The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Following Up
 / 

This Ask MetaFilter post from two years ago is like a short story unfolding in real time. I found the whole thing oddly moving — the initial account of what happened, the swelling chorus of encouragement from other users (each ostensibly nursing a silent grief of her own), and the resolution. For me, it echoed again this passage from Roth. Getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It

Comments

Wii Ninja
 / 

Over the past year, I have successfully acquired five Wiis at retail price; I felt this was notable enough for a blog post.

Wii #1: Purchased 11/06, for a vita.mn contest. Camped out in front of a Target in beautiful Red Wing, MN, at 4:45 a.m., behind Jan, Peter, Elaine, Philip and Sam, in front of a group of about 50. When we finally got the golden tickets (to come back and get a Wii), me and four of the others went to Denny’s while we waited for the store to open.

Wiis #2 & 3: Got a call one random Sunday afternoon in August from my coworker’s boyfriend, who saw some Wiis sitting on a shelf at Target. Drove to Target, picked up one for me and one for my nephews/niece.

Wiis #4 & 5: Purchased from Amazon mere seconds after receiving text messages from WiiAlerts.com. One is for a vita.mn contest, the other is for a friend’s wife to give to a friend for Christmas. Big ups to WiiAlerts; it totally works.

3 comments

Let's Take a Course
 / 

Whoah — who wants to go through a Yale course together? They’re super well-organized and -presented — better than MIT’s OpenCourseWare, although there are far, far fewer Yale courses.

I think this one looks particularly compelling (and non-generic), but this one seems like it could be pretty mind-expanding as well.

Any interest? It could be like an extended, intermittent Snarkseminar…

15 comments

Phonergeist?
 / 

Needed: a term for when your phone makes calls to random entries in my address book on its own volition, usually as a byproduct of unintentional button-mashing. Somehow, my phone intuits the romance/dating-related entries and goes straight for them. It’s particularly enamored of one of my exes, which can be awkward. But not as awkward as the time it sent a discouraged suitor of mine five copies of a text message to a friend describing what I was going to wear that night.

I understand that keyboard lock (and probably looser jeans) would mostly solve this problem. But until I decide whether those are sacrifices I’m willing to make, I need something to describe this phenomenon. Ghost-dialing?

5 comments

The Standing Stone
 / 

Thanks to “The Year in Ideas,” I now want a Gomboc. Only they cost 1,001

Comments

"The iPod Moment"
 / 

34719.jpg

The Kindle/iPod comparison keeps coming up, usually in service of the point, “Amazon, don’t flatter yourself.” Which I think is fair. But in reading all this talk about the “iPod moment” for books, I feel as though I have a completely different notion of what that moment meant for music. Sure, on the face of it, Apple’s innovation was a tiny-but-capacious music player that allowed us to carry our music library everywhere we wanted. But wasn’t the deeper surprise/lesson of the iPod that Apple had essentially invented a need where none had formerly existed?

When I remember 2001, I remember Apple launching a device that garnered some admiration for its technical savvy, but whose price and function drew something of a raised eyebrow from critics. “‘Breakthrough digital device’ might be pushing it,” wrote David Pogue, in his review of the first iPod. (“Apple, don’t flatter yourself.”) Meanwhile, the first New York Times mention of the device was hardly breathless. The article quoted three people. The first was a Gartner analyst, who said, “It’s a nice feature for Macintosh users … but to the rest of the Windows world, it doesn’t make any difference.” The second was Steve Jobs, who was paraphrased as “disputing the concern that the market was limited, and said the company might have trouble meeting holiday demand. He predicted that the improvement in technology he said the iPod represented would inspire consumers to buy Macintosh computers so they could use an iPod.” The RIAA declined to comment, and another analyst simply said, ”This raises the bar.” The one actual description of the iPod in the article called it a “hybrid of existing products.” The article included an estimate that the size of the market for all digital music devices would be 18 million units by 2005.

I remember this muted enthusiasm pretty clearly because I was one of the skeptics. What could be so impressive about a portable music player? The Walkman’s been around almost as long as I have. Storage size? Honestly? What need could I possibly ever have to carry my whole music library around with me? How much music can I lsten to at one time?

32 million iPods were sold in 2005. That’s not even counting other digital music devices. This year, the 100-millionth iPod was sold. Clearly there was a market need here for a vast mobile music library that most of us were blind to in 2001.

