Things 69: One Minute, Crows, Build It

’28 Days Later’ in one minute, in one take (and will make little sense if you haven’t seen the film but might be entertaining anyway):

Tumblr is like Twitter for pictures. As a strange side effect, incredibly well-curated collections of images of niche interest are being created, such as crows, or Selleck Waterfall Sandwiches.

I had just described my systems for organising everything in my life (including writing up the lastest Things) to Bex:

Bex: But what about allowing for spontaneity?
Tim: Allowing spontaneity to be a possibility leads to apathy. And death.

My (very old) mobile phone would last for about 6 days before needing to recharge. I moved house and this fell to 2 days. Why might that be?

Answer to Last Week’s Puzzle
Under what circumstances does the slightly misquoted “build it and they will come” apply?

Xuan says “Depends if what you’re building has tapped into some underlying desire/interest. Las Vegas was quite an idea.” Simon makes some disparaging remarks about marketing agencies and asks “Is an idea a good idea if nobody is there to hear it fall?”

I think a more instructive quote might be Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” (also misquoted).

The assertion seems to be that society operates according to some kind of omniscient meritoracy. This is a pretty tough assertion to defend, even if we can agree on what we mean by ‘better’ (the ‘humane’ problem seems to be difficult in the field of mouse-traps; there have been interesting developments in aesthetic considerations). In practice, as individuals (and therefore collectively) we can only judge the things we are aware of. To solve that problem, we need an omniscient third party of some kind that understands how we will judge things and show us those we are most likely to favour accordingly.

Of course, the internet gives us some very powerful tools to do exactly this. Pandora and go a long way to achieving this for music: Pandora recommends an obscure musician purely because the music is the kind that it has learned that you like, and can then direct you to buy from them directly. But doing the same for other media types is more challenging.

We can expect more of this in the future, eventually rolling out through location-aware mobile devices so that if you happen to be interested in baseball and can get to Iowa, you could indeed discover an unmarketed Field of Dreams. But until then, I just don’t buy that ending.


Between asking the question and writing this answer, I happened upon this article which describes what I’m talking about pretty well.