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The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected | WIRED
"THE FUTURE BOOK was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Prognostications about how technology would affect the form of paper books have been with us for centuries. Each new medium was poised to deform or murder the book: newspapers, photography, radio, movies, television, videogames, the internet.

Some viewed the intersection of books and technology more positively: In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote in The Atlantic: “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”

Researcher Alan Kay created a cardboard prototype of a tablet-like device in 1968. He called it the "Dynabook," saying, “We created a new kind of medium for boosting human thought, for amplifying human intellectual endeavor. We thought it could be as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press 500 years ago.”

In the 1990s, Future Bookism hit a kind of beautiful fever pitch. We were so close. Brown University professor Robert Coover, in a 1992 New York Times op-ed titled “The End of Books,” wrote of the future of writing: “Fluidity, contingency, indeterminacy, plurality, discontinuity are the hypertext buzzwords of the day, and they seem to be fast becoming principles, in the same way that relativity not so long ago displaced the falling apple.” And then, more broadly: “The print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.”

Normal books? Bo-ring. Future Books? Awesome—indeterminate—and we were almost there! The Voyager Company built its "expanded books" platform on Hypercard, launching with three titles at MacWorld 1992. Microsoft launched Encarta on CD-ROM.

But … by the mid-2000s, there still were no real digital books. The Rocket eBook was too little, too early. Sony launched the eink-based Librie platform in 2004 to little uptake. Interactive CD-ROMs had dropped off the map. We had Wikipedia, blogs, and the internet, but the mythological Future Book—some electric slab that would somehow both be like and not like the quartos of yore—had yet to materialize. Peter Meirs, head of technology at Time, hedged his bets perfectly, proclaiming: “Ultimately, there will be some sort of device!”

And then there was. Several devices, actually. The iPhone launched in June 2007, the Kindle that November. Then, in 2010, the iPad arrived. High-resolution screens were suddenly in everyone’s hands and bags. And for a brief moment during the early 2010s, it seemed like it might finally be here: the glorious Future Book."



"Yet here’s the surprise: We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem."

[sections on self-publishing, crowdfunding, email newsletters, social media, audiobooks and podcasts, etc.]



"It turns out smartphones aren’t the best digital book reading devices (too many seductions, real-time travesties, notifications just behind the words), but they make excellent audiobook players, stowed away in pockets while commuting. Top-tier podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and Homecoming have normalized listening to audio or (nonfiction) booklike productions on smartphones."



"Last August, a box arrived on my doorstep that seemed to embody the apotheosis of contemporary publishing. The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition was published via a crowdfunding campaign. The edition includes a book of images, three records, and a small poster packaged in an exquisite box set with supplementary online material. When I held it, I didn’t think about how futuristic it felt, nor did I lament the lack of digital paper or interactivity. I thought: What a strange miracle to be able to publish an object like this today. Something independently produced, complex and beautiful, with foil stamping and thick pages, full-color, in multiple volumes, made into a box set, with an accompanying record and other shimmering artifacts, for a weirdly niche audience, funded by geeks like me who are turned on by the romance of space.

We have arrived to the once imagined Future Book in piecemeal truths.

Moving images were often espoused to be a core part of our Future Book. While rarely found inside of an iBooks or Kindle book, they are here. If you want to learn the ukulele, you don’t search Amazon for a Kindle how-to book, you go to YouTube and binge on hours of lessons, stopping when you need to, rewinding as necessary, learning at your own pace.

Vannevar Bush's “Memex” essentially described Wikipedia built into a desk.

The "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an iPhone.

In The Book of Sand, Borges wrote of an infinite book: "It was then that the stranger told me: 'Study the page well. You will never see it again.'" Describing in many ways what it feels like to browse the internet or peek at Twitter.

Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong.

For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year. The Future Book is here and continues to evolve. You’re holding it. It’s exciting. It’s boring. It’s more important than it has ever been.

But temper some of those flight-of-fancy expectations. In many ways, it’s still a potato."
craigmod  ebooks  reading  howweread  2018  kindle  eink  print  publishing  selfpublishing  blurb  lulu  amazon  ibooks  apple  digital  bookfuturism  hypertext  hypercard  history  vannevarbush  borges  twitter  animation  video  newsletters  email  pdf  mobi  epub  infrastructure  systems  economics  goldenrecord  voyager  audio  audiobooks  smarthphones  connectivity  ereaders  podcasts  socialmedia  kevinkelly  benthompson  robinsloan  mailchimp  timbuktulabs  elenafavilli  francescacavallo  jackcheng  funding  kickstarter  crowdfunding  blogs  blogging  wikipedia  internet  web  online  writing  howwewrite  self-publishing  youtube 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Neo Cab — a game by Chance Agency
[https://twitter.com/neocabgame/status/974329646828474369

"HELLO WORLD.

We are Chance Agency, a new studio working on our first game as a team. It's called Neo Cab and we are SO. EXCITED. to start sharing a glimpse of it with you.

Neo Cab is an emotional survival game about gig labor, tech disruption & the experience of being a driver-for-hire... perhaps the last of their kind.

Neo Cab is transit for riders who don’t… fit.

No Capra account. No account of any kind. No identity. Too many identities. A secret. A story.

Choose your passengers— and your words— wisely."]
games  gaming  videogames  robinsloan  toplay 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Robin Sloan on Twitter: "This might sound a little strange, but Nuclear Twitter is delightful: the platform at its most convivial and informative. Here's your start… https://t.co/0XOqVqlz1A"
"This might sound a little strange, but Nuclear Twitter is delightful: the platform at its most convivial and informative.

Here's your starter pack:

Cheryl Rofer / @CherylRofer
Ankit Panda / @nktpnd
Melissa Hanham / @mhanham
George William Herbert / @GeorgeWHerbert "

[A reply: https://twitter.com/PaulBoudreau83/status/931295753040936960

"I would add
@ArmsControlWonk
@wslafoy
@aaronstein1
@NuclearAnthro

to that list. Among others. So many wonderful voices on what could otherwise be a dreary, terrifying topic. Their work helps clarify it, and their banter lightens it enough to make it accessible for anyone."]
nuclearweapons  armscontrol  twitter  robinsloan  2017  cherylrofer  ankitpanda  melissahartman  georgewilliamherbert 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Eyeo 2017 - Robin Sloan on Vimeo
"Robin Sloan at Eyeo 2017
| Writing with the Machine |

Language models built with recurrent neural networks are advancing the state of the art on what feels like a weekly basis; off-the-shelf code is capable of astonishing mimicry and composition. What happens, though, when we take those models off the command line and put them into an interactive writing environment? In this talk Robin presents demos of several tools, including one presented here for the first time. He discusses motivations and process, shares some technical tips, proposes a course for the future — and along the way, write at least one short story together with the audience: all of us, and the machine."
robinsloan  writing  howwewrite  neuralnetworks  computing  eyeo  eyeo2017  2017 
september 2017 by robertogreco
How to end on the internet
"It’s impossible to end a piece on the internet. All the conventions incubated in print fall flat: the neat summary, the mild prediction, the kicker quote. Especially the kicker quote.

Maybe it’s because the internet is endless and we all know it, so any suggestion of completion — of a thought, an argument, a story — rings false. “Oh really? You think this is it? Please. I’ve got ten more tabs lined up.”

Also, let’s be real: we rarely get to the end anyway. Midway through, we get distracted. We jump around. Pieces on the internet don’t build to a crescendo followed by applause; they cross-fade, one into the next.

Given all these challenges, there is no set of internet endings I admire more than John Herrman’s in his series THE CONTENT WARS at the Awl. John works for the New York Times now, and while there’s no question it’s an important platform for him, it has been impossible not to notice that his endings have changed, which has made me appreciate that previous run even more.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

John deployed the blog-style “Anyway!” with some regularity; I’ve always loved it, even though I’ve never quite been able to articulate what it does. Lower the stakes? Acknowledge that the reader had something else she was doing before she got sucked into this? Whatever the case, it’s one of the great rhetorical discoveries of the mid-2000s.

One of his personal trademarks was the Big Maybe — Exhibit A, Exhibit B — in which a piece, after building its case, explodes into hypotheticals: maybe, maybe, maybe, I don’t know! It reads as an unraveling of the thread of coherence; an admission that it was tenuous to begin with. It is, I think, a gesture of genuine humility. “I see this only barely more clearly than you.”

Then there’s the way this numbered list goes off the rails: 13, 14, 15… 234875627839452… 45862170348957103946872039568270. I love that sense of like, buffer overflow: of staring a powerful system in the face and coming away with a nosebleed.

Of course, this is my favorite:
In conclusion, haha, ashkjghasgauosghasugas;gashgk, who knows.

…because it is the ending that probably every piece, in every medium, deserves. And because it would never, ever be permitted by the editors of the New York Times.

Reading all of John’s CONTENT WARS endings (is that a weird thing to do? Because I just did it) is illuminating, because all of them, even the more conventional ones, share an unmissable sensibility, almost a declaration of values. In quick succession, you find: humility, and a reminder of the limits of knowledge; that almost comical effect of a mind straining to contain its subject; and an absolute refusal to retreat into empty optimism. All together, this is a pretty good stance for the 21st century.

It’s been a joy to read John in the New York Times and it is without question an important step for him — a place he’ll improve in lots of ways. However, it must not pass without mention:

Mr. Malik of Gigaom, whose site employed 85 people at its peak, said if he were to start the business today, it would probably be a Facebook page. There is an opportunity, clearly, to reach people there. Money? That’s another matter. “How do I monetize?” he asked. “Still not clear.”

They’ve got him doing kicker quotes."
howwewrite  2016  robinsloan  internet  johnherrman  structure  endings  unfinished  maybe  anyway  style  web  journalism  theawl  nytimes  thecontentwars 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Minecraft Generation - The New York Times
"Seth Frey, a postdoctoral fellow in computational social science at Dartmouth College, has studied the behavior of thousands of youths on Minecraft servers, and he argues that their interactions are, essentially, teaching civic literacy. “You’ve got these kids, and they’re creating these worlds, and they think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity,” Frey says. “They have to solve the tragedy of the commons.” What’s more, they’re often anonymous teenagers who, studies suggest, are almost 90 percent male (online play attracts far fewer girls and women than single-­player mode). That makes them “what I like to think of as possibly the worst human beings around,” Frey adds, only half-­jokingly. “So this shouldn’t work. And the fact that this works is astonishing.”

Frey is an admirer of Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize-­winning political economist who analyzed the often-­unexpected ways that everyday people govern themselves and manage resources. He sees a reflection of her work in Minecraft: Running a server becomes a crash course in how to compromise, balance one another’s demands and resolve conflict.

Three years ago, the public library in Darien, Conn., decided to host its own Minecraft server. To play, kids must acquire a library card. More than 900 kids have signed up, according to John Blyberg, the library’s assistant director for innovation and user experience. “The kids are really a community,” he told me. To prevent conflict, the library installed plug-ins that give players a chunk of land in the game that only they can access, unless they explicitly allow someone else to do so. Even so, conflict arises. “I’ll get a call saying, ‘This is Dasher80, and someone has come in and destroyed my house,’ ” Blyberg says. Sometimes library administrators will step in to adjudicate the dispute. But this is increasingly rare, Blyberg says. “Generally, the self-­governing takes over. I’ll log in, and there’ll be 10 or 15 messages, and it’ll start with, ‘So-and-so stole this,’ and each message is more of this,” he says. “And at the end, it’ll be: ‘It’s O.K., we worked it out! Disregard this message!’ ”

Several parents and academics I interviewed think Minecraft servers offer children a crucial “third place” to mature, where they can gather together outside the scrutiny and authority at home and school. Kids have been using social networks like Instagram or Snapchat as a digital third place for some time, but Minecraft imposes different social demands, because kids have to figure out how to respect one another’s virtual space and how to collaborate on real projects.

“We’re increasingly constraining youth’s ability to move through the world around them,” says Barry Joseph, the associate director for digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History. Joseph is in his 40s. When he was young, he and his friends roamed the neighborhood unattended, where they learned to manage themselves socially. Today’s fearful parents often restrict their children’s wanderings, Joseph notes (himself included, he adds). Minecraft serves as a new free-­ranging realm.

Joseph’s son, Akiva, is 9, and before and after school he and his school friend Eliana will meet on a Minecraft server to talk and play. His son, Joseph says, is “at home but still getting to be with a friend using technology, going to a place where they get to use pickaxes and they get to use shovels and they get to do that kind of building. I wonder how much Minecraft is meeting that need — that need that all children have.” In some respects, Minecraft can be as much social network as game.

Just as Minecraft propels kids to master Photoshop or video-­editing, server life often requires kids to acquire complex technical skills. One 13-year-old girl I interviewed, Lea, was a regular on a server called Total Freedom but became annoyed that its administrators weren’t clamping down on griefing. So she asked if she could become an administrator, and the owners said yes.

For a few months, Lea worked as a kind of cop on that beat. A software tool called “command spy” let her observe records of what players had done in the game; she teleported miscreants to a sort of virtual “time out” zone. She was eventually promoted to the next rank — “telnet admin,” which allowed her to log directly into the server via telnet, a command-­line tool often used by professionals to manage servers. Being deeply involved in the social world of Minecraft turned Lea into something rather like a professional systems administrator. “I’m supposed to take charge of anybody who’s breaking the rules,” she told me at the time.

Not everyone has found the online world of Minecraft so hospitable. One afternoon while visiting the offices of Mouse, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that runs high-tech programs for kids, I spoke with Tori. She’s a quiet, dry-­witted 17-year-old who has been playing Minecraft for two years, mostly in single-­player mode; a recent castle-­building competition with her younger sister prompted some bickering after Tori won. But when she decided to try an online server one day, other players — after discovering she was a girl — spelled out “BITCH” in blocks.

She hasn’t gone back. A group of friends sitting with her in the Mouse offices, all boys, shook their heads in sympathy; they’ve seen this behavior “everywhere,” one said. I have been unable to find solid statistics on how frequently harassment happens in Minecraft. In the broader world of online games, though, there is more evidence: An academic study of online players of Halo, a shoot-’em-up game, found that women were harassed twice as often as men, and in an unscientific poll of 874 self-­described online gamers, 63 percent of women reported “sex-­based taunting, harassment or threats.” Parents are sometimes more fretful than the players; a few told me they didn’t let their daughters play online. Not all girls experience harassment in Minecraft, of course — Lea, for one, told me it has never happened to her — and it is easy to play online without disclosing your gender, age or name. In-game avatars can even be animals.

