Deb Roy: The Birth of a Word [en]

[fr] Une vidéo fascinante sur l'apprentissage du langage -- et aussi sur le traitement et la visualisation de quantités étourdissantes de données linguistiques. A regarder.

Ah yes, another video. You see, some evenings, instead of sitting in front of the TV (not my usual evening occupation, by the way), I sit in front of my computer and watch videos I’ve queued up on Boxee — or hunted down for the occasion. No surprise, TED Talks are a favourite hang-out of mine.

Here’s one titled The Birth of a Word: researcher Deb Roy recorded the whole three first years of his son’s life to gather data which, once analyzed, would bring insight on how we learn language.

It’s fascinating. Fascinating for the language geek in me, and also fascinating from a data visualisation and analysis point of view. In the second part of his talk, Deb moves on to analysis of publicly available commentary (online) matched to TV shows they’re about. The visualisation is stunning (he’s showing us real data) and the implications left me feeling giddy.

Your turn.

Hat tip: thanks to Loïc for pointing out this video on Facebook.

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About Not Reading [en]

[fr] Je me suis rendu compte tout dernièrement à quel point il est facile de répondre à une question sans l'avoir lue en entier, de commenter sur un billet de blog sans avoir cliqué sur le lien. FriendFeed pousse un peu à ça, avec sa manie de lister des titres de billets sur lesquels on peut commenter (je prétends pas avoir une meilleure solution).

Récemment, je demandais à mon entourage leur avis sur une question de workshops avant ou après Going Solo (j'en parlerai ailleurs plus en détail, ce n'est pas le propos de ce billet), et j'ai été étonnée de la quantité de réponses qui semblaient indiquer que mon interlocuteur n'avait en fait pas lu le lien que je lui avais donné.

Je ne vais pas jeter la pierre, je me rends régulièrement coupable du même raccourci (commenter sans avoir lu) même si j'essaie vraiment de me limiter. Ça me rappelle les Mythologiques de Lévi-Strauss, qu'on cite à tout va mais que personne n'a en fait lues en entier...

I’m guilty too. I sometimes read the title of a blog post, or a few sentences of an article, and comment on it.

It struck me recently how common this practice is, and also how it impairs communication. It’s the shortcut, the bet we make that we guessed or assumed correctly, the easy way out. Communication with no parasites requires work, and patience.

These last two days I’ve been trying to make up my mind about whether to place workshops *before* or *after* the main day of conferences for [Going Solo]( It’s a tricky problem which I don’t want to start discussing right now (I’m going to blog about the issues I face more precisely on the Going Solo blog shortly).

So, I chatted with people, Twittered about it, got into e-mail conversations, and decided to sum up some of my thoughts in a [Tumblr entry](, which allowed me to simply point people there and ask them what their thoughts were.

And I was amazed at how many people didn’t actually respond to my point of concern (“are there any economical/sales/marketing reasons for putting a workshop before a conference, if there are other good reasons to place it after”) because the title, visible in the URL, led them to believe it was a simpler question:

Now, I’m guilty as much as they are. I took a shortcut too by blogging my thoughts and giving them a link, rather than engaging with each of them personally from ground zero.

But setting aside the question or workshops (which I’ll expound in another post), it did serve as an enlighting reminder that people (me included) do not always read what they react to.

It reminds me of one of my university teachers who told us the following story. When he was doing his PhD, he started trudging through the four volumes of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Mythologiques. For those who are not familiar with Lévi-Strauss, Mythologiques is his master work and is oft-cited in many disciplines of the academic world. Well, as he was stumbling upon some particularly nasty passages, he started asking collegues and professors what they had thought of them. And to his surprise, he realised that *nobody he could find had actually read through the four volumes*. Everyone was talking about this work, but nobody had actually read it in its entirety.

Isn’t that incredible?

Well, not so incredible if you think of it — at least not in the academic world. And obviously, not in the blog world either.

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UK Trip Report [en]

Write-up of my 5-day trip to the UK. Movies with Aleika, Bombay Dreams in London, an IRC meetup.

