notes.husk.org. scribblings by Paul Mison.

2013-10-16

post/64228552583

photo 20:48:02
A hero shot of Robert Macfarlane in a North London reservoir, from his interview (and exploration) with Bradley Garrett, author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City.
I read Macfarlane’s book on mountaineering, Mountains of the Mind, a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to getting to his more recent The Old Ways, but the idea to pair a writer more used to exploring nature with Garrett, an urban explorer par excellence, was genius. The spark throws up lots of good quotes.

 Just as certain climbers prefer granite to gritstone, and certain cavers prefer wet systems to dry ones, the explorers have their specialisms: the bunkerologists, the asylum seekers, the skywalkers, the builderers, the track-runners, the drainers. Most people start out in ruins, though: these tend to be the easiest sites to access, and the aesthetic payoffs – the pathos of abandonment, the material residue of inscrutable histories – are rapid.


Photography is important to the adventurers too, they specialise in the “hero shot”: the lone explorer seen from behind on the rim of a building or bridge, or heavily backlit (partly to preserve anonymity) and framed in a storm-drain or archway. Such images unmistakably have their origin in Caspar David Friedrich’s icon of Romanticism, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818): the dark frock-coated traveller atop his peak, with the mists of unknowing spread out beneath him.

From London Bridge, Garrett took me on a haphazard walk through the City. He had climbed pretty much every major building we passed. … The Gherkin went up before Garrett arrived in London, to his enduring regret. On the whole, he prefers mid-level structures to skyscrapers: “Something like the Shard has no relationship to the city. From its summit, you look down and London resembles a giant circuit-board. It all seems chilly and lifeless from up there.”

[Garrett] decided to become an academic geographer instead. UE became [his] exclusive ethnographic focus. His research method was extreme and immersive. He spent four years embedded with a group of London-based explorers – “the scribe of the tribe” – as they enjoyed what he now describes as a “golden age” of UE. … Among the results of his research were a doctorate from the University of London; a gallery of remarkable photographs; arrest by British Transport Police (BTP); the battering-down of his front door and confiscation of his computers, phone and passport; a court battle; a post-doc at Oxford; and now the book of his PhD.


Garrett’s attempts to reach the [London Underground’s] ghost stations form the most controversial episodes of the book. These actions led eventually to his arrest and the forced dispersal of the LCC (bail conditions currently prevent them from communicating). His trial is ongoing. Transport for London, apparently fearing copycatism, have recently threatened his publisher, Verso Books, with legal action over the publication of “illegally obtained information” in Explore Everything.

The interview is well worth a read in full (yes, there are a lot of quotes above, but it’s barely scratching the surface) and I’m looking forward to getting a look at the book itself.

A hero shot of Robert Macfarlane in a North London reservoir, from his interview (and exploration) with Bradley Garrett, author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City.

I read Macfarlane’s book on mountaineering, Mountains of the Mind, a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to getting to his more recent The Old Ways, but the idea to pair a writer more used to exploring nature with Garrett, an urban explorer par excellence, was genius. The spark throws up lots of good quotes.

 Just as certain climbers prefer granite to gritstone, and certain cavers prefer wet systems to dry ones, the explorers have their specialisms: the bunkerologists, the asylum seekers, the skywalkers, the builderers, the track-runners, the drainers. Most people start out in ruins, though: these tend to be the easiest sites to access, and the aesthetic payoffs – the pathos of abandonment, the material residue of inscrutable histories – are rapid.

Photography is important to the adventurers too, they specialise in the “hero shot”: the lone explorer seen from behind on the rim of a building or bridge, or heavily backlit (partly to preserve anonymity) and framed in a storm-drain or archway. Such images unmistakably have their origin in Caspar David Friedrich’s icon of Romanticism, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818): the dark frock-coated traveller atop his peak, with the mists of unknowing spread out beneath him.

