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Archive for February, 2010

Cory Doctorow has a pretty interesting set of ideas in his latest book, Makers.

I found the writing/arc absolutely dreadful.  I found the ideas fascinating.

Usually I power through a book like this in 2-3 days.  This took me a week because by page 250 I was tired of the act of reading.  I did power through because I wanted to see the full shape of Doctorow’s ideas about the near, and very clunky, future.  Also, I’m biased for any story that’s about people hacking, making, constructing or goofing off in a garage.

The cool stuff Doctorow put together here is the idea that the future will be so incredibly “makeable” that everyone with an idea will just make and remake stuff.  And that will create a larger and larger riff between corporations with fancy trademarks and people, often fans of those corporate thangs, ripping the corporations off.   In the end those corporations will just have to keep giving in time and time again to the fans and hackers and just buy up their knock offs and mash ups.  Now don’t go thinking this is just digital media.   Doctorow literally means everything will be printable with in the home 3d printers.  (Which isn’t very far from what’s possible considering that you can gank a 3d printer for less than $1000.)

The part I was hoping he would go into deeper was about the idea of printing self replicating machines… and exploring the ideas that the machines themselves would just keep that remashing and remaking without humans.

The downside of this whole experience was the dreadfully lame backstory involving Disney and cheesy corporate characters. I also thought the main characters were a little shallow.   Almost caricatures of people who like to make shit.  The cheesy story i was amused by was the idea that in the future we figure out how to mess with metabolism enough that lots of overweight people opt for a treatment to keep them skinny for life… except they have to eat 10k calories a day to keep up with the metabolism.  It’s not that far of a stretch to imagine this treatment and people willing to do it.  Also, IHOP makes an appearance in this book… exciting me a great deal.

In short – read the book for cool ideas.   don’t expect a page turner.  power through it and let’s talk.

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Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves.

Herbert Simon

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Don’t let me sit on the sidelines.

Never let me watch others make the world go round.

Never let me watch others dance the night away.

Never let me see the band play on without me.

Never let me… wait for others to suck it all in.

This is all there is.

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i finished a book. it’s not clear to if i liked it. sparse, existensial, left hanging.

point omega. a novella set in the desert in the recent past.

characters searching for slowness and vastness…. zen…. the moment, a moment. an author searching for a moment. 100 pages that seem like 300 because all the talk of vastness. or maybe it was the music pouring from headphones or the vastness of the ground 5 miles below my rightside 757 window.

read the book. we wont share the same experience. it’s a weirld empty vessel ready for your filling. might have been the author’s point… or his side effect.

and so it is with everything else. an existence of disconnects. these disconnects arent bad they just exist. we all have private experiences. you cannot know me. i may not be able to know me. we know facts and ocassionally find a narrative to group the facts. facts = events. things interact. self awarenes is the exhaust, the by product of our nueral narrative.

im writing this on a droid phone. it is a terrible writing instrument in general. however on a plane it provides a compact canvas with no digital distractions. i am not using a word processor with all its algorithmic fixes and helpers. it is refreshing to me to be able to screw it all up and not have technology try to make it all right.

messy technology is my favorite. technology that tries to be too coherent, too slick, too well design fights against the disconnects i write about above. it elimimates the magic of accidents… happening into a different way of doing it, a nifty new view a mistaken stroke that changes the course of a project, business, country or life.

this is how i write software. i cut, paste, try something, try something else, fix, start over, change editors, change monitors. i start with the smallest, sparsest description of a project and dance. i like people to play with software and media early. not so they can see if it fits the spec but so they can grow along with the software. this is the only way to turn wide disconnects between users and end products into the necessary, and fragile, into bridges of usuability. software should be a vessel that the user can bring their unique experience too and the software can dance with the user.

i do not love the iphone. it forces me to waltz when i want to hip hop or stomp or jazz. as a user amd a developer conformity is a requirement. conformity doesnt increase knowledge or enjoyment. it increases habit and eliminates accidents.

this is also why i despise collaborative filtering aka recommendation algorithms. these always tend towards everyone seeing the same things. a bookstore or a library or music store is still a womderful experience because things are not organized by what you might like…. alphabetical or front tables or genres with spines, cases to catch your eye is a great way to run into a different thing. we see the same movies, read the same books, use same phone, have the same views and yet its all false because really, as i said, were all very different. why not celebrate and fully experience that reality in everything we do? doing and buying the same thing wont make us satisfied or generate understanding. its just boring and reduces experience.

and thats all we get is experience. this waking string of 28000 days. experience what the senses send in. i want more of that….soak it all up. i dont want less experience in exchange for less discomfort or ease of use or a common experience. those are false chasings…. unachievable and entirely boring.

i didnt like the book. i did enjoy the experience. read it or dont… but do tell me about what you do read.

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