can. I, at least, will leave something behind for future generations to appreciate, assuming the media survives. The argument of waste can also be made against me.
I, too, love wandering around old bookshops and looking at old books and maps from years gone by. What will our grandchildren have? Kindle repositories? There are sites dotted across the Internet which strive to keep abandoned software available. These sites straddle legality. I see them as skips/dumpsters of the digital era. While taking contents from a skip is illegal, often the owners don't mind. That being said, it is a poor substitute to what we have. And will they be around in the years to come?

2. The quality of material available:
In a good bookshop, library etc. care, effort and much investment have been put into them to present good quality material. Libraries are a part of the social contract between the state and her citizens and it is in the interest of both that people read widely. Bookshops are commercial enterprises and it is in their interest that people read widely. The Internet, like a large, sprawling city, has sites which have a social contract and makes good material available but you have to go look for it. I would regard this very site as one such example — an example between enterprise and library. There is also a lot of information of dubious quality, poorly-informed opinion and prolefeed, to put it mildly online. One must take the good with the bad.
That being said, there are sites like the Andy Warren's library as mentioned above. I, personally, love to meander around TVTropes, Wikipedia, StumbleUpon, Snopes, the cartographic agencies of various countries and so on. These sites will bring you to places that you hadn't expected to go and I can spend ages browsing around. Behind the paywalls of many newspapers, there is also much of interest to read.
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When I do a tech job for friends and family I ask them in return for a (analogue or digital) book that they enjoyed that is not in my favourite genre's. This takes me out of my normal comfort zone and has led to some great discoveries that I wouldn't normally have considered.
Robert Sterbal-482516
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I would recommend checking out LibraryThing.com:

https://www.librarything.com

to see how the site handles discovery.

They also offer a commercial small library service, which is free to use with your personal catalog.
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scottymk - Tuesday, September 12, 2017 2:15 AM
When I do a tech job for friends and family I ask them in return for a (analogue or digital) book that they enjoyed that is not in my favourite genre's. This takes me out of my normal comfort zone and has led to some great discoveries that I wouldn't normally have considered.


That's a neat idea.

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When you come down to it, the difference between a digital "bookstore" such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc, and a physical book store, is nothing more than sales vs being able to *find* items quickly.

The electronic side doesn't have to worry about "organizing" their product to make it easy to find, say, books on the history of WWII in India, because you'll simply go to the virtual help desk (the search tool,) key in your terms, and be presented with a list of books (some not-so related.) A physical bookstore needs to keep the stacks in order so that when you come in looking for the book, you know you'll find it in the "Military History" section.

The less-obvious difference, and one I don't think can be replicated in any way short of a full-fledged VR experience on the electronic side, is to get to the section you're interested in, in a physical bookstore, you need to also go past other sections. So on the way to pick up your history book, as you pass through the "Hobbies and Crafts" section, you see an interesting cover and pick up a book on modeling in polymer clay, then go grab your history book and on your way to the coffee shop in the bookstore as you pass by the "Automotive" section you grab a book on "Zen and the Art of Porsche Maintenance." How could an electronic site replicate that sort of thing? I don't think it can. I think even if, say Amazon, made a full-VR bookstore, they'd still use their algorithms to put books they think you'd be interested in, in more prominent places. Essentially, they'd tailor their bookstore to each customer.

You have to wonder how much longer physical bookstores of any sort are going to be able to hold on against the onslaught of digital media (ebooks, etc) as us "old fogies" who prefer physical media to electronic begin to die off...
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Robert Sterbal-482516 - Tuesday, September 12, 2017 4:38 AM
I would recommend checking out LibraryThing.com:

https://www.librarything.com

to see how the site handles discovery.

They also offer a commercial small library service, which is free to use with your personal catalog.


The thing with that is it's still a digital catalog of sorts. Using tags, subjects, etc. from others, often doesn't provide a randomness.

The nice thing about the library is that I have topics ordered by author, but as I browse, I don't always go by author. I walk and my eyes may move up and down, I may skip whole sections, looking for a shape and size, color, name, or picture that catches me eye. When I do that online, I tend to still get stuck in a very narrow filter bubble.

The analog world creates a randomness that I'm not sure is easy to deplicate on a computer.

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I would posit that as you roamed the library scanning for books (something I used to do as well), you have an internal "recommendation" engine that draws your attention to particular book covers or book titles. That internal recommendation engine might also have you "randomly" scanning books in the Mystery section or the History section, but not the SciFi or Gardening section.

I had not considered the difference between searching in Private mode versus my usual profile. That leads me to the concept of having various filter buttons available when doing a search, which would correlate to different "profiles" of people. Just like Pandora is based on a breaking down music into hundreds of components and then categorizing songs along those components, books could be similarly analyzed. Then, you could create channels based on authors or specific books and you would get recommendations on other books similar to those.

One should also have an OPPOSITE profile, which the system builds up as things at the opposite end of the spectrum from what you like. Kind of like a color wheel. That makes it easier to check out things out of your normal viewpoint.

I do look forward to the VR library, where one can more closely replicate the feeling of wandering the stacks at the library and grabbing a book, perusing a few pages to see if it grabs you, then finding a nook to read it.
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Many lay folk (non-techies like your aunt or next door neighbor) complain their PC is too old and slow, but often times what's really going on is that websites are running scripts that make dozens of synchronous calls that wait for a response back before the page can finish loading. Simply blocking that junk can be just as good as a new PC or a fresh install of Windows. Personally, I don't mind advertisements; I just don't like it when the digital marketing creeps follow me around or get in my way.

In addition to browsing in private mode, another option is a browser plugin called Disconnect that blocks (and visualizes) 3rd party tracking URLs. It will also improve the responsiveness of websites.
https://disconnect.me/


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jasona.work - Tuesday, September 12, 2017 6:59 AM

You have to wonder how much longer physical bookstores of any sort are going to be able to hold on against the onslaught of digital media (ebooks, etc) as us "old fogies" who prefer physical media to electronic begin to die off...

VR is interesting, maybe that helps.

I think that brick and mortar stores need to figure out a way to make the space attractive. Certainly young(er) people do like to be together. I think Barnes and Nobles was on a good track with the coffee shop inside, now those other shops need to think beyond that, find something else that attracts. Maybe co working, maybe something else.


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