Whee, links

Couple more quick links I found recently.

  • Picasa is an image management software tool written by Google, of all people. I don’t remember where I saw a reference to it recently, but I just tried it out, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Instantaneous response to typical image manipulations, an “I’m feeling lucky!” button ala Google when you just want it to make the image better, and a pretty reasonable user interface for browsing through images on your hard drive. In the 20 minutes or so I played with it, I really liked it. Check it out.
  • An article over at Many-to-Many had a link towards a class being taught over at Stanford by Howard Rheingold called “Toward a Literacy of Cooperation”. Rheingold wrote the book Smart Mobs on the rise of spontaneous organizations. The class looks really interesting – I plan to spend some time going through the site at some point. I watched Peter Kollock’s talk about social dilemmas this weekend, where he made some points I liked:
    • All games sold for children are finite zero-sum games, not infinite games, using Carse’s terminology. He describes observing his nephew (?) learning the game Candyland, and figuring out that if he wanted to win, his opponent had to lose, so he started cheating. On the other hand, I’m hard pressed to think of what infinite games could be taught to our kids; most games are, by nature, finite.
    • He pointed out that, as I mentioned in my discussion of the Ultimatum Game, that our social brains are wired to handle repeated interactions with reputations, that communities can not form without those elements. The corresponding thing he asserted was that the way to destroy a community was to take those elements away. In particular, he pointed out that pseudonymity was the best way to destroy a virtual community. It’s even worse than anonymity, because with pseudonymity, I could log on as you and destroy your reputation. Trust is destroyed, and everything falls apart. I thought that was a great insight.
    • He mentioned the importance of forgiveness and generosity in such interactions. In particular, we need to build in generosity because information is often imperfect, so we might misinterpret a mistake as an act of aggression and respond violently (as the Tit-for-Tat strategy in the Prisoner’s Dilemma would).

    Looks like a class I’d enjoy. I’m going to try to keep a closer eye on the class blog and watch the videos as they’re posted. The latest speaker apparently espouses something called panarchy, which I’ll have to read a bit more on before I have an opinion.