The Hummingbird Effect — How We Got to Now
How the printing press led to the microscope, and chlorination transformed women’s fashion—Steven Johnson channels James Burke.
How the printing press led to the microscope, and chlorination transformed women’s fashion—Steven Johnson channels James Burke.
A deeply thoughtful piece (as always) by Wilson, on the mindset needed for a sustainable way of working.
When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term.
There are more ways to scale than growth. There are more ways to deepen our impact than just reaching more people. What if we put just as much effort into scaling the impact of our work over time? Can we build digital products around sustainable systems that survive long enough to outlive us, that are purpose-built to thrive without our constant cultivation?
The text of Mandy’s astounding dConstruct talk.
A great piece by Erin on the value of a code of conduct for conferences, filled with practical advice.
Once you decide to create a code and do it thoughtfully, you’ll find the internet overflows with resources to help you accomplish your goals, and good people who’ll offer guidance and advice. From my own experience, I can say that specificity and follow-through will make your code practical and give it teeth; humane language and a strong connection to your community will make it feel real and give it a heart.
A documentary on our digital dark age. Remember this the next time someone trots out the tired old lie that “the internet never forgets.”
If we lose the past, we will live in an Orwellian world of the perpetual present, where anybody that controls what’s currently being put out there will be able to say what is true and what is not. This is a dreadful world. We don’t want to live in this world. —Brewster Kahle
It’s a terrible indictment of where our priorities were for the last 20 years that we depend essentially on children and maniacs to save our history of this sort. —Jason Scott
Slides and transcript from Anab’s terrific dConstruct talk.
Tom Scott’s energetic dConstruct talk.
Lighthouse are putting on their Improving Reality conference again this year. It’s the day before dConstruct. Come to both!
A new essay from Maciej on Idle Words is always a treat, and this latest dispatch from Yemen is as brilliantly-written as you’d expect.
The brilliant George Oates has started a new design company with an emphasis on cultural heritage: “explicit notes to the future, local archives of global content.” Watch this space
Did you see Keren at dConstruct 2012? Well, here she is at this year’s TED conference delivering a barnstorming talk on hacker culture.
Alan Kay’s written remarks to a Joint Hearing of the Science Committee and the Economic and Educational and Opportunites Committee in October 1995.
So Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee walk into a panel…
A great series of articles on the sci-fi films of the ’60s and ’70s:
The Laser Age examines a rich period in the history of science-fiction filmmaking that began in the late 1960s and faded away by the mid 1980s.
…all wrapped up in a nice responsive design too.
A searing, angry, heartfelt eulogy.
Frank’s fantastic closing talk from this year’s Build. There’s a lot of great stuff in here about interaction design, and even more great stuff about what’s been happening to the web:
We used to have a map of a frontier that could be anything. The web isn’t young anymore, though. It’s settled. It’s been prospected and picked through. Increasingly, it feels like we decided to pave the wilderness, turn it into a suburb, and build a mall. And I hate this map of the web, because it only describes a fraction of what it is and what’s possible. We’ve taken an opportunity for connection and distorted it to commodify attention. That’s one of the sleaziest things you can do.
From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:
A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology
Maciej’s talk from this year’s XOXO—excellent stuff!
Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability.
Michael Chabon muses on The Future, prompted by the Clock of the Long Now.
Honor’s piece for The Guardian on this year’s dConstruct.
A smart and thoughtful write-up of dConstruct from Lee, pulling together three emergent themes:
A great, thought-provoking day that proved, once again, that there are many brilliant, generous minds working in or around the future of technology and human experience today.
This is a terrific write up of this year’s dConstruct, tying together all the emergent themes.
I have a lot of admiration for Reverend Dan Catt.
I don’t want to be in a position where I say “Hey, I’m working at Google, no no, don’t worry, the good bit of Google”, because goodness knows I did enough of that at Yahoo.
The line-up for this year’s Improving Reality conference looks great (as always).
It’s the day before dConstruct so why not come on down to Brighton a day early and double your fun?
I’ve linked to this before, but with the death of Iain M Banks it’s worth re-reading this fascinating insight into The Culture, one of science fictions’s few realistic utopias.
The brief mention here of The Culture’s attitude to death is apt:
Philosophy, again; death is regarded as part of life, and nothing, including the universe, lasts forever. It is seen as bad manners to try and pretend that death is somehow not natural; instead death is seen as giving shape to life.
James gets profiled in Vanity Fair …which is, frankly, kind of weird.
It’s also so bizarre to read about his SXSW New Aesthetic panel as being such a pivotal moment: there weren’t that many of us in the room.
Francis Spufford—author of the excellent Backroom Boffins—writes a cover story for the New Humanist magazine remembering Iain Banks with the middle initial M firmly to the fore: it was Iain M Banks—and his creation, The Culture—that took the seemingly passé genre of space opera to new heights.
A lovely site with thoughtful articles on the long-term future of the web.
There’s audio too, which is unfortunately locked up in the unhuffduffable roach motel that is Soundcloud, but I’m hoping that might change.
