there are 19 posts from August 2011

August 30, 2011

vote for my panel

I'm leading a panel discussion at an event in a few weeks, and I was asked if I would need anything above and beyond the usual (projector, mics, etc.). And since I'm regularly asked to lead panel discussions, I thought I'd share my rider in the spirit of making your panels better...and easier to organize in the future!

Here's the list of what I ask for every time I appear at an industry conference.

  • An old school overhead projector with seven clear transparencies and four colored markers (green, red, black and blue)
  • A supersized post-it note flipboard, with six colored markers, preferably the ones that have nice smells (strawberry, lime, blueberry, licorice and cherry)
  • A bullhorn, with a spare set of batteries
  • Three stick-on clown noses
  • One pair of groucho marx glasses with attached nose and moustache
  • Juggling pins
  • Three quarts of flourescent paint. Seven 2" and five 1" paintbrushes.
  • Black lights to fill the room
  • Eight cases of bottled water
  • One hunting knife, preferably serrated
  • 2 x 50ft lengths of braided polypropylene general purpose rope
  • 11 flourescent green glow sticks, at least 6" in length
  • Six rolls of 1.87" wide silver duct tape
  • 24 10x10 clear plastic sheets / drop cloths
  • 2 body bags
  • Three sheets of CIA-grade blotter acid

Oh, and SxSW is going to be awesome this year. You should definitely vote for the panel Ted Rheingold and I are organizing: On the Internet, Everyone Knows You're a Dog.

August 22, 2011

where the fish are

Miramax launched their movie rental service on Facebook, because, according to CEO Mike Lang, it's where the fish are.

Initially, Lang also considered a separate storefront for He quickly shifted gears, explaining in an interview: "We wanted to fish where the fish are. We could have created the most robust in the world and other than my family members, who would be there?"

I'm usually the first one to argue that the fish are actually on the web and Facebook is just a part of the web, but in this case maybe Miramax is doing the smart thing by going with Facebook on this one. First, I have to believe it's a small number of consumers that actually make decisions about what movie to see based on the studio it comes from, so investing in a full blown destination site probably wouldn't have been the brightest move. Meanwhile, if there are fans of the studio they'll find those flicks on Facebook and broadcast rental decisions to their friends.) Second, launching a destination with 20 titles would have been pretty pathetic; but a Facebook app with 20 titles? It's an experiment. Third, they'll get some nice PR out of this by being tied to Facebook...and I bet they probably got some development and co-marketing support from Facebook as well.

The ship has sailed on the studios competing with iTunes / Netflix for owning the customer relationship in any significant way. But look for more apps like this, where Facebook and the studios take advantage of the app platform, social distribution & payment infrastructure of Facebook to put chinks in the armor of Apple & Netflix. Bonus points to the studio that takes advantage of the real-time social aspects of Facebook to juice back catalog titles: Would you spend your two dollars to watch Better Off Dead with your friends?

August 22, 2011

cultural invention, play and excitement

Great profile of Berg in the New York Times. I loved this bit from Jack Schulze...

"Historically, design has associated itself with utility and problem-solving, but we prefer the landscape of cultural invention, play and excitement," Mr. Schulze said. "When technology is infinitely complex, and our attention increasingly finite, producing something you can act on and observe at a human and cultural level is hard."

Via kottke.

August 20, 2011

cosmopolis fan art

As previously blogged, David Cronenberg is directing the film adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel Cosmopolis. It stars Robert Pattinson, which means there is already plenty of enthusiastic online coverage of the movie. Like, say,, which features fan art that combines heart throb shots of Pattinson with text from DeLillo.


Mind blown.

August 19, 2011

charlotte's web and fear of dying

Hillel Italie, AP's book writer, has a great piece on how novelists have been trying to make sense of September 11, with bits on Jess Walter, Joseph O'Neill, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, John Updike, Amy Waldman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Don DeLillo and even performance artist Karen Finley.

I loved the closing argument from writer Moshin Hamid, who recommends that we re-read Charlotte's Web...

If I had to prescribe a book about Sept. 11, certainly 'Charlotte's Web' would be high on the list. Because in secular societies in the West, the discourse about death has been marginalized as something for religion to deal with. I think we should plop 'Charlotte's Web' in the middle of that and say, 'Look, we have to accept we are going to die, and that a certain amount of courage is required.'

August 17, 2011

proposed chrome extension

Dear Lazyweb (you're still out there, right?)... Please make a Google Chrome extension that automatically detects the appearance of a doodle on, and redirects any clicks on that to this patent. Thanks!

