g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Thursday, February 4, 2010
06:18 - The power of meta
http://camelegg.com/

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We live in a world where not only have certain websites become part of our presumptive landscape, but their internal structural semantics have become infrastructure to our experience, whether we realize it or not.

This has led to a rise in meta-web services, where whole websites pop up in order to exploit the presentation of existing sites by mining and collating their content. We've got RSS feeds for stripping away the dress-up games played by popular blogs. We've got EBay bidder agent programs that keep tabs on auctions for you. We've got Quietube for showing you YouTube videos without any of the surrounding distractions of navigation and community links, and even shutup.css (via Gruber) for putting electrical tape over the blinking 12:00 that is the comments section on any of your favorite blogs or news sites.

Another sites that I've been made aware of, and that might well prove to be of inestimable value to anyone who does a lot of buying of equipment, is camelegg. As the name perhaps suggests, it's a companion site for NewEgg.com, which works via the same product tracking IDs and URLs as NewEgg does, allowing you to watch individual product prices over time, set thresholds for alerts, and see what items are dropping in price the most lately. All with pretty graphs!



I'm not sure what the "camel" bit refers to, but it's a flexible brand: the site has companion trackers for Best Buy (camelbuy) , Amazon (camelcamelcamel), Backcountry.com (camelcamper), Overstock.com (camelstock), and Zzounds.com (camelsounds), presumably with plenty more on the way.

The tracked sites in general seem to be okay with this use of their data, though they might in some cases object to the inevitable trademark confusion; but that appears to be ancillary to the utility of the sites in general. Seems they've got a nice burgeoning community going there; I may have to put it to use in some of the buying recommendations I'm involved with.

Now, as far as the idea of "meta" goes, I've personally not been all that taken by it. I've tried using RSS readers, but find that if I'm following a particular site, I generally want to read all of each of its posts, in situ, with all the presentation intact—and I'd be loading all of it any time I wanted to read a complete article anyway, so I find it pointless to try to aggregate and skim. Similarly, even if I see a YouTube video embedded somewhere, I often click on through to the main YouTube site anyway because I want the full complement of metadata—the full title, the description, the upload date, all the context that makes it meaningful beyond the raw data itself.

But that's not to say others won't find this kind of technology entirely indispensable as time goes on. As online retailers become ever more caught up in the cacophony of incentives and discounts and recommendations and reviews and alternative outlets and the chimaera of positive availability, it may well prove worthwhile to be able to skip over all of it—as long as you know what you want in advance—and only visit the retailer when you know for sure it's time to make the purchase.


05:45 - Talk about missed opportunities
http://www.cleveland.com/living/index.ssf/2010/02/bill_watterson_creator_of_belo.htm

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So you score the first interview with Bill Watterson in 20 years, and the questions you think are worth asking are things like "How soon after the U.S. Postal Service issues the Calvin stamp will you send a letter with one on the envelope?" Small wonder he replied with sarcasm and an abbreviated visit.

Surely there are some better inquiries one might make. Off the top of my head:

How different would "Calvin & Hobbes" have been if you were starting it out today, in the age of the Internet? Given the escapist nature of so much of the strip, how would the it address the new forms of escapism presented by modern technology? Is childhood enough of a different experience these days that you'd depict it differently?

What made you decide to try your hand at a syndicated comic strip in the first place? You had a budding career as a political cartoonist, which looks like it could have been very successful if not for the whims of local editors. Was the shift to a somewhat kid-oriented medium a challenge in itself, or was it something you'd always wanted to do?

Did drawing "Calvin & Hobbes" honestly bring you happiness? Did you find it simply became a chore after a while? Was there any one particular thing that made you lose hold on the fulfillment you presumably once got from it?

Did you ever have any other ideas for comic projects? Or was this your first, best, and only work for public consumption? Fëanor?

Are there any modern comics you admire? How do you react when successful comic artists refer to your work as their prime inspiration, or who describe "Calvin & Hobbes" as the greatest comic of all time?

It seems there was a compilation of fan questions a few years ago that he answered briefly, often in ways that hardly seem to answer the question. Surely one can hardly blame him; but it's the fact that there's so little public knowledge to go on that makes this such a fascinating subject. He really is the master of leaving the audience wanting more.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
11:49 - It's a thing! I'm so happy!

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I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude toward this whole iPad business. Not because I don't think it's cool, or because I do think it's cool, for that matter. More like because other people are keeping themselves so busy explaining to each other what it all means that I can hardly add anything to the discussion that isn't already being said.

Most people who attended the iPad unveiling and are now writing about the iPad are misunderstanding its intended audience because they're not in it. Some smart folks — who happen to also be power users — see the iPad's potential and are trying to convince everyone else. This will certainly take some time, just like there are still iPhone doubters even after Apple sold 40 million of them.
That is the gist of most of the articles that seem to be defining the consensus that most closely matches the tone of the Stevenote. A commenter here says:

a few other articles on this same tone. i think we’ll look back and see this as a major turning point:
The iPad is the Prius
Future Shock
The iPad Is For Everyone But Us
Old World vs. New World Computing

And at the same time there's a minority report:


...Which, despite coming from the same kind of voices as the ones I've been watching with much amusement for the last few days, gathering in coven and throng and parliament to bemoan Apple's short-sightedness and lack of willingness to capitalize on a clear market opportunity, is either willfully ignorant of the aforementioned consensus or considers it the work of glad-handing fanboys of the worst kind.