How long will Minecraft’s popularity endure? It depends very much on Microsoft’s stewardship of the game. Company executives have thus far kept a reasonably light hand on the game; they have left major decisions about the game’s development to Mojang and let the team remain in Sweden. But you can imagine how the game’s rich grass-roots culture might fray. Microsoft could, for example, try to broaden the game’s appeal by making it more user-­friendly — which might attenuate its rich tradition of information-­sharing among fans, who enjoy the opacity and mystery. Or a future update could tilt the game in a direction kids don’t like. (The introduction of a new style of combat this spring led to lively debate on forums — some enjoyed the new layer of strategy; others thought it made Minecraft too much like a typical hack-and-slash game.) Or an altogether new game could emerge, out-­Minecrafting Minecraft.

But for now, its grip is strong. And some are trying to strengthen it further by making it more accessible to lower-­income children. Mimi Ito has found that the kids who acquire real-world skills from the game — learning logic, administering servers, making YouTube channels — tend to be upper middle class. Their parents and after-­school programs help them shift from playing with virtual blocks to, say, writing code. So educators have begun trying to do something similar, bringing Minecraft into the classroom to create lessons on everything from math to history. Many libraries are installing Minecraft on their computers."
2016  clivethompson  education  videogames  games  minecraft  digitalculture  gaming  mimiito  robinsloan  coding  computationalthinking  stem  programming  commandline  ianbogost  walterbenjamin  children  learning  resilience  colinfanning  toys  lego  wood  friedrichfroebel  johnlocke  rebeccamir  mariamontessori  montessori  carltheodorsorensen  guilds  mentoring  mentorship  sloyd  denmark  construction  building  woodcrafting  woodcraft  adventureplaygrounds  material  logic  basic  mojang  microsoft  markuspersson  notch  modding  photoshop  texturepacks  elinorostrom  collaboration  sethfrey  civics  youtube  networkedlearning  digitalliteracy  hacking  computers  screentime  creativity  howwelearn  computing  froebel 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Pickle: A Conversation About Making Digital Books — The Message — Medium
"1: Opening Salvo

Okay, Craig, I know you’re critical of the arrested state of ebooks today. For my part, I’m more… curious. It’s clear to me that, for all their commercial success, we don’t know what books on screens are supposed to look like; not yet. But that shouldn’t be surprising; the first Kindle came out a mere eight years ago, and most people have been reading books on screens for a few years at most.

It’s only now that we’re starting to see the really interesting work emerge.

I believe you’ve read The Pickle Index, and I think we can agree that it represents something interesting and new. The novel’s digital edition is much more than words on a screen; instead, it masquerades as a recipe app, complete with menus and lists and a wonderful little map. It’s quite slick; if it was a real recipe app, it would be a pretty solid one! Its creators, Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn, use the idiom of the app to pull you more deeply into the story, to make you, as a reader, feel somehow like an accomplice.

It’s fabulous.

But the Pickle Index app (for reasons I don’t want to give away to people who haven’t read it yet) can only tell the Pickle Index story; the way it works is bound up with the tale it tells. Eli and Russell can’t reuse this machine for, say, The Istanbul Protocol or The Dragon Wizard. Those stories wouldn’t fit.

So, with your earlier criticism in mind: What do you think? Is this matching of content to container the road forward, or is it a lovely cul-de-sac? Is the non-naive, non-repackaged future of ebooks more of these unique apps, or is it some new, reusable “master format” that we have yet to invent?

Note to readers: This is (going to be) a long, loopy conversation. The Pickle Index is crisp and compact. Consider sampling its tangy delights."

[Craig's first response: https://medium.com/message/the-pickle-a-conversation-about-making-digital-books-1e8464b469e4#.xjy0jenpm

Collection here: https://medium.com/tag/the-pickle-index/latest ]
2015  robinsloan  ebooks  books  publishing  elihorowitz  russellquinn  thepickleindex  bookfuturism  craigmod  epublishing  applications  suddenoak 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why I Quit Ordering From Uber-for-Food Start-Ups - The Atlantic
[This is Josephine: https://josephine.com/ ]

"I work some days from a small office in San Francisco, and every day, I gotta eat. For a stretch of several weeks this year, I obtained my lunch from an iPhone app called Sprig.

It’s a beautiful piece of software. A trompe l’oeil table offers a compact slate of choices for lunch and dinner, all photographed beautifully from above. On the day I’m writing this, I can get a Caesar salad ($11), blackened chicken with broccoli ($11), a lamb-kofta wrap ($11), a tequila-lime shrimp salad ($13), or a kimchi veggie bowl ($10). Everything is organic, with sources all specified. The chicken comes from Petaluma.

* * *

I work some days from my apartment in Berkeley, and every day, I gotta eat. Two or three times a month, I obtain lunch or dinner from a network called Josephine.

The first time I encountered Josephine, its website was a bare page that instructed you to enter your phone number and “join our SMS list.” The design is only slightly more elaborate today; there’s still no iPhone app.

Josephine doesn’t prepare any meals itself. Instead, it screens home cooks and takes orders on their behalf. On the day I’m writing this, I can get carrot soup ($11) from Lisa in Oakland or pho ($13) from Hai in Emeryville. That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, there’s chicken and dumplings ($11) from Suzie in Albany or veggie enchiladas ($8) from Afiba in Fruitvale. The menu extends out two weeks; Josephine is less “I’m hungry now” and more “I expect to be hungry on Thursday, so I’d better line something up.” The photography is rough-and-ready, Etsy-caliber, and the dishes are described by the cooks themselves.

* * *

Sprig sells on speed: From selection to delivery, it’s twenty minutes. The experience is identical to an order from Seamless or GrubHub. A harried courier extracts your meal from a fat insulated bag; you say “thank you,” close the door, and feel bad for a moment about the differences between your lives. Five stars.

Meals from Sprig arrive reliably deflated from their in-app depictions: soggier, less composed. The quality of the food ranges, in my experience, from “sure, I can eat this” to very good indeed. It’s approximately equivalent to what you’d get in a nice cafeteria; better than Kaiser Permanente’s, not as good as Facebook’s.

“Gotta eat” is a rumble in the belly, a business opportunity, and a public-health crisis all rolled into one, and to address it, Sprig is building the biggest, nicest cafeteria ever. The ambition is clear: Sprig in every city, with longer menus, better ingredients, faster delivery. I can see them: the drones dropping lamb kofta from the sky.

But there’s more to any cafeteria than the serving line, and Sprig’s app offers no photograph of that other part. This is the Amazon move: absolute obfuscation of labor and logistics behind a friendly buy button. The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.

I feel bad, truly, for Amazon and Sprig and their many peers—SpoonRocket, Postmates, Munchery, and the rest. They build these complicated systems and then they have to hide them, because the way they treat humans is at best mildly depressing and at worst burn-it-down dystopian.

What would it be like if you didn’t have to hide the system?

* * *

Meals from Josephine are not available for delivery.

On the day of your order, a text message arrives bearing a street address. You ride over on your bicycle and spot a Josephine sign taped to the front door, which is ajar. You step inside; the feeling is both clandestine and transgressive. In the kitchen, the cook—your neighbor—is working. Maybe another customer—also your neighbor—is lingering. You announce yourself, say hello, receive your meal. Chat a bit, if you like. Carry it home in a bag dangling from your handlebars.

It definitely takes more than twenty minutes.

But I will tell you that my Josephine pickups have been utterly reliable generators of smiles and warm feelings. I look forward to them, not just because “gotta eat,” but because they unlock my neighborhood, fill in the blank spaces on my mental map. And of course, it’s always fun to see the insides of other people’s houses.

The seriousness of Josephine’s cooks ranges widely. Some are clearly demi-professionals, as polished and efficient as Airbnb hosts; others seem surprised to have people in their kitchen. Some offer fat slices of cornbread as impulse buys; others seem happy to have finished their soup in time.

What unites them is this: They are your neighbors; they have cooked a dish of their own design; they have invited you into their home.

I flaked on a Josephine meal once, and as the pick-up window was closing, my phone rang. It was the cook. “I can leave it out for you,” she offered. I demurred. “Oh, okay,” she said. Her voice betrayed her disappointment. I felt bad all night.

* * *

Sprig started in 2013. Its four founders have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $50 million so far. (It is safe to assume the words "Uber for food" were uttered along the way.) Currently, you can order in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Chicago—the last of which is clearly the test case for national expansion. The Sprig careers page advertises openings in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, and Austin.

Josephine started in 2014. Its two founders also have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $600,000 so far. Mark Bittman recently joined its board of directors. Josephine’s home cooks are mainly scattered around Oakland and Berkeley. In October, the company listed its first batch of meals for San Francisco; on the day I’m writing, there are three home cooks in the city.

If Sprig projects an Amazon-like relentlessness, Josephine feels tenuous; some days, it seems almost too good for this world, too “eat your vegetables,” literally and figuratively. It’s convenient, but not THAT convenient. When it needs more cooks, it can’t simply hire them. Its viability in neighborhoods beyond the Bay Area will depend on instruments subtler than a war chest and an expansion playbook.

* * *

We are alive at a time when huge systems—industrial, infrastructural—are being remade, and I think it’s our responsibility as we make choices both commercial and civic—it’s just a light responsibility, don’t stress—to extrapolate forward, and ask ourselves: Is this a system I want to live inside? Is this a system fit for humans?

It’s like this:

Sprig-type operations drain agency and expertise out of the world. They centralize, aiming to build huge hubs with small spokes; their innermost mechanisms are hidden. They depend on humans behaving as interchangeable units of labor.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Sprig, no one cooks who is not employed by this kind of company.

Josephine cultivates agency and expertise. It decentralizes, aims to build a dense mesh, neighborhood-scale; its mechanisms are public. It depends on humans developing their specific, idiosyncratic tastes and skills.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Josephine, many people don’t cook, but some people cook a lot more, and better, than ever before, and all of us, cooks and non-cooks, derive pleasure from that. We meet on the sidewalk carrying warm veggie enchiladas.

What kills me is the plausibility of the Josephine future. This isn’t some utopian vision; there’s a scale model working in the East Bay today. Neighborhoods everywhere are full of cooks, or would-be cooks; the talent and the desire is thick on the ground.

Josephine employs the most basic tools of telecommunications to make a market and match “gotta eat” with “wanna cook.” This could be the system! The rumble in the belly, the business opportunity, the public-health crisis: The answer to all of it might be waiting next door.

We make these choices, bit by bit. I stopped ordering from Sprig back in the spring, because (a) I don’t like that future and (b) they sent me a truly sub-par chicken sandwich.

Every couple of weeks, or whenever I think of it, I check Josephine for something nearby. The food is always good, at least friend-cooking-dinner good and often better, but honestly, the future is what sells it."
robinsloan  systems  systemsthinking  2015  amazon  sprig  uber  efficiency  josephine  markbittman  decentralization  civics  society  neighborhoods  community  humanity  future  food  cooking  eating  slow  slowness  relentlessness  neighbors  neighborliness  dystopia  technosolutionism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
#Egypt_Delights: A Suez Canal Hashtag Largely Missed by English-Speaking Media — Words About Words — Medium
"1. Real time translations open up new perspectives on global events.

This is a given for anyone who straddles different cultures and linguistic zones, but it bears emphasis. Translating real time content is what we’re trying to optimize Bridge for. But it’s striking to see the difference in Google results between #مصر_بتفرح, the Arabic hashtag, and #Egypt_Delights, Nora’s English-language translation. Searching for the latter yields 0 results. And a similar search for an alternative translation, #EgyptCelebrates, yields just about a handful of pages of Google results.

[image]

Compare that to the original Arabic hashtag, #مصر_بتفرح, which has received more than 191k Tweets during the last seven days, according to Topsy.com:

[image]

Many media outlets wrote about the pomp and circumstance and some of the odd juxtapositions of imagery, but these perspectives largely came from those of journalists rather than citizens. Some social media round-ups we found focused largely on English-language posts, and thus, to a certain extent, a limited number of local perspectives. To our knowledge, only Magda Abu-Fadil at The Huffington Post covered and translated the Arabic hashtag in an English language report.

Compare that to other satirical hashtags in recent memory, like #SomeoneTellCNN in Kenya and #McDStories in the US, both of which trended in English and consequently received broad coverage in English-speaking media outlets. The effect of the language barrier is apparent, even when talking about major trending media around an event of world interest.

The content of Arabic language (and other foreign language) hashtags trends is largely invisible to the English speaking world, and the range of social media reportage therefore remains limited.

2. Sorting through real time content is still a challenge. So is verification.

When translating real-time content around breaking events, it can be hard to figure out the best content to translate. We want to optimize Bridge for mobile users’ efforts to translate social media, but there’s still a crucial first step: finding the content. This is something we struggled with when I worked on Ai Weiwei English, a project I co-founded in 2010, and with greater network density and content diversity, the need for better discovery tools is even more readily apparent. So, our sample translations are just that: a small sample, one that is not necessarily representative of the sheer diversity of responses found on the original Arabic hashtag.

Of course, sorting through local perspectives, regardless of source language, requires verification and vetting of the content and the speaker (something Tom and I wrote about recently for First Draft News). This is especially the case when the individual is making important factual claims about events, but itcan still be important when translating satirical responses. The effort can be worth the time: translating leading figures and average citizens alike can can open a window into a greater understanding of how the country as a whole is responding.

3. Local knowledge and expertise are vital for quality real time translations.

In theory, anyone with sufficient knowledge of Arabic can translate the posts that Nora and Sarah identified. But the best translations often come from those with knowledge on the ground and experience and expertise relevant to the issue. As journalists and Cairo residents, they were well positioned both to identify the right content to translate and to represent it accurately and with relevance for an English-speaking audience.

One good example? How to translate the Arabic hashtag #مصر_بتفرح. Translating Arabic to English requires a lot of knowledge not just of the two languages but of the many social and cultural situations being evoked by the words. Now, #مصر_بتفرح could be translated a number of ways, including #EgyptCelebrates and #EgyptRejoices, as Tom, a fluent Arabic speaker, has pointed out. #EgyptDelightsIn could also be an acceptable translation.