From London Bridge, Garrett took me on a haphazard walk through the City. He had climbed pretty much every major building we passed. … The Gherkin went up before Garrett arrived in London, to his enduring regret. On the whole, he prefers mid-level structures to skyscrapers: “Something like the Shard has no relationship to the city. From its summit, you look down and London resembles a giant circuit-board. It all seems chilly and lifeless from up there.”

[Garrett] decided to become an academic geographer instead. UE became [his] exclusive ethnographic focus. His research method was extreme and immersive. He spent four years embedded with a group of London-based explorers – “the scribe of the tribe” – as they enjoyed what he now describes as a “golden age” of UE. … Among the results of his research were a doctorate from the University of London; a gallery of remarkable photographs; arrest by British Transport Police (BTP); the battering-down of his front door and confiscation of his computers, phone and passport; a court battle; a post-doc at Oxford; and now the book of his PhD.

Garrett’s attempts to reach the [London Underground’s] ghost stations form the most controversial episodes of the book. These actions led eventually to his arrest and the forced dispersal of the LCC (bail conditions currently prevent them from communicating). His trial is ongoing. Transport for London, apparently fearing copycatism, have recently threatened his publisher, Verso Books, with legal action over the publication of “illegally obtained information” in Explore Everything.

The interview is well worth a read in full (yes, there are a lot of quotes above, but it’s barely scratching the surface) and I’m looking forward to getting a look at the book itself.

2012-10-08

On Instagram, gestures, and buttons

text 06:52:44

joshuanguyen:

Bijan Sabet: Touch gestures

The Instagram guys ditched the requirement for a little button click and replaced it with a big touch friendly gesture. Two taps and bam, a heart pops up and you’re done. Very satisfying.

Hiding important functionality behind gestures may be something that users evolve to learn, but the road there is still long (I was watching some women exclaiming how hard Instagram was to use the other day!)

Is it worth noting here that although you can use double-tap to like, there’s also a “like” button under every photo? It’s possible to imagine the app without it* but it works well as both feedback that the like worked and as an alternative for anyone who hasn’t discovered the gesture yet.

* Even without the indicator of the button changing from “like” to “liked”, you can tell if you’ve liked something by checking if your name is in the list of people who have. That list collapses for photos that are popular, but it’d be possible to work around that by showing something like “blech and 25 others liked this” for those images.

(via joshuanguyen)

2012-08-30

post/30535517556

photo 20:51:00
From jocochrane, the cover of g2 containing Oliver Burkeman’s excellent article on how Google and Apple’s digital mapping is mapping us. Some choice quotes:

In an era of previously unimagined opportunities for exploring the far-off and strange, we want mainly to stare at ourselves.


It’s hard to interpret the occasional aerial snapshot of your garden as a big issue when the phone in your pocket is assembling a real-time picture of your movements, preferences and behaviour.


What happens when we come to see the world, to a significant extent, through the eyes of a handful of big companies based in California?

From jocochrane, the cover of g2 containing Oliver Burkeman’s excellent article on how Google and Apple’s digital mapping is mapping us. Some choice quotes:

In an era of previously unimagined opportunities for exploring the far-off and strange, we want mainly to stare at ourselves.

It’s hard to interpret the occasional aerial snapshot of your garden as a big issue when the phone in your pocket is assembling a real-time picture of your movements, preferences and behaviour.

What happens when we come to see the world, to a significant extent, through the eyes of a handful of big companies based in California?

2012-04-09

Instagram. Facebook. Billion.

text 19:30:32

Kevin Systrom:

Today, we couldn’t be happier to announce that Instagram has agreed to be acquired by Facebook. 

Mark Zuckerberg:

Providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

Facebook Newsroom:

The total consideration for San Francisco-based Instagram is approximately $1 billion in a combination of cash and shares of Facebook. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close later this quarter.

