After spending four solid years thinking of discussion as the established corrupt empire, and Stack Exchange as the scrappy rebel alliance, I began to wonder – what would it feel like to change sides? What if I became a champion of random, arbitrary discussion, of the very kind that I’d spent four years designing against and constantly lecturing users on the evil of?
I already built an X-Wing; could I build a better Tie Fighter?
Today we announce the launch of Discourse, a next-generation, 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet.
The goal of the company we formed, Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc., is exactly that – to raise the standard of civilized discourse on the Internet through seeding it with better discussion software:
100% open source and free to the world, now and forever.
Feels great to use. It’s fun.
Designed for hi-resolution tablets and advanced web browsers.
Built in moderation and governance systems that let discussion communities protect themselves from trolls, spammers, and bad actors – even without official moderators.
Our amazingly talented team has been working on Discourse for almost a year now, and although like any open source software it’s never entirely done, we believe it is already a generation ahead of any other forum software we’ve used.
Drew Endy wants to build a programming language for the body.
Endy is the co-director of the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology — BIOFAB, for short — where he’s part of a team that’s developing a language that will use genetic data to actually program biological cells. That may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but the project is already underway, and the team intends to open source the language, so that other scientists can use it and modify it and perfect it.
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The effort is part of a sweeping movement to grab hold of our genetic data and directly improve the way our bodies behave — a process known as bioengineering. With the Supreme Court exploring whether genes can be patented, the bioengineering world is at crossroads, but scientists like Endy continue to push this technology forward.
Genes contain information that defines the way our cells function, and some parts of the genome express themselves in much the same way across different types of cells and organisms. This would allow Endy and his team to build a language scientists could use to carefully engineer gene expression – what they call “the layer between the genome and all the dynamic processes of life.”
According to Ziv Bar-Joseph, a computational biologist at Carnegie Mellon University, gene expression isn’t that different from the way computing systems talk to each other. You see the same behavior in system after system. “That’s also very common in computing,” he says. Indeed, since the ’60s, computers have been built to operate much like cells and other biologically systems. They’re self-contained operations with standard ways of trading information with each other.
The BIOFAB project is still in the early stages. Endy and the team are creating the most basic of building blocks — the “grammar” for the language. Their latest achievement, recently reported in the journal Science, has been to create a way of controlling and amplifying the signals sent from the genome to the cell. Endy compares this process to an old fashioned telegraph.
The UN activated the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) on December 3, 2012 to carry out a rapid damage needs assessment in response to Typhoon Pablo in the Philippines. More specifically, the UN requested that Digital Humanitarians collect and geo-reference all tweets with links to pictures or video footage capturing Typhoon damage. To complete this mission, I reached out to my colleagues at CrowdCrafting. Together, we customized a microtasking app to filter, classify and geo-reference thousands of tweets. This type of rapid damage assessment request was the first of its kind, which means that setting up the appropriate workflows and technologies took a while, leaving less time for the tagging, verification and analysis of the multimedia content pointed to in the disaster tweets. Such is the nature of innovation; optimization takes place through iteration and learning.