I remember playing Atari’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” as a kid. I was fortunate because my friend knew the ins and outs — how to avoid the wells, how to find phone pieces, how to get to the landing site, etc. I didn’t encounter the frustrations that caused many others to revile this game (nor did I realize E.T. game hate was so strong).
Today, in one of those serendipitous click trips (see the “via” segment, below), I was reintroduced to the E.T. game by way of this VHS-era tutorial:
I understand the frustration now. Marching E.T. through dull screens in search of pixellated doodads feels like an exceptional waste of time. And the sound. My God, the sound.
Yet, the thing I always enjoyed about this game is that it had an ending. That appealed to me much more than gathering points or setting a new high score (much of this is due to my complete incompetence as a gamer — I’m really quite horrible).
Google Street View Hyperlapse stitches Street View images into fantastic mini movies. You can build your own hyperlapse here.
Be sure to check out this demo video as well (and try not to smile while you watch this thing — it’s impossible):
Via “Four short links: 10 April 2013” on O’Reilly Radar
Wired’s new Q&A with Mark Zuckerberg includes a slick pullquote/caption unit that glides over a static background image:
It’s creative and interesting, but I wonder if this technique will get old as it becomes more common.
After reading through this Mashable piece, it’s clear that all of the FT’s paywall experience — and, importantly, all of its related data — has made the organization quite savvy. For example:
Looking through some of the reader data — the FT’s data team now numbers more than 30 across three groups — the FT was able to recognize the kinds of patterns readers display before purchasing subscriptions. “We would see the sort of articles they were reading and the frequency they were reading those articles, for instance, and we began to map those,” [CEO John] Ridding explains. “People do behave in predictable ways.”
“… the FT was able to recognize the kinds of patterns readers display before purchasing subscriptions.”
That, right there, is how you put data to use.
If you can get people where they’re thinking out loud and revealing things that they might not have thought about, but they’re so caught up by the engagement, that they feel a desire for themselves and for you to tell you about choices they made and experiences that shaped them, you always want to know, “What was it that made you who you are and enabled you to do what you do?”
“What was it that made you who you are and enabled you to do what you do?”
Isn’t that great?
For native advertising to succeed, its practitioners need to be mindful that it’s not yet universally accepted, and traditionalists need to unmoor themselves from the idea that native is a corrosive practice that undermines great journalism and see that it could even be its savior.
Despite no longer having an organization or a job or maybe even a desk, former Boston Phoenix staff writer David S. Bernstein (@dbernstein) still managed to break the story that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino would not run for another term (this is huge news in Boston — physicists have determined that Menino is the city’s Constant).
Bernstein’s feat was celebrated in journalism circles, and some rightly questioned how a man who can land the big scoop remains unemployed:
— Alex Goldstein (@alexjgoldstein) March 28, 2013
And this is when my respect for Bernstein reached a whole new level:
— David S. Bernstein (@dbernstein) March 28, 2013
Key lesson: journalism needs more pajama pants.
That .5 is a killer.
This is the first and only time I’ll say this: Do not skip the intro.
Via “What site do you consider a ‘hidden gem’ of the internet?” on Reddit (natch).
The “conclusions” sections of research reports are often dry, and occasionally impenetrable.
Here’s what those sections should aspire to:
We hope other researchers will find the data we have collected useful and that this publication will help raise some awareness that, while everybody is talking about high class exploits and cyberwar, four simple stupid default telnet passwords can give you access to hundreds of thousands of consumer[s] as well as tens of thousands of industrial devices all over the world. [Emphasis added.]
From the fascinating Internet Census 2012.
What I really need is to write a blog post that clears the decks, one that owns up to how starkly impersonal my posts have been for months now, and essentially gives me permission to start trying to write again.
Everyone should give themselves the chance to try again.
Someday, this is going to make for a fascinating movie (“Ocean’s Fourteen?” or maybe “White Collar: The Movie”?) …
Whose fault is it?
That’s the question that’s rattling around my head after the dustup between freelance journalist Nate Thayer and The Atlantic.
For those who may have missed it: Thayer was asked by an editor at The Atlantic if he could condense his feature story “25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy” into a 1,200-word version that would run on The Atlantic’s website. The catch was that he’d be doing this extra work for exposure, not money. (That’s quite a catch. Editing 4,000-plus words down to 1,200 is no easy task.)
