kottke.org posts about Wired
Wired published its first issue 20 years ago and the most recent issue is a collection of stories “for, by, and about the people who have shaped the planet’s past 20 years”. I am pleased and proud to have been included in this issue; I wrote a piece about kottke.org.
One of the first pages I ever visited in the fall of 1994 was the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ “What’s New” page. Every time someone added a new homepage to the web, the NCSA would publish it on this page. In hindsight, that was the first blog — published reverse-chronologically, colloquial, and full of links. It was the family encyclopedia with velocity.
“Pleased and proud” is a slight understatement. I first ran across Wired at college. A friend had an early issue and I had never seen anything like it. (He also had a copy of 2600…the pairing of the two was irresistible to a culturally isolated midwestern kid raised on Time and Newsweek.) When I got on the web in 1994, HotWired was the coolest site out there. HotWired begat Suck and became the nexus of a bunch of the coolest online writing, culture, and design. The way people discuss the cultural and technical influence of Facebook and Twitter today, that position was occupied by Wired and HotWired back in the mid-1990s.
After I dropped out of grad school to teach myself web design, I applied for an internship at HotWired but never heard back. I wanted to work there so bad, to be at the center of all the excitement of the web, but I’m sure it was an easy decision for them to pass over an unemployed grad school drop-out living with his dad on a farm in rural Wisconsin in favor of any one of the thousands of other applicants who had likely taken more than zero design, programming, or even art classes. So yeah, to have written an article for the 20th anniversary issue of Wired about a project I created…well, 1995 Jason’s head would have exploded.
Rafe Colburn revisited Wired’s June 1997 cover story on 101 Ways to Save Apple.
A lot of the suggestions were to be more like Microsoft and embrace the Windows platform. Apple, obviously, rejected that path and has benefitted greatly from doing so. It’s hard to remember now, but many people thought that Apple should drop their operating system and instead turn to making high end Windows PCs. I think we’re all glad they never went that route.
Okay, I’ll chase ONE new story today. But it’s about this fundamental problem of converting old media objects into new ones, and I get to dig up some old blog posts too, I feel like I’m still in character.
Google Books claims to have counted all the books in the world: “129,864,880 of them. At least until Sunday.” But as Ars Technica points out, that number is dubiously wiki:
Google’s counting method relies entirely on its enormous metadata collection—almost one billion records—which it winnows down by throwing out duplicates and non-book items like CDs. The result is a book count that’s arrived at by a kind of process of elimination. It’s not so much that Google starts with a fixed definition of “book” and then combs its records to identify objects with those characteristics; rather, the GBS algorithm seeks to identify everything that is clearly not a book, and to reject all those entries. It also looks for collections of records that all identify the same edition of the same book, but that are, for whatever reason (often a data entry error), listed differently in the different metadata collections that Google subscribes to.
But the problem with Google’s count, as is clear from the GBS count post itself, is that GBS’s metadata collection is a riddled with errors of every sort. Or, as linguist and GBS critic Geoff Nunberg put it last year in a blog post, Google’s metadata is “train wreck: a mish-mash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess.”
It’s not just Google that has a problem. I wrote a post for Wired.com last week (“Why Metadata Matters for the Future of E-books”) about how increased reliance on metadata was affecting publishers of new books, who also depend heavily on digital search — and generally how bibliographic and legal arcana around e-books affects what we see and how we come to see it more than you’d think.
But I wish I’d added Google’s woeful records to the piece. It’s not like I didn’t know about it; here’s the title of a post I wrote a year ago, also citing Nunberg’s post when it first appeared at Language Log: “Scholars to Google: Your Metadata Sucks”.
From a promotional email sent out by Wired Magazine:
For a limited-time, subscribe to WIRED and get the Mystery Issue guaranteed!* Edited by J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost and director of the new Star Trek movie, this issue is sure to be like no other.
*while supplies last
Guaranteed? Inconceivable! And speaking of that issue of Wired, be prepared to read a bunch about how it is going to save print media by moving the crossword from the games page into the entire rest of the magazine.
So, as Mr. Bevacqua wrote on his blog, he spent the next several days following the hidden clues he believed he’d found, using Morse code, alternative computer keyboard layouts and even electrician’s wiring codes to solve the covert brainteasers. Finally he was directed to a hidden Web site, from which he sent an e-mail message to a secret account. A short while later he learned that he was the first Wired reader to solve an extensive hidden puzzle embedded throughout the magazine.
Phil Gyford has posted scans of all the covers of Wired UK, a British version of Wired that existed from 1995 to 1997. I stayed at Phil’s flat once and marveled at this collection…it’s nice to see these online.
Update: Some old Wired Japan covers can be found here and here. (thx, anthony)
Wired is keeping a blog that details the process of writing an upcoming story on, appropriately, writer/director Charlie Kaufman.