But Nora connected the dots between the hashtag, slogans playing on television, and a New York Times article that translated that slogan as “Egypt Delights.” “It was referenced in the New York Times story as ‘Egypt Delights,’” she noted, “so I thought to use that in translated tweets since readers in English might have already read the story.”

Finding just the right translation can be a challenge, especially when working with vernacular content and words that come from very different language families. These sorts of decisions require deep knowledge of the local context and a broad perspective in both languages to connect the dots and ensure the most relevant translations are used."
anxiaomina  internet  translation  meedan  arabic  twitter  socialmedia  2015  egypt  language  robinsloan 
august 2015 by robertogreco
The House That Fish Built — Medium
"Around the time Sloan published Fish, I had been wanting to move my explanatory storytelling studio towards a new visual medium. Newsbound had produced several video explainers earlier that year — on wonky subjects like the filibuster and the federal budget process. They had attracted healthy traffic, but our user testing had revealed a pacing problem. Everyone loved the accessible illustrations and animations, but more-informed viewers often complained that our narrator (yours truly) spoke too slowly. Newcomers to the subject matter felt the opposite — that it was too much information too fast.

I’d already entertained the idea of a self-paced, slideshow-esque format, but worried that requiring the user to continuously click or tap their way through a narrative might be too tedious. Then I found myself standing in line for a sandwich at Pal’s, happily tapping my way through Fish.

I was bewitched by this medium — and emboldened.

In the days that followed, I created a prototype in Keynote (a chronological explanation of the Trayvon Martin story). Using their iOS app, I could simulate the “tap-essay” experience on an iPhone. Over the next few weeks, we tested that prototype with a series of users. They took vastly different amounts of time to complete the explainer, but stuck with it nonetheless. Most of them complimented the format, telling us that they had “lost themselves” in the story and expressing surprise when we showed them a text-only print-out of the 1,500 words they had just consumed in bite-sized pieces. (“I would never read something that long!”)

The Newsbound team continued to refine the reading experience and started building our own web-based technology to power it. Around the same time, Sloan wrote an essay for Contents reminiscing about Hypercard stacks and predicting their triumphant return:
“We will start to make stacks in earnest again. We will develop a new grammar for this old format. We will talk about rhythm and reveals and tweetable cards. We will know how many cards an average person can tap through in one sitting. We will know when to use stacks…and when to just scroll on. Twenty-five years later, we will prove the hypertext researchers wrong: cards are pretty cool after all.”

When we published our first embeddable, public-facing explainer in this format (on the history of political conventions), we called it a “stack.” Internally, we started referring to our software as “Stacker.”

Newsbound has since published over 75 stacks — some of them original works, some client projects. Our embeddable player has appeared on the websites of The New York Times, The Washington Post, BoingBoing, The Atlantic, Upworthy, as well as in Bill and Melinda Gates’ annual letter.

Over this period, we’ve gathered granular analytics (all those clicks and taps are trackable, after all) and observed remarkable engagement rates. For instance, out of the 50,000 people who started reading this Gates Foundation stack on the history of international family planning, 65 percent finished it, spending 4–5 minutes on average. Over 80 percent completed this OZY stack on Iceland’s marriage norms. The minimum wage explainer we produced in tandem with KQED has been launched nearly one million times.

This year, we released Stacker as a platform to a beta group of writers and designers. They are now creating their own stacks and, every week, we are onboarding more people from the waiting list (which has grown to over 400)."
hypercard  slidedecks  stacks  journalism  design  2015  robinsloan  frankchimero  joshkalven  format  webdev  webdesign 
may 2015 by robertogreco
A leaky rocketship / Snarkmarket
"Joining this blog was one of the most important things that ever happened to me, and that’s another way in which I can judge somewhat objectively how important it is been. In November 2008, I was on the academic job market, getting ready to interview for a few tenure-track jobs and postdoctoral fellowships, and it was weird — it was a time when people, smart people, influential people still said “you shouldn’t have a blog, you shouldn’t be on twitter, if you do these things, you should do them under pseudonyms, and if anyone asks you about it, you shouldn’t tell them, because if you blog, and it’s known that you write a blog, online, people are going to wonder whether or not you’re really serious about your work, and you just don’t want to give them any extra ammunition to wonder anything about you.”

I didn’t care. I had been waiting for one or two years, ever since Robin had suggested that maybe Snarkmarket would add a few writers and maybe I might be one of them, I think when we were on our way to the bathroom at the Museum of Modern Art on a random visit, and I was just super hungry to be handed the key to this place where I’ve been reading and writing comments since before I knew what a blog really was.

Is that still a thing, people getting excited about being able to be part of a blog? I didn’t think so, but then I became part of Paul Ford’s tilde.club and saw people falling over themselves to get an invite to SSH into a UNIX server, just to be a part of something, just to have a chance to put up some silly, low bandwidth, conceptually clever websites and chat with strangers using the UNIX terminal. It’s not like being one of the cool kids who’s in on a private beta for the latest and greatest smartphone app, where your enjoyment is really about being separate from the people who aren’t included, and the expected attitude is a kind of jaded, privileged disinterest: it’s more like getting a chance to play with the neighbor kid’s Lego set, and he has all the Legos.

Robin and Matt had crazy good Legos. I didn’t get that academic job, but I was able to take their Legos and build my way into a job writing for Wired, of all places, 30 years old and I’d never been a journalist except by osmosis and imposture here at Snarkmarket, and now I get paid every month to write for Wired, how does that happen except that this place was an extra scaffolding for all of us, for me in grad school, for Matt at newspapers across the country, for Robin at Gore TV/Current TV/Twitter, to build careers that weren’t possible for people who didn’t have that beautiful Lego scaffolding to support them (I’m wearing a sling on my arm right now with straps that wrap around my body to hold my arm in place, and a screw and washer to hold my shoulder bone together, my upper arm bone really, plus my rotator cuff, plus hold massive tendons, plus I’m thinking about those times that I would walk from my apartment in Columbus Circle down Broadway to Four Times Square in Manhattan to go to work at wired, wired isn’t there anymore, Condé Nast just moved in to one World Trade Center today, all the way downtown, but the scaffolding in Manhattan that is just constant, that is the only thing that allows the city to remake itself day after day month after month year after year, so this scaffolding metaphor is really doing something for me, plus Legos, well, Legos that just came from before, so what can I tell you, roll with it).

I don’t work at Wired, Robin doesn’t work at Twitter, Matt is at NPR, and we are where we are because of the things that we did but also because of this place. Ars Technica ran a story about it being 10 years since EPIC 2014 – I could paste the link [http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/11/epic-2014-recalling-a-decade-old-imagining-of-the-tech-driven-media-future/ ] and maybe that would be the bloggy thing to do, but you’re big boys and girls, you can Google it after you finish reading this — and there’s great interviews in there with Robin and Matt about how they made the video, and some specific names of wars and companies aside, were basically right about how technology companies were going to take the distribution and interpretation of the news away from both traditional journalism companies and the emerging open standards of the World Wide Web. I mean, isn’t that a hell of a thing, to see the future and put it in a flash movie? Anything was possible in 2004, especially if that anything Looked like a future that was vaguely uncomfortable but not so bad, really.

I turned 35 today, and I don’t really have a lot of deep thoughts about my own life or career or where I am in it. I’ve had those on other birthdays, and I’ve had them on many days in the not too distant past. Today, though, I’ve mostly felt warm and embraced by the people all around me, in my home, across the country, on the telephone, connected to me by the mails, whose books I read (and whose books publishers send to my house, my friends are writing books and their publishers send them free to my house, that’s almost as amazing as a machine that I can control that lets me read new things all day), and who were connected to me by the Internet: on twitter or Facebook, on Slack or email, by text message or text messaging’s many, many hypostases, all around me, as real to me as anyone I’ve ever imagined or read or touched, all of them, all of them warm and kind and gracious and curious about me and how I’m doing, what I’m up to, what I’m thinking, what I want to do this week or next month or when I get a chance to read that thing they sent me. it is as real to me as that invented community at the end of epic 2015 [http://epic.makingithappen.co.uk or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQDBhg60UNI ], that brilliant coda that people almost always forget, and I don’t know why because it’s actually a better prediction of our future-come-present than anything in the first video, but maybe it’s not about the New York Times, it’s just about a beautiful day outside, a traffic accident, an open door, Matt’s beautiful voice when he narrates that photograph, beckoning you to come outside to look, LOOK.

The Snarkmatrix Is infinite, the stark matrix is everywhere, the start matrix can touchdown at any point in these electronic channels and reconstitute itself, extending perpetually outward into the entire world of media and ideas and editors who are trying to understand what will happen next, and teenage kids who are trying to figure out how what they’re doing maps in any way at all to this strange, established world of culture, to writers who are anxious for any sense of community, any place to decompress between the often hostile worlds of social media and professional correspondence. People want a place, a third place, and blogs are a great form of that place, even when they’re not blogs. (I’m subblogging now. This is what it’s come to. But I think most of you feel me.)"
2014  snarkmarket  epic2014  epic2015  timcarmody  robinsloan  mattthomas  blog  blogging  writing  scaffolding  lego  snarkmatrix  looking  seeing  observing  sharing  conversation  howwelearn  howwethink  howwewrite  history  future  making  culturecreation  media  journalism  slack  email  im  twitter  facebook  socialmedia 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Snarkmarket: A Concise History of the Future
"Tim: I used to have a rule, that I would never just link to stuff. I always had to comment just as much.
That’s why in my first year, I had about fifteen posts.
Robin: a blog is like an article of clothing. a weird one, like a futuristic pointy hat or silver pants.
you don’t know how to wear it at first…
but then you break it in — you get comfortable with it
Tim: but suddenly you go to a party where everyone’s rocking it
and you say… oh, that’s how you do it
Matt: when we started, I just thought it would be a good way to keep in touch w/ Robin. which it has been. but it ended up much awesomer, which was a plus.
Robin: well i credit snarkmarket to essentially changing my trajectory in journalism entirely.
because, almost overnight,
it was so much more FUN than writing normal articles,
and getting feedback in the normal way.
which is to say, not at all.
your party metaphor applies here, tim.
Tim: Snarkmarket easily made me much more interested in, um, now than I ever would have been.
Reminds me of the Nietzsche quote — the trouble with scholars is that by thinking backward, eventually you believe backward too.
Robin: mmm i like that!
Tim: SM has helped me orient my thinking forward.
Robin: a blog — and all the things that surround & support it, like a well-stocked rss reader, and commenters — are an anchor to the present
sometimes to a fault
but even so
Tim: The real trouble is thinking that backwards is the last forwards
like, the real break is the printing press
or the french revolution
or the advent of the computer
some epoch-making change that fixes everything forever
so you don’t see how things are changing now
Matt: it took me a moment to process “backwards is the last forwards.”
Tim: thinking backwards to find beginnings
rather than closures or ruptures
Matt: I eventually got it. I like it.
Tim: which in a way is a blinder to optimism
Matt: I’m going to toss that at a curmudgeonly academic one of these days.
Robin: honestly we’ve waited too long to refresh/reboot/rethink snarkmarket —
partly as a result of, you know, having jobs and lives and things —
but at its ideal it is changing a lot more frequently, a lot more fluidly.
so we should think of this evolution not as an epoch-maker
but the first beat in a new, faster tempo
Matt: amen.
Tim: right, throwing the finish line ahead so you can run past it
Matt: the other day, I was thinking about how I’ve never kept a diary. and there was a moment of regret - all those thoughts and memories that have just been scattered to the ages.
but then I remembered Snarkmarket. which is the oddest type of diary. ‘cause it’s not about me, but it’s about how I view the world.
Robin: yes! actually matt, you just linked to an old 2006 post of mine today —
and i clicked over and went: “wait… who wrote this?”
it struck me in the best possible way
Tim: a diary of public preoccupations
So, like, what are the big moments in SM history?
It seems like Robin targeting Al Gore TV is a big one
EPIC is undoubtedly a big one
which, in a way, is more consequential.
Matt: I remember four years ago, a while after Dean’s Presidential candidacy went up in flames, when I posted about a story I intended to report in ten years. (when his records from office in VT would be made public.)
Robin: love that. i feel that we must endeavor to make snarkmarket a reliable repository for ten-year ideas.
Matt: Snarkmarket seemed the most enduring document in which to declare that intent. there was no better way to send a message to myself in 10 years.
Robin: we’re halfway there already which isn’t bad.



Matt: blogging = destiny.
Robin: welcome to the snarkmatrix officially, tim
Tim: thanks kids.
Matt: yes, we are very glad to have you.
Tim: good to be aboard this leaky rocketship into the future."
snarkmarket  2008  timcarmody  mattthompson  robinsloan  blog  blogging  optimism  writing  howwewrite  howwethink  forwardthinking  backwardthinking  evolution  progress  inventingthefuture  genesis  future 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Selling on the slider — The Message — Medium
"The slider is a hot piece of technology that will play a central role in the future of prices.

The slider need not be cold, and it need not be rational.

It’s not economic efficiency that moves the slider, but emotion.

And for my money, this is the most interesting checkout screen on the whole internet.

[image]

That’s what you see when you’re about to buy a Humble Bundle. There’s a lot going on there, so let me just break it down quickly. The Humble Bundle is a popular product with roots in indie video games that’s expanded into music, movies, books, and more. The deal goes like this:

You, the potential customer, are presented with a bundle of merchandise. Maybe it’s a dozen video games; maybe a truckload of digital comics.
You decide what price you’d like to pay for all of it together. It can be as little as one penny! (This is section 1 in the screenshot above.)
You also decide how that price should be apportioned, splitting it between the content makers, a set of related charities, and the company Humble Bundle, Inc. (This is section 2 above.)

There are some nuances. Most bundles include extra content that you only receive if you meet a certain minimum payment — $10, perhaps. More interestingly, bundles almost always offer extra content that you receive only if you exceed the current average payment — an incentive that, of course, has the effect of slowly raising that average over time.

Honestly, it feels less like a checkout screen and more like a video game.

Humble Bundle’s sliders are the most elaborate you’ll find anywhere, but the basic element is all over the place."



"The slider is a natural fit when you’re buying something from a specific individual, possibly someone known to you or whose work you’ve long admired. It acts as an affinity-meter through which you can convert surplus units of love and gratitude into cold, hard dollars.

But there’s more to the slider, particularly in Humble Bundle’s implementation. It has to do with communication.

