• 2019

  • Verizon Sells Tumblr to Automattic, the Home of WordPress

  • The WSJ reports:

    Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to sell its blogging website Tumblr to the owner of popular online-publishing tool WordPress, unloading for a nominal amount a site that once fetched a purchase price of more than $1 billion.

    Automattic Inc. will buy Tumblr for an undisclosed sum and take on about 200 staffers, the companies said. Tumblr is a free service that hosts millions of blogs where users can upload photos, music and art, but it has been dwarfed by Facebook, Reddit and other services.

    This is a shocking acquisition. No doubt, this a good move for the preservation of blogs. I firmly believe Automattic will be a better steward of creators than Verizon (or was it called Oath?) would’ve been. I have long awaited the day where Tumblr and WordPress have publication parity. This has to be really excited for everyone at Tumblr. I mean this even has Tumblr veteran Marco Arment pumped:

    Edit: it appears that Marco Arment deleted this tweet:

    This is pretty cool. Can’t think of a better owner today than Automattic for Tumblr’s huge creative publishing community.

    Marco Arment

    Now the hard question — what about the adult content ban? For now, it seems the ban stays in place. But, it’s really unclear if Matt will ever changed the policy. Regardless, the blogs at Tumblr will live on under the safe and profitable umbrella of Automattic.

  • Cobalt Jackets

  • Written by the late Paul Krassner, he wrote in 2003:

    Ethan suited up and walked into a triple- door sally-port, where he progressed through each airlock via ten-inch-thick lead-lined doors. Past the last door, he stepped into a massive room/warehouse, about 60 feet wide by 100 feet in length, with a 20-foot ceiling–huge for battleship storage-room standards. From the floor to the ceiling, thousands upon thousands of what looked like missiles were stored. It was weird, because he’d never seen missiles stored in such a way where they were on top of one another.

    The officer came around a row of missiles, and Ethan asked him the question he had for him about his TAD request, and then asked him, “What the hell kind of missiles are these?”

    “Those aren’t missiles; they’re cobalt jackets.”

    “What are they for?”

    “Well, this is ‘need to know,’ so keep your mouth shut, but they are designed to slide on over most of our conventional ordinance. They’re made out of radioactive cobalt, and when the bomb they’re wrapped around detonates, they contaminate everything in the blast zone and quite a bit beyond.”

    “So they turn regular ordinance into nukes?”

    “No, not exactly. The cobalt doesn’t detonate itself. It just scatters everywhere.”

    “Well, what? Does the radiation kill people?”

    “Not immediately. Cobalt jackets will not likely ever be used. They’re for a situation where the U.S. government is crumbling during a time of war, and foreign takeover is imminent. We won’t capitulate. We basically have a scorched earth policy. If we are going to lose, we arm everything with cobalt–and I mean everything; we have jackets at nearly every missile magazine in the world, on land or at sea–and contaminate the world. If we can’t have it, nobody can.

    “Just another example,” Ethan told me, “of what treacherous creatures our leadership is made of.”

    Terrifying shit. I can only imagine that not much has changed.

    Paul’s entire piece on the US Military’s use of radiated cobalt casings are no longer online at its original publication source, New York Press. But, it available for reading on the Wayback Machine. You can also peruse an interesting collection of writings about nuclear disarmament and policy, on this mirror and read the original piece here.

  • Facebook is Rebranding Their Apps, Add Its Name to Instagram

  • From The Information:

    In a big shift, Facebook plans to signal its control of Instagram and WhatsApp by adding its name to both apps, according to three people familiar with the matter. The social network will rebrand the apps to “Instagram from Facebook” and “WhatsApp from Facebook,” the people said.

    Employees for the apps were recently notified about the changes, which come as antitrust regulators are examining Facebook’s acquisitions of both apps. The app rebranding is a major departure for Facebook, which until recently had allowed the apps to operate and be branded independently. 

    Well, I guess it’s official. Instagram has jumped the shark. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time, so I can’t say I’m surprised. But this, is the icing on the cake for me. Back when Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left Facebook, I had grave concerns for the future of Instagram. But it’s now crystal clear — Facebook doesn’t (nor has it ever) give a shit about what their users want. Nor does Facebook care about how a healthy network of users should look like. It’s been obvious for a long time that Instagram is detrimental to your mental health, and they’ve done nothing but exacerbate the problem.

    So, I guess I’m leaving Instagram soon. Good thing Tim Smith is building Bokeh soon. Can’t wait to migrate.

  • Square, Inc. Sells Caviar to DoorDash

  • In a letter to Square, Inc. shareholders:

    Today we issued a press release with DoorDash announcing that we have entered into a definitive agreement in which DoorDash has agreed to acquire Caviar, our food ordering platform, for $410 million in a mix of cash and DoorDash preferred stock. This transaction allows us to increase our focus on and investment in our two large, growing ecosystems—one for businesses and one for individuals. It creates clarity in how we operate and a clearer purpose and alignment for our planning, investment, and work moving forward. Furthermore, DoorDash is already integrated with Square for Restaurants, which streamlines the acceptance of online and in-person orders for merchants, and in the second
    quarter Cash Boost partnered with DoorDash to provide instant rewards when customers use their Cash Card at DoorDash. We believe continuing this partnership provides valuable and strategic opportunities for Square.

    Well. That was unexpected. What a great deal for Square — they walked away with a $370M profit (Square, Inc originally purchased Caviar for $41M). Amidst past sales attempts, this one stuck. Even better, the payments company can now move forward on their own growth goals without having the overhead of Caviar. I’m concerned that Caviar got the short-end of the stick. Mainly because DoorDash has been problematic in the past. The Times discovered the company’s strange tipping scandal. The good news is, DoorDash’s CEO is at least receptive to changing the model:

    Now that DoorDash is a very serious player in the food delivery netherworld, it’s a force to be reckoned with. I’ve loved Caviar since before it joined forces with Square. So, I’m happy to see it join a company that shares the same goals. I’m also pleased to see that it will operate independently (at least for now). From Caviar’s support portal:

    Caviar is excited to be joining the DoorDash team! Caviar will continue to operate as a separate, standalone company in the immediate future, and nothing changes about your experience ordering from Caviar in the meantime – you can continue to find your favorite restaurants and place orders on the Caviar app.

