Blame

Jack Chang, whose Sunday Dispatch I’ve enjoyed reading the past few weeks:

Blame is a response to when things go differently than we had planned. And maybe the reason we blame airlines, companies, people, ideas, is that we have trouble accepting that there will always be things that are beyond our control, and we can’t blame circumstance, because it is simply the way the world is at a given moment. Maybe to see past the opacity and into a complex system we begin to realize that our expectations are built on rocky foundations to begin with, and this can be incredibly frightening. Some of us are more comfortable not knowing.

The media diet obsession

The New Republic explains why there are so many listicles about what people read, calling them “our most pretentious obsession.” I am as guilty as anyone of enjoying them.

The media diet, of course, is a creature of—and an intended guide through—the ever-intensifying anxiety over the endless streams of content in our inboxes and Twitter feeds. […] Divulging your media diet is the more elite equivalent of sharing a Granta link on Twitter to demonstrate your obscure and fashionable tastes. And it’s easy to see why the media loves a media diet: it stokes industry vanity, it smacks of insideriness, it reflects assorted journo-rivalries and feuds.

And apparently I am not cool because I am not familiar with Granta, so I need to go fix that.

“We strongly deny”

I watched the Frontline documentary “League of Denial” last night, which I recommend you also do if you haven’t already.

Near the end of the episode (and also teased at the very beginning), a lawyer for the NFL, Beth Wilkinson, is quoted thusly: “We strongly deny those allegations that we withheld any information or misled the players.”

This is one legalistic cliché that grates at me every time I hear it. How exactly does someone strongly deny something? Seems to me, if someone needs to strongly deny something, it is a good sign they are lying through their teeth.

Unsecured call

I was cleaning out a folder in my Dropbox when I came across this screenshot from June 2011. I tend to take a lot of screenshots and this one especially got me curious since I had never seen it before and I don’t think ever seen it since.

I guess Apple was trying to warn me about the NSA?

Unsecured call

In defense of closed offices and Whiskey Fridays

Having worked in both, I’m still not sure where I come down on the issue of open layouts versus individual offices. There’s no denying the Cult of the Open Layout has been winning mindshare with magazine/newspaper/blog editors the past couple years, but Jason Feifer at Fast Company has some valid arguments in opposition to the open layout:

“There’s some evidence that removing physical barriers and bringing people closer to one another does promote casual interactions,” explains a Harvard Business Review piece that nicely summarized the research on this subject. “But there’s a roughly equal amount of evidence that because open spaces reduce privacy, they don’t foster informal exchanges and may actually inhibit them. Some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”

And this:

When I had an office here, colleagues popped in regularly; we had fun. I started a little Whiskey Friday gathering, where everyone was invited to come drink and chat. It was great; we killed off bottles with respectable speed. But we haven’t done it since I moved: Not everyone here is on the same schedule, and a Whiskey Friday in the middle of the office is just a gigantic interruption.

Marveled at, not read

I find myself endlessly interested both as a web developer and student of journalism in new storytelling forms such as the New York Times’s constantly cited example “Snow Fall.” More recently we’ve seen “A Game of Shark and Minnow” and The Guardian’s “NSA Files: Decoded.” But part of me thinks this trend of heavily produced, multi-element stories is getting too much attention for the fact that it isn’t really new so much as it is just a combination of storytelling elements that have been around for ages.

I also agree with Khoi Vinh’s assessment that these packages are “are meant to be marveled at more than they are meant to be read.”

On the other hand, there is the oft cited if not entirely convincing argument that these things push the medium forward, and help forge new modes of delivering and consuming journalistic content in a world in which there are no longer practical dividing lines between text, sound, video and behavior.

No doubt there is probably some merit to that argument except for the fact that, again, it doesn’t seem to me, anyway, that people are reading these things. Also, there’s the fact that both “NSA Files Decoded” and “Snowfall” so clearly take the form of what I like to call “The Editor’s Prerogative.” What is The Editor’s Prerogative? It’s when you take a piece of journalism and make it huge in scale and elaborate in delivery so that it is more in line with how important an editor thinks the story is than how new audiences actually want to consume it.

More reading on the topic:

David Karp’s Brooklyn loft and the difference between East and West

David Karp's bedroom

The New York Times took a look at Tumblr’s CEO David Karp’s minimalist Brooklyn apartment and the stylistic differences between the East Coast and West Coast tech industries. “I don’t like screens very much,” Karp says.

In the popular imagination, tech leaders don’t live this way. They inhabit some kind of indistinct place, defined less geographically than temporally, for the technologist is meant to live slightly ahead of the rest of us. One imagines Google’s Sergey Brin spending his days encased in advanced wearable technology, orbiting the earth in a driverless spaceship, landing only to introduce humanity to new products from the mother ship. On the West Coast, the credible technologist simply must use devices and materials more advanced than the masses use.

House of Cards Season 1

I finally started watching House of Cards a couple weeks back and finished the last episode last night.

A few random thoughts:

1) While I loved Season 1 overall, there were definitely more than a few lines of weak dialogue throughout.

2) We must be expected to believe the Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police are completely incompetent if Congressman Russo’s death wasn’t investigated as a murder. Why was he in the passenger seat if he committed suicide? How did he reach his foot across the center console to press the break, which would have needed to be pressed for the car’s push-button ignition to work?

3) In the final scene of the season, when Doug is calling, you can see Frank’s BlackBerry has only an EDGE connection. Why the hell does anyone still use a BlackBerry?

Ya-hoooo-oooooo!

Khoi Vinh on the idiotic 30 days of failed logo candidates from Yahoo!:

It does nothing for one’s confidence in the Yahoo brand to see that the company cares so little for its public image that it would be willing to float thirty random, meaningless expressions of itself out there, expressions that have clearly not been through the real process of logo development. It just looks like Yahoo doesn’t take this seriously.