February 27, 2007
65,536 Bytes of Madness
New blog entry up over at Current with a video that's worth watching -- it's one of these demoscene videos generated by a teeny-tiny computer program, just 64K big. And it melts your face.
February 26, 2007
Super awesome new site from the makers of the Democracy Player. What's interesting is that all of this information was already available online -- it was just obfuscated. Eet eez ze power of design...
February 25, 2007
The Restaurant Game
Another awesome idea passed along by Grand Text Auto: The MIT Media Lab has created a lightweight multiplayer restaurant simulation. You can play as a waitron or as a diner, and all your interactions with other players will be recorded and used to train an AI system. The resulting AI will power a single-player game, to be released next year.
February 24, 2007
Flash-Based Epidemiologic Strategy Game
My high score in Virus 2 is 43441. I got down to 25 attempts, and my fastest growth time was 23.
I think I'd wager that the number of games invented in the last 10 years and spread around the world outweighs the number invented in the last 10,000.
The Magician Turned the Whale Into a Flower
Yeondoo Jung has created a gallery containing drawings by children reimagined as photographs. My favorite thing about it is seeing how literally he translates some portions of the images (e.g. the triangular pigtail in "Television was so funny"). Divining the artistic intents of a 4-year-old = solid gold.
The Wisdom... or Something... of Crowds
An interesting thing happened at Jim Romenesko's Starbucks Gossip site recently: Somebody slipped Romenesko what appeared to be an internal email from Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. Romenesko posted it, with the caveat: I have no idea if this is real.
Soon after, its legitimacy was confirmed, and now it's been covered by the big guys. (It's actually a pretty interesting story -- Schultz is warning that Starbucks has lost its way.)
But before that happened, Starbucks Gossip readers were hashing out the likely legitimacy of the email on their own. If you read some of the long comment thread, you get an awfully good snapshot of web-ified group discussion today: smart; informed (most of the commenters are Starbucks baristas!); opinionated; and, er, often wrong.
No specific conclusions from me (maybe you have some?) but I just thought it was a data point interesting enough to share.
February 23, 2007
Fields of Vision
What would you display in your multi-screen war room data hub thing?
(P.S. Does Pruned find great images or what?)
February 22, 2007
Free Multimillion-Dollar Startup Idea of the Day
A mashup that allows users to create Pop-Up Videos out of YouTube videos. You'd get acquired by Google for $25MM, easy. And it would be soooooo hott.
February 21, 2007
Random Race-Related Reflections
The "Society/Culture" category on Snarkmarket is getting ridiculous.
1) This one really isn't about race, per se, but it's about Barack Obama, for whom race will be the designated press narrative pretty much through the duration of the 2008 election. And it's less a reflection than a question: I know Timothy Noah's been doing the Obama Messiah Watch, tracking Obama hype through the pressosphere, but is anyone doing an Obama backlash watch? I feel like every campaign reporter in America has gotta want to be the author of the Obama Controversy. Someone with a sharper attention span than me should totally be keeping track of the attempts. Wonkette, meanwhile, has a list of valid reasons for a Baracklash.
2) I'm slowly catching up on the first season of the Boondocks, and it's super-smart. Much higher and more consistent quality than the strip. The cast of characters is just brilliant -- unconventional configurations of familiar racial archetypes. And I love the texture of the show, like the recurrent 'Gangstalicious' single "Thuggin' Luv" you hear from episode to episode. Favorite moments?
- The alternate-history Martin Luther King, Jr., episode, where he survives his assassination and awakes from a 40-year coma to witness 9/11. When his response includes an appeal to non-violence, civic leaders immediately distance themselves from the legend, saying, "That's not the Martin Luther King, Jr., I know!"
- The courtroom party at the end of the R. Kelly episode.
- The news footage of the Gangstalicious fight at the Grammys.
PR via YouTube
Philosophers and Webcams
Have you seen BloggingHeads.tv? It's a vlog show that's sort of defiantly lo-fi, and spectacularly weird and cerebral -- but often too inside-baseball for me. I really enjoyed bits of two recent episodes, though: Robert Wright's chat with Francis Fukuyama (Francis Fukuyama!) and with Joshua Cohen. Fukuyama you know; Cohen is a prof at Stanford and editor of the awesome Boston Review.
P.S. Did you know Fukuyama has a blog? I love 2007.
