Lojban Needs to Reorganize

I've already written about why lojban is such an awesome language to learn, but unfortunately, the speaker base is still relatively small. I think the biggest reason for this is the incredibly unattractive website. The wiki currently located at lojban.org is in dire need of an upgrade (perhaps to MoinMoin) and although it would take some effort to migrate all the content, it would more than pay off in the long run. The redesigned site at http://lojban.jim.dabell.name/ is a great start and will hopefully move to www.lojban.org and then the wiki can use wiki.lojban.org to be run parallel to the new homepage. In addition to the already existing mailing lists and imageboards, a phpBB, Vanilla, or some other real forum would be a helpful addition to strengthen and grow the lojban community.

Currently, the wiki (which is the entire site) is slow, unattractive, and disorganized. Its difficult to navigate, space is used very inefficiently, and it isn't easy on the eyes. Visitors that have a potential interest in learning lojban can easily be repelled by their first glance at the site, or get lost before they find what they are looking for. Most people don't feel they should have to look. If they don't see it, they'll just leave. The main page should always be aimed at new visitors, and even if the site redesign example i linked to above took the place of the current wiki, the main page for the wiki should still do the same. Even for those who use the wiki and try to contribute, its slow, the interface is confusing, and the layout is awkward. All the main pages are not user maintained which means that no edit link will appear at the top of the page but it can still be edited by anyone if they copy the URL of the edit page of a user-maintained page and simply replace the page name.

Let's take a look:

So how do we improve the wiki? We use better software and make is easier to edit! Reorganizing, and maintaining the wiki will be much easier on MoinMoin. It would make more sense to fix the content after adopting a better wiki platform. All pages on the wiki should be open and user-maintained. I can only guess that they might not be to prevent vandalism, but with that kind of thinking, Wikipedia would not be where it is today. Wikis are maintained by the users. That's the whole point. Anything that isn't editable doesn't belong on the wiki. It can be moved to the new homepage.

Although mailing lists and the imageboards exist, and it's good that they do, they cannot do what a real forum would. Trying to make the mailing list double as a forum isn't enough. A real forum makes it much easier to give/get support with lojban and have discussions. A mailing list simply can't handle the volume of discussion that a forum can. Its about scalability. A mailing list and a forum are two different things and should remain separate. A real forum handles discussion in a much more organized fashion than a mailing list, and organization is what we need. A forum doesn't replace mailing lists, and mailing lists don't replace a forum-- they both run well in paralell. Take for example the hugely successful ubuntuforums.org-- its a center of communication for ubuntu users but it is used in parallel with mailing lists and irc. All three are essential and effective. Different people may prefer different ones but it is important that they are all available.

Another thing that should certainly be considered is using a content management system (CMS) like Drupal, Joomla, or some other one to make life easier.

So this is what should be done:

  1. Lojban redesigned site should take the place of the Wiki

  2. Wiki should be moved to wiki.lojban.org

  3. All pages should be opened up to be user maintained

  4. Upgrade to MoinMoin for reorganization

  5. Set up a real forum

  6. ???

  7. Profit!

This effort will make lojban much more accessible and build the community. More people will be able to find what they are looking for. Communication will be more evenly distributed between discussion on the mailing lists, irc, and forum. The wiki will be a valuable source that continues to improve as more people contribute. All of this will help lojban gain the popularity it deserves.

The Final Push: Linux in Stores

Over the past few years, the free software movement has made great progress, and it's constantly gaining momentum. With free software advancing at an exponential rate, we are not far from, and not necessarily in terms of time, Linux being as common as Windows, and then beating it. When we reach the breaking point, consider the free software movement unstoppable :)

People assert different reasons why free software hasn't completely replaced proprietary software yet, one of which is gaming. Currently, most games are released only for Windows, but Wine is quickly becoming able to run those games in Linux until the time comes when most games are released to run natively in Linux. The biggest issue right now certainly should not be games since at this point the best target for Linux, in my opinion, are people with very simple computer needs. That isn't to say that Linux isn't ready for everyone else, but it is more than ready for this group. This is also the biggest and easiest target.

The one thing with basic users is that most technophobic people fall into this category. Because of this, usability is often an argument against Linux, but it really isn't an issue anymore. Many Linux distributions, especially Ubuntu, are very usable. Ubuntu isn't significantly less user-friendly than Mac or Windows, but since it is different, it will need to be significantly more intuitive than them for the technophobic to feel comfortable switching. The only reason some people are only comfortable with Windows is because they are used to it and a change of something they already don't actually understand (their operating system) is a prospect with a distinct stress and even fear associated with it.