2012-04-03

post/20408097203

photo 15:01:59
The Triton Foundation / Buckminster Fuller proposal for a floating tetrahedral city in San Francisco Bay:
From The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller:

Such tetrahedronal floating cities would measure two miles to an edge, and can be floated in a triangularly patterned canal. This will make the whole structure earthquake-proof. The whole city can be floated out into the ocean to any point and anchored. The depth of its founda­ tions will go below the turbulence level of the seas so that the floating tetrahedronal is­ land will be, in effect, a floating triangular atoll. Its two mile long “boat” foundations will constitute landing strips for jet airplanes. Its interior two mile harbor will provide refuge for the largest and smallest ocean vessels.

From Cracked’s list of “The 6 Most Insane Cities Ever Planned”:

Triton anticipated a lower maximum population of just over 100,000 people, and was also to be the first fully organic city, complete with a desalination system to re-circulate ocean water. Schematics for Triton were sent to the United States Navy’s Bureau of Ships, to check it for “water-worthiness,” stability and organic capabilities, then off to the Bureau of Yards and Docks to see whether or not they could even build this thing, specifically at the cost they had projected. Both Bureaus gave the thumbs up, and the Navy’s cost estimate came within 10% of Buckminster’s. And that’s probably the craziest part of Triton: At every stage, it was going to work.

From the description of A Study of a Prototype Floating Community at Amazon:
Triton was a concept for an anchored floating city for 100,000 people that would be located just offshore and connected with bridges to the mainland. When President Johnson left office he took the model with him and installed it in his Presidential Library in Texas. This is the complete design report.
Now that’s what I call a utopian impulse.

The Triton Foundation / Buckminster Fuller proposal for a floating tetrahedral city in San Francisco Bay:

From The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller:

Such tetrahedronal floating cities would measure two miles to an edge, and can be floated in a triangularly patterned canal. This will make the whole structure earthquake-proof. The whole city can be floated out into the ocean to any point and anchored. The depth of its founda­ tions will go below the turbulence level of the seas so that the floating tetrahedronal is­ land will be, in effect, a floating triangular atoll. Its two mile long “boat” foundations will constitute landing strips for jet airplanes. Its interior two mile harbor will provide refuge for the largest and smallest ocean vessels.

From Cracked’s list of “The 6 Most Insane Cities Ever Planned”:

Triton anticipated a lower maximum population of just over 100,000 people, and was also to be the first fully organic city, complete with a desalination system to re-circulate ocean water. Schematics for Triton were sent to the United States Navy’s Bureau of Ships, to check it for “water-worthiness,” stability and organic capabilities, then off to the Bureau of Yards and Docks to see whether or not they could even build this thing, specifically at the cost they had projected. Both Bureaus gave the thumbs up, and the Navy’s cost estimate came within 10% of Buckminster’s. And that’s probably the craziest part of Triton: At every stage, it was going to work.

From the description of A Study of a Prototype Floating Community at Amazon:

Triton was a concept for an anchored floating city for 100,000 people that would be located just offshore and connected with bridges to the mainland. When President Johnson left office he took the model with him and installed it in his Presidential Library in Texas. This is the complete design report.

Now that’s what I call a utopian impulse.

2012-03-15

Compare and Contrast: Copyright Edition

text 19:33:05

Adrian Hon, Eternal Copyright: a modest proposal:

To make it entirely fair, Eternal Copyright should be retroactively applied so that current generations may benefit from their ancestors’ works rather than allowing strangers to rip your inheritance off. Indeed, by what right do Disney and the BBC get to adapt Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, and Sherlock without paying the descendants of Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm, and Arthur Conan Doyle?

Mark Helprin, A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Its Copyright?:

“Freeing” a literary work into the public domain is less a public benefit than a transfer of wealth from the families of American writers to the executives and stockholders of various businesses who will continue to profit from, for example, “The Garden Party,” while the descendants of Katherine Mansfield will not.

