This is either genius or a disaster in the making. Gawker is becoming a full-on blogging platform, starting with their car blog, Jalopnik:
You'll also notice your Kinja blog has the ability to compose. This is so you can use your page like an actual blog, creating original content to be shared, commented on, and viewed by others in the community.
Have you always wanted a blog in our network? You can do that, too...Your blog will look similar to our flagship sites and will have all the same tools, including image annotation...If you want, you'll also be able to republish articles from our site (and eventually all Gawker sites) and we'll be able to do the same. If we do republish something you created you'll get the byline, the credit, and it'll be clear where it came from.
In a lot of ways, this is supposed to be what the internet is about, right? Everyone creating content on a platform that treats everyone equally, and so on. But what happens if Gawker republishes too many posts by one of their amateur bloggers (note that there's nothing about compensation for Gawker bloggers in this post) and people start feeling used? What if one of the reader blogs outpaces the regular writers? Will the paid Gawker writers have to compete with thousands of other Gawker bloggers who are out for their jobs? Will the signal-to-noise ratio get completely fucked? Or will this all just blow over once it becomes obvious that most Gawker readers don't want to be bloggers?
I'd have had more faith in this idea if it came before last year. Gawker's nearly year-old revised commenting system, is still a terrible, disjointed clusterfuck. If this revised blogging platform makes the sites even more difficult to follow, I can't imagine this being a good idea for the Gawker empire.
If you take a look at regularly produced content on YouTube in the past few months, like Felicia Day and Will Wheaton’s Geek and Sundry or the made-for-YouTube series H+, it’s entirely possible to fill your subscription bar with multiple hours a week of great original content. Maybe not quite enough to watch YouTube in the same way you watch cable television, depending on your preferences, but there’s been a significant boost in quality all the same. This isn’t by accident, Google has been working hard with content creators to help them form several channels of great unique material that can only be found on YouTube.
Ad revenue from a healthy YouTube channel can be enough to keep an operation of 2-3 people happy, but these new channels are significantly larger scale operations with budgets that can only be reached with the help of some guaranteed monthly cash. To help keep the quality of this new content trending upwards, Google plans to offer certain channels the ability to charge a monthly fee for their content.
On the one hand, I love the idea of a small progressive television news channel with blue collar reporters that survives on memberships. On the other hand, YouTube's free model has been so successful that it seems like it would be difficult to overcome. What do you think?
The New Inquiry brought this experiment to my attention.
At the end of the game, whether the robot was smart or dumb, nice or mean, a scientist authority figure modeled on Milgram’s would make clear that the human needed to turn the cat robot off, and it was also made clear to them what the consequences of that would be: “They would essentially eliminate everything that the robot was — all of its memories, all of its behavior, all of its personality would be gone forever.”
In videos of the experiment, you can clearly see a moral struggle as the research subject deals with the pleas of the machine. “You are not really going to switch me off, are you?” the cat robot begs, and the humans sit, confused and hesitating. “Yes. No. I will switch you off!” one female research subject says, and then doesn’t switch the robot off.
The full story is by NPR. Here's video of someone facing the choice:
Based on the high volume of outdated electronic equipment in my apartment, I think I would have a really hard time shutting the robot down. Especially when it got to the sad, stroke-eyed pleading right before the very end.
People were begging for this kind of thing during the 2012 presidential campaign, but it looks like technology was about a year too late. Still, this is really cool:
Truth Teller is a news application built by the Washington Post with funding from a Knight News Prototype grant. The goal of Truth Teller is to fact check speeches in as close to real time as possible. The three-month prototype built by the Post is an enormous step in that direction.
The Truth Teller prototype was built and runs with a combination of several technologies — some new, some very familiar. We’ve combined video and audio extraction with a speech-to-text technology to search a database of facts and fact checks. We are effectively taking in video, converting the audio to text (the rough transcript below the video), matching that text to our database, and then displaying, in real time, what’s true and what’s false.
You can see TruthTeller in action over here. It's not much to look at yet, but I have high hopes for this thing by the time 2016 rolls around.
The unmoderated (and therefore quite possibly NSFW) Vinepeek is a live feed of six-second videos people are posting to Vine right now. I like to just leave it on in a tab on my desktop and listen to the world as it passes by, just outside my window.
