December 2nd, 2007


sword swallowing, post secret, and found magazine

Last night we drove up to Durham to attend the show "Post Secret vs. Found Magazine 2007". It was a talk with Frank Warren, the founder of Post Secret, and Davy and Peter Rothbart, the guys behind Found Magazine.

The reason why I am writing about this on my Fedora blog is because both of these projects are community-based. Without the community of contributors who send things in to these two websites, they would cease to exist. The parallel to open source software is obvious.

Like any good show, it had an opening act, in this case Brett Loudermilk, who they found in West Virginia 3 days ago and brought along on their tour. Brett blew up a balloon (like the ones used to make balloon animals) and then swallowed it without popping it. He followed this up by swallowing a 16-inch short sword sword (using the sword to pop the balloon), and then finished up by (why not?) eating a light bulb. I am not making any of this up.

Following that, Frak Warren of Post Secret talked for about 30 minutes, showed us some of the secrets that had never been posted on the website or in his books, and explained how Post Secret got started as a simple art project that found a viral life of its own.

Next up was Davy Rothbart, who shared some of his favorite tidbits from Found Magazine. He was very amusing, and (seemingly) very drunk as well, but in a way this actually made the talk *more* interesting. His brother Peter, who has a band, came out and sang a few songs that were inspired by some of the Found Magazine items. He was very funny and talented.

The show ended with Brett (from the opening act) doing some firebreathing.

And then Frank Warren asked if he could have a lift back to his hotel so that he wouldn't have to walk there at about 12:30 AM. We gave him a ride, and in return he gave us one of the pages from the galley copies of his latest Post Secret book.

college football needs to learn from open source

I am a huge sports fan. I love college football, but I hate the closed-source algorithms (both computer-based and human-based) that go into determining which teams play for the national championship, and even though it is a meaningless act of protest, for the past few years I have refused to watch the final games of the season.

College football needs to make its ranking and selection processes 100% transparent. Voters should be held accountable for the decisions that they make, conflicts of interest (which are a major problem in the voting) should all be stated, acknowledged, and eliminated. Voters who consistently make choices that demonstrate idiocy should have their college football voting rights revoked, and be replaced with someone more intelligent. Additionally, the source code that the various computer ranking systems use should be fully open-sourced, but this won't happen because then the handful of statisticians who have lots of power and influence will no longer be special because their "secret sauce" will be revealed.

The Bowl Championship Series (the group responsible for selecting the teams that play for the national championship and in the most important games) cannot survive on its own merits. A small consortium of universities and conferences are trying to protect their monopoly on the big money that college football generates. Like any other proprietary "company" that is suffering, they try to obfuscate their process and stifle competition in order to protect their monopoly.

The same sense of inevitability that is revolutionizing software will eventually make it into college football. But it's a slow, painful process, which these things always seem to be, regardless of their "industry". If only there were a way to contribute to a project like "fixing college football" (other than by not watching the games and voting with your wallet) the same way you can contribute to a project like Fedora or Mozilla.