In the wake of anti-videogame diatribes, Tom Standage at Wired offers up some historical precedents raging against nearly all (at the time) new entertainment, including the waltz, comic books, movies, and telephone. Here's one protector of culture ranting about the evils of this crazy new thing called the "novel":
The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?
- Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, 1790"
For comparison's sake, here's a related quote from the article regarding videogames:
The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it's making the difficult job of being a parent even harder ... I believe that the ability of our children to access pornographic and outrageously violent material on video games rated for adults is spiraling out of control.
- US senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2005
[via Boing Boing]
From my junkmail folder: Spammer offers to kill self, and he's taking his dog down with him
Hi, may i present you freshest hot stuff? ;)
I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog, if medicine prices here ([http://url removed]) are bad.
Look, the site and call me 1-800 if its wrong..
Wish it was an either/or thing. Actually, since he has the sequence of actions in that order, I could email him back to say that the prices are bad and he wouldn't figure it out that crossing the first item off his To Do list made completing the second item impossible.
Following the lead of Wilco, The Flaming Lips, and a gazillion indie musicians, Neil Young is streaming his full album for free from his website (and recruiting other websites to link to it). The album has a weblog and a MySpace identity as well.
Lifehacker has a relatively extensive post on adding in Windows or OS X (primarily the latter) to create an easily searchable metadata cloud for all your files. Probably best for disciplined people, since you have to remember to tag your files with metadata when you work on them, but it's an interesting (and potentially revolutionary) approach, especially if your hierarchical file system has grown so deep that it's become unmanageable.
I'm not the most organized person around, but when it comes to my computer I'm set in my ways of folders within folders within folders. I'd bet you're much the same way. But a few months back I abandoned my hierarchical folder tree, and now, all my files are dumped into the Documents folder. It's ugly, and I don't really like to look at it. Ever. Yet these days I'm able to locate the files I want faster than ever before. How is this possible? Metadata.
The traditional, hierarchical structure is something like the encyclopedic approach to knowledge: it worked back when the world was seen as something completely structured and knowable, with every object finding its home in one (and only one) position in the hierarchy. But as postmodernists know, that model frequently collapses under its own weight, as objects fail to fall neatly into single locations of the tree or when objects move from place to place(s, sometimes simultaneously) over time. Aliases and shortcuts are a tacked-on attempt to remedy the situation, but they end up suffering from the same issues. A similar shift in website design began with static html files being replaced by database-drive sites that assemble requested pages on the fly, depending on context. So while the metadata system requires a small amount of overhead in order to tag files as you create and use them, in the long run it might be much more efficient and useful.
Random quotes from the Captain's Announcements on United Flight 946, LAX to Washington Dulles yesterday:
And since my co-pilot Kevin will be handling the controls today, you'll be listening to the dulcet tones of my mellifluous voice... or the mellifluous tones of my duclet voice. How many of you know what "mellifluous" means? I thought so....
Since Kevin will be hitting every spot of turbulence in the Western hemisphere this afternoon, from time to time we'll turn on the "Fasten Your Seatbelts" sign and I'll say "Sit! Stay!" Actually, our marketing department didn't like that, so I'll say something else.
Kevin will be listening to the voices in his head. If you want to listen in, you can tune into channel 12 of the in-flight sound system on your headphones to see if you can figure out what they're telling him to do. I think Kevin is actually going to drop down out of the clouds to see if he can read road signs.
[later, when seatbelts sign goes on] Sit! Stay! I mean, we're encountering some turbulence, so please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts.
[after we land, and that "we're here" chime sounds] All rise....
(I'm sure I'm not the only person who's going to make that Radiohead connection.) Boing Boing links to a 1961 recording of synthesized speech, including Shakespeare and "A Bicycle Built for Two" (a recording that one Boing Boing reader notes was the origin of HAL's swan song in 2001); followups at the BB post link to other 1950s and 1960s uses of computers for synthesized speech. As Xeni says, "Remixers, start your engines."
[via Boing Boing]
Jesse Kriss uses a PowerBook, a Ms. Pinky turntable, Processing, and some other gadgets to bring computer visualization to turntablism with visual scratch.
Check out his earlier projects as well.
Another one from NYT, since I'm reading it right now. Lisa Belkin has the second part of a series on information-age neologisms that includes some good ones (mixed in with some really bad ones) contributed by readers:
Capitalia — Using only capital letters in e-mail, as if sending telegrams.
Wirenia — A hernia caused by carrying too many mobile devices on your belt.
