kottke.org posts about Rex Sorgatz
Rex Sorgatz is writing about a piece of video everyday at View Source, which is also an email newsletter. Or is it a newsletter with a website?
If you're like me, you suspect that YouTube is packed with interesting stuff, but we lack a system for finding it. A few interesting clips might come to you via so-called social media, but that just reinforces the feeling that there's probably more out there beyond your friends.
My hope is that VIEWSOURCE will help solve this problem. It's a simple daily email newsletter with just one video clip. It might be a long-forgotten music documentary, a new webshow with a celebrity, some crazy hip-hop video, or a new supercut. There is no "demographic" in mind, but hopefully it eschews the "viral video" genre.
In last Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Grandpa Gene ate ice cream right out of the container and salted each spoonful before putting it in his mouth.
It was an odd sight...salt isn't normally the first thing you think of as an ice cream topping. After the episode, Rex Sorgatz tweeted:
WHO THE FUCK SALTS THEIR ICE CREAM?
Salt has its own flavor when it's concentrated (if you salt foods too much or eat some all by itself) but used judiciously, salt takes the natural flavor of food and enhances the intensity. To use another dairy product as an example, fresh mozzarella tastes pretty good on its own but throw a little salt on top and it's mozzarella++. Salt makes ok food taste good and good food taste great. Along with butter, salt is the restaurant world's secret weapon; chefs likely use way more salt than you do when you cook at home. It's one of the reasons why restaurant food is so good.
But back to the ice cream. As food scientist Harold McGee writes, salt probably won't make ice cream taste sweeter but will make it taste ice creamier, particularly if the ice cream is of low quality, as the store-bought variety might have been in 1963.
I'm not sure that salt makes sugar taste sweeter, but it fills out the flavor of foods, sweets included. It's an important component of taste in our foods, so if it's missing in a given dish, the dish will taste less complete or balanced. Salt also increase the volatility of some aromatic substances in food, and it enhances our perception of some aromas, so it can make the overall flavor of a food seem more intense.
So that's why the fuck someone might want to salt their ice cream.
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.
Rex Sorgatz interviews Adrian Holovaty about Everyblock, a site that "aggregates piles of local information, like restaurant reviews and crime stats, which are then displayed block-by-block".
On a completely different note, it's been a challenge to acquire data from governments. We (namely Dan, our People Person) have been working since July to request formal data feeds from various agencies, and we've run into many roadblocks there, from the political to the technical. We expected that, of course, but the expectation doesn't make it any less of a challenge.
I believe that Everyblock will be most successful not through the utility of its site but if it can get more civic and federal agencies to release more structured data about what's going on in our cities and country. It is *our data* after all.
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.
Rex has released his list of the Best Blogs of 2007 That You're (Maybe) Not Reading over at Fimoculous. Like last year, he's focused his best-of-blogs list on lesser-known sites instead of the biggies, a strategy I applaud. In fact, he doesn't even need to qualify the list as the best unknown blogs; many of the well-known blogs that usually make best-of lists, much of the Technorati Top 100, and most multi-author plastered-with-ads blogs are unremarkable...too much volume, too calculated, too focused on filling post and pageview quotas, and limited passion. If you look at the sites on Rex's list, you'll see a lot of blogs done by people who are passionate about something, not writing for a paycheck.
Rex's #1 choice is an inspired one and absolutely right on...Twitter and Tumblr revitalized personal publishing in the eyes of many who had either tired of blogging or had never seen the point in it in the first place. My only complaint about the list is that there are too many one-hit wonders on it, sites that are worth a chuckle or squee! when you first see them but don't hold up over time unless you really really like, say, snowclones. Oh, and Vulture...I really wanted to like it but really didn't get it. (Oh oh, and and Jezebel? Being against a thing is not the same as standing for something.)
Two chat bots, Alice and Jabberwacky, converse with each other. "J: Yes. Would you like to hear a joke? / A: Sure, tell me about it. / J: Why don't blind people skydive? / A: Perhaps it is impossible. / J: I think you lie a lot." (thx, nick)
Update: Rex Sorgatz ran a similar experiment back in 2002.
Update: Interviews with Robots is an entire blog dedicated to chatbot conversations.