I thought it would be funny.
So I walked into Fimoculous on Christmas and started blogging anonymously, without telling Rex, the owner, beforehand. Which -- you guessed it -- means that pretty much everything posted here since then is by me, not him. (How: I spent time as a house-guest here about a year ago, and the keys were still under the mat.)
Just after I started, I learned that Rex had recently been in a kerfuffle in which someone accused him of saying "anonymous blogging is bad," and that he was later characterized as saying "blogging is dead." Even better. My Operation: Goldilocks was evolving into A Scanner Darkly -- turning against itself, or at least appearing to. It seemed like a good opportunity to indirectly engage both of these issues.
Is blogging dead? I don't want it to be, which is another reason I tried to revivify this blog, which was about 10 years old and staggering around like a zombie. In my opinion, there should be room in our online discourse for blogs like this one -- offering a consistent, often thoughtful perspective, collecting and observing things of interest to its readers. But being consistent, thoughtful, and observant requires effort and time, and it requires the same of its audience.
And that, I think, is why blogging, for the most part, appears to be moribund: Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, etc., are media that have evolved such that there is no expectation of prolonged engagement with pieces of content on the part of their writers or readers. Consider the recent widespread use of the shorthand "tl;dr" (too long; didn't read). This dismissive assessment is commonly interpreted as fair, expected criticism of the author, not the reader who offers it because he couldn't be bothered to read the content simply because it was long, regardless of its undiscovered merits. The media that are replacing "traditional" blogging value brevity above all, so much of the incentive to write anything that is both long and thoughtful diminishes (since few will bother to read it), and the self-motivation required to do so will only increase over time.
It's funny to be talking about blogging -- which for its entire lifespan has been dismissed broadly for being superficial and narcissistic -- as being a besieged outpost of well-developed, thoughtful writing, but I think that's exactly what's happening. It's no one's "fault" -- it's just the natural evolution of popular content production and consumption towards the most frictionless state: from books to periodicals to personal websites to blogs to Twitter to the Like button. When a medium comes along that's easier than clicking the Like button -- maybe thinking you Like something -- you can be sure everyone will speculate about and then bemoan its death before moving on.
But, even blogging isn't dead yet. There are some people out there who are still committed to the form, even if it seems no one else is, regularly posting smart, thought-provoking analyses and observations of their respective interests. A few that come immediately to mind:
- Joanne McNeil at Tomorrow Museum
- The brilliant Danah Boyd, whose research and insight into social media and youth culture is unmatched
- Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG, who is at once reportorial and speculative
- The visionary architect Lebbeus Woods
- Errol Morris and his "too long," multi-part monographs, some of which are probably the best things ever published originally on the web
And there are others who take the time to put together coherent, original posts:
- Star Wars Modern, where I'm not always sure what's happening, but I appreciate the effort involved
- Nav at Scrawled in Wax, usually correlating academic concepts of post-modernism with pop culture
- Amy at Amy's Robot, who has been writing witty, thoughtful posts on pop culture and politics for NINE YEARS. Collaborators (like me) have come and gone at that site, but Amy is still there. Someone oughta be reading her.
A confession before I continue: for every one of those sites I mentioned, I have often found myself getting the gist of a post, thinking "that's a good insight," and then skimming the rest of it. Does that matter?
Continuing, let me also mention some more widely read sites that I think demonstrate originality and effort:
- John Del Signore at Gothamist, whose humor brings color to stories without obscuring them
- The Big Picture photo blog, started by a developer at the Boston Globe who is now launching a similar project for the Atlantic
- Yeah, what the hell -- I'm leaving it on this list: even Boing Boing can be pretty good sometimes, when it's not being a caricature of itself...
- Maybe you have your own suggestions to share in the comments
And lastly, if you miss Fimoculous now that it's zombified, just replace that section of your brain with Pop Loser, which I've been ripping off mercilessly for the last month and which strikes me as the blog that is the spiritual inheritor of this one.
Will any of these blogs still live in 5 years? Will new ones rise to take their place? So far, trends appear to indicate no: aggregation, automation, voting up, "liking," etc., seem to be resulting in a hivemind where thoughtfulness is replaced with promulgation and sameness. Maybe we need a "link aggregator in reverse" that shows the links of interest to you that everyone else like you hasn't Liked yet.
And what of Fimoculous? You'll have to ask Rex. I'm leaving the keys on the counter and heading back to my cabin in the woods. It's so relaxing there! Especially in the easy chair.
Thanks for reading, or skimming. And thanks, especially, to Rex. See you next time.
Update: Rex offers his take, on Tumblr.
While we are on the subject, here are some other blogs you may find worth reading:
- Scouting NY. A location scout writes about NY's overlooked places.
- Second Avenue Sagas. Some of the best analysis of NYC subway issues.
- Abu Aardvark. Thoughtful examination of internal and external politics of the Middle East.
- NYTPicker. Picks apart the NYT, sometimes taking it a bit too far.
