Michael Abrash on Valve:
Once Doom had been released, any of thousands of programmers and artists could create something similar (and many did), but none of those had anywhere near the same impact. Similarly, if you’re a programmer, you’re probably perfectly capable of writing Facebook or the Google search engine or Twitter or a browser, and you certainly could churn out Tetris or Angry Birds or Words with Friends or Farmville or any of hundreds of enormously successful programs. There’s little value in doing so, though, and that’s the point – in the Internet age, software has close to zero cost of replication and massive network effects, so there’s a positive feedback spiral that means that the first mover dominates.
Valve: How I Got Here, What It’s Like, and What I’m Doing – blogs.valvesoftware.com
By the early sixteen-hundreds, the bonfires traditionally lit around the start of November had been co-opted as trappings for a sort of national anti-Catholic day at which effigies of the Pope would be incinerated.
As mastermind behind the terrorist outrage du jour, however, the plot’s nominal leader Guido Fawkes rapidly replaced the pontiff as hate-mascot of choice on these occasions.
Jump forward 300 years, though, to the battered post-war England of the 1950s, and the saturnine insurrectionary had taken on more ambiguous connotations.
When parents explained to their offspring about Guy Fawkes and his attempt to blow up Parliament, there always seemed to be an undertone of admiration in their voices, or at least there did in Northampton.
While that era’s children perhaps didn’t see Fawkes as a hero, they certainly didn’t see him as the villainous scapegoat he’d originally been intended as.
Viewpoint: V for Vendetta and the rise of Anonymous – bbc.co.uk/news
Debatewise.org is a site I think about every time I see an argument on Twitter or in a comment thread on some blog or other. The reality of the site falls very far short of the promise on offer:
[…] a place where the best possible arguments for one side are listed next to the best possible arguments against. These arguments aren’t created by one person, but by like-minded individuals collaborating to form the strongest case. This allows people both to easily compare the pros and cons and also to come to a decision safe in the knowledge they have the best information to hand.
Created by over two years, Slate explains what made David Imus’ map The Essential Geography of the United States of America the Best of Show at the annual competition of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society.
Professors Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry at Johns Hopkins University are proposing a new calendar in which each date falls on the same day of the week as it did the year before.
“All of the major (other calendars) have involved breaking the seven-day cycle of the week, which is not acceptable to many people because it violates the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day,” Henry says. “Our version never breaks that cycle.”
The two men also propose eliminating time zones and adopting a universal time around the world to streamline international business.
(via Professors’ proposed calendar synchronizes dates with days – edition.cnn.com)
I love it. It’ll never happen.
I won’t reiterate all the details of the Frozen Planet fakery ‘scandal’ that’s gotten the BBC into a bit of trouble recently, but I do think that documentaries should be more open about the techniques used in filming and editing, just as a matter of principle.
Everyone remembers the first time they stepped onto the Black Mesa Transit System and into the shoes of the unexpected hero, Gordon Freeman. Half-Life Origins is a short film that takes you back to where it all began.
Half-Life: Origins by Infectious Designer
Short, but very sweet. If Half Life were to become a television series, this would be the perfect title sequence.
Trivia: In the tram you can spot a poster for another Half Life short film by Infectious Designer: Beyond Black Mesa.
Simple can’t come to the UK soon enough! It’s about time banking had some innovation.
Just look at the care and quality that has gone into their website, their app, even the package they send your card in.
Compared to this, using HSBC internet banking is a trial. They don’t even have an app for regular customers yet.
The other cool personal finance product I would like to see come over from the States soon is Square, an iPhone accessory that lets merchants swipe credit cards.
Would you be comfortable with an atheist president? 2011 US survey says…
Overwhelming majorities of Republican and Democrat voters say that they would be uncomfortable with an atheist serving as president (80% and 70% respectively).
And as the Friendly Atheist blogger points out, 14% of Democrats would actually be more uncomfortable with an atheist president than a Muslim president!
“But wait, what does Halloween Day have to do with giving birth? Or any day, for that matter? Don’t women just have babies when the time comes?” Well, apparently not, because, according to researchers at Yale, women can and do choose to avoid bringing their babies into the world concurrently with the “Festival of the Dead.”
I’m not just talking C-sections — the phenomenon inexplicably holds true for C-sections and spontaneous births. And Halloween isn’t the only holiday that has women strongly influencing their birth timing, either. This research ultimately leaves me with more questions than answers, but sometimes that’s the best kind of science.
(via Women defy biology to avoid giving birth on Halloween – trynerdy.com)
This curious aside is from a fascinating (if overlong) Wired article about a radioactive container that turned up in a Genoan port:
It was hardly the first fishy shipment to pass through Gioia Tauro. Famously, just six weeks after 9/11, workers there heard noises coming from inside a container being transshipped to Nova Scotia via Rotterdam. Inside, police found an Egyptian-born Canadian carrying a Canadian passport, a satellite phone, a cell phone, a laptop, cameras, maps, and security passes to airports in Canada, Thailand, and Egypt. The container’s interior was outfitted with a bed, a water supply, a heater, and a toilet. Nicknamed Container Bob, the man posted bail in Italian court and was never seen again.
(via Why Is This Cargo Container Emitting So Much Radiation? – wired.com)
Apparently he also had ‘an airline mechanic’s certificate valid for Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s Kennedy airports.’1 He was ‘a well-dressed man’ only caught because he was drilling ventilation holes.2
Despite the ‘Container Bob’ nickname, ABC News reported at the time that he was Rizk Amid Farid, then 43.
