Why can't I finish the AUG 31
Why can't I finish the Cluetrain Manifesto?
My dad just got back from holiday in Australia for five weeks. He brought me back some lemon squash, a lemon-flavored fizzy beverage popular in Oz, but unheard of in the States. I only have a liter of it...I'm trying desperately to make it last as long as I can. It's so yummy. If only I could get it here...but I can't even find it anywhere on the Web. Grrrr...
Speaking of soft drinks, how about some Fukola Cola?
Two mysteries about the Minneapolis Sign Project solved. Firstly*, I was informed that an "exposition services" company (like Brede) helps people with trade show displays and such. I also got a letter from the owner of Mitrebox. Apparently, it's a small framing studio.
It seems like "firstly" shouldn't be a word, but it is.
Think about all the free (or absurdly cheap) stuff you can get these days, compared to just a few years ago. Internet access. Long distance. Computers. Books. Clothing. Cable television. Why is it so cheap? Well, we're still paying for those things in the form of drastically reduced levels of customer service.
I've heard dozens of stories in the past couple months about horrible customer service, including:
- crappy DSL installs. PacBell, USWest, Qwest, Bell Atlantic, I'm talking about you here.
- not being able to talk to a real person when you need to.
- the real-life bookstore and the online bookstore not knowing how to deal with each other. Hello, Barnes & Noble.
- cable companies. The more things change....
- not being able to find basic contact information on a company's Web site.
- and the defending champion of horrible customer service....do I even have to tell you that it's Network Solutions?
Companies are lowering prices so they can get big and rich in a hurry, but their customers - the people they are supposed to be treating with courtesy and respect - are paying the price for it by being ignored, talked down to, ripped off, and generally taken advantage of.
The really disturbing thing is that these companies are pretty much getting away with it. They are offering subpar service and profiting from it. Somehow, this has to catch up with them....or is this just part and parcel of the "new economy"?
Readings from the Urantia Book, the second in a series:
"Primary supernaphim are the supernal servants of the Deities on the eternal Isle of Paradise. Never have they been known to depart from the paths of light and righteousness. The roll calls are complete; from eternity not one of this magnificent host has been lost. These high supernaphim are perfect beings, supreme in perfection, but they are not absonite, neither are they absolute. Being of the essence of perfection, these children of the Infinite Spirit work interchangeably and at will in all phases of their manifold duties. They do not function extensively outside Paradise, though they do participate in the various millennial gatherings and group reunions of the central universe. They also go forth as special messengers of the Deities, and in large numbers they ascend to become Technical Advisers."
Hmmm...."Technical Advisors". You mean, like consultants from Ernst & Young?
After much consternation, I finally figured out how to change stylesheets on a Web page on the fly. As an example, I made this bookmarklet that turns regular Metafilter into Bizzaro Metafilter (don't click on this link, bookmark it, go to Metafilter, and then select the bookmark).
What else can you do with a stylesheet bookmarklet? Well, you can render sites like Yahoo almost completely in the Wingdings font. I'm sure you'll be able to find something useful to do with them.
Disclaimer: The above bookmarklets only work on IE 4+ on the PC. I have no idea what they'll do on the Mac. The Bizzaro MeFi bookmarklet also breaks the scrolly MeFi menu. I could fix it, but it would be kind of a pain.
Unfortunately for CBS, the second edition of Survivor cannot be as successful as the first one was...and I'm not even factoring in the dreaded sophomore slump. While the filming of the first Survivor was relatively media free because it wasn't a huge deal when they shot it, the filming of the second Survivor will be highly scrutinized by the media and by other folks trying to get the scoop on who will win. The winner's identity will no doubt be revealed well in advance of the final show's airing, and without that mystery & suspense, the show is just not (as) compelling.
Note: Thus ends the first and last mention of Survivor on this otherwise fine Web site. My apologies, it won't happen again.
Speaking of trying to get two tricks out of a one-trick pony, can I get a show of hands for who wants to see Blair Witch 2? No one? That's what I thought. Maybe it'll be good, who knows. <sigh>
Oh, did I say two tricks? I meant three tricks.
Note: Thus ends the first and last mention of Blair Witch 2 on this otherwise fine Web site. My apologies, it won't happen again.
Amazon sent me a birthday reminder...for my own birthday: "Greetings from Amazon.com! Your birthday is right around the corner..." A little excessive, perhaps?
