I work as a business strategist, a software developer, a marketer and a writer. I'm Chief Strategist at big fish®, where I work with consumer businesses to help them solve brand, tech, and marketing problems.
What happens if Amazon goes the way of Uber and Airbnb, and becomes an "aggregator" – with unlimited product selection, a frictionless service, and an incredible user experience? Should food and drink brands be rubbing their hands with glee – or fearing for their lives?
Peter Pomerantsev writes perfectly on how the disorienting, time-warping feel of coronavirus is actually just the latest in a slow melting away of the significance of time:
“We live in a “flat world” where different eras have become squashed together in a mental space where they can’t by definition all fit at the same time, and where there is no History to order them in terms of their level of “development.” Everything is contemporaneous, but with no model of common communication, a synchronization of the incompatible: ISIS and Putin, Trudeau, Kim Kardashian, and Duterte all jostling against each other with no way of saying which represents the past and which the future.”
Matt Webb has really been knocking it out of the park lately. His latest is on adaptive long music, with video game music as inspiration:
Although this gives the impression of a formless improvisational process, because of the way the music reacts in real-time to the player’s actions, the underlying structure had to be meticulously planned. If a dramatic sequence suddenly kicks off, the soundtrack switches to something with greater intensity, while a more foreboding sound is required during moments of suspense.
I wonder, when I listen to these soundscapes, whether it would be possible to make an album that is intended to be listened to over a full 24 hours, as a kind of live soundtrack to your life?
A beautiful and informative data visualisation from Gabriel Goh. It lets you plum in different knowledge about the Coronavirus, and then examine the effect of different interventions at different times. Thanks to the compounding effect of the virus’s transmission, it becomes suddenly clear how quickly even the most powerful interventions can become useless – or how effective early decisions can be.
A beautiful paean to Wikipedia, one of the few unqualified success stories of the web, one of the last remaining bastions of the anarchic, decentralised spirit of the early internet, and the home of facts about Afghanistan’s only pig.
Today I learned that there is – was? – only one, solitary pig in Afghanistan, and his name is Khanzir.
How thieves disgruntled at the financial system pulled off an almost-perfect robbery – a real work of art.
Interesting thoughts about Code of Conscience, a project that geo-fences heavy duty vehicles, restricting their usage within protected wilderness areas, and what that technology might mean for policymaking. For example:
You can easily imagine… a dystopian scenario in which geofenced medical prostheses cease to operate when they cross an invisible GPS boundary into an unserviced region—perhaps as a way to protect the host company from the illegal installation of black-market, security-compromised firmware updates, but with immediate and perhaps fatal health effects on the user. Or, say, regions of a metropolis—perhaps near centers of governance or military installations—where civilian vehicles or unregistered photographic equipment of a particular resolution can no longer physically function.
Just as easily, you could imagine something like the spatial opposite of Code of Conscience, where, for example, future GPS-tagged hunting rifles only work when they are located inside permitted wilderness areas. The instant you step outside the field or forest, your gun goes dead.
For half a century, the CIA secretly controlled one of the world’s most widely used cryptography companies, using that control to backdoor allies and enemies alike and eavesdrop on their most sensitive communications. This perhaps explains their concern about Huawei.
Geoff Manaugh on a remarkable story of teen journalists in the 1990s uncovering what the “real” press was unable or unwilling to. An example of just what teens are capable of if given a project with meaning, import, and autonomy.
Why do vegans provoke such ire in non-vegans? This interesting article looks at the cognitive biases that might lead to such strong feelings.
Bruce Sterling on AI ethics:
In the hermetic world of AI ethics, it’s a given that self-driven cars will kill fewer people than we humans do. Why believe that? There’s no evidence for it. It’s merely a cranky aspiration. Life is cheap on traffic-choked American roads — that social bargain is already a hundred years old. If self-driven vehicles doubled the road-fatality rate, and yet cut shipping costs by 90 percent, of course those cars would be deployed.
Technological proliferation is not a list of principles. It is a deep, multivalent historical process with many radically different stakeholders over many different time-scales. People who invent technology never get to set the rules for what is done with it.
Related to the last link is Sayre’s law, which states that “in any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake”. We’re distracted by trivialities and are powerless to effect meaningful change.
A piercing view of modern outrage culture, which sees the opposition to fascism distracted by low-stakes nonsense while society is slowly dismantled.
From five years ago, but still beautiful and resonant: a profile of Ronnie O’Sullivan, the haunted and preternaturally gifted snooker player.
A poignant piece on the passing of Elizabeth Wurtzel (author of Prozac Nation) and the precariousness and vapidity of the modern creative industries.
A wonderfully thoughtful and thought-provoking article about the growing culture war in the UK, as we slowly circle the drain.
A useful name for an intuitive fallacy.
I discovered this after writing up my post about Roam Research and, inevitably, it says much of what I wanted to say more effectively than I was able to say it.
It turns out the world of self-published, Kindle Unlimited romance novels is cuthroat and scammy. Algorithm-gaming, fake readers, fake content, all generating millions in revenue. Kindle Unlimited is particularly susceptible because of the way it calculates and shares revenue.
I’ve been using Roam Research for a couple of a weeks now, and I have some thoughts about it.
A fabulous paper from the early 1980s. Taking examples from coal-mining, it explains the interactions between people and technology and the evolution and emergence of productive relationships between the two. There are so many lessons here for modern technical teams.
Ruby has many cryptic variables, but one of them is particularly useful – especially if you’re processing text from the command line.
The slides and summary from my talk at Brighton Ruby 2015.
Varnish, the HTTP proxy, is a fantastic tool. Here’s a way to purge cached pages from the command line, a task I find myself wanting to do frequently.