August 10, 2009
Crowbars and Teaspoons (or) The Winning Snarkmarkitect
Wow. I want Snarkmarket to be all of these things and more. I've picked the winner, but first, a review:
I think echan's vision probably comes closest to the actual San Francisco apartment of my dreams:
One wall is lined with a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf complete with ladders (a la Mr. Penumbra). There are nice, large tables (the kinds intended for group study in college) at the bottom level.
For the exterior, I imagine the building wrapped in copper (something akin to the DeYoung), which is already developing a nice green patina from the city fog.
And of course Tim is right about this:
There's a library (where you check out your own books), and a letterpress (to print broadsheets and pamphlets and collaborative novels), and people leave messages for each other on the communal computers. Only some of them specify a recipient. Most are for anyone who discovers them.
Now, as a hobbit, I find the idea of an ever-growing thicket very appealing:
The structure of the space is organic; it looks like the wood of a log cabin, but if one looks closely, the "wood" it is actually moving. The entire structure can shift shape and grow with the ideas and creativity born within the space.
And likewise, I love the mythic evocation here—it's almost, you know, The Song of Snarkmarket, by Malory or someone like Malory:
Some say its origins were in an ancient Roma meeting area and others say the great Roman empire. Many insist it began as the lands of a great knight. A story about human contact with other worlds arose -- probably due to the unique capabilities of the citizens... human but linked in a communicative, generative web of visual and textual imagery... a cloud of knowledge and possibility. But, go there yourself. You will see that Snarkmarket clearly exists in ceremonial time.
Then of course, there's the wandering Snarkmarket, by land...
The set up is always the same, three guys with laptops and projectors and a lighting system. They come in, close the blinds and get to work repainting the area with light.
...or by sea...
...a flotilla of hand made boats manned by pirate intellectuals, navigating the magnetic currents of the seven seas by the single rusty needle of a lost and found compass.
And I have to say, I really liked Dan's vision, which encompasses not only Snarkmarket but, er, the entire internet:
R, M, and T spend their days watching stuff fly through the tubes. Once in a while, something strikes their fancy and they grab it (with blacksmith's gloves of course), throw it to the work bench, strap it down (some ideas have some fight in 'em), and make some modifications.
I think of Snarkmarket, the physical space, as a place with a hidden entry--not like an ultra-hip speakeasy, but like a secret room in the library with a too-small door or a curtain that says, "SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY."
And then, a room full of people in gloves, pulling wondrous things out of crates, some armed with crowbars, others with teaspoons. A mechanized activity, like a Fritz Lang dance number. But every few minutes one of the people pulls something really wondrous out of a crate and shouts and holds it up high, and everyone else pauses, looks over for a minute, or crowds around or starts yelling too, and the scene turns into a frenzy of delight. A few minutes later, the machines start up again and everything is back to business as usual, like nothing happened.
Crowbars and teaspoons! Yes! What says "bigger and more humble" better than crowbars and teaspoons?
Nice work, Nina. And thanks for the visions, everyone.
Because actually, you see, I tricked you. These snarkmarkitectural renderings aren't ex post facto descriptions. They're blueprints.
Matt, you get the projectors. Tim, we need a "SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY" sign. Me, I'm going to go find a thicket.
August 7, 2009
BLDGBLOG Book Contest: Snarkmarkitecture
It has been indicated, correctly, that I am in possession of two (2) copies of The BLDGBLOG Book. How this came to pass, only Etaoin Shrdlu knows. But two copies is clearly too many for one man; the double-dose of enthusiasm and imagination threatens to consume me.
Therefore, a contest: SNARKMARKITECTURE.
The premise is simple. Imagine Snarkmarket as a physical space. What is it? Where is it? What does it look like? What does it feel like to walk through or around it?
Leave your pitch in the comments. Focus on creativity and brevity. It can definitely just be a sentence or two—though, by all means, if you want to Etaoin Shrdlu it up, I'm not going to stop you.
The contest ends
Sunday, August 9 Monday, August 10 at midnight EST. (Update: I wanted to accommodate non-weekend-readers.) I'll choose my favorite comment and send its creator a copy of The BLDGBLOG Book. (Be sure to use a real email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you're the winner!)