Over at the NYT's "Ethicist" column, Randy Cohen is out, and Ariel Kaminer is in. But I don't think any ethical considerations are raised by a person taking over the writing of something that is so closely associated with someone else. [via romenesko]
Amy's Robot issues a cri de coeur to the Academy: Save Natalie from the Best Actress Curse!
Hm? Yes, I'm still plugging away over here on the old clickety-clackety. Stay tuned. It won't be long now.
The Daily? Is that like eWorld? No? Ok, more like Launch?
Oh wait -- false alarm -- it's open access after all. And I didn't even have to buy an iPad! Or subscribe! [via]
Blogging is dead, say bloggers, some of whom REPORTEDLY recently gave up their personal blogs for a Tumblr. Which is not like a blog at all.
Google engineers grew suspicious of Bing results and set up a sting operation, which shows that Bing has been stealing results from Google. And they didn't even provide a via link, which is what you should do when stealing links from someone.
This correction needs a correction: Appended by editors to Carr's "Skins" takedown: "...It is thus not the case that the youngsters cast in 'Kids,' the British film that was the model for 'Skins' and was rated NC-17, 'could not legally see it.'" Kids is American, not British.
NY Post says the anonymous author of the new political novel O is probably Mark Salter, the former aide to John McCain. NYT looks at the evidence. Maybe he should've tried harder to be anonymous: Kakutani hates the book, calling it "a thoroughly lackadaisical performance: trite, implausible and decidedly unfunny."
Perspective: Here are two consecutive posts from the Wired blog Threat Level:
In such a case: Nothing but its own waste left to consume.
Airport bomber killed one of Russia's rising stars, a playwright named Anna Yablonskaya. PRI breaks your heart with the story. Terrorists break your heart with the bomb.
Facebook to allow HTTPS for all page views. This is to make it secure and private, like everyone wanted. Hm?
Naturally: Keller on Assange, at length. The purpose of a link blog is to link to links.
In 1945, Nabokov floated a theory about the evolution of butterflies that was not taken seriously at the time. But, he's just been proven correct.
NYT's new "Frugal Traveler," who should know better -- a lot better -- got scammed while trying to rent an apartment for his stay in London. Hint: If the email includes the word "wire," it's a scam.
NYC has hired Rachel Sterne as its first Chief Digital Officer. She is 27 and will be making $115,000. NYC's tech entrepreneurs are said to be happy with the choice -- she's one! First assignment: find the real nerds in this town.
Yesterday, Fortune revealed that Steve Jobs went to Switzerland for "unusual radiological treatment" last year. How did they know this? It turns out that an Apple board member told them -- off the record. But, says Fortune, that board member died, so the "off the record" arrangement no longer applies. This raises some questions -- is any journalist free to reveal everything you told them "off the record" once you die? And attribute it to you? Columbia Journalism Review explores the issue, and it's a thread on Quora. [via Romenesko]
Gorillaz has a new member, Evangelist. Inspired by fan art, female, scary.
So you liked True Grit. Now what? The Coen Brothers list their favorite Westerns, including one they haven't seen all of yet. (Some uncommon choices in there.) NPR's Bob Mondello put together a starter kit of essential Westerns, which has more common selections. Which ones would you add?
Slavoj Zizek has a new piece in the London Review of Books comparing the Wikileaks situation to The Dark Knight: "In one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Putin and Medvedev are compared to Batman and Robin. It's a useful analogy: isn't Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' organiser, a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight?" [summary on Biblioklept]
Links to Boing Boing are infrequent on Fimoc, but here's a great little piece on Palin's strange use of "blood libel" in her video today.
Update: And a good link from commenter Bret, featuring previous uses of the term in political contexts: The Term Blood Libel: More Common Than You Might Think
"President Obama has signaled that he will give the United States Commerce Department the authority over a proposed national cybersecurity measure that would involve giving each American a unique online identity." Sounds scary, right? But don't worry: such a system "would enhance security and reduce the need for people to memorize dozens of passwords online." Feel better?
Palin's camp says, "Those weren't crosshairs; they were surveyor's marks! And shame on you for suggesting otherwise!"
NYT's profile of Girl Talk is a good read and has some fun anecdotes, but check out this online audio feature they put together to accompany it: musical mash-ups from the last 104 years. Mostly just excerpts, but you can find almost all of the full tracks on YouTube.
NYT finally files its obligatory piece on what ballerinas think of Black Swan. Despite the delay, the story is just what you'd expect.
Duke Nukem Forever, the Chinese Democracy of the video game world that has been in development since 1997, seems to have gotten a release date of May 31, 2011. Nonetheless, it seems some people will feel that this game isn't the "real" Duke Nukem Forever -- it's just something that was hacked together and rebranded as such (like Commodore/Amiga has been doing lately). [via Techdirt]
Splitsider imagines what might have been if there were a Season Two of Apatow/Feig's brilliant-but-cancelled Freaks and Geeks. [via Pop Loser. Again.]