August 17, 2011

doing it for others

Via Put this On comes this waaaay-inside baseball men's fashion blogging discussion at Park & Bond about whether men are dressing for themselves or dressing for women or dressing for other fashion bloggers. (Yeah, I don't care either.)

BUT. Buried in the piece was this nice little bit from A Fistful of Style's Alex Yakovleff.

Many -- if not most -- people posting on the Internet are trying to show off to the Internet (myself included). You’re posting pictures to the Internet. Are you really going to argue "I’m just doing it for me, man!"? Because that’s kind of unbelievable. Of course you’re doing for others, at least to some degree.

August 15, 2011

a new unit of measure: the classical

If we're measuring tech startup funding in units of "Color" (as in, what fraction of a Color round did you raise?), we should now be measuring new content ventures in units of "Classicals." The Classical is a non-existent pre-launch sports blog daily web publication about sports that's using Kickstarter to raise $50,000.

Entrepreneditor: We have a vision to dominate the INSERT VERTICAL HERE space with a mix of first-person content, long-form essays, quick Tumblr-style blog posts, service journalism, slideshows, how-to videos, innovative community features and a viral social strategy.

Investor: How much are you looking to raise?

Entrepreneditor: Only two Classicals.

August 12, 2011

the giraffe is about to get his account suspended


August 12, 2011

i hope they call it the girlfriend experience

Matthew Sweet is not only selling ceramics on Etsy, he has a new record coming out called Modern Art, and he's going on tour this fall. From Matthew Perpetua's story at Rolling Stone:

It may be a while before fans will get to see Sweet and his band perform his ambitious new material. "I think it would be difficult to play live, just to have everybody learn it," says Sweet. "It's especially challenging because we're gonna tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Girlfriend this fall and we're going to be playing the whole Girlfriend album."

Emphasis mine. Twenty years!??!! I saw him play once and my GOD was it loud. In a good way. (You can stream a track off the new record at the RS post linked above. It's catchy!)

August 10, 2011

a life lived entirely without nostalgia

I have a thing for nostalgia -- trying to understand the interplay between aging, romanticizing the past and the inevitable March of Progress. No grand theories yet, just a bunch of blog posts that share a category. But I've been reading with interest a bunch of posts lately from Things Magazine which are grappling with the same thing. Today, commenting on a post from James Bridle at, they have this great bit. (Emphasis mine.)

The author continues: ‘I am so bored of nostalgia. Of letterpress and braces and elaborate facial hair. I appreciate these things, but I think there’s something wrong with a culture that fetishises them to the extent that we currently do.’ Very probably. But such fetishists represent a very small part of wider culture, and their obsessions are – it would seem – almost entirely without impact or consequence. Is there a term for a life lived entirely without nostalgia, without any capacity for romantic and emotive engagement with the past? Futurist doesn’t seem to cut it.

Couldn't agree more that the hipster obsession with things like letterpress and facial hair has very, very little impact on the wider culture. But a term for a life lived entirely without nostalgia? Would have to be something very, very close to amnesia.

August 09, 2011

start reading it in under a minute

Nicholson Baker's new novel House of Holes, a Book of Smut is out today. The Times Magazine had a nice profile of Baker this weekend, but I also like The Millions' review, which (more succinctly) connects the dots between Nicholson's non-smut work like The Mezzanine and Room Temperature to Vox, The Fermata and now House of Holes.

Nicholson Baker has been thinking about rigid stonkers and prime Angus cockbriskets spewing hot loads of silly string into various slutslots and lettuce patches. That, plus cold iced tea, and the little bubbles that you see when you shake up a bottle of salad dressing. Baker’s many fans are sure to lap it up. The rest of us will be slightly amused but ultimately bored.

I'm a fan, and I'll lap it up. But I have to wonder just how many people will be reading it undetected on their Kindles on the subway or the bus, enjoying their own little Fermata-like moment, undetected. I'm sure Baker's curious, too; remember his ambivalent piece on the Kindle in The New Yorker from two years ago?

I had some success one morning when I Kindled my way deep into “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance,” by Alison Kent. There are, I learned, four distinct levels of intensity in the erotic-romance industry: sweet, steamy, sizzling, and scorching.

My God, the guy can even make the word "Kindle" sound dirty.

August 08, 2011

off and on

This weekend I managed to make it 7% of my way through James Gleick's The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. I consider that a major accomplishment, especially since my primary reading device is essentially a beautiful distraction machine.

I did manage to highlight this little bit in the introduction, where Gleick recalls a letter that Claude Shannon wrote to Vannevar Bush...

"Off and on," Shannon wrote to Vannevar Bush at MIT in 1939, "I have been working on an analysis of some of the fundamental properties of general systems for the transmission of intelligence."

