baseball ixd web

Halladay's no-no over the Internet airwaves

Yes­ter­day after­noon I watched Roy Hal­la­day's no-no on the Hot Cor­ner, which is Major League Baseball's con­ces­sion to the Inter­net. The Hot Cor­ner allows you to choose a sin­gle cam­era angle from which to watch the game, which has the advan­tage of show­ing you stuff you might not see in the mul­ti-cam­era, fre­quent-cut-away tele­vised expe­ri­ence. The down­side is that you miss every­thing that hap­pens out­side of that sin­gle cam­era frame, which, as it turns out, is a lot. When Hal­la­day was pitch­ing, I chose the angle that kept the cam­era on his face the entire time, and this time I didn't miss much because every sin­gle impor­tant moment hap­pened right there. You could sense (not "see" exact­ly) the flow that Hal­la­day was in; the announc­ers kept remark­ing on how "calm" he looked, but it wasn't calm­ness as much as it was qui­et, focused intensity.

DocThe final out.

The New Yorker's Roger Angell even men­tions the flow in a blog entry about the game:

Pitch­ing his no-hit, 4–0 mas­ter­piece against the Cincin­nati Reds last night, the Phillies’ ace Roy Hal­la­day restored the smooth­ing, almost sym­phon­ic sense of plea­sure that lies with­in the spare num­bers and wait­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties of every ball­game. Even from a dis­tance, at home again in your squalid liv­ing-room loge, you felt some­thing spe­cial this time about the flow of pitch­es, balls and (most­ly) strikes, the inex­orably approach­ing twen­ty-sev­enth man retired …

And of course the Philly fans were deeply engaged through­out the game. In the lat­er innings, each strike was cheered, and Reds bat­ters received hearty, cas­cad­ing boos each time they asked for time to try to dis­rupt Halladay's rhythm.Red doctoberThis guy brought the right sign to the game.

The remain­der of the post-sea­son will have to be pret­ty remark­able to out-shine this unique achieve­ment. (And I per­son­al­ly hope that the Giants are up for it).

ixd lit

Fur flyin over The Atlantic's redesign

There's a lot of ani­mat­ed chat­ter among some of my favorite jour­nal­ists over the redesign of their publication's site. Last week, the Atlantic Month­ly rolled out what appears to the casu­al read­er as a slight update of the IA, along with some major changes to the way that blogs are inte­grat­ed. Read­er reac­tion was any­thing but casu­al; anger and sus­pi­cion seemed to be the most com­mon read­er emo­tions, shared, at least in part, by the writ­ers. The Wash­ing­ton Post's Ezra Klein nails the goal of the redesign, "Seems like a bet to re-cen­ter the Web site around the Atlantic as an insti­tu­tion rather than leav­ing it as a web host­ing ser­vice for a cou­ple of blog­gers." Which seems smart, actually.

The Atlantic online redesignThis clus­ter­cuss is the redesign. (I can't find a pic­ture of the "before," but it wasn't real­ly too dif­fer­ent, to the casu­al observer).

