Talkshow is texting in publicAPR 27

Talkshow has launched. It's an iOS messaging app for having conversations in public.

People text amazing things.

Talkshow is a simple messaging app that allows you to text these things in public. With Talkshow, individuals, groups of friends, entertainers, creators -- anyone! -- can have conversations in public, to be viewed by others in real time or after the fact. Every Talkshow can be shared outside the app and embedded into other websites.

Talkshow was built by Michael Sippey, who has recently been at Medium and Twitter and was a formative influence in my early days online, and Greg Knauss, who loves the web down to his bones and has pulled my own personal bacon out of the system administrative fire more times than I can count, so I am predisposed to like this app and also to recommend it to you.

Back in 2007, riffing on some thoughts by Marc Hedlund about turning Unix commands into startups, I suggested choosing web projects by taking something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent.

Blogger, 1999. Blog posts = public email messages. Instead of "Dear Bob, Check out this movie." it's "Dear People I May or May Not Know Who Are Interested in Film Noir, Check out this movie and if you like it, maybe we can be friends."

Twitter, 2006. Twitter = public IM. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.

Flickr, 2004. Flickr = public photo sharing. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake said in a recent interview: "When we started the company, there were dozens of other photosharing companies such as Shutterfly, but on those sites there was no such thing as a public photograph -- it didn't even exist as a concept -- so the idea of something 'public' changed the whole idea of Flickr."

YouTube, 2005. YouTube = public home videos. Bob Saget was onto something.

Talkshow, 2016. Talkshow = public text messaging.1 I am delighted to see that this approach still bearing fruit.

  1. But, but, you cry, Twitter is public texting! Talkshow is public IM! Well, sure! Twitter does a bunch of different things now, but in the first few years, it was public IM. The big difference I see is while Twitter allows anyone to participate in any public conversation (which is both a plus and minus), with Talkshow, the membership of each group/show is limited but the output is public. And that difference will allow people to do some things better w/ Talkshow than they can with Twitter.

The World According to Star WarsAPR 26

World According Star Wars

In The World According to Star Wars, Cass Sunstein explores the philosophy and life lessons of Star Wars.

In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.

Update: Sunstein, who is a professor at Harvard Law School, gave the commencement address last year at Penn Law. He starts off, dryly: "Graduates, faculty, family, friends, our topic today is Star Wars."

(via @EmilyBrenn)

Beautiful aerial photography by Bernhard EdmaierAPR 26

Bernhard Edmaier 01

Bernhard Edmaier 02

Bernhard Edmaier 03

National Geographic has a selection of wonderful aerial photos from German photographer Bernhard Edmaier. His photos can also be found in two of his most recent books, Water and EarthArt.

The Simpsons pay homage to DisneyAPR 26

In this Simpsons couch gag, the show pays homage to some classic Disney animation styles. Featured are Steamboat Willie, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Jungle Book and Fantasia. The animation was done by Eric Goldberg, who worked at Disney on films like Aladdin and Pocahontas.

Yes, I'm posting Beyonce fanficAPR 26

Beyonce Lemonade

This is the best thing I've read about Beyonce's recently released album/film Lemonade.

*Beyoncé opens the door and Solange Knowles and Tina Lawson walk in.

Solange throws a reverse roundhouse kick that Jay Z lazily dodges.*

Solo: I'm sorry. I'm just very inspired right now.

Bey: Mommy! Solo! What a pleasant surprise! Neither of you could have had better timing

Jay: Sister-in-law. Mama Tina.

Mama T: Stereotypical Black Man

Solo: Blubberlips McSlutdick

Blue: LMAO

Bey: Baby, take your elevator to your playroom. Mommy will FaceTime you on your IPhone 8 when dinners ready.

Blue: Yes, mommy dearest

Solo: Rihanna called me to congratulate you.

Bey: She couldn't call me?

Solo: Because you were gonna answer?

Bey: hahahahahahahahahaha

Solo: hahahahahahahahahaha

Mama T: lol omg

Bey: You may laugh

Jay: eh heh heh

Mama T: You are pathetic. The universe wasted good water creating you.

Bey: Mama. *high fives*

See also What to read after watching Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'.