Fundacao Laramara is a Flash site from Brazil that demonstrates an audio-driven navigational system for use by the blind. Interesting stuff. You need sound for this one, so don't visit if you don't have your speakers/headphones on. (link courtesy of the nubbin, who hasn't updated in a while, *ahem*)
The shopping links in the sidebar on Swallowing Tacks are very interesting. If more stores on the Web move to an affiliate program like Amazon, a shopping weblog could be highly useful to potential shoppers and highly profitable to the weblog writer.
I'm thinking of changing the kottke.org tagline from "home of fine hypertext products" to "home of fine hypertext solutions". After all, no one just makes products anymore, everyone's providing solutions. Or maybe it should be "enabling fine new media solutions"...that's much clearer.
Readings from the Urantia Book ("authored by celestial beings as a special revelation to our planet, Urantia"), the first in a series:
"Our Creator Son is the personification of the 611,121st original concept of infinite identity of simultaneous origin in the Universal Father and the Eternal Son. The Michael of Nebadon is the "only-begotten Son" personalizing this 611,121st universal concept of divinity and infinity. His headquarters is in the threefold mansion of light on Salvington. And this dwelling is so ordered because Michael has experienced the living of all three phases of intelligent creature existence: spiritual, morontial, and material. Because of the name associated with his seventh and final bestowal on Urantia, he is sometimes spoken of as Christ Michael."
Amazingly, it goes on like this for 2097 pages.
Today is reader-submitted link day.
Apparently, the misspelling of "specials" in the lunch photo that I took for the Minneapolis Sign Project is a well-known grammatical miscue referred to as "the grocer's plural". Thanks to James for the info.
marchFIRST is looking for a Web designer in Minneapolis. Here's a portion of the job posting:
Position: Senior Web Designer
Employment Level: Experienced (6-9 years)
Required Skills: GIF Builder, HTML
They want someone who's been doing HTML since 1991? I think I have just the person they're looking for.
So, here I am, patiently waiting to see what great movie PT Anderson is going to do next when I hear that the movie in question is going to be a comedy starring Adam Sandler. Don't get me wrong, Happy Gilmore was funny, but I have my doubts. I guess if anyone can make Sandler smart and funny, it would be PT. I'm crossing my fingers. (thanks to Sanj for the heads-up)
I love companies like Xootr. Not only do they sell a superior scooter, they are really enthusiastic about it. Just check out their Web site; it's certainly not the prettiest site in the world, but read the copy on the front page and in some of the other sections. It's down-home, it's folksy; they're not talking down to anyone, they're genuinely excited about the great products they have, and they are certainly not talking about their company in some detached-yet-boastful tone that suggests there's really not all that much to talk about in the first place.
My favorite part of the site is the Why Buy Xootr section and the detailed discussion on wheels in particular. After 5 minutes of reading and not having ever looked around at any other scooter brands, I was hooked; if I ever buy a kick scooter, it's going to be a Xootr...and that's saying something because I'm most definitely a shop-around kinda guy.
There's also a really good article about Xootr I was going to point you to, but stupid Fast Company doesn't have it on their Web site.
Artist Mark Bennett draws floor plans of dwellings from old television programs, just in case you ever wanted to know how Wally and the Beaver's room was laid out, where the cement pond was located in relation to Jed Clampett's whittlin' bench, or, amazingly, the entire layout of Gilligan's Island. I don't know how he possibly could have drawn the entire island just from watching the show, but consider me impressed...and an instant fan.
The downside of my recent discovery of Bennett's work is that it comes on the day after an exhibit featuring his work ended at the Walker Art Center, a scant three miles from where I live. Jeez, I need to get out more. I suppose I will have to make due with buying his book: TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes.
These airport workers were tricked into saying such things as "my colleague just farted, and left the room, the bastard" by some guys asking for the whereabouts of "Makollig Jezvahted and Levdaroum DeBahzted", among others. Too damn funny. Via Dack.
For some reason, I'm fascinated with these cheerleading pictures of celebrities, including those of Teri Hatcher, Sandra Bullock, Calista Flockhart (who evidently went to high school with a bunch of clones), and Cameron Diaz. Thanks to Fred for the link.
Incidentally, I hope Fred's Aug 20th entry is a joke. If not...Jesus.....get better, man.
There's a new episode of 0sil8 entitled The Minneapolis Sign Project. Basically, I hauled a camera around town and took pictures of all sorts of interesting signs. I like signs.
For those that don't know, 0sil8 is another Web site of mine, one that's been around a lot longer than kottke.org. I've been neglecting it lately (partially because of this site but mostly because of work, side projects, and general life stuff), but hopefully I'll be updating it more in the future. If you'd like to receive email when 0sil8 updates, sign up for the mailing list.
