Tag Archives: twitter

Things 62: 360 video, one word websites, 48-hour day

(Originally sent November 2010, maybe)

Video
I found this pretty amazing – a video in which you can choose where to direct your gaze, a bit like Google Street View but in motion:

Links
I collected some nice single-question-answering websites last year, let me know if you know any others:

GoingToRain.com

DownForEveryoneOrJustme.com

HowToUseTwitterForMarketingAndPR.com

Quote
Frank Banks:

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse”

Puzzle
Imagine (or remember) standing somewhere in the UK at midday on January 1st .

12 hours ago the year 2010 had just begun in the UK. However, due to timezone differences, some places saw January 1st a further 12 hours ago – 24 hours ago from your current vantage point of midday in the UK.

Conversely, there’s still 12 more hours of January 1st to go. but due to timezone differences, some places won’t reach the end of the day for a further 12 hours – 24 hours from your current vantage point of midday in the UK.

Of course, this means January 1st is actually 48 hours long – or in other words, two days.

How can one day be two days long?

Things 104: Power of Music, Misleading Impressions, Two Envelopes

Video
The effect of music on the brain is a very interesting thing that varies tremendously by individual. Last year I discovered a track that has an incredibly powerful mood-altering effect on me: Olympians, by a band with a potentially offensive name. It took a couple of initial slightly bemused listens before it properly seeped into my brain, but now as soon as I hear this track, I feel unbelievably positive, and become filled with an absurd confidence.

Unfortunately I suspect the fact that this track is so resonant for me also suggests that it’s very specific, and it will seem really quite boring to most others. But I find it so amazing I just have to share it anyway. So first, here’s a short version with a video to slightly entertain you while you wonder what on earth I’m going on about:

And if you are so inclined, here’s the full length version:

Tim Link
I saw The Lion King in 3D at Edinburgh International Film Festival, and reviewed it here. The short version of my review would essentially be this:

Quote special: Misleading Impressions
Thanks to Last.fm recommendations I discovered Brian Transeau (BT)’s album This Binary Universe, which turns out to be a bit different to his other albums. As I listened to his back-catalogue I thought I detected an incredible sense of optimisim and positivity. When I later found Brian Transeau was on Twitter, I found this impression was entirely correct. Sample tweet:

5am and time for our first ever sunrise, father daughter bike ride. Today is already #WIN Good Morning!

My favourite musician is probably Jon Hopkins who I now listen to instead of any other Chill Out music since for me he somehow trumps pretty much the entire genre. He is behind some of the most relaxing and beautiful tracks I know, so I was curious to see what he was like on Twitter. The answer: actually a bit different. Brilliantly, this was the first Tweet of his that I read:

I wish one of James May’s Big Ideas was to FUCK OFF

Finally, moving away from music, I referenced Mitch Hedberg’s famous escalator line in my Lion King 3D review:

An escalator can never break – it can only become stairs.

Realising I was unfamiliar with his work, I ended up reading through his Wikiquote page, and found much to like, such as:

My belt holds up my pants and my pants have belt loops that hold up the belt. What the fuck’s really goin on down there? Who is the real hero?

and:

When you go to a restaurant on the weekends and it’s busy they start a waiting list. They start calling out names, they say “Dufresne, party of two. Dufresne, party of two.” And if no one answers they’ll say their name again. “Dufresne, party of two, Dufresne, party of two.” But then if no one answers they’ll just go right on to the next name. “Bush, party of three.” Yeah, what happened to the Dufresnes? No one seems to give a shit. Who can eat at a time like this? People are missing! You fuckers are selfish. The Dufresnes are in someone’s trunk right now, with duct tape over their mouths. And they’re hungry. That’s a double whammy. Bush, search party of three, you can eat when you find the Dufresnes.

