Thursday, August 13, 2009


When I saw the graph on the front of today's technology Guardian, in an article about the slowing growth of Wikipedia (it's not in the online version), I thought: "That looks like a logistic growth curve. Perhaps the sum total of knowledge represents a resource that is being exhausted, causing the encyclopedia's growth to slow".

When I got to the end of the article, I discovered that the researcher behind the work being discussed, Ed Chi of PARC, had a similar thought.

"In my experience, the only thing we've seen these growth patterns [in] before is in population growth studies – where there's some sort of resource constraint that results in this model." The site, he suggests, is becoming like a community where resources have started to run out. "As you run out of food, people start competing for that food, and that results in a slowdown in population growth and means that the stronger, more well-adapted part of the population starts to have more power."

But the article also says that the slowdown is caused by a shift in power towards 'deletionist' editors - it's getting harder to get stuff onto Wikipedia. Which suggests that the correct model might not be a sort of density-dependent, resource-limited population (we're running out of stuff to create wikipedia entries about), but perhaps something more top-down, like a predator-prey system (the editor population is keeping the contributor population in check).

I've no idea, but it's a question entirely suitable to the tools of ecological analysis. Someone should get onto it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Alilo, alilo, alilo

Some of the songs sang by Georgian choirs (not to be confused with Gregorian chant) predate the arrival of Christianity in the country. Or so I’ve read; I’d believe you if you told me they predate the big bang, so bottomless does the music sound.

One of the most spectacular gigs I’ve been to was the Rustavi Choir in London a few years ago. So when I was in the Sounds of the Universe shop in Soho a little while ago, I snapped up the 'Polyphonic Voices of Georgia' cd on Soul Jazz Records' new Word Audio Foundation imprint. (You can also hear Georgian singing on Soul Jazz's 'Faith' comp, which twiddles the dial on a world of religious music.)

The WAF cd, sung by the Anchiskhati Choir (me neither), is all religious songs, which means it misses out on the rougher-edged folk tradition - some of the harmonies are sweet and almost western. But it's still lovely. And, being Soul Jazz, they've made an effort - you get funky postcards, proper sleeve notes, and the cd comes in a cool but slightly-annoyingly-larger-than-usual plastic box - a bit like those cases that cassettes sometimes came in. Along with the monochrome cover photo, this gives the impression that the recording is in fact some academic ethnomusicology project from the 60s.

(if you like this sort of thing, Corsican and Sardinian male voice choirs sound similar to my ear.)