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July 30, 2014

Filed under: random»linky

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  • When I reviewed Questlove's Mo Meta Blues, my main complaint was that the parts I really enjoyed — in-depth looks at musical history from his deep record-diving perspective — were too few and far between. So while I'm late reposting it, I have to say I really enjoyed this six-part series of articles for Vulture on "How Hip-Hop Failed Black America."
  • Marijn Haverbeke, author of the CodeMirror editor, Tern parser, and any number of other cool JavaScript projects, has released the second edition of Eloquent JavaScript, which now includes a lot more detail on the browser and NodeJS. If this had existed two years ago, I probably wouldn't have written my own textbook.
  • I'm a middling-good fighting game fan, so I knew much of the material, but I really enjoyed Patrick Miller's free guide to fighting games. For all that they appeal to button-mashing, there's a lot that goes into high-level gameplay, and Miller does a good job of covering the progression.
  • If you're in journalism and like what I've done at the Times so far (what little of it has gone public), you may want to check out my new project: a repository of tutorials for JavaScript and journalism. I've started with a guide to quick sortable tables with Angular, but I'll be following up with information on web scraping, canvas, browser performance, and more.
  • Finally, development on Caret has basically slowed to — if not a halt — a slow drip of updates. However, thanks to some setup work and a helpful overseas coder, it's now available in both English and Russian. I feel so international now. If you'd like to contribute another language, you don't have to know very much JavaScript at all — just enough to be able to convert the existing English text.

June 19, 2013

Filed under: random»linky

Remember the Linkblog!

Obviously I've been a little obsessed with RSS the past couple of weeks (get used to it: it'll be everyone else's turn come July 1). Along the way, I've been trimming my subscription list: I've been blogging for more than nine years now (!), and collecting feeds for nearly as long. A lot of those URLs are now broken, which is a little sad. In a precursor to the whole Google Reader situation, if you were on Feedburner, there's a pretty good chance I'm not reading you anymore.

Speaking of things that people don't really do in a post-Twitter world, I was reminded this week that I need to post another set of links--not so much because anyone else is interested, but because between the dismal searchability of social media and the death of bookmark services like Delicious, it's the only way I can be sure to find anything more than three months from now. And so:

  • A lot of people linked to Jeremy Keith's defense of RSS-as-API this week. Indeed, when I was at CQ, getting RSS running for our various services and reports was one of my constant campaigns. In many ways, it's one of the purest expressions of the web: a machine-readable format of human-centric information.
  • What reminded me of link-blogging in the first place was this study of privacy and de-anonymization, which I knew I'd posted to one service or another but could not for the life of me locate when I wanted it. It's a fascinating case of matching health records to individuals through obscured metadata and demographics--food for thought in light of the NSA metadata hubbub.
  • Earlier than expected, and all too soon, Iain Banks died last week. Ken Macleod has a passionate remembrance in the Guardian.
  • I have always been skeptical of WebGL, but it looks like it'll graduate to legitimate technology with a rumored inclusion in IE11. I still think it's a terrible API. That said, this article by Greg Tavares (one of the Chrome coders on WebGL) got me more excited about it than any other tutorial has ever done. Tavares points out that it's not actually a 3D API, but a 2D drawing API with decent tools for projection math. In that light, and given my love for 2D, I've actually started screwing around with WebGL a little.
  • If you are interested in using WebGL for 3D, though, this presentation does a great job of presenting both the what and the why of the math involved. It almost made me care about matrices again.
  • It is taking years, but people are finally realizing that the web is not killing long-form journalism. If anything, it may be enhancing its chances.
  • I really enjoyed this retrospective on the Portal 2 alternate reality game. The section on false clues and coincidence is a testament to people's ability to match patterns, whether they exist or not. It sounds like a fun gig.