    Very curious to see this all play out as the food delivery wars rage on.

  • On Dark DIY Videos

  • Have you seen this video? Or, perhaps something, like this before?

    Yeah, same. Feel kinda weird, huh? Does it feel familiar? That’s Dark DIY for ya. It’s exploiting a familiar and common video format. Max Read for New York Magazine explains:

    How does that video make you feel? It makes me feel … baffled? Unsettled? Unsure? Why cut your hair like that? Who needs a homemade makeup brush? What am I watching?

    What you are watching is YouTube. The video platform is an enormous, and enormously strange place, but we are familiar in the broad sense with how it works. The audience uses it as a portal for entertainment and information; and YouTube uses its ad partnerships program to incentivize the production of videos to satisfy its understanding of audience needs. Producers thus line up to meet the audience’s desires — as indicated, of course, by search-engine inputs and related-video click-throughs.

    DIY is a lucrative category of video; “lifehack” a popular search keyword; and so people around the world hustle to create videos that satisfy the needs expressed by viewers, as interpreted by YouTube’s system of recommendation and sorting. Of course, you can’t explain “desire” to a sorting system — you can only click things until it makes guesses reasonably close to what you want. You want DIY? Here are 60,000 videos that may or may not be what you’re looking for. The video creators compete with one another: This thumbnail is brighter and shows more skin, so more people click. Is that what they want? That headline is more urgent and aggressive, so more people click. Is that what they want?

    Are you surprised? YouTube’s algorithmic feed is a catalyst for the strange, the outlier, the bizarre and worst of all, it surfaces the worst. Dark DIY shares a common thread with YouTube Kids — they’re chasing after the same thing: a video that is bizarre enough, a thumbnail bright enough, a title just mouthwateringly interesting. It’s all a rouse to intrigue you just enough to let it autoplay after your last video. YouTube’s biggest invention, biggest growth machine: the autoplay, breeds the worst content ever produced. All in pursuit of that sweet sweet play count.

  • The Chandrayaan-2 Lunar Mission Successfully Launches

  • Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kumar for The New York Times writes:

    The mission was relatively inexpensive in space terms, costing less than $150 million — less than it cost to make the 2014 film “Interstellar.”

    But Chandrayaan-2 will take much longer to reach the moon than the relatively straight shot made by the Apollo missions, which cost billions (the presence of humans added to the price tag).

    The Indian orbiter will conserve fuel by making ever-widening orbits around Earth before being captured by the moon’s gravity and pulled into lunar orbit.

    This launch was a historic leap for India and the ISRO (India Space Research Organisation). This was the second attempt, two weeks ago, the launch was scrubbed at the last minute. The last Lunar mission the ISRO spearheaded, was the Chandrayaan-1, and if you need reminding — it was a colossal success and the entire science community of Earth benefitted from their findings. Generally speaking, the Chandrayaan-1 discovered water on the Moon. It used infrared spectrometry to detect water on the side of the Moon that faces away from us here on the third rock from the sun.

    Photo from The New York Times

    Chandrayaan-2 includes a rover, a lander, and an orbiter. The rover will collect samples for analysis. Given the fact that rovers sent to planetary realms typically outlive their lifespan, the possibility of sending a rover to the Moon is truly thrilling.

  • Most Wikipedia Profiles Are of Men, Jessica Wade Is Changing That

  • This is how you change perception. From the ground, up. The award winning physicist Dr. Jess Wade is fighting the good fight. From the New York Times:

    Fewer than 20 percent of biographies on Wikipedia in English are of women, according to Women in Red, Wikipedia’s gender gap-bridging project. Jessica Wade, a British physicist troubled by that number, made it her mission to help change it.

    There’s also a spectacular interview with her on the Wikimedia blog. I loved this bit:

    When we hosted a wikithon at Imperial, where I work, lots of members of faculty emailed suggestions of people who deserved a page. I think the stream of friendly tweets has inspired other people too—editing Wikipedia is so easy and rewarding that everyone can get involved, whether it is from their lab, bedroom or office.

  • Saffron’s City Brand Barometer

  • Saffron Brand Consultants was founded by Wally Olins in 2001. He died in 2014, but long before Saffron’s founding, he opened and headed up the Ogilvy & Mather office in Mumbai. God rest his creative soul. Today, Saffron chugs along without Wally. But, apart from their stellar brand consulting — every year, they publish the City Brand Barometer Report. This year, the report website in general, is an absolute masterpiece to look upon. The design is breathtaking.

    Directly from the moneyshot of the report:

    These cities scored the highest in our final ranking. These are the cities with the strongest business brands, earning the best score overall when both their assets and buzz were taken into account.

    What might be regarded as ‘the usual suspects’ find themselves at the top of our ranking. Strong asset scores thanks to high ratings on GDP per Capita PPP, ease of doing business and, to some extent, quality of life are the table stakes among these top scoring cities. Building on high asset scores is the equally important work of establishing a positive perception amongst business audiences worldwide – which all of these cities enjoy.

    Right out of the gates, NYC is gleaming atop the rest as the clearest winner. To be expected. As Frank Sinatra once said, “If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere.” But, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because of who isn’t the winner.

    In the Top 10 category, we see some classic favorites (LA and HK, looking at you). I was surprised to see Boston and D.C. make the list:

    But what really makes this report wonderful and fun, is the soothsaying weight it carries. The tea leaves at the bottom of the cup, if you will. They’re still warm here, and I prefer to twirl the dregs and make sense of these.

    Behold, the runner-ups:

    I was pleasantly surprised to see Frankfurt (most of all), Vienna, and even Copenhagen made the runner-up list. Not really shocked at Berlin, Madrid, and San Francisco as front-runners. But, I do want to drill into Frankfurt for a moment. Who clocked it at the #4 position.

