Jul 22, 2014

in 2010 someone called Paul Mutant made a painting called “this painting is not available in your country

and someone saw it, redid it by typesetting it in Myriad instead of doing hand-lettering and had prints made

a sight gag about restrictive IP regimes, carelessly redone to avoid paying the original artist

is this the new aesthetic

(ht @brundle_fly on twitter for taking the photo of the print and @johnnemann for RTing it onto my feed)

Jun 20, 2014

the Steam summer sale

you play a video game, or give Valve money, or vote on which games should be on sale next (crowdsourcing the labor that Valve would need to do to select which games to showcase on its storefront.)  Valve gives you virtual trading cards. 

it’s impossible to get a full matching set by yourself (the system’s designed that way), so you can trade for your friends’ extra cards, or maybe buy them off the market.

… let’s be real here.  you buy them off the market.

the developer of the associated game gets 10%, despite the fact that they make literally all of the content for the cards.  Valve gets 5%.  the other 85% go to the previous game-player or money-giver, compensated in Valve scrip which will be redeemed at a later date for a product distributed through Valve.

so really, Valve gets 90%.

you craft them into badges so your team gets points.  your team was randomly assigned from a pool of 6 meaningless choices, to incentivize competition.

the winning team, with hundreds of thousands of members if not millions, has 30 lucky members who each get 3 games from their wishlist.  (what if the lucky members don’t have three games on their wishlist?  it’s better not to think about those things.)

90 Steam keys appear out of thin air in a database in Redmond somewhere.  Valve forgoes somewhere between $90 and $5,000 in unrealized retail cut.  maybe it compensates the developer or maybe not. 

nobody will notice, in any case.

and three months later, people will line up to do it all again, in a different season, and give Valve more free PR.

May 30, 2014

No one benefits more from the idea of “online” being a distinct intellectual space of its own than the public relations industry, which skillfully exploits this digital duality to dress bland press releases up as exciting and autonomously generated “memes.” […] There’s nothing criminal about it per se; we simply shouldn’t presume that something is “trending” on “the Internet” simply due to natural and autonomous forces. [… W]hile it might be tempting to celebrate the viral success of the @RomneyBinders Twitter account — a reference to Mitt Romney’s poorly-worded remark on “binders full of women” — we shouldn’t forget that this same account was called @FiredBigBird (and already had a sizable number of followers from the very first presidential debate) right before Romney’s blunder; its owner renamed it to capitalize on the “binders” buzz.

As Ryan Holiday, a marketing wunderkind who got fed up with the dark and exploitative world of Internet public relations, writes in his eye-opening tell-all “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator”, “I don’t think someone could have designed a system easier to manipulate if they wanted to.”

Evgeny Morozov, “To Solve Everything, Click Here”
May 8, 2014

on soylent


(discourse, of course, being the forum platform of Jeff Atwood, concern troll extraordinaire)

May 7, 2014

"better for humanity"

there’s probably a lot to unpack here about the capitalist conception of value to humanity and the fact that apple actively blocks games with a political message from being on the app store

but lol

Apr 11, 2014
He had been very casual about the whole thing. She said she knew a guy just over the river in Allston who sold high-resin dope in moderate bulk, and he’d yawned and said well, maybe, well, hey, why not, sure, special occasion, I haven’t bought any in I don’t know how long. […] This arrangement, very casual, made him anxious, so he’d been even more casual and said sure, fine, whatever. Thinking back, he was sure he’d said “whatever”, which in retrospect worried him because it might have sounded as if he didn’t care at all, not at all, so little that it wouldn’t matter if she forgot to get it or call, and once he’d made the decision to have marijuana in his home one more time it mattered a lot. It mattered a lot. […] Once he’d been set off inside, it mattered so much that he was somehow afraid to show how much it mattered.
David Foster Wallace, “Infinite Jest”
Apr 8, 2014
Adding to the ambiguity, “open government” might just be a euphemism for “small government.” After all, its rhetoric is continuous with some ideas of an older administrative philosophy of new public management, one popular during the Margaret Thatcher era, that argued for maximizing the efficiency of public institutions by turning them into consumer-oriented for-profit entities while outsourcing supervisory, quality-checking, and auditing functions to third parties, of which citizens are now just one emerging part. When everything can be run like Wikipedia, why bother with big government? It’s far better to rely on Cameron’s “big society,” starve the public sector, and expect that the “armchair auditors” will be as effective as the Leveson Inquiry.
Evgeny Morozov, “To Save Everything, Click Here”
Apr 3, 2014


we found that this feature in your smoke alarm causes a potential life-safety issue

within the next 24 hours we will silently patch this functionality out

do not ask why we thought it was good to release, or what this means for the other functionality of this same expensive product you bought

do not ask why we can silently modify your smoke alarm, a device you rely upon to save your life

everything will be okay

Apr 2, 2014

emoji: a cautionary tale

in the beginning, a Japanese cell phone carrier added proprietary extensions to Shift-JIS as a competitive selling point for their cell phone service.  seeing the value in these emoji, that carrier’s competitors added support for them.

"let’s standardize emoji, so everyone can enjoy them!", said the Unicode Consortium, and only three years of implementation later, it became a specification.

except the major Western vendor that took the lead in implementing emoji accidentally encoded a lot of assumptions about whiteness-as-default into their pictographs, and because of those assumptions, the entire standards body is probably going to have to add even more of them.  

and emoji support has been broken for 3.5 years in the web browser of record, so web sites have to spend a bunch of dev time implementing emoji individually.

but other than that, it worked out great.

Mar 28, 2014
Technology companies have long understood that our Enlightenment-era pro-information bias works in their favor. This is one reason they are perceived as doing something far nobler than the rest of corporate America; unlike ExxonMobile or McDonald’s, Google is in the enlightenment business—and that in itself entitles it to different treatment. Google knows this too—hence its mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This mission betrays no awareness that perhaps some information, even if it’s in the public domain already, shouldn’t be organized or “made useful.” Questions of ethics—of whether it’s right or wrong to organize information and increase its usefulness—are never posed. […] The quest to organize the world’s knowledge cannot proceed without doing at least some violence to the knowledge it seeks to organize; making knowledge “legible,” to borrow James Scott’s phrase, is tricky regardless of whether a totalitarian government or a Silicon Valley start-up does it.
Evgeny Morozov, “To Save Everything, Click Here”
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@vogon on twitter. I'm probably all about video games, science, and playing the drums. Subscribe via RSS.