Blog posts

  • If Trump turns out to be the answer, I'm incredibly proud that Jeb Bush did not want to be any part of the vile question.

    I appreciate that most of the English-speaking world feels like we've all heard far too much about US presidential politics this year, but this profile of Mike Murphy, the political consultant who ran the campaign that raised US$118 million trying to get Jeb Bush the Republican nomination is at least a good read:

    Murphy's clients have won around two dozen Senate and gubernatorial races (everyone from John Engler to Mitt Romney to Christie Todd Whitman to Arnold Schwarzenegger). If you notice a theme, it's that he often helps Republicans win in Democratic states. Likewise, he's played a major role in assisting three losing presidential candidates (McCain, Lamar! Alexander, and Jeb!). If you again notice a theme, it's that his presidential candidates sometimes seem more excited about their first names than the electorate does.

    Like all hired guns in his trade, he's taken his share of mercenary money just for the check. But Murphy says when it comes to presidentials, he thinks it matters more and is a sucker for long shots. "I have friends I believe in who want to run. I'm a romantic, so I keep falling for that pitch." Jeb wasn't exactly a long shot, I remind him. Like hell he wasn't, says Murphy. It's a hard slog, not being a Grievance Candidate this year. "He was the guy who was handing out policy papers when Trump was handing out broken bottles."

    Since a candidate is not permitted by law to discuss campaign specifics with his super-PAC once he declares, a law Murphy vows was strictly observed ("I'm too pretty to go to jail"), I ask him what he would've told Jeb during the campaign had he been allowed to. Over the years, Murphy has forged a reputation of telling his candidates the truth, no matter how bitter the medicine. (He once had to tell a congressional client that his toupee was unconvincing.) Though Murphy's tongue is usually on a hair-trigger, he stops and ponders this question for a beat. He then says he would've told Jeb, "What the f - were we thinking?" […]

    I can totally imagine a lightly fictionalised version of this guy showing up on an alternate version of The West Wing, one where we ended up following Ainsley Hayes over to the Republican side of the game for a season or two. Whether that's an accurate reflection of his merits 1 or just a sign of how badly I miss The West Wing, I leave it to you to decide.

    While I'm on the subject of the Current Situation in US politics, over at Slacktivist there's a plea for guidance:

    I need help working through this. I’m starting to suspect that the 2016 election might disprove the possibility of the future invention of time travel.

    We’ve watched Donald Trump rack up a steady stream of GOP primary victories. As he moves closer to securing the Republican nomination, we move closer to the disastrous possibility of Donald Trump actually being elected president.

    But note what we haven’t yet seen — the sudden appearance of dozens of time-traveling visitors from the future desperately scrambling to prevent that from happening. That’s surprising. […]


    1. Or the abilities of Matt Labash, the journalist who wrote the profile?

  • To Round

    To Round is a to-do list aimed at busy people who like to take a visual approach to organising their life:

    With our project we want to help those who constantly forget important things to be done.

    We have created To Round for you, visuals, because you are a third of humanity across the globe.

    We show your to-do list as bubbles in a funnel, so that you could clearly see how many things are there to do and how important they are.

    Too Round?

    I played around with for a bit, but I don't think it's for me: first because I absolutely must have the option of recurring to-do items, and second because I didn't find the "today's tasks as a barrel-full of balls" metaphor terribly helpful in visualising the day. Give me a text-based list sorted by some combination of priority and category/tag and deadline every time!

    All of which just means that it's not for me: it's an interesting approach to take to the problem, and one I'm sure someone out there could find appealing. 1

    [Via swissmiss]

    1. Also, I'm convinced that over the long term I'd spend more time endlessly tweaking in an attempt to precisely capture whether Task A should be 74% of the size/priority of Task B or merely 69% of the size. In effect, the bubble approach offers near-infinite gradations of task priority, which is not something someone with a mind like mine should be allowed to contemplate.

