there are 18 posts from January 2011

January 26, 2011

soylent green is people, part 897

Dave Pell has a great post about how social media (oh God I want a new name for this stuff so badly) turns us into salespeople for ourselves. “The social web changes the entire selling equation. There’s no more emotional friction associated with a sales job. The age of subtlety is dead. So we all push the product nonstop and the product is us.” Emphasis mine.

January 26, 2011

sandy beach, not a cliff

Matt Webb, who is my 2011 blog muse, has a great post up about UFO on Tape, Dance Central and the whole thing around augmented(ish) reality that’s happening with some iPhone appgames and XBox Kinect. Worth reading in full. “It’s not super high tech or dramatic or woo-woo-flashy like the Minority Report interface. I don’t know what to call it. But it’s nice and humble and human, and I like it.”

January 26, 2011

david chang's ipad app

David Chang is doing a quarterly iPad app (and print journal), where each issue will go deep into a single dish. “The ramen app will include a tour of a ramen factory in Japan; an interview with Allan Benton, the Tennessee smokehouse master whose bacon is used in the broth; a consultation with Harvard food scientists about Mr. Chang’s efforts to make a pork-based variant of dashi; a talk by Harold McGee (green-screened into outer space) on hot broth’s effects on noodles; and a scrollable time line tracing the rise of ramen in Japan over the last century. There will also be appearances by Wylie Dufresne, Charlie Rose and Anthony Bourdain, and plenty of cooking demonstrations.” More like this, please. (Literally.)

January 26, 2011

bedroom troubadours, lo-fi tweakers, freak folkers and the like

Via Gothamist’s story about All Tomorrow’s Parties moving to Asbury Park, New Jersey (now that it’s swapped its upstate pretense for Jersey shore pretense I really want to go), comes this May 2010 post at MBV about Jeff Magnum performing some Neutral Milk Hotel at a benefit for Chris Knox.  I love this paragraph in particular:

“These days, we take for granted that there’s a whole world out there of people making bizarre music – bedroom troubadours, lo-fi tweakers, freak folkers and the like. We have the luxury of hand-picking the bizarre music that speaks to us most directly, and of instantly accessing that music in the format most convenient to us. We can share it with our friends, we can broadcast it online – we can even find a totally serviceable and socially acceptable compromise between the music we do like and the music we should like.”

Speaking of which, here’s Oh Comely, embedded via Rdio, which is a fantastic leap forward on the evolutionary chain of hand-picking musical luxury. Enjoy.

January 24, 2011

the real and fake spiral jetty

File under the “even if it’s fake it’s real” category, Jill Dawsey uses Vik Muniz’s Spiral Jetty after Robert Smithson as a jumping off point for a great post about the real Spiral Jetty. “I don’t mean to suggest finally that visiting Spiral Jetty in person provides an experience more authentic or real than the other ways (Nonsites, photographs, stories) one encounters the work. For if Muniz gets Spiral Jetty and its environs slightly wrong, that is also how he gets it right. Spiral Jetty after Robert Smithson is a copy that announces itself as a copy, a photograph twice removed from the famous work it references.”

January 24, 2011

everyone hates the library

Via Jessamyn West comes this great Amy Poehler interview where she talks about how people who work in local governments really do hate the library.  ”People who work in the library think they are so much better than everyone else. And what’s really funny is we’ve been doing Q&A’s about our show, and people from local governments have said, ‘You guys nailed it about the library.’ We were just making it up as a joke on the show, but I guess everyone hates the library.”

January 23, 2011

automatic packet reporting

I love learning about entire communications networks that I had no idea existed. Case in point: Nelson Minar blogs about APRS, the Automatic Packet Reporting System.  ”APRS lets you send short messages from a handheld radio to the Internet through the simple expedient of broadcast and repeat.”

More info from Wikipedia: “In its simplest implementation, APRS is used to transmit real-time data, information and reports of the exact location of a person or object via a data signal sent over amateur radio frequencies. In addition to real-time position reporting capabilities using attached Global Positioning System receivers, APRS is also capable of transmitting a wide variety of data, including weather reports, short text messages, radio direction finding bearings, telemetry data, short e-mail messages (send only) and storm forecasts.”