Absent the government’s decree, copyright holders would have no exclusivity of right at all. Does not then the government’s giveth support its taketh? By that logic, should other classes of property not subject to total confiscation therefore be denied the protection of regulatory agencies, courts, police and the law itself lest they be subject to expropriation as payment for the considerable and necessary protections they too enjoy? Should automobile manufacturers be nationalized after 70 years because they depend on publicly financed roads? Should Goldman Sachs be impounded because of the existence of the Securities and Exchange Commission?

Only one of these was unambiguously written as a satire.

2011-07-02

"Not even numbers"

text 19:52:58

Dealtalk: Google bid “pi” for Nortel patents and lost (via):

"Google was bidding with numbers that were not even numbers," one of the sources said.

"It became clear that they were bidding with the distance between the earth and the sun. One was the sum of a famous mathematical constant, and then when it got to $3 billion, they bid pi," the source said, adding the bid was $3.14159 billion.

Well.

Firstly, of course they’re numbers. They might not be round numbers (by which, more specifically, I mean numbers with only one or two significant digits), but they are certainly numbers. Does “the source” also believe that humans should only communicate with the simplest of business jargon, because words are too confusing?

After all, comparing $3 with $3.14 is no harder than comparing $4 and $5, unless you’re in the early days of school.

Secondly, wasn’t their bid not pi, but π×10⁹? More accurately, π×10⁹ to either nine or eleven significant digits? (I suspect the former, since the other numbers listed are integer dollar amounts.)

Historical footnote: π wasn’t calculated to eleven significant digits until as late as 1400, by Mādhava of Sañgamāgrama, an Indian mathematician.

2011-06-27

Compare and Contrast: Rail Edition

text 18:20:00

BBC News: China tests Beijing-Shanghai bullet train

Engineers have conducted a test-run of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link, days before its public launch.

Officials, reporters and company bosses were on board for the 300 km/h (190mph) train’s maiden voyage, which the government has promised will halve the journey time to under five hours.

China is planning to roll out high-speed lines across the country.

But the project has come under fire for its high cost - the Beijing-Shanghai line cost 215bn yuan ($33bn; £21bn).

And the government has earmarked a further 700bn yuan for the rest of the project, which would see 16,000km of track being laid by 2020.

BBC News: Clash over new high-speed rail tunnel in Italian Alps

Police have clashed with demonstrators in the Italian Alps over the construction of a new high-speed rail link with France.

Tunnelling is set to start for a line from Turin to Lyon, which is expected to cut the travel time by nearly half.

Local residents built barricades to prevent heavy machinery from starting work in the picturesque Val di Susa, in northern Italy.

Police used fire hoses and tear gas to disperse them.

San Jose Mercury: Central Valley plan snags on politics

The plan for high-speed rail in California is to start on the Fresno side of the San Joaquin River, between Bakersfield and Chowchilla, and go until the money runs out.

The Central Valley, for many reasons, is a practical place to begin. The land is broad and flat and relatively inexpensive, and the federal government, which is contributing billions of dollars, requires it.

The first section will one day form the spine of a system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, officials say. But there is no money guaranteed to build the rest, and the initial tracks, through towns like Wasco and Madera, are conspicuously far from where most people live.

2010-12-08

Highlights From “The Viral Me”

text 04:28:06

GQ have posted an article by Devin Friedman called The Viral Me, looking at social networking through the lens of Y Combinator. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are some excerpts that caught my eye, for one reason or another.

Almost all the consumer products (hereafter: thingies) being built at YC are straight-up social-media products or have features meant to take advantage of what is known as the social layer of the Internet.

This — Silicon Valley in general and YC more specifically — might be the last place in America where people are this optimistic. The last place in America where people aren’t longing for a vague past when we were the shit.

My reflexive response [to] privacy fear[s] would be to pull all data whatsoever from the public sphere—erase my Facebook account, stop with the Twitter. People like Rahul have the opposite solution: Flood the social layer with information you want out there about yourself.

