MoST

June 10th, 2015

The story of The Last Museum:

I am not at my ranch, nor my Beijing office, nor the lesser office in Brooklyn, but here, back home, in the Old Valley. In a few minutes we'll pull off the highway and into what used to be Pruneridge Shopping Center. I can see the Jobs statue out the window of this car, rising up from the center of the Apple ring.

Pruneridge has gone the way of all physical stores. In its place stands a massive set of overlapping, complex, structurally-interlinked steel polyhedra that required sixty-thousand hours of continuous computer time to model. Ten billion microscopic mirrors catch the light and reflect it in various soothing patterns. There is one mirror per living human on this earth.

This is MoST, the Museum of Social Transformation. It is mine, but soon it will belong to the world.

I will tell you how I got here. […]

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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Unintentional time-lapses

May 18th, 2015

A group of researchers from the University of Washington and Google have found a way to construct time-lapse video sequences from within the millions of photos to be found online:

First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker.

The results are downright spectacular in some cases, and just plain odd in others.1

[Via kottke.org]

  1. Wait until right at the end, when the video gets to the Charging Bull statue from New York's Financial District. Why is it doing that, exactly?

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Task Continuity

April 10th, 2015

At the Mozilla blog there's a fascinating post about research Gemma Petrie & Bill Selman did into how real users handle Task Continuity, i.e. the mechanics of dealing with stuff they want to read online now as opposed to stuff they want to get back to later:

Based on our research, we developed a general model of what the task continuity process looks like for our participants. Task continuity is a behavior cycle with three distinct stages: Discover, Hold/Push, and Recover.

The Discover stage of the task continuity cycle includes tasks or content in an evaluative state. At this stage, the user decides whether or not to (actively or passively) do something with the content.

The Hold/Push stage of the cycle describes the task continuity-enabling action taken by the user. In this stage, users may:

  • Passively hold tasks/content (e.g. By leaving a tab open)
  • Actively hold tasks/content (e.g. By emailing it to themselves)
  • Push tasks/content to others by sharing it (e.g. Posting it on Facebook)

[…]

In the Recover stage of the task continuity cycle, the user is reminded of the task/content (e.g. By seeing an open tab) or recalls the task/content (e.g. Through contextual cues). Relying on memory was one of the most common recovery methods we observed. In order to fully recover the task/content, the user may need to perform additional actions like following a link or reconstructing an activity path.

It seems that emailing yourself a link to look at later is still a thing, which I find both amazing and a bit depressing. Also, there's a distinct lack of mentions of just bookmarking the content in the web browser you're using to read the content in the first place, which rather suggests that browser makers have been wasting their time with that whole bookmarking feature they've all been using for the last couple of decades.

For what it's worth, my usual approach to seeing stuff in my web browser that I'll want to come back to depends upon whether I want it as reference material or just don't have time to look at it right now: material I know I'll definitely want to refer to, especially if I'm likely to want to look at it more than once1 goes to Evernote, where I can tag it and set a reminder alarm if need be. Content that I'll want to look at later (possibly with a view to filing it in Evernote if it's worth keeping) gets bookmarked in Pinboard. Text-heavy content that I know I'll want to read but that is lengthy enough to require a significant chunk of my time is likely to be consigned to Instapaper. Whichever way it goes, one click and I'm ready to move on to the next browser tab.2

Interestingly (Well, I find it interesting!)) the only real exception to that general approach comes when I see a YouTube or Vimeo video I want to come back to: if I'm already on the YouTube or Vimeo site I'll generally use those sites' Watch Later features to tag that content, so that next time I'm in the mood to kill some time watching a bunch of videos it'll be to hand.3

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

  1. e.g. a snippet of Applescript, or a web page showing the opening hours of a local supermarket over a bank holiday weekend
  2. Mac OS X and iOS try hard to encourage users to use Safari's reading list feature to grab content to review later, but that's no good to me if I might want to look at the items when I'm using a non-Apple device, i.e. if I'm browsing from work during my lunch break using Firefox on a Windows PC.
  3. I still tend to do my video-watching in batches rather than visiting YouTube/Vimeo multiple times during a browsing session. The good old days of reading the internet in batches via a metered dial-up connection scarred me for life shaped my browsing habits in ways I still can't shake.

