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Last Post

This blog is moving to http://init.planet3.org Please reset your bookmarks and feeds (http://init.planet3.org/feed/). That site and feed are now live. Updates about the shutdown of this site will appear on this article.

Approximately a million page views (at least 979,918 as I write, not counting feed subscribers) have been served by this Blogger site.

10/16 Most of the archive successfully moved over to WordPress. The first few months don’t show up for some reason.

10/17 COMMENTS ARE OFF FOR THE ENTIRE SITE

Comments are welcome on the new site.

Dennis Ritchie has Died

A less publicly renowned figure in the history of computing than Steve Jobs, but at least equally central in its development, Dennis Ritchie also passed away recently.

Dennis was coauthor of the original UNIX operating system and author of the first implementation of the C language. This is to say, the majority of modern computing builds directly on his work, and most of the rest was directly influenced by it.
One of his collaborators, Rob Pike, shared this message on Google Plus:
Dear Rob–

As Dennis’s siblings, Lynn, John, and Bill Ritchie–on behalf of the entire Ritchie family–we wanted to convey to all of you how deeply moved, astonished, and appreciative we are of the loving tributes to Dennis that we have been reading. We can confirm what we keep hearing again and again: Dennis was an unfailingly kind, sweet, unassuming, and generous brother–and of course a complete geek. He had a hilariously dry sense of humor, and a keen appreciation for life’s absurdities–though his world view was entirely devoid of cynicism or mean-spiritedness.

We are terribly sad to have lost him, but touched beyond words to realize what a mark he made on the world, and how well his gentle personality–beyond his accomplishments–seems to be understood.

Thank you.

A better Way

This blog will be moving soon, to be a sub-blog under Planet3.0 .

Recall that the original purpose here was to examine how scientific communication had failed and what to do about it. Planet3.0 is the result of that thinking. It’s my attempt not only to do something about it, but to encourage others to do something about it as well.

Trying to be both editor and reporter at a site with at least the intent of reaching a broader audience than this one has already been revealing. The nature of a site is, to some extent, as much about what it excludes as about what it includes. The blogger just writes whatever he pleases. The editor has to consider what will build the community and what will splinter it.

What’s more, for the first time ever, I have information on “background”; that is, a source really wanted to tell me something, on condition that I not explicitly tell the audience. It’s hard to explain why they would do that. I find it sort of weird, really. And now there is the question of whether to betray the source and my reputation, or to tell only half the story, or to let the story drop. This changes journalism from an exercise in nonfiction writing to an exercise in politics.

The editor’s temptation not to rile people is pretty palpable. I find myself suddenly inclined to “safe” stories. The key to making Planet3.0 work is to improve the quality of disagreement. So being a chickenshit won’t work.

On the other hand, I see plenty to criticize on both “sides”. This is also a problem! Criticizing mainstream science makes you a tool of the denial industry, and ultimately an instrument of the decline of civilization and the biosphere. Avoiding that is the whole point. Refusing to criticize it makes you a voice in a tame chorus, incapable of saying anything that isn’t explicitly in the interest

The point of view of the scientist is to advance the truth. It’s really hard under the circumstances when politics and science get tangled up. My guiding light will continue to be to get the maximum amount of truth visible to my intended audience. I think it may be the case that doing this will lose me more friends among my allies than it gains me respect among my enemies. This is a sign, I think, of how low we have sunk. I will have to brace myself for it.

Much as I do not want to give attention to the ridiculous obsessions of the bunkosphere, I also don’t think that making Planet3.0 into another also-ran pop science site is enough.

There are basically a bunch of approaches around today:

  • tell everything that makes the future look scary, and nothing else
  • tell everything that makes the people looking scared ridiculous, and nothing else
  • tell all the above without choosing any of them
  • science and engineering fandom, repeating press releases
  • get into the thick of the policy, trivializing or ignoring science and engineering

If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to close the loop. The venue we need is not afraid to draw the big picture.

In It will continue as my base for half-baked speculations about economics and for introspection about how to make public communication work. News about the move will appear shortly.

Good News from Texas

It’s still unseasonably warm in Austin, but at least the season has changed. While it remains very dry here, major storms have been quite visible to our north and south of late. So, it seems that October is bringing us a normal summer pattern, and it’s raining a more or less normal amount in Texas. Far from enough to bust the drought, but not threatening us with turning into Arizona.
We’ll see if the double-dip La Nina makes for another severe outlier of a summer next year.

Also, it looks like Rick Perry is no more serious about becoming US President than Sarah Palin.

Also, occupy Austin is happening. I am nervous about actively supporting the Occupy thing. Since I still hold Canadian citizenship, it seems far safer for me to go up to Toronto and occupy it. But I’ve been very impressed with the way these guys are managing things; it seems the only people advocating foolishness at these groups are pro-corporate agents provocateurs.
As manifestos go, this one is marvelous. Majorities are for amateurs. (h/t PHA.)
This was really why I had no enthusiasm for cap-and-trade. Without near-unanimity in the public, globally and in each nation, the prospects for climate stability are grim.
We need to have traditional government chasing a social media consensus. And so that social media consensus has to be competent.

The Forces of Occupation

Obviously I’ve been wrapped up in Planet3.0 these last couple of weeks. But amazing developments have been afoot.

I am ALMOST as far as this:

But it is tempered by something clever somebody said at SXSWEco last week. Something like:

We don’t need a movement chasing down the White House to make them do the right thing.

We need a movement that is strong enough that the White House needs to chase it.

Planet 3.0

Please check out our new Planet3.0 sustainability news site.

I hope the quality of conversation that has emerged on this site, of which I am very proud, can be transferred and scaled up on Planet3.0. We have in mind a number of experiments to facilitate intelligent and informed conversation, but they need a nucleus of participants.

So especially if you have been a contributor at this site, I’d like to ask you for a modest if kind favor. Please sign in at the Planet3.0 site and participate in the conversation there. Let’s show the world how it’s done.