    Frankfurt really caught my eye. Mainly because economically, it appears that the cost of living hasn’t inflated there yet. On craigslist (at the time of writing), the mean rental pricetag is roughly $600–$900 USD. Which, is incredible. Compare that to San Francisco’s horrendous average rental pricetag at $2000–$4000 on craigslist. Oof. I mean, New York City is much better but still.

    My hypothesis is, Frankfurt may be a diamond in the rough. It’s often characterized as a financial hub for Germany (it is often referred to as Bankfurt), which it could outpace and transform into a startup hub. There’s already some exciting startups on the ground in Frankfurt. The city’s history makes it an exciting place to explore, but the growth potential could make it an exciting place to live and grow.

    Something to ponder.

    The rest of Saffron’s City Brand Barometer report is absolutely captivating. Dividing and analyzing multiple facets of any dataset can be exhausting, but Saffron made short work of it. Checkout the rest of their report here.

  • Pretty Git Log in One Line

  • I use git log a lot. It’s real handy. But you know what — it’s pretty unwieldy and takes up quite a bit of terminal real estate. I finally decided to do something about it. Every time I ran git log, my terminal becomes a total mess. I knew about this little dingle:

    git log --pretty=oneline --abbrev-commit

    Which prints out a friendly, easy-to-digest, single-lined log:

    a2a722b (HEAD -> master, origin/master) Fix the NoteDetail styles.
    4fdcbc7 Split the NoteCell and NoteDetail.
    ccc4dc2 Connected the NoteCell with data.
    bce0d12 Broken components into separate pieces.
    071ea13 Change destinations, now the targeting works.
    0ecea01 NoteDetail and split it from the RootView.

    Which is great! But… can we do better? Some googling around lead me to this post by Mattias Geniar:

    There are longer versions of that same --pretty parameter. In fact, it allows you to specify all the fields you want in the output.

    Sweet! So, running the same command and flagging the specified fields like so, prints a more concise log. Awesome!

    $ git log --graph --pretty=format:'%Cred%h%Creset -%C(yellow)%d%Creset %s %Cgreen(%cr) %C(bold blue)<%an>%Creset' --abbrev-commit
    a2a722b (HEAD -> master, origin/master) Fix the NoteDetail styles. (2 days ago) <Stephen Petrey>
    4fdcbc7 Split the NoteCell and NoteDetail. (2 days ago) <Stephen Petrey>
    ccc4dc2 Connected the NoteCell with data. (2 days ago) <Stephen Petrey>
    bce0d12 Broken components into separate pieces. (4 days ago) <Stephen Petrey>
    071ea13 Change destinations, now the targeting works. (5 days ago) <Stephen Petrey>
    0ecea01 NoteDetail and split it from the RootView. (6 days ago) <Stephen Petrey>

    Mattias has the excellent suggestion of configuring a Git Alias for this:

    $ git config --global alias.logline "log --graph --pretty=format:'%Cred%h%Creset -%C(yellow)%d%Creset %s %Cgreen(%cr) %C(bold blue)<%an>%Creset' --abbrev-commit"

    Now, instead of having to type out the command and flag the fields you want to print, you can just type, git logline and wham! It should print out a prettified git log that takes up way less space in your terminal.

  • Jony Ive Introducing Flat Panel Displays in 1997

  • In 1997 at WWDC’97, Jony gave a presentation regarding the design process at Apple, and even briefly talks about eMate and the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Which, at the time was only released only 3 months prior and featured a relatively new design and integrated LCD panel. Despite the executive finish, and abysmal sales numbers, this computer was closer to modern iMac’s than any Macintosh that came before it.

    Next, Phil Schiller, invites Jony to talk a bit more in-depth, a bit more candidly about something that they’ve been exploring in the Design Labs at Apple. It really goes the extra mile in providing design context for the coming years, as Apple would release the G3 in 1998, the first Mac produced under Steve Jobs since his return to Apple as CEO. It even further provides context for the engineering feat that Apple undertook to produce the remarkable, love-able iMac G4. But, what I really love about this clip, is how Jony basically unveils the long arc of design iterations at Apple — years of iterating, that ultimately led to the creation of the Pro Display XDR.

    I got a real chuckle over the reveal here (timestamp of clip is 37:07–39:03):


    Here’s a transcript of the clip:

    One of the things, that if you take a moment, think about your own personal working or computer environment.

    Think about how you configured your desk, think about the furniture you use. Think about the way that you work, and I will contend that the issues relating to CRTs sort of size and weight that actually dictated a lot of your use. How would it be different if you had a product like this [Jony lifts CRT monitor up to reveal a flat panel display]. So this is uh, obviously a modular flat panel display, it has the equivalent of a 17inch CRT, sort of active area, depth of viewing. Um, one of the uh, one of the obvious things about it is it’s sort of (light?) to see things move around. The actual base, the stand for this thing actually houses a cunningly designed spring loaded mechanism which means the effective weight of the displays is one pound. So you can actually adjust the height of the product and the angle of the product with one finger. You can also plug-in to the display, uh sorry uh, the base — your keyboards speakers and so on.

    One of the other things we designed, was a different stand, a different base for the product, so you can take the same display and clip it onto this [inaudible], this desktop arm. Now this arm, this arm attaches to the side of your desk or table, and really provides the ultimate in sort of zero footprint, um display [inaudible], you know the ultimate in terms of flexibility. And I think if you went back to your original sort of setup, I sense that this may actually sort of fairly fundamentally, sort of liberate the ways we could work potentially in the future.