There's also this, from Michael Levy:
"The cyberworld appropriates words from other contexts," he writes. "It started with 'widows and orphans.' And 'quarantine.' The word 'virtuoso' comes to mind. It could now mean somebody who is more comfortable in the virtual world than in the real world."
If you're as old as I am (or older, I guess), you may remember Rich Hall's "Sniglets" segments on HBO (this is way back—when HBO was about the only pay cable channel available). As further evidence of my advanced age, I was confused when I read Levy's mention of "widows and orphans," because to me the terms refer to single lines at the bottom of a printed page or at the top of the next page (something good layout artists tried to avoid in the world of print).
To get a better handle on how the music industry feels about artists and consumers, you really only have to listen to how the music industry articulates itself. Here's a quote from an NYT article about Martin Bandier, co-CEO of EMI, from a music industry rep who was apparently trying to be flattering:
Marty has been relentless at finding new opportunities to exploit music.
The article describes Bandier taking time out from his appreciation of a Broadway show to check on whether music in the show had been completely permissioned, setting up deals for royalty payments on ring tones, and helping to market "a hound dog in yellow slicker that warbles 'Singing in the Rain'." EMI now makes more than half of its income on licensing (with actual album/CD sales making up the rest of the minority). One more telling quote:
Mr. Bandier said he was not musically inclined as a child, although his dream was to grow up to be a member of the Temptations.
"That didn't work out," he said. "But it doesn't matter now because I own all of their stuff."
A group of design students at Simon Fraser have developed a prototype RIFD-aware purse that tracks objects contained in the purse (and displays their status—in the purse or missing—with lighted icons on the outside of the purse).
Each pattern is an icon representing an essential item that the owner does not want to leave home without. In the prototype, these items are a set of keys, a wallet, and a cell phone.
Lastly, they attached an RFID sensor to each of those items.
As long as each item is missing from the Ladybag, its corresponding icon lights up. As the keys, phone, and wallet are each placed into the tote, the icon blinks off.
I could use one of these for my laptop bag. Actually, for my whole life.
Animation Archive has scans of Chad Grothkopf's 1960 lesson on how to design for television.
In this ever-growing field of television, the visual language is supreme, and the artist is the king. So far, there are no famous artists in this young medium. Maybe you will be one of them.
[via boing boing]Posted by johndanseven at 01:35 PM
The NYT has a brief article on the benefits of dual-monitor setups (including a vague reference to a research article that estimates a 42% increase in productivity—that's a link to the executive summary at Peddie's site; the full article will set you back close to $2k...)
Survey after survey shows that whether you measure your productivity in facts researched, alien spaceships vaporized, or articles written, adding an extra monitor will give your output a considerable boost — 20 percent to 30 percent, according to a survey by Jon Peddie Research.
This twenty-four monitor setup must mean something like a gazillion percent increase in producivity.
Mark Bernstein has some excellent observations on the limits of usability:
Software design is not a matter of avoiding gotcha's. Sure, it's nice to minimize training costs by making it easy for novices to use a system, but training is merely one kind of cost.
There are, of course, other forms of usability, but the minimalist tradition that he attacks is by large still the most popular (by far). I've been worried about the trend toward simple forms of efficiency in interfaces for a long time (a significant chunk of my first book, Nostalgic Angels, criticized the emphasis in many forms of hypertext toward making automatic books). Bernstein also has some great things to say about the role of aesthetics in design, and ends with this:
For extra credit: Take Nielsen's 'Ten Usability Heuristics' and apply them to your favorite school of painting -- e.g. French Impressionism. For extra-extra credit, apply them to Abstract Expressionism. Or, for that matter, apply them to film noir, or to the films of Robert Altman.
The majority of web design is still in its cave-painting age. Which probably sounds like a huge diss to a lot of talented web designers. It's not. (I consider myself only a marginally passable web designer.) I'm only saying that it's going to take some time to evolve—audiences have a lot to do with this. Altman's work probably wouldn't have been appreciated in the 1920s. For that matter, there are a lot of people in our culture that still don't get abstract expressionism. So it's not really about high/low culture divisions, but about appropriate responses to cultural contexts, and how much pushing of the envelope is available to designers at any point in time in any specific location.
[via Mark Bernstein]
Solution Watch provides brief descriptions and links to 50 ways to take notes . Concentrates on web services that offer different capabilities, useful when you're away from your computer but have access to someone else's net connection.
YouTube has the video from Steve Job's original iPod product launch. He spends a lot of time defining the market Apple saw at the time and why he thought the iPod was going to be a big hit.
