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).

ecology web

For the record, this is my favorite

BPGlobalPR - Shark v octopus

From the out­stand­ing satir­i­cal Twit­ter feed, @BPGlobalPR. T‑shirts here; book deal to fol­low, I assume.

ideas web

Humanizing the reporting of the news

Amidst the many changes around and with­in jour­nal­ism, the jour­nal­ist — as an actor in cre­at­ing the news — is becom­ing more rec­og­niz­able, iden­ti­fi­able, and indi­vid­ual. For instance, I'm "friend­s†with New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. (Okay, it's on Face­book, but still). Kristof him­self is a media decath­lete: In addi­tion to being a NY Times colum­nist, he has a blog on, updates his Face­book sta­tus dai­ly, posts tid­bits of news to Twit­ter — and all of this relates and refers to his "offi­cial†jour­nal­ist work as a jour­nal­ist for the Times. He also engages with his read­ers in com­ments, car­ry­ing on con­ver­sa­tions about his posts. These dif­fer­ent "touch points†— a term that I hate, but which seems appro­pri­ate here — allow him to test assump­tions, get quick feed­back, and share infor­ma­tion that may not fit into the frame­work of an offi­cial col­umn. They also gives read­ers ways to get more engaged with top­ics they care about, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of avenues for par­tic­i­pa­tion. Final­ly, they give read­ers more insight into the reporters them­selves — their inter­ests, their infor­mal voic­es, their sens­es of humor.

Is insight good? Is "participation†good?

I don't know. This human­iza­tion of news sources isn't total­ly new, either. There have always been celebri­ty jour­nal­ists like Kristof, and their greater expo­sure ensures the accru­al of an iden­ti­ty more exten­sive than a mere by-line. The dif­fer­ence is that this also hap­pen­ing at much more gran­u­lar lev­els. My friend Leslie is a reporter for the Modesto Bee. She uses Twit­ter to post meta-news (@BeeReporter), and cre­at­ed a Face­book page (Reporter­Al­brecht) to fos­ter a com­mu­ni­ty around her beat. At the Lawrence (Kansas) Jour­nal-World, the sports reporters record pod­casts, com­ment on arti­cles, and main­tain blogs. I per­son­al­ly love the new avenues of par­tic­i­pa­tion, but I won­der what the effect of all this will be. News has become more of con­ver­sa­tion. Reporters are extend­ing their iden­ti­ty into the pub­lic sphere, becom­ing dis­tinct as indi­vid­u­als. Does this increase the val­ue, author­i­ty, cred­i­bil­i­ty, reach, or depth of the sub­se­quent journalism?

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.

featured lit web

Grammar of the future, future, future

Doug LeMoine is puz­zled that the con­struc­tion of Face­book sta­tus updates requires me/him to refer to myself/himself in the third per­son. This for­mat gives struc­ture to the News Feed, but it also encour­ages the updater to craft the update as a sen­tence begin­ning with his/her full name. The forced third-per­son would seem to cre­ate myr­i­ad gram­mat­i­cal prob­lems as peo­ple try to con­struct mean­ing­ful sen­tences, but pret­ty much every­one ignores gram­mat­i­cal cor­rect­ness (not sur­pris­ing). The sur­pris­ing thing is, gram­mat­i­cal­ly incor­rect sta­tus updates don't real­ly seem weird (to me) any­more.(It's pos­si­ble that I'm tak­ing this all far too seri­ous­ly).When I first joined Face­book, I duti­ful­ly wrote all of my sta­tus updates in the third per­son, as the for­mat dic­tates. Because I am both a gram­mar snob and a rule-follower.

Rule-abiding: Doug … his

Facebook third person status update

This con­struc­tion is appro­pri­ate for the feed, but it's also ter­ri­bly awk­ward. Sta­tus­es are usu­al­ly per­son­al, "microblog-ish" bits of con­tent, and it just sounds weird when per­son­al stuff is writ­ten in the third per­son. Recent­ly, I start­ed to lapse into the first per­son in the body of the sta­tus, and while doing so, I cringed in antic­i­pa­tion of the inevitable condemnation. 