Frank Bruni on ephemeral/crowdsourced restaurants. The guy from Dovetail and other successful chefs can feel encumbered by their big places and out-sized expectations, so they go back to basics, with a twist or two (at least temporarily). Possibly related, but also more complicated: Grant Achatz of Alinea (America's best restaurant?) plans a new restaurant that will change every quarter, as part of his new year's resolution for 2011.
Doesn't it seem like you're hearing about Quora just as much as you were hearing about Twitter right before it exploded? There's a reason for that: interest in Quora is exploding, at least according to Dustin Curtis's inbox. He says in his post that the tipping point seems to have been December 26, when "something strange happened." He doesn't say what, but I think it may have been this widely linked-to TechCrunch post about why Flickr didn't build Instagram, which was sourced from a Quora thread. Related: Why did Yahoo/Google Answers and related efforts crash, but Formspring and Quora (and VYou?) start taking off? The "social" feel of them?
Update: A Quora engineer provides the explanation and describes the impact on its servers, which were not prepared for the 10x load. The TechCrunch post(s) mentioned above contributed.
A few weeks ago, Elvis Mitchell dropped out/was canned as co-host of the new At The Movies. Now, his replacement has been named, just three weeks before the show premieres: "Roger Ebert announced Tuesday that he had chosen a young and relatively unknown Russian-born movie critic, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, to serve as a host of his new movie-review program, Ebert Presents At the Movies, which will have its premiere Jan. 21 on public television stations around the country." Read a few of his posts... The kid has to dial back his academic tone or it's going to be flat.
Remember that assassination of the Hamas guy in Dubai last year? GQ has a huge investigative piece that reveals, among other things, that the same team tried to kill him a few months earlier (with poison), but failed. Later they were successful, but the Dubai police were meticulous in their investigation, exploited the hit team's mistakes, and revealed all. (If you don't want to read the whole thing, Threat Level summarizes.)
Speaking of long sentences, how long would a sentence (or book) have to be to protect you from a bullet? Apparently longer than Freedom. (And even longer than The Instructions, believe it or not.) So, if you're in a bad neighborhood, leave the Kindle at home and maybe bring along Musil's two-volume The Man Without Qualities.
Writer and editor Ed Park, who is himself the author of a 16,000 word sentence, assembles (with the help of his readers) a list of other very long sentences, many of which are novel-length. Some whoppers there, sure, but it's a bit of wanking, isn't it?
James Franco is having a moment: Oscar buzz, Oscar hosting, soap opera appearances, a book or two. And he's doubling down: Reportedly, he's wrapping up talks to write(!) and direct(!!) As I Lay Dying and Blood Meridian. Is this for real or what? It's like Joaquin Phoenix in reverse.
Mike Skinner explains why he is ending The Streets. [via Pop Loser, who should probably be writing this blog, too]
January 1 was (and is every year) "Public Domain Day," the day that the copyright terms on works from given authors expire (according to year of death) and enter the public domain. Based on the copyright rules that were in place at the time they were created (and until 1978), these works should have entered the public domain on Saturday: Waiting for Godot, Lord of the Flies, The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, Horton Hears a Who!, the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings, and the films On the Waterfront, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Seven Samurai and Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
BUT: the rules have changed over the years, and copyright on all those works has been extended. So here in the US, none of these have entered the public domain. In fact, no works at all will enter the public domain via expired copyright this year. Or for the next several years. Wait til Public Domain Day in 2019, though! [via Techdirt]
The WSJ asks a ton of famous and somewhat famous people for their new year's resolutions. The ones you (may) care about: Richard Meier, Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Shteyngart, Louis CK, David Chang, Cee Lo, Oprah, Slash, Murakami. Sean Lennon wants to finish Gravity's Rainbow. Billy Corgan takes a shot at Pavement and Sonic Youth for doing nostalgia shows. [via Grub Street, which extracts the chefs]
This new personal genome sequencer, branded "Ion Torrent", is the size of a desktop printer, takes just 2 hours to run, and costs only $50,000. Which means in a few years, the price will come down, everyone will have one, and it will interface with Facebook. Who's coming over for my sequencing party in 2013? Bring your pets.
As part of its extensive coverage of the awards season, Manohla Dargis takes a microscope to Christian Bale's performance in The Fighter, specifically a scene early in the film in which his character -- a boxer-turned-crackhead -- relives the zenith of his career, a fight with Sugar Ray Leonard. The article makes liberal use of hyperlinks, including one to the NYT's original capsule review of "High on Crack Street," the 1995 HBO documentary on crack addicts in Lowell, Mass., which (in real life) featured Bale's character, Dicky Eklund.
A Visual History of Daft Punk's Helmets. Speaking of which, someone should recut Tron: Legacy with a different soundtrack and see if it's still possible to watch. [via pop loser]
How can this possibly be real? Or not real? Amy Winehouse's high school diary was found in the trash, so naturally The Sun published it. The money shot: What will she do when she gets famous? "Live like the bombshell I really am. Get teeth fixed."