    Remarkable. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

    I wish we saw more of Jony before he left Apple. Now, when we fast-forward to 2019 we can see the full progeny of Ive’s design process. It began in 1997, with the rudimentary arm:

    We make a pitstop here at iMac G4, which devolves into the hinge that essentially remains on the iMacs even to this day:

    Finally, we land here, in 2019 with the Pro Display XDR:

  • General Magic – Trailer

  • General Magic was probably the single-most important project of the 20th century. Originally spun out of an internal Apple project. The at-the-time CEO, John Sculley later joined the board of General Magic and despite Apple’s minority stake in General Magic, attempted to cannibalize their research and neuter their products:

    Even though the company folded shortly after the dot-com bust in 2004, the spoils of their research and development gave us Palm’s Pilot, RIM’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, and countless other products that we now collectively call: the smartphones. Veterans of General Magic are, to say the least, numerous:

    But wait, there’s more:

  • HBO Max Finds Its Lobster

  • Kinsey Grant for Morning Brew:

    HBO Max, the streaming service AT&T’s WarnerMedia revealed yesterday, is paying a reported $425 million for the exclusive rights for Friends when the show’s deal with Netflix expires in 2020. At least Monica can finally afford that apartment on her own.

    AT&T, though, can’t afford to watch other heavyweights like Disney and NBC invest in their own direct-to-consumer streaming services without planting its own flag. So it’s launching HBO Max next spring with 10,000 hours of content—both originals and classics.

    This is so interesting. Like, really really interesting. The deal kicks off with Friends which will catalyze thousands (if not a few hundred thousands) of subscribers alone. The real crown jewel will be the original programming such as Pretty Little Liars (including other works in the HBO pipeline I’m sure), and featured content from other networks. The Verge reports:

    The service will feature content from “Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, and more.”

    Rooster Teeth? That’s new. I would have expected that from YouTube TV but HBO Max? Fascinating. It’s a pretty generous package to kick-off with. The direct-to-consumer streaming services well hasn’t dried up yet, but the options available aren’t the panacea we had hoped for. I suppose this is the future we wanted, and at least they’re competitive options. None of these services lock us in via expensive rented-hardware like cable-box providers. If anything, the programming is the lock-in. I think Netflix has learned that the hard way:

    I wonder how many subscribers Netflix will lose post-Friends? Or better-yet, how will this affect their growth strategy?

  • Why Netflix Cancels So Many Shows

  • You ever wonder why bombshell shows like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Get Down or any of the other shows get cancelled after 2 or 3 seasons? Charlie Ridgely at comicbook.com writes:

    To put it plainly: New shows are cheaper. When a series launches, everyone involved gets paid a certain amount of money. After two seasons of that series being considered a success and being enjoyed by fans, it’s usually time for new contracts with a pay bump for those involved. Sounds fair, right?

    Well, for Netflix, the costs of those raises aren’t exactly worth the return of the show’s traffic. The third season of a series will see dedicated fans tuning in, but likely doesn’t have the same return as a new show that everyone can start from the beginning.

    To put it another way — Netflix doesn’t care about current subscribers. They have pivoted their efforts to growth. New shows attract new subscribers.

    Like trimming a growing sapling, Netflix is surgically kicking off new shows, and canceling them a la carte. Which really sucks. But the alternative is pilot-producing which can be even more costly, can ruin careers, and often never makes it to public airing.

  • F1 Tracks

  • From Formula 1:

    Available to fans across SpotifyApple and Deezer, F1 Tracks will be updated on a weekly basis, uniting global superstars with the sounds of F1. Filtered according to four key categories – Pace, Mechanical, Spirit and Fan – this unique set of principles will produce a bespoke and dynamic playlist, which embodies F1 and is distinctive from other weekly streamed playlists.

    And that’s not all. Alongside the core F1 Tracks playlist a number of selected artists will also curate bespoke playlists, beginning with rising star Mabel. Look out for further collaborations with Hot Chip and Two Door Cinema Club among others.

    I’ve only recently gotten into F1 Racing. I don’t know any of the racers but I must say, it’s a thrilling sport to watch. There’s a lot of heart and courage in high-performance racing. The Rolex British Grand Prix Weekend begins in two days and the circuit looks a bit fiendish. I’m sure it will be an adrenaline filled challenge.

    The F1 Tracks Playlist are available on SpotifyDeezer and Apple.

    I know what you’re thinking. You’re only into Formula 1 because of the recent rebrand aren’t you? Uh, sure. You could say that. I’m partial to admit that. I mean it is a pretty legendary rebrand from Wieden + Kennedy. I couldn’t resist. It certainly piqued my interest a few years ago, and the new direction is still going strong. I’m not an ardent fan mind you, but I will say this — Formula 1 understands their audience. Moreover, they understand the carnal connection between cars and music. A bond that can surely never be broken. If you’re ever in doubt, checkout the bombshell track from DJ Medhi and Thomas Bangalter. The video alone is work of art, and shines a spotlight on a unique subset of car culture.

    Anyways, Formula 1 has begun to curate a weekly playlist of blood-pumping tracks to keep your heart racing after the Grand Prix is over. Enjoy the beats!

  • Ninm It’s OK, a Portable Bluetooth Cassette Tape Player

  • From Chaim Gartenberg at The Verge:

    Cassette tapes are having a minor comeback: sales were (somehow) up almost 19 percentyear over year in 2018, and where there’s a market, there’s a Kickstarter project looking to cash in. Case in point: the Ninm It’s OK. It’s sort of what a portable cassette player like an original Walkman would be if Sony continued to develop tape-based tech in 2019.

    So while the It’s OK does the usual tape things, like playing cassettes or letting you record to tapes, it also bills itself as the world’s first Bluetooth 5.0 portable cassette player (a claim of such niche specificity that it seems to be true). It allows you to listen to your favorite jams with wireless headphones or even link it to a Bluetooth speaker, should you wish.

    Call me crazy, but I think this is stellar. What a perfect time to revive cassette tapes too, right on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the Sony Walkman. Sign me up. Allow me to summarize my reasoning:

    1. I miss the TalkBoy.
    2. Now, all I can actually listen to cassettes again! Even the newly tapes from my friends bands.

    You can back the project on Kickstarter, and pre-order it here. Here’s a pretty great diagram of the bells and whistles on the It’s OK device:

    Images from Ninm.
  • ESPN Will Shut Down its Flagship Magazine

  • From Brian Steinberg at Variety:

    Editorial staffers are expected to stay with the company, says the person familiar with the situation. Most were already working for other parts of ESPN’s digital-media operations. A “handful” of employees responsible for print production could be affected, but a determination on possible layoffs has yet to be reached this person said. ESPN intends to continue publishing big magazine-type features with high-end photography online.

