Getting to work proving podcasting is right

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Today we have a quote sent in by a listener. It is a quote I really appreciate because I am guilty of the behavior described. The words are from John Kenneth Galbraith a Canadian economist just like me.
Here is the quote:

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
-John Kenneth Galbraith

I doubt I am the only soul guilty of this tendency. Hopefully this quote will make us more aware of our stubbornness and more willing to forego the proof.

As I write this I am reminded of an entertaining Galbarith story I heard earlier this year. Galbraith earned is undergraduate degree from a small Canadian agricultural school that he described as “probably the worst college in the English-speaking world.” He went on to be one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. He helped President Roosevelt manage the war economy, advised Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, wrote for Fortune magazine and was a Harvard professor. Later in his career he apologized to his alma mater for his derogatory comment saying he was wrong, Arkansas A & M is the worst school in the English speaking world. He just wasn’t aware at the time Arkansas was teaching in English. That is harsh.

I would like to thank Dave Goodman for sending me those fine words from from Dr. Galbraith. Dave has an interesting blog over at DKGoodman.com/blog.html. He also has a nice sidebar full of quotes and several words of the day.

I apologize for the shortage of posts this week I am experiencing some distracting technical difficulties.

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When will B.J. Fogg start a captology podcast?

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Another neologism for today. The word is captology. Captology is an emerging field of study related to the design, theory, and analysis of persuasive, not pervasive, technologies. It is the study of technologies that change attitudes and encourage behaviors instead of forcing behaviors. Captology lies at the intersection of computers and the art and science of persuasion. It is a sub-discipline of human factors or (HCI) human computer interaction. It is the study of technologies that change attitudes and encourage behaviors instead of forcing behaviors.

It is such a new discipline a Google search for captology barely returns 30,000 result pages. Wikipedia’s entry only offers four lines on the subject. But I think it will be an increasingly important discipline.
Some examples of the application of the discipline include:

  • Baby Think It Over– A computer-doll that simulates how hard it is to care for a baby. It cries at irregular intervals and registers certain acts of abuse.
  • Hygeine Guard– A sensor system to be placed in bathrooms at hospitals and restaurants. The systems records when employees use the bathroom and whether or not they spend time by the sink before exiting. It doesn’t force you to wash your hands. It persuades or motivates you to wash your hands. Or at least stand around the sink for awhile
  • Nagscreens in shareware/donationware- This is the example we are probably most familiar with. The screens that pop up try to persuade you to buy or contribute to their cause. These screens often have messages like “Keep this software free by donating.”

On the web there are countless examples for captologists to study. It seems that every podcast that doesn’t run ads in their podcasts has a button for donating. In fact Today’s Podcast has such a button. I should probably study a little captology because no one has ever donated.

UPDATE (09/02/05): Reading through Standford’s credibility site I learned the etymology of captology. “The term captology is based on the acronym: Computers As Persuasive Technology.”

To learn more about captology you can visit the leading institute for captology- the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. Or you can check out B.J. Fogg’s book

Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. Fogg is the leading thinker in the field of captology and website credibility. He is on the faculty at Stanford.

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Dave & Adam are podcast wonks

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Today’s word, wonk, was spotted at boingboing.net.

The dictionary describes the noun wonk as an excessively studious student, a nerd or a geek. The modern connotation is more nuanced. Today wonk usually connotes a someone well versed or at least very interested in the details and rules.
The BoingBoing post describes Ben Hammersley as an RSS wonk- someone who know a great deal about the inner working and details of RSS. I suspect Dave Winer is the ultimate RSS wonk. Dave wrote the specs for RSS and along with Adam Curry created podcasting.

Typically I find the word policy very close to the word wonk. A policy wonk is person who closely follows government policy. Wonkette.com is a blog by a female, hence the -ette suffix, washington insider. If you ever think you know what is going on in Washington and the U.S. government visit the Wonkette for an alarming look at how much goes on behind the scenes.

The etymology of wonk is murky to say the least. According to Wikipedia its origin may be the reversal of the word know and was used in the British Navy to refer to an inexperienced sailor. I bet it was derogatory.

