Do You ♥ Wikipedia? Time for #WikiPayback

Do you use Wikipedia? If you spend any time on the Internet it’s practically guaranteed that you will end up there eventually. Maybe you visited earlier today, or a few days ago? Just how often do you find yourself exploring the wealth of Wikipedia, lured by the power of curiosity?

This is an open letter to the Internet community and it is all about a clever idea for your to consider. Above all, I’m writing because I want Wikipedia to succeed. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to pry open your wallet (even though they really need it). Wikipedia is an experiment in idealism, and its survives solely through the participation of its audience. I have donated some cash and I have contributed some content, but these gestures don’t nearly reflect my full gratitude for the enrichment I have gotten for free. Stop and reflect for a moment, dear Internet person… perhaps you agree?

Well here is my attempt to give back a little bit more: a seed of inspiration sown amongst the grateful and curious. The power of this idea is you, the audience, because it is so much bigger than me.

The Idea

First, let's step back a moment and recap just why Wikipedia is so valuable: It contains vast information on every subject, and it never stops growing. It refuses advertising and survives on donations.

Now is the future and the encyclopedia was the past. Now is the age of Wikipedia.

In the olden days an encyclopedia was an investment. It stood proud and ready on the bookshelf, in an affluent home or a library. Our modern replacement is superior in size and price, but inferior in a critical way: it is trapped on the Internet, stuck on a screen, and shackled to your browser.

It’s time to find a place for it on the bookshelf.

We can help out Wikipedia by inspiring a new source of funds. The new money would come out of profit. And the profit would come from a device. The Bookshelf Wikipedia. “Now you know everything”.

What is the device?

  • It has a screen that displays pages of Wikipedia.
  • It has controls that allow navigating between pages.
  • It has a copy of the Wikipedia content stored within the device itself.
  • It has wifi so it can connect and update its copy of Wikipedia.
  • It is simple and easy to use.

It’s the biggest book that you could ever pull off of your shelf.

How would it be used?

  • For quick and easy access to knowledge about any subject.
  • To look for an answer when away from the Internet.
  • To create an educational safe zone that is separate from the Internet.
  • As a simple and stable device, so carefully made that it won’t ever crash.

Low-income populations. Schools and libraries. Mom and Dad. Techie nerds.

Where would it come from?

  • Product design is community-driven asking for participation by the audience.
  • Multiple groups design multiple devices, all competing with each other for attention.
  • Manufacturing could be handled by a progressive tech company or a consortium.
  • Funding could come from a prize challenge similar to the XPrize.
  • A startup could manufacture the device, perhaps with the help of crowd-funding.

The Bookshelf Wikipedia is an endorsement of humanity, an investment in changing the world.

How would it benefit Wikipedia?

  • Sellers would share their profits, contributing funds to the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • The device would increase usage and accessibility, and attract new contributors.
  • The device could suggest periodic donations based on usage by the owner.

Compare each product’s impact as they compete to give back to Wikipedia. Now that’s a race I’d be excited to see.

Your brain knows it can always find nourishment at the oasis that is Wikipedia. Let’s say thank you by having some fun, spreading the knowledge and being creative!

What can you do?

  • Share this idea widely, the ball won’t start rolling without an engaged community.
  • Start a conversation online or in real life: what do you think this device could be?
  • Create an open-source project to design a Bookshelf Wikipedia.
  • Get some crowd-funding to make the device yourself.
  • Steal my ideas and change them around, if you believe your idea is better!

Be clever and be creative. My suggestions are just a beginning…

Get your creativity flowing and fantasize about the possibilities. I call it the Bookshelf Wikipedia, but it could also be:

  • Cheap for the masses. Make it super simple and low cost for people with limited resources.
  • Elite. Make it so gleaming and high tech that it looks like something from Star Trek. No ports or wires, recharge with induction, make it worthy of the fanciest bookshelf.
  • Micro. Make it as small and portable as possible. An encyclopedia in your pocket.
  • Voice. Make it tiny and voice-controlled with no screen, ask and answer. Maybe in a pen. Accessible to the vision impaired.
  • Projector. Make a small box that projects the Wikipedia content onto a wall or screen. Voice or gesture interaction.
  • Spycraft. Make a hidden device that can be used in secret. Think settling bar bets.