June 29, 2011

Filed under: random»linky

Dr. Linkenstein


  • Best. Crowbar. Ever.
  • I for one find it impossible to believe that David Pogue is a shameless industry shill. No, wait, I don't mean impossible at all.
  • Why I was looking for the details of the NES Game Genie, I really couldn't tell you. But here's how it works, which is pretty much what I figured. I'm amused by the way that they obfuscated the codes in order to keep people from figuring them out. It would be fun to do something similar with URLs.
  • Twitter recently released a guide called Twitter for Newsrooms. And while the jokes practically write themselves (we should all take a crack at it in the comments), what they've written is less a guide to Twitter specifically, and more an introduction to "how people interact on The Internets." It's all about leveraging scale, writing feed-friendly copy, and linking out to other writers/sources. So while I don't actually think it's bad advice for journalists who are newcomers to the web, I wish it weren't identified so strongly with a single brand--especially one that the Innovation Editors of the world are already overhyping like crazy.
  • If you're in the DC area tomorrow, Thursday the 30th, you should come by the National Mall for the Smithsonian's Soul Train music and dance event. The artistic directors of Urban Artistry (the dance company I joined about six months back) will be performing, and Questlove from the Roots will be on the ones and twos.
  • That reminds me, by the way, of one of my favorite video clips from this week: Talib Kweli on the Colbert Report.

    The Soul Train show tomorrow is part of the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival, and one of Kweli's points during his conversation with Colbert is that hip-hop is folk music. As one of my friends once said, even if you don't care for hip-hop, you have to remember that it not only spoke to parts of America that were ignored by mainstream music, but it was also something that ordinary people could do with nothing more than a beat and a rhyme. Even though I haven't been listening to the genre very long, that definition really resonates with me, and with the reasons I started b-boying in the first place.

February 24, 2011

Filed under: random»linky

The Bottom Link

Last week was the budget. This week is the leftovers.

  • I've developed an interest in correction tracking for new media lately, and there are two interesting developments on that front. Kurt at Ars Technica has debuted Copypasta, a tool for adding collaborative editing to any site. Mediabugs, on the other hand, is more of a centralized database of errors, and they just introduced a WordPress plugin for journalism blogs.
  • Know how we used to post corrections to blogs in the old days? The comments. Uphill, both ways. Now get off my lawn.
  • I don't know what's more terrifying: that they've actually finished Atlas Shrugged, The Movie, or that this is "part one." As always, we quote John Rogers:
    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
  • Yeah, so maybe buying a Robocop statue for Detroit is not the best use of $50,000. But on the other hand, if you needed a great example of the ways that the Internet tends to privilege frivolous gestures over useful action, it's the best thing since OLPC.
  • Speaking of Detroit, it does actually have grocery stores. Some good thoughts on urbanization, corporate branding, and perceptions of poverty.
  • I complain a lot about the current state of rich HTML graphics: <canvas>, for example, is in the running for the worst API I've seen since the original DOM. If you're used to Flash's excellent display tree API, you may want to look into AS3 guru Grant Skinner's Easel.js library. Myself, I think it's still unclear that browser performance is there yet.
  • Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread") was just pushed out to my Nexus One. Right off the bat, the new power off animation cracks me up--it's basically the "shrink to a white dot" from very old CRT television sets. Of course, that effect was caused by the physical movement of the cathode ray gun inside the set, which has no equivalent in the LCD/OLED screens we use for almost everything today. It's like a comedy record-scratch: cultural artifacts that everyone recognizes more for semantic meaning than through any direct physical experience with the original. There ought to be a name for that.
  • I switched my laptop to a solid-state drive this week (an Intel X25, after a Corsair drive flaked out during sleep mode). I'm not getting the full use out of it, because my BIOS doesn't support full SATA2 speeds without a hack that I'm a little scared to install, but the improvement I have seen is impressive--games, especially, load almost instantly, which has done a lot to move my spare time from the XBox to the PC. Given that CPU speeds have topped out, if you're looking to rejuvenate an aging laptop, this is probably the way to go.

December 16, 2010

Filed under: random»linky

In Link With The Mic

Scare y'all quicker than a mean ol' goblin.

