Mitch Swenson writes about a little known conflict between India and Pakistan over a glacier in the Himalayas:
Though the Siachen conflict has lasted for nearly three decades, little information about the drawn-out war is available, as reporters have found it extremely difficult to reach the frozen front line. “The [wars] you never hear about are the ones that camera crews have the hardest time getting to,” said James F. Dunnigan, a military analyst and co-author of A Quick and Dirty Guide to War.
We used to have a map of a frontier that could be anything. The web isn’t young anymore, though. It’s settled. It’s been prospected and picked through. Increasingly, it feels like we decided to pave the wilderness, turn it into a suburb, and build a mall. And I hate this map of the web, because it only describes a fraction of what it is and what’s possible. We’ve taken an opportunity for connection and distorted it to commodify attention. That’s one of the sleaziest things you can do.
The essay is nuanced and weaves many seemingly disparate topics together in a spectacular manner. Anybody who makes anything for the internet should definitely take the time to read this.
If you haven’t seen it yet, newsnerdfirsts.tumblr.com is a pretty inspirational site that fellow Knight Lab fellow Tyler Fisher created. It’s great to remember that everyone starts somewhere and we all suck at first. ↩
When the iPhone 5 was released a little over a year ago, our apps began to look a little…short. Most of our apps are designed specifically for the original iPhone size. Apps like Weightbot, Convertbot, and Calcbot needed to be completely re-thought and redesigned for the new aspect ratio. Pastebot is full of custom UI so while it would be easier to convert to the 4″ screen size than our other apps, it still needed lots of work. We made the smart business decision to keep our focus on Tweetbot for Mac. We haven’t abandoned our older apps, but we have to make tough decisions that keep our business running. We already have many great ideas for the updates to our older apps and are just waiting for the right time to implement.
I probably spend more time in Tweetbot than any other app on my phone. Tapbots makes some of the best apps for iOS and I cannot wait to see how they transform their signature style to fit iOS 7’s aesthetic.
Last week Ben Ubois, the developer of Feedbin, announced a beta version of search. Search was the one feature from Google Reader I was still missing. Along with some improvements to the Web UI over the last few months, Feedbin has become a perfect replacement for Google Reader and a great RSS service.
In the event of a government shutdown, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near Earth Object Office will not be warning the public about “potentially hazardous” asteroids and comets that could approach Earth via Twitter.
We’re all screwed. Run for the nearest bunker now.
Multi-path TCP allows your phone to send data by whatever way it’s connected to the internet, whether that’s Wi-Fi, 3G or ethernet (say, if it were running on a laptop connected to the internet via a cable). And if you want to activate it, says one of the researchers who built multi-path TCP, you have only to use Apple’s voice command software, Siri.
This is the first time that this new means of connecting to the internet has appeared in a commercial product. That it showed up in Apple’s software and not Google’s shows that Apple’s technical chops are substantial, even when the company isn’t highlighting what it’s up to.
Podcast Thing is a cool new website that tries to answer the question: What podcasts should I be listening to? There are a bunch of great recommendations including Back to Work, RadioLab, and The Accidental Tech Podcast. If you are looking for any other great shows, here is an OPML of my current podcast lineup that you can import into your podcatcher of choice.
There are many great explanations of why the federal government is not like a household. One of my favorites is this bit of a 2010 L. Randall Wray article on the problem with Neoliberal deficit hysteria:
Governments across the world have inflicted so many self-imposed constraints on public spending that the relatively simple operational realities behind public spending have been obscured. Most people tend to think that a balanced budget, be it for a household or a government, is a good thing, failing to make a distinction between a currency issuer and a currency user. Indeed, one of the most common analogies used by politicians and the media is the claim that a government is like a household: the household cannot continue to spend more than its income, so neither can the government. See here for more on the differences between a household and a government. Yet that comparison is completely fallacious. Most importantly, households do not have the power to levy taxes, and to give a name to—and issue—the currency that those taxes are paid in. Rather, households are users of the currency issued by the sovereign government. Here the same distinction applies to firms, which are also users of the currency.
I think that’s all the economics for the week. Tomorrow I’ll be back on the technology beat with some thoughts about the new iPhones.
It’s a good analogy. The U.S. federal government really does resemble your typical money-printing family that owns lots of tanks, operates a giant insurance conglomerate, can borrow money at extremely low rates, and is assumed to be immortal.
Oliver Reichenstein wrote a fantastic article about Yahoo!’s logo redesign and the problem with focusing just on aesthetics:
The hard part of rebranding a giant like Yahoo is not how the logo looks. It doesn’t matter so much if some dislike it. A logo is not decorative, it works more like an icon. It needs to be clear. Brands create orientation. The most beautiful toilet sign is useless if men constantly walk into the ladies’ room.
Scientists reported Thursday that they’ve discovered a vast canyon, twice as long as the Grand Canyon. It carves a deep scar from the center of the world’s largest island out to the coast. And, oh one more detail: It’s buried beneath as much as 2 miles of ice.
But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, put the story in our top spot. Those of us watching on Google Analytics saw the number of homepage visits skyrocket the second we put up that salacious image of Miley Cyrus dancing half nude on the VMA stage. But here’s where it gets great: We don’t just do a top story on the VMA performance and call it day. No, no. We also throw in a slideshow called “Evolution of Miley,” which, for those of you who don’t know, is just a way for you to mindlessly click through 13 more photos of Miley Cyrus. And if we get 500,000 of you to do that, well, 500,000 multiplied by 13 means we can get 6.5 million page views on that slideshow alone. Throw in another slideshow titled “6 ‘don’t miss’ VMA moments,” and it’s starting to look like a pretty goddamned good Monday, numbers-wise. Also, there are two videos—one of the event and then some bullshit two-minute clip featuring our “entertainment experts” talking about the performance.
