Friday reading #17

 by Martin Belam, 24 August 2012

Fancy that - another Friday, and I’m off for another dose of mud‘n’rock‘n’roll at a different festival. This time it is Reading for the day, mostly to see The Cure, who I first saw live, feels like one hundred years ago.

Anyway, as usual, I’ve prepared in advance a feast of essays and links which caught my eye as they flashed passed me on the intertubes this week. So settle in to fill up your reading device of choice for the weekend. You can grab it all as one long Readlist.

Friday reading

“Everything in its Right Pace” - Hannah Donovan, A list apart
“When we pull down to refresh and find a little gem of digital craft—not just an automated personal stat or an off-the-cuff remark, but something that took time to make—it’s delightful. It’s valuable. But if these valuable, scarce things are slow, you may ask, won’t they always be niche? Like slow food and artisan coffee, a rounding error in a world of McDonald’s and Starbucks? Am I just some kind of internet hippie who thinks we all need to take a deep breath and slow down?”
If you only read one thing, read this essay

“Even silence needs rights clearance” - Alan Connor, BBC Ariel
“I had the audio and some images from BBC Four’s broadcast [of John Cage’s four minutes and 33 seconds of silence], but discovered that in order to use them, I would have to secure permission from each individual member of the SO who played - or rather, didn’t play - on the night. This was the moment when it appeared that I had come up with a piece of news that was impossible to deliver, or at the very least not worth the paradoxical paperwork and weeks of correspondence.”
Read the full article

“Rotary dial” - Paul Ford, Ftrain
Great blog post on telephone dials and phone books and switches and your parents getting together precisely because of a network enabled by all of those things.
Read the full article

“The Problem With Men Explaining Things” - Rebecca Solnit, Mother Jones
“...the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
Read the full article

“Betas, the new archetype of organizational leader (snippets)” - Dr. Dana Ardi
“Today’s Most Successful Organizations look less like an advancing army and more like a symphony orchestra. They are divided up into sections rather than functions. Each section has a leader and every player is a member of a team that works in synchrony. The orchestra conductor may direct what the orchestra does, but he knows he’s not completely in charge. His sole mission: To impel the other orchestra members to play to the very best of their ability, while integrating those efforts into a concerted group effort.”
Read the full article

“Skilled Work, Without the Worker” - John Markoff, New York Times
“This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.”
Read the full article

“Keeping the goal in sight while designing component flows” - Ryan Singer, Felt Presence
“What could be wrong with this? Actually this is all a nice process. The problem happened in the very beginning. As soon as a team breaks a problem like user authentication into component pieces – like create account, sign in, recover password – it easily starts to mistake those pieces of implementation with user goals. People tasked with a component forget that nobody cares about creating an account just for the sake of the account. They start imagining a user driven to create an account. Real users live in a larger context. They’re trying to do something more interesting like watch a Clayton Christensen video. That’s why it’s important for product people not to fall into the trap of designing and reviewing components in isolation. Yes you need to divide a problem into component pieces, build the pieces, and evaluate them individually. But you don’t stop there. After you divide and conquer you have to reintegrate and review.”
Read the full article

“Cleaning up digital publishing” - Duncan Arthur, B&T
“Cleaning up digital media is only one step publishers can take to reverse declining ad revenues and achieve the profitability needed to make better media all round – with quality content, great design and compelling advertising that readers want from digital media, particularly as print shrinks. But it is an important one that more publishers need to look at if the digital publishing landscape is to improve. This will require more publishers acknowledging that design matters. The design bar was set low in digital publishing, and only now are a few trying to raise it. Yet digital readers are clamouring for great editorial experiences that learn from our printing past, while embracing the inherent ability of digital to deliver richer, multi-layered, engaging reader experiences.”
Read the full article - but bear in mind I don’t 100% agree with all of it

“On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study” - Ali Rahimi, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor and Noah Vawter
via @LostTourist on Twitter, research from 2005 that brilliantly claims that “It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current [tin foil] helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.”
Read this brilliant study, then run and hide from ‘them’ in the nearest embassy

Things you may have missed

“Designing Contributoria the open source way” - Martin Belam, currybetdotnet
“Contributoria is ‘a peer-based collaboration platform for storytellers’, which has been funded by the International Press Institute. Matt McAlister, Daniel Levitt and Sarah Hartley, the core team behind n0tice, are the people behind it, and in July I joined them for a week to work on some early sketches and wireframes of how the service might be realised. The project is open source, and so we decided to open source the design process too.”
Read the full article

“Mobile powers Olympic content revolution” - Martin Belam, Guardian Media Network
“It would have been impossible to predict that mobile would have played such a major part in delivering content during the Games. London won the Olympic bid on 6 July 2005. The iPhone did not go on sale until nearly two years after on 29 June 2007. At the Beijing Games the iPad was still nearly 2 years away. The rise of smartphones and tablet devices has transformed the consumption of content.”
Read the full article

“Why your news site should never open external links in a new window” - Martin Belam, currybetdotnet
“You know how whenever you watch a DVD it is really annoying to have to go through the whole unskippable warning about piracy? And how much you resent the studios for taking control of your DVD machine and rendering the fast-forward button inoperative? That’s how users feel when you unexpectedly foist a new browser window on them without warning.”
Read the full article

“I’ve nearly used a Raspberry Pi...” - Martin Belam, currybetdotnet
“As I unpacked it my wife asked suspiciously ‘So what do you do with it?’ and the best reply I could muster was ‘Stuff! Computing stuff! With a little computer!’”
Read the full article

Forthcoming talks and events

I’ll be talking and teaching at the following events over the next couple of months:

Keep up to date on my new blog