Snarkmarket co-bloggers are not eligible to win but they are required to enter.
Snarkmarket as a physical space. Go for it.
File under: About Snarkmarket, Cities, Collaborations, Design
August 6, 2009
The Strange, Sweet Tale of Etaoin Shrdlu
This is the best comment ever posted to Snarkmarket. I don't say that lightly, because there have been some great comments. I mean, hello? But, wow: I said hey, we need a story starring Etaoin Shrdlu! and, what seems now like only moments later, Mike Duncan wrote:
The first appearance of Etaoin Shdrlu in the public record is the issuance of a Reader Identification Card in 1976 from the main building of the Library of Congress (now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building). Shrdlu, born in Minsk in 1951 to an American mother studying Eastern European folk dances, began his daily trips to the library on Monday, July 5 -- the day after the Bicentennial celebrations. He attracted the notice of the staff by his strange book requests and by remaining in the famous circular reading room all day for the next several months.
The Etaoin Shrdlu broadsheets have been discovered in their entirety at this point, though collecting the early days' sheets proved difficult and remaining copies were auctioned to collectors for staggering sums. In particular, the July 7 front page incited a bidding war that ended with a then-record $1.1 million purchase price. The art publisher Taschen has released a book of retouched scans of the broadsheets under the title The Fanciful News from Etaoin Shrdlu: The Long Sweetness of the Simultaneity, a phrase that Shrdlu placed under the false masthead of every day's issue. (Incidentally, this phrase appears in John Ashbery's 1981 poem, "Here Everything is Still Floating," a fact that Shrdlu defenders point to as further evidence of his clairvoyance, and Ashbery himself claims is nothing other than a coincidence.)
In his seminal monograph on Shrdlu, Juxtaposition and Fictionalization, Elgin Hacking describes the artist's workday as such: "Creating a third American century on the scale he wanted to required nearly superhuman endurance. After a full day of research into past events' primary sources like any good reporter, Shrdlu would return home and craft the future stories well into the evening. By 10 pm, the false front page would be completely written, and Shrdlu would spend the next hours setting the type to print 50 copies of the broadsheet. These false front pages were delivered in the night to his friend William Bethell at the Washington Post manufacturing plant, where one stack of the newspapers would be stripped of their outer page and have the Shrdlu page added before delivery to a random newsstand... One can only imagine the surprise of the sanitation worker or aide or teacher who picked up the paper to find a well-researched account of the latest James gang robbery, a stub about Ronald Reagan's marriage effect on his Presidency, and the high-stakes negotiations for the 2017 annexation of Vancouver... As word slowly spread of the false newspapers, like-minded people saw them as a major artistic statement about the illusive nature of time and the equality between fully imagined events and actual events that only are encountered through the written recountings of strangers."
Shrdlu continued his project through the end of 1976, quitting at the end of the year when only a handful of people knew of it. The Post itself was the first to report on the project in 1977, as it was their complaint department that first had an idea that fictional Washington Posts were being manufactured. The focus of the first news story was on the oddity of his project, though over the next years people began to obsess over his many correct predictions (the Stockholm air disaster, the mode and month of Elvis Presley's death, the election of Reagan, many of the details of the Iranian hostage crisis, and on and on).
Shrdlu, who is now considered a pioneer in public art, was seen by many a modern Nostradamus and harassed as such. He later disowned his project as 'the meanderings of a bored and self-important young man,' and died on August 6, 2009.
File under: About Snarkmarket, Books, Writing & Such
July 13, 2009
Giving Things Away Is A New Liberal Art
The title is half a joke, but half true. Part of navigating the logic, grammar, and rhetoric of this century of scarcity and abundance is going to involve not just working and understanding flows of goods and money, growing and eating things, understanding marketing or images, or managing your attention and identity (or identities), but also trying to figure out what you give away and what you charge for, what you take and what you pay for, and why and how you do all of these things.