Hardware support is almost not even an issue anymore. The only reason that success is so frequent with Windows is because most Windows users receive their machines already loaded with the necessary drivers. Security, stability, availability, and price are certainly not issues. So, since there is plenty of reason to switch to Linux, and few remaining obstacles, why isn't everyone doing it? It comes down to consumer awareness. I will refer mostly to Ubuntu because it is, in my opinion, the most mainstream-ready distribution of Linux and its success is a win for Linux and free software as a whole.

Now, it seems logical to look for some flaw with Linux to blame for it not being more popular and then to try to fix that flaw, but instead consider that there is no flaw and that there are other things holding Linux back. Let's instead think about what needs to happen to reach the tipping point. Targeting governments or public schools to adopt Linux has a strong local impact but what will really put things in motion? Linux needs to be sold right alongside Windows.

All it would take is for one major chain of stores to successfully execute a Linux offering. Right now, Dell sells Ubuntu machines, so why aren't more dominoes falling? Well, for starters, Ubuntu is only offered on a separate section of their website and it's not sold alongside Windows. Doing so would help, but another reason is that selling Ubuntu online doesn't give it the visibility of having it sold in stores. A lot of the technophobic type need to go to a store where there are people to answer their questions and inform them.

Now let's imagine this happening with just one major chain store. With an Ubuntu loaded machine on the shelf next to a Windows box, people will be seeing Ubuntu as the serious competition to Windows that it is. Staff will have to know about free software and Linux, so customers will no longer be kept in the dark. The concepts of free software and the open source software model will finally be revealed to the everyday computer buyer. Support will be made available for these buyers. More press coverage will bring even more visibility. After that comes more machines being sold with Linux, more industry support, more hardware being designed to work for Linux, and free software development flourishing.

Okay, but why would a company gamble on the success of selling machines with Linux pre-installed? Well, for the above result, you don't have to offer every machine with Windows or Ubuntu: you only need a couple-- maybe one laptop and one desktop. Start by selling a couple, and that will provide a taste of the demand. I have no doubt that this small offering would appeal to a lot of people. There's also the press that this company would be able to enjoy. Which company wouldn't want to be the first one to sell the next big thing?

What can we do to make this happen? Go to the store and ask them about Ubuntu, then if they don't sell that on any of their machines which they probably don't, show off Ubuntu on your own machine if you brought it with you, or promise to bring in your Ubuntu laptop sometime soon. Make calls, write letters, and take advantage of things like Dell's IdeaStorm. The most important thing to do is to show how they would profit from this. They would be the first to tap into this growing market and they would get lots of press. I encourage everyone to get involved in making this happen. The success of free software is inevitable anyways, so if nothing else, just keep up the good work!

Top 7 Reasons to Learn Lojban

So i haven't actually learned to speak Lojban yet, but it's really cool. It is a constructed, or engineered, language. Originally called "Loglan" (short for "logical language") by project founder Dr. James Cooke Brown, who started the language development in 1955, it has been built over three decades by dozens of workers and hundreds of supporters, led since 1987 by The Logical Language Group. Why should you learn it?

  1. Think differently.
    Learning Lojban is a mind-expanding experience. Lojban was initially designed for the purpose of supporting research on a concept known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: "the structure of a language constrains the thinking of people using that language." Lojban allows the full expressive capability of a natural language, but differs in structure from other languages in major ways. This allows its use as a test vehicle for scientists studying the relationships between language, thought, and culture.

    The hypothesis states that the structure of a language constrains and influences the culture that uses it. In other words, if concepts or structural patterns are difficult to express in a language, the society and culture using the language will tend to avoid them. Individuals might overcome this barrier, but the society as a whole will not. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is important and controversial: it can be used as a sociological argument to justify or to oppose racism and sexism (and a variety of other 'isms'). A simple example is the assertion that since genderless expressions in English use 'masculine' forms, English is 'sexist'. This presumes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to be true. Understanding the potential for Sapir-Whorf effects could lead to better inter-cultural understanding, promoting communication and peace.

    Unique features of Lojban remove constraints on language in the areas of logic, ambiguity, and expressive power, opening up areas of thought that have not been easily accessible by human language before. Meanwhile, the formal rigidity of the language definition allows speakers to carefully control their expressions (and therefore perhaps their thought processes).
  2. Be specific.
    Did you know that due to the natural language processing of English, the spoken phrase "pretty little girls school" can be interpreted in a bunch of different ways depending on the groupings of the words and interpreted meanings of them? It could be interpreted as {pretty {little {girls school}}}, {{pretty little} {girls school}}, {{pretty {little girls}} school}, and so on. Does the school look little? Do the girls look little? Do the girls look pretty? Does the school look pretty? Then you can also ask, does the word pretty mean 'beautiful' or 'fairly'? Is it the school that the girl goes to, or is it an all-girls school? Lojban can express each and every single one of these meanings without ambiguity and without circumlocution or overhead.