An acquisition, or an aqui-hire, is always a failure. Either the founders failed to achieve their goal, or – far likelier – they failed to dream big enough. The proper ambition for a tech entrepreneur should be to join the ranks of the great tech companies, or, at least, to create a profitable, independent company beloved by employees, customers, and shareholders.
Fascinating fodder for Huffduffer:
Beginning in 1996, Radio Diaries gave tape recorders to teenagers around the country to create audio diaries about their lives. NPR’s All Things Considered aired intimate portraits of five of these teens: Amanda, Juan, Frankie, Josh and Melissa. They’re now in their 30s. Over this past year, the same group has been recording new stories about where life has led them for our series, Teenage Diaries Revisited.
It’s a big ask, but if you can action these ten tips from Anil, your startup will crush it.
A truly fascinating and well-written article on how changes are afoot in the worlds of psychology, economics, and just about any other field that has performed tests on American participants and extrapolated the results into universal traits.
Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.
This is a superb talk by Mark Lynas who once spearheaded the anti-GM movement, and who has now completely changed his stance on genetically-modified crops. Why? Science.
You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.
Oh, my! This excellent, excellent post from Anil Dash is a great summation of what has changed on the web, and how many of today’s big-name services are no longer imbued with the spirit of the web.
Either you remember how things used to be and you’ll nod your head vigorously in recognition and agreement …or you’re too young to remember this, and you won’t quite believe that is how things worked.
This isn’t some standard polemic about “those stupid walled-garden networks are bad!” I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They’re amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.
Camille Paglia is apparently a Lucas apologist like me.
Peter Saville talks about the enduring appeal of his cover for Unknown Pleasures.
I like to think of all the variations and mashups as not just tributes to Joy Division, but tributes to Jocelyn Bell Burnell too.
A lovely piece from Joanne on storytelling, identity and the internet.
A good recap of the recent online/offline/does-it-really-matter discussion …although it does lend a bit too much credence to the pronouncements of that king of trolls, Nicholas Carr.
What Erin has written here makes me want to be a better person.
The history of the WELL, a truly remarkable community.
Vernor Vinge’s original 1993 motherlode of the singularity.
There is a there there after all.
The backlash against the backlash against connectivity.
I, for one, welcome our Manufactured Normalcy Field overlords.
This is a beautifully heartfelt post from Timoni:
Every day, I feel things because of the internet, and that’s amazing. Humans have been using abstracted communication for thousands of years, but it’s never been so instantaneous, never so capable of bringing folks of completely different backgrounds together in conversation. This is a huge step. Good job us.
An excellent longish-zoom article by Alexis Madrigal with an eerily accurate summation of the current state of the web. Although I think that a lack of any fundamentally new paradigms could be seen as a sign of stabilisation as much as stagnation.
Yes! Charles Stross speaks the unspeakable: that advertising is fundamentally “wrong”.
He’s right, y’know.
Bruce Sterling writes about the New Aesthetic in an article that’s half manifesto and half critique.
Grab a cup of tea or hit your “read it later” bookmarklet of choice for this one—it’s a lengthy but worthwhile read.
A cautionary tale from Stuart. We, the makers of modern technology, are letting people down. Badly.
We’re in this to help users, remember: not just the ones who think as we do, but the ones who rely on us to build things for them because they don’t know what they’re doing. If your response is honestly “well, he should have spent more on a phone to get something better”, then I’m exceedingly disillusioned by you.
A collection of articles on the tricksy art of Futurism from—amongst others—Bruce Sterling, Annalee Newitz, and Matt Novak, creator of the Paleofuture blog.
The wonderful story of an odd place:
The Jamesburg Earth Station is a massive satellite receiver in a remote valley in California. It played a central role in satellite communications for three decades, but had been forgotten until the current owner put it up for sale, promoting it as a great place to spend the apocalypse.
This is one of the best pieces of journalism I’ve read …and it just happens to be posted on a blog. Please read it, particularly if you are a voter in the UK.
There’s a good point buried in this tirade.
Here’s a more positive spin: with this much horseshit, there’s gotta be a horse in there somewhere.
Colly’s thoughts on digital preservation are written in a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek way but at least he’s thinking about it. That alone gives me comfort.
A beautiful reminder that by publishing on the web, we are all historians.
Every color you choose and line of code you write is a reflection of you; not just as a human being in this world, but as a human being in this time and place in human history. Inside each project is a record of the styles and fashions you value, the technological advancements being made in the industry, the tone of your voice, and even the social and economic trends around you.
This post from Maciej might initially seem negative but read it through to the end: there’s a very powerful positive message.
A thoughtful piece from Matt on the changes in cultural transmission that we should be embracing instead of bemoaning.
If you live in the States, please, please, for the love of the internet, write to your representative at fightforthefuture.org/pipa
A rallying cry from Neal Stephenson for Getting Big Stuff Done.
This is quite beautiful. An interactive piece that allows you to dig through the ruins of Geocities like an archeologist.
