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Atlas Society News
Feb 22, 2013
by Sherrie Gossett
Videos have famously lagged far behind text when it comes to searchability. Apart from the textual data associated with videos, it's been largely impossible to benefit from the many types of search engine optimization available for text
I was intrigued when MIT announced in 2007 that it had developed a video search capability by using speech recognition software to create a transcript and then applying textual search. The technology was available to students wishing to search certain MIT video lectures. Since then multiple iterations of this approach have been developed, some better than others. Two years ago MIT Technology Review reported on TalkMiner, a tool that scans lecture videos for words used in presentation slides, (The tool was developed by the Fuji Xerox Palo Alto Laboratory in California.)
“It gives you a good shot at finding something that wasn’t mentioned in the title or abstract but is buried deep inside the video,” Larry Rowe, president of FXPAL, told the magazine.
The need for good video search capabilities is clear: who wants to wade through an hour or more of video just to find that passage that you remember and want to revisit? Even forwarding and rewinding through 15 minutes of video can be frustrating. Add to this the explosion in popularity of video on the internet and it's clear why so many smart minds have been focused on a breakthrough in this area. (This is the year that video will account for nearly 90% of all consumer IP traffic according to Cisco Visual Networking Index.)
So we're excited to make video search available on the Atlas Society site now, thanks to the brainiacs over at Wistia.com, in partnership with 3Play Media, What you get: a simple, intuitive interface which allows you to search and interact with video content. Examples are here, here and here.
So what the heck can you do with this?
Take a look at our Atlas University video on "Appreciating reason." As you play the video the transcript scrolls along in real time. If you want to disable the scroll function, just click on the blue icon at top right.
Print a transcript
Right next to the blue lock icon is a printer icon. Click on that to open the transcript in a printer-friendly mode, click print, and you're good to go.
Searching inside the video
You can search the transcript without interrupting video playback.
Once you enter a search term, the total number of instances of that term will be displayed graphically as white vertical lines above the search box. In the example at left, you can see that in this video lecture there are 5 instances of the term "religion." You can click on any of the white lines to jump to that instance in the transcript and the video will jump to that place. Or you can scroll down the transcript and view your term highlighted. Click on any highlighted term (or any word for that matter) and the video will jump to that point.
Wistia first grabbed my attention when I heard about their superior metrics, which include heat maps! (Yes, heat maps!) That led to us using Wistia's hosting services.
So if your liberty-based organization is looking for a way to up your video impact you might want to check out the Wistia value proposition.
And just to tantalize you, here's an image of one of their heat maps:
Drop me a line to let me know your thoughts on the video search function.
Feb 22, 2013
This weekend, more than 1,400 students and alumni gathered in Washington for the sixth annual International Students For Liberty Conference, and The Atlas Society was there in force to spread our open Objectivist message and connect with students from around the country and around the world.
Atlas Society staff members gave six talks, several of them to packed breakout rooms. Edward Hudgins’ presentation on “Republicans, Libertarians, and What Is Really Possible in Politics” drew the attention of Red Alert Politics, too. David Kelley’s talk contrasted Ayn Rand with another advocate of liberty popular among students, Friedrich Hayek; Alexander R. Cohen connected Rand to John Locke in his talk on “Atheism, Human Nature, and the Philosophy of the Declaration of Independence.”
In his talk, Aaron Day, himself a resident of New Hampshire, explored whether initiatives such as the Free State Project are actually creating real-life Galt’s Gulches. Day, a serial entrepreneur, also participated in a panel on entrepreneurship organized by Alumni For Liberty. William R Thomas addressed popular “Myths about Ayn Rand and Objectivism.” And in a second talk, Cohen explored whether rights principles apply to how universities—which generally don’t use force—govern student life.
Through our partnership with Students For Liberty, The Atlas Society obtained a prominent table outside the conference’s main hall. There, we gave out material on our ideas and the opportunities we offer students—and we got about 10 percent of conference attendees to sign up for more information. Some also signed up for Objectivist activism kits from TAS. We exhausted our supply of “Who Is John Galt?” stickers and gave out hundreds of copies of Thomas’s book Radical for Capitalism and a new collection, Myths about Ayn Rand, featuring essays by Kelley, Thomas, Cohen, and Laurie Rice.
During the conference, Aaron Rainwater interviewed students about the influence Ayn Rand has had on their intellectual and political lives.