Today’s Podcast needs your help and a new name. Please send your suggestions to scott at todays podcast.com

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Podcasting a Screencast about an Umlaut

Today we have a great new word that is both a neologism because you won’t find it in a dictionary and it is a portmanteau because it is a combination of two other words. It is screencast.A screencast is a recording of a computer screen. It is usually narrated. Screencasts are often used to explain or demonstrate a software feature. For example if you want to see how I record my podcast I there is a link to a screencast of me recording this podcast.If you want to see a more interesting screencast check out Jon Udell’s screencast of the history of the Wikipedia article on Heavy Metal Umlauts. By the way Jon coined the term screencast just last year and the umlaut is the two little dots above a vowel. Jon’s screencast is wonderful. It demonstrates how articles in Wikipedia grow and change. The light hearted subject of heavy metal umlauts is also very entertaining. Fans of Spinal Tap will particularly appreciate the screencast and the article even though they don’t go to eleven.Screencast cionI used the freeware Windows application Wink to create my screencast. The result is a Flash file which seems to the screencast file format of choice. If you would like create your own screencast check out Jon’s Screencast How To over at O’reilly.I am still looking for a more descriptive name for Today’s Podcast. Please help me with some suggestions.

A fathomless, fortnight long podcast about furlongs

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Today we have three f-words. Don’t worry, this is a family friendly podcast. The three words are:

  • Fathom
  • Furlong
  • Fortnight

These are all units of measurement.

fathomless oceanFathom is a sailor’s term for describing the depth of water. A fathom is six feet deep or 1.8 meters. Not living near an ocean I never hear anyone use the term, but I do hear a variation fathomless. Fathomless means too deep to be measures or understood. For example the fathomless world of Search Engine Optimization

Fathom comes from the old English fathme. Fathme means “outstretched arms.” Presumably outstretched arms are about six feet wide- one fathom.


Will Simpson Wheat  FieldFurlong comes from the Old English furh meaning furrow and lang meaning long. A furlong is a distance of 220 yards, 660 feet or about 201 meters. Eight furlongs equals a mile and 5 equals about a kilometer. As the etymology suggests it comes from the length of a furrow, a long shallow trench plowed for farming. Originally furlong referred to the length of one furrow in one acre.
Prior to researching furlong I had only heard the term in the context of the sport of kings- horse racing. In horse racing are used to describe distances less then a mile. Remember a furlong is an 1/8 of a mile.

A fortnight is a period of two weeks or 14 days. I thought it came from a mutation of a fort, as in a military fort. But as it turns out fortnight is also from Old English. It comes from feowertyne niht meaning 14 nights. When your boss asks you to get a project done by next week tell them it will take more like fortnight.

A sennight is one week, 7days.
Today’s Podcast needs a new name. Please help me by sending me you name change suggestions.

Wheat rows photo courtesy of Will Simpson at PalousePhotography.org

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There is no antipode for this podcaster’s home

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Today’s we have a rather obscure technical term from the world of geography. Antipodal is a word I came across in a BBC article. The article is about a replica of the U.K.’s famous stonehenge. This new henge is antipodal to the original. Which is to say it is on the opposite side of the Earth.

Antipodal points also called antipodes are points on the surface of a sphere that are diametrically opposed. So if you could tunnel straight through the center of the earth you would emerge at the antipode of where you started. For example the Antipode Islands of New Zealand are so named because they are roughly on the other side of the world from the Crown of England.

After learning this word I decided to figure out what is the antipode of my new home in Cincinnati. For this I turned to a new piece of free software, Google Earth. Google Earth is amazing. It is a digital map of the entire Earth. You pick any place on earth and zoom in on it. As you zoom in the software displays ever more detailed satellite photos of the area. Depending on the area the photos maybe be so detailed you can see your car parked in front of your house. Add to this the amazing topographic detail that displays 3d hills and mountains; animation that lets you tilt your view so you can appreciate the topography and the ability, and this is this coolest, to “fly” from one location to another. I can’t praise Google Earth enough. It can be downloaded from earth.google.com. Sorry it is Windows only.
So I used Google Earth to find my house by using my address. I noted the latitude and longitude. Then I switched the north for south and subtracted 180 from my longitude. This spun the globe and displayed my antipode. Sadly it is an uninteresting spot in the middle of the South Pacific.

Antipode comes to us by way of the Greek anti meaning opposite or opposed and pod meaning feet.
I have a little house keeping today. I need a little help. I am considering renaming Today’s Podcast. I think the name is too vague and confusing. The name doesn’t really describe the content of the shows and it can be confusing talking about today’s Today’s Podcast. Or even tomorrow’s Today’s Podcast.