The real prob­lem: The redesign isn't rad­i­cal enough.It sim­ply shift­ed con­tent around — a sure-fire bet to piss off reg­u­lar read­ers. The redesign doesn't address big­ger prob­lems around find­abil­i­ty, read­abil­i­ty, nav­i­ga­bil­i­ty, what­ev­er you want to call a lin­ger­ing sense of not being able to get around eas­i­ly. It also breaks from a com­mon blog con­ven­tion: home­pages that includes lengthy con­tent for each post (UPDATE: they've changed this). The biggest change is that they've moved away from indi­vid­ual blogs as lin­ear, ever-expand­ing solo nar­ra­tives, which I think is inter­est­ing. What they're mov­ing toward is less clear.According to spir­it­ed com­men­tary by the Atlantic writ­ers, the redesign was dri­ven by the arcane cal­cu­lus of adver­tis­ing. I won't pre­tend to know how online ad place­ment works in a place like The Atlantic, but what I do know is that some­one told them to spread their fresh con­tent around, and it's kin­da half-spread.I am a big Atlantic read­er. I sub­scribe to the print edi­tion, and I reg­u­lar­ly read three of its blog­gers — Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Fal­lows and Andrew Sul­li­van. I sub­scribe to their feeds, so I don't go to unless I want to com­ment on Coates' blog, or read com­ments, which means I'll head there a cou­ple of times a week, but when I get there I'll be deeply immersed in a thread.To me, the true oppor­tu­ni­ty was to lever­age the sprawl­ing, smart con­ver­sa­tions that these writ­ers con­tin­u­al­ly cre­ate — to cre­ate a sort of salon among the read­ers and writ­ers. To Klein's point above, you'd think a vir­tu­al salon would be exact­ly the kind of thing that would "re-cen­ter" the brand. Break­ing out of the con­ven­tion­al blog mod­el is a rea­son­able first step. Blogs are long threads, and main­tain­ing indi­vid­ual threads need­less­ly inhibits wider-scale con­ver­sa­tion. So they've tak­en that half-step away from threads (which are a help­ful orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple for read­ers), but the salon is nowhere in sight. And this is a problem.

ixd tech web

For the love of shopping

I'm doing some work in Sin­ga­pore right now, and I've quick­ly noticed a cou­ple of things: Sin­ga­pore­an peo­ple love to shop, and they love deals. But they don't have access to cer­tain brands — Amer­i­can Appar­el, For­ev­er 21, Victoria's Secret, etc. To get stuff from these places, they have to order stuff over the Inter­net, and have it shipped across the world. And this can be real­ly expen­sive.

LiveJournal spree community

A com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice. The prac­tice of find­ing deals.So, some indus­tri­ous, deal-seek­ing shop­pers have cre­at­ed Live­Jour­nal com­mu­ni­ties in which shop­pers can band togeth­er to save ship­ping costs from online retail­ers. These so-called "sprees" usu­al­ly cor­re­spond to glob­al ship­ping deals offered by a retail­er, and they're avail­able until cer­tain cri­te­ria are met — min­i­mum amounts for the ship­ping deal, or when­ev­er the spree-launch­er decides to take care of the order.In the above exam­ple, the spree is for a retail­er called "Appar­el," it's open, and there are 35 "com­ments," many of which are actu­al­ly "orders." That's right, you sub­mit your order in a pub­lic space, so that oth­ers can see how close the spree is to being filled.In order to build trust among their users, the com­mu­ni­ty above pro­vides a way to give feed­back; they've cre­at­ed a sep­a­rate com­mu­ni­ty called "spreefeed­back" where users leave com­ments about the trust­wor­thi­ness of the users who launch the sprees. Hacky, but appar­ent­ly effec­tive. Pret­ty cool, huh?On relat­ed notes, Jane Ful­ton Suri's Thought­less Acts?: Obser­va­tions on Intu­itive Design is filled with intrigu­ing exam­ples of every­day hacks in the phys­i­cal world.

ideas ixd lit

To forget oneself is to be enlightened by the myriad dharmas

Last night I read the New York­er pro­file of Matthew and Michael Dick­man, poets from Port­land, Ore­gon who hap­pen to be iden­ti­cal twins. (Here's the abstract). In their work, they have very dif­fer­ent voic­es, but there's a strange sort of twin telepa­thy that seems to exist with­in it. They also edit each other's work, pro­vid­ing insight and feed­back to each oth­er about works in progress. Dur­ing one edit­ing ses­sion, one of the Dick­mans recalls an inter­view with for­mer Amer­i­can poet lau­re­ate Mark Strand in which Strand cau­tions against rely­ing on "clus­ters of words" that pop into your head … This sound­ed to me like a good rule of thumb for writ­ing. (It also added fuel to the fire of my dis­like of Twit­ter and Twit­ter-like tools that encour­age peo­ple to offer half-cocked, cliche-rid­den mini-opin­ions about every­thing.) I plun­dered the Inter­net in search of the inter­view. Turns out that he was refer­ring to a 2003 piece in Post Road Mag­a­zine. It was con­duct­ed by writer Michael O'Keefe. The rel­e­vant bit is the last pas­sage from Strand, but the con­text is helpful:

