Story from the near future: foreign govt hackers launch app w/ spying backdoor at #sxsw, pwn everyone's phone data. (Maybe already have!)— elipariser (@elipariser) March 9, 2013
This actually happened in the near past, not even the near future, in either 2003 or 2004 (I don't remember which). Of course, this is when all of SxSW interactive fit in one building, the downtown conference center. The wifi networks never held up so the coveted spots in the hallway were near the ethernet ports & power plugs (a modern powerbook only had one or at best two sessions worth of power at that time, and "liveblogging" was still a thing).
Some enterprising character booted up "etherpeg" and everyone's email, flickr uploads, IMs, and blogger and Movable Type passwords were laid bare for all to see. At the time we didn't consider this a threat (remember, most XML-RPC passwords were sent over the clear, for better or for worse), and packet-sniffing was something people did when they were feeling mischievous, not because people's passwords were particularly valuable. It was an amazing few hours. To get an idea of what this looked like, here's the same software running in Bryant Park in 2005, courtesy of David Gallagher:
Brad never passed up an opportunity for a prank on this scale, and soon the network was flooded with some hardcore porn. Watching people literally jump out of their chairs when they were supposed to be paying attention to the stage is definitely one of my favorite SxSW memories. Jason and Finn helped people secure their browsing by installing stunnel and pretty soon etherpeg got less interesting.
While we're blogging memories, a few people have asked me about the picture that went around twitter & tumblr yesterday. This was an award that Mediarights won for the fifth annual Media That Matters Film Festival. I'm pleased that after twelve years, the film festival is still going, which is no small feat for a non-profit!
For the last few years I've felt melancholy around SxSW time, and that picture of Finn and me and Eli's tweet got me wondering why. I realized it was mostly because I missed Brad so much, who was always the unofficial mayor of the conference. Now I've spent an hour or so looking at old Flickr pictures and blog posts, and I'm glad I've had a little time to remember him. What a great man he was.
This has long been one of my favorite slides in 29th Street Publishing's deck. Lev, not quite two, reads the New York Times' Book Review while sitting in his mother's lap. The point of the slide is that reading apps (iPad publications, iBooks, e-Readers, etc.) have a long way to go to match the user experience of paper. Reading across a line and turning the page is primal behavior. The deck is getting shorter but I wanted this slide to live on. Here it is!
In its ideal implementation, the microcontent browser is a combination of a desktop software application and well-designed web services, interacting together to parse our existing HTML, XHTML, and XML documents into tomorrow's semantic web.
It feels a little bit like we're finally working on the future we imagined a decade ago — Anil wrote this essay in November 2002. Here's another hilarious thing about this essay — Anil presages Readability's business model nine years before it was launched:
There's also a host of potential business models. The microcontent client could bootstrap micropayments by being purchased on a subscription basis that included several web services as part of its basic toolset. Vendors could tap into the client's payment database to offer additional services for incremental fees. A percentage of the annual cost for the client could be allotted to an escrow fund, doling out payments to sites that offered properly-authored microcontent.
You can see the humblest beginnings of the next iteration of this model with Maura Magazine and The Awl. I think there's a huge potential in using subscription apps like ours to open up a channel with your audience, to whom you can offer other products and offers. This might take the form of a print edition (in Maura's case) or something completely different — web versions of the magazines, events, other apps, or even a reader-produced version of the magazine, Sassy-style!
Bloggers by nature are readers, writers, editors, social media experts, system administrators, designers and publishers. As tools improved, some of these specializations became less necessary and the barrier to entry lowered — for instance, TypePad and Wordpress obviated the need to be your own designer and system administrator. With tools such as Measure Map (which became Google Analytics) and Chartbeat, bloggers became statisticians as well.
These evolutions pushed the democratization of the internet forward. But I can't help but think we lost the generalist spirit that was the original foundation of blogging. Bloggers like Jason Kottke, Rebecca Blood, Anil Dash, Adam Rice, Meg Hourihan, the Boing Boing crew (as well as too many others to name) lived at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, but new bloggers often don't follow in their footsteps, instead focusing on reaching a niche audience. I've often felt the tug of nostalgia for blogging the way it was it in the first half of the decade — when the tools of the trade were feed readers and bookmarklets.
So when Maura and I went to Fireworks Night this year (the Mets were 7 games above .500!), our conversation inevitably turned back to the way blogging “used to be.” As the Mets were running away with the game we were feeling optimistic, and I shared 29th Street Publishing's plans to start a network of magazines, covering a wide array of topics and supporting diverse points of view.
A magazine has been a lifelong ambition for Maura, and since that night we have been working with her to ship an app that showcased writing the way we thought it could and should be today — the Maura way. Maura's goal has been to help spread ideas and to tell stories about good culture. Maura Magazine is available today, and we hope that you have some time this week to download it. If you like it and would like to see more like it, please consider subscribing. It would mean the world to us.
The hottest new app is The Awl: Weekend Companion. It's got voting machines by Maria Bustillos, cooking for Sandy refugees by Emily Gould, original artwork, the guy who wrote the OTHER Cloud Atlas, the Y2K bug, the backstory of the "gerbilling" myth, video game characters publicly shaming Mike Tyson, bold covers and an actual awl at the bottom of every page. And actually there are already EIGHT issues like that. Yesterday Dan Frommer mentioned that it was more expensive than Newsweek. Well you know, it's also better than Newsweek! You can hear/read more from the Awl's own mouth/blog.