A five gigabyte drive that holds, he says, a thousand songs: "your whole music library." Not quite. I can't fit my whole music library on my sixty gig iPod. The video's interesting for it's astute marketing analysis and predictions (in hindsight, at least). I must be an Apple geek, because when Jobs finally unveils the iPod after five minutes of market analysis and tech specs, I got goose bumps (a reaction that I find sort of disconcerting; I hope it was just an unrelated chill or something).
Christopher M. Fairman of the Ohio State Moritz College of Law offers a legal analysis. The piece is both astute and humorous, almost but not quite a parody of a legal paper. An interesting analysis in its own right, but more so because of the recent challenge by four networks to the FCC. (About which here's both a religious news article and a free speech-defending article about the issue. Look at me—I'm fair and balanced. Ironically, Fox is leaning left on this; they're one of the networks challenging the FCC.)
[via Boing Boing]
The Web proves its nostalgia value in this Metafilter post that mines YouTube for video clips of major musicians and groups who performed on Sesame Street: Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, REM, Stevie Wonder, and several more.
I have to go dig out the cassette of alternative groups covering ABC's Schoolhouse Rock now, which Underdog and I supposedly bought for Spork, but listened to a hundred times on our own. (I'm not sure we have a cassette player any more.) Here's the Wikipedia entry for Schoolhouse Rock, which includes the tracklist for the alt-music tribute album, lyrics to all the songs, history, etc.)
(In the Metafilter post, note the two e's in "The Beetles Come to Sesame Street.")
WebCudgel suggests a technique for making sure everyone in your household pitches in: Write up work orders for your family members.
Now, when Toni needs Dan to do something around the house, she just creates a workorder like he normally would for a client and this now sits in his stack of work to do. It makes the request more official in his mind and it actually has more importance in his daily routine.
I think if you have the kind of family who would actually agree to this, you're anal retentive enough that household chores aren't an issue.... Underdog and Spork: Please re-fluff all folded towels and organize by size, with sub-categorization by color.
The NYT has an article on the phenomena of YouTube users posting video clips of themselves watching other YouTube clips. Apparently this is a popular sport that includes multiple levels of regression. A user named Nornna apparently catalyzed the genre [link to YouTube search on "Nornna"—218 hits]
One of the most discussed YouTube clips lately features a young woman who calls herself pizzelle2 watching a video of another YouTube user, who is watching another YouTuber, and so on. The video's recursiveness goes several steps deeper, until it reaches the promised land: the Wausau home of a 24-year-old woman known as Nornna, top right.
Nornna's videos, which number in the hundreds, are hardly salacious. Usually she is doing something completely commonplace: making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, powdering her feet, missing her bus, watching television. Some videos of Nonna, shown above at top, have been viewed more than 50,000 times. As her videos gained an audience, her fans started posting videos of themselves watching Nornna, and the momentum was unstoppable.
John Marshall, in an email to Bruce Sterling, lists a huge number of different terms used to describe blogjects (spime-like objects that generate weblog data automatically--scroll down for the list). Striking for its sheer size, the list shows the linguistic diversity of this still-emergent field. Here's a small sampling from the B - C section of the list:
collaborative designed objects
commodities / comm-oddities
computationally enabled objects
critical designed objects
Marshall's in-progress dissertation project sounds promising:
I'm currently working on a PhD thesis based on the notion that there a hybrid area of practice is emerging around the convergence of sculpture, industrial design and architecture. I am asserting that new sets of creative, cultural and economic conditions have stimulated intriguing levels of inquiry by creative practitioners to work across two or more of these domains and to seek out and use technologies that facilitate a particular blurring between these disciplines.
My hunch is that this convergence (enabled and accelerated by computer visualisation and manufacturing processes) signifies a multidirectional morphing of disciplines and the opportunity to create fundamentally new types of designed object and practice that eclipse conventional tropes.
Brent Simmons, programmer of RSS reader NetNewsWire, has some tips on how to make software feature requests. They're based on his own experiences fielding such requests, but they seem fairly generalizable, rhetorically speaking. Here's one of about seven or eight tips he has:
The “I consider the lack of feature x a bug” ploy
When you’d like to see a feature, you can’t make it happen faster by telling me you consider the lack of a feature a bug. It’s clever, yes, but not the nth time. I really do classify stuff by bugs and features, and a feature really is a feature. (Yes, some features are obvious to-dos, but they’re still features.)
Much more in Simmons' post. It's a basic course in rhetoric.
