Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Sunday, June 26th, 2022
Tom Johnson, author of “I’d Rather Be Writing”, a blog on technical writing, chronicles his journey away from smartphones. We know the topic but the author is pretty specific in his upset regarding how he feels that the phone has degraded his sense of self.
Sometimes, I’d occasionally pull out my phone without any particular reason, unlock the screen, and just stare at it dumbly, not sure about which app to open. When I caught myself doing this, I was kind of shocked, but also too desensitized to act. At every spare moment of inattention, I occupied my focus with some info from my phone. Something was wrong.
Thursday, June 16th, 2022
So Marc Andreessen’s interview with Tyler Cowen is making some waves because he seemed unable to justify Web3 (see tweets from Ian Bremmer, and, more predictably caustically, Nassim Nicholas Taleb). Personally I think Andreesse ha’s made the case better elsewhere, for instance, saying that if the internet had originally had a money layer then we’d never have had spam. But for me, as the developer of a new RSS reader, I was more interested in Tyler’s question about RSS:
Tyler Cowen: Do you still use an RSS reader?
Mark Andreessen: I do. This is actually an exciting moment on that topic for those of us who love these things. I use Feedly, which I like a great deal. It’s a guy. The guy who does it is a guy who used to work for us, a wonderful guy. I think it’s a great product and the inheritor of the now-lost Google Reader, the ruthlessly executed Google Reader.
This is talking about books, but Substack — one of our companies — has a new reader. It’s primarily for reading Substack. It basically is recreating, in my view, the best of what Google Reader had. That’s the other one that is getting a lot of use right now. I use both of those.
TC: Why does RSS at least seem to be so much less important than before?
MA: RSS is one of those things. I would say this gets into a broader, overarching, huge debate-fight happening in the tech industry right now. Internet got built on two models, which are diametrically opposed.
So Marc Andreessen uses Feedly and Substack! I wonder why both. I also want to know which reader TC uses — I seem to recall him saying that he does use one. The man seems to reply to hoi polloi — maybe I’ll ask him.
Incidentally I was surprised that this was not one of the better Conversations with Tyler. It didn’t really warm up into a good actual converation. For instance, I’d have thought MA would have asked TC, the world’s most renowned information omnivore, which RSS reader he uses. MA came across as a bit robotic, whereas I hadn’t gotten that impression from him before.
Saturday, May 14th, 2022
Venkatesh invites us to join him in exploring the hive mind (very meta). What a candy-maker, this one.
Saturday, February 5th, 2022
During this -26.4% period of reckoning for Facebook, David Goldman has linked to his 2012 essay What if Facebook is really worth $100 billion?
Where are the ads targeted to my tastes – harpsichords, assault rifles, kosher cookbooks, and cat toys? Perhaps I haven’t posted enough for the Matrix to process my profile. Still, I suspect that the more people use Facebook, the less the computers really will know about them … What makes Facebook so popular? The answer, I think is that Facebook exalts the insignificant.
Me, I never understood why Facebook and Microsoft are valued alongside Apple, Google and Amazon, which seem to have locks on more fundamental aspects of our lives: Apple for our increasingly central digital devices, Google for information garnered via those devices, and Amazon for fulfilling much of our material consumption. Yes, Facebook seems to have a lock on our relationships with friends and family, but it’s likely that nobody wants that intermediated by anything more than a tool; it’s the part we most want to keep keeping real.
Microsoft seems to have saved its bacon by going into gaming — which it totally deserves having developed the XBox — and by buying GitHub — and then in turn NPM! — and moving closer than any other corporation to open source, which was a scarily brilliant move that kind of upgrades its own DNA as a software maker (even as it likely somehow eventually stymies human progress). Its other big purchase, LinkedIn, strengthens M$‘s lock on the domain they’ve dominated for decades: the workplace. To me the Michael Scott social network seems more feasible to monetize than Facebook, but beyond that, the workplace feels at home with Microsoft; a Microsoft product need only be almost as good as a competitor’s to be selected. It’s a great brand that way. I guess. And being wrapped up in the Apple ecosphere one can forget that Microsoft remains the dominant player in device operating systems. Nonetheless in comparison to these other giants M$ seems a company just trying to keep up — though wasn’t it ever thus yet things continue to work out just fine for them.