Mark Strand: Nobody wants to arrive because that's the end. One wants to have open­ings con­stant­ly before him so there are places to go.Michael O'Keefe: Do you believe that some­times words can get in the way when you write?MS: Words do get in the way when you have heard them used in a par­tic­u­lar man­ner before. When you write all you've got are words but they both get in the way and serve as a sal­va­tion.MO: Do you avoid using any kind of com­bi­na­tions of words that you could remem­ber eas­i­ly?MS: Yeah, I mis­trust them because it means that they exist­ed in that way before. The idea is to use a mod­i­fi­er-noun com­bi­na­tion that may nev­er have been used before. Oth­er­wise you may be just quot­ing oth­ers or quot­ing your­self. The excite­ment comes when you have done some­thing that was unthink­able before.

Amen, broth­er. Mis­trust ease. Seek the unthinkable.In my dig­ging, I also found some excel­lent Strand resources, includ­ing a nice inter­view in a 1975 issue of Ploughshares and a very help­ful page at the Library of Con­gress that even­tu­al­ly led to my dis­cov­ery of the above interview.

basketball ideas ixd

Flow states and flow triggers

Last night, Lynne told a sto­ry about a friend who, upon see­ing movie star James Fran­co in the New York sub­way, expe­ri­enced a feel­ing of ecsta­t­ic clar­i­ty, of time slow­ing down. I don't recall if Csik­szent­mi­ha­lyi cov­ers celebri­ty sight­ings in Flow, but this sounds like a state of flow to me. Wikipedia sums up the flow con­cept as "a men­tal state of oper­a­tion in which the per­son is ful­ly immersed in what he or she is doing by a feel­ing of ener­gized focus, full involve­ment, and suc­cess in the process of the activ­i­ty."Bill DeR­ouchey recent­ly men­tioned the ingre­di­ents that, for him, trig­ger a state of flow: "Bri­an Eno [ed: I'm guess­ing his music here, rather than, say, see­ing him on the sub­way], Koy­aanisqat­si sound­track, iso­la­tion, old rocksteady/ska and (yes) the LOTR tril­o­gy." There was an ensu­ing #flow­state dis­cus­sion on Twitter.David Halberstam's book about the late 70's Port­land Trail­blaz­ers, The Breaks of the Game, con­tains a nice descrip­tion of for­mer Blaz­er Bill Walton's pre-game ritual:

[Wal­ton] loved the day of a game, par­tic­u­lar­ly an impor­tant game. It was a time which belonged com­plete­ly to him, a time pure in its pur­pose. On the day itself, he did not ana­lyze the game, he had done that the night before, thought about the team and the play­er he was going against in the most clin­i­cal way pos­si­ble. The night before was the ana­lyt­i­cal time. The day of the game was dif­fer­ent, it was an emo­tion­al time. He always took a nap on the day of a game, wak­ing up two and a half hours before the game … This was the time in which he felt the rhythm and tem­po of the game, almost like feel­ing a dance of his own. He played his own music, from the Grate­ful Dead … and the music helped, it flowed through him and he thought about the tem­po he want­ed to set and how he could move. He would sit in his home or his hotel room in those hours and actu­al­ly see the game and feel the move­ment of it. Some­times he did it with such accu­ra­cy that a few hours lat­er when he was on the court and the same play­ers made the same moves, it was easy for him because he had already seen it all, had made that move or blocked that shot. He loved that time, he had it all to him­self, he was absorbed in his feel for basketball.