From a roundtable of a dozen individuals six years ago, Students For Liberty has grown to a network of 900 student groups, including some dedicated to Objectivism. The “International” in the name of its flagship conference is no hyperbole: SFL is active in Europe, Africa, and Latin America as well as the United States. SFL is led by an Objectivist graduate student in philosophy, Alexander McCobin, and with the assistance of The Atlas Society, it has recently launched an Objectivism initiative.
Through and beyond our work with SFL, The Atlas Society continues to prioritize outreach to students. We are making staff members available to speak at SFL regional conferences and on individual campuses. We are producing activism materials for campus clubs. And this year, our Atlas Summit will begin with a special day for students, featuring a systematic introduction to the Objectivist philosophy.
Oct 29, 2012
The Students For Liberty, with their boundless energy and persistent success, are easily compared to a force of nature—and their annual regional conferences are no exception. The conference season begins like a single leaf turning yellow on a tree or the first migratory bird crossing the sky: someone mentions that he'll be in a particular college town for a conference, someone else comments on looking forward to a popular liberty speaker. Then, one day, the excitement is in full color and volume, due to the strategic planning and internet savvy of SFL's staff. Once the regional conference dates are set in mid-July, online channels are surged with announcements—emails, Web site posts, Twitter feeds, shared pictures, Facebook cover banners, status updates, and memes—all toward the good of a nation-wide (and increasingly world-wide), months-long rally of liberty in the fall. SFL will have hosted a total of 15 regional conferences across the U.S. (and five European conferences) by the end of the rush on November 17.
As part of The Atlas Society's ongoing alliance with Students For Liberty, and in our mission to promote Open Objectivism, TAS has dispatched staff members to a number of SFL's conferences. On October 13, TAS Founder David Kelley was the keynote at the regional conference in Dallas, Texas, where he spoke about the primacy of the individual as the basis for liberty. Dr. Kelley's keynote speech was so powerful that he received a standing ovation from the audience. Alexander Cohen, Managing editor of TAS's Business Rights Center, attended Regional Conferences in Tempe, Arizona, on October 20 and in New York City on October 27; Cohen and TAS Director of Advocacy Ed Hudgins will attend the Philadelphia Conference on November 10; and Assistant to the COO Aaron Rainwater will be at the Northwestern conference on November 3 and at the Denver, Colorado conference on November 10. Will Thomas, TAS Director of Programs, will attend the Boston conference on November 3, where he will host a table and give a talk on "Objectivism in Liberty."
I attended the conference in Gainesville, Florida on October 13, where I represented TAS, expanded our network, discussed the ideas of Objectivism and Ayn Rand with other attendees, gave away all my Atlas Shrugged Part 2 T-shirts, and offered resources and information to students. Speakers at the Florida conference included Sharon Harris of Advocates for Self-Government, Professor Harold Orndoff of the Institute for Humane Studies speaker series, and Professor Sam Staley of Florida State University. Professor Nikolai Wenzel, also of the IHS speaker series, gave a lively talk about the nature of a free market in contrast to the government regulations which caused the economic crisis. Opening and closing keynote speakers were Lawrence W. Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education, who spoke about "The Unsung Heroes of Liberty," and Tom Palmer, VP of the Atlas Network and Cato Senior Fellow, who spoke on the message of his new book, After The Welfare State. (Followers of TAS may remember David Kelley's essay, "Ayn Rand and Capitalism: The Moral Revolution" in The Morality of Capitalism, a similar joint project of the Atlas Network and Students For Liberty.) A student panel with Colin Harris, David Deerson, Zac Corbett, Michael Zeman, and Kate Franzese featured best practices to promote liberty and strategies for the success of student groups. To that end, The Atlas Society has also hosted efforts with Students For Liberty to provide Objectivist resources to student groups, including the availability of TAS staff as speakers and student scholarships to TAS's annual conference, The Atlas Summit.
I would highly recommend that TAS readers attend a regional conference by Students For Liberty—everyone is welcome (not just students), the events feature quality speakers, they are well-organized, the topics are important and of immediate relevance, the attendees are bright and engaging, the cost is little to nothing, and the energy is irresistable. Check to see if there is an upcoming conference in your area. I and my colleagues at The Atlas Society look forward to our ongoing work with the Students For Liberty and to The Atlas Society's presence at the 2013 International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C., February 15-17.