Most disillusioned appear to be the almost-power-users, the creative and artsy types, the ones who have up till now considered themselves Apple's bread and butter. For the past decade they've found a welcome home on the Mac, but they probably came there from the Windows world only a machine or two ago. And now they find themselves confronted with a company who has in the interim changed its name, its flagship product line, and—apparently—its core market demographic. And I'm sure it does hurt. Apple was supposed to be different! I thought they understood!

Well, business is a fickle thing, and while a lot of companies have torpedoed themselves by forgetting their roots, by the same token a company that takes its founding axioms for granted is at an equally dire risk of stagnation. Apple, up till now, has been wedded to the notion that computers are what we've understood them to be for the past twenty years—maybe with better style and smoother edges than the contemporaneous alternatives, but fundamentally the same thing. Keyboard, mouse, desktop, folders, apps in windows that you shuffle around, disk clutter, crashes, telling yourself you should someday do a backup.

And the artsy types who feel so let down by the iPad are the ones who wanted some kind of "artist's tablet", something that would make their creative output so damn much more fun, if nothing else—and probably more prolific and profitable at that.

Well, that's not what the iPad is. Nor is it a tool for picture-from-the-internet-hoarders or video editing fiends or IM addicts. No, the iPad doesn't have a two-way chat camera system. No, it doesn't even appear to have a microphone. No, it doesn't have USB either. (Probably because it doesn't have a facility for installing new device drivers.)

But just as Amazon's weekend fumble against MacMillan-published authors succeeded only in galvanizing people against Amazon who write angrily about dumb corporations for a living, these users who feel so let down by the iPad are the ones who live perpetually in a hive-mind—a loud, angrily buzzing one. Their numbers seem unassailable from within. Their disdain for the product seems monolithic. For all the world, it looks like the honeymoon is over. The bloom is off the apple. It's all downhill from here. Heigh-ho, time to go check out Windows 7. It has touchscreen features and stuff, right?

If the "style" pundits are on the money, though—by which I mean the guys who form the consensus I mentioned earlier, the ones who are hard-core programmers in one window and font nerds in another, who are as jazzed about the possibility of HTML5 and the CSS3 border-radius property as they are about a proper metadata-rich snapshot-capable filesystem—Apple puts no stock in those who put no stock in Apple. By now they've established themselves as a company that can bring compelling products to the wider world, not just to technologists who "get it" enough to overlook the pervasive, inescapable flaws in traditional computing—in other words, not just to people who can put into words, using concrete examples, why they might choose a Mac over a Windows box. Because frankly speaking, there aren't that many of those.

Not compared to the people who would jump at spending $500-900 on a computer if it behaved like an iPhone.

Me? I like to think of myself as in the "style pundit" camp, but I don't know if I personally have a use case for buying an iPad. I imagine I'll probably end up with one anyway, if for no other reason than to keep myself in tune with the way the computer world is likely to move in the next few years, and/or to develop apps to run in that world. But I'm not about to jump into it for the express purpose of using one. I know I'm not the target audience. Which is why I don't think they've just shanked their target audience.

I'll be waiting and seeing. And when anyone wails and moans about how Apple should have brought out a powerful netbook with a full and open OS and a laundry list of hardware features for $300, to pander to DeviantArtists and video-chatters and device driver writers and Grandma, because to do otherwise is to drop the ball, all I can do is think back on all the times in the past decade that well-meaning commentators have admonished Apple to heed their words or face certain doom. And how only the fact that Apple has roundly ignored everything they've said can explain why the company is where it is today.

Monday, February 1, 2010
19:49 - There are still people like this?
http://daringfireball.net/linked/2010/02/01/ipad-fail-win7-succeed

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Damn you, Gruber—why'd you have to go and point out such a canker of concentrated idiocy that I now have a headache right before bed?

Sheesh, it's been years since I casually encountered people doing such juvenile things as deliberately misspelling "I-pod" and the like. Hey guys, how'd that squircle work out for ya?

Now I know what kind of people are inside all those cars I keep seeing on the parkway with one headlight and one taillight each broken and veering helplessly across the center line.


18:19 - Lorem Ipsum
http://faultline.org/index.php/site/item/incendiary/

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Just fill in the blanks:

This is the title of a typical incendiary blog post

This sentence contains a provocative statement that attracts the readers’ attention, but really only has very little to do with the topic of the blog post. This sentence claims to follow logically from the first sentence, though the connection is actually rather tenuous. This sentence claims that very few people are willing to admit the obvious inference of the last two sentences, with an implication that the reader is not one of those very few people. This sentence expresses the unwillingness of the writer to be silenced despite going against the popular wisdom. This sentence is a sort of drum roll, preparing the reader for the shocking truth to be contained in the next sentence.

The comments are the best part. Still somewhat unclear whether it's all the work of one industrious soul or the natural agglomeration of fans, or a combination (see also the most excellent new-media creation The Dionaea House), but either way, nicely done.

Via BrianD.



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