An ingre­di­ent to Walton's secret sauce: The Grate­ful Dead. In the same jam fam­i­ly, I would say, as Bill's Phillip Glass go-to, Koyaanisqatsi.All of which of course made me think of my own flow­state trig­gers. The more I think about it, though, my most reli­able trig­ger is run­ning, but a glass of water and the Base­ball Ency­clo­pe­dia also can do the trick. Music is not as essen­tial to me; some­times silence is bet­ter, some­times I need some Ani­mal Col­lec­tive. For Rev­erend Green is pret­ty reliable.

flickr ixd web

IxD / Dear everyone, I hope you can find my albums

Flickr navigation hack

What we have here is both a fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate and an inge­nious workaround. To Kris­ten & Rob: Kudos.

ixd tech

Cooper Journal / My new blog friend

Oh gosh, hel­lo again. I stepped away for a sec­ond, and the next thing I knew a month had passed. Any­way, I'd like to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to intro­duce the Inter­netz to the Coop­er Jour­nal, a blog that we're pub­lish­ing at work. Launch­ing it was part of the rea­son why there's been some radio silence, shall we say, but I'm plan­ning on get­ting back in the swing soonsville. Any­way, check it out:

Welcome to the Cooper JournalYep, that's me on the couch.

ixd music web

Muxtape / Non-interface interface excellence

Mux­tape has blown up — just a mat­ter of time, I guess — but I hope this doesn't mean that they'll add a bunch of "fea­tures" to it. It's basi­cal­ly two things — the home­page where you pick a mix, and the play­er where you lis­ten — and it doesn't need much more. Real­ly! Please! 

Muxtape - home

Part one of two: The home page. It's where the "nav­i­ga­tion" is. There's no key­word search, no "cat­e­gories." Just you, the name of each mix like a stick­er on a cas­sette tape, and the sense of root­ing around in a cryp­tic vir­tu­al shoe­box, pop­ping a mix in, lis­ten­ing for a lit­tle while, strik­ing gold, or not, and mov­ing on. It's a real­ly love­ly and evoca­tive of the sim­pler, more mys­te­ri­ous times.

Muxtape - play

Part two of two: The "play­er." It's genius. No "friends" or "peo­ple who are also lis­ten­ing to this" or "mes­sag­ing" or "you may also like." Just the songs, links to buy them, and an indi­ca­tion of which track is playing.For the record, I don't think it needs much else. What­ev­er hap­pens, I real­ly hope this stuff is NOT added:

  • Search. Please, no search. Of course search would make it eas­i­er to find mix­es that "match" your key­words, but who wants that? Well, I did, at first, but after I poked around I real­ized that I was hav­ing way more fun explor­ing, let­ting go of the way that I nor­mal­ly explore. We need more non-key­word-ori­ent­ed ways of explor­ing! Seri­ous­ly! It's way more fun to roll the dice than to look for what you think that you want, and it's some­how more appro­pri­ate to music
  • Any kind of "pro­file-gen­er­at­ing." The mad­ness must be stopped some­where, some­time. A way to con­nect with mix-mak­ers would be nice, but no names, birth­days, pic­tures, blogs, or any of that.
  • Any kind of more "pre­dictable" home­page. Please. Just show the ran­dom stuff. Let peo­ple start here. It's scary and frus­trat­ing and annoy­ing at first, but it becomes fun, mag­i­cal. Per­fect! Done!
flickr ixd photo visual web

The Flickr style / Ugh

It's hard to ignore the fact that Flickr pro­motes a dis­tinct style of pho­tog­ra­phy; I say "pro­motes" because Flickr's "Explore" tab dis­plays pho­tos that are deemed "inter­est­ing" by Flickr's "inter­est­ing­ness" algo­rithm, and the pho­tos in this area are gen­er­al­ly char­ac­ter­ized by what many are now call­ing "Flickr style." This is short­hand for "exten­sive­ly post-processed" — col­or-cor­rect­ed, cropped, mon­taged, and so on — tech­niques that turn sim­ple pas­toral land­scapes into vivid, sci­ence-fan­ta­sy dream­scapes like the exam­ple below. 