Such wanton destruction! I’ll never forgive those twunts at Yahoo.
Asking what the difference is between science fiction and design fiction. The answer may be …usefulness.
A great speech by Ben Hammersley that ties together multiple strands of life in the 21st century.
Craig has written down his dConstruct talk, the one that completely polarised opinion. Personally, I loved it.
A worrying report on the state of digital preservation and the web, specifically in the UK. Welcome to the memory hole.
A wonderful reminder by Kevin Kelly of the amazing interconnected world we live in, thanks to network effects.
A superb post by David that ties together multiple strands of personal digital preservation through homesteading instead of sharecropping.
Stewart Brand wrote this twelve years ago: it’s more relevant than ever in today’s cloud-worshipping climate.
I’d like to think that it’s ironic that I’m linking to The Wayback Machine because the original URL for this essay is dead. But it isn’t ironic, it’s horrific.
Clay Shirky takes a long hard look at the present (and future) of newspapers and—more important—of journalism. A good read.
Here’s one to add to Instapaper or Readability to savour at your leisure: Aaron Straup Cope’s talk at Museums and the Web 2010:
This paper examines the act of association, the art of framing and the participatory nature of robots in creating artifacts and story-telling in projects like Flickr Galleries, the API-based Suggestify project (which provides the ability to suggest locations for other people’s photos) and the increasing number of bespoke (and often paper-based) curatorial productions.
Take some time out to read this. Read all of this. Craig’s thoughts on the nature of publishing today:
Digital’s effect on how we produce, distribute and consume content.
The entire archive of the Reith lectures is now online for your huffduffing pleasure.
A beautiful dose of perspective from Frank.
Brewster Kahle explains how and why the Internet Archive is keeping physical copies of the books it digitises.
A nice summation of the open science movement, courtesy of Bobbie.
A profile of those whacky Brooklyn Studiomates.
A blog devoted to sifting through the gems in the Geocities torrent. This is digital archeology.
The threat to Google Videos shows businesses are not suitable cultural custodians — they can’t be held accountable to the public.
Kevin Kelly asks “What is a book?” and provides some thought-provoking answers. There’s some inspiring crystal-ball gazing in here.
Tom talks about “Things Rules Do.”
Brian Eno’s original essay on the origins of The Long Now Foundation. It is ten years old—a long time on the web and 1% of a millennium.
Humans are capable of a unique trick: creating realities by first imagining them, by experiencing them in their minds. When Martin Luther King said “I have a dream…” , he was inviting others to dream it with him. Once a dream becomes shared in that way, current reality gets measured against it and then modified towards it. As soon as we sense the possibility of a more desirable world, we begin behaving differently – as though that world is starting to come into existence, as though, in our minds at least, we’re already there. The dream becomes an invisible force which pulls us forward. By this process it starts to come true. The act of imagining something makes it real.
A detailed look at how French archivists go about preserving websites.
Everything is worth preserving and protecting.
James’s talk from Tools Of Change. Great stuff!
A brave and probably unpopular stance; could it be that the fundamental technological bedrock of the internet needs to change to avoid the seemingly-inevitable rise of walled gardens?
I wish I had a teacher like David when I was in school.
URLs, permalinks, archives … preservation. It all matters so very much.
The fascinating story of the BBC Domesday Project and its subsequent fate.
The purpose of the CAMiLEON project was to demonstrate the value of emulation in preserving not only the data stored in obsolete systems but the behaviour of the systems themselves - in this case one of the very first interactive multi-media systems. The aim was to reproduce the original user experience as accurately as possible, and the CAMiLEON team argued that the slight faults in images as displayed from the analogue discs were a part of that experience, and should not be cleaned up as Andy proposed to do. Our aim was different - we wanted to preserve the data with the highest quality available consistent with longevity.
Part two of Kirby Ferguson’s series focuses on films. Creation requires influence.
The BBC’s decision to actively delete old content (rather than simply allowing it to take up some space on a server) really gets my blood boiling.
The BBC asked the public to contribute their memories of World War Two to a website between June 2003 and January 2006…” and five years later some suit decided to bin them.
Let’s make the Bletchley Park data machine-readable so we can start mining the stories they contain (like Old Weather).
Bletchley Park need help to catalogue and create a proper archive of these decrypts.
I want in!
Preserving the papernet.
Jeffrey points out another point of failure in our online storage: the willingness of site owners to sell their product (and your data) to a big company for a quick payout.
Mandy writes about digital preservation:
The technological means to produce an archive are not beyond our skills; sadly, right now at least, the will to do so is insufficient.
An accurately-downbeat look at digital preservation.
French schoolchildren are given technological tools that are less than thirty years old and asked to describe what they do.
An excellent piece of writing on the fundamental question of the web: Why Wasn’t I Consulted?
Pitching Orwell against Huxley in an argument that is ironically shallow: it only holds up if you accept the premise that activities involving the web, television and video games are inherently “bad” and anti-social: a pathetically, narrow-minded and condescending worldview.
Matt is, as usual, eloquent and inspiring.