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Windscreenwiperman

April 4th, 2015

Windscreenwiperman is a thoughtful piece of work on a tricky subject:

A man makes friends with a young teenage boy online. This film explores the stigma around online friendships, and our global addiction to social media. Directed by Sam Baron. Written by Sam Baron & Raphael von Blumenthal. Produced by Mark Hopkins, Aidan Grounds & Emily Precious. Starring Raphael von Blumenthal, Joe Hurst & Rebecca Herod.

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gail period com

April 1st, 2015

Where you end up if you mistype 'gmail' as 'gail' and your browser autocompletes your entry:

Hello and welcome to the gail.com FAQ.

Q: Why isn't there any content here?
A: All personal web content is hidden on back pages to conserve bandwidth.

Q: Interested in selling gail.com?
A: Sorry, no.

Q: How did you manage to get gail.com?
A: My husband registered it as a birthday gift back in 1996.

Q: How many times a day is this page visited?
A: In 2014 this page received 1,829,385 hits, which is an average of 5,012 per day. Eighty-five percent of those hits were from unique IP addresses. Occasionally, we get Redditted and get several tens of thousands of visitors over a day or so.

Q: I think you're infringing on my trademark…
A: You can't have an exclusive trademark on a common word or name. My husband and I successfully defended ourselves against an attempted domain coup d'état in 2006; see WIPO Case D2006–0655 for more information.

Q: Don't you know that you could throw some ads up and make money?
A: Yes, I know, thank you. For those who feel they need more advertising in their life, have a look at our nifty EFF ad below.

Thanks for visiting,

Gail (faq at gail period com)

Bravo. Proper old school internet.

[Via @lexim]

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If we had a solution, we wouldn't be bothering you with all these damn clues.

January 8th, 2015

18. Did we use the word "content" without quotes? We feel so dirty.

New Clues, from two of the authors of the original Cluetrain Manifesto. A mix of idealism, naiveté, and the odd CheapShot™. All in all, a hell of a lot of fun to read.1

  1. Even if it makes me feel old to realise that it's been almost sixteen years since the original.

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Why Audio Never Goes Viral

November 16th, 2014

Why Audio Never Goes Viral:

With a community of creators uncomfortable with the value of virality, an audience content to watch grainy dashcam videos, and platforms that discourage sharing, is a hit-machine for audio possible? And is it something anyone even wants?

A decent overview of why not all content is suited to going viral.

If 'going viral' requires content to be in brief chunks that can be digested by the listener with minimal context I'm not sure that I want the audio content I listen to1 to make the effort. Plenty of the best audio content thrives on length and context, so why try to make it fit a template that won't work to the medium's strengths?

[Via philgyford]

  1. Like most people, I'd imagine: a mix of content originally made for radio, plus some podcasts.

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How do we build an Internet we're not ashamed of?

May 29th, 2014

Having finally got round to reading the transcript of Maciej Cegłowski's Beyond Tellerrand 2014 Conference Talk , I can but report that – as usual – he talked a lot of sense:

One reason there's a backlash against Google glasses is that they try to bring the online rules into the offline world. Suddenly, anything can be recorded, and there's the expectation (if the product succeeds) that everything will be recorded. The product is called 'glass' instead of 'glasses' because Google imagines a world where every flat surface behaves by the online rules. [The day after this talk, it was revealed Google is seeking patents on showing ads on your thermostat, refrigerator, etc.]

Well, people hate the online rules!

Google's answer is, wake up, grandpa, this is the new normal. But all they're doing is trying to port a bug in the Internet over to the real world, and calling it progress.

You can dress up a bug and call it a feature. You can also put dog crap in the freezer and call it ice cream. But people can taste the difference.

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State of MetaFilter

May 19th, 2014

Matt Haughey posted some bad news on MetaTalk today:

Today I need to share some unfortunate news: because of serious financial downturn, MetaFilter will be losing three of its moderators to layoffs at the end of this month. What that means for the site and the site's future are described below.