Italian investigators say everything about Farid — his documents and claims about himself — appear to be either false or obscured. They have checked his stories with police in other countries — including Egypt, Canada and the United States — and believe none has panned out. Canadian investigators are further investigating the suspect’s background.
Though police have not said they have any direct evidence tying Farid to terrorism, he is the first person to be arrested in Italy on the basis of a new counterterrorism law passed last week in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Under the new law, he can be held for at least six months as investigators try to determine whether he is a terrorist.
A prosecutor said the stowaway had studied in Egypt and in North America to qualify as a commercial jet engine mechanic. Before leaving Egypt, however, he was believed to be working at a magazine distribution company. Investigators say he claimed to be “running away” from a powerful brother-in-law in Egypt and had traveled in the container for five days.
(via Italian Police Probe Man Found in Box – 25 October 2001 – abcnews.go.com)
I’ve been reading In The Plex, recently, so naturally I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use data in interesting ways. This post appealed:
Earlier I read this post via Hacker News on testing startup ideas. It got me thinking about whether or not you could do something similar in your newsroom. I’ll call it A/B Testing for News Coverage™.
via Using A/B testing to find story ideas – andymboyle.com
In a nutshell: Write some spec articles, run AdWord campaigns for them, see which ones are most popular. You could get the value of this without running any ad campaigns though. All webmasters – especially those with newsy content – should pay attention to their analytics to learn what content has proved popular, what searches brought readers in, and be on the look out for spikes of interest in particular topics.
When I clicked through to read this blog post, I was expecting it to be a post about A/B testing fiction story ideas. Imagine a kind of choose your own adventure story where the author writes the opening of the story, then two or three different continuations. The most popular branch becomes canonical, and the author continues the story from there.
I doubt that’s an idea that’d appeal to many authors, but some variation of this could be a fun experiment.
There’s a lot more to changing clocks than I realised – and even more good reasons we shouldn’t bother:
Every year some countries move their clocks forward in the spring only to move them back in the autumn.
To the vast majority of the world who dosen’t participate in this odd clock fiddling – it seems a baffling thing to do. So what’s the reason behind it?
PressPausePlay, an award-winning documentary about our new digital culture, premiered at SXSW earlier this year. It is playing at film festivals and you can buy it on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital pay sites. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can now download it via a torrent for free. This free option was essential to the filmmakers. As Seth Godin says in the film, ideas that are free spread faster.
(via Buy This Movie Or Legally Download It For Free: Your Call – techcrunch.com)
I haven’t seen this yet, but I expect this will be something that all aspiring content creators will need to watch.
The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent in an unprecedented way, with unlimited opportunities. But does democratized culture mean better art or is true talent instead drowned out? This is the question addressed by PressPausePlay, a documentary film containing interviews with some of the world’s most influential creators of the digital era.
I finally around to watching this, and found it to be very lightweight. It was inspirational to see so many people working in cool workspaces on personal projects though.
I had a hard time taking these two seriously though:
The Museum of Obsolete Objects is a snazzy YouTube channel:
Sadly, as our daily lives become more and more digital some things fall by the way side as they are replaced by newer, «better» devices.
Let us not forget those fallen appliances, tools and gadgets and relive those bygone times by taking a visit to The Museum of Obsolete Objects. Step inside to step back in time!
Here’s another infographic that looks pretty, but fails at conveying information in any useful way: The Evolution of the Web.
[...] To pay homage to the goodness of the web, we’ve put together an interactive infographic, built in HTML5, which details the evolution of major web technologies and browsers:
via Happy third birthday, Chrome! – googleblog.blogspot.com
I understand the timeline aspect, showing major revisions, but what are the coloured lines illustrating? According to the page:
The color bands in this visualization represent the interaction between web technologies and browsers, which brings to life the many powerful web apps that we use daily.
A woman wakes up in a room with no memory of who she is or how she got there…
Portal: No Escape by Dan Trachtenberg
James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, puts it rather elegantly:
We’re in the habit of associating value with scarcity, but the digital world unlinks them. You can be the sole owner of a Jackson Pollock or a Blue Mauritius but not of a piece of information — not for long, anyway. Nor is obscurity a virtue. A hidden parchment page enters the light when it molts into a digital simulacrum. It was never the parchment that mattered.
Historically, the two main types of obstacles to information discovery have been barriers of awareness, which encompass all the information we can’t access because we simply don’t know about its existence in the first place, and barriers of accessibility, which refer to the information we do know is out there but remains outside of our practical, infrastructural or legal reach. What the digital convergence has done is solve the latter, by bringing much previously inaccessible information into the public domain, made the former worse in the process, by increasing the net amount of information available to us and thus creating a wealth of information we can’t humanly be aware of due to our cognitive and temporal limitations, and added a third barrier — a barrier of motivation.
(via Accessibility vs. access: How the rhetoric of “rare” is changing in the age of information abundance – niemanlab.org)
I do a lot of curation, here and on other blogs, but I’d like to start doing it in a more structured manner – adding more context, building a bigger picture, etc.
With President Obama and Republican leaders calling for cutting the budget by trillions over the next 10 years, it is worth asking how we got here — from healthy surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and the promise of future surpluses, to nine straight years of deficits, including the $1.3 trillion shortfall in 2010. The answer is largely the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.
(via How the Deficit Got This Big – nytimes.com)