    Lojban enables metalinguistic discussion about the sentences being spoken while remaining unambiguous. It also supports a 'tense' logic that allows extreme specificity of time and space relationships, even those implied by time travel. Lojban's grammar is designed to support unambiguous statement of mathematical expressions and relations in a manner compatible with both international usage and Lojban's non-mathematical grammar.

    Lojban has an unambiguous grammar (proven by computer analysis of a formal grammar with YACC), pronunciation, and morphology (word forms). The person who reads or hears a Lojban sentence is never in doubt as to what words it contains or what roles they play in the sentence. Lojban has no words that sound alike but have different meanings (like "herd" and "heard"), that have multiple unrelated meanings ("set"), or that differ only in punctuation but not in sound (like the abominable "its" and "it's"). There is never any doubt about where words begin and end ("cargo shipment" can be heard as 2, 3, or 4 words). The function of each word is clear: there is nothing like the English "Time flies like an arrow," in which any of the first three words could be the verb. Precision in no way confines the meaning of a Lojban sentence. It is possible to speak nonsense, to tell a lie, or to be misunderstood. You can be very specific, or you can be intentionally vague. Your hearer may not understand what you meant, but will always understand what you said.
  3. Speak to computers.
    Lojban was designed as a human language, and not as a computer language. It is therefore intended for use in conversation, reading, writing, and thinking. However, since Lojban can be processed by a computer much more easily than can a natural language, Lojban-based computer applications are a natural expectation. Due to its unambiguous grammar and simple structure, it can be easily parsed (broken down for analysis) by computers, making it possible for Lojban to be used in the future for computer-human interaction, and perhaps conversation. Lojban's predicate structure is similar to existing artificial intelligence (AI), suggesting it as a powerful tool in AI processing, especially in the storing and processing of data about the world and people's conceptions of it. Linguists are interested in Lojban's potential as an intermediate language in computer-aided translation of natural languages.

    Those with a computer background can lead development of the first computer applications for the language. Expertise in the language will no doubt be valuable as Lojban becomes recognized as a useful tool for computer applications by the computer industry. Computer-oriented Lojbanists can also aid in developing computer-aided instruction tools or converting existing software to run on new computers.
  4. It makes sense.
    Lojban's pronunciation, spelling, word formation, and grammar rules are fixed, and the language is free of exceptions to these rules. Each Lojban sound is uniquely assigned to a single letter, or combination of letters. Each letter is defined to have a particular set of possible pronunciations, such that there is no overlap between letter sounds. The forms of Lojban words are also extremely regular. This, coupled with the phonology rules, allows a stream of speech to be uniquely broken down into its component words. The written language corresponds exactly to the sounds of the spoken language; spelling is phonetic and unambiguous, and the flowing sounds of the language break down into words in only one possible way. These features make computer speech recognition and transcription more practical. Learning to pronounce and spell Lojban is trivial.

    Lojban is simple and sensible. Its grammar is based on the principles of logic. It's unambiguous. It's regular and phonetic. It's everything that language should be.
  5. Be expressive.
    Lojban is a beautiful language. Lojban has a smooth, rhythmic sound, somewhat like Italian. However, its consonants create a fullness and power found in Slavic languages like Russian, and the large number of vowel pairs impart a hint of Chinese, Polynesian, and other Oriental languages, though without the tones that make many of those languages difficult for others to learn.

    Original poetry has already been written in Lojban, and some has been translated into the language. Lojban's powerful 'tanru' metaphor structure allows you to build concepts into words easily, as you need them, and has been used to create colorful images and to convey moving emotions. A Lojban speaker doesn't need a dictionary to use and understand the millions of words that can potentially exist in the language. The absence of cultural constraints makes consideration of new ideas and relationships easier than in natural languages, spurring creativity. Lojban aids in communicating abstractions by identifying their nature explicitly. Lojban is thus a very powerful language, not only for poetry, but for discussing such abstract fields as philosophy, physics, metaphysics, and religion.

    Lojban poets are already experimenting with new (and old) forms of poetry that seem especially well suited to the rhythm, sound, and flow of the language. Rarely do poets have such an opportunity to affect the development of a new language as they do now with Lojban. Lojban is rich and powerful. Lojban unleashes the full potential of poetic expression to communicate both concrete and abstract ideas.
  6. It's easy.
    Lojban is actually much simpler than natural languages. It is only slightly more complex in its grammar than the current generation of computer languages. Lojban seems complex only because the varieties of human thought are complex, and Lojban is designed to minimize constraints on those thoughts. Lojban text can appear longer and more complex due to its lack of idiom, its complete explicitness of logical structure, and most importantly, its unfamiliarity. On the other hand, conversational speech uses less than half of the possible grammatical structures, leaving the rest for writing and for other circumstances when one is likely to take time to carefully formulate exact logical phrasings.