These are just a few ideas, and I’m betting you can think of even more!

Frankly, Wikipedia has been taken for granted for far too long, most of all by the technology community. I’ve been a programmer for many years, and there is no doubt in my mind that the intellect of every successful techie owes a serious debt to Wikipedia.

I’d consider buying any of these products, especially if my purchase benefitted such a revolutionary public resource. What about you?



Dear Mr President,

As this crisis with Russia continues to unfold, please don’t lose sight of one undeniable fact: Vladimir Putin is no more than a bully. The world’s most dangerous bully, perhaps, but a bully nonetheless.

The issue of bullying has become part of our national conversation. Our open and evolving society has allowed us to address this topic with courage. Mr Obama, let’s not overlook this strength, let’s use it to our own advantage.

What does a bully do when you ask him to stop? When you draw a line and chastise his behavior? A bully sees a dare, an opportunity. Don’t stoke Putin’s megalomania and feed his craving for chaos. Don’t engage his challenge of your manhood.

Don’t try to be the bigger man. Be the bigger human. Confront him with kindness and common sense. Have pity on him, he must be so empty and alone.

Stand up to Putin by being genuine. His position does not allow him to speak with honesty. Shame him with the truth - join world leaders and world commoners and speak with one voice. Let him hear our message from every corner of the planet.

The world is watching in an unprecedented way. We feel our human connection to the people of Ukraine, Crimea and Russia. Comfortable on his ego-throne, and blind as a bully, Putin is incapable of realizing the full power of our emotional solidarity.

Mr President, listen to our words and listen to our hearts - they are screaming, together, and without fear:

Peace! Hope!


shooting polaroids in antarctica

Several folks have asked what it was like shooting Polaroids on my recent trip to Antarctica. I'm happy to oblige!

→ View all the photos at Flickr!

The temperatures in Antarctica weren't too terribly cold, since it was summer time. We're talking about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It was often windy, and the air was very dry.

I was working with two main types of films and cameras: integral film with a Polaroid SLR680, and packfilm (aka "type 100" or "peelapart") film with a Polaroid Land Camera 360.

For integral film shots (PX600PX70, and expired Polaroid), I would take the shot and then slip the exposure under my armpit. I just kept piling them up in there until at least 15 minutes or so had passed, and then moved them to the pocket of the fleece jacket I was wearing under my outer jacket. For shots usingImpossible Project film, which is especially sensitive to light after it comes out of the camera, I kept it out of the light as much as humanly possible. Always use your body's own shadow to your advantage.

While carrying the camera and film outside for hours, I realized it was becoming a problem that my packs of film themselves were becoming too cold. This was a problem for development, since the chemicals were already cold before the film was ejected from the camera, and warming them up afterwards just wasn't cutting the mustard. It also caused a bit of a problem with the battery, which doesn't perform as well when it's cold. My solution was to put some chemical hand warmer packs in one pocket of my backpack, and put the film in an adjacent pocket. I feel like the handwarmers got a bit too hot, so I was nervous about doing more damage than good, but I think it did really end up being helpful.

The "hand warmers in the backpack" technique also helped keep the cameras themselves warm (when they were in my backpack). When I was carrying a camera and not using it, I made sure to keep it under my parka where it was warmer.

The packfilm shots were trickier to deal with in the cold because you have to time the development before peeling them apart. I used Polaroid Chocolate, Polaroid Blue, Polaroid Sepia, Fuji FP100C, Fuji FP100B, and Fuji FP3000B films. Basically I found that using the indicated development time at the coldest temperature on the scale (55 degrees fahrenheit) worked when using the "cold clip". I would take a photo, very quickly insert it into the cold clip and then slip it under my fleece and in my armpit. Then use my watch to time the development and peel apart.