Since you might be wondering (come on, you *might*), here are a few other things Dave Eggers is responsible for:
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: book, bestseller, based on a true story.
- Might magazine: odd bimonthly, San Francisco, "cool" people will be comparing magazines to this one for years to come.
- Smarter Feller: comic strip, appeared in SF Weekly, Steve the Grinning Handbag.
- McSweeney's: quarterly magazine, fiction, nonfiction, drawings of hairy people, very little poetry.
- Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency: companion Web site to the above, small liquid globule thing that for a while was dangling then fell.
Current favorite television commercials: these ads for the Levi's Make Them Your Own campaign. The actors and styling are a little too "forced hipster", but the premise is great.
I heard that TiVo is having trouble selling their product to people...they've only got a user base of ~50,000 (and I think I know most of them). This strikes me as a little odd, considering how damn useful and cool the product is (you're hooked on TiVo after using it for about, oh, 12 seconds).
Check out the expanded selection at Amazon.com, courtesy of their small ad banner on the right-hand side of the search results page at Dictionary.com:
- crack cocaine
- Jeff Bezos' soul
- a clue
- fully automatic assault weaponry
- Cuban cigars
- bargains at Barnes & Noble
Looks like they need to add a few more tabs to their nav bar.
Go read this Dave Eggers interview with The Harvard Advocate and then come back.
Did you like it? Yeah, me too. The only part I disagreed with is where he talks about criticism**. With sizable reserves of intelligence, Eggers can afford not to be a critic. He states he's already got it all figured out...and I'm inclined to believe him when he says that. Like I said, he's a smart guy.
But what about the rest of us? What about me? I certainly don't have it all figured out. I'm not smart enough to just know things. I'm still poking around, seeing how things work, how people interact with each other, and thinking critically about art, design, science, religion, and pretty much anything else that crosses my path.
I certainly agree that "simply [letting] the goddamn butterfly fly" is essential to enjoying the things around us, but how can I learn about creating that beauty myself if I don't know how it works? Why is Lolita such a great book? Why is ID4 such a bad movie? What can I learn from the successes and failures of these works? How can I apply that to what I do?
Dave would probably disapprove, but I'm going to go right on criticizing things...and well as watching the flying butterflies around me. I can do both, I'm allowed.
** I'm assuming here that Eggers was talking about criticism in a general sense (as in: "your Web site is too yellow and it makes it hard for me to read it, especially with the small font" def. #1) and not just in a negative sense (as is: "you look really fat in those jeans" def. #2).
Seen on a bumper sticker this morning: "Necrophilia is dead".
Surprisingly, I saw a pretty good film on the airplane trip to SF: Holiday Romance from Atom Films. Props to Northwest for showing Academy Award-nominated short films on their flights. It was certainly better than the Erin Brockovich nonsense we had to endure on the way to Hawaii.
I'm still working my way through Lolita. The writing is so intricately good that it's slow going. Nabokov must have been a genius because English was not his natural language, yet he writes in it better than most I've seen. Can't wait to finish it.
Catcher in the Rye also goes in the should-have-read-it-sooner pile. Holden Caulfield's tell-it-like-it-is attitude is refreshing, even decades after the book was written, especially since the 1990s were the Decade of the Phoney. And I have no doubt that if Holden was reading this right now, he'd tell me to stop using so-many-hyphenated-together-words in my goddam sentences.
Hullo. I'm back from vacation. I would have sent you a postcard, but I didn't have your address.
Kauai, the Hawaiian island that was my home for the past week, contains some of the most beautiful vistas I've come across in my (admittedly somewhat limited) travels, the kind of views that make you want to compose bad poetry. Looking out at the ocean near our condo, I was moved to compose a verse or two, which, thankfully, I have since forgotten. Take my word for it though, it was bad, most likely containing the following words & phrases: "wind-swept", "lapping gently", and the awful harbinger of metaphor "like a". *shudder*
Hawaiians, at least those residing on Kauai, sure are keen on Jesus. In some towns, we counted at least one church every two blocks. That's more churches per capita than there are bars per capita in small, Midwestern towns...which is amazing because the folks in small, Midwestern towns love to drink.
I only used one computer while I was on vacation, a WebTV installed for the use of paying customers to Bubba's, a local burger joint ("we relish your buns!"). Hawaiians seemed as hip to the Internet thing as they were the Jesus thing; advertisements for WebTV and Internet cafes were popular.
