Technology

The SharperIron Forum Revamp - Some Why and What

In just a couple of weeks (hopefully), SharperIron will go offline for a day or so to install a set of facelifts and functionality improvements. This time around, a pretty major forum overhaul is also in the plan.

What does “major” mean? To some extent, that’s up to you. We’d like to hear your ideas. It’s true that big ideas will take more than two weeks to work into the redesign. But we’d like to hear big ones as well as small ones—and we can always incorporate something bigger later.

To give those ideas some direction and boundaries, let’s consider a couple of basic questions.

Why have a forum?

SI began as a forum with a blog, then became more of a blog with a forum, then a news and article site with a forum. Quite a few news and article sites (most) follow the content-plus-comments model and offer no forum at all. Nearly all blogs fit the content-plus-comments model. So why have a forum?

1. Less centrality

A blog flows entirely from the top down. Its writers determine what will post and when, then discussion occurs based on the agenda determined by the writers. Forums, on the other hand, encourage users to start their own conversations, resulting in a wider range of content, completely unscheduled content, and less dependence on the perspective of one or two individuals.

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A SharperIron App for Chrome

Google Chrome is now the world’s most widely used internet browser. And for those of us who have been using it for some time, this news comes as no surprise. It’s fast and efficient. And with the increasing popularity of the Chrome Web Store, apps are being developed to make common internet tasks more accessible.

But as with any good thing, it has its limitations. There is no easy way, for example, to add any old website to the “New Tab” page (the page that hosts all your web apps). So what do you if, for example, you want to have quicker, easier access to SharperIron? There is a fairly easy solution…make your own Chrome Web App! Here’s how:

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Electronic Books

NickImageChanges in technology also bring other kinds of changes. Technologies shape the way that people envision reality. They help to form or dismantle social relationships. They either reinforce or erode cultures.

Much of what conservatives—including me—say and write about technology focuses on its unintended consequences, many of which are negative. We feel an obligation to point out how our new toys often serve to diminish our humanity. The naïve deployment of new technologies heedless of their unintended consequences can produce disastrous results.

No one can deny, however, that technologies also bring benefits—sometimes spectacular benefits. Occasionally, even we conservatives feel inclined to point out the benefits of a technological advance when it really is an advance. The recognition of these benefits and the willingness to enjoy them is one of the factors that distinguish conservatives from mere Luddites.

Electronic books are such an advance. Because print books are physical objects, they are both bulky and spatially fixed. Not only do they take up room on a shelf, but they can occupy only one shelf (or desk, or hand) at a time. These are just the limitations that make electronic books better by whole orders of magnitude.

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A Call to Suffocate Pornography

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During both World Wars, the U.S. government supplied tobacco to our troops. By 1964, 46 percent of adults in this nation smoked—including inside public buildings, during commercial flights, and on televised advertisements. That year, with the help of Surgeon General Luther L. Terry’s book, Smoking and Health, the winds of change began to blow in fresher air.

In 1965 Congress required manufacturers to post health warnings on cigarette packs. In 1969 Congress outlawed tobacco advertising on television and radio. In 1989 smoking was banned on all domestic flights. In 2000 California banned smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. Twenty-six states have since followed suit, including Minnesota which established an indoor smoking ban in 2007.

Today less than 20 percent of adults in the U.S. smoke. Over the last half century, scientific research, governmental regulation, and public information campaigns have combined to alter our society’s perspective on smoking. While tobacco usage remains legal, what once was widely regarded as a harmless pleasure is now deemed an addictive health hazard.

The Witherspoon Institute

The Witherspoon Institute (TWI) recently proclaimed that what the U.S. has done with tobacco must now be done with Internet pornography. TWI first met in December 2008 at Princeton, NJ. Its participants published The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations, a brief summary of The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers, edited by James R. Stoner, Jr., and Donna M. Hughes. It is vital to note that the signatories represent “every major shade of religious belief … from atheism and agnosticism to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Both the left and the right in American politics are represented, including social conservatism and contemporary feminism.” The signatories also supply a wide range of professional expertise in “economics, medicine, psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, sociality, journalism, and law” (p. 10).

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