The most terrifying thing about watching the robot uprising unfold is seeing these soulless machines take over realms that used to be uniquely human. Realms like playing in garage bands and making human babies. Yes, the University of California San Diego has made a gigantic android baby capable of smiling very slowly and, if you have the patience to watch the whole video, frowning really slowly. But WHY?!? Why would you make a human baby out of robot parts? Why would you make his hair of out a blue space helmet? And why would you let it smile as if it loves us when IT CAN NOT FEEL LOVE???
The robot band I am ultimately won over by. The robots want to play music to assert their creative dominance, but since no real drummer has four hands with which to rock or a tiny robot friend playing the hi hat with his face, they are at least offering us something new. The mohawk on the drummer is also pretty legit, so I'll give the robots a point for this one. You will destroy us, but you will also shred while doing it.
Welcome to Blogtown's newest series "Now I've Seen Everything" in which I see something I've never seen before, proclaim "Now I've seen everything!" and then kill myself. Today in things I've never seen (but now that I have, I've seen everything), are two dogs arguing with each other over Skype. Not over the concept of Skype, but actually Skyping each other and arguing! And what's even more infuriating is that the argument that the two dogs are having isn't even all that interesting. Something about someone being promised a bone, and not receiving it? WHO CARES, DOGS?? You are the first two dogs to ever Skype!! Can't you fucking get along for two fucking seconds and make some fucking history by talking about something that fucking MATTERS? Like, I don't know... gun control... or the fiscal cliff... or how it's wrong to make fun of people with dreadlocks? GAHH! Well, on the upside I don't have to kill myself because until two dogs actually say something of merit to each other on Skype, I truly have not "seen everything." (I'll keep looking though!)
Aaron Swartz was “killed by the government,” his father, Robert Swartz said at a memorial service Tuesday morning for the 26-year-old tech genius who killed himself in the face of felony charges he’d stolen millions of files from MIT.
Swartz said his son was “hounded by the government, and MIT refused him.”
Everything about this story makes my heart hurt.
If you think our future rulers will take us down swiftly, maybe with some kind of massive mind-control system or death ray, you're wrong. This guy is trying to make it so they enact their terrible mechanical reign using SWORDS. Unlike salad robot and noodle robot, there are no commercial applications to robots who fight with swords. Only fighting applications.
Even more frightening is this lamp created by three students from the University of Wellington.
Three terrifying things about this:
 College students did it. So it can't be that hard.
 The lamp doesn't like being turned off. Imagine that from a sword-fighting robot.
 It's kind of adorable. And it shouldn't be, because it's coming to kill us all.
The other day, Warren Ellis wrote this paragraph in his e-mail newsletter, Machine Vision*:
I cannot, lately, shake this peculiar sense that the net is quieter than it used to be. Possibly because email is less of a thing? Because I don't live on Facebook? And social media is technologically privileged over, say, news or RSS?
This is something I've been noticing lately, but I haven't been able to articulate the thought. I follow a lot of blogs, and they're still publishing. I follow a lot of people on Twitter, and they're still tweeting. But whenever I spend time online now, I get a sense that the lights are off and nobody's home. I wonder if it's because I'm a text-centric person and the internet feels like it's moving more toward photos and video than text? Or if it's because there are more people online, but they're all staying within their carefully defined niches and sharing the same content?
This is a frustrating thing to discuss because it's entirely anecdotal. I'm sure all the facts and figures indicate that more people than ever are spending time online. But everything feels so small and predictable, now. Maybe now that I've been online for over a decade—I was a late bloomer—the sense of novelty is gone? Where the hell has the internet gone?
* If you're interested, you can sign up for Machine Vision at warrenellis.com.
Peter Jackson's long-awaited The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts playing at midnight tomorrow night, and it's going to make 14 billion dollars because every single person on Earth is going to see it, regardless of whether or not it's any good.
Um. Here is my review.