February 19, 2007
Riffing on an Arthur C. Clarke idea about the unpredictability of science, Kevin Kelly is musing about expected and unexpected inventions (via Infocult). Clarke actually created a chart of inventions or discoveries most scientists could have foreseen before they came about (e.g. automobiles, flying machines, telephones), and ones they couldn't have predicted (e.g. sound recording, relativity, atomic clocks). Kelly does the same thing, putting organ transplants, the cell phone, and the test tube baby in the realm of the expected, and DNA fingerprinting, radar, and artificial sweeteners in the unexpected camp.
The criterion, Kelly explains, is the "perplex the ancient" test. If Da Vinci were brought back to life, would he be utterly mystified by the technology, or would he grasp the concepts behind it?
For instance, genetically modified crops would surprise no one, because the technique is simply breeding by another means. On the other hand, the underlying concepts of DNA fingerprinting would be mysterious, magical, problematic, and take great lengths to explain. The World Wide Web is the long sought after universal library and answer machine. But virtual reality doesn’t have a good analogy.This got me wondering -- what if you tried a perplex-the-ancient test with things outside of technology? Say cultural developments, for example. What in contemporary culture that might astound the savviest anthropologists of old? Would the end of privacy (great article, btw) shock Mr. de Tocqueville? Would Oscar Wilde have foreseen Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?
File under: Society/Culture, Technosnark
February 16, 2007
This is supposedly a list of the ten biggest databases in the world. But I am suspicious: I really feel like the U.S. federal government ought to rate more of those top spots. What about Social Security? Or some sort of crazy Medicare database?
Also, could YouTube's database really be larger than, say, Visa's?
Anyway, I'm still linking to it just because I love the idea of Really Huge Databases. Any other contenders you can think of?
February 14, 2007
There's Even a Cameo from the Commodore 64
This video comes with a big heap of JobBiasTM but it really made me laugh. The dark ballad of the Finder might be the best part.
Digg it if you're the sort of person who does that.
February 13, 2007
Where's the Podcast?
I'm seriously appreciating the musical tastes of CitizenFork.com. Their weekly playlists are more delicious than Multigrain Cheerios.
February 12, 2007
Why Was I Not Told of These Sooner?
Game Tunnel lists the top ten indie games of 2006. I had not heard of a single one... and they all look great!
Especially "Kudos"... holy moley, seriously?
Kudos is a turn based strategy game where you control someone's life. You decide where they work, who they hang out with, and what they do to relax. Do you want to be an alcoholic saxophone playing taxi driver? or maybe a reclusive but brilliant astrophysicist. Kudos is not about flashy graphics or high polygon counts. Kudos is about exploring areas of gameplay you haven't seen in mainstream games. Hopefully, Kudos is pretty original.
I am going to try this out; I'll let you know how it goes.
February 9, 2007
The News from 2027
Best. Headline. Ever:
(Also note that this story features the phrase "chomping snow and pooping blocks.")
February 8, 2007
Jonathan Lethem has plagiarized together an entrancing paean to intellectual theft:
Artists, or their heirs, who fall into the trap of attacking the collagists and satirists and digital samplers of their work are attacking the next generation of creators for the crime of being influenced, for the crime of responding with the same mixture of intoxication, resentment, lust, and glee that characterizes all artistic successors. By doing so they make the world smaller, betraying what seems to me the primary motivation for participating in the world of culture in the first place: to make the world larger.You might not agree with all of it, but boy howdy, is it a rollicking great read. Definitely do not miss the footnotes:
The effort of preserving another's distinctive phrases as I worked on this essay was sometimes beyond my capacities; this form of plagiarism was oddly hard work.
The Tale of Teddy Ruxpin 2.0
But in the meantime, while we thought about what sort of things the Home Server might do, I came up with the (again, patented, but the patent dropped) idea of an internet-connected teddy bear that contacts a web site to tell stories. People would tell stories to the web site, and in return for these stories, they would be paid per listener. Bear purchasers would pay a monthly subscription fee. The child would get access to every single story ever told via the breadth of the lazyweb, and the parents could configure the bear to tell only certain kinds of stories (e.g. nonviolent, child age 4-6, Jewish, with a moral message, etc. Stories would be reviewed and tagged.)Excerpted from one of my favorite MetaTalk posts of all time. (Waxtastic.)