Rule-bending? Rule-breaking? Rule-adapting: Doug … my

Facebook first person status update

But so far, there has been no con­dem­na­tion forth­com­ing. Why? Maybe we all quick­ly become blind to the total­ly obvi­ous dis­agree­ment? Or maybe it just makes cog­ni­tive sense that the con­tent of the sta­tus will be in the first per­son? If the lat­ter is true, how soon will we be updat­ing Fowler and Strunk & White to reflect this new kind of usage?

tech web

Twitter dream team, beginnings of

I couldn't agree more with David Pogue, Twit­ter is what you make of it. This is what I would make of it, if only.

Twitter dream team - Ginsberg, O'Hara
lit tech web

Hellified quotatiousness

Ever since Shaquille O'Neal left the Lak­ers, I've been more love than hate. He's smart and charis­mat­ic in ways that are rare for a pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete, and of course he's giv­en out the League's best nick­names — The Big Aris­to­tle (to him­self), The Truth (to Paul Pierce), The Big Fun­da­men­tal (to Tim Dun­can), The Big Tick­et (to Kevin Gar­nett), and Flash (to Dwyane Wade). But now that he's start­ed Twit­ter­ing as THE_REAL_SHAQ, I'm very firm­ly in the Shaq love camp. He's quick­ly picked up on Twitter's con­ven­tions, and he's engaged a vari­ety of fans and oth­er folks on a vari­ety of mun­dane top­ics. @Shaq: I feel you, my friend. Keep it up.A selec­tion of Twit­ter Shaquliciousness:

  • His bio, two words: "Very quotatious."
  • Yes­ter­day: "Last nite i told greg oden , 'we r not the same, i am a martian'"
  • Last week: "About to go to yoga, got­ta get my stretch on"

Which reminds me of anoth­er star who has a way with words: Randy Moss, who recent­ly launched "hel­li­fied" into the every­day sports lex­i­con. Back in 2002, he became a per­ma­nent fix­ture on my refrig­er­a­tor when this pas­sage appeared in Sports Illus­trat­ed:

The per­cep­tion was that [recent­ly hired coach] Mike Tice, after one game as inter­im coach, was giv­en a three-year deal last Jan­u­ary because he con­vinced McCombs he could con­trol Moss. "No," says Moss. "Mike Tice got the job because he and Randy Moss can get along. Nobody con­trols me but my mama and God."

There's some­thing about that quote that sticks with me. Only con­trolled by his mama and God. @RandyMoss: It takes a spe­cial kind of per­son to even think in those terms. Keep it up.

basketball ideas lit tech web

The future of reading / A reading list

I love read­ing, and I've been think­ing a lot about how tech­nol­o­gy is affect­ing the way that we read now and in the future. I keep think­ing about some­thing Sven Birk­erts said in a 1998 inter­view with Harpers: "If you touch all parts of the globe, you can't do that and then turn around and look at your wife in the same way." [PDF] Of course, one could be turn around and look at one's wife in a more informed, more edu­cat­ed way, but that's not the way he sees it. I share this anx­i­ety: I love read­ing the New York Times on my phone, but I can't help but sense that some­thing will be lost if all print­ed mat­ter moves in this direction. 

My bookcaseThis is the top shelf on one of our book cas­es. It's com­fort­ing to have the books sit­ting there; they're like a ver­sion of myself, sit­ting on a shelf, dis­as­sem­bled and re-arrangeable.