Something I didn't mention in my review—because it's only relevant to a few of the theaters showing The Hobbit in and around Portland—is that Jackson shot these movies not only in digital 3D, but also at 48 frames-per-second (FPS). That's double the number of frames that most films are shot and projected at—and, according to Jackson, the resultant image is the future of cinema. At 48 FPS, images lack the flickering that we're used to seeing when we watch movies, and motion onscreen is significantly smoother. (For Avatar 2, 3, 4, 5, and ∞, James Cameron will be shooting at an even higher frame rate: 60 FPS.) So in order to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the way Jackson intended, you'll need to go to one of the few theaters outfitted to flash 48 frames into your eyeballs every second, rather than regular old boring theaters that'll only give you regular old boring 24 frames every second.
But here's the thing: 48 FPS looks awful.
Amusing, perhaps. But also terrifying. We are relying on robots to harvest our food and thereby giving them the tools to destroy us. When the robots turn evil we'll have no leverage to negotiate with them. We can't unplug them or we'll starve.
Even scarier is a quote from near the end of the story: "If your leg looks too much like a pot, it might try to move your leg." This is my biggest fear with all robots. What happens when (WHEN!) they think I look like something that needs to be harvested? If my leg looks too much like a cherry tree, will the robot shake me until my cherries come out? Because that'll be a lot of shaking.
Here's a video of the boring man claiming to be the robot's master explaining the "harmless" technology he's peddling.
Note how the people working in the robot office ignore their impending doom as it whirls around its playpen happily moving plants with its cute grasping arm that could be so easily reprogrammed to choke humans.
Like with all robotic inventions, it's not the amazingly cool way they work today. It's the slippery slope they're sliding down (or building up, I'm not sure how the slope metaphor works for robots). I don't know how anybody could watch them work and not see the obvious links between this and the end of the world.
September's XOXO fest was an amazingly cool thing. A tech conference focused on innovation and the arts, it brought a dizzying array of high-level talent to town, and supplemented the conference itself with a range of free, open-to-the-public film, music, and video game programming. One of the festival's highlights is now online: A keynote speech from Community creator Dan Harmon.
Check out YouTube for more XOXO highlights, including speeches from the Atavist's Evan Ratliff, MythBusters' Adam Savage, and 4chan founder Chris Poole. I particularly enjoyed this presentation from locals Maggie Vail and Jesse Von Doom, founders of CASH music, an opensource toolbox for helping musicians promote and distribute their music. (Those guys are badass, and Maggie gets big points for referencing Bikini Kill at a tech conference.)
Here's something that I never thought I'd write: The Daily has published a story that everyone should read.
Websites like Mugshots.com and Arrests.org have collected millions of mug shots by scraping police department websites, and if innocent arrestees want their photos taken down, they have to spend anywhere from $399 to $1,479.
The other option is allowing the embarrassing — and potentially career-killing — image to stay near the top of their Google results for years...This summer, a new mug-shot site called BlabberMouthKC.com launched with one of the most brazenly extortionate schemes of all. Before opening, the owner sent letters to arrestees with their mug shots printed on the envelope, telling them to pay $200 to have the picture removed.
“We have already started blabbing to the world about your release from jail,” the letter said. “And we want to make you aware of our services, as we kind of have a big mouth.”
The owner shut the website down after an enormous backlash.
Go read the whole maddening story.
I was downtown past midnight recently and was surprised to see this eerie line of empty chairs outside the Pioneer Place mall. What was this? A Rose Parade flashback?
No, said a friendly security guard doing his patrol, this was people waiting for the Apple store to open in the morning. The line has been there every night for the past three months. Instead of waiting on the curb, people set up the lawn chairs, then park their car right next to the mall and stay in there all night, keeping warm and vigilantly watching their spot. In the morning, the professional Apple hoarders get first into the Apple store and buy as many iPhone 5's or iPad minis as they can. Then, they can turn around and resell them for more.
Apple tries to deter stockpiling and reselling its popular products by rationing purchases: At Portland's store, you can only buy two iPhones at a time—when they're in stock. I just called the store and they have neither iPhone 5's or iPad minis. The clerk encouraged me to call back daily to check if they're in stock. This has spawned an industry all itself of Apple flipping. If someone in the Portland line is rewarded for their night-long wait with the luck of being first into the Apple store on a day it actually has iPhone 5's, they could buy two for $200 each and easily sell them for four times as much. It's a gamble, but a quick way to make $800 a night by gaming Apple and its hype-hungry buyers.
