synthetic zero

December 8th, 2009

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican who was originally appointed by Bush to replace the execrable Donald Rumsfeld after the 2006 elections and retained (I believe, wisely) by Obama after he took office, in this New York Times article on Afghanistan, essentially admits that the Bush Administration strategy in Afghanistan had been woefully inadequate:

Another problem, Mr. Gates said, was that the Afghan security forces were spread far too thin. “Attrition is higher in the areas where the combat is heavier,” he said. “The reason is there aren’t enough of them. And they basically fight until they die, or they go AWOL.”

Rotating in more Afghan soldiers, he said, “would be an important part of the retention piece as well.”

When asked if it was not “late in the game” in an eight-year-old war to begin learning these facts about the Afghan security forces, Mr. Gates replied that “there’s a lot of this that’s late in the game, frankly.”

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December 5th, 2009

I’ve been talking a little more with some Wave users and playing with Wave more and I thought I’d elaborate a bit more on Wave. The one thing I think is pretty cool about Wave is, as I’ve said before, the multimedia collaborative edited document. I can certainly see how that would be useful for collaborative planning, etc.; my beef with Wave is with the thought, or lack thereof, that went into the context in which that multimedia collaborative document lives.

First of all, it should be pointed out that a lot of the use cases for Wave are already possible using Google Docs and Spreadsheets; i.e., you can edit in real-time things like to-do lists, plans, etc., at the same time, and even chat about it using a separate chat interface. For example, if you could inject videos, etc., into a Google document, then it would start to have a lot of the same power as Wave.

What could have and should have set Wave apart were the ways in which you could use, structure, share, and link the wave; not only whether it is possible to do these things but how intuitive and easy it is to do these things. You could summarize my complaint about Wave this way: instead of basing it on email and adding wiki, social networking, and IM functionality to that, they should have started with either wikis or social networking/twitter and added functionality that allowed email-like use cases.

For example, sharing a wave with a group of users is apparently possible using a hack via Google Groups — but this isn’t easy or intuitive. As far as I know there’s no way, yet, to create a collection of waves and share them automatically with everyone in the group, so that edits to the waves automatically show up and new waves created in that collection are also automatically shared (i.e., with friends, Twitter-style followers, coworkers, etc.) Linking waves is cumbersome, forcing you to enter the “Wave ID”, which is bound to cause confusion as where one finds the wave ID is not immediately apparent, and furthermore when you’ve linked the wave this doesn’t give the viewer permission to see the linked wave unless they’ve been explicitly added to it, or it is totally public. Features in Wave are not easily discoverable or evident. There’s no way to control the types of edits people can make; for example, one of the best things about blogs is that the main content is only editable by the author, but other users can add comments; this tends to damp down on the flame wars that can sometimes pop up in “flat” threaded discussion forums. There are many other structural problems I’ve already commented on with Wave. Read the rest of this entry »

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December 4th, 2009

Please come to my next synthetic zero event, tomorrow, Saturday, December 5, 7pm-11pm, 20 minutes from Union Square!

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December 3rd, 2009

I’m going to say something that perhaps some of my friends will disagree with, but which I think must be said at this point. I’m a liberal — I’d even call myself very liberal. I believe strongly in gay rights, women’s rights, I believe the wealthy are too wealthy and they’ve siphoned off a lot of this country’s wealth in a way which disadvantages us all, I am a strong believer in social justice and supporting the dignity and well-being of all people, I was a fierce opponent of the Iraq war, the list goes on. But though I identify strongly with and support the goals of left I disagree quite frequently with the means the left sometimes chooses to pursue these goals. Above all, I believe that in order to achieve peace and justice one has to look very carefully at the details of every situation and think carefully about the impact of every policy, strategy, and tactic from a larger perspective. In other words, I am against dogma on the right or the left: I am pragmatic.

War is terrible but war in self defense is, I believe, a sad necessity. Obama campaigned on the notion that Afghanistan was the war we should have been fighting, that Iraq siphoned off men and attention from that war, and that we should have before and should now focus our efforts there. Read the rest of this entry »

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