  • Pay by selfie

    Amazon have filed a patent for a means of using facial recognition to validate the users' identity:

    With facial recognition, technology measures and records various points on a human face. The user just takes a selfie on their mobile device in order to authenticate access to any channel. This technology is already being adopted by financial institutions, as well as other verticals becoming increasingly concerned about the validity of users logging on to their sites.

    So what's to prevent fraudsters from using a photo from social media? The proposed Amazon system will ask users to do something specific, such as blink or wink, actions "that cannot be replicated with a two-dimensional image," the patent says.

    The idea seems to be that forcing the user to do something in response to a real-time prompt will prove that they're not just being fed a still image grabbed by a fraudster. I wonder how elaborate those actions will end up being? It's one thing to ask the user to blink or wink, but what if the user is wearing spectacles or sunglasses? 1 Perhaps they'll expand the range of actions they ask the user to do and it'll end up like a game of Simon Says: 'Amazon Says Stick Your Tongue Out', or 'Amazon Says Touch The Tip Of Your Nose' or suchlike.

    Then the high street banks adopt the same technology and we have people at ATMs, playing Simon Says on the high street. At which point the fun really starts when people who've been for a night out and have run out of cash before their evening is over find themselves trying to play Simon Says to the standard their friendly bank's ATM expects whilst inebriated. Perhaps we'd better just hope that everyone adopts a Apple-style TouchID system instead. 2


    1. Yes, I realise that the simple answer is to require the user to remove their glasses before they validate their ID. Work with me here…

    2. I write this as someone who has been using a new iPad mini 4 with TouchID enabled for the last week and is astonished at how quick and reliable it's been so far. At this early stage in the relationship with my new toy, I keep thinking that I'll have to hold my finger down and being pleasantly surprised at how rapidly the iPad unlocks itself. 3

    3. Also noteworthy so far is how much nicer using Safari is when your device has enough system RAM that it isn't forced to reload tabs if you've so much as looked away from Safari for more than 30 seconds like my original model iPad mini was.

  • Nope. Nope, Nope, NOPE!

    I so wish I hadn't read this. Nightmare fuel, for sure:

    from Preparing the Ghost, by Matthew Gavin Frank.

    Squid corpses, even when cooked, retain their sexual reflexes and have been known to inseminate our mouths. After eating calamari…a South Korean woman reported experiencing "severe pain" and a "pricking foreign-body sensation" in her mouth. From her tongue, inner cheeks, gums, throat, her doctor escised "twelve small, white, spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms." These were spermatophores, whicih possess seriously tenacious ejaculatory apparati, and a cementlike body, which allows for their attachment to materials like the tongue, inner cheeks, gums…

    [Via LinkMachineGo!]

  • Chatterboxes

    Jason Fried has posted an excellent essay warning about how disruptive group chat can be to a company that hopes to get any useful work done:

    As a company, we’ve been around group/business chat longer than just about any other company in business today. In addition to hearing from our customers for years, our own daily experiences over ten years of extensive group chatting have taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t. All together, we’ve messaged nearly 10,000,000 lines to one another at 37signals/Basecamp since 2006.

    What we’ve learned is that group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense. What makes a lot less sense is chat as the primary, default method of communication inside an organization. A slice, yes. The whole pie, no. All sorts of eventual bad happens when a company begins thinking one-line-at-a-time most of the time.

    One of the biggest pluses of email over the phone as a communications medium was always that email exchanges were asynchronous (in theory), freeing us from the need to respond at a time of our correspondent's choosing and leaving us to devote time to responding when it was practical for us to do so. 1 It's a shame to see corporate trends pushing us back to the era of being slaves to our phones (or rather, of the apps running on our phones.)

    1. But to be fair, M.G. Siegler also has a fair point when he argues that sometimes clearing the email replies you can polish off quickly is the best solution. The trick is to find a happy medium that works for you and your correspondents. If you're allowed the freedom to do so.

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