Please help me by emailing me your suggestions. My email address is scott at todays podcast.com.

UPDATE: Gerry of Vancouver BC. corrected my methodology. I first stated you could switch East for West but that only works if you are 90 degrees east or west. The correct method is to subtract 180 degrees from longitude. Thanks Gerry.

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This podcast is not canonical, but the Daily Source Code will be part of the canon

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Today we have a request from Will Simpson. The word is Canonical and it came up in a recent episode of the Gillmor Gang.
In this clip Jon Udell used canonical to describe a standard permanent link.
Two side notes: This Gillmor Gang, from July 2nd 2005, is very interesting. They discuss some of the emerging issues with podcasting and audio blogging. For example how do you properly site an audio clip you play in you podcast. Unlike a text entry I can’t very easily give you a link back to the entire Gillmor Gang episode.
I would also like to praise John Udell. He does some great screencasts of interesting Internet phenomena. Tune in later this week for more on screencasts.

Back to canonical. It is an interesting word with a rich history and many definitions that vary based on the context. They include:

  • Appearing in a Biblical canon.
  • Related to canon law– the laws of the Roman Catholic and/or Anglican churches.
  • Conforming to orthodox or recognized rules.
  • In math canonical refers to the standard form or the simplest form.
  • In linguistics it is the simplest form possible without loss of generality. Opposite of nonstandard.
  • Pertaining to or resembling a musical or literary canon.
  • Authoritative.
  • Standard.

This is a seemingly diverse group of definitions but in short canonical is an adjective that means standard, generally accepted, essential or a significant part of the history. If you decide to do a little more research on canonical and it’s root canon at Wikipedia be prepared for a lot of disambiguation pages.

Obviously a word this rich has rich etymology too. It made it way from the ancient Greek kanon to the Old English and Old French to the Middle English to modern English. The Greek kanon means rule or rod.

Will, thank you for the great suggestion. Will has an a wonderful portfolio of photographs available at PalousePhotography.org. My favorite is the “Palouse Morning on Linville Road.” Check out last weeks post to learn about the Palouse.

Will also reminded me “there is a popular Linux distro, Ubuntu, available from [a] philanthropic organization called Canonical –Canonical.com/ which is doing great work.”

I would now like to welcome all the new iTunes subscribers. I hope you are enjoying Today’s Podcast and podcasting in general. Please tell you friends about podcasting.

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Who will be the podcasting ombudsman?

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Today’s word was suggested by Brian over at the Mostly Trivial podcast. The word is ombudsman, and Brian found it in recent post at Slashdot.org.

An ombudsman is person who acts as an mediator between an organization and its public or constituency. They are often charged with investigating complaints.

The ombudsman in the Slashdot post is a blogger who writes on video games. You can read his posts at vgombud.blogspot.com.

You can subscribe to the Mostly Trivial podcast at MostlyTrival.com

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This is a redundant audio podcast

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Today’s word is redundant. It is an adjective with several related definitions. It means extra, profuse, superfluous, no longer needed or duplicate. For example describing Adam Curry as a married husband is redundant. If he is married we know he is a husband.

The term redundant is also used to describe backup systems that take over when the primary system fails. Redundant servers is one way major internet companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft ensure you can always reach their sites.

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An acronym from last weeks podcast, not quite

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Today we have a word that describes words- acronym. An acronym, like most words that end in -nym or -onym, describes a word or a name. An acronym is a word formed by the initial letters of a longer term. My favorite example is laser. Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

It is important to contrast an acronym with an abbreviation. An abbreviation, like IBM or ADR is not pronounced as a word. Each individual letter is pronounced.

Some good acronyms include Radar, Nato and Opec.

Acronym comes from the combination of the Greek akron and onoma. Akron means tip or end and onoma mean name.
A interesting modern acronym phenomenon is the recursive acronym. In a recursive acronym one of the words that makes up the initials is the acronym. Gnu, the popular linux flavor is a well known example. Gnu stands for Gnu is Not Unix. I suspect the most recognized recursive acronym is VISA. What Visa is a recursive acronym? I know. I was surprised too. Visa is the VISA International Service Association.

You can look up most acronyms at:

Both are great sites for research and browsing the amazing variety of acronyms and abbreviations.

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