    Lojban is free of exceptions to the rules of pronunciation, spelling, word formation, and grammar. Such exceptions, which are present in other languages, are the bane of learning to speak a natural language correctly. Without the burden of ambiguity, Lojban users can be precise and specific more easily than in other languages.

    Because Lojban's grammar is simple, it is easier to learn than other languages. Using flashcard-like techniques, a working vocabulary including the complete set of 1350 root words can take 8-12 weeks of study at 1 hour per day. It is by no means uncommon for people who embark on learning Lojban to be able to write grammatical Lojban within a few days, and to hold at least a limited conversation within a few weeks. Natural languages, especially English, take several years to learn to a comparable level of skill.

    The available Lojban teaching materials are structured so that you can learn the language without classroom instruction or a close community of speakers. Communication practice with others is needed to achieve fluency, but you can start using the language as you achieve proficiency.
  7. Have fun.
    You needn't learn Lojban for any practical purpose. Many of those learning Lojban are doing so because it is fun. Learning Lojban is intellectually stimulating, and provides human interaction and mental challenge. Lojban has all the benefits of games designed for entertainment, with the added prospect of developing useful skills as a side benefit. Learning Lojban as an 'intellectual toy' means that you can get enjoyment from learning Lojban without nearly the effort needed to benefit from studying other languages. While becoming fluent in Lojban will probably take hundreds of hours over several months, you can feel some sense of accomplishment in the language after just a few hours of study. You can use Lojban immediately for fun, while gaining skill with greater experience.
Content extracted from http://www.lojban.org/

Really, there is way too much to sum up here, in one blog post, but i promise you, if you are the creative type or the logical type (hopefully you fall into at least one of these), lojban will appeal to you more and more as you learn more about it and start to learn it yourself.

Even better, learn to write it with tengwar. Why?

Tell Dell to Put Ubuntu in Retail Stores

I was happy to see the new Ubuntu machines from Dell and i decided it was time for Ubuntu to appear in big retail stores like Best Buy. So, i posted to IdeaStorm to ask them to put their Ubuntu machines in retail stores. Please add your support!

Giving Digital Freedom a Powerful Voice

What else can we do to give digital freedom a voice that will be heard by more than just those of us who are already involved in the movement? How can we better appeal to everyone, techies and non-techies alike? We can be activists! That's why i decided to create an activism guide through the Ubuntu community. This guide gives advocates of digital freedom a way to
get involved through their local communities and gives LoCo's a way to make a huge difference in their region. It's really exciting to have this sort of information available to the masses!

The how-to guide currently includes how to lobby government, how to get press and media attention, and how to get through to companies. How to influence schools and educational institutions as well as other organizations is in the works.

It needs some heavy editing and better incorporation of digital freedom, so please check it out, get involved, and let me know what you think in the comments of this post!

Would you vote Kucinich-Paul 2008?

I personally support Dennis Kucinich but i can't help having serious respect for Ron Paul who i view as the Dennis Kucinich of the republican party. I was thinking about what if Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul teamed up. Now i know that there were rumors of this happening but i'm not here to report on that: i'm here to say why i think this should happen.

In an unbeatable election with a flawed voting system, hacked voting machines, widespread corporate media control, and questionable campaign tactics, we need to revive this dying democracy. These two candidates are the only ones i see capable of bringing us forward and bringing us together, as a country.

Some might say that their views are simply too opposing for this to be possible. If it came down to Dennis Kucinich vs. Ron Paul, no matter who wins, almost half of the people don't get the representation they want. Why can't we work together?

It is very simple why i believe these two should run with one another. America has become divided like never before between conservatives and liberals. Standing together behind these two would unite us as a nation. Running together means that they would have to settle their differences and opinions and work together to serve in everyone's interests.

Secondly, the media would not be able to ignore this. Undoubtedly, countless more people would support these two if only more people knew. This would be a great move for the both of them and their supporters. If you could, if they had a fighting chance, if they worked together, would you vote Kucinich-Paul?

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, please team up!

Abolish ALL Marriage

No, i'm not joking. This would be an even bigger change than accepting gay marriage, but it makes a lot of sense. Marriage should be left alone as a purely religious institution and giving it legal recognition is a violation of the separation of church and state. Instead, the legal standing of marriage should be abandoned and replaced by Civil Unions. No more arguing about who can love who because a Civil Union does not imply any romance. There are certain rights gained from a marriage that a civil union does not have but that should change with this. Citizens of the State of Massachusetts can add their support to this cause on Governor Deval Patrick's MyIssue site.

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