I now have three iPods.

When folks talk about Kindle doing (or not doing) for books what the iPod did for music, they usually seem to mean creating a tiny-but-capacious e-book reader that allows us to carry our library everywhere we want. But I don’t think Bezos et al. are aiming at that at all. I suspect they’re trying to create something we didn’t know we needed. A leap of imagination so bold, it could only seem obvious in hindsight. Jury’s still out on whether or not they succeeded.* But I’m wonderfully excited by the possibility that I could one day encounter something that just transforms my notion of what a book can be.

* Personally, I felt for the Kindle the murmur of a tug I hadn’t yet felt for any other digital reading devices, although not strong enough to win me over.

9 comments

Tonight the Streets Are Ours
 / 

Just returned from a concert I’ve been on tiptoes for all week: Richard Hawley, at one of Minneapolis’ most intimate, acoustically divine little bars. And it was just perfect. The impeccable, impossible clarity of Hawley’s baritone surrounded everything in the room. And each of his songs is a gem. The tiny crowd lapped up every moment of the performance. To the SF folks, he’s coming your way in five days. Highly recommended for a chill night out.

One comment

While I've Been Out …
 / 

My slightly edited Cool Tools submission:

Reader-diners know the pain of trying to balance a thick book and a meal without losing your page or spilling food. As a regular lunchtime reader, I went searching online for a tool that would allow for comfortable hands-free reading — and eureka! Cleverly designed, this diminutive device is replete with intelligent features: a little pull-out stand supports the book, two sturdy clips hold the pages in place, a pair of pull-out legs holds the book upright on a table. Best of all, spring-loaded page holders on either end make for simple page-turning without the need for repositioning the text; you just grip both holders with one hand and squeeze. I’ve used the BookGem with a variety of types of books — everything from thick hardcovers to slim-ish paperbacks — and it’s adapted marvelously. And because it folds down to a pocket-size rectangle, I can easily tuck it in with my book wherever I go.

One note: the most ingenious design feature is not the spring-loaded page clips, it’s that each of these clips features a little plastic nubbin, behind which you can slip about 10 or 15 pages for easy turning. Am I this guy yet?

2 comments

'When Someone Beeps You, You Know the Reason'
 / 

The new issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication has a terrific paper on the rules of ‘beeping’. That’s when somebody calls your mobile phone, lets it rings once, and hangs up. It’s a totally established mode of communication in places where airtime is still precious, most notably Africa.

It’s a ping in the purest sense: Exactly one bit of information is conveyed. Ah, but what a bit! The article defines a taxonomy of beeps — the callback beep (“call me back, because I’m out of airtime”), the relational beep (“I’m thinking of you”), and (get ready) the pre-negotiated instrumental beep (“yo, come pick me up now, as we agreed”).

But really, it’s all about the anecdotes. Because there are all sorts of interesting social dynamics involved. For instance:

Lillian’s lunchtime customers at her restaurant beep her daily, demanding a callback. She explains, “Customers beep to check on whether there is food left. Some are customers who are going to bring me money. So, when I see a number that I know, I have to call back, so I use a unit or two. They are some whom I don’t call back because they have nothing constructive [profitable] to tell me.” Like Patrick, Lillian says she never beeps customers.

And of course:

If you are chasing after a lady, you cannot beep. You have to call. Beeping is for friends. When a girl you do not know well beeps you, you have to call back if you are interested. You cannot even text. She has to see that the effort is being made. Borrow a friends’ phone if you do not have airtime.

What I love most about this is how contextual the information is. The beep means nothing — nothing! — without all the social understanding surrounding it. For instance:

As Immanuel explains, a beep can mean the exact opposite of the one before it. In his case, some of his dairy farmers beep to say, “there is no milk,” others to say, “there is milk.” The only difference in what Immanuel sees is the number on the missed call log; he uses his knowledge of the relational context and the meaning of past beeps to determine which beeps “mean” what.

This paper reads half like an academic study and half like an awesome, weird Wired or New Yorker article. Check it out. It’s a big world out there.

4 comments

Footprints
 / 

Via Bookslut, have you ever wondered who was responsible for that ubiquitous poem-like text “Footprints”? Keep on wondering.

One comment