Many, many people have been at least as interested in how and why we printed only 200 copies of New Liberal Arts and then gave digital copies away as they've been interested in any or all of the entries. And you know what? I'm kind of more interested in that too -- at least for the past thirty minutes or so.
Kevin Kelly's formulation of what we did is worth repeating: "The scarce limited edition of the physical subsidizes the distribution of the unlimited free intangible." We knew that we wanted to make an honest-to-goodness well-made book*, AND that we wanted everything to be freely available on the web. I don't think there was ever a conversation about doing it any other way.
But I think there's a difference between just selling a physical thing and giving it away for free. One of the things that I think was clever was the "ransom" model that Robin came up with, whereby the free copies were only released after the print run was sold. I think it was the motive of patronage, the aligning of the interests of the purchasers with the freeriders, that made it work.
(Aside: When I was a kid, I remember how the Detroit Lions' football games on TV used to be blacked-out in Detroit whenever the Silverdome didn't sell out. Since the Lions stunk, this happened a lot, and CBS wouldn't even show you another football game, you'd just be stuck watching reruns or infomercials instead of football, which made you hate the Lions even more.)
Janneke Adema keys in on this:
Actually this is just a variant of the delayed Open Access model, in which after a certain embargo time the books or journals are made Open Access. What I like however about the example Kelly mentions of the New Liberal Arts book, a Snarkmarket/Revelator Press collaboration, is how they combine this delayed Open Access model with a community support or maecenas model.
In another, earlier entry, she elaborates:
It looks like we might be slowly returning to the old Maecenas system, or Maecenate, when it comes to culture, flourishing as it did in the old Rome of Virgil and Horace, and still visible today in many a countries’ subsidy system, stimulating (historically) mostly the so called ‘high arts’ which in some cases and some countries have known some kind of patronage or state subsidy for ages (the Dutch system is a good example in this respect).
What seems clear however is that this new digital Maecenic culture will be quite different in many respects from so called subsidy systems. It will be way more ‘democratic’ for one, no longer favoring art picked out by committees of wise experts but directly benefiting those chosen by the public to merit their money. It will also not be a ‘traditional’ Maecenic culture in which a few rich people out of philanthropy and the goodness of their hearth give their money to the arts or the projects they endorse. This new Maecenic culture will probably be upheld by large communities of people of all income classes, all offering a little money to support their favorite band, artist or cultural entrepreneur (think of those small labels again).
The new digital Macenate! Just typing it gives me shivers of delight.
Until I read Adema's post, though, the way I'd been thinking about it was less classical, and maybe less flattering. I was thinking about Polish farmers in Prussia.
Okay, I'll explain. Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism begins with a weird and probably a little racist anecdote about Catholic farmers in the Eastern province of Germany. The farmers, and young people from the farms who'd emigrated to the cities, didn't seem to respond to economic incentives. They were traditionalists: if you showed them a new way to farm that yielded more crops, unless the difference was overwhelming, they didn't care; they'd just do it the way they always did it. If you paid them more for their crops to try to get them to produce more, they'd work less, because they could live off of the same amount of money they'd always had.
Actually Weber very smartly avoided the racist conclusion - that the Polish farmers were congenitally lazy -- that most of the Prussian farmowners who employed these Polish workers had made. Instead, he concluded that to work your butt off to make more money than you could most likely spend was actually a very strange way to live - that it wasn't, as some of the early economists and social engineers thought, a natural and universal response to maximize utility, but a historically contingent phenomenon.
He spends the rest of his startlingly brilliant book trying to trace the conditions under which that phenomenon could have emerged based on the startling economic success made by Protestant sects in Western Europe and the United States, all of which hinged on new notions of work and personal austerity that turned out to be, quite accidentally, a primary engine in the development of modern capitalism as it emerged in the West.
So, where am I going with this?
Well, the NLA model is like a color negative of the noncapitalist peasant. I say a color negative because the economic conditions have actually reversed. The peasant could earn more, but he didn't really have any place to put it. Once his physical needs were met, he had no reason to keep working. He would curtail the potential abundance of nature when the scarce physical resources were purchased.