Thayer’s blog post chronicling the exchange inspired a lot of follow-up. Of particular note:
- The comments on Thayer’s post morphed into a virtual support group / troll target.
- Reuters’ Felix Salmon used the moment to note differences between print freelancing and digital freelancing. (This was my favorite of the fallout pieces.)
- Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic wrote … you know, I’m not sure what he wrote. He was angry and passionate and I think he meant to defend his colleague and his publication. His response was a jumble of thoughts — many of them smart — but my real takeaway from his piece was that everyone is anxious about this stuff.
At first, I read these posts because they’re gossipy. I enjoy watching journalists go after each other because a snarky journalist is often an entertaining journalist. Anger leads to focus and focus leads to excellent word choice. These folks do know how to turn a phrase.
But as I read more and felt my own anxiety rising, I tried to understand the bigger pressures at play.
And that’s when I picked up on the weird blame thing that runs through all of this.
We’re all so incensed. Freelancers think the editors are low-balling on purpose. Editors complain that freelancers don’t understand the economics of digital.
Pointed fingers. Thumped chests. Pitchforks and torches.
Yet, there’s nowhere to march. The rage can’t be released.
Why? Because the question I posed at the beginning — Whose fault is it? — has two answers:
1. It’s no one’s fault.
2. It’s everyone’s fault.
Digital evolved out of a stew of history and context, propelled by a fundamental catalyst: information exchange always chooses the path that’s faster and easier. In that sense, there’s no one to blame. It all just happened because that’s how information works.
But we — all of us — also made digital what it is through our collective adoption. We’re the ones who commoditized content. We turned to digital services and devices because they offered better options than their ancestors. In that sense, everyone is to blame.
Now, this is supposed to be the “so what?” part of the piece. It’s where I outline my brilliant five-step plan for the thoughtful advancement of the journalism and content industries.
Well, I don’t have a plan. No one has a plan.
I’m optimistic, though, and that counts for something. (Stop rolling your eyes.)
All the anger and anxiety we’re feeling can be productive. It shows we care. We want to assign blame and move on. We want to figure this out because we like doing what we do and we want to keep doing it.
That makes me think we’ll get it together. Yes, this smacks of blind faith. I’m okay with that.
There’s more to it, though. There’s also a business here.
I believe digital publishers will find their natural revenue levels — and those levels are not at or near zero. In time, publishers will regroup and build those levels up. They’ll want to do more and get better, and that improvement will require finding and paying people to do better work for better fees.
These outlets still have revenue gimmicks, that’s true, but they’re new gimmicks. They aren’t clinging to old ad and sponsor methods. The people behind these sites are trying new things, and these new things are much closer to the mark.
That’s a small signal, but it’s a positive one. We’re circling closer to the sweet spot of content, audience value and revenue. Once we hit that, we’ll move into the building phase.
It’s important to take a step back. To look at where we were and where we are. The process isn’t fast enough and it’s still frustrating, but fundamentally we’re improving.
So that’s the only plan I can see. Keep getting better. Keep getting closer.
And if we do that, I believe we’ll figure this out.
In a New York Times article looking at Rupert Murdoch’s plan to take on ESPN (good luck with that), the word “empire” comes across as an understatement when describing the breadth of ESPN’s domain:
It [ESPN] is a true empire, with eight domestic cable channels; the ESPN3 broadband network; the Web sites ESPN.com and Grantland.com; a radio network; digital properties like ESPNw, which focuses on women’s sports; a magazine; the WatchESPN app, which enables viewing of ESPN on computers, smartphones and tablets; and ownership of the Global X Games, college basketball tournaments and seven bowl games.
Other ESPN bits and pieces:
- There’s an entire corporate website dedicated to ESPN’s inner workings.
- The Internet is a wonderful thing. I searched for “who is the guy who does the SportsCenter voiceovers” and discovered it’s Chris Kelley. You can see him here and listen to an interview about his rise to voiceover power here. (It must be unnerving to get a tour of this guy’s house. “This! … is the dining room. And this! … is the lanai” dun-huh-Nuh dun-huh-Nuh!)
- One last thing: My O’Reilly colleague Joe Wikert wrote an interesting piece last year that deconstructed ESPN’s content strategy. It’s a good read.