Sunday, 11 March 2007

Mousetrap - 93

Holy statistics, Batman
A vast array of information on religion, but in a rather secular way: through numbers and statistics. You could spend days in here, flittng from topic to topic, from the serious number crunching (the site claims, as of my last reading, to have over 43,870 citations and statistics for over 4200 religions) by geography or religion, to essays and collections of citations, to lists of influential people on history and their religious affiliations. It’s a great site to get answers on numbers and the like — don’t expect any of the bigger answers, hmm? — and for random browsing, on lighter topics like lists of the apparent or deduced religions of fictional characters, including sci-fi and comic book characters. The jury’s still out on Batman: he’s either Episcopalian or Catholic, but both camps agree that he is a lapsed believer.

Leaks (nope, not that kind, little boy, go away now) are practically an institution in politics, with governments and oppositions alike using them to make sure information gets out that wouldn’t see the light of day officially. This site want to help the process along, even if not for the same reasons. To quote its FAQ page, it is “an uncensorable version of Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. It combines the protection and anonymity of cutting-edge cryptographic technologies with the transparency and simplicity of a wiki interface.” It aims to release documents to the world at large, so that they can be studied, critiqued, explained, what-have-you. The site claims to have over 1.2 million documents already, but nothing’s out there yet barring a sample doc. And around the web, theories have begun to fly: is this a CIA plot? Something nefarious? A money scam? Watch this space.

March of the penguins
Writers like to nurture the romantic notion of the author slaving away alone, all alone, to produce her or his masterpiece. And then you’ve also heard the old saw about a million monkeys on a million typewriters eventually turning out the Compleat Shakespeare, right? Well, Penguin, the publishing house, teamed up with De Montfort University (in Leicester, UK) to midwife a rather unusual collaboration exercise: a novel by collaboration. Not just an ordinary collective, mind you, but wiki-style collaboration, where anyone anywhere with the price of a net connection could come by and write, edit, delete and commit mayhem. Alas, this site is one of the casualties of the erratic appearance of this column over February; I meant to include it last month, but the project’s now closed to contributions.You can, however, go view the results, and read the companion blog which comments on the whole thing. [Link via Nilanjana S Roy, and many others.]

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 11th March, 2006.

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