(I'll plug NetNewsWire here—I've spent 5 - 15 hours a week using it for several years; it's what I use, along with companion package MarsEdit, to skim several hundred RSS feeds a day and to post to Datacloud. I like them both so much I paid the fee to upgrade to the pro versions years ago—$40 total, I think—and haven't regretted it.)
Raph Koster lists some important things that web design could learn from video game design, and vice versa:
Depth. Games often provide something that is simple on the face of it, yet reveals hidden unexpected depths. It’s implicit in the models games provide. Yet often, a given web service (or even a new application or tool) has no hidden depths. It is what it is on the surface. There’s more enthusiasm for continuing to interact with software when it keeps revealing cool stuff to you.
One might comment that website designers work with different goals than game designers—and that's true. But it's not necessarily right. Too frequently, the design of websites falls back on a simplistic, functionalist model that strips away complexity in the name of increased efficiency. And certainly there are many tasks for which the user desperately needs a specific piece of information right now. But often—sometimes at the same time—the user's work is part of a larger narrative, one that websites doesn't attempt to address because it's easier to design for decontextualized efficiency. It's possible (actually, common) in videogame design to include aspects that are highly efficient inside of those narratives: Nearly every popular videogame contains both efficiency and narrative: The Sims, Halo, Katamari Damacy, and others all rely simultaneously on users being able to understand changing game contexts and react quickly within them; often, that's part of the narrative itself.
So what would a videogame-influenced, functionalist website be based on narrative? It's not that complicated. Sites like Travelocity already contain the seeds of implied narratives within them—travel to distant places, various activities while there. Even something as brain-damaged as a Blackboard course implies a narrative of challenge, learning, and community. But, as Koster notes, the mindset between videogame design and web design still have a lot to learn from each other.
[via Raph's Website]
I stopped taking notes about twenty years ago, and now work under the assumption that if something is really important, someone else will eventually remind me. But if I took notes, this would be useful: At Lifehacker, Gina Trapani offers some good, commonsense tips for taking notes at meetings and in classes. Includes standards like the Cornell method, links to PDFs of different note-taking grids, and a strategy for coding different types of information for quick scanning.
Disadventure chronicles the life of a grad student in the form of a text adventure:
You are in the study of the townhouse. A desk has recently been used to write a dissertation. A door leads to a closet. To the east is a litter box which needs to be cleaned. There is a day old brownie on the desk which smells of cat urine. A book is open on the desk.
> read book
Read. There is a book underneath it that concerns a related topic.
> read book
Read. There is a book underneath it that concerns a related topic.
> read book
Read. There is a book underneath it that concerns a related topic.
There are seventy four books on the desk about evolutionary theory. A laptop is open on the desk.
> look laptop
There seems to be a dissertation chapter on the laptop.
[via Boing Boing]
My name is Sasha Cagen. I'm the founding editor of To-Do List: a magazine of meaningful minutiae, and the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. I'm collecting lists for a book of to-do lists to be published by Simon & Schuster in October 2007. ('To-do' is interpreted broadly: the lists could be boys/girls I have kissed, movies to see, lifelong goals, etc.) I would like to invite Boing Boing readers to contribute their real, handwritten lists!
[via Boing Boing]
I need to ask around to see if this happens to anyone else, but if I login to Clarkson's install of Blackboard on my Powerbook on campus, then bring the laptop home and click any Blackboard link in the still-open browser window, I end up at B.B. King's official website [auto-play music warning]. I'm not so cool that B.B. King's website is stalking me, so I'm guessing it's just an easter egg....
I presented a paper this morning on spimes, RFIDS, and texts at MSU's WIDE Conference this morning (I may post the paper—OK, notes—here later if I get around to it). Coincidentally, Techkwondo has some great observations about "Surveillance in the Internet of Things," one of the topics from my talk that generated the most discussion in questions after the talk and in informal conversations during the day.
Log files and Arphids are what we have to worry about, not video surveillance. In the Internet of Things, it's a web hit in an access log that'll send you to the big house.
What strikes me about the spimes, RFIDs, and surveillance is the degree to which we already already participate in all of this, even though not many average people think about it. Web server logs monitor the IP addresses of visitors or provide the search engine query that lead them to a site (and tell the IP address that initiated the search); technorati searches and RSS feeds let others find out when they're being talked about (depressing how little real useful info is on the back of those last two links—but assume, say, Dick Cheney was looking at how many people ended up the ACLU site, or hit Al-Jazeera to triangulate reporting occasionally). It's getting worse, for sure, but we're already halfway there, and only the most committed privacy advocates have noticed.
