An Interview with Nick Harkaway: Algorithmic Futures, Literary Fractals, and Mimetic Immortality - Los Angeles Review of Books
Nick Harkaway on technology in fiction:
Humans without tools are not magically pure; they’re just unvaccinated, cold, and wet.
SF is how we get to know ourselves, either who we are or who we might be. In terms of what is authentically human, SF has a claim to be vastly more honest and important than a literary fiction that refuses to admit the existence of the modern and goes in search of a kind of essential humanness which exists by itself, rather than in the intersection of people, economics, culture, and science which is where we all inevitably live. It’s like saying you can only really understand a flame if you get rid of the candle. Good luck with that.
And on Borges:
He was a genius, and he left this cryptic, brilliant body of work that’s poetic, incomplete, astonishing. It’s like a tasting menu in a restaurant where they let you smell things that go to other tables and never arrive at yours.
After musing on newsletters, Craig shares how he’s feeling about Instagram and its ilk:
Instagram will only get more complex, less knowable, more algorithmic, more engagement-hungry in 2019.
I’ve found this cycle has fomented another emotion beyond distrust, one I’ve felt most acutely in 2018: Disdain? (Feels too loaded.) Disappointment? (Too moralistic.) Wariness? (Yes!) Yes — wariness over the way social networks and the publishing platforms they provide shift and shimmy beneath our feet, how the algorithms now show posts of X quality first, or then Y quality first, or how, for example, Instagram seems to randomly show you the first image of a multi-image sequence or, no wait, the second.8
I try to be deliberate, and social networks seem more and more to say: You don’t know what you want, but we do. Which, to someone who, you know, gives a shit, is pretty dang insulting.
Wariness is insidious because it breeds weariness. A person can get tired just opening an app these days. Unpredictable is the last thing a publishing platform should be but is exactly what these social networks become. Which can make them great marketing tools, but perhaps less-than-ideal for publishing.
A browser extension that encrypts and decrypts posts on Facebook—if two users have the extension installed, they can communicate without Facebook being able read their messages.
A small but perfectly formed progressive web app. It’s a private, offline-first personal journal with no log-in and no server-stored data. You can read about the tech stack behind it:
Your notes are only stored on your device — they’re never sent to a server. You don’t even need to sign-in to use it! It works offline, so you can reflect upon your day on the slow train journey home.
The first two years of the excellent History Of The Web newsletter is now available as a digital book. It’s volume one of …we’ll see how many.
Buried inside you’ll find fascinating narrative threads from the web’s history, starting all the way from the beginning and straight on through to the very first browsers, the emergence of web design, to the evolving landscape of our online world.
Craig writes about reading and publishing, from the memex and the dynabook to the Kindle, the iPhone, and the iPad, all the way back around to plain ol’ email and good old-fashioned physical books.
We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem.
Facebook isn’t really all that much better or more convenient than having your own website, or sending emails or chats. But for some reason, Facebook (and Instagram) are where we post now.
How lovely! Going Offline is in very good company in this list, and Oliver has some nice words to say about it:
Extremely beginner-friendly and approachable, it can be read in half a day and will help you get Service Workers up and running in no time.
But all I want for Christmas is for Shopify to stop enabling Breitbart.
HTTPS session identifiers can be disabled in Mozilla products manually by setting ‘security.ssl.disablesessionidentifiers’ in about:config.
For once, Betteridge’s law of headlines is refuted.
This is a fascinating insight into the heady days of 2005 when Yahoo was the cool company snapping up all the best products like Flickr, Upcoming, and Del.icio.us. It all goes downhill from there.
There’s no mention of the surprising coda.
Oh, this will be good! Adam has been working on, thinking and writing about forms for quite a while and he has distilled that down into ten patterns. You just know that progressive enhancement will be at the heart of this book.
By the end of the book, you’ll have a close-to exhaustive list of ready-to-go components, delivered as a design system that you can fork, contribute to and use immediately on your projects. But more than that, you’ll have the mindset and rationale behind when or when not to use each solution, which is just as important as the solution itself.
This is such a lovely, lovely review from Marc!
Jeremy’s way of writing certainly helps, as a specialised or technical book on a topic like Service Workers, could certainly be one, that bores you to death with dry written explanations. But Jeremy has a friendly, fresh and entertaining way of writing books. Sometimes I caught myself with a grin on my face…
I strongly recommend that you read Going Offline by Jeremy Keith. Before his book, I found the concept of service workers quite daunting and convinced myself that it’s one of those things that I’ll have to set aside a big chunk of time to learn. I got through Jeremy’s book in a few hours and felt confident and inspired. This is because he’s very good at explaining concepts in a friendly, concise manner.
Welp! As of today, none of my posts, links, or notes can be syndicated to Facebook:
publish_actionspermission will be deprecated. This permission granted apps access to publish posts to Facebook as the logged in user. Apps created from today onwards will not have access to this permission. Apps created before today that have been previously approved to request
publish_actionscan continue to do so until August 1, 2018.
If you’re reading this on Facebook: so long, it’s been good to know ya.
Um …if I’m reading this right, then my IFTTT recipe will also stop working and my Facebook activity will drop to absolute zero.
Oh, well. No skin off my nose. Facebook is a roach motel in more ways than one.
Typography meets astronomy in 16th century books like the Astronomicum Caesareum.
It is arguably the most typographically impressive scientific manual of the sixteenth century. Owen Gingerich claimed it, “the most spectacular contribution of the book-maker’s art to sixteenth-century science.”