Permanews: Old news is good news

Most news outlets, including TV news shows and networks, newspapers, news websites, and blogs are targeted at news junkies: they never want to miss a story, and they want to be the first to report it to you.

If you look back on these stories even one week later, the majority of them seem unimportant or redundant in retrospect. And if you stop consuming the firehose for a few days or more, you’re lost — there are very few publications that give a general overview of what has happened, especially when venturing outside of mainstream front-page news and into a subsection, such as technology news.

I want last week’s news, but only what I need to know, and only if it has proven to have relevance beyond the day it was published.

(via More ideas than time: Last week’s news –

I had an idea in this vein a few weeks ago, but neglected to blog about it. I called my idea permanews. Instead of being delayed arbitrarily, the news would stick around until it genuinely started to become irrelevant.

On the Permanews site, every story becomes one story, wiki style. As the story develops, the article grows and changes. There are revision histories and links to related stories etc, but at any point you should be able to visit the story and get a chronological breakdown of what happened.

Critically – and this is key – stories with pending outcomes are flagged for follow-up. If some MP promises some reform by ‘this time next year’, then 356 days later the algorithm promotes the old story as fresh news so it can be checked and updated.

Stories are promoted as headlines based on importance (activity/upvotes), not because they are current or ‘breaking’. (Presumably though, you could filter the stories any number of ways).

The algorithm would be key here: ‘Importance’ would need to trump ‘popularity’ somehow (if that’s even possible).

Continue reading


QRobots: A QR code alternative with personality

QR Codes are a great idea but they are big and ugly. You can customise them to a degree, but they still lack personality. For example, here are some I made to print as Moo stickers:

There is also the Microsoft tag, but that looks even worse.

I wonder if it would be possible to create another type of code that works in the same way, but instead of generating a random checkerboard pattern, it created some kind of face. I’ve quickly drawn up two examples of what these could look like (at the top), but I imagine a much more detailed/abstract look would be required to accommodate the amount of information they would need to contain.

Continue reading

Why are…

Google have become the giant they are by giving people what they want. They’re now so good at this they can actually predict what people are most likely to want. This has given them a lead in areas you wouldn’t imagine, like spelling correction or translation.

I wonder if this approach will have negative consequences down the road though. Google isn’t suggesting the best results, it’s suggesting the most popular.

I don’t think we really need this kind of help.

Continue reading

Could Facebook be around forever?

Douglas Rushkoff is absolutely right, Facebook will go down. It’ll be another long decline that – like AOL and Yahoo! – will still be hugely profitable and popular in the mainstream for years after its prime.

[…] These companies are being valued as if they will be our permanent means for identifying ourselves.

Yet social media is itself as temporary as any social gathering, nightclub or party. It’s the people that matter, not the venue. So when the trend leaders of one social niche or another decide the place everyone is socializing has lost its luster or, more important, its exclusivity, they move on to the next one, taking their followers with them. […]

We will move on, just as we did from the chat rooms of AOL, without even looking back. When the place is as ethereal as a website, our allegiance is much more abstract than it is to a local pub or gym. We don’t live there, we don’t know the owner, and we are all the more ready to be incensed by the latest change to a privacy policy, or to learn that every one of our social connections has been sold to the highest corporate bidder.

So it’s not that MySpace lost and Facebook won. It’s that MySpace won first, and Facebook won next. They’ll go down in the same order.

(via Facebook hype will fade –

Maybe not though… I wonder if Facebook could become the Arcadia Group of the web. Maybe the next big social networking site could be… Facebook. Sort of. Just like most of the big high street retail brands are owned by the same few companies, Facebook would be the parent company of many federated niche-networks.

Interactive magazines

REQUIRES iOS 4.2 – you will need a broadband connection to download the issue.
NEW! A revolutionary multimedia magazine built specially for your iPad – packed with international culture, entertainment, design, business and travel. And nuclear weapons. Oh, and Jeff Bridges.

(via Project – By Virgin Digital Publishing Limited –

Project is the latest iPad magazine application (mag app?) after Wired’s effort and before Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper (pad paper?), The Daily.