"You need to rapidly respond to people, and you need to know a lot about them," Rahul says. "I have a thousand and something followers on Twitter. And I’ve interacted with pretty much all of them at one point or another. Personally. I need to scale that to tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands. It’s a brand. It’s powerful!"

"You’re selling a product, so that makes sense," I say. "But don’t those tools make people who don’t have products begin to see themselves as the product?"

"That’s a good point. I believe that more people are going to work for themselves, and more people are going to do what they’re passionate about. If you love Disney characters, fuck it, go and monetize Disney characters. If you love Apple laptops, go and become an authority on that and gain a following. This wasn’t possible ten years ago. What we’re talking about is monetizing passion. Monetizing authority."

"But why is that good? Am I actually going to enjoy myself more?"

"You’ll be a bigger person. More people can appreciate who you are more often."

"Don’t you think the need to be a quote- unquote bigger person leads to unhappiness and anxiety?"

"I think it’s more likely to lead to happiness than material possessions, than the pursuit of more wealth."

"But isn’t it precisely the same as the pursuit of more wealth? It’s just replacing money with followers."

"Yes it is. But don’t reduce it to a number."

One of the founders of a YC company called 1000Memories.com (it’s FB for dead people, only more interesting) says he heard FB can already tell when you’re about to break up with someone: certain communication patterns emerge.

"There was a study done," Brian says. "They gave people video cameras. Everyone over the age of 25 would turn it outward, and everyone under the age of 25 would turn it inward. This is the first platform that captured this behavior of turning the camera inward. It created a platform for communication around that one behavior. Look at the iPhone 4. It has two cameras—they added one specifically to face inward."

Friction is what you don’t want. Friction is what keeps people from signing up for your site or downloading your app. Because it’s too expensive, because it’s too embarrassing, because it’s too difficult, because it’s difficult at all. … In a perfect world, there’d be friction if someone didn’t sign up for your thingy. Again, FB has it right: It’s frictive to not have an FB account; just ask anyone who has to explain six times a day why he doesn’t have one.

"In the best products, you put minimal amounts in," Brian says, "and you get a lot back out. Like Twitter. You follow ten people. You maybe tweet once in a while. And you get all this news content and information. You don’t have to do very much, and you get a lot back. Facebook? The same thing. You connect to your friends and, boom, you’re flooded with all this stuff."

Here’s how Rahul explains [gamification]: “The biggest trend in Web applications right now is adding game design. With the theory of game design, you want a curve like this: increasingly large payoffs at random but increasingly spaced intervals. So the first payoff is very small, and the next payoff is a little bigger, and the next one… To begin with, you get a payoff one out of five actions, then it’s one out of twenty, then it’s one out of fifty—but those intervals have to be random. That is the key to human addiction.”

Quora actually does make you feel optimistic. It’s a thingy that is meant to harness the collective knowledge of all the smart people who use the Internet and get them to answer human questions and provide nuanced human answers. Because, he says—and the man is correct on this point—the quality of information on the Internet sucks right now. (Anyone who tells you how much better the Internet made things should think about that.) Basically, he says, if you want information, you end up on Wikipedia. Quora is used by basically everyone in Silicon Valley now. All the famous people are on there, sharing high-quality information and shoring up their own online identities—their personal identities—and in the process helping the world be less dumb.

This isn’t just the place where they invent this shit; it’s the single place where the life that’s advertised is lived. Where the adoption rate, if the product is right, approaches 100 percent. Where the world has been mapped out by the inquisitive people with GPS-equipped smartphones and Foursquare, and difficult technical questions are answered by friendly experts you don’t know. (It’s hardly a coincidence that the one area of Quora that’s already fleshed out is the part about how to build thingies.)

2009-01-09

post/69257772

quote 00:24:25
“ One metro line carries as many people as a 20-lane freeway. ”
Elizabeth Farrelly, in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald called Choking To Death In The Suburbs (via cityofsound).

what

more

pages