While MetaFilter approaches 15 years of being alive and kicking, the overall website saw steady growth for the first 13 of those years. A year and a half ago, we woke up one day to see a 40% decrease in revenue and traffic to Ask MetaFilter, likely the result of ongoing Google index updates. We scoured the web and took advice of reducing ads in the hopes traffic would improve but it never really did, staying steady for several months and then periodically decreasing by smaller amounts over time.

[…]

Where we are headed

The site is currently and has been for several months operating at a significant loss. If nothing were to change, MeFi would defaulting on bills and hitting bankruptcy by mid-summer. As a result, I'm having to make the difficult decision to lay off employees to make up for budget shortfalls. Starting June 1st, we'll be operating with a smaller moderator staff. […]

Not the sort of MetaFilter link I usually post here!

MetaFilter is one of the best, most consistently interesting online communities on the web; not just because of the links people post there, but because over the years it has hosted some of the most entertaining and informative comment threads I've seen on the internet. Since the Death of Usenet, it's been my number one source of civilised discussion online, and it's a terrible shame that it looks as if Google's tweaking of their search algorithm may have hit the site hard, despite MetaFilter being about as far from a linkfarm as it's possible to be.

If you've enjoyed the various links I've posted here over the years that came from MetaFilter, please consider dropping by the site and sending them a donation via PayPal (the donation link is at the foot of that page, under the subheading Supporting MetaFilter. Or even making it a recurring monthly donation if, like me, you use MetaFilter regularly.

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Imagine Facebook with safe words

May 18th, 2014

After visiting Kink.com's studios at The Armory,1 Kate Losse shares Further Notes on Kink as a Platform:

The first thing our tour guide wanted to make sure we understood was that not only is tourist photography fine at Kink, it is also encouraged, as is posting photos from Kink to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. "If you feel inspired to enter a cage and pose for pictures, please do!" the guide said enthusiastically, cautioning us only that the professional performers in the building were not fair game for photos/friend requests unless asked. "Just because you've seen someone's asshole doesn't mean they want to be your friend on Facebook," our guide admonished.

This was the first of many uncanny moments I felt during the tour, where a porn platform representative was laying down rules for social media that are more explicit than those of social media companies themselves. When was the last time a social media platform told you the house rules for friending or distributing information? For social media platforms, all information flow is good flow. At Kink, there are rules, and the proprietors of the platform wanted to make sure we knew them. […]

[Via The Baffler]

  1. Home page link contains only one image, perfectly work-safe – it's of a building! – but may be deemed by some employers to be NSFW even so, because the page mentions what sort of activities go on inside. Links deeper into the site are almost certainly NSFW.

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Sunset, Sunrise…

May 7th, 2014

Well, that's a surprise: Andy Baio has launched a Kickstarter project for The Return of Upcoming.org

[Via Waxy.org]

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'Oral histories that are completely fabricated have value.'

April 16th, 2014

Talking to The Verge in the wake of the publication of her book It's Complicated, danah boyd talks a lot of sense about how people interact online:

People seem very afraid of their kids creating different identities on different social networks. Why are teens doing this, and should their parents be concerned?

No, in fact, this is one of the weird oddities about Facebook. Let's go back to Usenet. People had multiple nicks, they had a field day with this. They would use these multiple "identities" to put forward different facets of who they were. It wasn't to say that they were trying to be separate individuals. Who you are sitting with me today in this professional role with a shared understanding of social media is different than how you talk to your mom. She may not understand the same things you and I are talking about. At the same time, if you were talking about your past, I'd have none of it and your mother would have a lot of it. This is this moment where you think about how you present yourself differently in these different contexts, not because you're hiding, but because you're putting forward what's relevant there.

The idea of real names being the thing that leads you – that's not actually what leads us in the physical space. We lead with our bodies. We adjust how we present our bodies by situation. We dress differently, we sit differently, we emote differently. […]

Call me nostalgic, but I'm always pleased to see references to Usenet. We might not have called it 'social media',1 but there's a lot to be learned from the experience of all those people back before the web was even a thing, having thousands of shared social spaces to navigate. Of course Usenet also blessed us with Canter and Siegel, but that was part of the learning curve too.