Flickr interesting - sci-fi pastoral sceneThis was in Sunday's inter­est­ing pool, and it's a pret­ty strong exam­ple of the "Flickr style," i.e. heavy-hand­ed, post-processed and much-adored by like-mind­ed mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty. Pho­to: James Neely

I don't patent­ly dis­like post-pro­cess­ing, but I find that the pho­tos deemed "inter­est­ing" fre­quent­ly have a creepy unre­al­i­ty about them, a flat­ness, an obses­sive visu­al "per­fec­tion." The result is that many of these pho­tos seem like scenes from Dune, or Lewis Car­roll, or a Bjork video, or a Thomas Kinkade land­scape. Every­thing is in focus, per­fect­ly lit, tight­ly com­posed. In short, I dis­like "inter­est­ing­ness" because it feels like a sort of Pixar-iza­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy. (I love Pixar). But I don't like that CG-esque feel creep­ing into a medi­um that, for me, derives its essence from its sim­plic­i­ty and imperfection. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm down with post-processing and unreality

I just appre­ci­ate when post-pro­cess­ing sup­ports the nat­ur­al aspects of the pho­to, when it adds lay­ers to the scene. The pho­to below is called "The Flood­ed Grave," and the pho­tog­ra­ph­er is Jeff Wall. It's a mon­tage of 75 sep­a­rate pho­tographs from two sep­a­rate grave­yards and Wall's stu­dio. Why all the cut­ting, past­ing and blend­ing? Well, If you look close­ly, you'll see that there's actu­al­ly a small coral reef grow­ing at the bot­tom of the grave. 

Jeff Wall - Flooded GraveWall says, "I worked with oceanog­ra­phers to cre­ate a momen­tary frag­ment of a real under­sea cor­ner. I didn't want an aquar­i­um dis­play, a cross-sec­tion of sea-life from the area, or any­thing like that. I want­ed it to be a snap­shot of every­day life at a cer­tain depth of sea water." Read more at the Tate Modern's online cat­a­log.

So where does the Flickr style come from?

I've been excit­ed to talk about Vir­ginia Heffernan's arti­cle in last week's New York Times, Sepia No More. She address­es the dis­con­cert­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of high-dynam­ic range cheesi­ness in the Flickr style, and she strikes at the heart of what is emerg­ing as a for­mu­la for pop­u­lar­i­ty on Flickr. She dis­cuss­es Rebek­ka Gudleifs­dót­tir, one of the Flickr style's "lead­ing proponents:"

[Gudleifs­dót­tir] dis­cov­ered … how to cre­ate images that would look good shrunk, in "thumb­nail†form; and how to flirt with the site's vis­i­tors in the com­ments area to keep them com­ing back. As per­haps is always the case with artists, Gudleifsdottir's evo­lu­tion as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er was bound up in the evo­lu­tion of her modus operan­di, a way of nav­i­gat­ing the insti­tu­tions and social sys­tems that might gain her a fol­low­ing and a living.

Creating images that look good shrunk

I'm intrigued by the inter­pre­ta­tion of the UI's effect on the Flickr style, i.e. that the Flickr inter­face for brows­ing thumb­nails informs the way in which peo­ple com­pose and upload pho­tos. It makes sense to me. The brows­ing mech­a­nism is tight­ly-tiled matrix, so pho­tog­ra­phers are going to want to craft indi­vid­ual ele­ments that look good when they're (a) cropped to be square, (b) shrunk down small, and © snug­ly packed together.

Feedbacklove matrix
Here's an exam­ple from a pho­tog­ra­ph­er I like, a nice­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed matrix with some intrigu­ing jux­ta­po­si­tions. Pho­tos: Feed­backlove.