UPDATE: November 12, 2012. The Students For Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference was covered by Michelle Ma in The Daily Pennsylvanian. Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged are mentioned and Ed Hudgins' speech, "Fighting For Freedom Against Re-Elected Obama" is cited extensively. Read the article at The Daily Pennsylvanian.
"Ayn Rand defended individual freedom" is the newest in exasperated articles calling out mainstream journalists for their misrepresentation of Ayn Rand and her ideas. The item is by Amanda Carey and Justin Lesniewski and it appears at
DoubleThink Online, a magazine of America's Future Foundation. TAS readers may remember Justin Lesniewski as the intern on the set of Atlas Shrugged Part 2 who gained his position at the movie by way of an essay contest.
In the context of Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as a vice-presidential running mate, The Atlas Society's release of an audio of Paul Ryan at a 2005 celebration of Ayn Rand, and other Rand-positive remarks by Ryan, the flood of media surrounding the Ryan-Rand connection has made numerous errors in representing Rand's ideas.
Carey and Lesniewski have written a confrontation for journalists and a perspective piece for "anyone who admires, appreciates, or respects the ideas of philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand." For those Rand-enthusiasts, it's a relatable description of each disappointing encounter with yet another "short-sighted straw [man] and underdeveloped ad [hominem]." The article highlights innacuracies in publications such as The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The New Yorker. Carey and Lesniewski explain:
We want to clear the air. Nowhere does Rand say that every rich person is good and every poor person is evil, that money should be stockpiled by any means possible, or that people should be treated like objects. We can only conclude that those who state otherwise are willfully trying to distort and misrepresent her ideas.
Similarly, The Atlas Society works to "clear the air" and hold journalists accountable. In our Myths About Ayn Rand section, we debunk common misconceptions about Rand and her works (including two of the myths mentioned above: Ayn Rand Was Simply Pro-Wealthy and Pro-Business and Ayn Rand Was For Dog-Eat-Dog Selfishness.) Alongside writers such as Carey and Lesniewski, The Atlas Society and our members can help to hold the media accountable for the portrayal of Rand's ideas. Ultimately, we seek to educate people about Ayn Rand and the ideas of Objectivism. Journalists looking to write correctly about Rand's ideas should start here. We also welcome questions about Objectivism here.
Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand's Ideas: In The Hot Seat Again by The Atlas Society
Ask a question at Objectivism Q&A
Myths About Ayn Rand by The Atlas Society and staff
A Challenge To Journalists by Laurie Rice
What is philosophy? by William R Thomas
What is Objectivism? by William R Thomas
What is the Objectivist view of Law and Government (Politics)? by William R Thomas
Can Reporters Handle the Truth? by David Kelley
Aug 17, 2012
So, maybe there's no free lunch, but hey, here's a free book: Radical for Capitalism: An Introduction to the Political Thought of Ayn Rand, by Will Thomas, now on Scribd. Read it, share it, download it, pass it around, comment on it.
About the book:
This 30-page booklet explores the political theory of Ayn Rand, a topic that has catapulted to the national stage this election season following the nomination of Rep. Paul Ryan (a self-described enthusiast of Rand's ideas and novels) to the Romney ticket. [No, we're not endorsing Romney-Ryan, or anyone else, in case you're wondering. -SG]
Critiques of Ayn Rand that denounce her for a cold materialism are simply off-point, the author argues. "Rand looked out on the world and saw endless vistas of possibility for human beings. Hers was not the despairing, post-religious nihilism that characterized so many twentieth century philosophers. Rand’s works endow the essential activities of modern human life, including productive work, the use of human reason, and exchange through the marketplace, with the spiritual stature of moral greatness. That her works have this inspirational value is clearly evident in their enduring popularity. Rand projected a sense of nobility appropriate to modern scientific and industrial civilization, embracing business life and technology with a wholehearted appreciation of their potential. This is one basic aspect of the vision she projected in her novels, and it is this exalted view of industry, individualism, and the free market that had the strongest effect on American culture of all her ideas.
