May 19, 2017 - No Comments!

‘Spotify Expands Its AI Arsenal for Better Music Recommendations’

Engadget has a brief article on Spotify's purchase of Niland:

Spotify's editorial selection and music discovery process are hard to beat (ahem, Google Play Music) and it might get a little better with the company's latest acquisition. The music streaming service has just picked up Niland, a Paris-based machine learning startup that focuses on music search and recommendations. "The team from Niland will join our New York office and help Spotify continue innovating and improving our recommendation and personalization technologies resulting in more music discovery, which benefits both fans and artists," a press release says.

As someone who's moved from Apple Music to Spotify soley because of Discover Weekly, it's good to see the company doubling down on recommendations. It seems inevitable that every platform which provides its user with media of any sort will find themselves gravitating towards 'discovery' as time goes on. We're at a point (and have been at a point for a long time) that there's simply so much out there, we could find a new favorite song or film or show at any moment. 

The fact that my Apple Music recommendations were so terrible—and that similar recommendations on services like Netflix and Hulu suffer the same lack of clarity—is a problem, and one that will certainly be solved eventually. Until then, I'll be on whatever service helps me find new things I love the most.

May 17, 2017 - No Comments!

100 Million Books

I have a new homepage, and it’s 100 Million Books.

This simple project shows you a new book, and a quote from the book, each time you open up a new tab. The project prides itself in having no 'algorithms' and no barriers in terms of genre of perspective.

Here's why they've created it, in their words:

It might help open minds by promoting a diverse array of ideas. It might help people realize the sheer breadth of smart ideas, emotional stories, and insightful perspectives out there they don’t know. It might help them acknowledge that there are millions more they won’t ever know. These people may end up getting inspired by an idea that no friend (or robot) would ever tell them about. Perhaps at some point in this process, humanity may find some more humility.

This is a good project, and I've already added half a dozen books to my reading list because of it.

May 16, 2017 - No Comments!

‘What’s Happening With Me’ – Biz Stone

Biz Stone, who just sold Jelly to Pinterest, posted a Medium blog announcing his return to Twitter. As a longtime Twitter user, it's easy to feel pessimistic about the decisions they're making; yet this makes me strangely hopeful that they're focusing in on steering the ship in the right direction.

Here's Biz on what his role entails:

My top focus will be to guide the company culture, that energy, that feeling. This is where Jack, and Twitter’s inestimable CMO, Leslie Berland, feel I can have the most powerful impact. It’s important that everyone understands the whole story of Twitter and each of our roles in that story. I’ll shape the experience internally so it’s also felt outside the company.

I think we can all agree that the 'internal experience' of Twitter needs restructuring. From the outside, it seems as if they've been deep in the midst of an identity crisis. Are they a streaming platform? A news site? They seem to understand that their place is to share 'what's happening', but both the how and even the what have been unclear.

I'll be looking for external signs of change in the comings months.

May 16, 2017 - No Comments!

‘Apple’s New Campus: an Exclusive Look Inside the Mothership’

You will certainly see this Wired profile of Apple's campus linked all over the web today, and I suggest you read it. Not only is it the first real look at the campus I've seen, but it's also full of some beautiful human details.

My favorite is a reflection from Norman Foster, one of the chief architects on the project:

Apple Park may be an architectural tour de force, but Foster has grasped its essential truth: At heart it is the realization of a dying man’s wish to eternally shape the workplace of the company he founded. Yes, Apple insists that by working in a place where artificial hills are dotted with pines transplanted from Christmas tree farms in the Mojave Desert, its employees will make better products. But didn’t Apple create its marvelous Apple II in a bedroom and its ground­breaking Macintosh in a low-slung office park building? The employees who work at the new campus are leaving behind the buildings that provided sufficient inspiration to invent the iPhone.

It’s probably more accurate to say that Apple Park is the architectural avatar of the man who envisioned it, the same man who pushed employees to produce those signature products. In the absence of his rigor and clarity, he left behind a headquarters that embodies both his autobiography and his values. The phrase that keeps coming up in talks with key Apple figures is “Steve’s gift.” Behind that concept is the idea that in the last months of his life, Jobs expended significant energy to create a workplace that would benefit Apple’s workers for perhaps the next century. “This was a hundred-year decision,” Cook says. “And Steve spent the last couple of years of his life pouring himself in here at times when he clearly felt very poorly.

Indeed, it could be said that one of the reasons that Apple's products have been so successful over the years is because they have all felt like "Steve's gifts" to the world. The iPhone and the iPad and the various models of Macs have all felt like a single person's expression of computing, given to the world not as presents, not products.

The fact that the company is still working hard on these creations should put worried Apple fans at ease. This is an organization dedicated to tireless work in the name of ideals, with or without Steve Jobs at the helm.

April 30, 2017 - No Comments!