The information content of most payments is one bit: either you agree to the asking price and make the purchase, or you don’t. When a payment goes through a slider, that information content increases. When it goes through an interface like Humble Bundle’s… well, I mean, look at this!"
robinsloan  ixd  interactiondesign  pricing  2014  sliders  money  economics  humblebunndle  payment  internet  interface  web  online 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The steel man of #GamerGate — The Message — Medium
"Every so often, the Long Now Foundation here in San Francisco hosts a debate. It might be about nuclear power or synthetic biology or perhaps the very notion of human progress — high-stakes stuff. But the format is nothing like the showdowns on cable news or the debates in election season.

Instead, it goes like this:

There are two debaters, Alice and Bob. Alice takes the podium, makes her argument. Then Bob takes her place, but before he can present his counter-argument, he must summarize Alice’s argument to her satisfaction — a demonstration of respect and good faith. Only when Alice agrees that Bob has got it right is he permitted to proceed with his own argument — and then, when he’s finished, Alice must summarize it to his satisfaction.

The first time I saw one of these debates, it blew my mind.

Our democratic culture has, I believe, basically given up on debate as a tool for changing minds or achieving consensus. Instead, we use it as a stage for performance, for political point-scoring. When we debate — and this is true whether it’s a big televised event or a little online roundtable — we direct our arguments not at our opponents but rather at our allies. We rile the base. We face the choir. We preach!

Apparently, the Long Now Foundation didn’t get the memo, and neither did L. Rhodes. In his piece addressing #GamerGate, he truly speaks to his opponents, and his focus never wavers. There are no winks to his allies and no dog whistles that I can detect. It’s a miracle of tone. There are so many opportunities to be snide, to score a point — just one little point! — and he takes none of them.

Rhodes’s piece reminded me, also, of Alan Jacobs’s reference [http://www.theamericanconservative.com/jacobs/thomas-nagel-is-admirably-fair-minded/ ], years ago, to the philosopher Thomas Nagel’s review of a book by the philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Nagel is a staunch atheist; Plantinga, a devout Christian.

Jacobs wrote:
Having confessed that he “cannot imagine believing what [Plantinga] believes,” Nagel nevertheless must acknowledge that Plantinga is doing excellent philosophical work and that his arguments cannot be easily dismissed. Moreover, Nagel clearly relishes simply being exposed to ways of thinking so alien to his own — he obviously finds it refreshing.

Instead of the straw man argument — that scourge — we have the steel man: “the best form of the other person’s argument, even if it’s not the one they presented.”

The fact that Nagel takes this approach shouldn’t be surprising; it has long been valued in philosophy and rhetoric, and more recently by the so-called “rationalist” community online. This is laudable — I mean, these people really know how to argue! — but there’s an inertness to the practice in those communities: a sense, too often, of arguments unfolding for their own sake in a hermetically-sealed arena.

So the thing that impresses me about Rhodes’s piece is that it is real: enmeshed in a real conversation and addressed to real opponents, which implies real risk. This isn’t a philosophy symposium; it’s a roiling argument that has spawned mobs of internet harassers.

Did Rhodes’s piece turn #GamerGate around? No.

Did it change a few people’s minds? There is evidence, here on Medium and also on Twitter, that it did. In this culture — on this internet — that’s a small miracle.

There’s a recipe available here, for anyone brave enough to use it: strong arguments presented in good faith not to our allies but to our actual opponents. I use the word “brave” very consciously, because I believe this is just about the most dangerous kind of writing and thinking you can do."



"This kind of writing is dangerous because it goes beyond (mere) argumentation; it becomes immersion, method acting, dual-booting. To make your argument strong, you have to make your opponent’s argument stronger. You need sharp thinking and compelling language, but you also need close attention and deep empathy. I don’t mean to be too woo-woo about it, but truly, you need love. The overall sensibility is closer to caregiving than to punditry."
debate  empathy  ethnography  listening  robinsloan  lrhodes  alanjacobs  thomasnagel  alvinplantinga  goodfaith  strawman  steelman  strawmen  steelmen  philosophy  rhetoric  conversation  goodwill  mindchanging  mindchanges 
september 2014 by robertogreco
In praise of the terrible live stream — The Message — Medium
"Still images — and here I’m thinking particularly of the work of great photojournalists — can be a lot of things: honest, striking, darkly beautiful. They can act as primary documents — evidence — and they can also become symbols: powerful shorthand in communication and argumentation.

However, there’s one thing they can’t provide.

Photojournalists compose. They crop. Most crucially, they select. From a pile of hundreds of images, sometimes thousands, they choose one or two. Why? Because they convey something essential about a scene, certainly — but also because they are striking and/or darkly beautiful. Photojournalists choose the images that will please their employers and impress their peers. This is totally normal. It’s what professionals do.

But precisely because they are so carefully composed, so stingily selected, these images do not — cannot — convey the real lived experience of a scene.

Maybe someday in the far future, there will exist a device that can override your senses and put you, convincingly, in another place, with all its sights and sounds and smells, free to follow your own gaze. Maybe someday before that, we’ll have a kind of 3D telepresence delivered through VR goggles.

Until then, this is our telepresence, and it’s a precious thing.

The terrible live stream is precious because, of all the formats available to us now, it selects least. It resists the narrative compression of “news.” It shows a scene that, for all its intensity, is mostly slow-moving and confusing. It forces us to sit through the in-between minutes that an editor would cut. The live stream, uniquely among formats, is free to be muddled and boring, with no clear storyline and no assurance that This Is All Going Somewhere.

Just like life."

[See also (via CaseyGollan):
"In Defense of the Poor Image"
http://www.e-flux.com/journal/in-defense-of-the-poor-image/ ]
2014  robinsloan  livestreams  livestreaming  presence  multisensory  journalism  filtering  communication  photography  video  photojournalism  ferguson 
august 2014 by robertogreco
In nerdhaven — The Message — Medium
"The roster of Essential Social Spaces includes, among others: the library, the union hall, the community garden, the coffee shop. To that list, we must add the nerdhaven. The question, though: Is it on its way out — winding down as nerds go digital? Or is it here to stay, a humble fixture wherever there exist enough nerds to muster a Magic tournament? (These shops support a $700 million market, according to an industry website, but I can’t decide whether that’s big or small. I think it be might be small.)

I hope they’re here to stay. At the shop in Gaylord I made my circuit of the nerdly Stations of the Cross and walked out with ten antique D&D books, three comics, two vintage sci-fi novels, and a board game."
robinsloan  nerhaven  libraries  thirdspaces  coffeshops  cafes  communitygardens  unionhalls  comics  boardgames  games  gaming  nerds  roleplayinggames  dungeonsanddragons  magicthegathering 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The secret of Minecraft — The Message — Medium
"Imagine yourself acquiring the keys to a mutable world in which you can explore caves, fight spiders, build castles, ride pigs, blow up mountains, construct aqueducts to carry water to your summer palace… anything.

Imagine yourself a child, in possession of the secret knowledge.

This wouldn’t be enough on its own. Obscure techniques have been a part of video games from the beginning; Nintendo Power surely had a dusting of secret knowledge. What’s different here is that Minecraft connects this lure to the objective not of beating the game, but making more of the game.

“Game” doesn’t even do it justice. What we’re really talking about here is a generative, networked system laced throughout with secrets.

Five years in, Minecraft (the system) has bloomed into something bigger and more beautiful than any game studio — whether a tiny one like Markus Persson’s or a huge one like EA — could ever produce on its own. The scale of it is staggering; overwhelming. As you explore the extended Minecraft-verse online, you start to get the same oceanic feeling that huge internet systems like YouTube and Twitter often inspire: the mingling of despair (“I’ll never see it all”) with delight (“People made this”) with dizzying anthropic awe (“So… many… people.”)

Turns out you can do a lot with those blocks.



Imagine yourself acquiring the keys to a mutable world in which you can explore caves, fight spiders, build castles, ride pigs, blow up mountains, construct aqueducts to carry water to your summer palace… anything.

Imagine yourself a child, in possession of the secret knowledge.

***

This wouldn’t be enough on its own. Obscure techniques have been a part of video games from the beginning; Nintendo Power surely had a dusting of secret knowledge. What’s different here is that Minecraft connects this lure to the objective not of beating the game, but making more of the game.

“Game” doesn’t even do it justice. What we’re really talking about here is a generative, networked system laced throughout with secrets.

Five years in, Minecraft (the system) has bloomed into something bigger and more beautiful than any game studio — whether a tiny one like Markus Persson’s or a huge one like EA — could ever produce on its own. The scale of it is staggering; overwhelming. As you explore the extended Minecraft-verse online, you start to get the same oceanic feeling that huge internet systems like YouTube and Twitter often inspire: the mingling of despair (“I’ll never see it all”) with delight (“People made this”) with dizzying anthropic awe (“So… many… people.”)

Turns out you can do a lot with those blocks.

We’re in a new century now, and its hallmark is humans doing things together, mostly on screens, at scales unimaginable in earlier times.

In the 2010s and beyond, it is not the case that every cultural product ought to be a generative, networked system.

It is, I believe, the case that all the really important ones will be.

To ignore the creative power of all these brains—millions and millions of them, young and old—leaves too much on the table.

I’m a writer, and don’t get me wrong: To publish a plain ol’ book that people actually want to read is still a solid achievement. But I think Markus Persson and his studio have staked out a new kind of achievement, a deeper kind: To make the system that calls forth the book, which is not just a story but a real magick manual that grants its reader (who consumes it avidly, endlessly, all day, at school, at night, under the covers, studying, studying) new and exciting powers in a vivid, malleable world.

I’m not a huge Minecraft player myself—my shelter never grew beyond the rough-hewn Robinson Crusoe stage—but I look at those books and, I tell you: I am eight years old again. I feel afresh all the impulses that led me towards books and writing, toward the fantastic and science-fictional… except now, there is this other door.

It’s made of blocks, I suppose.

“A generative, networked system laced throughout with secrets.”

When you write it that way, you realize it doesn’t have to be software. This is a stretch, but you could apply that description to the greater Star Wars universe—not just the movies, but all that followed: the books, the video games, the spit-spraying backyard lightsaber battles. And, based on all the fan fiction and wizard rock they inspired, I’d say the Harry Potter books managed to boot up a generative, networked system of some sort.

But now, in the 2010s, Minecraft improves upon those examples, because it does not merely allow this co-creation but requires it. And so the burning question in my brain right now is this: What happens when we take the secret of Minecraft and apply it elsewhere, in new ways?"
minecraft  gaming  games  culture  robinsloan  2014  networks  learning  howwelearn  worldbuilding  lego  books  secrets  networkedlearning 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Fire Phone at the farmers market — The Message — Medium
"With the exception of a few paintings, all of Amazon’s demo “items” were commercial products: things with ISBNs, bar codes, and/or spectral signatures. Things with price tags.

We did not see the Fire Phone recognize a eucalyptus tree.

There is reason to suspect the Fire Phone cannot identify a goldfinch.

And I do not think the Fire Phone can tell me which of these “items” is kale.

This last one is the most troubling, because a system that greets a bag of frozen vegetables with a bar code like an old friend but draws a blank on a basket of fresh greens at the farmers market—that’s not just technical. That’s political.

But here’s the thing: The kale is coming.

There’s an iPhone app called Deep Belief, a tech demo from programmer Pete Warden. It’s free."



"If Amazon’s Fire Phone could tell kale from Swiss chard, if it could recognize trees and birds, I think its polarity would flip entirely, and it would become a powerful ally of humanistic values. As it stands, Firefly adds itself to the forces expanding the commercial sphere, encroaching on public space, insisting that anything interesting must have a price tag. But of course, that’s Amazon: They’re in The Goldfinch detection business, not the goldfinch detection business.

If we ever do get a Firefly for all the things without price tags, we’ll probably get it from Google, a company that’s already working hard on computer vision optimized for public space. It’s lovely to imagine one of Google’s self-driving cars roaming around, looking everywhere at once, diligently noting street signs and stop lights… and noting also the trees standing alongside those streets and the birds perched alongside those lights.

Lovely, but not likely.

Maybe the National Park Service needs to get good at this.

At this point, the really deeply humanistic critics are thinking: “Give me a break. You need an app for this? Buy a bird book. Learn the names of trees.” Okay, fine. But, you know what? I have passed so much flora and fauna in my journeys around this fecund neighborhood of mine and wondered: What is that? If I had a humanistic Firefly to tell me, I’d know their names by now."
amazon  technology  robinsloan  objects  objectrecognition  identification  objectidentification  firefly  mobile  phones  2014  jeffbezos  consumption  learning  deepbelief  petewarden  ai  artificialintelligence  cameras  computervision  commonplace  deeplearning 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Moby-Dick variations — The Message — Medium
"That’s interesting, but here’s the one that blows my mind: If we were to burn all extant copies of Moby-Dick and then rewrite the story from memory… 33% of respondents told me that would be the same novel!

I just couldn’t square that response with the others. You’re telling me that if I change the adjectives, it’s not the same novel, but if I open a blank Word document and start typing from memory, it is?

Upon consideration, what I get from these responses is an intuition of faithfulness. Translation is assumed to be faithful, whereas the substitution of adjectives is clearly a game. Likewise, when we rewrite the book from memory, we are assumed to be doing so faithfully, to the best of our paltry ability (“I… can’t remember the whaling chapters. I never actually read them. I’m sorry. I’M SORRY!”), whereas if we change the ending, we are clearly inflicting something on the story.

Faithfulness to what, though?

I think Shaenon K. Garrity has the answer.

I think we, as readers, are able to sense the shape of a particular Branch Library of Babel built around a particular story, with its particular set of images and themes. Even though this Branch Library is an abstract thing, to say the least, I think we, as readers, can trace its perimeter with surprising accuracy. Collectively—and maybe only collectively—we can determine which elements a work of fiction depends on, and which it doesn’t.

It makes me think of that indirect sort of astronomy, in which we infer the existence of an exoplanet by looking closely at a wobbling star. I think we are seeing a little wobble when we learn that adding a sex scene is less of an injury to Moby-Dick’s Moby-Dick-ness than changing the ending. Moby-Dick’s ending obviously matters, a lot. There are other stories for which the ending might feel arbitrary, even superfluous, but for which an added sex scene would be transformative indeed. (Winnie the Pooh, perhaps?)