Coolest part of the whole vacation: Meg and I went swimming with some sea turtles. So amazing...that picture, taken with a crappy underwater camera, doesn't do the experience justice.
Extra Life, about a boy growing up with computers, was one of my favorite books from the past couple years. The author, David Bennahum, used to publish an electronic newsletter called MEME. I say "used to publish" because I'm on the list and haven't received a new issue in well over a year. Luckily for us, there's still plenty to read in the MEME archives.
Meme Breeders talks about people who spread memes easily:
"A considerable number of artists are emerging who seem quite comfortable with this organic, weblike view of cultural space. For one thing, they have grown up with the cross-marketing, multimedia webs of our expanding consumer culture. They have also found many points of entry amidst the increasing number of fanzines, magazines, cable TV stations, the internet, and telephone machines. From the xerox machine to the world wide web, do-it-yourself media has never been more accessible."
Sound like anyone you know? Sound like everyone you know?
Incidentally, the author of the above, Ebon Fisher, is responsible for The Alula Dimension, one of the very earliest things I saw on the Web. It's still excellent...much more thought behind it than most of the stuff featured as "cool" at Kaliber10000.
About two months ago, I had the rare pleasure of (unknowingly) starting a small meme and then watching it grow into something wholly unexpected. Here's what happened:
- After reading a post on Tom Coates' Web site noting the similar subject matter on our sites, Meg and I both posted the same fictional story to megnut and kottke.org about seeing a little girl riding her bike. We even misspelled the word "pedal" to add to the uniformity of the copy. We thought it would be good for a joke.
- Then something strange happened. Tom posted the story to his site, word for word (spelling error and all), without further comment. Then Heather, Steve, and a few other folks posted the story word for word to their Web sites.
- To most folks, who hadn't had time to witness the genesis of the meme before it spread, these multiple posts (seemingly made at the same time) looked like a conspiracy among a clique, trying to demonstrate their elite status or some other such nonsense. Other people thought it was a bug in the software that many of the posters used to update their sites. In the course of a day or so, the meme had spread to a relatively wide audience and, to a significant degree, had already obscured its origin.
- People then started to notice the pattern and began to comment on it, both in a group setting on Metafilter (here & here) and on their Web sites (here & here, for example). Others took the original story, put a personal spin on it, and posted it to their sites (here, here, and here, for example).
From there, it became a joke in email, was mentioned in passing in online forums, and came up in conversations. People continued to post it to their sites, probably not even realizing the full context of the situation, doing it simply because everyone else was.
There was even a smaller "aftershock" meme involving people posting "I am Jason Kottke" to their sites (like here & here). I have no idea what that was all about...except maybe that the pump had been primed and people were in the mood to repeat just about anything.
And then people pretty much forgot about the whole thing, which, I think we can all agree, is a good thing.
In my experience witnessing the propagation of memes that deal primarily with the intersection of the Web, technology, and culture, I've found there are four basic groups of people involved (I'm generalizing *a lot* here):
- Those who read a lot of Web sites, keep up on the latest happenings, subscribe to a wide variety of mailing lists, and generally immerse themselves in online culture and technology. These folks are usually among the first to find out about stuff. I'm in this category.
- Mass media like network television, radio, cable television, magazines, etc.
- Those folks who use the Web in a casual way for work or pleasure. They are usually interested in these types of memes, but don't actively seek them out, for one reason or another. Most co-workers I've had fit into this category.
- Those who use the Web very occasionally, mostly for news and such. They are generally not interested in this type of meme and only hear about them through happenstance or via mass media. My parents fit into this category.
Here are some recent Web-related memes and their associated timelines of infections into the groups listed above:
- Napster: The first version of Napster was publicly released sometime between January and May 1999. I heard about Napster from Matt's article on evolt.org around the middle of November 1999. The first News.com article about Napster was published on December 7, 1999...I would imagine that any TV or major radio coverage started much later. My co-workers heard about it a few months later, perhaps in February or March. My parents probably heard of Napster fairly recently, due to all the press coverage of the RIAA trial.
- The Hamster Dance: I found out about this site via a mailing list approx. 1-2 months after it was launched before it had migrated to its own domain name. My co-workers discovered it 2 or 3 months later...much office merriment ensued. A few months ago, I saw a TV commercial for Earthlink that featured the Hamster Dance. I'm not sure if either of my parents have seen it...I'm thinking my dad probably has.