Side note: Advertisers, along with you idiots, love videos. Another side note: The Miley Cyrus story was in the same top spot we used for our 9/11 coverage.
In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame…Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side…This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system.
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Moby-Dick is about everything, a bible written in scrimshaw, an adventure spun in allegory, a taxonomy tripping on acid. It seems to exist outside its own time, much like Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, the poetry of Emily Dickinson. It is so broad and so deep as to accept any interpretation while also staring back and mocking this man-made desire toward interpretation.
What does it mean? There are so many symbols as to render symbols meaningless. And yet, like Ahab, we insist on plucking the heart of its mystery. As Ishmael says, “And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do the hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way.” Moby-Dick might as well be that enigmatic doubloon nailed to the main-mast, the prize for anyone who first grasps the white whale.
I had the pleasure of read Moby Dick last year for school and absolutely loved it. If you haven’t read Melvile’s magnum-opus, I can attest it’s well worth reading.
Jared Sinclair explains that all of the non-technical problems facing Elon Musk’s hyperloop—including land rights, political support, cost, and location—make the proposal a fantasy. Here’s why that might be a bad thing:
The goal isn’t to build a better system. It’s to destroy the process by presenting a false choice.
To me, this seems to be the mother of all false choices.
A remarkably attractive headline by a wildly respected man. What better way to pull support from HSR than by creating an alternative proposal that is better in every way? That’s the thing about fiction though, it can be anything you want it to be.
Technical issues aside, I think the Hyperloop is a terrible idea. It is a waste of resources and does not solve any pressing problems. If we, as a society, really want to invest in transportation, we should be fixing roads and bridges, expanding mass transit, and building high-speed rail lines.
Elon Musk doesn’t like having to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles every few days to run his two businesses. Most people don’t have that problem; most people have trouble getting to work or traveling to different job opportunities.
A 2010 report found that “if we’d spent as much federal stimulus money on public transportation as we spent on highways, we would have created twice as much work and put a bigger dent in the unemployment rate.”
But you know what does exist? A magical capsule that speeds along a subterranean route to effortlessly transplant me from my neighborhood to any of 80 locations in and around my city. I don’t have to pay for gas, I don’t have to park when I get there, and I can sleep or read the paper the whole time. It’s called the metro, and it’s dramatically under-resourced.
Forgive me. But the whole futurism fetish feels like an echo of how our more short-sighted transportation officials look at the world. We have these incredibly important assets but we don’t even maintain them.
America’s roads and bridges are crumbling. Our mass-transit system is extremely underfunded. The most recent data from the American Society of Civil Engineers found that America found that the United States needs to spend $2.75 trillion on infrastructure by 2020, 66% more than what is currently allocated, to keep our infrastructure in a competitive shape. If we don’t invest in infrastructure the United States could lose 3.5 million jobs and of $3.1 trillion in economic output.
People who say that the Hyperloop represents the next mode of transportation are misguided and not looking at the rest of the economy. Driverless cars and drones represent the future of physical infrastructure but the internet will eventually disrupt transportation the same way it has publishing and advertising.
The challenge isn’t to move more meat; it is to move more information more effectively, and to re-engineer business practices and social organization to take full advantage of the extraordinary efficiencies that the Internet affords. The rush-hour rituals of the 20th century aren’t destined to continue to the end of time. Telecommuting, flextime and mini-commutes to satellite offices will change the way we work.
The Hyperloop is not the solution to our transportation problems. Pretending like it is only contributes to them.
I don’t think I have anticipated the release of an iOS app any more than I have for Ole Zorn’s new iPad text editor called Editorial. It’s awesome and incomparable, even when you put it up against the best desktop apps.
Editorial changed how I use my iPad: I can now work from my mini without worrying about the apps and features I’d miss from my Mac. I want to work from my iPad, because Editorial is a better, faster, more efficient writing and editing environment than Sublime Text 2 on OS X, even considering all the Markdown-related scripts and macros I have in Keyboard Maestro. As a hub that connects apps and text with workflows and native UI elements, Editorial has reinvented the way I use iOS and third-party apps for writing, researching, taking notes, discovering links, and sharing them with other people. For me, Editorial is more than just a text editor.
The iPad was launched three years ago, and Editorial proves that desktop-class apps uniquely built for iOS can, today more than ever, be a reality.
If you don’t know what Markdown or Python is Editorial can still be an extremely powerful tool for writing. Try it out. Even if you don’t take advantage of workflows you’ll be amazed by what you can get done on an iPad. Maybe you’ll even dip your toes into some more advanced features. At $4.99 it’s a steal1.
As a point of comparison, Microsoft Word 2013 costs $109.99. If you use Word everyday you might be surprised to find out that you don’t need most of its features; I’ve found that writing on iOS, especially when you are using apps like Editorial, can be a more enjoyable and more productive. ↩
Consider some of the major factors for why California’s $68 billion high-speed rail system has gone over budget. In many cases, local communities have demanded extra viaducts and tunnels added to the project that weren’t strictly necessary. Other towns, meanwhile, have insisted they not be bypassed even in cases where it would be cheaper to do so. Would the Hyperloop be immune from these sorts of political pressures and tweaks?
Northwestern, where I am fortunate enough to get to spend the next four years of my life, has a really cool program called the Knight Lab which is “a team of technologists, journalists, designers and educators working to advance news media innovation through exploration and experimentation”. They asked me to write a piece about why I am interested in this particular niche of both journalism and computer science and I think the resulting article turned out really well. You should take a look at it for a sense of why this is such an exciting area to be studying.