    The magazine’s demise serves as another reminder of how the rise of digital media has affected once-stalwart print properties. When ESPN launched its magazine in the late 1990s, it was seen as a move to counter the influence of Sports Illustrated, the powerhouse publication from Time Inc. These days, Sports Illustrated is part of Meredith Corp., and has been on the sales block for months.

    That’s really unfortunate to hear. However, I suppose the silver lining here is that Disney is migrating (most of) their staffers to their digital department. I mean, if the New York Times can post a profit on the digital subscription model, ESPN Magazine can do it too.

  • Mike Tyson Deepfaked into the Family Matters Intro

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvHBJwZuIpA

    You really don’t need all that much horsepower these days to create decent deepfake. This Family Matters intro, deepfaked with Mike Tyson as the subject, is a pretty fantastic comedy piece. But scary when considering the political implications this technology has.

    This video was created by @drfakenstein, check out hit Instagram and his YouTube channel for more.

  • The 40th Anniversary of the Sony Walkman

  • From Stereogum:

    It’s weird to think that, in the years before the Walkman, there was no way to listen to music privately while out in public. There were ways to bring music with you — on transistor radios, on boom boxes, on car stereos — but they forced you to subject everyone around you to that music, as well. The Walkman freed us up. It allowed us to make music more a part of our lives, to build our own private soundworlds. It was a transformative invention, one of the few that utterly upended the way we listen to music. Soon enough, more and more portable cassette players would hit the market, and the price fortunately dropped. But no matter which company made them, we still used the word “Walkman” to describe them.

    Only looking backward, can we appreciate how far we’ve come. It truly changed how we listened to music. We might not refer to our music players as Walkmans anymore, but in a sense — we still do. A simple progression of design thinking over the years reveals my favorite Bruno Munari’s maxim:

    An arrow can lose its feathers but not its point.

    Bruno Munari, Design as Art.
  • Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Fully Restored

  • Nearly 50 years ago, we landed on the moon. “We came in peace for all mankind,” the immortal plaque reads:

    NASA, CC.

    Indeed we did we come in peace. An incredible achievement. The Johnson Space Center played an important part in the Apollo missions. The JSC was historic backdrop where Gene Kranz was Flight Director for 33 missions. One of which landed the first men on the moon. And of course Apollo 13, the terrifying mission in which a catastrophic oxygen tank explosion nearly ended in tragedy, but thanks to NASA engineers and Kranz, were able to return safely. From NPR:

    The room where Kranz directed some of NASA’s most historic missions, heralding U.S. exploration of space, was decommissioned in 1992. Since then, it had become a stop on guided tours of the space center, but fallen into disrepair. Kranz has led a $5 million dollar, multi-year effort to restore Mission Control in time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20.

    “I walked into that room last Monday for the first time when it was fully operational, and it was dynamite. I literally wept,” Kranz said in an interview with NPR. “The emotional surge at that moment was incredible. I walked down on the floor, and when we did the ribbon cutting the last two days, believe it or not, I could hear the people talking in that room from 50 years ago. I could hear the controllers talking.”

    Incredibly, the preservation went above and beyond — Sandra Tetley, the Johnson Space Center preservation officer worked meticulously to outfit the control room with ephemera such as paper cups, ash trays, coffee pots and other items from the 60s from eBay. They literally salvaged everything:

    The @NASA_Johnson Twitter account even put together a short reel about the restoration:

    Photo of Gene Kranz from NPR

    The last time I visited the JSC, Mission Control was a dusty, dimly lit reproduction set — only visible from afar. The CRTs, knobs and switches were disabled, with no visible telemetry charts or buzzing vacuum tubes. But, this modern restoration (photo above) looks so much fun, and just looks at Kranz smile! Simply, amazing to behold. If you ever get a chance, visit the Johnson Space Center and check it out. Apart from Mission Control, it’s an amazing place, where people from far and wide can come to learn or get inspired about the Apollo missions, rockets, the ISS, spacewalks, aeronautical engineering and science.

  • Can We Learn About Privacy From Porn Stars?

  • My stage name is less about withholding parts of myself or maintaining privacy than it is a symbol of the idea that I am more than just my job or any other isolated slice of my identity.


    Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display. And maybe we should remember that our first glimpse of a person is just one small piece of who they really are.

    I came across this op-ed a while back, and it’s been in the front of my mind for a while now. I really love Stoya’s viewpoints on privacy. She’s thinking really far ahead, and might be onto something valuable here. Holding onto a single name is pretty archaic (not to mention difficult to do effortlessly across the ever-more crowded digital landscape) nowadays isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have contextual aliases available to users everywhere?

    A public alias. A private alias. A work alias. An expressive alias. A commenting alias. Each username, an extension of our whole-self. Each one signaling a segment of digital and personal self. I think this would be a remarkable addition to a product like Twitter.

  • Genius.com Accuses Google of Lifting Its Content

  • From the WSJ:

    “Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” said Ben Gross, Genius’s chief strategy officer, in an email message. The company said it used a watermarking system in its lyrics that embedded patterns in the formatting of apostrophes. Genius said it found more than 100 examples of songs on Google that came from its site.

    Starting around 2016, Genius made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.
    When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”

    This is a pretty egregious report if you ask me. Also, it’s a really badass way of catching Google redhanded. Love that.

    Google just loves to get down-and-dirty, and equally so, loves to play coy in these kinds of scenarios. Google was lifting content verbatim (through a third-party or not). Gave the stolen content search prominence. To top it off, — genius.com lyrics, links to the artist, and god-forbid, links to the actual song were seemingly buried.

    Everyone knows people don’t like to scroll in search results. It’s tiresome and takes time. Precious time. Getting relevant search results to users as fast as possible is the name of the game for Google — but at what cost? Why is Google regurgitating crawled content as their own?