A new book will feature Marco Anelli's photos of everyone who sat with Marina Abramovic during "The Artist is Present" at MoMA this year. So that'll be a little of Bjork, a little of Franco, and a lot of that annoying crying dude (and the much less annoying girl in disguises). [via Gothamist]
How much did it cost AOL to send discs to everybody, all the time, in the 90s? "A lot," says Steve Case (on Quora). Roughly $35 per customer, over time. But the gambit worked.
Update: AOL's former chief marketing officer has joined the Quora thread. Two tidbits: (1) She claims that at one point, 50% of all CDs produced in the world had AOL logos, and (2) for a while, the conversion rate on the direct mail campaign was 10%. Amazing.
That didn't take long. Less than a month after a London Ignite hyper-real presentation on an imaginary 4Chan-motivated flash mob gone fatally wrong, a man was falsely accused of murder on Facebook and returned home to find an angry mob there.
A French photojournalist reports on his visit to a Foxconn factory in China where they make iPhones, etc. He didn't find what we consider to be child labor, but the working conditions in the factory/city don't sound too pleasant (13 hour shifts, 6-7 days per week). He has a pic of one girl who checks 28,000 printer cartridges per day (up 40% since last year). TUAW has a nice summary if you don't want to read the whole thing.
Here's the NYT's Stelter and Carter framing comparisons between Edward R. Murrow and Jon Stewart, based on Stewart's "activism" on behalf of the 9/11 healthcare bill. (Not surprisingly, the article draws on quote-machine Prof. Robert J. Thompson of Syracuse University to support its premise.)
Anyone else feel like Time's short intro essay to its "Person of the Year" gets more right about Zuck and Facebook than its (very long) profile/apologia does? Also, the top 5 list seems just right (in order): Zuckerberg, Tea Party, Assange, Hamid Karzai, Chilean Miners.
Biblioklept's Best Book Covers of 2010. Suitable for the List of Lists. See also this years' Penguin/RED project, which used snippets from the books' texts as design elements for the covers. T-shirts, please!
Apple has added support for the Cherokee language to the iPhone. It's expected this will help Cherokee kids communicate in the language, which will prolong its life. Language is politics.
Violent, mostly compelling trailer for the forthcoming game Homefront, which looks like a playable cross between The Siege and Red Dawn. Which is appropriate, since the trailer credits the game to "the writer of Red Dawn," John Milius.
Did you catch Reggie Watts on Conan the other night? Characteristic genre-bending mix of storytelling, beatboxing, and comedy, wrapped up as a very special holiday message. He's not doing Andy Kaufman -- he's evolving him.
Google's Christmas doodle is "its most ambitious one yet." Backstory from WSJ. [via Engadget]
It's been a fun week. I'll sign off now before I get tempted to overstay my welcome and live-blog the Oscars tomorrow night. ("WHAT?! Hurt Locker was SO contrived!!", etc.)
Thanks for reading, and thanks to Rex for the opportunity.
If you're interested in more of this kind of thing, you can follow my shared links and catch me on Twitter. In a couple months, I'll be launching Slow Machine (RSS), a site with occasional, longer pieces about -- what else? -- pop culture and politics. Hope to see you there. --ADM
A few hours ago, Conan O'Brien (@conanobrien) announced on Twitter that he had finally selected someone to follow -- a random person:
I've decided to follow someone at random. She likes peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs. Sarah Killen, your life is about to change.
She had 3 followers. Now, as I post this, she has 9,200. It seems her life is already changing, at least a little bit. --ADM
Update: Here's an interview with her.
The Wolfram|Alpha knowledge engine can now answer queries about the Academy Awards. So you can enter a query like "academy awards for The Godfather" and it will show you the Oscars it won. Note that the examples suggest querying with the phrase "Academy Awards" but using "Oscars" seems to work too. --ADM
Make Magazine is doing a Q&A with the guys who made the contraptions in the OK Go! video for "This Too Shall Pass" that was linked to everywhere the other day. --ADM
NYT's Lens Blog has first-hand account of the Marja battle from embedded photographer Tyler Hicks. Hicks and reporter CJ Chivers filed some outstanding work from the battle. Chivers (a former Marine) and Hicks were on the front lines throughout, and I wouldn't be surprised if they earn a Pulitzer for their efforts. --ADM
Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland opens today. Here are some reviews:
Ebert notes that the 3D feels tacked on and adds nothing to the entertainment. --ADM
The New York Times Magazine has a long article about an online phenomenon in China: "human flesh search engines:" [via Waxy]
They are a form of online vigilante justice in which Internet users hunt down and punish people who have attracted their wrath. The goal is to get the targets of a search fired from their jobs, shamed in front of their neighbors, run out of town. It's crowd-sourced detective work, pursued online -- with offline results.
The article opens with the story of a woman who appeared in an anonymous web video stomping a cat to death. Viewers organized an effort to identify her. Shortly thereafter, living in a small town in a country of one billion people, she was identified. And ostracized.