So after that I naturally looked him up on YouTube, and at that point discovered him to be completely different to what I had imagined:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2491LucLa1g

Gone, try this one:

Picture
A lot of infographics annoy me, but I like the idea of bringing together the data that drives this one so much I don’t mind its shortcomings.

Puzzle – The Two Envelopes
I can’t believe I haven’t put this one in Things before.

In a standard abstract setting with no distracting details, you and another person are presented with two envelopes. One envelope contains some money (but you don’t know how much). The other envelope contains twice as much money. You get to select an envelope, and you get to keep however much money is in it. The other person gets the other envelope. There isn’t anything to go on, so you choose one of the envelopes for arbitrary reasons.

Before you get to open it, you are offered the chance to change your mind, with the following reasoning:

You don’t know how much money is in your chosen envelope, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s £10. That means you either have the envelope with twice as much money (so the other contains £5) or you don’t (so the other must contain £20). So if you decide to swap, there’s a 50% chance you get that £5, and a 50% chance you end up with the £20. Since you currently have £10, that means there’s a 50% chance of effectively losing £5 and a 50% chance of gaining another £10. Imagine if the universe split into two at the moment you made that decision – one of you loses £5, the other gains £10, so on average you gain (£10 + (-£5) )/2 = £2.50. Since the average gain is positive, clearly that’s a gamble worth taking, and you should definitely swap.

This is of course a strange conclusion. You effectively chose an envelope at random, so how does swapping it improve your odds of getting more money? The paradox is even more stark if we consider the fact that the other person could be convinced to swap by exactly the same argument.

Previous Puzzle – Co-operating with yourself
Last time I asked how well you would get on with yourself.

Xuan said:

They say that people you dislike/hate are likely to be people who’s characteristics are most like yours. People are most critical of what they see in the mirror. My clone better not have the same taste in clothes.

Which reminded me of a problem the sci-fi stories don’t tend to go into – if there’s suddenly two of you, you’re going to need some more clothes, and one of you will probably have to find another job, and probably somewhere else to live. Marriages get complicated. Phil suggested David Gerrold’s time-travel sci fi story The Man Who Folded Himself for an in-depth dissection of this kind of problem.

Richard observed that he tends to like people with whom he shares attractive personality traits, and dislike those that share his negative personality traits, suggesting that the latter may be because they serve as a reminder of these aspects of himself. This potentially makes the question even harder to answer, although one might guess that a negative would trump a positive and ultimately lead to the kind of confrontations that usually crop up in sci-fi versions of this problem (and endorsing Xuan’s observation).

I think the question raised by The Man Who Folded Himself of co-operating with a version of yourself in the future is a clue to how we can actually ask this question of ourselves. In a very real sense, we really do choose how much to co-operate with our future selves every day: will you do a chore now, or will you force your future self to do it instead? Will you eat all of the cake, or will you save some for your future self? If you know how you generally answer those questions, I suggest this gives you an idea of how well you would get on with yourself.

In practical terms, just thinking of these kinds of questions in this framework makes me more likely to co-operate with my future self, which is probably a good thing. Well, I’m glad that my past self thinks that way, anyway.

Curating Things: How I Find Interesting Stuff on the Internet

As you may have noticed, I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing Things a bit more than usual recently, so I’m using that as a tenuous cue to instead write a post about how I find interesting things on the internet for Things generally (because that’s the bit I have still been doing).

1) Basic Aggregation
We all come across interesting things on the internet one way or another. The most basic thing I do is aggregate things I think would be suitable for Things in a Google Doc. The theory is that I then review that document once a week and pick an interesting thing from each category to put in Things that week.

2) Google Reader Magic
I find a lot of stuff through my RSS subscriptions, which I follow in Google Reader. RSS is really great. Unfortunately most people can’t be doing with it, so they end up using things like Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr to do something similar, which is great in some ways and terrible in others. But that’s a post for another time.