Read Nelson’s post for more info; fascinating.

January 14, 2011

timing matters: #lessambitiousmovies, katy perry and digital fashion

Robin Sloan dissects the rise of the last week’s Twitter trend #LessAmbitiousMovies, not only ending the debate about who started it first, but providing a interesting and visually compelling data point in the ongoing discussion about engagement v. reach. If you haven’t read the post, here’s the quick summary: this particular trending topic was sparked by the engaged audiences of two users with five figure followings, and was only mildly impacted by Katy Perry, with her 5.2mm followers. Sloan’s argument is compelling: “Getting a great hashtag in front of the right audience is more important than getting it in front of a big audience.”

But if you look at the tweets per minute chart (understandably but frustratingly missing a labeled Y axis), the “Katy Perry bump” comes six hours after the organic spike sparked by Lizz Winstead and Barracks O’Bama. Not to take anything away from Winstead and O’Bama (and their smart and attractive set of followers), but could it be that by the time Katy Perry got around to it, the bulk of her 5.2mm followers were already bored with #LessAmbitiousMovies? I’m no rocket surgeon, but it seems to me that answering that question could be challenging. You’d need to know if a decent chunk of her followers had acted on (RT’d, fav’d, posted one of their own) or even just seen tweets with the hashtag #LessAmbitiousMovies.

Influence isn’t just about the right audience…it’s also about timing. Trending topics are digital fashion: they each have their own creation source, breeding ground and lifespan. So while it’s obviously true that Katy Perry didn’t create the #LessAmbitiousMovies spike, I’ll argue that her ability to send it spiking a second time was naturally limited. By the time she got around to the hashtag six hours after the big spike, it was too late. #LessAmbitiousMovies had peaked, and her audience was on to the new new thing.

January 14, 2011

screenplay for the social network

Sony Pictures has posted a PDF of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for The Social Network. It reads as well as you’d think it would; but if you’ve seen the movie it’s impossible not to see the film’s action in your mind’s eye as you make your way through it. Like a blueprint of an existing building, it’s a plan for a thing that’s already made its way into the world. Once you’ve seen the building, it can’t be read purely as the plan.

January 14, 2011

clay on wikipedia

Clay Shirky pens a paean to Wikipedia on the occasion of its 10th birthday. I like this bit: “Wikipedia is best understood not as a product with an organisation behind it, but as an activity that happens to leave an encyclopedia in its wake.” I wonder how well you could apply this thinking to other forms of media. Thought experiment: “The New York Times / Gawker / 30 Rock / the TED Conference is best understood not as a product, but as an activity that happens to leave ______ in its wake.” And then use that frame of reference to generate a list of related activities.

January 11, 2011

khoi nails the issue with ipad magazines

A lot of people who make, read and love magazines have called me a naysayer about this issue, but I say that if you really care about the value that magazines can bring to the world (and I admit, I’m skeptical about whether they really do offer much value anymore), then it would be wise to give up the ghost on this unrealistic notion that a fancy presentation layer and rudimentary DVD extras-style bells and whistles slapped on top of content that can already be read for free on the public Web will generate any significant revenue. It’s bordering on obstinate to think that something you care so much about can be salvaged by doing more or less the same thing that has failed magazines so consistently until now: continuing to ignore the fundamentals of digital user experience design and how they diverge from analog print design.


January 10, 2011

there's a limit to their love

The folks at The Singles Jukebox dissect one of my top 9 from 2010, James Blake’s cover of Limit to Your Love. Some love it…

There are cover versions that are curios, accoutrements, or goof-offs, another jaunty tune or standard in your arsenal. But James Blake has bigger ideas here: “Limit to Your Love” is an underground music Hallelujah or Hurt, a cover that treats its forebear as a blueprint yet to be fully realised. Feist’s original is jaunty, warm, comforting. Blake’s is a spare beast wracked with tension, even pain — some kind of devotional cleansing, a confessional of sorts wrought in music.