"A cult meeting in adoration of the leader"APR 25

Someone took the audio from a BBC News report on North Korean military parade held in honor of Kim Jong-un's birthday and played it over footage of the parade held in London in honor of Queen Elizabeth's 89th birthday.

New maps of the growth of American slavery in the SouthAPR 25

American slavery, 1850

From Bill Rankin at Radical Cartography, a series of maps showing the rapid explosion of slavery in the United States from 1790-1860. Departing from previous efforts, Rankin used a uniform grid of dots to represent slave populations rather than counties.

First, I smash the visual tyranny of county boundaries by using a uniform grid of dots. The size of each dot shows the total population in each 250-sqmi cell, and the color shows the percent that were slaves. But just as important, I've also combined the usual county data with historical data for more than 150 cities and towns. Cities usually had fewer slaves, proportionally, than their surrounding counties, but this is invisible on standard maps.

A detail that struck me while cycling through the years was that the number of slaves as a percentage of the total population of the South stayed relatively steady at 33% from 1790 to 1860.

What if your mind's eye is blind?APR 25

Blake Ross is 30 years old and he just learned something about everyone else in the world: people can visualize things in their minds. Which is like, yeah, duh. But Ross has aphantasia, which essentially means that his mind's eye is blind, that counting sheep means nothing to him.

If you tell me to imagine a beach, I ruminate on the "concept" of a beach. I know there's sand. I know there's water. I know there's a sun, maybe a lifeguard. I know facts about beaches. I know a beach when I see it, and I can do verbal gymnastics with the word itself.

But I cannot flash to beaches I've visited. I have no visual, audio, emotional or otherwise sensory experience. I have no capacity to create any kind of mental image of a beach, whether I close my eyes or open them, whether I'm reading the word in a book or concentrating on the idea for hours at a time -- or whether I'm standing on the beach itself.

Understandably, this threw him for a bit of a loop.

—If I ask you to imagine a beach, how would you describe what happens in your mind?
—Uhh, I imagine a beach. What?
—Like, the idea of a beach. Right?
—Well, there are waves, sand. Umbrellas. It's a relaxing picture. You okay?
—But it's not actually a picture? There's no visual component?
—Yes there is, in my mind. What the hell are you talking about?
—Is it in color?
—Yes.....
—How often do your thoughts have a visual element?
—A thousand times a day?
—Oh my God.

The more I read his story though, the more I started wondering if maybe I wasn't a little aphantasic...or have become so as I get older. As far back as I can remember, I've been aware of the mind's eye and visualization, but I just now tried to close my eyes and picture something but couldn't. Ok, maybe that's tough to do on demand. When was the last time I had pictured something? Not sure. Like Ross, I don't dream or remember dreams (although I did when I was a kid), I'm bad with directions, my 6-year-old draws better than I do, I remember facts and ideas but not feelings so much, and when I was a designer, the conceptual stuff was always easier than the aesthetics. This bit also sounded familiar:

I've always felt an incomprehensible combination of stupid-smart. I missed a single question on the SATs, yet the easiest conceivable question stumps me: What was it like growing up in Miami?

I don't know.

What were some of your favorite experiences at Facebook?

I don't know.

What did you do today?

I don't know. I don't know what I did today.

Answering questions like this requires me to "do mental work," the way you might if you're struggling to recall what happened in the Battle of Trafalgar. If I haven't prepared, I can't begin to answer. But chitchat is the lubricant of everyday life. I learned early that you can't excuse yourself from the party to focus on recalling what you did 2 hours ago.

I don't know how much of that is the aphantasia and how much is positioning on the autistic spectrum or introversion or personality or some other kind of thing, but organizing events into narratives has never been easy for me.

What's odd is I've always thought of my memory as a) pretty good, and b) primarily visual. When I took tests in college, I knew the answers because I could "see" them on the pages of the book I had read them in or in the notebook I had written them in. Not photographically exactly, but pretty close sometimes. I'm really good with faces, but not so much with names, although I've been improving lately with effort. I do well on visual tests, the ones where you need to pick out the same shapes that are rotated differently. Yes, I'm bad with directions, but once I've followed a route, I can usually muddle my way back along that same route visually. And sometimes, my feelings about past events are huge.