Some RSS feeds, though, update far too frequently for me to follow. Examples of this include Boing Boing and FFFFOUND (sometimes NSFW). I put these in a folder called ‘overabundant’, and any time I check there may be several hundred unread items.

Google Reader lets you sort items newest first, oldest first, or by magic, which is to say, in decreasing order of how likely Google thinks you are to like them, based (presumably) on Google algorithmic magic leveraging the data from people that use Google Reader. In this way, I have Google do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of finding the most interesting stuff.

3) Twitter + IfTTT + Read It Later
As I mentioned a while ago, Read It Later is a really great service where a single click pushes any given web page to your ‘Read It Later’ list, which you can then return to when you have time from the same browser, another browser somewhere else, your smartphone, or your tablet. (Here’s their analysis on how they see this time-shifting happen by platform).

I follow some people on Twitter (including some Things recipients) that regularly post interesting links. I browse Twitter on my smartphone whenever I find myself in some kind of liminal time. So what I needed to do was find a way to pass links I find in Twitter over to Read It Later.

There’s probably a few ways to peel this potato, but I found a very easy solution in the form of If That Then This, a brilliant service which lets you glue different things together with a simple “If <x> Then <y>” structure. If I ‘favourite’ a tweet on Twitter, IfTTT looks for a link in the tweet and then puts that link into Read It Later. (I also use IfTTT to automatically cross-post my webcomic to Tumblr each week, among other things. It’s really great. You should put your email address down for an invite).

The really neat trick is that Read It Later pushes my saved content to my phone, so when I find myself in a slightly less liminal state (like travelling on the tube), I can read these articles even if I no longer have internet access.

Now, if I find an article to put on Things in this way, the process gets a bit ugly – I can tag it as ‘Things’ and then harvest it into the Google Doc later, or forward it to myself by email and capture it that way. Neither is great. But the overall advantage is that I get to read a lot of good, long articles, although I’m reading fewer books (so I’m cancelling my Wired subscription), and the Things category of ‘links’ now has a massive backlog, so I may have to change up the format a bit.

So there you have it. I’d be interested to know if you have any different methods of finding good stuff on the internet, or if you can see any clear improvements to the techniques I describe above.

(While on the subject, I suppose I should mention that I am on Twitter as @metatim, where I post links to stuff I do on the internet, including Things, and also including this very post).

Things Special: Twitter week

Last week I was in the “Tweet Seat” for my workplace, @RAPP_UK

So in this week’s Things I’m compiling my tweets, and will give them some kind of review and additional context. This is mainly because 140 characters feels a bit like pointing at something and making a kind of grunting noise, when what I really want to do is sum up what’s interesting about the link and what my view is. Since this adds up to quite an intensive read, I’ve arbitrarily broken it up with some pictures I recently found online that I liked.

So, here’s the first tweet:

Tommy Pollata’s Collapsus.com looks cool, but as with other transmedia it’s hard to assess cost/benefit (i.e. time/quality) before diving in

I think this tweet falls between all stools – “looks cool” isn’t enough of an endorsement to go check something out, and there still weren’t really enough characters left to make my point properly. The point was, for something I’m familiar with like movies, I know exactly where to look to assess how good a movie will be (imdb, rotten tomatoes, lovefilm or youtube or filmcrave for trailer), I can easily find out the running time, and I know exactly what kind of commitment I need to make to watch it. For transmedia projects, ARGs and the like, none of this stuff is in place, meaning I have no idea if it will be good or not, and no idea what kind of commitment it will require.

@wireduk Cover story Kinect’s tech is smart, but if Amplification of Input (http://bit.ly/9nDhRc) = Fun, surely Bigger Input = Less Fun?

