Tags: kickstarter



Making things happen

I have lovely friends who are making lovely things. Surprisingly, lots of these lovely things aren’t digital (or at least aren’t only digital).

My friends Brian and Joschi want to put on an ambitious event called Material:

A small conference based in Reykjavik, Iceland, looking into the concept of the Web as a Material — 22nd July 2016, https://material.is

They’re funding it through Kickstarter. If you have any interest in this at all, I suggest you back it. Best bet is to pledge the amount that guarantees you a ticket to the conference. Go!

My friend Matt has a newsletter called 3 Books Weekly to match his Machine Supply website. Each edition features three book recommendations chosen by a different person each time.

Here’s the twist: there’s going to be a Machine Supply pop-up bookshop AKA a vending machine in Shoreditch. That’ll be rolling out very soon and I can’t wait to see it.

My friend Josh made a crazy website to tie in with an art project called Cosmic Surgery. My friend Emily made a limited edition run of 10 books for the project. Now there’s a Kickstarter project to fund another run of books which will feature a story by Piers Bizony.

An Icelandic conference, a vending machine for handpicked books, and a pop-up photo book …I have lovely friends who are making lovely things.


There’s an article in The New Yorker by Kathryn Schulz called The Really Big One. It’s been creating quite a buzz, and rightly so. It’s a detailed and evocative piece about the Cascadia fault:

When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries.

But there’s another hotspot on the other side of the country: the New Madrid fault line. There isn’t (yet) an article about in The New Yorker. There’s something better. Two articles by Maciej:

  1. Confronting New Madrid and
  2. Confronting New Madrid (Part 2).

The New Madrid Seismic Zone earned its reputation on the strength of three massive earthquakes that struck in the winter of 1811-1812. The region was very sparsely settled at the time, and became more sparsely settled immediately afterwards, as anyone with legs made it their life’s mission to get out of southern Missouri.

The articles are fascinating and entertaining in equal measure. No surprise there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Maciej Cegłowski is the best writer on the web. Every so often I find myself revisiting Argentina On Two Steaks A Day or A Rocket To Nowhere just for the sheer pleasure of it.

I want to read more from Maciej, and there’s a way to make it happen. If we back him on Kickstarter, he’ll take a trip to the Antarctic and turn it into words:

Soliciting donations to take a 36-day voyage to the Ross Ice Shelf, Bay of Whales and subantarctic islands, and write it up real good.

Let’s make it happen. Let’s throw money at him like he’s a performing monkey. Dance, writer-boy, dance!

Sea change

Every now and then I come across a site that reminds of just why I love this sad and beautiful world wide web: a site with that certain intangible webbiness.

Wikipedia has it. That’s a project that’s not just on the web, it’s of the web. It’s a terrible idea in theory, but an amazing achievement in practice. It restores my faith in humanity.

Kickstarter has it. The word distruptive is over-used in the world of technology, but I can’t think of a better adjective to describe Kickstarter …except, perhaps, for empowering. There’s something incredibly satisfying about contributing directly to someone’s creative output.

Old Weather has it. It’s the latest project from the magnificent Zooniverse crew, the people behind the brilliant Galaxy Zoo.

Old Weather is another collaborative project. Everyone who takes part is presented with a scanned-in page from a ship’s logbook from the early 20th Century. The annotations on the pages aren’t machine-readable but the human brain does an amazing job of discerning the meaning in the patterns of markings made with pen on paper (and if you need help, there are video tutorials available).

Converting this data from analogue paper-based databases into a digital database online would in itself be a worthy goal, but in this case, the data is especially valuable:

These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and improve a database of weather extremes. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and the stories of the people on board.

But the value is not just in contributing to a worthy cause; it’s also great fun. It makes excellent use of the that Clay Shirky talks about.

What a shame that the situation in which we are most often called upon to demonstrate our humanity is through the vile CAPTCHA, a dreadful idea that is ironically dehumanising in its implementation.

I’d much rather have people prove their species credentials with a more rewarding task. Want to leave a comment? First you must calculate the optimum trajectory for a Jupiter flyby, categorise a crater on the moon spot a coronal mass ejection or tell me if you live in fucking Dalston.