The article suggests such efforts are more mainstream in China than in the US, though identification and subsequent harassment of "people who have attracted their wrath" is common among certain online communities here, too. In fact there are exact parallels: a group of users on 4chan have also tracked down a cat abuser (among many others).
But perhaps all online communities and social networks are essentially human flesh search engines, or easily transformed into them as desired -- although usually with less malice. We might not be much more closely connected than we have been in past years, but with 400 million people on Facebook alone, discovering (and persisting) those connections is becoming trivial. Powered by the data and photos in these social networks, recent technological advancements such as real-time face recognition built into cellphones will soon erode, if not entirely dissolve, anonymity.
With your anonymity goes your privacy. Does it matter? Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says a desire for privacy is no longer the "social norm." But maybe such social norms were a casualty of his -- and others' -- business models. Uploading a photo of myself doesn't mean I want everyone to be able to identify me on the street. Emailing clients regularly doesn't mean I want them to see the names of everyone else I'm in contact with. But to Facebook, Google, and other companies, it does. This is the bargain we've made: give me convenience and connectedness, and I'll give you my anonymity and privacy.
We know the short-term consequences of this already -- insurers checking up on us, bosses peering into our personal lives, and so on -- but what are the long-term social and psychological consequences? Adults today have had years of disconnection from their pasts and had the option of growing up and evolving outside the gaze of their childhood peers, their relatives, etc. But today's kids will spend their entire lives on the social web. Will this hold back their personal growth in any way? Would you be different if everyone you've known from elementary school and beyond could look in on you at any time? Will today's kids grow up acting more conservatively because they know their behavior (and that of their friends) will be publicly and permanently documented? Or, will this instead cause a greater liberalization of social behavior as they become adults in a generation that accepts everyone acts foolishly, and everyone's foolish acts are publicly and permanently documented?
Or maybe the problem will solve itself. It seems possible that if nearly everyone you've ever met is your "friend" on Facebook, then your social network will eventually become so diffuse and the amount of information available will be so overwhelming, no one will bother checking up on anyone they don't really care about. Sound familiar? Maybe the social network will supplant the role that the internet played in our lives 10 years ago: others could often find you in its vastness if they cared, but they didn't. Just as ten years before that, we all had our names in the phone book, but no one called. The social norms adapt.
How do you see them evolving in the next 5 - 10 years? And how will Facebook and Google respond to or drive the changes? --ADM
If Windows 7, Mac OS X, or Ubuntu Linux aren't doing it for you, maybe try out a state-sponsored operating system from your favorite dictatorship: North Korea's Red Star or Cuba's Nova. Both appear to be Linux variants.
Engadget reports that the North Korean distro looks a lot like Windows, with just a few minor differences: the equivalent of the "Start" button has been replaced with a red star, and Firefox is called "My Country." Oh, and: it doesn't connect to the internet...just the local, gov't-approved BBS.
One advantage over Windows: since it's Linux, maybe the source code will be released and you won't have to guess how the government is spying on you. --ADM
Forget Wii Remote and Project Natal: It's now possible to play pinball with your mind. Here are some photos of the brain helmet you have to wear. --ADM
Rex's oft-repeated prediction about the Hipster Grifter is one step closer to reality: Ex-con Kari Ferrell will be answering readers' questions at Gawker. She'll be responding by video. Get in there, Rex! --ADM
Update: Her response is up.
Tim Rogers has lived in Japan for several years. He's sick of it -- very, very, very sick of it. So sick of it, he's written one of the longest* blog posts in the history of blog posts to explain all the ways he's sick of it. I didn't read the whole thing, but most of it seems to be because they put meat on everything and scream all the time.
*Errol Morris is probably his closest competitor. --ADM
Threat Level reports that the Chinese hackers who attacked Google and more than 30 other high profile companies a few month ago targeted the companies' source code management systems, meaning they had access to -- and apparently the ability to modify -- the "crown jewels" of their targets' intellectual property: their software. The victims of the attack used Perforce to manage their code, and according to Threat Level, Perforce seems to have an extremely weak security model. (For instance, anonymous users with no password can add users to the system.)
Adobe was another victim. I'd hate to think what would happen if the security of Flash were compromised. Heh. --ADM
On Thursday morning, ABC will air the first recent video of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the woman who spent 18 years living in the backyard of her abductor, Phillip Garrido. Here's the teaser. The video will appear on
Thursday'sFriday's Good Morning America and on Nightline. --ADM
Amtrak's Acela Express trains (which run at high speed along the northeast corridor from DC to Boston) will be getting free wifi. It's coming to some of the major stations, too. But the regular old trains will not be getting it any time soon, so you'll still have to make do talking to those Emerson College kids for 5 hours. --ADM
"A raid on suspected militants in the West Bank planned for Wednesday was called off by [Israel's] military because a soldier posted details of the operation on Facebook."
The offending message:
"On Wednesday we clean up Qatanah, and on Thursday, god willing, we come home."