Thanks to Google Books I was able to link to the idea of “Amplification of Input”, and just about compressed my argument down to the character limit, but as a tweet it somewhat relies on the reader already knowing exactly what Kinect is. While there’s technically enough information in the tweet to help you find the online version of the article I’m talking about, it’s not convenient enough, besides which this is the internet, so mentioning something and not being able to make that mention a link seems ridiculous. I’d also add some caveats to my point, in that while Amplification of Input is one thing that makes games fun, there’s certainly plenty of others, many of which the Kinect could be good at, and I’m also keenly aware that DDR being more fun with a Dance Mat than a controller is a perfect counterargument.

‘People that read more books more likely to buy eReaders’, and other predictable but nice-to-know eReader stats, here: http://bit.ly/9SSgL7

My suitably pithy summary is actually a response to the article’s own bizarre misreading of the stats: “Digital reading has caused a shift in book reading and buying habits, too: While two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year, with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%), 36% of those who own e-readers read 11 to 20 books a year (36%), and 26% read 21 or more books in an average year.” Sorry, no. The fact I was responding to this probably wouldn’t be clear if you read my tweet then read the article, which itself uses the much more reasonable header “Digital Readers Read More Books” before launching into that quote.

There Are 100 Million Female Cyborgs, one of many interesting musings on humans and technology mutually augmenting: http://bit.ly/b5oCbG

This was the first tweet I was pretty much happy with, encapsulating what I liked about the article with enough intrigue to provoke someone interested in that kind of thing into taking a look.

Digital technology continues to encroach on the supposed benefits of analogue versions: http://bit.ly/cslZUe

I experimentally tried removing all context for the link to make room for my view on it. The Bit.ly results showed this reduced the number of clicks (although whether 2 down from 6/7 is significant is up for debate). There could easily be people that read this but didn’t click who would have if I had made it clear that this was about a web-interface for viewing old paintings in incredible detail.

Here is a contextless link providing tacit endorsement of a news article about Science: http://bit.ly/cZLHVP

This link drew more clicks (8), although perhaps people were reading between the, er, words and understood what kind of a thing they were about to read. Fortunately I didn’t feel like providing much more than tacit endorsement, so this tweet just about worked.

Dorothy Gambrell’s Cat and Girl webcomic has a lot of great insights on trends (and many other areas of life): http://bit.ly/bvceXy

Not based on any moment-by-moment discovery, I just wanted to get a reference to Cat and Girl out there, using a reasonably recent addition. I guess it’s an okay tweet.

Randall Munroe updates his Online Communities map over on XKCD – this time using social activity for scale: http://bit.ly/cAqYO6

Tacit endorsement seemed like enough here, and I was happy to give a full citation – I’ve always found it strange when people post “someone has done this great thing” when it’s easy to find out who “someone” is. A weird personal case was someone commenting on one of my own YouTube videos saying “Whoever edited this should keep up the good work” – I’m right here! On the internet.

Doogie Horner categorises Facebook profile pictures on Fast Company, good thing I’m hidden behind a logo… http://bit.ly/dfHFZU

Sitting in a ‘tweet seat’ behind a brand is actually quite a strange experience. I avoided using the first person because that felt actively strange, but I suspect the real problem was I didn’t have any social cues for what the correct manner was, or even any real-time feedback on whether I was doing it right or wrong. But in any case, I knew I was at least somewhat hidden behind the logo, which I found interesting in itself.

@judell (O’Reilly) wants everyone to learn to pass by reference: http://oreil.ly/bCZkoE – I suspect DropBox will help.

This is an extremely dense tweet that needs several stages of unpacking. If ‘pass by reference’ doesn’t make any sense then you need to read the article, but if it doesn’t make any sense then perhaps you will be put off clicking on the link. To see how DropBox might help you need to be familiar with both that concept and the features of DropBox (which I won’t expand this huge post even further by elaborating on). Finally, the tweet originally started with ‘Jon Udell’, which I then realised looked a bit silly in a tweet about pass-by-reference – although making it “@judell” then turns it into a directed comment, which wasn’t what I really wanted to do. It’s ultimately an interesting feature of Twitter that there isn’t really a distinction between referencing someone and (effectively) saying their name while raising your voice and making meaningful eye-contact with them across the room.