February 7, 2007
Kids These Days Have It So Good
Aaand to be 10 again.
Come on, seriously, that car over there gives you spy vision.
Now Let's Turn to Someone Much Younger
Steve Outing asked me about the future of news for a column in Editor and Publisher. Here's what I said:
"I think 'news' just becomes a less distinct category. You don't sit down with a newspaper, or even a news website, or even a super wireless e-paper device, for 10 minutes in the morning to very formally 'get your news.' Rather, you get all sorts of news and information -- from the personal to the professional to the political -- throughout the day, in little bits and bursts, via many different media. With any luck, in 5-10 years the word 'news' will be sort of confusing: Don't you just mean 'life'?"
Honestly though, the idea that I'm most excited about...
Sloan elaborates: "A key point is that news will continue to be delivered on many media -- websites, blogs, TV, phones, pamphlet-y things, those little java jackets they have at coffee shops, whatever. It's not about everything going digital and never seeing a molecule of real matter again. But it IS about the death of the monolithic news experience."
...is the Starbucks News Service!
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not!
February 6, 2007
Search Is a Folksonomy
This is a notion that popped into my head during a discussion with our search vendor today: online search is a folksonomy. Every search a user performs could be seen as a tag she's applying to the result she ultimately clicks on. Over time, you could imagine a page featuring a tag cloud formed of all the searches that got people to that page.
Maybe that's an insight obvious to everyone but me, but it felt novel. It seems we always talk about how tags could help search (hand in hand with the discussion of how no one actually uses/understands tagging, which may not be so true); why don't we talk more about how perhaps the most common activity performed on the Internet is actually a form of tagging?
Bonus: The tag cloud you'd see if we did this for all pages on Snarkmarket would feature "snarkmarket" in giant letters, and then the following phrases, getting progressively smaller: breck girl, media galaxy, googlezon, listenings, robin+sloan, matt thompson, shipbreakers, homeless by choice, matt+thompson, by your command, giantess, media+galaxy, chicken porn, breck+girl, robin+sloan+and+matt+thompson, eminence gris, snarkmarket "this i believe", mothball fleet, "by your command".
And that would be my favorite tag cloud ever.
February 5, 2007
Long Live Looping
Thank You, The Man
Old Man Minsky
[Your new book] "The Emotion Machine" reads like a book about understanding the human mind, but isn't your real intent to fabricate it?
The book is actually a plan for how to build a machine. I'd like to be able to hire a team of programmers to create the Emotion Machine architecture that's described in the book -- a machine that can switch between all the different kinds of thinking I discuss. Nobody's ever built a system that either has or acquires knowledge about thinking itself, so that it can get better at problem solving over time. If I could get five good programmers, I think I could build it in three to five years.
From a little later on:
Has science fiction influenced your work?
It's about the only thing I read. General fiction is pretty much about ways that people get into problems and screw their lives up. Science fiction is about everything else.
Also, Minsky says wistfully of the old Bell Labs: "I worked there one summer, and they said they wouldn't work on anything that would take less than 40 years to execute."
February 3, 2007
I Hope You Can Read Fast
Another cool video: This one is a new Web 2.0 primer.
Videos like this -- that use moving images to explain abstract concepts instead of concrete realities -- are actually pretty rare. It's hard for me to tell if this one is truly successful, because I'm already familiar with this particular abstract concept, but it sure seems like it.
And regardless, the visual device -- narration in query strings and source code -- is ridiculously brilliant.
February 2, 2007
It's Pronounced Dee-Jay Wee-Jay
Oh awesome: DJ WiiJ is the art of the djing with the wiimote.
The Climate Cavalry
Listen, I know I'm biased, but this is so awesome: Al Gore has trained an army of Inconvenient Truth presenters. I love it because it's so old-school... kind of like a distributed Chautauqua or something.
Google's Master Plan
Finally, GMail for Everything!
I've been waiting for this for months, ever since I first heard Google was testing out the ability for users to manage external email accounts through Gmail. Every few weeks, I'd peek back into my settings and see if I'd been added to the group of users this feature had been rolled out to. And at last, the moment is here.
I love Google the way Winston loves Big Brother.
February 1, 2007
Danny Boyle's New Flick
(Man, I am loving the sudden resurgence of post- or near-apocalyptic cinema!)