I lingered too long by these chairs—as a friend and I stopped to take a photo of the seemingly empty street, suddenly three people jumped out of cars on the block and ran over. "You in line?!" one man asked quickly. No, no, no, no thanks.
Alex just posted something that gave me a great idea on how to spend my retirement. Since all of you are so deathly afraid of robots—and well you should be—I'm going to go around murdering them for pay. Like this guy.
I dig Magnus, Robot Fighter's steez for a few reasons:
1) His first name sounds like a condom.
2) He goes to work every day in tight short pants—not unlike myself.
And 3) He fucking karate chops the heads off robots when they get too uppity. From Wikipedia:
Magnus was raised by a robot known as 1A...
1A trained Magnus as a warrior to protect humans against both rogue robots, and humans who used normal robots for evil purposes. Magnus was trained from infancy by 1A in an under-sea domed house, using advanced techniques, to become a skilled martial artist who could break steel with his bare hands.
Since this is pretty close to my own life story, I'd say being a short pants-wearing robot murderer—let's not kid ourselves, he's not "fighting" them, he's "murdering" them—is the perfect post-Mercury career for me. As long as it's "ethical," right? That's where you come in:
A couple months back I warned you of the threat posed by noodle robots. And yet you did nothing to protect yourself. Well, things are getting worse.
Not only are robots making noodles to fatten us up, they're now able to slowly and awkwardly cut cucumbers into random sized slices. Holy shit.
You can't watch him remove that knife from the rack without peeing yourself. Terrifying.
But they aren't just cutting cukes and pouring pudding on them, ROBOTS ARE HERE FOR YOUR CHILDREN.
ToyTalk is working on a new toy for kids who already have iPads but for some reason would rather play with robotic-voiced teddy bears.
More important question, WHY IS SHE DOING HER HOMEWORK WITH A GIGANTIC PENCIL? Probably because the evil teddy bear bot made her. "Use a big pencil for your homework, Sally. Play with me, Sally. Kill your parents and use their blood to lubricate my robot joints, Sally." There's no other explanation.
Stay away from me, robots. Take your giant pencils and your poorly sliced salads and go back to robot planet.
So right about now you're thinking... man. I really need to run to the store to stock up on drinking water for when WE get hit by a natural disaster not unlike Hurricane Sandy. BUT MY BACK HURRRRRRRTS.
Well, save that aching back and buy The Water Bob instead! It's a giant rubber bladder you put inside your tub, fill it up with 100 gallons of water, and then drink... drink... DRINK your way out of a dehydrating natural disaster. Or you could put vodka in it—which is what I would do. WATCH.
From a friend of mine on Facebook, in regards to Facebook:
Hey idiots/empathy-deficient facebook zombie-people: there is such a thing as "too soon" and just plain "garbage-person behavior". If you are currently in a safe/non-disaster-zone city making "ironic" humorous posts about New York and the other eastern seaboard cities being affected by the storm RIGHT NOW, you are a complete asshole. Period. People are dying, losing their homes, livelihoods, pets, etc. In your eternal fervor to prove that you're the quickest mean-girl in the schoolyard, you show just how low & meaningless this social networking "culture" of "friends" really is.
Ouch. And I agree completely.
It's been a big couple weeks for tablet computers with the Big 3 all announcing new products. Tablets are the fastest growing segment of the computers-without-practical-uses market. But how should you decide which tablet to spend a few hundred bucks on and then leave sitting around the house? With this handy guide, silly!
Of course, you don't have to drop big money on a tablet you aren't going to use. You can always just buy a Kindle for $69 and then feel guilty you aren't more into reading books.
Waitaminute!! Three things:
1) I had no idea the internet web could be so eroti-sexual!
2) Email = erotic interface!
3) Girls used the internet in a much more hotter fashion back in 1996.
4) Nipples were blurrier back in 1996.
5) Kind of safe for work... but still pretty hard to explain.
Facebook has largely survived the great momalanche of 2007-2008. The rest of us didn't leave in huge numbers like we promised. When the moms showed up, though, they brought with them their own set of mom-behaviors that, while harmless, should nonetheless be stopped.