‘I Have a Riddle For You’

Here's an incredible example of the way that a film viewed at 60 FPS can totally ruin the original intent. Batman Forever was no Citizen Kane, but upping the resolution and frame rate of this film makes everything intended for a cinematic experience come to life in a horrible way.

You can watch the same footage in its original frame rate, and the difference is night and day. The costumes look better, the green screens look more natural, and the camera zooms don't feel quite as cheesy.

This is going to be interesting to watch as films are 'updated' for modern screens.

April 24, 2017 - Comments Off on Juicero and the Misplaced Anger of an Intuitive Internet Mob

Juicero and the Misplaced Anger of an Intuitive Internet Mob

Over at Extratextuals:

There was a story that took my Twitter feed by storm last week, and it was the tale of a tech company squeezed to death by its own hubris.

Juicero is ‘Keurig but for juice’, with their base product being a $400 machine that uses proprietary packets of diced vegetables and fruits to give you your fresh-squeezed-cold-press-juice fix on the reg.

The device is connected to the internet (because of course it is), and includes strange ‘features’ like the ability for the Juicero machine to scan a QR code on the back of their packets and reject one if its expired or perhaps recalled.

I remember reading about the Juicero when it was first announced a couple of years ago, and I thought it was pretty dumb. I still think it’s pretty dumb — juice has proven to be pretty subpar for your health, and even if it was good for you there’s little to be said about the value of this juicing machine over others which don’t, say, include proprietary technology which locks you in to a system.

So it was no surprise that the internet went wild when a news outlet features a story on the fact that the Juicero packets can be squeezed by hand, bypassing the expensive machine entirely. For a product that went above and beyond to espouse the incredible force their machine could exert on those pulped veggies, this can seem pretty infuriating.

Yet instead of finding myself laughing along with the rest of the crowd, I found myself disappointed in the mob mentality.

There’s a few reasons for that.

Read more.

April 20, 2017 - Comments Off on ‘An Aggregated Oral History of 2009 Films Ruined By the Last WGA Strike’

‘An Aggregated Oral History of 2009 Films Ruined By the Last WGA Strike’

I greatly enjoyed this article detailing some of the major franchises which suffered due to the last writer' strike. My favorite example? X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Hugh Jackman, actor: “It was the writer’s strike, so we couldn’t have a writer. Literally, the script would say things like, ‘Deadpool comes in, talking a mile a minute, very funny.’ Uh, where’s the dialogue? We’d say: ‘Yeah man, do whatever you can.’”

Ryan Reynolds, actor: “So we were in the middle of production, there were no writers, no anything. Every line I have in the movie I just wrote myself because in the script we had, it said, ‘Wade Wilson shows up, talks really fast.’ I was like, ‘What?! What am I supposed to do with that?’”

What are you supposed to do with that, indeed.

April 18, 2017 - Comments Off on ‘The Hot New Hip-Hop Producer Who Does Everything on His iPhone’

‘The Hot New Hip-Hop Producer Who Does Everything on His iPhone’

Here's an interesting article from Wired on an 18-year old producer who relies on the simple setup of an iPhone and an iRig.

The video is worth watching to see Steve Lacy at work, and I appreciate the article's lede:

A few minutes after Steve Lacy arrived at a dingy, weed-clouded recording studio in Burbank, the 18-year-old musician flopped down in a plush leather chair in the control room. Vince, one of the studio’s proprietors, came in to show Lacy how the mixing boards and monitors worked. Lacy didn’t care; he was just in it for the chair. He picked up his new black-and-white Rickenbacker guitar, then reached into his Herschel backpack and yanked out a mess of cables. Out of the mess emerged his iRig, an interface adapter that connects his guitar directly into his iPhone 6. He shoved it into the Lightning port and began tuning his instrument, staring at the GarageBand pitch meter through the cracks on the screen of his phone.

The most important thing in your studio might soon be the chair—and any tools you have are meaningless without the creativity to match it.

April 17, 2017 - Comments Off on Instagram Introduces Organization for Saved Posts

Instagram Introduces Organization for Saved Posts

Today Instagram is starting to roll out 'Collections' for saved posts, meaning that anything you save can go into a special bin.

Last year I wrote about how Instagram had become my guide to the city, and how more and more people are reaching for Instagram instead of Foursquare or Yelp when traveling. This actually had a huge impact on my recent trip to Cambodia as we travelled through Siem Reap: I had initially found a nice hotel through TripAdvisor, but I wasn't positive that my wife and I would love it. Right before we arrived, Kristine showed me a picture of a hotel she found on Instagram, and I immediately cancelled my previous reservation and reserved a room at the spot she found.

It was one of our favorite moments of the entire trip.

When I wrote my own article, there was no way to save posts, but of course a few months ago that feature was rolled out. This is further proof that plenty of other people are using Instagram just like I am…and that the service might not only eat Yelp and Foursquare's lunch, but even Pinterest's.