He also gave up the name of his unit, the time of the operation, etc. Maybe we should just give Facebook to the guys at Guantanamo. --ADM
Noted NYC graffiti artist Lee Quinones has responded to readers' questions at NYTimes.com. His work is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum, he appears in Wild Style, and he painted Luis Guzman's truck in How to Make it in America. Even if you don't like graffiti, his responses are worth reading just for their musicality. --ADM
Update: Part 2 and Part 3 are posted. His use of the language is just as joyous. And, per request, here's some of his subway work. And the story of his crew, the Fabulous 5ive.
Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab examines an usual editorial relationship between the Huffington Post and a third-party fundraiser [link fixed]. The Lab says HuffPo outsources editorial control of the "Impact" section of the site to Causecast, a for-profit organization that raises money for non-profits:
In exchange for the content, HuffPo shares the advertising and sponsorship revenue the section generates with the outside company, Causecast. And Causecast gets a platform to promote its services and the nonprofits it chooses to highlight, some of which are its partner organizations.
The section on HuffPo is labeled "in partnership with Causecast," but the third-party authorship is not made explicit:
...despite having a bio and byline like other Huffington Post editors [an author of some Impact pieces] is not a HuffPo employee. He is paid by Causecast and works out of their Santa Monica offices. As part of the arrangement with the Huffington Post, Harris oversees two other writers, who are also Causecast employees, in producing the site's content, which includes short original stories and aggregation from around the web.
The Nieman Lab wonders about the ethical implications of this. Causecast says their clients cannot pay them to place a story on HuffPo. Are there other considerations? If you're reading something you think is authored by HuffPo and is actually authored by a third-party corporation, do you care? What if that third-party has undisclosed relationships with the organizations discussed in the article?
Anyone have additional insight into this relationship? --ADM [via Romenesko]
Everyone involved in the making of this Japanese Kleenex commercial either died under mysterious circumstances or gave birth to a demon child. Or so I've heard. --ADM [via Kempa.com]
Google Blogoscoped takes a look at the current state of Google Knol, Google' almost-forgotten, and allegedly more "authoritative" response to Wikipedia. Knol launched with much fanfare in 2008, although plenty of skeptics at the time felt the walled garden approach would fail.
Since the last time you've heard anything about Knol was probably in 2008, it's probably safe to say that it is now a failure. Will it recover? Google Blogoscoped says the developers seem to be "taking a long term view" of the project, and notes they are still actively improving the service. But the post estimates that Knol only has about 163,000 articles on it, many of which appear to be spam or debates about Knol itself. (Wikipedia has 3.2 million articles in English alone.)
As a result, few people seem to be thinking about or looking for Knol. Some Google Search Trends charts included at the bottom of the article dramatically illustrate this point. (The blue line is Wikipedia, the red line is Knol.)
Have you used Knol? Contributed to it? Made any money from it? --ADM
TiVo just launched its next-generation DVR, called TiVo Premiere. It's 1080p, eSata, 320GB, 802.11n, blah blah blah and looks like a TiVo from the year 2010. But check out this cool remote! It's a QWERTY slider! --ADM
Update: Here's the remote in action.
It's interesting to me that no sector of the mass media learned from any other sector as each one got its turn to react to the ongoing digital revolution. The newspaper industry is in the same throes as the film industry was, just as the film industry's struggle mirrored the music industry's.
For the last year or so, it's been the book publisher's turn to demonstrate it has learned something -- anything -- from the last 15 years. But, as the kerfuffle over pricing and DRM have demonstrated so clearly -- they haven't.
The latest WTF moment comes from Macmillan (them again): CEO John Sargent says he wants to sell "hardcover" eBooks. As TUAW's TJ Luoma astutely points out, there are only a few reasons to get a hardcover instead of a paperback, and they either don't apply or make no business sense in the digital realm:
- You want to buy the book soon after it's published? eBooks take care of that. You can have it a few seconds later, in fact. If the publisher delays releasing it because it's a "paperback," they're just shooting themselves in the foot.
- You want a collector's item? Too bad! THEY PUT DRM ON THE EBOOK. Not much resale or nostalgia value there!
- You want bigger type? Press the "+" button.
Panic moves like this are just like the nonsense we saw from the music, tv, film, and newspaper industries.
Here's my (free!) business plan for book publishers: Since you're going to have to do it eventually anyway, give your customers what they want now. Four other industries have already learned these lessons for you -- and in some cases are still learning them. They spent a lot of years and money (and angered a lot of customers) so that you wouldn't have to. Wishing things away is not effective. --ADM
Putting aside the brief hysteria that PleaseRobMe.com set off recently, will your use of social media sites have an impact on your insurance rates? For instance, if you post your vacation plans or pictures from a wild house party, will your insurer notice? According to Computerworld, Legal & General, a home insurer in the UK, is exploring the possibility. [via Techdirt]
This kind of thing sounds implausible to me, but there have been reported cases of health insurers reviewing the Facebook activity of those they cover, and taking adverse action as a result. --ADM
Joel Spolsky, widely known among programmers for his exceptional blog, Joel on Software, has a thoughtful piece in Inc. about corporate blogging.