The nice thing about having a laptop is that you can fire it up on the airplane and type in peace, without being distracted by IRC, instant messaging, e-mail and stats checking, or simple bloghopping. With iTunes in the background playing Bombay Dreams, my only concern is that the plane will start descending towards Geneva shortly.

My trip to the UK was short, and last-minute. I heard some people from #joiito were going to meet up in London on Sunday, I checked my easyjet flights, called Aleika–

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be landing shortly in Geneva. Please return to your seats, make sure your seatbelt is fastened and your seat is in the upright position, and switch off any electronic equipment.”

There goes the laptop, and I now find myself with a post which will be hard to date. Anyway. (Warning: this is a “cheese sandwich” post to some extent, so if you’re bored already, don’t bother reading it.)

Where was I? Yes, last-minute trip. I found a friend to house-and-cat-sit for me, which was nice, and spent the first couple of days at Aleika’s. We did our usual “girls at the movies” thing: get dressed up a bit, leave home late, grab some food which doesn’t come fast enough (well, it took long enough to arrive that I drank my pint of cider almost entirely before the meal, and can now testify that it’s all it takes to make my head spin quite a lot), jump into a cab and run to the theatre (slightly inebriated), only to find that the timings on the internet were incorrect, and we have another half-hour to wait before gleefully drooling all over Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing (OK, I got a bit carried away here, but you get the picture).

I got to spend nearly a whole day alone with Akirno, which was really nice. I didn’t get to see him much on my last visits. He’s grown so much! And he talks so much! (Yes, I know, that’s what I say each time I come back from Birmingham.) He’s a real sweetie. I love him very much.

Unfortunately, I caught a cold (over the top of my first one!) waiting for the bus after Van Helsing, so all my pre-London shopping was done in a rather feverish state. Looking at the bright side of things, it means I didn’t spend as much as I might have, which is a good thing, as my suitcase was already quite full enough (and my bank account empty enough, but that’s another story).

Driving to London went fine. We found a parking space right next to the Apollo Victoria Theatre. (Remember: Sunday matinée shows are a good idea if you’re going to London to see a musical or a play.) Bombay Dreams was really fun, specially as I know most of the songs Rahman re-used for the musical.

Still dressed up (I chose the pink dress), I headed for the #joiito meet-up. Despite this nagging feeling of being somewhat overdressed, and my cold, I had a very nice evening.

As always, though, I had to cope with the frustration of group meet-ups: not enough time to talk with everybody, not enough time to get into interesting conversations with those I talk to. Or maybe I’m just more of a one-to-one person? Anyway, standing invitation for any of you who would want to visit the beautiful town of Lausanne or practice French in the area — just drop me a line, or better (since e-mail is soon to be a dead form of communication, thanks to spam), catch me on IRC.

So, who was there? Well, as I’m nearing the ages of senility, I’m probably forgetting a lot of people, so please bear with me if you’re not mentioned, and let me know if it bothers you too much.

First of all, imajes, my kind host, who was so busy taking me through his iTunes collection on the train back that he missed his home stop. (Can it get worse than that?) Suw prevented me from being the only woman present (I can’t thank you enough for that). Joi was so utterly bored by my presence next to him that he left early to go back to his hotel and sleep — imagine that! (Actually, it seems jetlag also had something to do with it…)

I chatted quite a bit on the way there with imsickofmaps, and on the way back with snowchyld. Hugh managed to mess up my first blogcard somewhat (or whatever those things are called), so I am now the lucky owner of two of them. Gerard aka insert-coin took a nice bunch of photographs and has already put them online. I stole Suw’s camera to take a few photographs, but she’s not home yet, and those I took with my phone are stuck in there until I lay my hands on a Windows PC (thanks, Microsoft).

Apart from bumping my head on a couple of low doorways and leaving my coat there, I brought two things back (not literally) from james’ flat: VoodooPad, which I have not adopted as my official scrap-book application, and a book which made me discover a blog (how often has that happened to you?): Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers: Best of Blogs, a collection of great weblog posts. I read a few pages, and it looked really neat. It’s on my wishlist now.

I think this post is long enough, for a short trip!

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