In August 1995, Harpers Mag­a­zine con­duct­ed a round table dis­cus­sion with Wired's Kevin Kel­ly, author Sven Birk­erts, the Well's John Per­ry Bar­low, and Mark Slou­ka. The results were con­densed in the mag­a­zine [PDF], and the con­ver­sa­tion out­lines the two ide­olo­gies that con­tin­ue to con­verse today: Those who believe that the paper incar­na­tion of the book is an irre­place­able are­na for the deliv­ery of its con­tent, and those who don't. Birk­erts dis­cuss­es the for­mer in his 1995 book, The Guten­berg Ele­gies: The Fate of Read­ing in an Elec­tron­ic Age. In 2004, the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts sent a shot across the bow in a paper called "Read­ing at Risk," [PDF]. The researchers sur­veyed 17,000 peo­ple, and they con­clud­ed that the future of lit­er­ary read­ing is bleak: "Lit­er­ary read­ing in Amer­i­ca is not only declin­ing rapid­ly among all groups, but the rate of decline has accel­er­at­ed, espe­cial­ly among the young."Still, the total num­ber of books sold con­tin­ues to rise, so is the future real­ly that bleak? The NEA thinks so. It released a fol­low-on to Read­ing at Risk called "To Read or Not To Read." This study focus­es on young read­ers, and links the decline in read­ing to "civic, social and eco­nom­ic" risks.Last spring, Nicholas Carr dis­cussed Google's effect on lit­er­ary read­ing in the Atlantic, provoca­tive­ly titled "Is Google Mak­ing Us Stu­pid." [I dis­cussed this in a blog post at the Coop­er Jour­nal called "Dumb is the new smart"]. In it, he inter­views a blog­ger who con­fess­es the following:

"I can't read War and Peace anymore,†he admit­ted. "I've lost the abil­i­ty to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four para­graphs is too much to absorb. I skim it."

The arti­cle also sparked a dis­cus­sion on, col­lect­ed in a forum called "Your Brain Online." It's got a lot of inter­est­ing stuff from folks like Kevin Kel­ly, Dan­ny Hillis and Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Every­body, who thinks that the "unprece­dent­ed abun­dance" of the web will func­tion to break the vise-grip of the "lit­er­ary world" on culture: 

It's not just because of the web — no one reads War and Peace. It's too long, and not so inter­est­ing. This obser­va­tion is no less sac­ri­le­gious for being true. The read­ing pub­lic has increas­ing­ly decid­ed that Tolstoy's sacred work isn't actu­al­ly worth the time it takes to read it, but that process start­ed long before the inter­net became main­stream … The threat isn't that peo­ple will stop read­ing War and Peace. That day is long since past. The threat is that peo­ple will stop gen­u­flect­ing to the idea of read­ing War and Peace.

Ursu­la Le Guin dis­putes the notion that peo­ple have ever read War and Peace. (Well, maybe.) 

Self-sat­is­fac­tion with the inabil­i­ty to remain con­scious when faced with print­ed mat­ter seems ques­tion­able. But I also want to ques­tion the assump­tion — whether gloomy or faint­ly gloat­ing — that books are on the way out. I think they're here to stay. It's just that not all that many peo­ple ever did read them. Why should we think every­body ought to now?

The title of her recent Harper's essay pret­ty well sums up her posi­tion: "Notes on the alleged decline of read­ing." It roars through the var­i­ous aspects of the state of read­ing and pub­lish­ing, quick­ly turn­ing into a ring­ing indict­ment of cor­po­rate publishers:

The social qual­i­ty of lit­er­a­ture is still vis­i­ble in the pop­u­lar­i­ty of best­sellers. Pub­lish­ers get away with mak­ing bor­ing, baloney-mill nov­els into best­sellers via mere P.R. because peo­ple need best­sellers. It is not a lit­er­ary need. It is a social need. We want books every­body is read­ing (and nobody fin­ish­es) so we can talk about them.

On that social note

I was just look­ing at my beat-up copy of "The Dhar­ma Bums," and I felt a sort Chris Matthews-esque tin­gle. I bought it dur­ing high school at Rainy Day Books in Fair­way, Kansas, and it sparked my fas­ci­na­tion with the West Coast, years before I ever trav­eled here. Would I ever read it again? Prob­a­bly not. In fact, just now, I could bare­ly read even a cou­ple of pages with­out feel­ing like Ker­ouac was on auto-pilot. But I like the idea that my book­shelf is a kind of exter­nal­iza­tion of myself, a col­lec­tion of impor­tant influ­ences and expres­sions. The future of my books appears to be not so dif­fer­ent than the present: A com­bi­na­tion of tal­is­mans, objects of beau­ty, and points of reference.On the sub­ject of ref­er­ence, in (wait for it) a Harper's essay called ""A Defense of the Book," William Gass talks about the plea­sures of not hav­ing the world at your fin­ger­tips:

I have rarely paged through one of my dic­tio­nar­ies (a decent house­hold will have a dozen) with­out my eye light­ing, along the way, on words more beau­ti­ful than a found fall leaf, on def­i­n­i­tions odd­er than any uncle, on grotesques like gonadotropin-releas­ing hor­mone or, bare­ly, above it — what? — gombeen — which turns out to be Irish for usury.

