Monday, March 12, 2007

Trying to edit Wikipedia a frustrating process

Lately, I have been working with an arts foundation down in Oija, California that asked me to create an educational history website using historical figures created by artist/historian George S. Stuart as the basis for articles featured there. I was so impressed with the quality of the figures and the meticulous research that goes into their creation that I obtained permission from the foundation's photographer to upload 200X300pixel versions of the images to Wikicommons so they could be used to illustrate biographies in Wikipedia. The photographer, Mr. Peter D'Aprix, granted full rights for their use with the only requirement being attribution and share-alike for any derivatives.

However, when I attempted to include them in some of the biographical articles, I quickly discovered an apparent bias against the inclusion of contemporary art that is not widely known. This resulted in removal of the images within hours of inclusion. A guideline was posted to my talk page pointing out that external links to .com sources are not permitted (I had linked the artist's name to his website). I was not aware of this restriction so I removed the link and added the image back to the article. Then, I was told by another editor that he thought the images did not add anything to the article since the article already had pictures of contemporary portraits. I was aware of the contemporary portraits but many of them were highly stylized and did not provide a life-like representation like the figural images did. I added information about the year and age the portrait figure represented, consistent with the captions provided under the other portraits but again the other editor blew my edits away. I questioned his apparent censorship expressed by his rationale that the art was not widely known so had no basis for inclusion and told him I thought the internet was a place anyone could exercise their creativity without obtaining elitist-recognized status before their work could be placed before the public. But, apparently not, at least not on Wikipedia. I requested a third-party opinion and hoped my viewpoint would be shared by other editors. However, some responses to my request referred to the figures as "dolls" as did the editor I was having problems with. Despite the other reasons that were offered, I think the bias against what are perceived as "dolls" as an art form (Mr. Stuart would shudder at the description of his art form as "dolls") is the real nub of the issue. Art is ultimately in the eye of the beholder but apparently some of these editors don't wish to offer anyone else the chance to make that personal decision.

After reading a number of other contentious posts between editors arguing over points of view, relevance, etc. I realized that although Wikipedia sounds inviting (anyone can edit!) the reality is it is an environment frought with self-appointed experts who fiercely defend their fiefdoms and, in some cases, their extremely inflexible mindsets.

New standalone DVD recorders offer ease of use to the video conversion process

I was reading a review by David Pogue about a new standalone DVD recording unit from Sony and it reminded me to comment on my quite positive experience I have had with an even less expensive unit from Go-Video. First, David's review in a nutshell:

"we insist upon upgrading our recording technologies every few years, each time orphaning millions of disks, reels and cassettes in older formats. All over the world, VHS and camcorder tapes from the 1980s and ’90s are slowly turning to dust. And it’s becoming harder and harder to find the equipment you need to play back some of those videos.

Even the DVD will one day turn out to have been a temporary format, but at least it has advantages over tapes. The video quality is terrific. You can skip around without rewinding or fast-forwarding. And homemade DVDs may last 100 years, if you believe the vendors of those gold-coated blanks.

Now, the technologically savvy computer nut thinks nothing of connecting an old camcorder or VCR to a well-equipped Mac or PC; hitting Play; waiting two hours for each tape to transfer in real time; editing and touching up the result on the computer screen; and then waiting another two hours for the resulting video burn onto a DVD.

But in Sony’s opinion (and many other people’s), this is much too laborious, expensive and time-consuming. Enter the Sony DVDirect VRD-MC3, a $218 box that converts old (and new) videotapes into shiny new DVDs with an emphasis on two extremely important attributes: simplicity and reproduction quality.

Under the hood of the cleanly designed, black-and-white plastic case (12.7 by 4.9 by 10.6 inches) is a DVD burner that accepts almost any format of blank disc: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and dual-layer (extra-capacity) versions of each. (There is one exception: the DVDirect doesn’t accept the dual-layer DVD-RW variety.)"

I have had a similarly positive experience with a Go Video DVD recorder that I bought on sale for only $69. I had been in the market for a DVD recorder since my Dish Network DVR started reaching its capacity and, try as I might, I couldn't find anything on it I didn't want to keep!

Just before Christmas, I saw an ad from a local discount store offering a GoVideo DVD recorder for $89 with $20 rebate (and I am meticulous about sending in my rebate coupons!) I was a little dubious about quality but I remembered we had a GoVideo VCR/DVD recorder combo unit in our technology lab at work that seemed to work well so I thought I would give it a try. After all, $69 is not much to risk if I wasn't satisfied with the results.

But, I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the recording (selectable from HQ (1 hr per DVD) to 2 hr, 4 hr, and 6 hr/DVD recording settings) and the editing features that enable me to rename the titles, schedule a selectable range of chapter marking intervals, select the index image for the title segment, and finalize the disk - all from the remote control. It, too has both S-Video connections as well as RCA ( the standard yellow, white and red connectors). Only the purely automatic scanning feature to establish channel reception tripped me up. Unlike many other video devices I have owned in the past, the GoVideo DVD recorder did not have a switch for Channel 3 or Channel 4 reception. You had to select the AutoScan function from the audio/video menu option under the Setup menu for the device to detect a video signal coming in on channel 3 from my Dish DVR and lock onto it.

I wish the Dish DVR would let me connect a DVD recorder to the USB outlet and (to use David Pogue's expression) slurp content from the DVR directly without having to go back through the playback process but the DISH USB has been programmed to accept only the proprietary (and quite spendy) "Pocket Dish" device.

I found a website that discusses how to disassemble the DVR and connect it to a computer to download the data from it but it is a violation of Dish's equipment lease agreement and besides, I'm more of a software kind of gal than a hardware technician. Although I have actually installed hard drives, sound systems, extra memory, internal network cards, CD-Rom drives, etc. my hands always tremble because I find it very nerve wracking.