“On the flight back to Berlin, I started asking myself the most exciting questions. Like: what if small is better than big, now is better than later, reckless is better than careful? I looked at the calendar, I took stock of my capabilities, and I concluded that this would just barely be possible to do before the end of the year. Barely possible is the best kind of possible, so now I’m here.”—Diana Kimball, on why she’s launched a new Kickstarter project, Archive 2013: From the Mixed-Up Files of Diana G. Kimball
“The way rejection tends to be handled by Californians, who are sunny in disposition and less brusque than East Coast residents. Instead of bluntly saying “no,” Californians say no by avoiding the question, forgetting to respond to emails, and generally postponing the issue. The best way to give a California no is to do nothing at all, as opposed to saying it outright.”—The California no
“By engaging primarily with the online enterprise instead of the in-person business, he perpetuates the social detachment of the very kind of enterprises — small, independent, flexible — that could easily partner with him to become an important part of his life. That local independent business, often started by a neighbor with a passion for doing going work and making a difference in her community, instead is encouraged to pursue an unsustainable race to the bottom: ever-lower prices, ever-smaller margins, ever-decreasing quality. Eventually that business is no longer capable of responding to the needs of its patrons, and can only dish out the worst products at the bottomest prices.”—Jay Porter, on the perversion of online business review sites, like Yelp
“Twitter is more performant, efficient and reliable than ever before. We’ve sped up the site incredibly across the 50th (p50) through 99th (p99) percentile distributions and the number of machines involved in serving the site itself has been decreased anywhere from 5x-12x. Over the last six months, Twitter has flirted with four 9s of availability.”—Raffi Krikorian, on how Twitter’s infrastructure has gone from struggling to handle global events to hardly noticing them. I spent the first six months of this year directly on this project, and I’ve never appreciated (or noticed) site latency as a feature as much as I do now.
“The primary work of writing is less gathering than it is digging and cracking open, because often the truest, most resonant of these experiences are buried the deepest. They’re the ones that have sunk into the terrain of memory by the erosion of time, sometimes by your own will; the experiences over which you’ve laid thick beds of soil; the experiences over which you’ve planted a garden or built a house. The corollary to “write what you know” is that you already know enough.”—Jack Cheng, on experience and writing
“Many companies are cults of personality predicated on a reverence for charismatic narcissists whose aura is bolstered by a worshipful tech press. Dutiful employees who believe they are changing the world project unquestioning enthusiasm for their role in the Great Project. Everyone believes they have discovered a more enlightened way to live their life, unlike the masses of those yet to accept the good news of Uber, TaskRabbit, and the quantified self. Honestly, while most of these people probably think of themselves as the height of rationality, they remind me of the fundamentalists I grew up with.”—Buzz Anderson, on the cult of startups
CAPUTO: What do you think the difference is between a tourist and a traveler?
HEAT-MOON: I think the higher category is the traveler, in that the traveler makes a deeper penetration into the landscape and into people’s lives. The traveler probably is moving a bit slower, and many times on foot rather than with wheels. Wheels can turn a traveler into a tourist very quickly. But that said, get in your car and drive diagonally across the Great Plains as you did in “The Longest Road.” I think it’s penetration of the land, and that begins by going more slowly, by listening, and by getting out from behind the windshield and looking and doing.
CAPUTO: I think a tourist is usually someone who is on a time budget. A tourist is out to see sights, usually which have been enumerated for him in a guidebook. I think there’s a deeper degree of curiosity in a traveler.
HEAT-MOON: Destinations have a key element of defining travelers and tourists, so that tourists to — let’s pick Arizona — those tourists are likely to head for the Grand Canyon, whereas a traveler in Arizona might light out for Willcox. Why somebody would want to visit Willcox, I don’t know, other than to see what’s there. Ask questions: Who was Willcox? What kind of place is it? A tidy little place, by the way.