Moms sign their comments and messages. "Looks like you're having a great weekend. —Mom" It's very useful in case Facebook doesn't properly load her picture, name, or profile link. Or in case you forget that she uses her maiden name so her elementary school friends will find her.
Moms share images with text on them. I'm not talking about the racist Obama-related images. That's something aunts and cousins post. And not that Ira Glass quote that resurges every few weeks. Mom's are big fans of single-panel comics that aren't funny (isn't it funny how kids are always saying "like"?) and happy thoughts so generic they'd make Hallmark vomit.
Moms' walls are like the ceiling of the dentist's office. Happy Thursday morning, everybody. Don't forget to hang in there.
Moms post non sequitur comments. Moms have not yet realized that other people can see your Facebook posts. No matter what you just posted, they pick up on your previous conversation. You share an awesome picture of the donut burger you're about to eat. She says, "Have you seen your sister's new kitten? So cute! —Mom"
Moms ask why you didn't wish your cousin a happy birthday. Because, mom. Facebook isn't about other people and their stupid birthdays. Facebook is about me telling people funny things. Oh, and looking at wedding pictures.
Moms get upset every time Morgan Freeman dies. They're so bummed! He was such a great actor. "I loved him in that penguin movie and The Matrix. —Mom" And then a week later, they're bummed all over again. This time it must be real. "Happy Thursday, everybody. Hang in there, Morgan Freeman's family. —Mom"
I don't think moms should leave Facebook. I love not having to call my mom to tell her that I'm getting over my cold, had a great audition, or got engaged. She knows because she checks FB regularly. But it's also pleasant to spend time on Twitter because mom stuff doesn't happen there. Or on Google+ where nothing happens at all.
So Portland Fashion Week, if the website that hasn't been updated in a year didn't tip you off, has been abandoned. Instead, Executive Producer Tito Chowdhury has started FASHIONxt, which sounds like a stylish new model of vacuum cleaner or curling iron, and somewhat rightly so. Chowdhury, whose day job is as a Microprocessor Design Engineer at Intel, is re-branding the event from a relatively straightforward week of fashion shows with an environmental event, to "not only what is next in fashion, but what is next in personal style technology." That means in addition to a lineup of designers increasingly dominated by recovering Project Runway contestants (Seth Aaron, Michael Costello, Goga by Gordana, Becky Ross, Joshua Christense, and Viktor Luna) there will be other "lifestyle exhibits" for technology products like Intel's "Personal Cloud"—inspiration from whence Seth "Corporate Sponsorship" Aaron and Luna are collaboratively designing a line—a newfangled Bluetooth speaker, and the latest reinvention of a $4,000 slow-moving urban vehicles for people who still refuse to simply ride a bike. The whole thing makes me a little paranoid, but hop over for more info and some comforting words from Mayor Sam Adams.
Calling all people who like to watch other people fight each other! Liberal knee-jerker Jon Stewart and conservative toothless bulldog Bill O'Reilly are planning on mixing it up again—though this time you'll have to pay to watch their verbal slapfight. Called "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium: O'Reilly vs. Stewart 2012," the two will be debating each other in a live-streamed event at George Washington University on Oct 6 at 8 pm ET. And it will only cost you $4.95 to watch it. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU WOULD WANT TO DO? (If so, you can pre-order the debate here, and rest somewhat assured that much of the money is going to "a number of charities.") OR IS THIS SOMETHING YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO? Check out the trailer and let's vote!
1. It's a weekend-long festival focused on how technology is helping artists create and distribute their work in new ways. (I wrote about it in slightly more depth here.)
2. Tickets were $400, and sold out in two days on Kickstarter, so you can't go anyway.
3. The festival's music, film, and gaming events are free and open to the public, with the caveat that festival passholders get priority. This includes: An arcade at Union/Pine featuring new an unreleased games; performances by MC Frontalot and The Limousines at Holocene; Dan Harmon presenting his unaired pilot Heat Vision and Jack (no one is getting in to this); and a "market" running all weekend on the bottom floor of YU, featuring food carts, artists booths, and a lineup of readings curated by Reading Frenzy.
SO! If you see a lot of fancy nerds with badges running around town this weekend, be nice to them.
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