    It also means Google is directing a smaller share of those queries to other sites. In March, 62% of mobile searches on Google didn’t result in a user clicking through to another website, according to the web-analytics firm Jumpshot Inc.

    Apparently, it’s in their absolute best interest to not send you to a search result anymore. My thought process is, if you search for X at google.com for 20 seconds, then later begin a search for Y, you no longer have to “go back” to begin the search process over again. You can just re-open your last window and start searching again. Which, I get it — but I’m searching for something. Please give it to me. I don’t want Google’s remixed results (or any AMP content for that matter), I want a damn link.

    The longer Google can keep you on-site, the higher probability you may be served an ad, or click through a privacy-violating vortex. Genius might not have a solid case against Google, especially considering the lyrics in dispute are owned by artists and/or record labels. But that’s not the point here — the point is we now have a record of Google actively lying about sourcing crawled content, claiming it as their own, and actively promoting in search results over websites.

    If this pattern holds, the web will become a grim, cold place. A place of unconnected nodes, where good ideas, and links go to die because Google doesn’t give a shit what we want. Don’t get me wrong. Google makes some insanely great products. Search and display ads are their bread-and-butter, so why on Earth is Ben Gomes mucking up search like this? Something tells me, this isn’t coincidence. Ever since Giannandrea departed, stories like this have become more and more frequent. Something is going on at The Googleplex.

  • A freight-truck driving at dusk, with sensors on it.

    US Postal Service Testing Self-Driving Trucks

  • The Wall Street Journal:

    The U.S. Postal Service is testing self-driving trucks on a more than 1,000-mile mail run between Phoenix and Dallas, the post office’s first use of the technology for long hauls. […]

    The two-week pilot starting Tuesday will use big rigs supplied by autonomous trucking firm TuSimple to haul trailers on five round trips between distribution centers, the company said. The roughly 22-hour trip along three interstate highways is normally serviced by outside trucking companies that use two-driver teams to comply with federal regulations limiting drivers’ hours behind the wheel.

    TuSimple is a Chinese-unicorn, and as far as I know — is beating Lyft and Uber (and Tesla?) to the finish line of freight-transport automation. This is a pretty huge defeat for the homegrown rideshare companies. Convincing a bureaucratically-restrained department like the Postal Service to even test automated freight is wild. If you had told me a decade ago that the USPS would be testing a Chinese-backed unicorn’s software for automating freighted post — I would have laughed. It’s simply unbelievable.

    A freight-truck driving at dusk, with sensors on it.

    But here we are! Living in the future!

    At any rate, the WSJ claims that the USPS has been “losing money for several years” as sending letters via post continues to decline and the rising cost of operation goes up. First off, The Postal Service is profitable, but congress decided to neuter the USPS profits (at least until 2056) in 2006. The bill is insane. It’s pretty wild looking back at bi-partisan sponsors of the bill through the political lens of today too. From Bloomberg:

    Then there is the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006(PAEA), which some have taken to calling “the most insane law” ever passed by Congress. The law requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make. If that doesn’t meet the definition of insanity, I don’t know what does. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit. Some have called this a “manufactured crisis.” It’s also significant that lots of companies benefit from a burden that makes the USPS less competitive; these same companies might also would benefit from full USPS privatization, a goal that has been pushed by several conservative think tanks for years.

    Lastly, operating costs always change. That’s a given in just about any industry. So needless to say, I’m happy to see the USPS is taking a gamble on exciting tech like this. Just because Amazon is taking gambles on automation, doesn’t mean the government can’t get skin in the game too.

  • Bokeh: A Privacy-focused Photo-sharing Network

  • Fellow blogger, writer, front-end engineer, and John Gruber fan (who doesn’t like Daring Fireball seriously?) — Tim Smith of BrightPixels is Kickstarting probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. If you like services like Letterboxd or Micro.blog I think you’ll enjoy this Kickstarter.

    More on that in a bit. But first, let’s back up. If you follow the blog here, you know I’m no fan of Facebook. No surprise there. There’s been some interesting developments recently concerning Facebook:

    Oh. Fun. 2.8B fake accounts.

    That. Is fucking insane. A huge admittance.

    Our precious fragile WWW is dire peril ya’ll. It’s up to us. It’s time to dump Facebook. Zuckerberg’s recent pivot to “encryption” and “privacy” is a nothing short of malarkey and an attempt to circumvent potential FCC fines for future data-mishandling. He knows Facebook is bleeding users and there’s a reason why Instagram’s co-founder left Facebook last year.

    To make matter worst, Instagram is horrible for your mental health. We spend way too much time peering into the black mirror of Instagram. It’s driving many of us into depression, others into despair, and for others inspiring fear and hate.

    Magic Mirror, on the wall, who, now, is the fairest one of all?

    So yeah. Facebook is horrible. There’s really no disputing that Facebooks suite of social media applications are tearing apart the web, our mental health, and society. *sighs*

    Enter Bokeh. A refreshing new take on photo-sharing.

    If you’re a fan of MLTSHP (or the predecessor MLKSHK), I think you’ll enjoy Bokeh’s vision (from the Kickstarter):

    Bokeh will be ad-free, have a chronological timeline, and will be private by default. That means that all accounts will start off as private. Public accounts will have an RSS feed, will have the option to cross-post to other social networks, and will support custom domains. All accounts will have an indie web compatible export so you can self-host if you want to.

    People won’t be able to find you by name, but will instead need to know your username to find you. Bokeh will never display publicly who follows you or who you follow. If someone has requested to follow you 3 times and you’ve declined, the app will prompt you to block them. In other words, these are your pictures and I want you to have precise control over who sees them.

    A still from Tim’s Kickstarter pitch-video.

    I think this is really compelling privacy-focused concept. I’m an avidly public persona online, and that’s just me personally — but everyone isn’t into that. So, having this privacy-by-default option is really rad. Moreover, I’m digging the pricing strategy:

    Bokeh will have individual and family accounts. Individual accounts will cost $3/month or $30/year, and family accounts will cost $5/month or $50/year. You’ll be able to add up to 5 people to a family account, including the account admin. By backing this project now, you’ll get a discount and allow me to pay for the initial development.