The Nooski Mouse Trap – a better mouse trap, but also a smarter business model: http://bit.ly/d20sru

This tweet hits a lot of the buttons, I would just prefer to be able to link to the specific reference to  ‘a better mouse trap‘ as I’m saying it for those that haven’t heard the phrase before.

Facebook fix Groups, show app data, allow data export: http://on.fb.me/bHH3mL As usual, EFF has insightful commentary: http://bit.ly/9igUl4

It was fun to try to compress this into a single tweet, and linking to commentary from EFF means I don’t feel I need to add my own view, which was also useful because I didn’t have time to do more than scan through both articles at the time. Having subsequently read them both, I think the most interesting point is that the new groups functionality is a more accessible way of communicating with sub-sets of your friends, which seemed like something Zukerberg was ideologically opposed to doing.

Skype is on Android: http://bit.ly/aw5fXG Androids are on Skype (sort of): http://bit.ly/ds6J3A

It’s probably obvious that I was very pleased with this tweet. I found it interesting that it could not have occurred if I had insta-tweeted the Skype-on-Android news, as Twitter effectively incentivises people to do, since I only read the ‘Androids on Skype’ article later.

Find out if Libya is happy for you to click on this very link, by clicking on it: http://bit.ly/aqn6Ui

This was the most clicked-on link (at 11), perhaps because of the hint of interactivity. Perhaps it reads as something of a bait-and-switch, but I think it still has some validity. If you want to judge for yourself you’ll just have to click and see.

Most ideas are obvious in retrospect, but few more so than McDonalds getting a Farm on Farmville http://bit.ly/cQq9k3

This is a superficially well-formed tweet, but I would much rather have had the time to engage with the deeper questions raised by this kind of sponsorship – is it measurably beneficial for McDonalds? For Farmville? For Farmville players? What are the long-term implications of this? For now it will just have to sit as an example of some kind, waiting for others to join it, until I finally feel I have enough ammunition to look into the issue properly.

Audio zoom presumably means sports broadcasters will now be looking for real-time bleep censoring technology: http://bit.ly/ckuX25

Another tweet that takes a few leaps to process, but is hopefully clear… the technology presented allows one to ‘zoom in’ on the audio in a crowd, most obviously useful in the public sphere in big sports events, typically broadcast live, which would therefore need swear-words to be automatically bleeped. The public surveillance angle is actually more interesting to consider, but is too deep to get into in a tweet, or even here. So just… think about it.

Chrome pushes IE below 50% share in “promote it and they will come” shocker http://bit.ly/9uZJxT

More ‘reading between the words’ needed here to decode the reference and how it applies to this story. Since most are probably familiar with the quote (which is almost always misquoted, a fact I think is very interesting in itself), the remaining thing to add (that may be less obvious to people not watching these things) is that Google would build a lot of things and just see what happened, whereas they have recently begun to actively promote their products, the result apparently being that people are actually trying them. There’s a full blog post of material to unpack here, so I may one day revisit this point.


Tried the Playstation Move; could be Sony’s stalking horse for interactive AR – see blog post for my reasoning: http://bit.ly/c4Bj3z

This is a qualitatively different kind of tweet. I scraped together enough time to write a post on something, which means no ‘viewpoint’ is needed on the tweet, just some useful explanation along with the pointing finger. But what I found particularly interesting was that in the process of distilling down to 140 characters I actually came up with a better turn of phrase than two drafts of the original post had yielded – “stalking horse” is I think exactly right.

My tweet seat time is up, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to review and expand on my tweets: http://bit.ly/coWQkG

Well, here we are. And that was that.

igital reading has caused a shift in book reading and buying habits, too: While two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year, with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%), 36% of those who own e-readers read 11 to 20 books a year (36%), and 26% read 21 or more books in an average year.

See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/b1uO5D