Is "Flickr style" a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Maybe the ear­ly users and founders were graph­ic design­ers? Maybe they real­ly liked glossy, vivid stuff that often looks like the back­ground of beer bill­boards? What­ev­er it is, I feel like the "Flickr style" is much less free-form than most may think. The for­mu­la behind "inter­est­ing­ness," as stat­ed on the site: "Where the click­throughs are com­ing from; who com­ments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are con­stant­ly chang­ing." Inter­est­ing­ness as a func­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty actions makes sense. Tag­ging, assign­ing pho­tos to groups, favorit­ing, com­ment­ing — all of these things seem like use­ful vehi­cles. But my sense is that every­thing that's being fold­ed into "inter­est­ing­ness" is com­ing from a fair­ly closed sys­tem, a group of like-mind­ed peo­ple with sim­i­lar tastes pro­mot­ing the same stuff again and again. Back and forth, for­ev­er. ))>((


I've got a list of my own "un-inter­est­ing" pho­tog­ra­phers, most­ly gleaned from the group I Shoot Film. I also fol­low the feeds of a few Flickr pho­tog­ra­phers — This Is a Wake­up Call, Feed­backlove, and Last Leaf, to name a few. Still, it seems like most inter­est­ing stuff still lives out­side of Flickr. I look at SUCKAPANTS and The Con­stant Siege pret­ty often, both of which can be NSFW, by the way.

ixd lit reviews urban

Research / East Baltimore police narratives

Last week I picked up a book called Cop in the Hood by a grad stu­dent turned cop (turned aca­d­e­m­ic) named Peter Moskos. He's a law pro­fes­sor now [UPDATE: Oops. He's actu­al­ly an "assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Law, Police Sci­ence, and Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Admin­is­tra­tion." My bad], but he spent a year polic­ing East Bal­ti­more dur­ing his PhD work and wrote a part soci­o­log­i­cal analy­sis, part police pro­ce­dur­al about his expe­ri­ence. If The Wire had a lit­er­ary ana­log, this would be it, not only because it takes place in East Bal­ti­more, but because it presents a moral­ly com­plex view of the rela­tion­ship between law enforce­ment and the cit­i­zen­ry with whom they inter­act (most­ly poor peo­ple in des­per­ate cir­cum­stances). It also adds aca­d­e­m­ic under­pin­nings and a tru­ly excel­lent set of foot­notes that pro­vide avenues to a vari­ety of inter­est­ing sources, one of which led me to one of my all-time favorite New York­er arti­cles, a 1998 install­ment of the Cop Diary called "The Word on the Street" about the lan­guage of NYC cops. The author, the pseu­do­ny­mous Mar­cus Laf­fey (actu­al name: Edward Con­lon) recent­ly wrote a mem­oir called Blue Blood, which is going on the list for sure.I real­ly appre­ci­at­ed his dis­cus­sion of research meth­ods because it puts in high relief some of the chal­lenges that any researcher (e.g., one who is try­ing to under­stand how peo­ple use high-tech tools) inter­acts with their inter­view sub­jects. So much of it is very un-objec­tive, and Moskos address­es his skep­tics ear­ly on:

Some will crit­i­cize my unsci­en­tif­ic meth­ods. I have no real defense. Every­thing is true, but this book suf­fers from all the flaws inher­ent in ethno­graph­ic work … Being on the inside, I made lit­tle attempt to be objec­tive. I did not pick, much less ran­dom­ly pick, my research site or research sub­jects. I researched where I was assigned. To those I policed, I tried to be fair. But my empa­thy was to my fel­low offi­cers. Those near­est to me became my friends and research sub­jects. My the­o­ries emerged from expe­ri­ence, knowl­edge, and under­stand­ing. In aca­d­e­m­ic jar­gon, my work could be called "front-and-back­stage, mul­ti­sit­ed, par­tic­i­pant-obser­va­tion research using ground­ed the­o­ry root­ed in sym­bol­ic inter­ac­tion­ism from a dra­matur­gi­cal perspective.

You can read more in an excerpt here [PDF], and he's got a blog that dis­cuss­es media cov­er­age of the book here.