Gleick, ever the master of restraint, doesn't bother to call out the brilliance of that first clause. He leaves that to the reader.

August 08, 2011

interactive paper books

And two makes a trend! Last month Berg London (yep, them again) published SVK, a comic from Warren Ellis and Matt Brooker. A critical piece of the story line is printed with invisible ink that you can only read with the "SVK object," a UV light source that's packaged with the book. I had a chance to see it in person when I was in London and it's very, very cool. The technique is integrated into the plot in a way that rewards the reader for investing the effort in reading in a new way.

SVK Closeup 01 - UV

On Friday, via Brainpickings comes news of a fall children's title from McSweeney's that features heat-sensitive invisible ink. The preview video is fun, and gives you a sense of what it's like to rub the pages to reveal what's underneath...

More like this please. And there's a lesson in here for designers that are crafting screen-based interactivity on top of classically narrative content: make sure the distraction and the effort that's required for readers to push, click, highlight, scrub, type, shake, tilt, etc. is worth it. If you're going to entice the reader out of their state of reading "flow," then make sure what you want them to do adds to their experience of your content.

August 05, 2011

the opposite of camouflage

Go read Matt Webb's post on the Berg blog that recounts a recent talk he gave on the Robot-Readable World. As Matt points out, QR codes feel crude and obvious, and over time we'll find ways to embed information that is not only designed for devices, but is built to entice them to use it...

Timo and Jack call this “Antiflage” – a made-up word for something we’re just starting to play with.

It is the opposite of camouflage – the markings and shapes that attract and beguile robot eyes that see differently to us – just as Dawkins describes the strategies that flowers and plants have built up over evolutionary time to attract and beguile bees, hummingbirds – and exist in a layer of reality complimentary to that which we humans sense and are beguiled by.

And I guess that’s the recurring theme here – that these layers might not be hidden from us just by dint of their encoding, but by the fact that we don’t have the senses to detect them without technological-enhancement.

See also The New Robot Domesticity at BLDGBLOG. The bit I keyed off of: "Homeowners will even help their robots learn through computational games—like Fröbel blocks for machines."

August 05, 2011

pitchfork's favorite music books

I missed this when it was published last month, but I love Pitchfork's list of their 60 favorite music books. Blogging this as a reminder for when I somehow find myself without a new book in the queue.

Particularly loved this bit about the retitled Greil Marcus book, which went from Invisible Republic to The Old, Weird America.

With a single evocative phrase, Marcus inadvertently articulated a collective nostalgia (part real, part imagined) for the strange, creaky old folk songs that animated the first half of the 20th century in America.

It wouldn't be a Pitchfork list without some bitching about what they missed, the hell did they not include Marcus' Lipstick Traces, too? He deserved to be on there twice.

August 04, 2011

danah boyd on real names, identity, facebook and google

There is no universal context, no matter how many times geeks want to tell you that you can be one person to everyone at every point. But just because people are doing what it takes to be appropriate in different contexts, to protect their safety, and to make certain that they are not judged out of context, doesn’t mean that everyone is a huckster. Rather, people are responsibly and reasonably responding to the structural conditions of these new media.


Emphasis mine. danah's entire post is worth reading (as always), but I'm always amazed at how this key point is lost in design decisions about social media: context matters. And that's not just about the identity you use when you're in a particular context, but how the things you do in that context get shared across the network. Facebook's working to flatten identity, which is troublesome not only for vulnerable people (as danah points out), but for varied personal expression across the web.

August 04, 2011

Chris Burden's Metropolis II

One of my favorite exhibitions was MOCA's 1992 show Helter Skelter: LA Art in the 1990s. I was young(er) and impressionable, and it opened up my eyes to what contemporary art can be. The centerpiece of that show was Chris Burden's Medusa Head (referenced recently), a hanging sculpture, 14 feet in diameter, made of plywood, steel, cement, rock...and model railroad trains and tracks.

Burden's topped Medusa's Head with Metropolis II, a new kinetic sculpture that's on its way to LACMA. It features 1,200 custom-designed toy cars traveling through 18 lanes around a fabricated city. You have to see it to believe here's the preview.

Metropolis II is a follow up to Metropolis I, which only had two single-lane highways and 80 Hot Wheels cars. It was purchased by a Japanese contemporary art museum.

Who's up for a trip to L.A.?

August 03, 2011

creating things from the stuff around you


Via Things comes makedo: "a set of connectors for creating things from the stuff around you." The projects in their galleries look amazing, of course, and make me want to order some of these for the munchkins.

There has to be a name for this product category: the "you really don't need this product, but it provides enough structure and inspiration to kickstart what you otherwise wouldn't have done on your own at home left to your own devices on a rainy day" category.