It's very helpful to have pants with a zippered leg pocket to collect all the trash that is generated. I was extremely careful to keep a grip on everything, it was often windy and I was usually wearing gloves, and there was no way I was going to risk losing some trash in such a spectacularly pristine landscape.

The biggest thing I learned here is to keep the cold clip in a warm place even when not using it. If it's cold when you put the photo into it, the results are not as good.

One thing that was helpful was that the air down there was very dry. This meant that the peel-apart exposures dried quickly. When the emulsion is dry, it's much less susceptible to scratches and other damage, which makes it easier to stash them away with confidence. (Antarctica is considered a desert because it is so dry.)

When we were hiking around on land, I'd be outside for several hours, so I had to collect all the shots I was taking. I just collected them in an empty cardboard Polaroid film box after holding them in the air to dry for a minute or so.

When I was taking photos from the deck of the ship, I'd often run back in to my cabin before pulling the peel-apart photo out of the camera. There was a cabinet with a refrigerator in it that was always warm, so I put the photos in there to develop.

Back onboard the ship, I labeled and dated each exposure and then slipped it into a protective plastic bag. Use an ultra-fine tip Sharpie permanent marker for the packfilm shots. For the integral shots, use a Sharpie metallic silver pen so you can write on the black reverse of the exposure. Be careful with the silver Sharpie, though, sometimes it takes a few seconds to dry completely.

Next, I made sure to slip each exposure into a protective sleeve. See my post on sleeves for Polaroids for more details.

I was happy I brought some Scotch tape on this trip, it came in handy on a number of occasions. One of the fun this I did was to create an impromptu photo gallery on the door of my cabin. At the end of each day, I'd hang some of the best shots I'd taken to the door. The plastic sleeves were critical to protect my precious images!

Overall, the most important key to success in the cold weather (and indeed whenever you're shooting with any kind of camera) is to treat every shot as if it's the best one you've ever taken. Don't let the excitement of your project tempt you to cut any corners.

Happy shooting!


protective sleeves for polaroid photographs

I've been protecting my Polaroid photos with polypropylene plastic sleeves for some time now, and am very happy with the results.

Using the protective sleeve means you can pass your photos amongst friends and family without worrying about their greasy pawprints getting all over them! They also prevent scratches and other damage from occurring in storage.

There are two products I use:

For type 600 integral film, type 100 packfilm, type 80 packfilm, and Fuji Instax Wide film I use 3 11/16 inch x 5 11/16 inch No Flap Crystal Clear Bags.

For Spectra/Image integral film and 4x5 packfilm, I use 4 1/4 inch x 6 5/16 inch No Flap Crystal Clear Bags.

I searched far and wide to find sleeves that were the right size for my photos, and these are the best I found. They are a little long, but the width is just right. You can fold over the excess and tape them down if you really want.


Polaroids of Antarctica: Frozen in an Instant

Recently I returned from a trip to the continent of Antarctica. We crossed the Antarctic Circle and explored the Antarctic Peninsula aboard the ship Akademik Sergei Vavilov with Quark Expeditions.

I brought a number of cameras, but some of my most interesting shots were on Polaroid and Impossible Project instant film.

One thing to consider while viewing these photos is the fact that they were completely formed in Antarctica: due to the fact that they are "instant" photos, they were effectively exposed, developed and printed in the Antarctic clime. These are truly unique artifacts.

Additionally, it may be the case that the photographs taken using Impossible Project film demonstrate the first usage of this next generation of instant film on that continent.

Photos were taken with a Polaroid Land Camera 360 (packfilm) and a Polaroid SLR680 (integral film).

Please enjoy the photographs here in this Flickr album. I will be continually adding more to this set over the coming days.

→ View all the photos at Flickr!


paradise bay, antarctica [polaroid chocolate] penguins on petermann island, antarctica [impossible polaroid]