What can do is the opposite - to unlock the potential abundance of the artificial once the scarce physical resources have been paid for. Instead of stopping work - stopping the flow of goods and closing the circuit of circulation - this opens it up. This is only natural.... Read more ....
File under: About Snarkmarket, New Liberal Arts, Self-Disclosure, Snarkonomics
June 24, 2009
3000th post! This demands a party.
Just another seven light years to go!
January 3, 2009
Best Threads of 2008, Pts. 1 and 2
I just read Kottke's self-assessment of his best posts/threads from 2008. One in particular -- a loooong comment thread on the intentional mispronunciation of words -- was a surprise to me, since I don't usually read comments on JK's blog (often 'cause he doesn't enable 'em).
But! This reminded me that Snarkmarket has probably got thousands of readers who hardly ever look at the comment threads after they digest the nice juicy post or link elsewhere. So I thought, as Snarkmarket's long-time commenter-in-chief, I would put together Snarkmarket's Best Threads of 2008.... Read more ....
January 1, 2009
Wisdom Gleaned In San Francisco
All of these insights have their deep and shallow versions.
- Practical knowledge is impossible without knowing what information to discard.
- Vapor in the atmosphere makes light visible.
- Every cuisine is the triumph of centuries of vernacular chemistry.
- The idea of the future is a lens that brings spaces closer together.
- All of our neighborhoods hold familiar secrets, depths we've never plumbed.
- Consider your arguments and carefully circumscribe your conclusion. Then exceed those limits by at least twenty percent.
- Aesthetically, we respond to nuanced humanity and inhuman purity, the shaving mirror and the telescope, the contingency of a moment and the point of view of the eternal universe. Everything else rings false.
- An unheralded virtue: vigilance against an urge for thrift, misplaced.
- Any task of memory or thought benefits from an association (even an artificial one) with vision.
- Maps fool us into believing that cities exist in two dimensions, when they actually persist in (at least) four.
- Food, Books, Weather, Conversation -- excellence in these four things is an apologia for an unhappy memory or an indifferent universe.
November 3, 2008
A Concise History of the Future
On the occasion of Snarkmarket's fifth year
On November 3, 2003, Robin posted Snarkmarket's first post. Two-thousand, two-hundred and seven posts later (excluding the 103 unpublished drafts), here we are.
We intend to mark the occasion by finally migrating this blog from a dusty old Movable Type installation to a sleek new Wordpress install, so pardon our dust over the next couple of weeks as we make that transition. And since it's always wise to do a CMS transition and redesign at the same time (ha), we'd welcome your feedback on our imminent new look as well.
But most importantly, we want to extend a warm welcome and happiest of birthday wishes to a third Snarkmaster, for whom this is less a promotion than merely an official acknowledgment of his contributions: Mr. Timothy Carmody.
Lightly-edited sentimental ruminations posted over Google Chat (concerning Snarkmarket, blogging, time, destiny and all that) can be found in the extended entry.
Thank you again for reading, and most of all, for sharing your thoughts. To the next five years, and beyond.... Read more ....
July 12, 2008
I am in Minneapolis, in Matt's apartment. We are listening to Bon Iver. And talking about you.
Photographic evidence of Snarkfestival 2008 to follow.
November 12, 2007
Never done this before on this blog: Any readers/pals in London? I'll be there Thursday through Sunday. Drop me a line (robin at snarkmarket) or leave a comment.
September 22, 2007
November 3, 2006
Happy Birthday, Snarkmarket
Snarkmarket turns three today. In that time, we've racked up 1,608 entries and 2,419 comments from a mind-warping passel of the best commenters in the world. We've got 357 subscribers to our feed on Feedburner, and we utter a daily hymn of praise to each of them.
My most fervent hope is that one day, this blog leads these people to Andrew Adamson.
To extend what I think is a fun tradition, here are the titles of the draft entries left incomplete over the last year ...... Read more ....
Experiencing Technical Difficulties
Snarkmarket has been kinda busted for the last few days, so if you tried to post a comment, there's a good chance it flaked on you with one of those awesome 500 INTERNAL SERVER GIVE UP FOOLISH HUMAN errors. Our deepest apologies: It's some sort of weird thing with comment spam and runaway processes and... I don't know... dark matter.