- The Superfriends version of Wassup: I can't exactly remember how I found out about this one. I probably saw it on a weblog, probably soon after it was released to the Web (this one spread quickly). My co-workers discovered it right after I did because I told them about it. The Wassup parody meme came to the attention of the major news organizations when someone did an Elian version of Wassup and were threatened with a lawsuit by the Associated Press. My parents may or may not have heard of the whole phenomenon because of that news coverage.
- ICQ: I was late in hearing about this one. My dad was fairly early in discovering it...his ICQ number is in the 300,000s. I heard of it around when they had a few million users, later than most of my peer group. My co-workers probably heard of it right around when they got bought by AOL, when they had 12 million users. Major news coverage of ICQ commenced around then as well, but I don't think it has been covered that much outside of the technology sphere (news.com, etc.).
- Soda Constructor: This is a very minor meme, but worth mentioning anyway. I found out about this from Metafilter, my co-workers discovered it two weeks later, and as far as I know, it never got any mainstream media coverage, nor did my parents ever see it.
It would be interesting to track the pace of meme transmission...and the speed at which transmission seems to be increasing. The difficulty in doing so is not knowing what to keep track of. When I see things, I can't really tell the difference between meme-worthy & non-meme-worthy material...I'm more of an unwitting participant than trend spotter.
A passage near the end of Memes, Meta-Memes, and Politics:
"The development of memetics provides improved mental tools (models) for thinking about the influences, be they benign, silly, or fatal, that replicating information patterns have on all of us. Here is a source of danger if memetics comes of age and only a few learn to create meme sets of great influence. Here too is liberation for those who can recognize and analyze the memes to which they are exposed. If 'the meme about memes' infects enough people, rational social movements might become more common."
Who will be more skilled at wielding memes in the future: individuals or companies? Politicians or voters? The rich or the poor? Will it matter?
What is a meme? "A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins [in The Selfish Gene], by analogy with 'gene'.) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic."
I'll be in Hawaii for the next week or so. No email. No computer. No work. Just the beach, the sky, lush vegetation, and drinks in coconuts. Through the miracle of technology, there will be updates to this site while I am gone. Enjoy.
Almost three years ago, Joey Anuff wrote about Michael Sippey's hiatus from publishing Stating the Obvious in Net Surf. In it, he notes the lack of independently-written content on the Web. Given today's glut of weblogs and vertical newslog sites like Slashdot and Tomalak's Realm, I wonder if he's changed his tune.
BTW, Joey's book, Dumb Money: Adventures of a Day Trader, has been out for a few months now. It's on the long list of stuff to read.
A boy(er) and his goat. I had an opportunity to see this obviously wonderful goat. I passed up that opportunity. I was wrong in doing so.
I'm now a proud member of the Old Navy T-shirt Club. My roommate thinks that is pretty pathetic. Of course, I think that it's pretty pathetic that he doesn't have a Web site that I can link to. So, nyah.
Weblogs are link lists with velocity.
A few weeks ago, I asked for some help in relating dot com marketing copy to gangsta rap lyrics. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Here are some of the better responses I received: Straight Outta .Compton. People who are easily offended might not want to click on the link. You've been warned.
Stating the Obvious turns five years old today....meaning that Michael was out there publishing good content on the Web before Suck. Before Suck. StO was one of the first sites I saw that really grabbed me by the neck and shook me around (and that was a good thing). Indeed, my first live Web site back in 1995 was *heavily* influenced by Stating the Obvious, as were many others at that time and afterwards. This may sound like a bit of over-exaggeration, but all of you people out there publishing tech- & culture-related content (I'm looking at you, webloggers) owe a small debt of gratitude to StO and Michael. So, Michael, thank you and congratulations.
More rafting photo madness. A few weeks ago, I went rafting with a few friends in California and the pictures are still trickling in. A sampling:
- A professionally taken photo of our raft going through a rapids called "Satan's Cesspool" (I think). Everyone looks so damn determined, don't they?
- Meg, slacking on the paddling.
- A shot of the beautiful countryside through which we were floating.
- Freddie Prinze Jr. was on my raft. Jealous?
- An underwater picture of me and Meg. The camera was underwater; we were not.
- Group photo of Team Rescue, so named because later in the day, they pulled a tourist and two of their own out of the river.
- Our companion raft shoots the rapids ahead of us while Eddie, our guide's fearless raft dog, stands watch at the front of our boat.
- Our guide, John, steering the boat.
- Jason, slacking on the paddling. Slack-jawed slacking.