  • Between the hectic end of session rush, the loss of several key team members, and the holiday season, it's been hard to free up the mental space to write here. But here are a few of the fruits of my efforts: an interactive earmark database (with a fully-browseable version in development), another map on immigration patterns, a look back at the 111th Congress for Roll Call, and of course, our live midterm election coverage. Unfortunately, things show no real sign of settling down.
  • Law and the Multiverse answers your awkward comic-related legal questions.
  • This is a slow month for dance jams, but my teachers at Urban Artistry put together some videos as introductions to the different types of urban dance, and I think they're really well-done. Check out breaking with Emily and Russ:

    And popping with Ryan:

  • As a journalist, I'm generally pro-Wikileaks (although not necessarily pro-Assange--the distinction is important). More interesting than the releases, I think, are the reactions to them, and the questions that they raise: are activists endangered by a mostly profit-driven Internet? (Yes.) Should we consider denial-of-service attacks a kind of civil disobedience? (Probably.) Were the actions of Anonymous legitimate protest, then? (Good question.) When it comes to the organizations I lump under "New Protest," Wikileaks and Anonymous rank prominently due to their effectiveness, not to mention their eccentric, decentralized, and anarchist tendencies. Having them acting in concert (such as it is) is fascinating.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates on Dr. Doom and hip-hop. On a similar note, racists are not happy with the casting of Idris Elba as a Norse god for Thor.
  • It turns out that if you examine Ray Kurzweil's claims, he's usually wrong--or at least, right in a way so vague as to be meaningless. Perhaps he should enter the business of political punditry.
  • Wheat linked the other day to this tutorial on using Mobius and Ableton together for live looping, by bassist Russ Sargeant. I had almost forgotten how awesome the combination--it is no small endorsement that a free plugin is better than Ableton itself for this kind of live instrumental performance.

    It may be hard for non-musicians--or even non-loopers--to understand how big a deal Mobius can be. You have to understand that, much more than other effects (and I've tried my share), looping is like learning a whole new instrument, and each looper brings its own set of constraints to the table that you have to learn to work around. For years, the gold standard was the Gibson EDP, but it was A) expensive, and B) discontinued. Then along comes some guy with a complete software emulation that anyone with a decent soundcard can use for free. Oh, and it's scriptable, so you can rewire the ins and outs to your heart's content (I made mine control like my beloved Line 6 DL-4). That's no small matter. Every now and then, I almost talk myself into picking up a netbook just to run Mobius and a few pedal VSTs again, it's that good.

August 9, 2010

Filed under: random»linky

Link Spice

The tags your tags could link like.

  • Jay Rosen argues that Wikileaks is a "stateless" news organization, by which he means "decentralized." It's an interesting parallel to my own thinking on information-age activism. Of any group in existence today, Wikileaks probably best embodies what it would mean to do decentralized advocacy, for better or worse.
  • My new favorite blog is Awful Library Books. I mean, come on: The Burt Reynolds Hotline? Your Three-Year Old: Friend or Enemy? A New Look At Dinosaurs--from 1983? Awesome.
  • In the future, we will get our meat protein from insects. Or as I like to think of it, we will "become vegetarians."
  • There's kind of a big gap in Time's best blogs of 2010.
  • I love scripting languages, and I especially love this series on using JavaScript--highest of the high-level--to emulate the original GameBoy. It's kind of an amazing learning tool, if you think about it. Someone should do this for X86.
  • Never say no to Panda.
  • While it's true that b-boys and b-girls love correcting people who call it breakdancing, I actually think it's more depressing that most people think the dance is entirely about acrobatics--flares, windmills, and backspins--to the exclusion of toprock and footwork. That's not their fault, of course: that's how the dance has been sold in mainstream culture since the eighties. But check out this video by Zeshen of Havokoro, and consider how much people are missing. He starts out with some pretty standard stuff, and then about a minute in starts going off on impressive combinations of strength, flexibility, and creative movement. It's one of the coolest footwork displays I've seen.

  • Consider this part of an infinite series titled "Innovative, Magical, and Stupid." Long story short: an iPhone developer wants to make a service for doing enhanced copy-paste functionality, but you're not allowed to do that on the iPhone. So instead, they have to play music (or an .mp3 of silence) the entire time that they're backgrounded in order to pass muster. They refer to this "a very elegant solution," but let's call it what it really is: an awkward hack required by a patronizing, artificial requirement.
  • Finally, this Washington Monthly story is a fascinating read on how Google Maps has touched off a new generation of border disputes--especially interesting for the crisis-mapping crowd. People in developed countries, and particularly urban areas in developed countries, tend to forget how political and contentious seemingly-neutral documents like maps can be. But of course, this is only the start. In a world where our surroundings are tagged with metadata by a combination of community processes and automated spiders, we're going to see these kinds of scuffles a lot more often.