An almost-real-time, behind-the-scenes look at the assigning, writing, editing, and designing of a Wired feature. You can see more about the design process on Wired creative director Scott Dadich’s SPD blog, The Process. This is a one-time experiment, tied solely to the Charlie Kaufman profile scheduled to run in our November 08 issue.
We will post internal e-mails, audio, video, drafts, memos, and layouts. We reserve the right to edit our posts, out of sympathy for the reader or to protect our relationships with our sources. We will not post emails with sources or reproduce communications that take place outside of Wired.
Reading through, I’m not sure I want to know how the sausage is made. With the well-established processes and tropes that magazines follow in publishing each and ever month, stuff like this has a tendency to come off as cynical and overly mechanical (e.g. the piece is already mostly written…they just need Kaufman to fill in the details). I also keep thinking…what if Kaufman reads this before his interviews take place? Is it better or worse for the finished piece that he knows their whole angle going in? (via snarkmarket)
Update: Clarification from Jason Tanz (the author of the Kaufman piece) at Wired…most of the interviews with Kaufman have already been conducted and a rough draft of the story has been completed. They wanted to be at least this far along before they posted any of these materials so as to avoid complications with the interview process. Tanz says that they hope to be “pretty close to real time [on the storyboard blog] by the end of next week”.
Last week, Rex Sorgatz reviewed the 15-year-old first issue of Wired; lo and behold, Wired founding editor Louis Rossetto sent him a lengthy response that’s a whole lot more interesting than the original review (sorry, Rex).
This beta was a full-on 120 page prototype, with actual stories re-purposed from other places, actual art, actual ads (someone quipped that it was the ultimate editor’s wet dream to be able to pick their own ads), and then all the sections and pacing that was to go into the actual magazine. The cover was lifted from McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage; it was the startling black and white image of a guy’s head with a big ear where his eyes should have been. The whole thing got printed and laminated in a copy shop in Berkeley that had just got a new Kodak color copier and rip. Jane, Eugene, and I went in when the shop closed on Friday evening and worked round the clock through the weekend. Took 45 minutes to print out one color page! We emerged Monday morning with the prototype, which we had spiral-bound in a shop in South San Francisco, before we boarded a plane for Amsterdam to present it to Origin’s founder and CEO Eckart Wintzen, to see if he would approve the concept, agree to advertise in the magazine, and then give us the advance we crucially needed to keep the project alive.
Wired’s cover feature for the March 2007 issue is Snack Culture. “Movies, TV, songs, games. Pop culture now comes packaged like cookies or chips, in bite-size bits for high-speed munching. It’s instant entertainment - and boy, is it tasty.” Even though kottke.org is a part of this culture, I still prefer a full meal.
Caught the first episode of Wired Science on PBS last night and it wasn’t so bad. It’s like Wired magazine, but on TV. If you missed it, the entire show is available online.
Conde Nast buys Wired News (and the wired.com domain name), reuniting it with Wired magazine after 8 years apart. Chris Anderson must be beside himself with joy; under the agreement with Lycos, Wired magazine couldn’t do much of anything on the web in the past eight years (which, in my mind, hurt their credibility in the eyes of anyone who was interested in online media). (via bb)
Update: Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson on the acquisition. “The result was an agreement between the two, by which Wired News (wired.com) would host our content on their site (under wired.com/wired) next to their own content, but we, the magazine, were prohibited from doing anything in the digital realm. Aside from being somewhat ironic that Wired Magazine wasn’t really wired, it was frustrating for us to be unable to walk the talk, since we didn’t control the site.”
New Yorker review of Chris Anderson’s new book, The Long Tail. Oddly, there’s no disclaimer that Anderson works for the same company that publishes The New Yorker. Not that the review is all synergistic sunshine; the last half pokes a couple of holes in Anderson’s arguments.
The Chicago Tribune has published their list of the 50 best magazines of 2006. Top fiving it for you: The Economist, Dwell, Wired, The New Yorker, and ESPN the Magazine.
Wired Magazine profiles Josh Davis. Davis typically gets too much credit for being controversial and too little for his work. His speeches/appearances are well worth seeking out; they’re entertaining, informative, and inspiring.
Steven Levy profiles Tim O’Reilly for Wired. Kind of ironic since O’Reilly Media has put itself in the middle of what’s happening on the web, a position that perhaps should have been occupied by Wired, had they not sold all their online properties several years ago.
Long Tail poster boy Amazon’s tail isn’t as long as first reported. Oops. (But a good oops…Chris is after the truth here, not just a good story.)
WiReD magazine on the Mosaic WWW browser and how it is “well on its way to becoming the world’s standard interface”. “Mosaic is the celebrated graphical ‘browser’ that allows users to travel through the world of electronic information using a point-and-click interface. Mosaic’s charming appearance encourages users to load their own documents onto the Net, including color photos, sound bites, video clips, and hypertext ‘links’ to other documents. By following the links — click, and the linked document appears — you can travel through the online world along paths of whim and intuition.”