kottke.org posts about Merlin Mann

The Apple upgrade problemSep 02 2009

I recently upgraded to a new MacBook Pro from a two-year-old version of the same model (more or less). It's sturdier, faster, has a more functional trackpad, and has a much larger hard drive than the previous model, making it well worth the ~$2700 purchase price because I use my computer for more hours in a year than I sleep. Three weeks ago, my first-generation iPhone broke and rather than pay for a straight-up replacement, I upgraded to a new iPhone 3G (and promised AT&T my spare kidney in the process). Again, totally worth it...the speed and video camera alone were worth the upgrade. On Monday, I upgraded the OS on my MBP to OS X 10.5 Service Pack 1 Snow Leopard. Not sure whether it was worth it at this point or not, but it was only $29 and promised much.

The upgrade process in each case was painless. To set up the MBP, I just connected it to my Time Machine drive and was up and running about an hour later with all my apps and preferences intact. The iPhone took even less time than that and everything from my old phone was magically there. Snow Leopard took 45 minutes and, aside from a couple of Mail.app and Safari plug-ins I use, everything was just as before.1 Past upgrades of Apple computers and iPods have gone similarly well.

Which is where the potential difficulty for Apple comes in. From a superficial perspective, my old MBP and new MBP felt exactly the same...same OS, same desktop wallpaper, same Dock, all my same files in their same folders, etc. Same deal with the iPhone except moreso...the iPhone is almost entirely software and that was nearly identical. And re: Snow Leopard, I haven't noticed any changes at all aside from the aforementioned absent plug-ins.

So, just having paid thousands of dollars for new hardware and software, I have what feels like my same old stuff.

Deep down, when I stop to think about it, I know (or have otherwise convinced myself) that these purchases were worth it and that Apple's ease of upgrade works almost exactly how it should. But my gut tells me that I've been ripped off. The "newness" cognitive jolt humans get is almost entirely absent. I don't know if Apple is aware of this (I'd guess yes) and don't know if it even matters to them (because, like I said, this is the way that it should work...and look at those sales figures), but it's got to be having some small effect. People want to feel, emotionally speaking, that their money is well-spent and impeccable branding, funny commericals, and the sense of belonging to a hip lifestyle that Apple tries to engender in its customers can only go so far. [Apple Tablet, this is your cue.]

[1] Merlin Mann's upgrade did not go well. Not only did Merlin not get the "newness" cognitive jolt, his new stuff worked worse than his old stuff. Although, Merlin, upgrading five (five!) computers while "writing a book on deadline" probably wasn't the best idea.

Can you copyright a tweet?May 28 2009

In the opinion of intellectual copyright attorney Brock Shinen, the short answer is "no".

I admit, I think a protectable Tweet exists in theory. I have read hundreds if not thousands of Tweets and have yet to read one I believe would be protectable, but the possibility exists. The question is not: Are Tweets Copyrightable. The question is: Is This Tweet Copyrightable. The copyrightability of Tweets is not dependent on the fact that they are Tweets. Rather, it's dependent on the analysis of the Tweet in question. The all-encompassing response that all Tweets are either protected or not protected is misguided. The real response is that it depends. However, when you analyze most Tweets, they would never individually pass copyright muster.

Does this mean that nearly all of Twitter's content is in the public domain? Or can you copyright a collection of tweets...the entire output of one person, for instance? Let's say I want to publish Tweatise: The Wit and Wisdom of Merlin Mann, an unabridged book of Merlin's Twitter stream...can I do that?

Update: Another opinion: tweetCC.

tweetCC makes it easy for you to offer your tweets under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication or other Creative Commons licenses.

(thx, dan)

Update: Yet another perspective.

Some recent Merlin Mann goodnessSep 11 2008

Merlin Mann has been on a tear lately. He's been rethinking what he wants to do with 43 Folders -- a site he started four years ago to think in public about Getting Things Done (and other stuff) -- which rethinking has resulted in a bunch of good writing on weblogs, creative work, and online media. Some links and excerpts follow.

How to blog, the best and most succinct blogging advice I've ever read:

Find your obsession. Every day, explain it to one person you respect. Edit everything, skip shortcuts, and try not to be a dick. Get better.

Going through my newsreader today, most of the sites I follow are written with those things in mind. Those that don't, out they go.

Better is a short account of Merlin's quest to remove the unpleasant and unproductive from his life. Worth quoting at length:

What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks - empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen.

Don't get me wrong. Gumming the edges of popular culture and occasionally rolling the results into a wicked spitball has a noble tradition that includes the best work of of Voltaire, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, and a handful of people I count as good friends and brilliant editors. There's nothing wrong with fucking shit up every single day. But you have to bring some art to it. Not just typing.

What worries me are the consequences of a diet comprised mostly of fake-connectedness, makebelieve insight, and unedited first drafts of everything. I think it's making us small. I know that whenever I become aware of it, I realize how small it can make me. So, I've come to despise it.

I've pointed to this one before...What Makes for a Good Blog?

Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It's not a blog: it's a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it's not really a blog.

And then a pair of posts that serve as Merlin's public declaration for 43 Folders' new direction and as a blistering takedown of the productivity blogs industry, reminiscent of Joel Johnson's classic takedown of Gizmodo and other gadget blogs published *on* Gizmodo. The first is Four Years:

At this juncture, I wish to apologize and formally atone for any role 43 Folders or I have had in popularizing "hack" as the preferred nomenclature for unmedicated knowledge workers dicking around with their "productivity system" all day. 43 Folders regrets the error.