One other thing that came up in discussion today at the conference was the community-trust level involved. Most people don't want, the Government (with a capital-G) watching what they read or what they buy. But when I asked them if we limited spime-generated information to, say, an academic community, so that the author of an academic article or book could gather information about what portions of their text was most accessed by readers, people were much more inclined to agree. Which makes sense, if you think about it, since academics are fundamentally interested in communicating with each other, recursively, about their shared work. Currently, responding to an academic article requires the reader to follow up with a new article that responds to the previous one, or cites the preceding article. At the very least, readers can send off an email message to the author of the original piece. But given the limited amount of time we all have, initiating those responses often gets left to the side.
Spime-generated data would provide at least one way to make reading a transmissive, rather than simply receptive, act: By spending time on this page of your text, I indicate I thought it was important.
Of course, the infrastructure for this sort of spime activity is still in its infancy. But it's something to think about.
[via some site I was on about six hours ago, but forgot to note—sorry]
McSweeney's (purveyor of all things postmodernly ironic) has a résumé from a nihilist.
This section seems a bit silly. But not like ha-ha silly. I mean ineffectual, obviously.
Nothing like having the server tell you that it understands you perfectly, but, when it all comes down to it, just doesn't like you.
The New York Times launched a redesign of their website. The major changes appear to relate to weblog design influences (which themselves are driven by core issues of news-oriented web design rather than early attempts to replicate print news look and feel).
As MovabeType News points out, the NYT redesign assumes users have wider/larger screens (1024x768 now seems to be the minimum), a much cleaner look, increased use of links in the footer and header, and more. NYT Editor in Chief Leonard Apcar addresses some of the changes in this letter from the editor.
[via Movable Type News]
Wikipedia has a growing entry covering web-based April Fools jokes from this year (hundreds included). My favorite so far is a coordinated hoax among three Gawker Media blogs (Gizmodo, Kotaku, and Lifehacker) each of which has spent the day in an alternate reality fighting off a zombie attack.
Dennis Forbes discusses some of the mathematical possibilities of website domain names--and the increasingly difficult task of finding one that's not already owned by someone else. For example, all 10,000 top family names from the US Census's data are already taken. So are all three-letter combinations.
I'd be remiss if I didn't note that Apple Computer is hitting its big three-oh about now. There's probably not a company that's had more influence on my life.
I started using Macs in late 1984, and despite brief forays into other environments (starting with Commodores in the 1980s, several bouts of Windows in the 1980s and 1990s, and a full year spent on linux as my daily OS in 2001), I keep coming back to the Mac (and forcing my family to as well—we currently have five of them, and that's among three of us). And then there's all that time with an iPod (family count: four) tucked into my pocket or sitting in the seat console of my XTerra, beaming music to my vehicle's radio. I even bought a Newton (the less said about that the better.... I mainly felt like I was contributing to a very visionary line of technology, but was sort of pissed off about paying so much money to be a bleeding-edge beta tester; I only wish they'd followed up on it with a real consumer product).
I wrote my dissertation on a Mac SE/30. Seriously broke our family's budget ($3,000), nine-inch mono screen and all. 16 mhz processor, 1 meg of RAM, and 40 meg hard drive. I spent an additional $300 upgrading the RAM (to something like a whopping 5 megs). I considered it a portable computer, since I could grab it by the handle on the back and haul it from my home office upstairs and down into the kitchen when I needed to make dinner for my family while I was whacking new ideas into my diss. I'm even willing to forgive Apple for the debacle of the first laptop I bought from them, a PowerBook 5300c. (Sent the damned thing back to Apple for warranty repairs ten times in the first year....)
Check this Wired review of Mac (and related) interfaces through the ages [via Erin].
Raph Koster discusses the similarity (categorical sameness, actually) of MUDs and MMORPGs, and on the way has many interesting things to say about textuality as well. For example, the fact that both MUDs and MMORPGs (someone needs to hire a PR firm to come up with catchier acroynms) are basically types of texts:
Text muds, exploiting the power of hypertext, treated each block of text as a discrete location, but did not apply scale to the “room” that was described. In these room-based systems, therefore, you could move a very large “distance” by traversing a link. Many of these links were literally labelled with cardinal map directions (”north”), but some of them were instead “prepositional” such as “under,” “through,” or “into.” Indeed, more adventurous builders sometimes created links that were conceptual, carrying users to “places” that were not real, such as dream states.
One of the difficulties facing fields like composition is the degree to which it's dragging its collective feet about this realization, for the most part: Composition is architecture. Readers and writers are designing textual spaces, and unless we start thinking of texts in spatial ways, we're going to behind the curve.
[via Raph's Website]