And holy crap, there's a whole lot more Gass at Tun­nel­ing. Arti­cles, links, thoughts. I love the Internet.

music tech web

Auto-Tune / An evening on the Internets

We have a house guest this week, and we've been doing a lot of hang­ing out while read­ing and lis­ten­ing to music. Last night, the dis­cus­sion turned to Auto-Tune, and it quick­ly revealed the beau­ty of being at least some­what Internet-literate.

Houseguest - Dave ZohrobSpeak­ing of Inter­net-lit­er­ate, this is our house­guest: Dave.

It start­ed with Lil Wayne. I men­tioned to Mara and Dave that Stere­ogum has an irri­tat­ing post about Lil Wayne's use of Auto-Tune on SNL. It was irri­tat­ing because, to me, there's a dif­fer­ence between using Auto-Tune to com­pen­sate for your own inabil­i­ty to hit the notes (e.g., Kel­ly Clark­son in "Since U Been Gone"), and using it to increase the funky quo­tient, as Lil Wayne does in "Lol­lipop." Any­way, Dave recalled a Pitch­fork inter­view with Neko Case in which she has some salty words on the sub­ject of Auto-Tune. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty]

Neko Case: When I hear Auto-Tune on somebody's voice, I don't take them seri­ous­ly. Or you hear some­body like Ali­cia Keys, who I know is pret­ty good, and you'll hear a lit­tle bit of Auto-Tune and you're like, "You're too fuck­ing good for that. Why would you let them do that to you? Don't you know what that means?" It's not an effect like peo­ple try to say, it's for peo­ple like Sha­nia Twain who can't sing.

(It gets even salti­er). Then the con­ver­sa­tion turned to Auto-Tune's first major splash, which was recent­ly dis­cussed in a Sasha Frere-Jones piece in the New York­er [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty]

The first pop­u­lar exam­ple of Auto-Tune's dis­tort­ing effect was Cher's 1998 hit "Believe,†pro­duced by Mark Tay­lor and Bri­an Rawl­ing. Dur­ing the first verse, Auto-Tune makes the phrase "I can't break through†wob­ble so much that it's hard to discern.

Of course, then we had to hear "Believe," so Dave sug­gest­ed Fav­tape. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty] Bin­go; briefly, we revis­it­ed 1998. Then, it seemed like it made sense to lis­ten to Bedhead's cov­er as well. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty] It fea­tures a touch-tone phone as an instrument.So what's the sto­ry with using Auto-Tune on "Believe?" Did the pro­duc­ers seek it out because Cher couldn't hit the notes, or did they just want to get funky? [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty] The Inter­net has your answer, sort of. It's from a 1999 arti­cle in the British mag­a­zine Sound on Sound, but the prob­lem is that the pro­duc­ers don't admit to using Auto-Tune; it was still a trade secret at that point:

The … obvi­ous vocal effect in 'Believe' is the 'tele­phoney' qual­i­ty of Cher's vocal through­out. This idea came from the lady her­self — she'd iden­ti­fied some­thing sim­i­lar on a Roach­ford record and asked Mark if he could repro­duce it.He explains, "Roach­ford uses a restrict­ed band­width, and fil­ters the vocals heav­i­ly so that the top and bot­tom ends are wound off and the whole vocal is slight­ly dis­tort­ed. It took a while to work out exact­ly what it was that Cher liked about this par­tic­u­lar Roach­ford song, but in the end we realised it was the 'tele­phoney' sound. I used the fil­ter sec­tion on my Drawmer DS404 gate on the vocal before it went into the Talk­er to get that effect."

Actu­al­ly, we now know the truth. It was Auto-Tune. All of this hap­pened in about 15 min­utes; we explored the arc of Auto-Tune in pop­u­lar songs, with exam­ples of ear­ly incar­na­tions and deep dis­cus­sion about how and why it was applied. Nice. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty]

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.