And then Time, Attention and Creative Work:

If the work that really matters to you involves understanding a relationship between a handful of seemingly unrelated things and then figuring out the best way to portray, magnify, or resolve those relationships, then you're already doing creative work. Any time you make a connection between two or more axes that hadn't occurred to you 10 minutes ago, yes, you've done something creative. Seriously. This does not require your wearing a beret.

But, then -- and this is really important -- if you want to actually make something out of all that insight, and if you have the will and desire to polish and improve the execution of all the things you produce, then we'll have a lot to talk about.

Good luck with your new direction, Merlin. I never really read 43F too much before this summer -- spending a lot of time reading about all those little productivity tricks and whatnot seemed oxymoronic -- but I'm paying attention now.

Fake followingAug 25 2008

This is a little bit genius. One of the new features of FriendFeed (a Twitter-like thingie) is "fake following". That means you can friend someone but you don't see their updates. That way, it appears that you're paying attention to them when you're really not. Just like everyone does all the time in real life to maintain their sanity. Rex calls it "most important feature in the history of social networks" and I'm inclined to agree. It's one of the few new social features I've seen that makes being online buddies with someone manageable and doesn't just make being social a game or competition.

Update: Merlin Mann's proposal for a pause button is a more flexible way to accomplish the above (and more).

Any application that lets you "friend," "follow," or otherwise observe another user should include a prominent (and silent) "PAUSE" button. I think users of apps like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Delicious, and, yes, FriendFeed, would benefit from an easy and undramatic way to take a little break from a "friend" -- without inducing the grand mal meltdown that "unfriending" causes the web's more delicately-composed publishers.

News readers too, please.

Update: See also the concept of artificial attention.

What makes for a good blog?Aug 20 2008

Merlin Mann lists some attributes of good blogs.

Good blogs try. I've come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there's the other 98%. They're still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That's why "good" is getting rare.

Like Merlin, I'm discovering fewer and fewer good blogs these days. Part of it is that blogging as I would define it is passe. These days people are writing for online magazines like Gawker or Tumblring or Twittering or Facebooking or doing a million other things on the web. But people are also listening to a bunch of bad advice -- CALL NOW TO FIND OUT HOW TO MAKE MONEY WITH BLOGS AND WE'LL THROW IN THIS JUICER ABSOLUTELY FREE -- instead of Merlin's level-headedness.

Bystander cultureJul 29 2008

Merlin Mann:

Some days, the web feels like 5 people trying to make something; 5k people turning it into a list; and 500MM people saying, "FAIL."

Flickr: Camera Finder: Apple: iPhoneDec 04 2007

At long last, Apple is listed as one of the available brands of camera in the flickr Camera Finder.

This means that you can search for shots taken not only with iPhone, but with the three models of Apple's original camera line, the QuickTake (codenamed Venus, Mars, and Neptune). Currently, there are no viewable uploaded photos taken with the QuickTake 100 or 150, but there are some from the QuickTake 200.

It's also nice to see that Merlin's tree.cx pic made it to the top of the iPhone-taken 'interesting' list. (via highindustrial)

Update: A potential reason for the iPhone's relatively paltry numbers is that when you email photos from the phone, it strips the exif data out which means those photos aren't counted. I imagine many more people email photos to Flickr from the iPhone than upload them from their computers.

I've been keeping up with the latestJun 22 2007

I've been keeping up with the latest iPhone news but I haven't been telling you about it...partially because my poor pal Merlin is about to pop an artery due to all the hype. Anyway, it's Friday and he's got all weekend to clean that up, so here we go. The big thing is a 20-minute guided tour of the device, wherein we learn that there's a neat swiping delete gesture, you can view Word docs, it's thumb-typeable, the earbuds wires house the world's smallest remote control, Google Maps have driving directions *and* traffic conditions, and there's an "airplane mode" that turns off all the wifi, cell, and Bluetooth signals for plane trips. It looks like the iPhone will be available online...here's the page at the Apple Store. What else? It plays YouTube videos. iPhone setup will be handled through iTunes: "To set up your iPhone, you'll need an account with Apple's iTunes Store."

Five Flickr sets that aren't driving theJun 12 2007

Five Flickr sets that aren't driving the long-term traffic you'd hoped for. Merlin brings the funny, you make with the laughing.

Pebble problemsMay 31 2007

Merlin Mann on the temptation of declaring email bankruptcy:

Email is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn't take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that's taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move, even if you wanted to do it over a few dozen trips. But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can't handle that one tiny thing. "What 'pile'? It's just a fucking pebble!"

This used to be a problem primarily for those, like Merlin, who run high-traffic web sites but now I feel like most people, either because of their jobs or keeping up with friends & family from far away, have email pile problems...we all get more incoming correspondence than we know what to do with.

Intelligent design of playlistsNov 10 2006

Merlin Mann recently wrote two posts about managing your music library using iTunes Smart Playlists. His suggestions for making music-only playlists (for those that have a lot of podcasts & audiobooks in their libraries) and the "sure you really like that?" playlist are especially helpful. One of my recent favorite Smart Playlists is helpful for discovering good stuff that I haven't listened to in awhile:

Smart Play 01

The Last Skipped bit is in there because while listening to this playlist, I found myself skipping stuff I didn't want to hear and that rule gets it out there so that it doesn't come up again. An item on my Smart Playlist wishlist is the ability to measure popularity acceleration (basically, something like "gimme the most played over the last week"), but there's no way (that I can find) to ask iTunes how many times a song has been played in the last x days.

Several more Smart Playlist suggestions are available at smartplaylists.com and Andy Budd.

Five suggested Flickr tags. Merlin brings theApr 14 2006

Five suggested Flickr tags. Merlin brings the funny. "Rows Of Seated White Men Typing At Conferences".

Tags related to Merlin Mann:
Apple lists iPhone Flickr funny weblogs

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