Whereas Facebook’s Metaverse, without having watched the video, seems to either be a quest to dominate the online identity business, which, while suitably and juicily ambitious and evil, does not seem to be as giant a business as the others. Or else the Metaverse is a revisit of Second Life with improved resolution. Only if human existence on earth goes very pear-shaped indeed might people prefer this Virtual Reality Metaverse to a pair of Apple Vision shades, and of course if things got that bad we wouldn’t have the working infrastructure to power our Oculus Shmockuluses. Rather, perhaps Meta’s future is in analytics — even its new name suggests so — which is (hopefully) not as big a business as that of the other FAANGs.
Friday, January 21st, 2022
Inverse is a beautifully designed web magazine [should Web be capitalized?], a Joshua Topolsky joint alongside a stable of others that I’ve noticed are designwise a cut above what else is out there — Input, which is similar to Inverse and actually the two seem to unhelpfully overlap — and W, a women’s fashion mag also published by Bustle Digital Group that I normally wouldn’t have noticed but am enjoying the design.
Yet outstanding web artisanship notwithstanding, can a magazine survive if it feels ultimately corporate, which seems a danger when the job title changes from co-founder or Editor-in-Chief to Chief Content Officer, Culture & Innovation?
In Inverse the writing itself feels pretty generic, less tours-de-force by expert than relentless plodding coverage. Article after article appears on a single scroll; you never reach the end of the page, and although this is convenient, I’ve never liked this innovation, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by it.
While the pages as a whole look great, the fact is I am not reading the articles; the san-serif body text looks like it’s less to be read than looked at. Also, it’s too far to the right on the screen. And there’s a little wobble.
From the case study by web shop Code and Theory, it appears Input and Inverse have been merged onto the same content management system, and Input was Topolsky’s technology mag baby but BDG also acquired science and entertainment site Inverse from elsewhere. No wonder the overlap.
They have a rationale for the infinite scroll:
In a world where scrolling through feeds feels second-nature, we designed Input and Inverse without traditional homepages. Upon landing on inputmag.com or inverse.com, readers see an infinite scroll of stories. Each story offers a snippet—the headline, maybe a quote, or a key stat, along with some information. The reader can then expand that story in the feed to read more, or continue scrolling.
When one story finishes, users scroll right back into the infinite stream of stories.
The stream can also be interrupted by rocks—curated content modules, e-commerce breakers and other fun interactive moments for the reader.
Maybe I’m unrepresentative of what most people like to do on the web, but I think this approch misguided. On an infinite scroll, reader becomes skimmer. Now maybe skimming is what you actually want readers to be doing on your site, not really reading the articles, thereby perhaps seeing and acting more on ads? All well and good, but skimming is less valuable and satisfying than reading an article set in a serif where the page ends when the article ends. If I read a piece, I want to feel I’ve read a piece.
One more thing: none of the subtitles has been informative but neither are they witty, rather they demonstrate that what’s leading is design not content.
Saturday, January 1st, 2022
It’s embarrassing but I’ve never really gotten the hang of the service, so I’m glad HN surfaced Tasshin & Brian Hall’s A Guide to Twitter.
Tuesday, December 14th, 2021
Saturday, November 6th, 2021
A note from the MetaCompany:
On October 28th, 2021, Facebook decided to commit trademark infringement and call themselves “Meta”. They couldn’t buy us, so they tried to bury us by force of media. We shouldn’t be surprised by these actions — from a company that continually says one thing and does another. Facebook and its operating officers are deceitful and acting in bad faith, not only towards us, but to all of humanity.
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021
The proper dosage of hierarchy is just barely enough to vitalize a very large collective.
Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable
I agree: There is something endemic to online communication that exacerbates the dislike of and frustration with people with different values, writes Michelle Goldberg. And there’s nothing like a simple study, as stark as a thought experiment, to sharpen the mind:
[The Polarization Lab] recruited 1,220 Twitter users who identified as either Democrats or Republicans, offering to pay them $11 to follow a particular Twitter account for a month. Though the participants didn’t know it, the Democrats were assigned to follow a bot account that retweeted messages from prominent Republican politicians and thinkers. The Republicans, in turn, followed a bot account that retweeted Democrats.
“Nobody became more moderate,” said Bail. “Republicans in particular became much more conservative when they followed the Democratic bot, and Democrats became a little bit more liberal.”
Sunday, October 3rd, 2021
What a great piece on the dysfunctionality of online advertising at the now-defunct The Correspondent, “The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising”  by Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn.
Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.”
Sunday, September 12th, 2021
Gordon Brander thinks seriously about the Web vis-a-vis mobile.
By now, the web’s network advantage had evaporated. The iPhone’s native apps were internet apps, sandboxed, and talking HTTP, just like a web app. The iPhone was designed for a world that included the web. The web was not designed for a world that included the iPhone.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2021
I wanted a way in Apple Mail to list all emails from VIPs to which I’ve not yet replied. After googling, I found a nice solution at MakeUseOf: “4 Mac Mail Productivity Tips All Professionals Must Know” (2019).
So I made a Smart Mailbox “VIP Unreplied” with all the following rules:
- Sender is VIP
- Message was not replied to
does not containdonotreply
- Message is not in mailbox “Already Replied”
And in the “Already Replied” Smart Mailbox:
- Message has flag: Green
This second one because sometimes a message is handled in some other way than a reply or doesn’t need one.
Monday, July 19th, 2021
I think the author’s almost actually serious in his call to ditch HTML for PDF:
PDFs are page-oriented. This is another fundamental freedom – toknow unambiguously which part of the document you are looking at.Compare to infinite-scroll HTML pages which are disorienting bydesign. This may sound trivial, but seriously: with infinite scrolling,you are fundamentally not in control of the reading experience.
Ha, since he posted the mainfesto as an actual PDF, when I copied that quote it pasted full of triple-spaces and some non-spaces, which I’ve kept for effect — so much for that! Still, the author does bring up many important issues.
Tuesday, July 13th, 2021
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days
I transcribed more of this book than any other, quoting these great guys who’ve been there and done that; it’s one for dipping in to when seeking inspiration.
The author — wife and Y Combinator partner to Paul Graham — gets out the way as much as possible and lets these guys speak; think Studs Terkel but only with hugely successful tech people.
Friday, July 9th, 2021
A reminder of the marvel and fragility of the Web by Jonathan Zittrain, law professor and computer science professor at Harvard, and a co-founder of its Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
Thursday, July 1st, 2021
What a sinking feeling, reading the announcement that Marginal Revolution is launching on Facebook’s Substack ripoff Bulletin”:https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/06/a-more-than-marginal-boost-for-marginal-revolution.html (I get a blank screen in Firefox, and naturally there’s no RSS feed). It’s interesting that trillion-dollar Facebook feels so threatened by Substack.
Tuesday, June 29th, 2021
Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine
Antonio Garcia Martinez
As author Antonio García Martínez battles away as an eager newcomer at Facebook, his account jolts one awake to the somewhat forgotten power of literature: we are reminded that what will survive these times will likely not be the mammoth trillion dollar company but instead this book.
And shame on Apple, caving to those who campaigned to have Martinez fired recently from his new job there because of some gross and silly yet heartfelt generalization in the book of San Francisco womenfolk; such philistine snowflakes do little more than buttress his point, as well as forcing our author to remain up on these more commanding if perhaps less remunerative cultural heights.
Friday, June 25th, 2021
I just logged on to Facebook for the first time in a while for a few minutes. This piece, full of zingers, captures the feeling of sickly irritation well.
[Facebook] exists as a weird kind of social museum, where I exist as an observer watching people I knew 5, 10, 15 years ago grow up, get married, have children, all the while saying nothing in the silence. Intersperse the family announcements with memes and ads and other nonsense, and my newsfeed is nothing but a wasteland, a place I’ll find maybe one relevant, engaging update from someone I know for every fifty I couldn’t care less about.