“Telling the news on Twitter is different than telling the news in a magazine or newspaper. I realize journalists have a difficult job these days. The way mistakes are made and disseminated and the way they are corrected, is utterly different on Twitter than at a magazine like Wired or a newspaper like the New York Times. This places unfamiliar demands on journalists and novel demands on consumers of news. And the bigger burden is on the consumers, which I imagine makes the journalists especially cross. Because if we consumers want to have a real-time account of events—and we do, it really makes us a better informed citizenry—we have to understand how to deal better with ambiguity.”—Nick Kallen, on Mat Honan’s desire for the ability to edit tweets
“Whimsy is not a quality we usually associate with computer programs. We tend to think of software in terms of the function it fulfills. For example, a spreadsheet helps us do our work. A game of Tetris provides a means of procrastination. Social media reconnects us with our high school nemeses. But what about computer code that serves no inherent purpose in itself?”—Jacob Harris on the quirky yet delightful Times Haiku
“Listen to your users more than the press. Don’t get sucked into the gravity hole between you and your competition. Ruthlessly run your own path, not someone else’s.”—Josh Williams, on his experience taking Gowalla off the ground, and eventually setting it back down
“That’s how My Bloody Valentine’s deeply destabilizing queasiness, amplified here to a frightening degree, has always struck me: There’s a rush of feeling inside their music so intense it creates a kind of paralysis. Music swirls and moves in and out of phase, voices float by, half memory and half anticipation, and you’re never quite sure how all the parts fit together. You get lost in it, and if you’re wired a certain way that mixture of desire and confusion is easy to map on to the wider world.”—Mark Richardson, on the new My Bloody Valentine album, mbv
“Writing a novel is like writing a computer program. The goal of this program is to create an output (the actual words of the book) of a certain nature (the theme of the book). But to generate it, you fiddle with the functions/methods within the program (characters), the order in which you call them up, and the parameters you assign them (plot, conflict, setting). The source code requires less memory than the output. It’s algorithmic, generative. And when written well, it can lead to an end result that’s wonderfully complex, that takes on a life of its own.”—An update from Jack Cheng about his experience of writing his first novel, These Days. I suspect it will be wonderful, but that really won’t matter because it’s been worth it just to follow along with him in the process.
“It was while standing at the Embarcadero a few years ago, imagining concrete sentinels and road decks shooting up into the sky, when perhaps for the first time I thought of cities as truly malleable, entities unfrozen in time, possible to be shaped—and also misshaped—by ourselves.”—From Marcin Wichary’s beautiful and eloquent piece on why he chose to become a Code for America fellow this year.
I’m generally quite bothered/fatigued by people using reductive phrases like “first-world problem,” “humblebrag,” and “white people,” but there are some truly abhorrent sites featured in this, many of which I had never heard. Pitchbox and Sparkology are especially grating, and generally represent much of what I hate about Silicon Valley. When motives are rooted in status and wealth and not meaning and progress, it pushes this industry further from its roots and more towards the vapid vanity of Hollywood.
“There’s a whole class of human communication that happens through decorational lights. New York City does a lot of this. They light up the tree in Rockefeller center. That moment when it goes from dark to gleaming, that’s a big moment for humans. There’s a lot of ceremony involved. What is actually being communicated, then? What is the difference between the dark tree and the light tree? … It’s a way of talking at a distance. Flags and towers, short signals. Hello everyone. Here are our explosives. Hello. Here are our rainbow-colored lights hung from the balcony. Hello. Christmas lights work for the same reason that people on shore wave to people in boats.”—Paul Ford
“If I look at everyone I’m following on Twitter, by and large they are peers I’ve known for the past few years in my current circle of friends, people that excite me with new ideas, music, and art, and lots of humor. On Twitter, I have no idea where most people grew up, what schools they attended, and they are similarly in the dark when it comes to me. You get to know more about the people you follow day by day as their comments and ideas fill my picture of what makes them tick.”—Matt Haughey, highlight the key difference between Twitter and Facebook
“Places mean much more than their locations on a map. Places are the ways we spend our time; how we live our lives. Imagine a map that replaced addresses with the number of hours people have spent there. Some places have accumulated thousands, maybe millions of our hours. Choosing to be somewhere is our way of saying “Right now, this place is worth my time. These people are worth my time. The things I can do here are the things I want to be doing now.”—Karina van Schaardenburg
“Glass has always been identified as a New York City composer, and his music has always articulated big-city feelings with uncanny elegance: the loneliness of them, the grandeur of them, the lonely grandeur of them; their violence and their comfort, their threats and seductions; the way they can feel incomprehensibly big and claustrophobically small.”—Mike Powell, on Philip Glass’ new album, REWORK_