Notes on the Surrender at Menlo Park

John Herrman digs into the announcement of Facebook Instant with some interesting observations, like this:

Now that we can see Instant in action, we can more clearly see what constitutes a publication on a Facebook-centric internet. A Facebook publication is… a brand? A “vertical?” It doesn’t own its distribution, it doesn’t meaningfully control its sources of revenue. It has no “design” outside of its individual articles. It is composed entirely of its content, as represented to Facebook users by Facebook.

And this:

The history of software and web platforms is instructive here: Platforms grow by incorporating the labor of users and partners; they tend, over time, to regard the presence of the partners as an inefficiency. Twitter asks developers to make a bunch of apps using its data, so people make a bunch of mobile apps, then Twitter notices that these apps are actually very important to Twitter, and so Twitter buys one of the apps and takes steps to expel all the other apps, rendering the job of “Twitter app developer” more or less obsolete.

The whole thing is worth a read if you are even mildly curious about online media trends.

It has been interesting to observe reactions to Facebook Instant among media outlets, as they are of course immediately affected. The common sentiment seems to be cautious pessimism with a tinge of envy among those not included in the initial roll-out.

Facebook Paper as Exploratory Technology

Cox says Paper contained the seeds of what became instant articles. “Pixar spends a lot of time building these short films where they can develop technology that they can then apply to their longer films,” he says. “For us, Paper was like a short film that let us explore a lot of things without the constraint of, a billion people need to be able to use this.”

Facebook's instant articles arrive to speed up the News Feed | The Verge

How Pretentious is Your Favorite Movie?

The Prentious-O-Meter determines the pretentiousness of movies by comparing critics reviews with public ratings of movies. Mass market means that critics didn’t like it, but audiences did. Pretentious means that critics loved it, but the public didn’t.

Looking at my three favorite movies (off the top of my head: Pulp Fiction, Casablanca and Blade Runner), my taste is more pretentious than I would have imagined.

‘Yoga Pants are Ruining Women’

This interview with Fran Lebowitz is all around great, but the part about men wearing shorts is my favorite:

I have to say that one of the biggest changes in my lifetime, is the phenomenon of men wearing shorts. Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade. This is one of the worst changes, by far. It’s disgusting. To have to sit next to grown men on the subway in the summer, and they’re wearing shorts? It’s repulsive. They look ridiculous, like children, and I can’t take them seriously.

Apple Watch Reading

apple-watch

The Apple Watch launched almost two weeks ago, and brought with it the expected deluge of news, reviews and opinion pieces. A few articles and videos that stood out to me:

The Verge published a beautifully designed, extensive review that I didn’t bother to read – instead I watched their excellent video review. The bit at 3:12 gives a good impression why the Apple Watch probably isn’t a more social, less isolating technology:

John Gruber also posted an interesting review, describing his experiences on a more personal level than you would normally find on a tech blog. As a watch wearer he isn’t impressed with the Apple Watch’s capabilities for telling time, but considers the taptic engine and the new ways of communication enabled by that tactility a breakthrough feature.

Finally, my favorite piece was written by Jason Kottke, who didn’t actually review the watch, but makes this pertinent observation:

In the entire history of the world, if you make it easier for people to do something compelling, people don’t do that thing less: they’ll do it more. If you give people more food, they eat it. If you make it easier to get credit, people will use it. If you add another two lanes to a traffic-clogged highway, you get a larger traffic-clogged highway. And if you put a device on their wrist that makes it easier to communicate with friends, guess what? They’re going to use the shit out of it, potentially way more than they ever used their phones.

So much for the promise of Apple Watch unshackling us from the tyranny of notifications and distractions.

Seeing The Matrix for the First Time in 2015

Some interesting thoughts and observations, such as

I like that the year 1999 was posited as the peak of human civilization in the world of the movie. I think there are probably a lot of people alive today who still believe 1999 was the peak of human civilization. I almost believe it myself, some days.

I guess I could easily believe that 1999 was the peak of human civilization on a day when I forget that iPhones, Netflix and pervasive broadband connectivity weren’t yet around back then.

Shitphone

An appreciation of cheap, off-brand smartphones and electronics:

I’ve been living happily in an electronics shitworld long enough that I’ve begun evangelizing for it. My last television, a Hisense pulled from the storeroom of a North Carolina Walmart by an employee who didn’t know it was there, is a simple and vibrant LED TV with bad sound. My stereo is built around an Insignia receiver (Best Buy house label) that powers speakers from a company called Micca ($55.60, 347 customer reviews, 4.7 stars) and it sounds… pretty good! My router is made by TP-LINK ($18.99, 575 customer reviews, 4.3 stars), and keeps me online about as reliably as my Netgear did. I bought my mother a neat little Baytek Bluetooth speaker for $26.99 (54 customer reviews, 4.6 stars), which she loves, even if its programmed voice draws out the “ess” in “Connected SuccESSSfully” in a way that suggests a strictly mechanical familiarity with English. I impulse-buy off-brand earbuds with mixed results and derive great satisfaction from discovering good ones.

Shitphone: A Love Story by John Herrman.

I’m not quite ready to ditch the iPhone for a Shitphone, but the thought has at least already crossed my mind. And I definitely do that cheap earbuds thing, I lose them too often to spend much. There’s a peculiar quality in disposable things.

Thoughts on the Apple Spring Forward Event

  • I stand by my initial impression of the Apple Watch: Shiny, but I don’t see how it would be useful to me. Poor battery life remains a dealbreaker, and in that regard I’m far more impressed by the new Pebble Time, with its color e-ink screen. I’ll take another look at the Apple Watch when they release version two some time in 2016.
  • The one thing that got me most excited at the initial Apple Watch reveal last year was force touch – pressure sensitive touch interactions which could expand the ways of interacting with touch screens. Back then I was already wondering whether we would see force touch coming to iPhones and iPads. Now that there’s a new Macbook with a force touch trackpad, as well as added support in the existing Macbook Pro line, I guess it’s safe to assume that force touch will also arrive on iPhone and iPad this year.
  • Every once in a while, Apple introduces a new computer that seems like it comes from the future. Hugely impractical given the demands of our current times, but an early manifestation of what computers will inevitably look like in a few years time. The iMac was such a computer. The original Macbook Air was such a computer. The first Retina Macbook Pro was such a computer. The new Macbook, again, is such a computer. Using a laptop with just one USB port (a new kind of USB port that’s barely in use right now at that) seems like an exercise in frustration. You won’t be able to use your USB sticks, external harddrives, external displays, SD cards etc. without using a rather ridiculous (and rather expensive) adapter. I couldn’t imagine getting any work done on this machine. And yet, it’s easy to see where they are going with this. This isn’t a laptop for geeks or power users, but I believe it is meant for personal use: The kind of laptop that follows you to your couch, your kitchen table, your bed. The kind of laptop you use for Youtube and Facebook and maybe writing a paper for college once in a while. And for that kind of usage, its lack of ports matters very little. Sure, it will still prove frustrating and unnecessarily limiting from time to time, but in due time there will be plenty of USB Type C peripherals and infrastructure, and that’s probably when I will pick one up as well. Besides, I would be very surprised if the next iteration of the new Macbook won’t come with at least two USB Type C connectors. Until then I’ll make do with my Macbook Air just fine.
  • Finally, that Apple TV announcement – rather disappointing, right? It almost seemed to me that they were teasing things to come, why else would they drag that HBO announcement into their big Apple Watch reveal? Maybe they didn’t get new hardware finished in time? Maybe the price drop is to clear inventory? We will see.