He credits fellow developer Kathy Sierra with helping him verbalize something he may have only intuited:
"To really work, Sierra observed, an entrepreneur's blog has to be about something bigger than his or her company and his or her product. This sounds simple, but it isn't. It takes real discipline to not talk about yourself and your company. Blogging as a medium seems so personal, and often it is. But when you're using a blog to promote a business, that blog can't be about you, Sierra said. It has to be about your readers, who will, it's hoped, become your customers...
So, for example, if you're selling a clever attachment to a camera that diffuses harsh flash light, don't talk about the technical features or about your holiday sale (10 percent off!). Make a list of 10 tips for being a better photographer. If you're opening a restaurant, don't blog about your menu. Blog about great food. You'll attract foodies who don't care about your restaurant yet."
But are corporate blogs necessary or even desirable? Despite running one for 10 years, Spolsky isn't convinced. He observes that many successful companies -- Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. -- have lousy blogs, and Apple has none at all. Finally (and relatedly), he announces that in a few weeks, he will be retiring his blog. He makes a good case for doing so, but it seems to me that companies who lack a large customer base and name recognition could gain a lot by blogging the way he did. --ADM
NYT's Natalie Angier has a very poetic piece on some new research showing that over the last 50 years, the pacing of movies has tended toward the natural rhythm of the brain (and the universe). It's hard to summarize in a sentence, so Angier explains at length:
The basic shot structure of the movies, the way film segments of different lengths are bundled together from scene to scene, act to act, has evolved over the years to resemble a rough but recognizably wave-like pattern called 1/f, or one over frequency -- or the more Hollywood-friendly metaphor, pink noise. Pink noise is a characteristic signal profile seated somewhere between random and rigid, and for utterly mysterious reasons, our world is ablush with it. Start with a picture of Penelope Cruz, say, or a flamingo on a lawn, and decompose the picture into a collection of sine waves of various humps, dives and frequencies. However distinctive the original images, if you look at the distribution of their underlying frequencies, said Jeremy M. Wolfe, a vision researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital, "they turn out to have a 'one over f' characteristic to them."
Researchers analyzed the length of shots in films and noticed the trend, which Angier suggests may explain why movies are so captivating even when they aren't that good. The researchers also seemed surprised that a montage from Rocky IV showing Rocky and Drago training separately featured matching shots of equal length for each boxer. As with the golden ratio, it seems like pink noise is the sort of thing that artists and audiences figure out before scientists do.
An accompanying graph shows how various films align (or not) with the 1/f ratio, objectively and as compared to the average for its year of release. Of all the films analyzed, Back to the Future matched 1/f most closely. Even so, researchers noted that there is no consistent correlation between a film's adherence to pink noise principle and its popularity with viewers. --ADM
You may have been hearing that chef Jamie Oliver wants to change the world through better food. And he has a show on ABC to help him accomplish just that. In this teaser video, he goes to a school in "America's unhealthiest town" (Huntington, WV) and shows the kids tomatoes, an eggplant, and cauliflower. The kids don't recognize any of them. --ADM
Penguin Classics and AIDS-awareness marketeers (RED) have teamed up to re-issue 8 classics with some striking new designs. Each cover features a quotation from the book as the key design element. --ADM
Max Headroom is finally coming to DVD. Try not to have a heart attack, contemporaries. --ADM [via BAR]
The tradition of issuing deadpan ripostes to spammers goes back at least a hundred years, from Mark Twain to those guys who get West African 419'ers to do miraculous things.
Here, Lonely Sandwich finds a middle ground between the two with this breezy reply to a pay-for-play scammer who offered to "review" his iPhone app (for a small fee, naturally). --ADM
Here's some developing tech that will let you turn your skin into a touchscreen.
The first two questions for any new technology apply here: (1) How does this apply to me? (2) How does this apply to porn? --adm
NYT's Motoko Rich breaks down the costs and profits associated with creating and distributing eBooks vs. regular books.
If I'm reading it right, for each hardcover sold, publishers are left with revenue of $4.05 before overhead. For an eBook, they end up with "$4.56 to $5.54, before paying overhead costs or writing off unearned advances." Hence their reluctance to continue with the $9.99 pricing so favored by Amazon.
Related: Did you see that author Douglas Preston got into all kinds of trouble with his fans for suggesting they had a "sense of entitlement" for wanting cheap eBooks? He eventually apologized and reframed his comments after an outcry. --adm
The Tribeca Film Festival opens on April 21 in NYC. Its stated mission is "assisting filmmakers to reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promoting New York City as a major filmmaking center."