But Rand was also distinctive for giving her readers a sense of coming at social and political problems with a clean slate. She was a “radical for capitalism” not only in her indifference to public opinion and her willingness to champion ideas that the mainstream widely abhorred, but in her method of analysis. As the philosopher Lester Hunt has noted: “the cardinal value of all [Rand’s] work… [is] her ‘radicalism’ … in the very literal sense of a tendency to approach an issue in terms of its root (radix) in the issues that underlie it.” She stands out among classical liberals for the clarity with which she declared her political ideal and her indifference to tradition, and especially in her ruthless quest for the fundamental issues embedded in any question. Rand set down standards and definitions: freedom as freedom from force; rights as principles sanctioning that freedom; and rights as unified by a right to life and expressed in an objective code of law. These ideas shaped the terms in which a new movement of free-market advocates would debate political theory. When Rand spoke of liberty, her wide following knew exactly what she was arguing for. Her legacy has been to point classical liberalism in a fresh direction, inspiring two generations of free-market thinkers and offering a distinctive and thoroughly integrated moral defense of the political order that laissez-faire requires."
> View Radical for Capitalism: An Introduction to the Political Thought of Ayn Rand
What can science teach us about the choice to think and how to strengthen our ability to focus? What should Objectivists make of claims that humans have desires wired into us by evolution? And just what is the choice to live, and is there a basis for saying that anyone who does not make that choice is wrong? These were some of the questions students and scholars investigated at the Atlas Society Graduate Seminar on the foundations of morality last week.
Student-led sessions included a workshop on a forthcoming paper on whether life or happiness is the ultimate value and a presentation by psychiatrist Ray Raad on scientific research into free will. Raad later commented: "Putting together a presentation, in particular, helped me to learn about one area of Objectivism in more depth and to understand how it relates to recent empirical studies. I came away with a deeper appreciation of Ayn Rand's many insights and the connections among the many principles in the Objectivist system of thought."
To learn more about the 2012 Graduate Seminar—including the reading list, if you want to explore any of the topics—read the syllabus.
Each year’s Graduate Seminar focuses on a different theme, and next year’s topic has not yet been chosen. Applications are normally due in the spring. To hear about this and other exciting Atlas Society events—including events for students and non-students at all levels of knowledge—sign up for our email list.
The Graduate Seminar’s longstanding lead faculty, TAS founder David Kelley and Director of Programs William R Thomas, were joined this year by two TAS staff members who were teaching the GradSem for the first time and two outside scholars: University of Oklahoma Professor Emerita and George Mason University Senior Fellow Neera K. Badhwar, Rockford College Assistant Professor Shawn Klein, Business Rights Center Managing Editor Alexander R. Cohen, and Director of Advocacy Edward Hudgins.
Today NASA's Curiosity Rover landed on Mars.
Its advanced instruments should bring humanity closer to knowing whether life exists on the Red Planet. I discussed the "Spiritual Significance of Mars" during that planet's closest approach to Earth in human history.
I believe that private companies will lead the way to humans landing on Mars. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said Mars is his ultimate target. In "SpaceX's Entrepreneurial Triumph," you can read my reflections on the recent successful berthing of that company's Dragon capsule with the International Station.
Jul 09, 2012
Our Atlas Summit was held Jun 28-July 1 in
Washington, D.C., with an enthusiastic crowd--including a fair number of students--in attendance. If you missed the Summit, don't fret. We'll be publishing video of each presentation. Just sign up for our email updates (at left) to stay informed of releases.
In the meantime, here's some media coverage of the event.
Allen West, Gover Norquist at Ayn Rand Summit - Politico
Atlas Summit 2012 begins in D.C. - Red Alert Politics
Ayn Rand in Space - Mother Jones
Jul 09, 2012
Dozens of new audio and video programs on Objectivism are now available for download via our new online store. Thanks to Aaron Day and Bill Walsh, the store launched during our recent Atlas Summit, held in Washington. D.C.
Currently Atlas Society products are sortable via media type: audio, video, ebook, or magazine. We're in the process of making them sortable by subject matter as well. Once each product has been tagged with a subject category, all store products will be part of a site-wide categorization system, allowing users to browse articles, blogs, video, and audio via topic. This will put you, the end-user, in the driver's seat, by offering you more ways to browse site content and to find content that interests you.
Jun 11, 2012
We're well into our project to sort all of our web content according to select topic categories. This is part of a larger goal to make content easy to find and to provide users with multiple ways to browse content.
Once most of the content is categorized we will be publishing an interactive interface which allows users to browse all categories in multiple ways, depending upon their end goals.