Should be fixable with the application of quality troubleshooting time over the weekend. Until then... why not browse the archives with the slick new experimental search box? Check it out, over to the right -- click 'Search' to reveal.
October 18, 2006
Snarkmarket Feed Report
In an effort to better understand Snarkmarket's audience... or something... I have been trying to look at the Feedburner stats more often. They are often surprising. Top-clicked items over the past seven days (remember, this is from the feed only, not from raw website use):
- Secrets Buried Deep in Time -- 52 clicks
- How Sesame Street Changed the World -- 54
- Insurance and Opportunity -- 54 (nerds!)
- Post-Traumatic Architecture -- 59 (how can you not click on 'earthquake baroque'??)
And, proving at least one blogger here knows what he's doing:
- Rabbit -- 117
July 8, 2006
Movable Type Hacking
I seem to have finally bested the quirks introduced by the Five Words category -- no dates appearing above entries on certain days, an inaccurate entry count on the home page, etc. -- using a sweet little heretofore-undiscovered MT plugin called CatEntries.
June 7, 2006
If Your Comments Don't Auto-Publish ....
... this might be a reason. We've set up Snarkmarket so comments on posts older than 5 days ago automatically head to moderation before they're published. This has cut waaaay back on the amount of spam that's published (unpublishing spam after it already goes through is a pain, requiring copious rebuilding of templates). I just junked about 500 messages on old posts, 99.5% of which were spam. Four of those comments, however, were legit, and I'm calling 'em out here, 'cause Recent Holla won't get 'em.
May 17, 2006
The dates where we only post our Five Words links and no other entries show up badly on the front page. We are aware of this problem and
shall attempt to remedy it soon have fixed it. Bam!
November 3, 2005
730 Days Later
Two interesting things:
One: On precisely this day in 2003, I wrote Snarkmarket's very first post. In it, I noted Snarkmarket's origins (as with many smart things, it began with Matt) and promised talk of politics, movies, video games, journalism, and miscellany. No warning was given that the Briefly Noted box would one day reign supreme.
Two: This post -- this one right here -- is number 1,000!
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??
To commemorate both milestones, we are rolling out a few new features, all designed to highlight the most transcendently awesome part of Snarkmarket: the comments.
First: Matt, whose CSS skills have somehow become Batman-like over the past two years, has invented a new style for comments on Briefly Noted entries. We were happy with the comment boxes that appear alongside normal entries, and wanted to make Briefly Noted entries sort've 'light up' in their own way when someone chimes in. You'll see it below if you scroll down a bit; isn't that cool?
Second: I, whose RSS skills are the result of typing 'RSS' into Google just now, have whipped up a comments feed, so you can keep tabs on the Snark-conversation in the feedreader of your choice. It doesn't exactly work the way I want it to yet, but it's functional, so go ahead and subscribe and I'll keep tweaking it.
Still to come: Revamped Snarkmarks. Plus a secret project.
You know, one of the things that led me into the world-o'-blogs in the first place was the sharp disappointment I felt whenever I'd write a column back in college or sometimes even a feature story at Poynter and not hear a peep from the audience. 'The audience.' Exactly.
In contrast, the conversation here at Snarkmarket has exceeded any expectation I ever had for it. It is truly a delight to click my little bookmark every morning and see what's new and who's saying what. So thanks, once again, for hanging out with us here.
Now, after the break -- the headlines of some of the many draft posts we've abandoned unfinished on the server over the past two years!... Read more ....
September 12, 2005
In the New Version, Entries Write Themselves
We started Snarkmarket in November 2003. 891 entries, 1425 comments, and about seven billion spam attacks later, it's time to upgrade to the new version of Movable Type. If anything looks weird or doesn't work, that's why. See you in a bit!
Update: Okay, let us know if anything's busted. Other than the "remember me" field on the comments form. Its busted-ness exists in twelve dimensions, five of space and seven of time, and defies unraveling.
August 19, 2005
BTW, Robin and I have been outsourcing the content of this blog. Hope you enjoy.