There's this story I tell when the topic of celebrity sightings in New York comes up. My very first sighting happened a few months after I moved here. I was reading in a Starbucks in the West Village. Two women walk in, order, and sit in the back, maybe 25 feet away from me. At some point, I look up and I instantly recognize the woman who's facing me: it's Keri Russell. And in that moment, I understand celebrity. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen in person in my life, and I've never even been a particular fan of hers, even though she is currently great in The Americans. It was her eyes, her crystal blue eyes. They were literally mesmerizing and I could not stop staring at them, which she noticed and I had to leave b/c I was being really weird.

So, two things about this story. Sitting here now, 13 years later, I can't picture what she looked like, not exactly. There's no image in my mind. She had short-ish hair and those blue eyes, but other than that, she looked...well, like Keri Russell. But when I recently told this story to a friend, he cocked his head and said, "she's got blue eyes?" Oh yes, I told him, absolutely, those amazing lazer-blue eyes are the whole point of the story. A few days later, remembering his comment, I looked and Keri Russell's eyes are not blue. They're a greenish hazel!

Reader, I know memory is a weird thing and all, but what the hell is going on with me?

A view of the Earth from the ISS in ultra high def 4KAPR 25

Full-screen this baby on the biggest high-definition screen you can find. A 5K iMac works spectacularly well.

Recap of Game of Thrones season 5APR 24

If you're going to watch the season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones tonight but you've forgotten what happened last season (tl;dr people died), watch this recap of last season's action. I still can't believe they made Marnie marry Desi after he missed their perfor oh wait that's Girls.

Prince, remembered in 11 songs you might not know he wroteAPR 22

You're probably aware of Sinead O'Conner's Nothing Compares 2 U but The Bangles, MC Hammer, Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, and others also made use of songs written by Prince.

OMG Prince doing James Brown on stage with James Brown is SO GOODAPR 22

Prince rides in on the back of a bearded man at around the 2:05 mark, yes you read that right. I had never seen this clip before and when he really gets going on stage, I started clapping and yelling in my apartment. Glorious. (via David Remnick at the New Yorker, who is almost annoyingly good at blogging)

The FounderAPR 21

The Founder is about the early years of McDonald's and how Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) came to gain control of the company. The official McDonald's corporate history glosses over the events of the film in a few sentences:

In 1954, he visited a restaurant in San Bernardino, California that had purchased several Multi-mixers. There he found a small but successful restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, and was stunned by the effectiveness of their operation. They produced a limited menu, concentrating on just a few items-burgers, fries and beverages-which allowed them to focus on quality and quick service.

Kroc pitched his vision of creating McDonald's restaurants all over the U.S. to the brothers. In 1955, he founded McDonald's System, Inc., a predecessor of the McDonald's Corporation, and six years later bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald's name. By 1958, McDonald's had sold its 100 millionth hamburger.

Kroc's Wikipedia entry provides more flavor:

The agreement was a handshake with split agreement between the parties because Kroc insisted that he could not show the royalty to the investors he had lined up to capitalize his purchase. At the closing table, Kroc became annoyed that the brothers would not transfer to him the real estate and rights to the original unit. The brothers had told Kroc that they were giving the operation, property and all, to the founding employees. Kroc closed the transaction, then refused to acknowledge the royalty portion of the agreement because it wasn't in writing. The McDonald brothers consistently told Kroc that he could make changes to things like the original blueprint (building codes were different in Illinois than in California), but despite Ray's pleas, the brothers never sent any formal letters which legally allowed the changes in the chain. Kroc also opened a new McDonald's restaurant near the McDonald's (now renamed "The Big M" as they had neglected to retain rights to the name) to force it out of business.

See also some early McDonald's menus.

Famous paintings recreated with colorful masking tapeAPR 21

Nasa Funahara

Nasa Funahara

Nasa Funahara makes art out of colorful masking tape, including recreations of famous artworks.

Pele: Birth of a LegendAPR 20

Pele: Birth of a Legend is a biopic about the rise of Pele, the Brazilian footballer. It was written and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, who also directed The Two Escobars, an excellent 30 for 30 film about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and Colombian footballer Andres Escobar. (via @ivanski)

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