Continue reading


Very cool! Though I’d be reluctant to use one, because who knows what nasties could be on the stick?

I am pleased to preview ‘Dead Drops’ a new project which I started off as part of my ongoing EYEBEAM residency in NYC the last couple weeks. ‘Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. I am ‘injecting’ USB flash drives into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. You are invited to go to these places (so far 5 in NYC) to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your files and date. Each dead drop contains a readme.txt file explaining the project. ‘Dead Drops’ is still in progress, to be continued here and in more cities. Full documentation, movie, map and ‘How to make your own dead drop’ manual coming soon! Stay tuned.

via “Dead Drops” preview –

I wonder what it would take to make a wi-fi dead drop?

See also:

Dead drop (Wikipedia)

What the hell(vetica)?

What the hell(vetica)?

Helvetica parentheses comparison I was just knocking together a new title graphic for this blog, when I noticed that the parenthesis in Helvetica bold were asymmetrical. Perhaps I only noticed because I was working at a very large size, but the difference is significant and it really stood out.

Google didn’t give me any immediate answers, so I guess I’m going to have to do some proper research on this. Best guess: It looks better at a smaller size somehow.

Comment isn’t free: The Sun Chronicle comment paywall

From tomorrow, the Sun Chronicle, a Massachusetts paper, will charge would-be commenters a nominal one-off fee of 99 cents. But it has to be paid by credit card, which means providing a real name and address.

And the name on the credit card will be the name that will appear on comments. So it’s goodbye to anonymity.

(via Paper puts up a paywall for comments –

This actually strikes me as a pretty good idea. I’d return a degree of anonymity by allowing people to choose a display name though. The small fee would stop 99% of trolls dead anyway.

I did notice that the Sun Chronicle had no comments on any of the recent stories I checked. They seem like a pretty small operation though.

I wonder if a service like Disqus could centralise a scheme like this?

Continue reading

HuffPo uses A/B testing to write better headlines

From direct mail to web design, A/B testing is considered a gold standard of user research: Show one version to half your audience and another version to the other half; compare results, and adjust accordingly. Some very cool examples include Google’s obsessive testing of subtle design tweaks and Dustin Curtis’ experiment with direct commands and clickthrough rates. (“You should follow me on Twitter” produced dramatically better results than the less moralizing, “Follow me on Twitter.”)

So here’s something devilishly brilliant: The Huffington Post applies A/B testing to some of its headlines. Readers are randomly shown one of two headlines for the same story. After five minutes, which is enough time for such a high-traffic site, the version with the most clicks becomes the wood that everyone sees.

(via How The Huffington Post uses real-time testing to write better headlines –

I also found it interesting that they are considering splitting up the content they serve by IP address, so they can serve the East and West coasts better.

3ds Max vs. Blender: Revealing results of a CG software user survey

It’s clear from the pie chart that 3ds Max is the giant in the market here, with Maya (also an Autodesk product) the next big player. If you scroll down the article, what really stands out is that both of these packages consistently rank the lowest in user satisfaction.

I was surprised to see that Lightwave has such a small share. I’ve always had a soft spot for it, but perhaps in recent years the situation has changed. I stopped doing 3D work around the same time that Modo came out, and I was aware that many were switching loyalties then.

The Cinema and Houdini get big positives, but I’m especially pleased to see the open-source Blender rank so highly in most responses. I’m hoping to get back into CG graphics soon, and I’d love to invest my energies in free software.


I hate the command line!

So, on Windows, if I want to move the My Documents folder elsewhere, I dig around in the settings and find out how to do that. It's a little buried away, but you can find it logically enough.

But if I want to do the same trick with my /home directory in Linux, I have to type in some gibberish. Now cutting and pasting isn't hard, but if it goes wrong (like it just did) then I'm none the wiser. What went wrong? How do I fix it? I'm left running back to Google, or begging for help in forums, to probably be ignored.

Two steps in a GUI or freaking ten lines in terminal!

There's plenty I love about Linux, but this shouldn't be the trade-off…