    This right here is what hopefully keeps hate-speech at bay, and might even eliminate bots and spam. I firmly believe pay-to-play models will save our online communities. Whereas, free-to-play models might become (predictably) the last bastions of hate-speech.

    I really like Tim’s blog. I really like Tim’s idea and that’s why I’m backing his project. I really want privacy to win. But more importantly I want us to win. The more we use services like Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp — the more we lose. For the longest time, I thought Apple was uniquely positioned to bring us a privacy-focused photo-network but that never really panned out did it? It’s time for a change. Isn’t it time we had a real place to share photos with our friends?

  • HyperCard Users Guide, 1987

  • The website, vintageapple.com has some really amazing Apple and software-related printed ephemera.

    A lovely, and legendary printed user manual for the HyperCard. HyperCard was created by Bill Atkinson, who also created and design QuickDraw, MacPaint, and principal designer and developer of the GUI for the original Apple Lisa. The development of the HyperCard later influenced the WorldWideWeb project.

    For those interested, there’s also a less thrilling but equally as important HyperCard Developers Guide.

  • What of the Tumblelogs?

  • Wasn’t Tumblr remarkable?

    I don’t travel to Tumblr’s realm anymore. But, I know plenty who still do. Even with their bullshit adult-content ban — it’s still a great resource for artists, designers and those who crave visual stimulation. Hell, it’s a neat place to get your toes wet in blogging. The adult-content ban was probably predetermined to happen anyways. Now that it operates at the behest of the Verizon/Yahoo!/AOL mega-corp. It’s a bummer — a wet blanket on creativity, social-sharing and generally just not a good idea to mimic the tightly manicured faux-reality of censored nipples and porcelain skin of Instagram.

    Frankly, I’m worried for Tumblr. I’m also deeply concerned for the web.

    But let’s back up for a bit. What even is Tumblr? Tumblr, the word — comes from tumblelogs. One could call it a sub-culture of blogging, but really that’s affording it too much. It’s really just an approach to blogging that was born out of the quick-and-dirty modus operandi many of us have. I mean, look at Instagram (or even Snapchat) stories. That quick-and-dirty framework is what catalyzes content to virility. It’s what draws people to the next big thing. Be it MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or even Ello (remember that one?). Anyways, Tumbling as it came to be known, is now colloquially synonymous with blogging. Thanks to Tumblr, blogging was truly born.

    From a 2005 post from kottke.org:

    A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered linksstyle linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing…really just a way to quickly publish the “stuff” that you run across every day on the web.

    I like this description because it gets right to the point (RIP to the 404s). Now that I think about it, my blog is basically a tumblelog of links, videos and highly-opinionated posts on technology. But the other half of my life is chronicled elsewhere on Twitter and Instagram. Frankly, I’m comfortable with that for now. But I would love for all of my content to live here on this blog. The quickly diminishing youth market of Tumblr knows that too.

    I can guarantee Zuckerberg understands that too. He literally wants to merge as many of Facebook’s services into one. I think that’s a really bad idea. I don’t think it’s inherently dumb or evil to use Facebook to connect with your friends or family. But I do think it’s dumb to have Facebook be at the center of your life.

    Your blog, website or tumblelog should be at the center of your digital footprint. Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr are just the appendages. Your blog or website is the body. So protect your body.

    Step one: buy a domain name. Step two: start a blog with WordPress. It’s never been cheaper to self-host a website or blog. This is not to be confused with WordPress.com. Which, is also a blogging service (not unlike Tumblr) that has its own merits. However, self-hosting with WordPress(dot org) the past several years has opened my eyes, it’s been pretty inexpensive, and very reliable. For what it’s worth, I have hosted my blog at DigitalOcean since day one. Here’s a free $100 credit if you’re interested. DigitalOcean has a one-click install option for WordPress, read more about that here.

    Blogs (as I have frequently been writing about lately), or tumblelogs — pick your poison. They’re here to stay, even if the social network appendages in your life disappear.

  • Revisiting Blogging in 2019

  • Jason frequently hits the nail on the head. It’s pretty rare that predictions of his don’t hold water. He’s the proprietor of the kottke.org. One of those great places your can find on the web where name is the address.

    2019 is surely going to be a golden year for bloggers, web journals, and anyone who has “exited social media”. The perfect storm has arrived. The Facebook exodus. The Snapchat well has dried up. The paywalls are going up left and right. Hell, even George R. R. Martin is migrating his old LiveJournal posts to a personal author blog he can manage on his own. My personal favorite — people and organizations are leaving Medium (and going back to WordPress), and honestly it’s been a long-time coming. Medium’s open paywall system hasn’t fared very well. Apparently the revenue falls short, and the traffic is low-quality.

    What’s old is new again. 2019 is the year we take back blogging ✌️

  • Slack Rebrands

  • The Slack homepage, as of early 2019

    Slack, the communication tool goliath rebranded today. Personally, I think it falls short. The homepage re-design, more-so. I know, I know — I’m pretty contrarian on these topics, but hear me out. Gone are the illustrations, branding and web design by Ueno. Front-and-center are images mainly of people — which feels very Apple-esque. Could be worse I suppose.

    The new logo.

    It’s apropos though, given the news that Slack may just list directly instead of the traditional IPO route. Which is equally astounding and shocking. I suppose given the impressive amount of cash on hand, and imminent fundraising success Slack may ride in on the next couple of years — they decided it was a good opportunity to rebrand.

    A screenshot of the WeeChat IRC client. Shamelessly stolen from Thoughtbot.

    The Slack rebrand is a harsh abandonment of Slack’s IRC past, deep cultural chat roots of the 90’s and internet progeny. This smells of hubris, and if there’s some big software revision coming soon, I would be nervous.

