there are 5 posts from May 2014

May 27, 2014

four links, may 27

Maciej’s talk for Beyond Tellerand. “These big collections of personal data are like radioactive waste. It’s easy to generate, easy to store in the short term, incredibly toxic, and almost impossible to dispose of. Just when you think you’ve buried it forever, it comes leaching out somewhere unexpected.”

A head-shaking correction in the Times’ Upshot, in a post about Piketty’s use of spreadsheets. “An earlier draft version of this article, which drew a different conclusion about Thomas Piketty’s use of spreadsheets, was initially posted in error.” I’d love to see the email thread about this one.

danah boyd: Selling Out is Meaningless. “These teens are not going to critique their friends for being sell-outs because they’ve already been sold out by the adults in their world. These teens want freedom and it’s our fault that they don’t have it except in commercial spaces.” Note: I started to tell my 13 y/o at dinner about this post, and her first question was “what do you mean, ‘sell out?’” And then this happened…

…which in my mind is completely related to this point that danah was making:

Rather than relying on the radio for music recommendations, they turn to YouTube and share media content through existing networks, undermining industrial curatorial control. As a result, I constantly meet teens whose sense of the music industry is radically different than that of peers who live next in the next town over.

Zach Baron’s profile of 50 Cent, via kottke. every little bit is quotable, but I’ll pull this:

He represented a vision of street-oriented realness that not enough people cared about anymore, even if his fan base wouldn’t let him be anything but that. “I even saw when keeping it real—like, that concept or that phrase ‘keeping it real’—went out of style. Now it’s like, it doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that it sounds good.”

Even if it’s fake…oh, never mind.

May 22, 2014

not quite muzak

Nate Patrin at Pitchfork has a great link-ridden piece on The Strange World of Library Music:

If there’s such a thing as ephemeral music, this is it—recordings that were meant for a certain moment and usually filed away when that moment has passed, when Hammond B3s make way for synths, or disco rhythms turn passe after the rise of new wave. They give us a picture of the way day-to-day music sounded decades ago, outside either the bounds of pop-chart aspirations or the critically-acclaimed underground.

I love the idea of listening to the evolution of music genres through the background music of workday produced television, radio, commercials. It’s the “not quite muzak,” the soundtrack that invades your head while you’re paying attention to other things.

May 21, 2014

metafilter & google

Matt Haughey lays it all out re. the current state and future of Metafilter. There is a lot of heartbreak in his post; I haven’t been active on Metafilter for years, but I appreciate and admire the community that Matt and his team have worked so hard to cultivate and grow. Like, really hard:

We have a total of over ten million comments across on all our sites combined and we spend so much time and energy tracking the few problem comments down that I would be hard-pressed to find even a single public comment that could be considered comment spam.

Which makes Google sending emails to domain owners (who in turn email Matt) complaining about “inorganic links” on Mefi so frustrating.

Every time I investigate these “unnatural link” claims, I find a comment by a longtime member of MetaFilter in good standing trying to help someone out, usually trying to identify something on Ask MetaFilter. In the course of explaining things, they’ll often do a search for examples of what they’re describing and include those for people asking a question. Whatever was #1 in Google for “crawlspace vent covers” in a question of “How to reduce heating costs in the Winter?” might show up, and now years later, the owners of sites that actively gamed Google to get that #1 spot at the time are trying to clean up their act but unfortunately I have a feeling MetaFilter is suffering as collateral damage in the process.

May 21, 2014

a cell network for things

MIT Technology Review: Silicon Valley to get a Cellular Network Just for Things:

[SigFox] will use the unlicensed 915-megahertz spectrum band commonly used by cordless phones. Objects connected to SigFox’s network can operate at very low power but will be able to transmit at only 100 bits per second—slower by a factor of 1,000 than the networks that serve smartphones.

Reminds me that my favorite connected thing was the Ambient Orb from Ambient Devices. It launched in 2002 (I think I bought one in 2004), well before the mass adoption of wifi. It used the pager network for data. Slow but reliable, and always available.

May 08, 2014

halloween in san francisco

A Victorian flat, a jeweler and a chainsaw.

It’s Halloween night in San Francisco, call it 1993 or 1994. A few of us spend the early part of the night on Castro, walking through the huge crowd, enjoying the costumes, the chaos and a few drinks. Now we’re at a friend’s party, tucked into a Victorian flat just off Alamo Square, with probably a hundred other early 20-somethings. There’s noise, there’s heat, there’s beer, it’s crowded. Friends and friends-of-friends are dressed as cops or nurses or waitresses or rock stars or ghosts or whatever. I’m in the whatever category.

I strike up a conversation with a guy wearing a leisure suit, a medallion and a pinky ring.

“How are you?”

“Wonderful, wonderful.”

“And who are you?”

“Tom Shane, Shane Company Jewelers.”

I do a double take, because this guy has the voice nailed. (If you live in the Bay Area you know what I’m talking about.) He has the mannerisms, too, if you can imagine the mannerisms of a person you’ve only ever heard on the radio.

We talk for a few minutes and Tom never breaks character. I find this highly amusing, because who the hell knows what Tom Shane looks like, how great is it to base a Halloween costume on a voice, where the hell did he get that outfit and seriously, he never breaks character. Not even for a wink.

After Tom leaves to impress another guest in a whatever costume, I pump a beer into a red plastic cup and pick a spot to watch the party. By now I’m in the back of the kitchen in the back of this railroad flat…as far back in the house as you can get. A little while later a guy that’s maybe 6’ 4” walks into the room, wearing a pair of beat up Timberlands, ripped jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and a hockey mask. He’s carrying a chainsaw.

It takes me a moment to process this. He’s carrying a chainsaw.

He walks towards me slowly, ignoring everyone else in the room. He pulls the cord on the saw, it doesn’t start. He pulls the cord again, it sputters a bit and catches. There’s blue smoke, and the noise from the two-stroke engine drowns out the music, the conversation and everything in my head. Because he’s still walking towards me.

When he’s about three or four feet away he raises up the chainsaw to chest level, points it right at me and lunges. I freeze, panicked. He presses the guide bar into my chest, right above my heart. I scream, try to get out of the way. He pushes me into the wall and rips off his mask. I’m instantly sober but blind with terror so it takes me a moment to realize it’s my friend Ralph, and of course there’s no chain on the saw. He laughs and laughs and laughs and goes to get me a fresh beer while I start breathing again.

I haven’t seen Ralph in a long, long time. When people ask about him I tell them that we had a falling out…over a chainsaw. And though I’ve never met him, Tom Shane is still my friend in the diamond business. He’s open weekdays til eight, Saturdays and Sundays til five, and online at shane-co-dot-com.