April 20, 2005
The Snarkmarket Readability Scale
According to the JuicyStudio readability calculator, you need 5.65 years of schooling to understand the posts on Snarkmarket. Our "Gunning Fog Index" score is a respectable 8.99, which puts us right smack at the reading level of most popular novels.
The other blog I write for has a GF Index of 7.44, slightly below Reader's Digest. (Robin's clearly wrecking the curve -- it broke when I tried to feed it his other blog.) My senior college thesis has a GF Index of 15.47, at the lower range of the academic papers scale.
Via Kevin Drum.
February 17, 2005
Wondering where I've been for the past two weeks? (Feel free to not answer that.) I haven't abandoned Snarkmarket; just the opposite, in fact -- I've been hard at work, in consultation with Robin, on a new design for the site.
We've tried to make a page that looks distinct, but respects its roots. We've been brainstorming ways to bring more attention to the ever-excellent discussion, so you'll see some experiments in that direction in the new design. We wanted to separate some of our longer, more thoughtful discursions from our quicker pass-alongs, so we've given those shorter items their own look.
And there isn't enough paisley on the Web.
But before we make the design official, we want to take some time with it, use it for a while and see what we like and don't like, and most of all, solicit your feedback on what works and what needs work in the new layout.
We have two very similar versions of the page available for testing. When you first see the page, it will look totally janky. Click on one of the two links at the bottom of the black sidebar at right -- either "change to ornate layout" or "change to simple layout" -- and it will pull in one of two stylesheets.
We would love it if people would try out each one for a few days and give us their thoughts. If you bookmark the redesigned page, it should store a cookie remembering which stylesheet you viewed last time, so you don't always have to pick one.
With your help, we'll solidify a final layout over the next couple weeks, change over the individual pages, and
take over the world continue to dish out those actually-not-that-snarky ditherings we've been dishing for a year and change.
Thanks, sports fans.
January 10, 2005
A Note to Newsreaders
Note to RSS users: I just switched Snarkmarket's syndication feeds to go through Feedburner. I think, as a result, all of the Snarkposts will suddenly be duplicated. Sorry about that.
Using Feedburner, we'll be able to get a better sense of how many people read this site. Like, you know, is it just two million, or more like four million? What's that you say? Twelve?
Drop me a line if anything doesn't work correctly -- robin at snarkmarket.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about... hey, look, a baby hippo!
July 21, 2004
Deep Summer Doldrums
Holy crud! Where did Snarkmarket go??
Don't worry, Snarketeers. We're still here. Coming soon: David Brooks, "Grand Strategy," and the essence of education.
July 6, 2004
Movin' On Up
You may not notice the improvements, but we've forgone posting the last few days to make the site a happier browsing experience for all. Firefox users will be stunned by the miraculous appearance of a logo at the upper left, while IE users can bask in their newfound ability to select text (try it, it's fun!). Users of Netscape 4, however, which is no longer considered a "browser" under W3C standards, continue to suffer in the pit of despair.
You can now also search the site from the Snarkives.
Don't stay up too late playing with the site, kids.
May 27, 2004
The Future Waits For No Blog
I know what you're thinking: "This is supposed to be a blog? It hasn't been updated since July 1997!"
Well, that's true.
But Matt and I have been busy plotting the very future of media itself!
So cut the Snarkmarketers some slack, huh?
November 3, 2003
Two months ago, Matt appeared before me and said: "Let's start a blog."
So, finally, here it is: Snarkmarket.
On Snarkmarket, we define snark in the broadest possible terms. Because really, why pigeonhole yourself from the beginning? That's what happens when you call your blog ForeignPolicyPost.com or AllAboutEggplants.org. Well, we're not falling for it. We're beating that rap from the beginning, man. Snarkmarket is anythingmarket!
But here's what you can expect for starters:
Original reporting, not just links.(Still working on this one)
- Perspectives on the 2004 election.
- Reviews of movies and video games.
- Ideas about journalism.
- A gallimaufry of other things.
More info on Robin here.
Matt is apparently not cool enough to have a web site.