This isn’t just intellectual play. I mean, it’s mostly intellectual play. But, having written and revised and published a novel myself, this question of where it begins and ends has become more concrete, particularly now that the book has been translated into about twenty languages. Usually, foreign publishers send over two or three copies. I look at these other editions…

…and realize that, somehow, these two statements are simultaneously true:

1. This is the same novel.
2, Every single word has been changed.

Likewise: In the earliest draft of Penumbra, there was this whole weird thing about Matthias Corvinus, the Raven King, a real-life historical figure. He and his lost library (!) were at the core of that story, yet they are nowhere in the published novel. Was that variation, printed on cheap paper and shared with early readers, not actually Penumbra? Where is the Raven King now?

Writing a novel, it is possible to become aware of yourself as an explorer in a new Branch Library of Babel, one built not around Moby-Dick but instead some other story—the one you’re writing. In this awareness, you are not so much composing as spelunking: feeling your way toward the one particular incarnation of the story that you will carry back into the light, into the world, into bookstores and libraries.

The other variations remain behind, but—I really believe this, and I think my little survey backs it up—readers can still sense them. When we read a novel, we enjoy not only a particular text but somehow the suggestion of a whole Branch Library. Sometimes, if a novel is successful, that becomes a place where others want to go exploring: with translation and adaptation, by remixing and rebooting. All of these undertakings constitute a return journey, and there are always more variations waiting in the Branch Library.

To my translators, I ought to say: “Suit up. Bring a sandwich. Carry a taser. The Raven King is in there somewhere.”

Back in Garrity’s original Branch Library of Babel, though, the real question is this: If you search and search… will you ever find Emoji Dick?"
robinsloan  literature  philosophy  translation  language  books  shaenongarrity  borges  2014  mobydick  libraryofbabelspelunking  variations  bookstores  libraries  moby-dick 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Before Minecraft or Snapchat, there was MicroMUSE – Robin Sloan – Aeon
"As kids, we make secret worlds – in trees, in our imaginations, even online – but can we go back to them when we’re grown?"



"If you explore MicroMUSE today, you’ll get a preview of the fate that awaits all of our social systems. The streets are empty, but it’s more than that: there is a palpable sense of entropy. You can query the system for a list of commands, but many of them no longer work. It’s half glitchy video game, half haunted house. Sometimes it falls offline entirely, only to return days later.

The system still speaks. You are welcomed by the transporter attendant, who gives directions to all newcomers to this space city. It cautions you: Clear communication is very important in a text-based environment…

When I logged in again after many years away – connected directly, no Gopher required, using the Terminal program on my MacBook, sleek descendant of that old Mac Plus – the first thing I did was look for Nib’s Knoll. In truth, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I had long forgotten the path through the holodeck. There were ways to teleport but, to teleport, you need to know where you’re going, and MicroMUSE wouldn’t, or couldn’t, reveal the location of my old home.

It is very likely that it no longer exists, swept away in a database purge sometime during the past 15 years. I mean, really very likely. Ninety-five percent likely.

And yet, the ghostliness of present-day MicroMUSE – the inability of the system to deliver a definitive yea or nay – leaves space for a dim hope. I wander the empty streets, and I see familiar places: structures and descriptions I remember from the mid-1990s. I remember the things I built with Hacker VII, and the feeling that followed when they actually worked. I remember the scrum of users; there would be five or six of us gathered in a room, and it would seem like a crowd, a veritable riot of life.

Hacker VII’s real name was Joe VanDeventer, and today Joe is a web developer in Chicago. Nib Noals’s real name was Robin Sloan, and today I am a writer in San Francisco.

Both of these paths were prefigured almost perfectly on MicroMUSE. All we did there – all we could do – was program and write. Build and describe. Every additional feature called for more words: words to tell a user what he or she was doing, words to show everyone else. It was a whole world made of words. It was the web before the web; it was a novel that could stand up and speak.

I don’t mean to mythologise a crusty old system; its innocence and simplicity were handicaps as much as they were virtues. But even so, I’m grateful that MicroMUSE, of all places, was my training ground. Social systems have values – arguments baked into their design. For example, Twitter’s core argument seems to be: everything should be public, and messages should find the largest audience possible. Snapchat’s might be: communication should be private and ephemeral. The video game Counter-Strike’s is almost certainly: aim for the head. Back in 1994, MicroMUSE’s core argument was: language is all you need. If you can write, it can be real.

I left the holodeck, but I never abandoned that notion.

It is, frankly, miraculous that MicroMUSE still runs at all. It’s not hosted by MIT anymore; the system has migrated to a server called MuseNet. If you can get yourself to a command prompt, you can type ‘telnet micromuse.musenet.org 4201’ and walk the empty streets yourself."
robinsloan  2014  minecraft  muse  micromuse  play  childhood  worldbuilding  imagaination  computers  creativity  online  internet  degradation  disappearance  digitalartifacts 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The Natural Disaster — Medium
"And it’s important, because gets at the way in which the city’s housing market seems to be less of a market these days and more of a casino. I heard Daniel deliver a longer version of his piece at a reading recently, and there, he added the sharpest, most succinct description of San Francisco’s problem I’ve yet heard:

“People are afraid to move.”

Simple as that. All of this wailing and gnashing of teeth about culture and money and corporate buses—none of it would rise to the level of crisis if that statement wasn’t true. But it is. This great influx of wealth has not made San Francisco nimble, lively, and exciting; it has made it static, grasping, and fearful. This is not how a city should function. Or, maybe a sharper phrasing is called for: a city cannot function this way."
robinsloan  mobility  sanfrancisco  housing  realestate  2014  cities  diversity  fear  gentrification 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Making culture for the internets—all of them — The Sea of Fog — Medium
"Really, though, the reason I didn’t even contemplate translation was that I had an allergic reaction to anything that smelled like geography. This is the new model, I argued strenuously. Create a bit of culture and publish it once, for everyone, everywhere. No DRM. No regional restrictions. Just the power and beauty of a plain PDF, a simple MP4.

Because we’ve all seen the same disappointing message on a streaming service at some point, right? This content is not licensed for your region. Infuriating. The new model never gives you that message. Down with disappointment! Up with universal access!

And yes: the new model works technically. Technically, it’s beautiful. But—I have learned this, and if it seems like something a person shouldn’t have to learn, well, you’re wiser than I was—it turns out culture works in other ways, too. You can’t consume something you don’t understand, no matter how elegantly it’s presented. Further, you won’t even get the opportunity to consume it unless you hear about it from someone who speaks your language.

People ridiculed George W. Bush when he called them “the internets” but he had it right. Technically, the internet is one huge interconnected network. Linguistically and socially, it is many networks, and they are very distinct.

For example: There are 40 million Brazilians on Twitter. Do you follow any Brazilians?* This is a significant fraction of a service that many of us consider our internet front porch—and yet, unless you speak Portuguese, it’s invisible. It might as well be a different service entirely.

*Yes, I realize there are a few Brazilians reading this. To you I say: olá.

Eric Fischer’s map of the languages being used on Twitter tells the tale:

[image]

Here, where language is concerned, the internet has not conquered geography. It has repeated it."



"Right now, if you make bits of culture and you want them to be available to the entire world—truly linguistically and socially available, not just technically accessible—your best bet is to work with movie studios; with book publishers; with Netflix. My own experience with publishers has been revelatory, and it’s made some of my solo projects feel, in retrospect, quite parochial indeed.

But there should be better options for independent internet culture makers. Whether we’re writing in English or German or Italian or Chinese, we should have the tools to reach the entire world at once.

We thought we already did; we thought it was the internet.

But they have been the internets all along."
culture  internet  language  translation  writing  robinsloan  2013  books  media  web  online  plurality  internets  geography 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Starting areas / Snarkmarket
"This short post is about starting areas in MMOs. When you create a new character in, say, World of Warcraft, where do you begin? How much of the world is available to you, and how soon?

Here’s the author Keen’s ideal starting situation — one that apparently goes against the grain of modern MMO design:
Players start hours apart, and in areas of the world so different from each other that the social mechanisms are different. I remember seeing people say, “We do things differently in this part of the world.” Someone hunting in Crushbone might be used to players behaving differently than those in Blackburrow. Even the experiences are totally unique; players on one side of the world might have a dungeon crawl deep into the depths of a vast cavern network, and players on the other side fight camps of orcs in a forest. The unique experience matters because people can swap stories.


Because people can swap stories! That’s so great, and so important. I don’t know exactly how this applies to domains beyond MMOs, but I’m quite sure that it does."
mmos  sotrytelling  gaming  games  videogames  play  conversation  experience  robinsloan  snarkmarket  2013 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Jonas Mekas
[via: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/this-90-year-old-lithuanian-filmmaker-has-the-best-website/282171/

"Everyone agrees: there is so much crap on the Internet.

There's smarm. There's snark. There's faux outrage. And faux outrage about faux outrage. And so on.

But there is also filmmaker Jonas Mekas.

Born on Christmas Eve, 1922 in a village in Lithuania, Mekas had a typically awful experience of World War II in Europe, before eventually making his way to New York City. He became part of the art and film scenes of the 1950s and 1960s, most notably in the Fluxus movement with people like Yoko Ono. He co-founded the Anthology Film Archives, and made many films (some of which I've been lucky enough to see).

Now, as Mekas steams towards his 91st birthday, I found my way, via a sidelong reference in the New York Times, to his website, JonasMekas.com.

And it is a delight. From the introductory video, in which Mekas welcomes his friends to the site and plays the bugle, to the videos of Alan Ginsberg or Mekas playing with his first Sony Camcorder, the site exudes the joy of creation.

The mystery and beauty of (just) being form the spine of Mekas' work. This website is like what would happen if you'd given Pablo Neruda a digital video recorder and some HTML skills during his Odas period.

In a video from Thursday, perhaps the greatest video selfie ever made, he presents us with out-of-focus, shaky video of a bowl of apples, riffing about their importance, a hierarchy of ontology, the evils of scientific improvement, and the apples he ate as a child in Lithuania. Then he turns the camera, says, "My friends," and laughs like this: ha ha ha. "I dream about those apples. But I love this apples, too. They're not destroying us. It's we who are destroying them," he says. The camera lingers on his aged face.

He looks as if he might begin speaking again, saying softly, "My friends." Then he plunges the camera down towards the apples in a Wayne's-World-style extreme closeup.

Fin.

Mekas is a voice from another time who has embraced the tools of the present moment. The random, decontextualized Internet is a perfect place to meet and enjoy Mekas' work. His style—direct, non-linear, narrated—exists everywhere on YouTube and Vimeo now.

But the spirit that informs his work is not so easy to find. Maybe it exists in the work of a poet like Steve Roggenbuck or Robin Sloan's media thingy Fish with its exhortation, "Look at your fish!" and its question, "What does it mean to love something on the Internet today?"

It's rare, though, to find a person who wants you to look at beautiful things because they are beautiful.

Looking at Mekas' work, the temptation might be to say: this work lacks coherence. It's not that easy to say what he's trying to do or "say" or create. But he offers us what I'd think of as a viewing guide to his work in this excerpt from his 2000 film, "As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhmZ7C-oXDY)"

Mekas says:
I have never been able, really, to figure out where my life begins and where it ends. I have never, never been able to figure it all out, what it's all about, what it all means. So when I began now to put all these rolls of film together, to string them together, the first idea was to keep them chronological. But then I gave up and I just began splicing them together by chance the way that I found them on the shelf.

Because I really don't know where any piece of my life really belongs, so let it be. Let it go. Just by pure chance, disorder.

There is some current, some kind of order in it, order of its own, which I do not really understand same as I never understood life around me.

The real life, as they say. Or the real people. I never understood them. I still do not understand them. And I do not really want to understand them.
Let it go. I do not really want to understand them.

It reminds me of what the poet John Keats said Shakespeare's great quality was: "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

Keats called this, "negative capability."]

[See also his Vimeo account:
https://vimeo.com/jonasmekas/videos

Wikipedia entry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonas_Mekas

Poetry:
http://members.efn.org/~valdas/mekas.html

"At Home with Jonas Mekas"
https://vimeo.com/55519339
http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/questionnaire-jonas-mekas/

"Jonas Mekas : In Praise of the Ordinary"
https://vimeo.com/77245018

"Jonas Mekas, 28 minute biography from The Lower East Side Biography Project"
(Great rant starting around 9:30, and remembering George Maciunas of Fluxus) about artists, creatives, ideas, designers, workers, retirement)
https://vimeo.com/78459128

"Jonas Mekas, Walden, 1969 (excerpt)"
https://vimeo.com/2601707

""A Happy Man" by Jonas Mekas" (NOWNESS)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGUt_4F2SRM
http://www.nowness.com/day/2012/12/5

"MOCAtv Presents 'In Focus' - Jonas Mekas - The Artist's Studio"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtIQCxypAFM ]
jonasmekas  filmmakers  film  internet  beauty  everyday  art  life  living  web  steveroggenbuck  robinsloan  poetry  2013  alexismadrigaljohnkets  shakespear  uncertainty  doubt  fact  reason  wonder  mystery  negativecapability  retirement  workers  fluxus  georgemaciunas  creatives  creativity  artists  designers  design  ideas  work  labor  artleisure  leisurearts  artlabor 
december 2013 by robertogreco
A book for winter / Snarkmarket
"As I read, and after, I found Hild’s way of thinking seeping into my brain. She is a scientist before science, a flâneuse before Paris or anything remotely approaching it. She is a watcher, a pattern-finder, a naturalist growing into a politician. In an email, I told Nicola that after I read her book, I found myself
paying more attention the natural world, & not just in passing, but with patience. I thought specifically of Hild the other afternoon when I was in my backyard & saw a giant spider on its web. I bent down close, inspected it, watched it for a while. It really does require patience, and a conviction that, you know, this is a totally legitimate way to spend your time.
"
robinsloan  2013  books  nature  noticing  observation  slow  patternfinding  flaneur 
november 2013 by robertogreco
How Has Twitter Changed the Role of the Literary Critic? - NYTimes.com
"You’d think. And in the case of the medium’s best publishing-industry practitioners — people like Kathryn Schulz, Maud Newton, Laura Miller and Ron Charles, who marry reverence for Literature with a capital L with a breezy, personal tone — it is. But among others, I suspect there’s more at work than discomfort with the form’s limitations. It may not be a coincidence that in contrast to the shameful gender ratio endemic to so many literary publications, some of the most widely read critics on Twitter are women. One might argue that many critics’ outright dismissal of the technology is directly related to their feelings of privilege. “Some of these people don’t need to be on Twitter because they already have all the access they need,” the fiction writer and critic Roxane Gay told me."
twitter  via:robinsloan  access  writing  adamkirsch  philgyford  samuelpepys  annaholmes  jonathanfranzen  robinsloan  roxanegay 
october 2013 by robertogreco
‘A perpetual outpouring of energy at the heart of things’ — The Double Dagger — Medium
"Here [http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/10/iain-banks-ken-macleod-science-fiction ], Ken MacLeod characterizes the science fiction of Iain Banks, who died recently, and far too young:
A multiverse in continuous creation, a perpetual outpouring of energy at the heart of things, was for him a happy and hopeful notion, and one that he at least affected to take seriously as a possibility. It is easy, and right, to see in it a reflection of his own boundless creative exuberance.
Iain Banks’s science fiction, his chronicle of the cosmos-spanning civilization he called the Culture, is a monument to the idea that there is a bigger story waiting for us somewhere far from here; that this, all of it, is just the beginning, these ten thousand years (so far) the first chapter of a very thick and very interesting book. Not even the first chapter! Just the throat-clearing introduction. The copyright page.