To be fair, I have a friend who finds his Facebook feed uplifting and enjoyable.
Saturday, June 5th, 2021
We are so used to saying “The internet changed everything” that we have forgotten it changed everything.
Peggy Noonan, What Drives Conspiracism
Monday, May 10th, 2021
Elle Griffin is serializing her novel on Substack and here lists others also publishing fiction on the platform.
Thursday, April 29th, 2021
A bit mindblowing: put the browser itself in the cloud: Mighty [Hacker News discussion].
Thursday, March 11th, 2021
By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s effect on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.
Friday, November 27th, 2020
Wednesday, November 18th, 2020
“Indie developers need protection from monopolistic and anti-competitive practices from larger players in the market through strong government regulation, not a discount on their first $1m in sales.” “Apple’s 15% Deflection Tactic” by John Luxford.
Tuesday, November 17th, 2020
Saturday, November 14th, 2020
Friday, November 13th, 2020
Amusing comments at Marginal Revolution on Matthew Yglesias’s migration to Substack.
Thursday, August 20th, 2020
The iPhone matters more than anything … it is the foundation of modern life.
Ben Johnson, “Apple, Epic, and the App Store”
Sunday, July 5th, 2020
Poolside.FM, the lovely Mac throwback to 1997.
Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.
Sunday, May 24th, 2020
An anonymous employee beneficiary of Twitter’s IPO: “I think a lot of [people in Silicon Valley] care about basic income for everyone, because we’ve lived with it ourselves.”
Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
“More news, less junk. Faster.” Brent Simmons has just released the free and open source RSS reader NetNewsWire app for iOS. This may well be a visible dent in the universe.
In an interview with Kelly Gulmont on MacObserver, he says in an interview that one of the things he’s most proud of is that search is really fast (in a 20-minute podcast, this, remarkably, is the only bit of substance; I won’t be listening again).
There’s a review up at MacStories, “NetNewsWire for iOS and iPadOS Review: The Perfect Complement to the App’s macOS Counterpart” while Cult of Mac has “NetNewsWire is reborn on iOS”. Also 9to5Mac.
Sunday, March 1st, 2020
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell
Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).
It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.
One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.
Monday, January 27th, 2020
Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
Matt Layman’s handy Failed SaaS Postmortem — too much tech tinkering; I need to take heed. Plus it’s great he’s getting right back in the saddle.
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
“Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.” Richard Stallman’s terms of service for speaking engagements come to light [via The Register] surrounding his forced terminations. A couple of observations: for 66 his skin looks amazingly moist and smooth, like a healthy 25-year-old’s, which perhaps says something about his lifestyle and choices. And his exactingness regarding these terms is both ridiculous and admirable; few things are more important than knowing who we are and what we want and expressing these clearly.
Saturday, June 8th, 2019
Monday, March 11th, 2019
Putting the ack! in acquihire: Our Incredible Journey.
Tuesday, October 16th, 2018
Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
Now that’s a web site: New York City tree map — every last one, including street view, species, diameter. [via Kottke]
Monday, October 8th, 2018
Saturday, September 29th, 2018
Tim Berners-Lee announces his startup Inrupt to support and popularize Solid, a platform to enable people to regain control of their own data.
Tuesday, September 4th, 2018
I miss the days of forums, when any issue about a product was discussed on its own site and nowhere else. I do believe issues are better resolved online with posts, not chats.
Inappropriate use of chat software erodes mental health, at least, mine. Here’s a fun articulate essay on why the author hates Slack (and you should too).
And Slack is proprietory. I just scrolled up and was stopped and told I need a paid plan! And Discord: why?! Trendiness happens.
Thursday, August 30th, 2018
“Breaking Smart” by Venkatesh Rao. This is the first collection, “Software is Eating the World”, inspired by a residency at Andreessen/Horowitz.
Friday, August 24th, 2018
“Modelling Process Intensive Scenarios for the Smart City” [PDF]. In this paper by professors at the computer science department at the University of Camerino in Italy, the authors discuss BPMN (and bpFM, which I’d never heard of before) in the context of municipal services, specifically bike-sharing.