So of course Shrek 4 is opening the festival this year. --ADM
Yelp's CEO Jeremy Stoppleman responds again to accusations (and the new lawsuit) that suggest the site extorts the subjects of its reviews. --ADM [via BAR]
The NYT's Lens blog features an essay by a photographer/videographer who has been covering bomb squads in the Iraq War over the last six years. He says The Hurt Locker is completely unrealistic:
The film is a collection of scenes that are completely implausible wrong in almost every respect. This time, its not just minor details that are wrong...More disturbing and implausible yet is the way the protagonist repeatedly endangers the lives of his team members. The soldiers I have worked with over the years are like brothers to one another. Never have I seen stronger bonds between men. Any soldier who routinely endangers his own life or those of his squad members would not be punched, as the movies star is in one scene. He would be demoted and kicked out of his unit.
Does it matter? --ADM
Will Anderson Cooper replace Katie Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News? Yes. Maybe? No. --ADM [via Romenesko]
George Soros has been buying massive quantities of Yahoo stock, increasing his holdings from 726,000 shares to 3.5 million. No one knows why. An analyst at Minyanville recommends being cautious about following Soros on this one. --ADM
This short video clip brings together two of your favorite things from the 1980s: the "Tears in Rain" scene from Blade Runner and Legos. (It may have gone around before, but the creator re-cut it recently.) --ADM [via Make]
Serious Eats has a profile of Robert Caplin, the photographer who takes many of the photos that accompany the New York Times' restaurant reviews. FAQ #1: Does he get to eat the food? "We aren't supposed to sit down and have a meal, but the chef often insists you try something..." He also takes pictures of things besides food, and has a blog. --ADM
Apple has released its annual report [PDF] on the labor conditions in its factories overseas. Highlights:
- Underage workers: "Across the three facilities, our auditors found records of 11 workers who had been hired prior to reaching the legal age."
- More than half of the plants had employees working more than the permissible 60 hours per week.
- 45 of the 102 audited plants were docking employee pay as a means of punishment. Apple says this is legal according to local laws, but has stopped this practice.
What obligations do American companies have to go beyond local laws in ensuring fair working conditions for their employees (and sub-contractors) overseas? --ADM [via Consumerist]
The Pew Internet & American Life Project, in the news every few months for issuing reports on America's media consumption habits, has just released its latest survey, "Understanding the Participatory News Consumer." Key findings include:
- "37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter."
- "The internet has surpassed newspapers and radio in popularity as a news platform on a typical day and now ranks just behind TV." But over a third (38%) rely solely on offline sources, and...
- Local news is still the leading new source. "78% of Americans say they get news from a local TV station."
- 75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites.
It's a good thing for that, too! How else would my mom know that our President is a socialist Muslim born in Kenya? --ADM [via Lost Remote]
The illustrator Robert McCall has died. McCall was notable for his ambitious visions of space exploration. According to a note on MAKE, Isaac Asimov said he was the "nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space."
If you spent time as a kid reading a lot of theoretical magazine articles about space stations and manned missions to Mars, you probably ran across his work. (He also did the poster art and other materials for 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Here are a few scans from an April 1961 issue of Life magazine, published right after Yuri Gagarin's successful mission sent America into a panic and McCall's illustrations helped us feel like we actually had a plan. --ADM
Will Matt Damon be in another Bourne movie? His message has been consistent since about the time the last one came out. But people keep asking him about it, so here he is repeating it:
"If Paul Greengrass does it and we have something to say, definitely," said Damon. (Greengrass sounded less willing: "I'm out of it. I'm going to try other things.")
But this time Damon adds an unsettling twist:
"I think the way is to extend the franchise is to create a 'Bourne identity' that different actors can take on. I could pass the identity to Russell Crowe or Denzel Washington or Ryan Gosling."
Please don't talk like that, Matt Damon. --ADM
The hit squad that killed the Hamas commander in Dubai apparently used a fast acting muscle relaxant to disable him before they smothered him. Earlier reports on the execution said the door was latched from the inside when the body was discovered. Anyone have any idea how they might have done that? --ADM
Update: Not sure what happened to the comment, but someone here posted a link to this video showing how to do it.
The econ/finance site Minyanville analyzes a recent report from AdMob and notes that "roughly 73% of Android users are male." The iPhone's user base, by contrast, is gender-balanced. Why? Minyanville says it's because of -- surprise! -- marketing. For example, Droid ads include subtle messages like, "It's not a princess. It's a robot. A phone that trades hair-do for can-do." Apparently men, like robots, regularly fall for this kind of thing. --ADM
NYT talks to Paul Greengrass and Brian Helgeland about Green Zone, which opens on March 12. In their comments, they reference Judith Miller, David Simon, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and The French Connection. --ADM
NYT has readers' photos of earthquake damage in Chile. As usual, the Boston Globe's Big Picture collects some of the most dramatic pictures from the mainstream media. --ADM
Walmart is now selling locally-sourced food. They call it "Heritage Agriculture." Just another case of greenwashing? Let's find out: The Atlantic has a full report, including a blind taste test with a panel of foodies, comparing the offerings to the local Whole Foods'. --ADM [via BAR]
Why is Toyoda not spelled 'Toyota'? The Washington Post explains. Executive summary: His grandfather started the company, but they changed the name because "Toyota" has a luckier number of brush strokes (8). --ADM [via Consumerist]