Iain Banks imagined
a perpetual outpouring of energy at the heart of things


and the only halfway-reasonable memorial is simply this: create."
iaianbanks  robinsloan  creativity  2013  making  glvo  creation  energy  hope  happiness  culture  perspective  time  civilization  progress 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Atriums and Frame-Crashing – Allen Tan is…writing
"It turns out that there’s a rich well of writing already about context collapse – see Michael Wesch and Danah Boyd, among others – describing the paralysis that comes from writing (etc) online. You don’t know how to act because you don’t know who’s watching. This isn’t new, as Wesch compares it to talking to a video camera.

I think frame-crashing is the Jekyll to context collapse’s Hyde. While the latter is the current feeling of the disorientation, frame-crashing is an active act. You frame-crash when mockingly retweeting 15-year-olds who thought Cher died when seeing #nowthatchersdead. Journalists frame-crash when they quote cluelessly rascist people in stories about people of color. This isn’t a judgment about whether it’s fair (it varies), the point is that it’s done to someone."
allentan  danahboyd  michaelwesch  2013  contextcollapse  frame-crashing  marcfisher  tomscheinfeldt  mandybrett  bonniestewart  marksample  frankchimero  robinsloan  workinginpublic  ninastössinger  anandgiridharadas  audience  writing  feedback  vulnerability  iteration  online  journalism  sharing  purpose  audiences 
may 2013 by robertogreco
A brave new world: science fiction predictions for 2013
"With the novel Empty Space in 2012, M John Harrison concluded his Kefahuchi Tract trilogy begun with Light in 2002 and Nova Swing in 2006. Empty Space and its precursors paint their drama across a canvas reaching from the infinite scale of space-time, down through the quantum universe and into the depths of the human heart. Harrison's masterpiece is the outcome of a decades-long project to fuse the conceptual strength of SF with the human insights of literary fiction. Robert Macfarlane, chair of the Booker prize judging panel in 2013, picked Empty Space as his book of the year recently, and it's unlikely to be the first plaudit as more literary readers discover M John Harrison's remarkable writing."

"Space is SF's new black: Once upon a time our imagination populated outer space with exotic alien civilisations, and the space race inspired thousands of SF novels through the 60s and 70s. But when exploration revealed nothing but a barren solar system and infinite vacuum, space fell…"
scifi  predictions  trends  mjohnharrison  via:robinsloan  robinsloan  sciencefiction  books  2013  space 
january 2013 by robertogreco
The prime mover — The Sea of Fog — Medium
"when you move through the world believing the best about people at all times. Jim’s beliefs became self-fulfilling prophecies, because he told people these things he believed about them—great things, improbable things—and they believed him. (You wouldn’t think so, but it requires tremendous courage to tell people great things about themselves, particularly in private. Amplified accolades at retirement dinners are easy; whispered appraisals across the desk divider are not.)

Grace: when you extend an offer of allegiance to everyone around you. Jim’s allegiance was not the allegiance of what can you do for me, nor was it the allegiance of you will bring honor to my house. Instead, it was the allegiance of… we are here together.

We are here together. You could call it a low bar; I call it an open door. And the fact that it was so plentiful made the fierceness and durability of Jim’s support even more remarkable. Basically, it made you feel like you’d won the lottery…"
encouragement  toaspireto  accolades  allegiance  enthusiasm  optimism  trust  grace  jimnaughton  2012  robinsloan 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Robin Sloan's Low-Tech Triumph | Mother Jones
"You can go as far back as fifth grade and you will find me tinkering with media and computers, making things that are a little off the beaten track. It's not just a book report or a video game. It's like some weird combination, and for like 20 years they didn't quite work."

"I have a couple best friends, one of whom is very much the template for Neel because we became friends over our shared interest in a series of books about dragons. But we used to try to play Dungeons & Dragons all the time, and it turns out it's much better on paper than it is in reality. We would get together in one of our basements and lovingly craft these characters and figure out what they were carrying and what spells they had. But that would take three hours and I don't know if we ever finished a game."

"In some ways I grew up in the public library in Troy, Michigan."

"Festina lente should totally be a model for our age."

"I don't know, you just feel like even the Muppets could work at Google."
future  festinalente  history  distraction  freedom  twitter  siliconvalley  muppets  google  maddieoatman  interviews  robinsloan  internet  books  mrpenumbra  penumbra  2012 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Twitter / robinsloan: @audreywatters @tcarmody @mthomps ...
"@audreywatters @tcarmody @mthomps Ha! Nothing we do at @snarkmarket is massive or even particularly scalable—that's part of its charm ;-)"

…in response to https://twitter.com/audreywatters/status/265508419048439808

"@tcarmody @Snarkmarket @mthomps @robinsloan thank you for not calling this MOOC. Otherwise, you'd be dead to me, Carmody"

…in response to https://twitter.com/tcarmody/status/265507504723738624

"The best blogs become great classrooms. On @Snarkmarket’s Tenth Anniversary Seminar w/@mthomps, @robinsloan, me, & you: http://snarkmarket.com/2012/8022 "
snarkmarket  seminars  charm  scaling  scale  robinsloan  timcarmody  audreywatters  moocs  2012  mooc 
november 2012 by robertogreco
One on One: Robin Sloan, Author and 'Media Inventor' - NYTimes.com
"Q. In your book you talk about content overload. How do we solve that?

A. The problem is, all of this content is good. The vision of the Internet as a vast digital wasteland isn’t correct. Everything is awesome and we have more stuff to read than we ever have in history. I think part of the answer comes with devices and interfaces: we need to create more devices without distractions, like Kindles.

…A. I think there is a tradeoff inherent in contemporary references. The cost is that the book becomes dated very quickly. The benefit is that people reading it right now feel a dizzying present.

"Q. So I notice you have an old Nokia phone. Why?
A. I realized that for me, the iPhone had gone beyond just being a habit. I decided that with the job I have now, which is a full-time writer, it’s actually more important and more productive for me to be daydreaming and jotting down notes than it is for me to e-mail or read all my tweets."
distraction  writing  focus  reading  attention  mrpenumbra  penumbra  nickbilton  interviews  kindle  infooverload  dumbphones  books  technology  robinsloan  2012 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Publishers, Here's a Case Study: The Book Party as Live, Interactive Show - Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg - The Atlantic
"To celebrate the release of his first novel, Robin Sloan hosted a 24-hour web show about books, technology, and more -- all streaming live via Google Hangout. The self-proclaimed "media inventor" spent a full 24 hours holed up at the historic Center for Fiction in Manhattan, inspired by the eponymous enterprise in his book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Sloan invited me to drop in and chat about web video (we worked together at Current TV a couple years ago) so I brought a camera and shot a short behind-the-scenes video while I as there. Chilling at the Center for Fiction felt like attending a micro conference -- like South by Southwest Interactive scaled down to short conversations over coffee and scones."
bookparties  books  2012  penumbra  mrpenumbra  robinsloan  faketv  kasiacieplak-mayrvonbaldegg 
october 2012 by robertogreco
>You Are Standing in a Dark Cave: Robin Sloan and Charles Yu in Conversation - The Barnes & Noble Review
"I think you're onto something when you say first person is "the native mode of the early 21st century" although I would qualify that by saying that is much more true of writers who are just starting out or close to it, and less true for writers who have been writing since the last millennium. No doubt it has something to do with email and Twitter, as you point out, and also Facebook and video games and all of this first-person writing. Of course, people have always navigated the world in first-person – but I think the difference now is that everyone wants to be a protagonist. And if you're living in the U.S., and relatively comfortable, you have the means and opportunity to do so, to construct reality so that you're at the center of it."

"I'm actually optimistic about mass protagonization. One of the virtues of writing in first-person for an audience, even a very small one, is that it forces you to actually decide what you think."

[And so much more…]
edg  text-basedgames  text-basedadventures  srg  if  metafiction  garyshteyngart  howfictionworks  freeindindirectstyle  thinking  thinkingbywriting  games  gaming  videogames  jameswood  mrpenumbra  facebook  twitter  email  digitalage  empathy  2012  firstperson  writing  charlesyu  robinsloan  interactivefiction 
october 2012 by robertogreco
A whole magazine of this, please « Snarkmarket
"Seriously, imagine this magazine. (And when I say “magazine” I obviously mean “website.”) It would be so different from anything that’s out there today. It wouldn’t be people trying to convince you of things. (This is the usual mode of, say, The New York Review of Books—although props to them for publishing Nagel on Plantinga.) Nor would it be people ironically infiltrating different belief systems. (This is the mode of a lot of narrative journalism today, and it’s super entertaining! You know: “I spent six weeks hanging out with these crazy people and here’s what I saw.”) It would be… brains at work. Call it The Grappler. An engine of empathy. I don’t know. It would probably have a readership of 300 people but maybe that’s okay."

[Alexis Madrigal comment: "All hail that which does not scale! All hail that which does not scale!"]
saulwurman  intimacy  small  scale  externalization  debate  belief  thomasnagel  longnow  alanjacobs  ianbogost  www.www  wwwconference  intellectualexcercises  understanding  writing  ideas  magazines  comments  snarkmarket  2012  thegrappler  perspective  empathy  robinsloan 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Rhizome | The Web That Can't Wait
"…college would highlight in relief just how much I hadn’t read. Each semester I took far more courses than I could legitimately handle, and reading became consumptive instead of submersive. It became good enough to quickly read each text just once; a slower savouring could come later."

"When we enthuse about print books, we talk about them like they’ll be around forever. Such is not the case; like memories & scars, they fade and warp over time. Consider the spectrum from mass-market paperbacks that very quickly become unbound and jaundiced with age, through to more expensive texts that might be printed on acid-free paper. Rarer texts get a panopoly of preservation treatments from binding and display cases through to environmental controls that limit exposure to heat and light. In their attempt to rejuvenate print, Eterna Cadencia just might be sounding the death knell, in insisting that we treat each book with the white-gloved, sacralised care we accord to museum & archival pieces."
slowreading  massmarket  paperbacks  ebooks  longform  fishapp  robinsloan  jackcheng  slowweb  slow  speed  fomo  2012  reading  publishing  rhizome  books 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Why we should leave our fingerprints for the future. - Do Lectures
"Robin [Sloan] tells us how and why he writes. And how to get the most out of what you do."

"Lightness of inspiration [TCS example, collecting for unknown future needs]
Lightness of motion [walking when stuck, solvitur ambulando, lightness of the mind and body]
Lightness of digital [enabling a start]
Lightness of dependency [this AND that, not this OR that]
Lightness of heart [because dwelling on death can lead to depression]"

"Time is the ultimate body shop."

"When you are light you are best able to answer the deepest and darkest questions."

"Since death alone is certain and the time of death uncertain, what should I do?"
mindbody  motion  ephemeral  ephemerality  dolectures  doing  making  fingerprintsforthefuture  ambition  purpose  time  whywedowhatwedo  why  craigmod  ebooks  digital  friction  resistence  collectingforunknownfutureneeds  future  collecting  observation  noticing  howwework  meaningmaking  happiness  and  thisandthat  haiku  2011  normalheights  mrpenumbra  living  buddhism  death  life  meaning  lloydalexander  reading  howwewrite  cv  ego  tcsnmy7  tcsnmy  italocalvino  walking  small  slow  lightness  creativity  writing  fingerprints  robinsloan 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The student « Snarkmarket
"Sometimes I’ll do something similar with crosswalks. As I cross, I match my pace to the orange numbers counting down and I pretend that when they reach zero, when I reach the curb, I’ll die. I think this version might be even more potent than Coppola’s because you’re walking, not waiting—you move forward to confront the idea. But any sort of exercise like this can be really healthy and helpful, I think. It’s amazing how much you can realize about your own life, about what you care about and what you don’t, in 10 or 15 seconds."
psychology  play  games  mindgames  robinsloan  death  2012 
august 2012 by robertogreco
What happens in the dark?
"Things like this happen when you give a book to a group of people, a set of potential allies, ahead of time—when you give them just that, time: to read it, to love it, to make it their own and share it with people of their own. It takes patience (never my strong suit) but the reward is real: a group of allies larger and more far-flung than any you yourself could ever assemble.

I use the word far-flung with some precision. Right now, publishers beyond these borders are taking the book and truly making it their own, translating it into Italian, German… Please allow the following series of exclamation marks to represent the magnitude of my delight: !!!!!

It’s like the planning before a surprise party. You: bring the balloons. You: buy some noisemakers. You: translate the message on the cake into Italian. And you: watch the door. We’re all in on this now. The room is dark and the book is glowing. It’s almost October, and there are footsteps in the hall.

Soon, the lights will come on."
teamwork  patience  sharing  publishing  robinsloan  allies  collaboration  books  mrpenumbra  2012 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The Wiggle of Least Resistance - NYTimes.com
"So the Wiggle is more than a flat path. It’s a community. The Wiggle says: You shouldn’t be riding alone. Here — all of you — stick together.

Today, the Wiggle hides in plain sight. The city recently repainted the way, marking the turns with bright green sigils. You can’t miss them. This is a good thing, just one sign among many of the bicycle’s growing influence in San Francisco. There’s even talk of closing Market Street off to cars entirely; it would be reserved for buses and bikes.