It's made by my company, the hottest new company, 29th Street Publishing. We make publishing paid, serial iPad & iPhone apps as simple as blogging. We have Natalie Podrazik, Blake Eskin, Timothy Moore, myself, a monthly case of rice cakes delivered from Amazon, a ThingM device(*) that blinks whenever someone subscribes to a magazine, a little printer(*) that summarizes the daily issues for us, a blinking coffee sign and a blog. Patric wrote about us this week (thanks!) and Natalie wrote a nice post this morning.* We don't actually have a BlinkM or a Little Printer yet, but we will soon.
Spend an hour in the Koreatown post office (by the way, there is no way to spend LESS than an hour because of the lines), it's at 39 w. 31st St., near Broadway. The amount of commerce & mail coming in and out is breathtaking. When you consider how much of our economy still flows through the Post Office, it's astounding that the Government hasn't been able to make money on it.
For the most part we've worked from home through the last few days, I'd say at 65-75% attention, but that's to be expected. Some tools have made our work easier. Here is a list of them!
Github, Dropbox, and hosted gmail apps. It's practically table stakes to rely on these for day-to-day operations now. But I am glad I don't have to worry about email & file hosting this week, what a pain that would be. Gmail slickly rolled out some new features this week, as if to underscore the point: "Life's better here."
The still common but less obvious:
IRC (specifically freenode). We use freenode to chat, wherever we are. It's very lightweight and reliable although not without it's quirks.
Google Chrome Sync. Like the old days of MobileMe & NetNewsWire, once you have your browser state synced from home to work, including bookmarks & open tabs, you cannot live without this feature.
Asana. Asana often feels like overkill to me, especially when we're all in the same office, but it really shines in the case where everyone is working remotely. Especially when tensions or anxieties are high, I think it's fundamentally better for state of mind than simply dashing off an email.
You have this, but you may be doing it wrong:
iCloud. iCloud is much maligned but quite solid. One undersold feature is "back to my Mac," which allows you drop-dead simple access to all of your computers with a simple Screen Sharing app. Of course Apple didn't invent this, but they baked it in to every Mac sold and it works. I shipped two new builds of an app we're testing in the past four days without having to step into the office or move the build process to Amazon. This stuff matters! And it's free.
Stellar.io. Stellar is also free! And it looks (to me) like many people use it for jokes, or to power retweet-bots. But when big news hits — say a shake-up at Apple, Lucas selling Vader to Disney, or … a Hurricane, my Stellar stream is only the most important tweets as curated by the people I trust. This is completely essential to me. During these peak news cycles is also a good time to discover new bloggers (or twitterers) whose voices may otherwise get overwhelmed by the volume of the surrounding noise.
You may not have heard of these:
Droplr. Select a file or take a screenshot, and it's on the Internet behind a private URL. Simple and essential, Droplr is basically what everyone loved about skitch. They just have to avoid the trap that Skitch fell into of adding stuff. Dear Droplr, do not add any features! Thanks.
Papertrailapp is a system for aggregating server logs in one place. When you are pinched for time and servers are under duress from news events (like a hurricane!) being able to see what's going on in a simple web interface is really critical. We've upgraded our account twice in the past two weeks already. Of course, logging is such a critical part of development that the vendor lock in here is fairly ironclad. I'll never tail -f again.
tender is an IRC bot which helps us moderate our meetings in IRC (really). It's more helpful than it sounds.
Not exactly software:
Cookies-as-a-Service, electricity, water, internet. Things that perhaps people take for granted! Greg sent us cookies (delivered last Friday). They were delicious. And of course I'm grateful to be at work today, that's a luxury most people have. Blake's parents visited us today (since they have no power in their east-side apartment), and their presence, as well as that of other close friends has helped my spirits tremendously.
I highly recommend 722 miles, a book about the engineering and political machinations that went into one of our country's great civic achievements — the New York Subway. Our transit system is over a century old!
Rebecca Mead notes: "Commentators already calling this the 'storm of the century' are hopelessly optimistic." Sadly I agree.
When we finally left the house around noon, we were met with damage much worse than I thought we'd encounter. Obviously the pictures that play on the internet are the flooded streets, downed trees and floating cars, but the level of incidental damage was breathtaking. Some scaffolding on our building had blown clear across broadway, which up here means six lanes of traffic and a wide median. Seemingly every other tree was down or much shorter do to the loss of major branches. It goes without saying there were no leaves left on the trees, bringing an end to our brief Fall. Lev insisted on walking down the subway stairs — you try explaining to him why no train is coming! Four MTA workers were actually on the tracks surveying damage. The tracks and platform were visibly flooded. Lev yelled "Hello!" and one of them offered back "We're closed."
When will there be a course in sign-language conducted entirely in animated gifs?
I'd like something similar to what Lifeprint offers, but with a larger vocabulary and modern web capabilities.
Related, Flying Words:
In 2003, Slope, an on line poetry journal, published a special issue devoted to American Sign Language (ASL) poetry. The issue featured the winners of the 2003 Heart+Express National ASL Poetry Prize and presented their work in video format. There is no other way to "read" this work. Unlike Deaf poetry, which can be signed and/or written, ASL poetry is in, and only in, ASL. At first, I assumed that the videos would feature subtitles, some printed "translation" of what the poets were signing. This wasn't the case. Instead, the videos are completely silent--that is, to someone who doesn't know ASL. But it's clear from the careful hand, body and facial movements that a great deal is being expressed, and it is maddening not to be able to understand the poems. On the other hand, I think that the decision made by the Slope editors was brilliant. ASL isn't simply a way of "miming" or literally translating English, rather, it is its own language and needs to be approached on its own terms…
"If y'all can't cook, this doesn't concern you."
— Kevin Garnett