Selector: Marathon Backpack Pressure-Cooker

The Force or the Dark Side, take your choice...

"If you're not connected to one of those valid intelligence targets, you're not of interest to us ..."

Congratulations! Now you are!


Rabid Models P38

Some views of my Rabid Models P38


OpenSCAD: 3D Model Programming

In a recent trip to the local FabLab, I learned about a cool 3D modeling tool unlike most others.  In OpenSCAD, you write code to make models.

It is really cool and fast to make very precise 3D models.

Here's a quick code sample that defines a procedure to make cones, then calls it!
To run it in openSCAD:
F5: quick visualize
F6: compile and check (note, this code is only to demo the programming, it cannot generate a proper STL file for 3D printing)

// cone construction defs
r_lower= 20;
// the next var determines how 'smooth' the curves are

// cone placement defs
cone_step= 2*r_lower;

// this makes a single cone of 'height' tall,
// at [0,0,0]
module cone(height){

// this makes 'nb' cones,
// each is taller than the previous,
// while shifting them along the x-axis
// note:this code will not make STL, because of 'holes'
module make_cones(nb){
  for (i= [0:nb-1]){

// this does the work

Here's the Result:
Cool, eh?


TED.com: No Comment on Hacking?

I have been a long time fan of TED.com. I found it to be a great source of ideas and inspiration. However, in recent times this has become less and less true. Nevertheless, I am still on the mailing list and still watch any video with an interesting title.

The other day, this one caught my eye: "Why good hackers make good citizens". Myself being a hacker, I watched it and was terribly disappointed, even insulted that the presenter used the term "hacking" for what was clearly not... Well, I won't spoil for those who want to watch the 9 minutes.

Anyway, as a member of TED.com, I sometimes comment on the presentations. This one weighed heavily on me, so I posted the following comment:

I'm sorry but with all respect for the good stuff mentioned in this talk, the use of the word "hacking" is in my opinion really not right.

I looks to me like just a buzzword to get people to watch it! Furthermore, the idea of "civic hacking" is practically a pleonasm. Everyone who hacks believes that they are doing it for the global good. I'm not talking about stealing, fraud, etc. since that is simply what it is.

Actually, I am very sad to see that such a "nothing of interest" presentation gets top TED billing when there is so much fascinating hacking going on. If you want to hear about great hacking, check the Chaos Communication Congress (search "30C3 video" for the most recent). That's a place where the worlds greatest and most intense "civic" hackers get together to try to change the world....

Or just read Elektor... or Make magazine!

Maybe I was not clear enough: I found this talk insulting.

I posted it, and saw that it was in fact on the site. Then, about a minute later I received this email from TED.com

TED comment threads are a welcoming place for critical comment and debate, but we ask that you write all comments in a way that is thoughtful and constructive. The goal of our message boards is to host productive conversation and debate. Comments that are insulting or belittling, especially those that are aggressive towards a speaker personally, do not make for constructive conversation -- they tend to stifle debate, not promote it.

With this in mind, we'd ask you to re-write your comment as though the speaker were sitting across from you at a dinner table. Our speakers do read and respond to comments. How could you engage the speaker in constructive and respectful debate?

The full text of the comment is below; please let us know if you have any questions. For more information on our approach to comments on TED.com, check out our community How-To Guide: http://www.ted.com/pages/conversations_howto

Thank you!
The TED Conversations Team

To which I replied:

"??? I would have no trouble talking like this to the speaker - I feel that she insulted me with her presentation and that indeed Ted.com participated in that insult. The stuff mentioned in her talk is as close to advertizing as you can get... I don not see what is wrong with my comments, but I do feel that TED.com is going downhill faster and faster and that it is no longer thesource of inspiration as it once was...

If you care to continue this debate I have no problelms - but i do have a problem with moderated comments being removed without justification....

There has been no reply to that...

Since then, I looked at the "TED conversations How-to guide" and saw that there is a section about "How to Avoid Comment or Conversation Removal". There, one sees the following possible reasons for comment removal:
  • Not appropriate for this audience: TED.com is not the right platform for pseudo-science, zealotry, personal requests, proselytizing or self-promotion.
    - That doesn't seem to apply to my remarks, but who knows? It may be a catch all, which means, "if we don't like it it's outahea..."
  • Inappropriate language: This is a not the right place for chat-room banter, text-speak or combative posturing.
    - this is certainly not the case.
  • Response to an inappropriate comment: Please use the Flag button instead.
    - Nope.
  • Repeat topic: Please use the Search tool to check for existing Conversations on your topic before submitting a new Conversation.
    - No
  • Terms of Use violation: We will remove any comment or conversation that violates the TED.com Terms of Use.
    - doubtful, but who knows...
So in the end, with no response from the TED conversations team, even though they invited me to exchange with them, I was left with letting it go or escalating.

After consideration, I decided that this was worthy of a shot on Hacker News because it somehow degrades hacking and at the same time confirms my feeling that TED.com is on the slippery slope to becoming just another self-serving institution that has lost its purpose...

I leave it to you and your perspective on hacking and commenting...

UPDATE: the next day I received this email redacted to preserve the peace of the author:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for writing. When users submit critiques of talks, we ask that they take care to be thoughtful and substantive rather than insulting or belittling. You make some excellent points in your comment, but we ask that you make them politely and constructively. 

When you include things like, "this nothing of interest presentation" and "I found this talk insulting," it adds a hostile tone that can be counter-productive to serious discussion of the content. Please consider taking another shot at sharing these important thoughts with the TED community.

Thank you for understanding, and I look forward to your future contributions!


To which, I replied:

Dear ,

Thank you for writing and explaining what you believe to be wrong with my remarks.
In the meantime, a few friends have watched the talk and their remarks are far more critical than mine...  
I understand why you may not like my remarks, but I will not rewrite them just to fit into the TEDish way. 
I used to love and admire TED, but in recent years the TED talk has slipped into what I and many find to be a style without content: lots of enthusiasm for banality... This talk was a fine example of that: a few buzzwords 'hacking' in particular, mention the current administration, mention B. Franklin, then a story about some students who were sent to Hawaii and made a website. What ideas are "worth sharing"? Could this be compared to so many of the great TED shows? like McCready (not in TEDish style), or Greg Stone, or Sir. Robinson, or S. Mitra or the volunteer Fireman ... 
I also go to as many TEDx events as I can and have seen this same trend towards banality, more and more passionate show, less and less passionate content... or even worse, no content just advice about how the world should be according to the speaker... Myself and many others are disappointed with what we perceive to be a decay in quality in something that was really great not very long ago.
Maybe TED is just wearing out? Or the team is getting old and set in their ways?
Anyway, I find that the way comments are removed post publication is a bit odd. Why not just moderate before publication then it is clear.  Either you encourage participation and you risk getting remarks which may rile up some or you moderate and keep things in line with what you believe to be best.
I have learned from this experience that I no longer want to participate in the TED conversations, and at the same time I understand why the threads are as they are.
In any case, thank you for taking the time to write back.