But the path between the hills is still enough of a secret that there is pleasure in its revelation."
history  transportation  flow  robinsloan  wiggle  thewiggle  community  2012  biking  bikes  sanfrancisco 
august 2012 by robertogreco
House of Cards | Contents Magazine
Robin resuscitates HyperCard-like stacks.

"We will start to make stacks in earnest again. We will develop a new grammar for this old format. We will talk about rhythm and reveals and tweetable cards. We will know how many cards an average person can tap through in one sitting. We will know when to use stacks…and when to just scroll on. Twenty-five years later, we will prove the hypertext researchers wrong: cards are pretty cool after all."

Later, we discuss: http://branch.com/b/cards-scrolls-flexibility-text-that-knows-whassup

Full conversation now here: http://storify.com/rogre/stacking-scrolling-interacting-evolving-and-branch
comments  design  text  writing  stacks  robinsloan  2012  contentsmagazine  hypercard  scrolling  pagination 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Jack Cheng waits for ramen, uses time wisely. (with images, tweets) · maxfenton · Storify
"Since I have four hours to kill, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to write a short story while I'm waiting. #ivanramen



First written draft is done. Water break, and then it's time to type! #ivanramen http://pic.twitter.com/ZM9AYyGF



Here it is! http://blog.jackcheng.com/post/27433804293/the-line-sitters Time to eat. #ivanramen



My hands are shaking from the adrenaline right now.



#ivanramen http://instagr.am/p/NMu71-xt0v/ "
constraints  classideas  howwewrite  howwework  robinsloan  writing  storytelling  stories  food  jackcheng  ramen  storify 
july 2012 by robertogreco
The introduction
""Walking down Alcatraz Avenue. Didn't hear the Arabic "al" in that word until just this very moment. Now I can't un-hear it: Al-qaṭrās!"

—and I’m sure I noticed the “al” this time because I’ve been re-reading Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted, a terrific and accessible history of Islam.

…This book has the best introduction I have ever read. It’s not long, but it’s written in an almost impossibly cool, casual voice, and it sets the rest of the book up perfectly without ever like, precapitulating the content. Here’s my favorite bit, which gives you a good sense of Ansary’s voice:

"This is the story I tell in the pages that follow, and I emphasize “story.” Destiny Disrupted is neither a textbook nor a scholarly thesis. It’s more like what I’d tell you if we met in a coffeehouse and you said, “What’s all this about a parallel world history?”"

This introduction is like the toss before a great tennis serve. Tamim Ansary is the Roger Federer of introductions."
storytelling  stories  parallelworldhistory  tamimansary  destinydisrupted  arabic  books  2012  etymology  language  introductions  writing  robinsloan 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Bagels are stranger than fiction
"It is a feeling unique to writers of zeitgeisty fiction, and maybe there ought to be a long German word for it: anger at the real world for outpacing your publication date. If you could transcribe it, the feeling would go something like this: Arghhh couldn’t you have waited just a few months to reveal this technology? To get interested in this trend? This idea? In a few months, my book would already be out, and I would get credit for being so prescient!

It’s an absurd feeling, of course, because writers aren’t any more prescient, as a rule, than entrepreneurs or designers or anyone else with an interest in the zeitgeist. It’s just a lot easier to describe a new technology—or any new idea, really—than it is to actually implement it, so writers sometimes get there first.

Sometimes, but not always."
conjurerers  invention  predictions  food  2012  fiction  writing  bagels  robinsloan 
july 2012 by robertogreco
The power to be who we want to be
"The actor & impresario Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really frighteningly omni-talented &, on top of everything else, rather wise:

"On some level, we as human beings can be who we want to be. Our identity & our nature can be in our control. I don’t just mean the presentation of our identity. Look at Gary Oldman—look at his characters in ‘True Romance’ or the Harry Potter films or in the Batman movies—you can’t be as good as he is by doing it just on the surface. We have the power to be who we want to be, whoever that is."

That’s from an interview w/ Geoff Boucher. It’s true, & it’s scary that it’s true, because it means if we aren’t who we want to be, we have no one to blame… but ourselves.

It reminds me of something I heard a long time ago. I’m paraphrasing from musty memory here… it went something like this:

"I have good news & bad news. Bad news first: if you’re not happy right now, at this moment in your life, you will never be happy. Now, the good news: you can be happy right now."
geoffboucher  being  psychology  mind  garyoldman  acting  josephgordon-levitt  positivepsychology  willpower  power  human  identity  happiness  2012  robinsloan 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Games in the street « Snarkmarket
"We didn’t play stickball out in the second-ring suburbs of Detroit, but we did play with sticks. We ran in the street until dark and we built forts in the mud down by the creek. Most importantly, we made up new games on the spot.

That’s just about my favorite thing about kids: their willingness to transform anything, instantly, at any time, into a game. And I do mean a game: a system with rules. It can be as simple as I slap your knee, you slap mine but it’s a game.

I was lucky to fall in with a neotenous crew in college, and we spent long afternoons inventing games at Michigan State, too: coming up with new configurations of ground and body and frisbee out on the big quad around the clock tower.

Anyway, Spike Lee shouldn’t lament cocolevio (?!) because it’s in the nature of kids’ culture to change, eventually beyond recognition, but I’m with him when it comes to games in the street. I’m sure there are still some kids playing this way in Cobble Hill, but definitely not as many as before. I mean, there’s just no way, right? There are so many other games already invented for them now—all these other games waiting indoors on bright screens big and small.

Stickball never looked like much fun to me, but you can carry a stick into a sword battle, too. Those were more our style. And at a certain time of day, with the sun low in the sky, a neat lawn could truly become a battlefield. You got tired after just a few tussles, really desperately tired, and maybe your knuckles got a little bloody too, but you had to keep going, had to keep fighting—at least until your mom called you home for dinner.

Snarkmatrix, you know me: I am not a Luddite (no way) and not a techno-triumphalist, either. So I hope you’ll take it not as a nostalgic yawlp but rather a considered statement about the nature of the mind and the body when I say: Raw unselfconscious imagination is the best graphics engine that has ever existed, and the street will forever be the arena in which all the best games are played."
snarkmarket  play  games  neoteny  comments  edg  srg  minecraft  sticks  children  creativity  spikelee  imagination  cocolevio  stickball  rules  robinsloan  2012  brooklyn  interviews  timcarmody 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Directions From our Dreams: Imagining a More Amazing iOS 6 Maps App | Wired Design | Wired.com
"Buried in Baio’s post was this intriguing tidbit: “Developers can specify a category (Car, Bus, Train, Subway, Streetcar, Plane, Bike, Ferry, Taxi, Pedestrian, Other).”

“Other”? What kind of thing can you do with “other”? Media inventor Robin Sloan saw it first.

"So Apple’s iOS 6 Maps delegates public transit to third-party apps. That, my friends, is a storytelling opportunity. Two words: Catbus app."

Yes! Why limit ourselves to mundane, workaday transit (especially given how hellish this is for developers) when now we can map anything.

With that in mind, we humbly present this list of suggestions:

* An app that routes your trip via LA’s lost streetcars.
* A psychogeography directions app, perhaps a port of Near Future Laboratory’s Drift deck, which directs aimless wandering around a city.
* An app to help The Warriors get home.
* An app to celebrate Bloomsday by following James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom through Dublin.
* An app for Batman that routes by rooftop."
publictransit  api  mapping  wandering  batman  jamesjoyce  bloomsday  driftdeck  psychogeography  catbus  apple  ios6  ios  mapsoftheimagination  maps  robinsloan  timmaly  2012  andybaio 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Imagination to imagination « Snarkmarket
Ellen Ullman quote:

"I think that literature—essays, stories, poems—is the one form where we can meet, imagination to imagination, without hosts of people in between, no directors and actors and set designers and so on. The medium itself is fairly transparent. You don’t need equipment or electrical outlets. You can go off alone to read, and, if the work is good, you are then intensely close to other human beings."

Tim's comment:

"I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately — how literature overcomes (or tries to overcome) the deficiencies of language — all those failures of imaginations to connect — WITH language. Like, only the spear that made this wound can heal it. Cf also Mallarmé, “to purify the language of the tribe.”"
imagination  connection  mallarmé  language  books  reading  ellenullman  communication  poetry  2012  timcarmody  writing  literature  snarkmarket  robinsloan 
april 2012 by robertogreco
Ekstasis [A response to Robin Sloan's Fish app]
[Wonderful, but for me, most notable for including this poem, via: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/hejinian/reason.html ]

“There are things
We live among ‘and to see them
Is to know ourselves.’”

—George Oppen

[More]

"So “Fish…” is just that, an essay that shows you the same thing over and over again. Or, not. Finish tapping through the screens and the app gives you the option to “reset” back to the ugh Sloan counsels to leave it in place. It’s tempting, to make the app into some special piece of time, but that would do it a disservice. It bears repeated reading because it’s so carefully crafted. The first item in its own cannon. A real memory."
louisagassiz  love  attention  lynhejinian  frederickseidel  davidcole  kennethgoldsmith  canon  2012  online  internet  stockandflow  stock  flow  fish  fishapp  robinsloan  georgeoppen  poetry  poems  williamball 
april 2012 by robertogreco
Event < opinion < idea < story · robinsloan · Storify
"Adam Sternbergh went on a tear with #bettereditor and #betterfreelancer tips today; you can find them all in his timeline and here too. It was these three that caught my eye. Together, they offer a crisp formulation that's applicable not just to magazine pitches but all kinds of writing—daily news, blog posts, tweets, you name it:

Maybe top #betterfreelancer tip: Know difference btw event, opinion, idea, and story. Those are listed in ascending order of likely appeal.

Event = "So and so has an album coming out." Opinion = "...and I love/hate it." (1/2) #betterfreelancer

Idea = "...and it's important b/c X." Story = "...which almost never happened b/c of battle with label." #betterfreelancer (2/2)"
2012  wonder  meaningmaking  meaning  engagement  experience  stories  storytelling  adamsternbergh  robinsloan  opinions  ideas  storify  events 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Dance the flip-flop
"the flip-flop (n.) the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back again—maybe more than once … When you do the flip-flop, you achieve effects that aren’t possible when you dwell in only one world, physical or digital. You also achieve effects that are less predictable. Weird things happen on the walls between worlds."
digital  physical  media  design  art  manufacturing  2012  robinsloan  flip-flop  process  transmedia 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Snark and bile and something worse « Snarkmarket
[Why Robin is such a class act…]

"When people complain about the relentless snark and bile of the internet, I never get it. Maybe I’ve just feathered too comfortable a nest for myself in Reader, on Twitter, and here on the Sesame Street of Snarkmarket. Whatever the case, the complaint just never rings true. It never corresponds to my actual experience of the internet.

Tonight, it does…

[Jim Romenesko issue of attribution on his Poynter Institute blog]

But even so, I’d like to think I’m arguing something general and reasonable here. Simply put, it’s this:

YES to public reasoning rooted in real values.
NO to cruelty. NEVER to cruelty."
cruelty  robinsloan  2011  levelheadedness  conversation  snarkmarket  poynterinstitute  jimromenesko  choiresicha  juliemoos  disagreement  behavior  reasoning  publicreasoning  attribution  thoughtfulness  journalism  discourse  argument 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Getting the News — Robin Sloan | News.me
"Is anything missing from your news consumption pattern now or in the tools/sites that you use? Anything you wish you had?

Memory. It’s too easy to read something great… and then forget it in a week. So I’d like an easy way to return to articles that I truly loved, maybe six months or a year later—some sort of time-shifting tool that could politely present them to me again."
robinsloan  news  memory  discovery  rss  sms  twitter  iphone  kindle  fiction  2011  timeshiftedreading  timeshifting 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Robin Sloan - Google+ [On Google breaking Google Reader]
"Oh gosh! It actually happened: Google Reader's social stuff is gone. I find myself strangely sad. Not annoyed, not surly, not how-dare-anybody-ever-change-anything—actually just sad.

Actually, upon closer examination, it's sadness mixed with surprise and a bit of magical thinking. It took me a minute to articulate this, but I think I've got it now: It's like I had these great traveling companions on a long journey across an unfamiliar landscape—think forests, rivers, hills—and now, after like… a bear attack in the night… we've been split up. Scattered. No sign of anybody anywhere."
googlereader  robinsloan  2011  breakingtheinternet  2011vs2004 
november 2011 by robertogreco
The Storm Collection | RJI
"Matt Thompson and Robin Sloan, co-creators of the hugely popular web video "Epic 2014," released their newest video today, "SND Storm", at the annual convention of the Society of News Design in St. Louis."

[See also: http://snarkmarket.com/storm/ ]
robinsloan  mattthompson  snarkmarket  news  journalism  2011  storms  socialmedia  communication 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Infovore » Blessed are the Toymakers
"Why not put technological skills to use making art (as I argued at Culture Hack Day)? Go one step further: rather than putting technology to use serving existing media – the books and films that Robin talks about – why not just invent new forms of media, as Jack Schulze and Timo Arnall describe? The new liberal arts are not on the edge of something big; they are on many edges, all at once. We get to decide where they tip over into; what’s at the bottom of those cliff-faces. Maybe those media will have the tiny audiences Sloan describes; maybe they’ll become huge. But we get to decide, and right now, there is space to play, and a need for those of us with weird skillsets – technological hands and flighty, artistic brains, or vice versa, ‘consecutive or concurrent’ – to go explore.

Inventing media is a big job. We could start by making toys."
tomarmitage  making  robinsloan  doing  tools  mediainvention  newliberalarts  berg  berglondon  mattjones  jackschulze  timoarnall  media  storytelling  toys  play  2011 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Bless the toolmakers « Snarkmarket
So much here in Robin's post and the comments that I'm not going to quote anything. Lots to think about.
tools  apple  pixar  arts  art  robinsloan  snarkmarket  creativity  creation  media  freemandyson  roolmaking  liberalarts  lasting  building  software  design  writing  timcarmody 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Twitter / @robinsloan: @stirman underwear = jeans ...
stirman [Jason Stirman]: Packing for trip. Industry standard is underwear = 1.5x per day, but jeans = 1x per 3.5 days, right?<br />
<br />
robinsloan: @stirman underwear = jeans × π
humor  packing  robinsloan  ratios  math  calculation  classtrips 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Harry Potter and the Comment of Wonders « Snarkmarket
"This comment from Robinson Meyer…kinda blows my mind…chatting about fandoms and Harry Potter, and Robinson says:

"But the best part of Harry Potter, for me, came in the reading of the first few chapters of each new book. It was like meeting old friends. I’d discover every time that Harry and I had both grown up a little, had emotionally become more sophisticated, and that we also had that same old warm rapport and that same old love for each other…"

“[R]eading the first few chapters of Books 5, 6, and 7 are among my happiest memories.” That kinda blows my mind.