March 5, 2010

Filed under: random»linky

Beware the Links of March

He is a dreamer; let us leave him.

  • I actually don't like programming--I like solving problems. It just happens that every good application usually has at least one brain-teasing problem inside. Here's a cool one: BK trees are a method for organizing words to find close dictionary matches, as in a spellcheck or a keyboard auto-correct. I was wondering the other day how to do this, and now I know.
  • Flotilla is my latest indie game acquisition, and it fits in well with the release of Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy. While fleet combat in Sins relies on upgrade trees and swarm composition, Flotilla actually models small-scale, 3D space tactics--it's all about positioning, orientation, and group coordination. It gives me flashbacks to the great Kirk vs. Khan space battle in Star Trek II. Also includes a surreal, darkly-funny campaign mode played out around a randomly-generated galaxy.
  • tears into Ashraf Ghani's fetish for technocratic governance in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, over at Afromusing, Juliana Rotich tosses out five ideas on futurity in Africa, and asks: where are the African futurists?
  • put up footage of the battles at Unbreakable 3 a couple of weeks ago. It took place at my old alma mater, George Mason University, and I had a great time there. I especially love the exhibition between Iron Man and Meen187, who are both really musical dancers:

    When the camera dips down behind someone's head and you can't see anything for a moment, that's basically what it was like to actually be there. As I told someone later, I'm glad I went, but I'm also glad we have YouTube.

  • Blog plugin to-do: Reader Achievements.

February 2, 2010

Filed under: random»linky

Spring Linking

Oh, man. Budget season. What a drag.

  • I committed a new version of Underground to its Google Code repository the other day, adding support for Home app replacements like OpenHome, as well as Android 2.1 devices with new launchers like the Nexus One. I'll push a new version out to market as soon as I've tested it a bit. This is long overdue--hardcoding the launcher Intent was always a hack, but it was relatively low-priority until the Nexus broke it.
  • Speaking of Android, remember how it's supposed to be fragmenting all over the place? Turns out that even for game developers, who are relatively "down to the metal," that's not true at all. I look forward to retractions.
  • Jo Walton discusses reading science fiction as a skillset. Interesting meta-commentary, which should ring bells for anyone who's tried to get a friend or relative into the genre.
  • It turns out that GPS proves the Theory of Relativity in interesting ways. Take that, Newton!
  • As a tinkerer, I found Mark Pilgrim's post on the 'Tinkerer's Sunset' to be really interesting, moving stuff.
  • Some Foursquare badges I'd like to see. Personally, instead of joining Foursquare, I'm just going to constantly post snarky commentary about my location on Twitter. Pretty much the same thing I do now, in other words.
  • The Berkman Center hosted a lunch to discuss piracy research from the perspective of developing nations. They'll probably have a video and audio soon, but David Weinberger has a good liveblog summary. The most interesting note was that piracy is bad for open software advocates: it lets closed, for-pay software propagate as long as the software developers turn a blind eye. To what degree are grey markets (here and elsewhere) becoming a legitimate business strategy?
  • Microsoft is making their own 2D data tag, in competition with QR codes and datagrid codes. You may have seen these already without knowing it: they use these on some XBox games, largely for cross-promotional and inventory purposes. I believe them when they say that these are better than QR codes, but they'll never take off for the same reason that Ogg Vorbis hasn't beat out MP3: a good-enough de-facto standard can practically live forever, and the other 2D barcode formats have all the momentum.

A little story to go with that last item: last time I ordered business cards for myself, a couple of years ago, I integrated a QR code into the graphic design of the front, and stuck one containing my v-card on the back. I thought of it as a demonstration for potential employers: who's got two thumbs (the card symbolically asks) and can navigate between the world of print and online journalism in innovative ways? This guy. But I never really thought that it'd be usable, since this was before I had a smartphone, much less anyone else I knew. I made it with a chunk of badly-translated Taiwanese freeware, and tested it with a webcam at work.

The other day after a breaking class, someone asked for my contact information, and I noticed that they had an Android phone. So I showed them how it worked, told them to grab Barcode Scanner from the market ("But I've got a different phone." "Doesn't matter, it's all Android."), and passed them a spare card. Pretty much instantly, they were able to import my card to their contact list. It was pretty cool for me, but it was even better to see the enormous grin on their face when my friend realized they had basically just pulled information out of thin air, like magic. Sometimes, technology's okay.

