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ChittahChattah Quickies January 24th, 2012

Has Microsoft Word affected the way we work? [The Guardian] – It’s interesting to reflect on the obvious and also the thoughtless ways in which the tools we use shape the way we write, and what we write. I know that I’m not alone in having a different writing process and style based on the interactions/affordances of WordPress, Word, PowerPoint, etc…

Consider first the name that the computer industry assigned to it: word processor. The obvious analogy is with the food processor, a motorised culinary device that reduces everything to undifferentiated mush. That may indeed have been the impact of Word et al on business communications, which have increasingly become assemblies of boilerplate cliches. But that’s not been the main impact of word processing on creative writing, which seems to me to be just as vibrant as it was in the age of the typewriter or the fountain pen. But has word processing changed the way we write?…The most interesting academic study I looked at found that writers using computers “spent more time on a first draft and less on finalising a text, pursued a more fragmentary writing process, tended to revise more extensively at the beginning of the writing process, attended more to lower linguistic levels [letter, word] and formal properties of the text, and did not normally undertake any systematic revision of their work before finishing”.

How to Write [Barnes & Noble] – Distractions are obviously distracting, but also extremely critical to the writing process. It’s funny because it’s true!

Step Two: Seltzer. Doesn’t a tall class of icy cold seltzer sound delicious right now? Maybe with a slice of lime? Your lack of seltzer is no doubt what’s holding you back from greatness. If only you had seltzer, then the words would pour out of you-like seltzer out of a seltzer bottle and maybe just as bubbly. Check the fridge. Maybe there’s still some club soda from the New Year ‘s Eve party. Is club soda the same as seltzer? What club served it first? That’s a pretty boring club. Am I right? Hahaha-yeah.