It also makes me realize that I had no comparable experience as a young reader. There was no fantasy epic being released/revealed as I grew up…

Seriously, I can’t even fully articulate why—but I am sorta obsessed with the last few lines of Robinson’s comment. It’s almost a recipe. Engineer that, somehow, and you win."

[Some great comments here too. Also, check out the Google+ plus that served as the source for the conversation: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108770025895417156764/posts/HZEV4owg9qz ]
harrypotter  snarkmarket  robinsloan  sahelidatta  timcarmody  franchises  books  children  formulas  literature  serials  expectation  anticipation  childrenliterature  2011  robinsonmeyer  fandom  compulsoryfandom  sharedexperience  culture  classideas 
july 2011 by robertogreco
The art of working in public « Snarkmarket ["Work in public. Reveal nothing."]
"…two very different dudes…different positions…different objectives…both written in essentially the same style, with common characteristics both superficial—a smart but very informal voice that reads like a long email from your smartest coolest friend ever—& structural:

…both conjure a sense that the piece is almost being written as you read it…slightly chaotic & totally thrilling…both let you inside their heads…But!—they don’t let you all the way inside. There’s plenty withheld…here’s the genius of the style: they don’t tell you much at all…

I tend to zero in on this kind of writing because I aspire to do more of it myself, & to do it better. Working in public like this can be a lot of fun, for writer & reader alike, but more than that: it can be a powerful public good…When you work in public, you create an emissary (media cyborg style) that then walks the earth, teaching others to do your kind of work as well. And that is transcendently cool."

[See the great comments too.]

[See also Clive Thompson's post, which references this one: http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2011/08/the_art_of_publ.php ]
writing  business  public  robinsloan  publicthinking  mattwebb  berg  berglondon  alexismadrigal  classideas  transparency  surprise  revelation  style  newliberalarts  chaos  publicgood  learning  teaching  mediacyborgs  sharing  web  internet  informality  balance  spontaneity  immediacy  thinkinginpublic  thinkingoutloud  2011  comments  questions  possibility  pondering  emptiness  workinginpublic 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Post by Robin Sloan; "the Borders bankruptcy isn't essentially about the book business"
"I think it might have something to do w/ the franchises you cite, +Tim Carmody. I think the real locus of love & engagement today is not books (e- or otherwise) but rather fandoms. You know this is the case when you don't ever cite a particular volume. Instead it's just: Twilight. Harry Potter. Middle Earth. Game of Thrones. (And there's an interesting cross-media dynamic in that last example: the TV incarnation has essentially usurped the naming rights for the whole fandom. I call the book series "Game of Thrones" now—not "A Song of Ice and Fire.")

Now, as it turns out, books are a great way to kick off sprawling cross-media stories, and manga are even better; words are still a world-builder's best tools. But importantly, the thing people get wrapped up in, the thing they feel this crazy allegiance for, isn't the words, or the paper, or the E-Ink. It's the fictional world."
robinsloan  timcarmody  bordersbooks  books  booksellers  print  publishing  retail  bankruptcy  2011  genre  franchises  fiction  literature 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Declaration and Validation » The Kickstarter Blog — Kickstarter
"A successful Kickstarter project has, I think, two parts. First, there’s declaration, the part where you’re forced to say, out in public—there’s no such thing as a private Kickstarter project!—you’re forced to say very clearly: This is what I am, and this is what I want to do. Then, there’s validation, the part where it flips around and your posse replies, in unison, and again out in public: Yep, sounds about right.<br />
<br />
And that’s when you feel like a writer.<br />
<br />
So for me, it’s declaration and validation that constitute the connection between Kickstarter pages and bookstore shelves. Without them, I would at this moment still not feel like a writer"
kickstarter  declaration  validation  robinsloan  writing  posses  support  2011 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Post by Robin Sloan: Who writes modern adventure?
"Just finished Jack London's Tales of the Fish Patrol & loved it: crazy vignettes of vigilante lawmen and their adventures in sailboats up & down San Francisco Bay.

Lately I've been feeling a surging appreciation for writers like London and Kipling (especially in _Kim_) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (though his prose doesn't hold up as well as the other two). Or even a dude like H. Rider Haggard (whose character Allan Quatermain was the template for Indiana Jones).

I feel like we've lost this genre—true adventure. Litfic definitely doesn't do it, and mass-market thrillers (Clancy, Child, even Stieg Larsson etc.) are doing something else these days—something much darker. There's a brightness to London, etc., even when they're writing about shipwrecks or skulduggery. I guess some YA fiction comes close... but it all seems so drenched in magic lately. None of the bright grit of a book like Kim.

Am I missing somebody obvious, though? Who writes modern adventure?"

[See the replies.]
books  adventure  booklists  jacklondon  williamgibson  robinsloan  rudyardkipling  edgarriceburroughs 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Post by Robin Sloan: Thursday question 001: What's the future of offline role-playing games?
"had a fun Twitter back-and-forth…about Dungeons & Dragons…made me think about a few things:

* Board games like HeroQuest, which offered a sort of stripped-down D&D experience, played across a reconfigurable plastic-and-cardboard labyrinth.

* The fact that my friend +Robert Lavolette seems to enjoy the sourcebooks (detailing various monsters, locales, & lost civilizations) more than the games themselves.

* +Matt Penniman's love of new-school indie RPGs, many of which sport radically reduced rule sets—you can play some w/ just index cards.

So: What's the future of offline role-playing games?

Is the rise of a game like Settlers of Catan a sign that the mainstream is ready for nerdier fare? If there was going to be a breakout RPG (one played in person, around a table) what would it be? Do you have a dream RPG?

I'm interested to hear from folks who haven't played RPGs—who know them by reputation, or who have always been curious…"
robinsloan  games  rpg  arg  gaming  offline  play  cyoa  2011  settlersofcatan  larp  books  werewolf  mafia  interactive  fiction  if  interactivefiction 
july 2011 by robertogreco
More lingo « Snarkmarket
"In the context of formless/definite/interactive, this also deserves a mention: Brian Eno says the right word for “interactive” is… “unfinished.” Artful blockquoting, as usual, by Rob Greco."
snarkmarket  robinsloan  ego  brianeno  unfinished  interactive  cv  2011  remkoolhaas  brucemau  culture  work 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Real-World Math - storify.com
"Hey, kids! Ever wonder how math is done in the real world? This is the way math is done in the real world."

Storify that I put together to document a conversation on Twitter about a specific math problems that Diana Kimball asked for help with.
math  mathematics  realworld  cv  storytelling  storify  collaboration  twitter  2011  timcarmody  robinsloan  dianakimball  games  boardgames  problemsolving  statistics  probability  conversation  comments 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Penumbra has a posse > Robin Sloan
"…another char­ac­ter in this story…Sean McDonald.

…an edi­tor at Far­rar, Straus & Giroux. He’s worked with writ­ers as diverse as Junot Díaz (n.b.), John Hodg­man, and the RZA…also a Snark­mar­ket reader (!) & he’s been an impor­tant vec­tor of enthu­si­asm & encour­age­ment…because his mes­sages have always been two-​​fold. First: this is so cool. Then: it can be even better.

& that gets exactly to the heart of why I’m work­ing with Sarah & Sean to pub­lish Penum­bra. You know me: I am a cham­pion of new modes & meth­ods. I love Kick­starter projects & remix con­tests…not going to stop doing any of that stuff.

…when…shop­ping the Penum­bra man­u­script around…I told [publishers] all the same thing: I’m look­ing for a posse…a smart, cre­ative crew who will help me make this book bet­ter than I could make it on my own.

…isn’t just text on a scree…It’s the design, the phys­i­cal arti­fact…press…events we’ll dream up…real books in real book­stores…"
robinsloan  mrpenumbra  publishing  2011  farrarstraus&giroux  seanmcdonald  sarahburnes  posses  books  events  kickstarter  kindle  gernertcompany  remixing  teamwork  snarkmarket  creativity  collaboration  tcsnmy  classideas  remixculture 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The correct use of a semicolon is a big red flag for me’ « Snarkmarket [Comments: http://twitter.com/rogre/status/84717881635512320 AND http://twitter.com/rogre/status/84718450773213184 ]
“I’m just doing this for the grade.”<br />
<br />
"The problem is now that the grade doesn’t even get you the job."<br />
<br />
"You understand where this is going: it’s not even about plagiarism and term papers… it’s about the framework and future of college itself.<br />
<br />
But, P.S., thinking about plagiarizing a term paper—even now, so many years removed from college—makes me physically ill. Seriously: a sick little stir in my stomach. But it has more to do with self-conception than core values. The idea of putting my name above somebody else’s words is just… like… inconceivable. The whole point of having a brain (and maybe, having a life) is that my name goes above my words and my words aren’t like anyone else’s words. This was true even back in college, when I thought I was going to be a scientist or an economist, not a journalist or a writer. So for a person like me (and I suspect there are many of you among the Snarkmatrix) plagiarism is way more than just cheating. It’s self-abnegation."
plagiarism  cheating  education  highereducation  highered  grades  grading  purpose  competition  colleges  universities  teaching  robinsloan  snarkmarket  economics  voice  anonymity  copying  ownership  self-abnegation  values  schooliness  learning  whatswrongwiththispicture 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Children of Troy « Snarkmarket
"This little correspondence cracked like lightning in my head. I mean, it’s no big deal; it’s a small thing, it’s a letter, they were both in Michigan, it makes perfect sense. And yet, and yet: Clifton Wharton, president of Michigan State University, and Marguerite Hart, librarian of Troy—a tangible thread connected them. And as soon as you realize that, you can’t help but imagine the other threads, the other connections, that all together make a net, woven before you were born, before you were even dreamed of—a net to catch you, support you, lift you up. Libraries and universities, books and free spaces—all for us, all of us, the children of Troy everywhere.

What fortune. Born at the right time."

[…]

"And it’s not the librarian laughing and crying at the same time here; it’s me. Every time I’ve read these letters, it’s me."
snarkmarket  robinsloan  libraries  troy  cityoftroy  books  memories  memory  childhood  reading  librarians  connections  knowledge  freespaces  letters  universities  michigan  michiganstate  ebwhite  isaacasimov  cliftonwharton  margueritehart  johnburns  1971  2011  publiclibraries  education  learning  experience  comments 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The Kindle abroad « Snarkmarket
"Honestly, even if you are not ever going to read an e-book, but want a device to help you stay connected and organized while traveling—especially if you’re going a bit off the beaten track—the investment in a Kindle (barely more than a hundred bucks at this point) can’t be beat."
travel  ipad  kindle  robinsloan  snarkmarket  ebooks  connectivity  instapaper  2011  future 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The social life of marginalia - Bobulate
"Even if we can capture intention and overcome sharing, we might come back to consider what was formerly known as the commonplace book. How might new book designers — of any format — replicate its sense of wholeness and real-time cataloging online? Do we need to?

It’s critical that the new book designer consider how and where these marks might be shared. I’m not suggesting that all annotations be social lest we become self-conscious in our book-relationships. One of the principal pleasures of taking notes is the intimacy with a passage, the outright honesty with which one might scribble, “Gasp!” or “Hogwash,” or “True that,” for later reminding. But there will need to be equal consideration given to what to keep personal as to what to make shareable.

After all, some sentiments are best left between you and your margins."
books  annotation  reading  notetaking  marginalrevolution  commonplacebooks  via:russelldavies  sharing  lizdanzico  robinsloan  jamesbridle  cv  memory  organization  notes  bookmarks  kindle  amazon  meaning  makingmeaning  meaningmaking 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Ten little pieces > Robin Sloan
"As prompted, my top ten nov­els, unordered, with brief tast­ing notes. Not all are nov­els, strictly speaking—to be pre­cise, maybe I should say “top ten books that some­how sorta do what a novel does.”

[List is here.]

(I tried to write this list like a haiku—one swift stroke, top to bot­tom, no revi­sion. I’m sure that, upon reflec­tion, there will be other books I want to include here. But hmm, aren’t the really impor­tant books the ones that don’t require reflec­tion to sum­mon up?—the ones that are sim­ply… there?)"
books  lists  toread  robinsloan  classideas 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Thrall « Snarkmarket
"The last one is my favorite (so far)—not because it describes my own experience (it doesn’t) or because I agree with it (I don’t quite), but because it’s a great example of someone thinking out loud—working something out in words. And also because it seems to evoke this great line of Lincoln’s, from his Second Inaugural:

"As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Yeah, I think that’s actually what I like about Bridle’s post: it seems to be about thrall and how to get out of it. It’s a concept I am always sometimes obsessed with and always sensitive to; there’s a lot of thrall out there and you have to be careful or it seeps into your clothes, your skin.

I think you can actually finish Lincoln’s line with a lot of different words—industry, company, family—and it stays true."
snarkmarket  robinsloan  thrall  abrahamlincoln  change  lying  deception  self-deception  yearoff  stasis  deschooling  unschooling  servitude  bondage  power  control  freedom  independence 
march 2011 by robertogreco
A noteworthy feed « Snarkmarket
"I would like to take a moment to recommend an eclectic tumblr called Noteworthy and Not. I would then like to take another moment to note that its author is my mom.

Over the last few years, my parents have both jumped into the bright bubbling conversation of the internet with both feet—reading lots and lots of stuff, across a whole spectrum of subjects, and increasingly sharing a bit of what they find. My dad is more of a Google Reader sharer, so I won’t out him here. But my mom has been posting to a tumblr for a while now, and you know, wow—it’s really good!

This fun, meditative little video was a recent find. I like the short, stirring comment on this post. This is a trip. Here’s homage to A Journey Round My Skull… and of course, Fuckyeahfrankchimero.

Highly recommended." [As is the comments thread on this post too.]
bettyannsloan  robinsloan  handmeups  handmedowns  generations  snarkmarket  commenting  timcarmody  tumblr  mattthompson  frankchimero  steppingout  snarkmarketcommentertoblogger 
march 2011 by robertogreco
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