    To make matter’s worse, Slack claims the real impetus to change the branding is because their previous logo, was too difficult to use. I’m not kidding — really:

    Our first logo was created before the company launched. It was distinctive, and playful, and the octothorpe (or pound sign, or hash, or whatever name by which you know it) resembled the same character that you see in front of channels in our product. 

    It was also extremely easy to get wrong. It was 11 different colors—and if placed on any color other than white, or at the wrong angle (instead of the precisely prescribed 18º rotation), or with the colors tweaked wrong, it looked terrible.


    Many beautiful things—but without a sense of cohesion that you might expect. So here we are. Our in-house design and brand team, together with Michael Bierut and the team from Pentagram, worked to create a new and more cohesive visual identity. And we’re starting, today, with the logo.

    I’m not discounting the design problem Slack’s branding had — I’m just discounting your reasoning. An angle adjustment and tightening of the brand colors? It took this long to do this? Was this mostly internal direction? Was only Michael Beirut of Pentagram involved? Were there other iterations? You couldn’t wait to publish a long-form blog entry on the steps you took as a company, as a culture, to decide upon this?

    Isn’t that a bit… I don’t know — hasty? This rebrand is a hot-mess.

    So many questions will go unanswered. Mainly because Slack is no longer a communication software company — it’s a media empire that happens to sell software.

    Call me old-fashioned, I think it’s a major bummer to see Slack embrace this new “identity” and disregard its internet past so nonchalantly.

  • 2018

  • On Facebook Portal

  • Oh, the humanity.

    Who is the hell would buy this… from Facebook? The company who has had a combined total of nearly 120 million users compromised in data breaches spanning 2 years — is selling a telecommunication smart-home product for the home.

    Wow. Just wow.

  • How to Delete a Git Commit, Locally and Remote

  • Alright, we’ve all been there. You got some merge conflicts. Or there’s a last minute hotfix. You feverishly make a commit. Then, your worst fear is realized only after you’ve pushed it remotely.

    You made a mistake. The horror.

    Horror Omg GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

    First, don’t sweat it. You have options. Most of the time, when I do this, I just need to remove the commit altogether. Other times, I need to make revisions, and replace that commit altogether. Tabula rasa amirite?

    Okay so let’s get started. First, I’m making a few assumptions. I’m doing work on a branch separate from master. Let’s say you’re working on Navigation, I would be on a branch called navigation or nav-component or something. It’s good practice to keep your work separate, and branched.

    Alrighty, with that out of the way, let’s run git log on our example navigation branch:

    $ git log --pretty=oneline --abbrev-commit
    32cd83e Made a change with a mistake
    b9u3cc5 Changed again
    105fd3d Updated some content
    5cd7718 Fixed the NavBar
    a1842d4 Initial commit

    Alright so looking over our log here, we can see at the top, that commit 32cd83e is the most recent commit. It’s the problematic commit in question. To edit out commit history we are going to use rebase:

    $ git rebase -i HEAD~2

    Before you run this, let’s break down what we’re doing here. A classic use-case of rebase is when you’re on a branch say, navigation. But, let’s say that it’s been a week since you branched. It’s likely that master has diverged since you created your branch. What divergence means, is that the branch (we’re on) navigation is currently out-of-date and lacks the new history (from the past week) on master. We don’t have to worry about that here per se.

    But, when you work in repos that multiple people contribute to, a branch can be out-of-date very often. If you use master as the center of truth, the organization can use rebase to bring other contributors history into your branch, and therefor, up-to-date with master. Neat huh?

    Anyways, you could say what we’re doing here, is similar. Instead of using rebase to replay work from a branch on top of master, we want to rewrite the commit history of the branch we’re currently on. After running the command above, you should see something like this:

    b9u3cc5 Changed again
    32cd83e Made a change with a mistake
    # Rebase 105fd3d..46cd867 onto 105fd3d
    # Commands:
    #  p, pick = use commit
    #  r, reword = use commit, but edit the commit message
    #  e, edit = use commit, but stop for amending
    #  s, squash = use commit, but meld into previous commit
    #  f, fixup = like "squash", but discard this commit's log message
    #  x, exec = run command (the rest of the line) using shell
    # If you remove a line here THAT COMMIT WILL BE LOST.
    # However, if you remove everything, the rebase will be aborted.

    Here, (and admittedly confusingly) the most recent commit, 32cd83e we want to destroy is listed at the bottom instead of the top. You can see pretty clearly what the HEAD~2 argument does. It flags rebase to only show the most recent 2 commits in this interactive rebase wizard. Because, that’s all we need to see for context.

    So, the options we have now is we can remove that line altogether, and the commit will be dropped into oblivion, as if it never happened. If we remove the problematic commit, and exit the rebase wizard, we can now check our history on navigation:

    $ git log --pretty=oneline --abbrev-commit
    b9u3cc5 Changed again
    105fd3d Updated some content
    5cd7718 Fixed the NavBar
    a1842d4 Initial commit

    Look ma! No mistake! 32cd83e is gone! Now that we have this history locally, let’s push it up, remotely:

    $ git push origin +navigation

    The + flag before the branch name signals that this will be a force push. Alternatively you could have written the same command as:

    $ git push -f origin navigation

    I like using this technique, because I enjoy committing everything. Mistakes and all. Because, well for one, why not? Documenting your code history can be helpful sometimes. Besides, ultimately, you can use rebase to squash and fixup your commit history anyways. So, when it comes time to push to remote, I just take a beat and git rebase -i HEAD~N to keep my history lean. I’ve only recently learned the pains of not keeping my git history pretty and concise. So, now I’m a convert, and everyone benefits from a readable git history.

    Further Reading:

  • Apple Launches Portal for U.S. Users to Download Their Data

  • That’s right. Later today, you should be able to download all your personal data through Apple’s shiny new Privacy Portal. What was originally a GDPR compliance move only available in the EU, is being rolled out globally later today.

    Interestingly, the new privacy page suggests that users turn on two-factor authentication (if they haven’t already). Smart move if you ask me. If you don’t see the “Obtain your data” option, it could take a while to roll out to every region. Be patient.