October 15, 2009

Filed under: random»linky

Link Disclosure Policy

In anticipation of future FCC policies, I'd like to state up front that I was not paid or bribed in any way for these links, which seems like an awful shame, as well as a real opportunity for anyone with some extra bribe money lying around.

  • There's video from local b-boy battle-slash-arts-fair Crafty Bastards here (check the related section for more). I caught the first round of this last week, and if I can find a partner, I'm entering next year.
  • MobileActive has an overview of different setups for SMS activism. Lots of good links there, including an SMS server/analysis tool that runs on Android.
  • John Robb theorizes that protest is being militarized by governments that treat it as a national security threat. This is not a good thing.
  • This is your planet on climate change: Theatre of Inconveniences presents Kenya's drought in photos as part of a series on the impact of global warming on wildlife.
  • Ethan Zuckerman got eye surgery and somehow still managed to blog a ton of incredibly insightful stuff. One of my favorite entries is The Cloud and Useful Illusions, which discusses the ways that the "cloud" metaphor invites us to ignore the underlying infrastructure and politics, in both good ways and bad.
  • Happy Internet Human Rights day, China! Let us know how that's working out for you, if you can get past the firewall now that they're blocking TOR.

August 27, 2009

Filed under: random»linky


It's like a linkup, but more pessimistic.

  • RECAP is a Firefox extension that sends public documents behind a for-pay firewall to the Internet Archive as users browse the original site. Evgeny Morozov has more. Effectively, they're crowdsourcing the process of creating a site mirror. It may have implications for getting around censorship, but it's more interesting to me in the way that it creates something valuable by piggybacking on the user's actions, much the same way that ReCAPTCHA leverages site verification to improve OCR for scanned documents.
  • At Arthur Magazine, Douglas Rushkoff argues that "movements" are dead, because they now play a role that's more social than actively political. I disagree, personally: I would say that he's picked some stunningly poor movements, then. The goal of the New Dissent, just as with traditional social and protest movements, is to put feet on the ground, albeit in a new way. A movement that doesn't put feet on the ground is a failure, no matter whether it's Rushkoff's strawman of "a top-down, passionately executed, and highly branded movement" or a decentralized, flash mob of demonstrators. Ironically, the very health protest astroturf that's made Rushkoff so dejected is a prime example of this kind of action. It's not necessarily seeing results--but that's because it's badly run. People show up, and then act like either loons or idiots, which convinces no-one. But that doesn't mean the organizing principles are unsound.
  • In this Google video, Nils Gilman of the Global Business Network discusses "the global illicit economy"--basically the globalized black market in guns, drugs, sex, and malware. Some interesting observations inside: for example, says Gilman, attempting to control drug trade via border control is counterproductive because it raises the profit margins for successful traffickers.
  • It turns out that people will pay for explainers, but won't pay for your vague trend piece. Surprise! It's almost like good journalism could be profitable in this country, if it weren't being killed by all those pesky blogs and Internets. Nieman Journalism Lab has a lot of great interviews like this, by the way, including Bill Wasik on the Politico and David Simon on charging for web content.
  • Shepherd Fairey interviews Banksy. In other news from the four elements of hip-hop, More Than A Stance has a neat "breakumentary" on b-boy history shot at Street Science in Rotterdam.
  • As someone who's done his share of public speaking and video editing, even to a teetotaler this Johnnie Walker ad is unbelievable. It's a single, six-minute steadicam shot of Robert Carlyle walking through Scotland, telling the brand's history as he walks by carefully-placed props or visual aids. Apparently it took 40 takes. I find it fascinating for two reasons: first, because the craftsmanship of it is striking. But second, because it breaks the commonly-accepted rule of thumb for video journalism--"keep it short," because people won't watch long-form web video. As I've said before, I think that's a fallacy. People will certainly watch long-form productions, if it's interesting. What they won't watch is a lengthy imitation of "local news"-style coverage.
  • Hall and Oates, Carlos Santana, U2: what do these artists have in common, besides a soporific effect rivalling prescription drugs? Satan.

Future - Present - Past