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ChittahChattah Quickies October 19th, 2010
  • [from julienorvaisas] An App for Sharing Photos With Friends [NYTimes.com] – [Instagram is betting on word overload, predicting that people will want to share and see their friends' mobile visual feeds rather than text-based snippets.] Instead of following people’s 140-character thoughts, Instagram users can follow their photo stream and get a glimpse of what they ate for lunch and the view from their office. Instagram also plans to introduce a Web site soon. Building a mobile app before a Web site would have been a foreign concept just a few years ago, but Instagram’s founders say that communicating in quick snippets with a phone, on the go, is a new form of communication. The app is free now but Instagram plans to eventually charge a dollar or so for extra filters. “Filters are not the billion-dollar business,” Mr. Systrom said. “It’s photography. The next network is people interested in sharing life visually.”
  • [from julienorvaisas] Check Out Tagxedo, A Ridiculously Cool Word Cloud Generator [Tech Crunch] – [Yet another great visualization tool, this one highly customizable, combining word-clouds with images. The impulse to make sense of the word-avalanche on the web by morphing it into infographics is fun and beautiful, for sure, but I wonder whether conveying pretty word-frequency charts is actually providing useful information.] You can use the app to create visually stunning word clouds by inserting words (e.g. speeches, news articles, letters, slogans, themes, and so on). You can do so by uploading a document, entering a URL or simply by pasting text into the appropriate field. Tagxedo will size words appropriately to highlight the frequencies of occurrence within the body of text, leaving out small words like “is”, “are”, “do”, etc. With just one click, you can rotate the cloud, modify its colors and font, and also alternate between themes and shapes as you please. You can even upload your own images and have the word cloud assume the shape of the image.
  • [from steve_portigal] A Spray of DNA to Keep the Robbers Away [NYTimes.com] – [Technology offers new detection methods but the social performance of the tech serves best as prevention] The new system involved a device that sprays a fine, barely visible mist laced with synthetic DNA to cover anyone in its path, including criminals, and simultaneously alerts the police to a crime in progress. The mist — visible only under ultraviolet light — carries DNA markers particular to the location, enabling the police to match the burglar with the place burgled. Now, a sign on the front door of the McDonald’s prominently warns potential thieves of the spray’s presence: “You Steal, You’re Marked.” The police acknowledge that they have yet to make an arrest based on the DNA mist, which was developed in Britain by two brothers, one a policeman and the other a chemist. But they credit its presence — and signs posted prominently warning of its use — for what they call a precipitous decline in crime rates (though they could not provide actual figures to back that up).
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ChittahChattah Quickies June 18th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS [Behance] – [Alex Varanese's thought-provoking concepts go beyond blogosphere-hipster-silliness to really provoke reflection on design and functionality often taken for granted] What would you do if you could travel back in time? Here's what I'd do after that: grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars. I've explored that idea in this series by re-imagining four common products from 2010 as if they were designed in 1977: an mp3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone and a handheld video game system. I then created a series of fictitious but stylistically accurate print ads. I've learned that there is no greater design element than the anachronism. I've learned that the strongest contrast isn't spatial or tonal but historical. I've learned that there's retro, and then there's time travel.
  • [from julienorvaisas] 10:10 Tags Symbolize Committment to Climate Change [10:10global.org/uk] – [The fact that this tag is tangible but also symbolic rather than overt, and versatile enough to be carried on the body as a daily reminder of a commitment to the cause of climate change can help change behavior and improve compliance, as well as subtly telegraph solidarity.] The 10:10 Tag is made from a recycled jumbo jet, and can be worn on the neck, wrist, lapel or leotard to symbolise your 10:10 commitment. Whether you pin it to the lapel of your business suit or thread it through the laces of your skateboard trainers, your 10:10 Tag shows others that not only do you know how to accessorise; you’re also part of the solution to climate change.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Grateful Dead scholar in heaven at UC Santa Cruz [SFGate] – [More big things happening at my Alma Mater] The ultimate job in Dead-dom is in Room 1370 at McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz. The door is marked by the steal-your-face logo, and superimposed over it reads the name Nicholas G. Meriwether, Grateful Dead Archivist.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Ariely’s Upside of Irrationality: using irrational cognitive blindspots to your advantage [Boing Boing] – [We've seen the principles of behavioral economics applied to help us understand and explain consumers irrational choices in a business context, now here's a self-help book helping us apply them to our own everyday lives.] Upside of Irrationality is a mostly successful attempt to transform the scientific critique of the 'rational consumer' principal into practical advice for living a better life. 'Mostly successful' only because some of our habitual irrationality is fundamentally insurmountable — there's almost nothing we can do to mitigate it.
  • [from steve_portigal] Text 2.0 – What if your book really knew where you are gazing at? – [This is essentially one of the concepts we proposed from our Reading Ahead research – where an eyetracker in a digital book manipulates the text dynamically based on your gaze. In our use case, we addressed the interrupt-driven commute reading revealed by our research. If the book saw you looking away, it could mark your spot to enable more efficient resuming]
  • [from steve_portigal] Twitter a hit in Japan as millions ‘mumble’ online [Yahoo! News] – Japanese-language Twitter taps into a greater sense of individuality in Japan, especially among younger people less accepting of the Japanese understatement and conformity. 16.3% of Japanese Internet tweet 16.3% (vs. 9.8% in US). "Japan is enjoying the richest and most varied form of Twitter usage as a communication tool…It's playing out as a rediscovery of the Internet.” It's possible to say so much more in Japanese within Twitter's 140 letters. "Information" requires just 2 letters in Japanese. Another is that people own up to their identities on Twitter. One well-known case is a woman who posted the photo of a park her father sent in e-mail before he died. Twitter was immediately abuzz with people comparing parks…"It's telling that Twitter was translated as 'mumbling' in Japanese," he said. "They love the idea of talking to themselves," he said…"In finding fulfillment in expressing what's on your mind for the moment, Twitter is like haiku," he said. "It is so Japanese."
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ChittahChattah Quickies September 29th, 2009
  • Richard Eoin Nash, Social Publisher – What “social” means is that there’s going to be more information about books, more scope to interact with the books (your own commenting & annotating and reading others’), more scope to interact with the author, more scope to interact with one another. (This latter item, to get semi-techy for a sec, is something that the broad horizontal book social networks—Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari—do well, though, so we’re likely to focus on using their APIs rather than asking people to build their own bookshelves anew.)

    “Social” is taking the book and making it much easier to have a conversation with the book and its writer, and have conversations around the book and its writer.

  • L-Prize – Lighting Competition – I've written before in frustration about money spent to push the CFL at us instead of spending money solving the product problem. The DOE is sponsoring the L-Prize to create a low-energy bulb. "The competition also includes a rigorous evaluation process for proposed products, designed to detect and address product weaknesses before market introduction, to avoid problems with long-term market acceptance."
  • Princeton tests of Kindles for textbooks doesn’t go well for Kindle – “Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages — not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs,” he explained. “All these things have been lost, and if not lost they’re too slow to keep up with my thinking, and the ‘features’ have been rendered useless.”

    “For some people,” she explained, “electronic reading can never replace the functionality and ‘feel’ of reading off paper.”
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ChittahChattah Quickies September 6th, 2009
  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.
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ChittahChattah Quickies January 14th, 2009
  • American Idol sponsor AT&T sends text-message ads for upcoming season – Note that they included an opt-out and only targeted heavy texters and previous voters. But this quote from the article is the best: "Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, said the message was meant as a friendly reminder." Do companies really believe that advertising – especially intrusive text ads that were not opt-in are "friendly reminders?" That's Pentagon-level rhetoric!
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