  1. And in fairness it wasn't quite the same beast as MySpace or Twitter or Facebook – but mostly in respects that were for the better. A choice of flexible, powerful third party client software running on a variety of platforms. No single centralised authority policing the discussions – especially outside the Big 8 hierarchy. The best online discussions I ever had or saw happened on Usenet. Also some of the biggest flamewars, but that's what killfiles and scorefiles were for.

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Do Read

April 15th, 2014

TL;DR Wikipedia Is both concise and accurate:

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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Refusing to be 'useful'

January 5th, 2014

I can't remember where I found a link to this, but the Columbia Journalism Review's profile of my favourite internet sceptic, Evgeny vs. the internet Is well worth a read:

Evgeny Morozov wants to convince us that digital technology can't save the world, and he's willing to burn every bridge from Cambridge to Silicon Valley to do it.

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Thinking of The Children

November 3rd, 2013

danah boyd on why it's a good idea that Facebook have started providing 13-17 year old users with a way to decide on a post-by-post basis whether their content can be circulated publicly, rather than always being restricted to their Facebook friends only as is the case at present:

One of the most crucial aspects of coming of age is learning how to navigate public life. The teenage years are precisely when people transition from being a child to being an adult. There is no magic serum that teens can drink on their 18th birthday to immediately mature and understand the world around them. Instead, adolescents must be exposed to – and allowed to participate in – public life while surrounded by adults who can help them navigate complex situations with grace. They must learn to be a part of society, and to do so, they must be allowed to participate.

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26. Anything longer than a tweet is 'tl;dr'.

October 30th, 2013

Tom Morris updates a classic:

It has now been fourteen years since the Cluetrain Manifesto. I have updated it to reflect contemporary reality and society.

  1. Markets are conversations in much the same way as the school bully picking on the disabled queer kid is friendship.
  2. Markets consist of human beings. Smelly, horrible human beings who we want to fuck over.
  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. Conversations with social media marketers sound like people attempting to sound human.
  4. One of the problems with the market is that people make stupid decisions based on a lack of information. This is not like Twitter at all.
  5. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. But NSA wiretapping subverts hyperlinks, so we've got that covered.

[…]

[Via The Null Device]

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The Architecture of Visual Information

September 28th, 2013

Alexander Baxevanis thinks that in the face of the vast number of photos being uploaded every day we need to think harder about why and where people take photographs, what they're trying to accomplish when they share them online.

[Via Martin Belam]

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If you were waiting for someone to lean in for child care legislation, keep holding your breath.

September 25th, 2013

Susan Faludi in The Baffler, on Leaning In:

The scene at the [Lean In event addressed by Sheryl Sandberg at the] Menlo Park auditorium, and its conflation of "believe in yourself" faith and material rewards, will be familiar to anyone who's ever spent a Sunday inside a prosperity-gospel megachurch or watched Reverend Ike's vintage "You Deserve the Best!" sermon on YouTube. But why is that same message now ascendant among the American feminists of the new millennium?

Sandberg's admirers would say that Lean In is using free-market beliefs to advance the cause of women's equality. Her detractors would say (and have) that her organization is using the desire for women's equality to advance the cause of the free market. And they would both be right. In embodying that contradiction, Sheryl Sandberg would not be alone and isn't so new. For the last two centuries, feminism, like evangelicalism, has been in a dance with capitalism.

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NOAH Short

September 14th, 2013

Fresh from the Toronto International Film Festival, NOAH Short does a nice job of portraying a teen relationship drama via the medium of the main character's computer screen.


NB: NSFW due to some male nudity/sexual exhibitionism in places during the scene showing the main character browsing Chatroulette.

[Via waxy.org links]

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26. Who you are is what you do between notifications (or blog posts?)

August 26th, 2013

Nicholas Carr's Theses in tweetform (2nd series):

21. Recommendation engines are the best cure for hubris.

[…]

23. Hell is other selfies.

24. Twitter has revealed that brevity and verbosity are not always antonyms.

[…]

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