And some hate it…

Forget dubstep; this is a high school glee club audition. You know, the kind where you walk into the choir room and sing a pop song, except James decided he’d go with a Feist album track to be hip. He wheedles and closed-eye emotes his way through, reaaaaally slowly, as the bewildered accompanist plods alongside him, throwing in some harder chords to amuse himself. … Eventually James finishes and leaves, prompting the entire audition committee to let gush their pent-up laughter. Except that part isn’t in the song. It should be.

See also OK Cupid’s latest blog post, The Mathematics of Beauty.

January 10, 2011

the girl with the dark and brooding soundtrack

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will score the soundtrack to the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I liked this bit from Pitchfork’s note

The book, which has already been made into a successful Swedish movie, delves into some very dark territory, which means Reznor should be right at home.


January 07, 2011

thinking outside the wrist

At Frog’s blog, David Sherwin is sharing challenges from his book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. I like this first one, a little challenge to rethink the most popular piece of wearable tech…the watch.

For one week, keep a diary about time. Every day, as you interact with your watch, phone, computer, or clock, write down how you feel when you check the time. When the week is up, use the data that you gathered to design a “watch” prototype that redefines how people keep track of time—both in their day-to-day life, and in their pursuit of fashion. You can only take two hours to design the prototype.

I have no time to do this.

January 07, 2011

one year in one image

Via Matt Webb, Eirik Solheim’s One year in one image, which is a year-long timelapse view out his window in Oslo, Norway, sliced into a single image. It’d be cheating for me to post the image here; go check it out on his site for the full context and to learn what’s next with the images he has.

January 06, 2011

three highlighted passages from super sad true love story

Sad_true_love_story_215 Location 2230:

And the looks on the faces of my countrymen—passive heads bent, arms at their trousers, everyone guilty of not being their best, of not earning their daily bread, the kind of docility I had never expected from Americans, even after so many years of our decline. Here was the tiredness of failure imposed on a country that believed only in its opposite. Here was the end product of our deep moral exhaustion. 

Location 4265:

We drank and let the passing joint add a tasty green humidity to our uncertain moods, danger pulsing behind my cornea, yet the field of vision bright and clear as far as my affections were concerned. If I could have my friends and my Eunice forever and ever I would be fine.

Location 5581:

Instead, with each armful of books tumbling into their cardboard graves, I found myself focusing on a new target. I felt the weakness of these books, their immateriality, how they had failed to change the world, and I didn’t want to sully myself with their weakness anymore. I wanted to invest my energies in something more fruitful and conducive to a life that mattered.

And then I found this at the end:


Which is an easter egg I’ve yet to open.

January 06, 2011

intel's short doc on scott schuman

I really like this short documentary about The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman that Intel made to support their Visual Life campaign.

This is good. Not only is this a major brand’s documentary about a blogger, he’s also ruggedly handsome, New York looks great, there’s a cool “projected images from a moving vehicle” thing, and there’s a great moment where two women he’s photographing on the street don’t recognize him…until one of them does. 

Someone was very busy over the holidays, because this was published this week and the folks you seem him shooting on the street were featured on the blog right before Christmas.

January 03, 2011

google needs some soylent green

I like this point that Anil makes today, rounding up some recent complaints about the quality of Google’s search index…

What is worth noting now is that, half a decade after so many people began unquestioningly modifying their sites to serve Google’s needs better, there may start to be enough critical mass for the pendulum to swing back to earlier days, when Google modified its workings to suit the web’s existing behaviors.

In a word: social. Now, I’m no search expert (by any stretch of the imagination), but if you think about what’s fundamentally different about the web today v. ten or even five years ago it’s the explosion of content creation, sharing and discovery that’s happening through networks of friends. So adapting to today’s web will mean tweaking search algorithms to take advantage of available social sharing (links + graph), and building more mechanisms to capture social data. I don’t think this is just about using social data to personalize your search experience, but using social data as a fundamental way to improve results for everyone, and make the search experience better. Inject some people into that PageRank.