XMAS APPROACHES RAAR ( none yet )

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You know people with walls. You know people that wear clothes. You also know people that like robots. You, I’d hazard a guess, know people that have walls, wear clothes, AND love robots. I’ve solved xmas for everyone on your list — make with the clicky.

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(Some people don’t like robots, I know. Jamie’s got those people covered, too. Seriously, clicking.)

Where is my other shoe? ( none yet )

Things this essay is not:

1. A tirade about web killing print, or print’s superiority to television, or anything vs. anything, really.
2. The work of a qualified web theorist
3. Sourced worth a damn
4. An essay

If you want any of that, go somewhere else.

I am so. fucking. tired. of people saying web is going to kill print. As tired as I am about people telling me that books are better than movies. So I’m just going to put this out there, for the record:

You’re all retarded. Shut up. You deserve the rounded edges on your user interfaces because you CLEARLY cannot handle sharp edges.

There.

I feel better.

That should get rid of all the know-it-all bastards, too, so now we can talk.

I’ve been thinking about the web. Haha, SURPRISE. But, more specifically, I started out thinking about print, and what the written/printed word can do that nothing else can. And what pictures can do that words cannot. And how that changes once you make those pictures move. And when, and if, you need to accompany your moving pictures with sound.

Yes, I’ve just now gotten around to dissecting the pros and cons of media, and wondering what, if anything, makes the web a different beast. (This is a lie, but I’m just getting around to writing it down. So we’ll pretend like I just got here.)

Because that’s really what all of this design and 2.0 nonsense is about. It’s about capitalizing on a different animal. Or, at least, it should be. The point, I fucking well hope, is NOT that the web is just like anything (only better). The point, I fucking well hope, is that the web is different, and we can do different things with it.

So I went back to mags printed in 1997 and found that yeah, we were pretty sure it was different back then. We were, in fact, really excited about the new challenges we’d face with this radically new content distribution system. And then we promptly set up online television stations, online printing presses, online radio, an online postal service, and online telephony.

Way to go, neenernet. You’ve managed to recreate the world we already had, just a little faster.

So let me, as a singularly qualified individual with no idea what I’m talking about, point out exactly what it is that the intertubes CAN do, what makes it different, and what you’re doing wrong.

You can trust me.

I’m not an expert.

Hyperlinks: Or, Why are we underlining everything?

Credits, supplemental information, and further reading are not new concepts. Neither are bibliographies, footnotes, or sources. For a very, very, very long time we have added information at the end of movies, or inline in books, that allowed the viewer to follow up if they were interested. And when we moved to electronic communication, we pulled that concept in, too. I can link you anywhere or nowhere, inline or in the sidebar. Hell, I can even embed a sound or video file if that’s relevant. At the simplest, links allow me to provide you, my reader, with credits, supplemental information, further reading, bibliographies, footnotes, or sources. See also: wikipedia. See also: google.

But that’s… well it’s certainly convenient, but how is that really any different from the linking of information we were already doing?

It’s not.

Digest that for a second.

Hyperlinks aren’t cool, or new, or exciting — not in base concept.

So why the hell am I talking about them (aside from my obvious need to talk whether I’ve got something to say or not)? Because the thing that hyperlinking online does that no other medium can mimic is the instantaneous transmission of information. Which is a few big stupid words that basically means: You don’t have to wait to find out more.

Did we forget that? I mean, don’t any of you remember reading a short story and having to wait until your next trip to the library to find out if the author had written anything else? Don’t you remember when we had to figure out definitions from context, or walk across the room or town to find a dictionary? Because we seem to be taking linking for granted, these days.

I’m not saying “I’m old, and in my day there was walking through snow before fire.”

(Well, yes, I kinda am.)

But I’m saying “Once upon a time we chose carefully what information we ‘linked’, because we had limited space and time. Now we do not. So why are you sending me in circles? I’m running out of time, again.”

Listen. Please. It is incredible that you can just underline a word or a name, and I can follow that to new information. It’s fucking amazing. It’s the future. But.

BUT.

But we’re using this amazing little miracle and using it, almost exclusively, to datamine. Which is great, sure, and necessary… but if everyone’s just pointing at content, where does the new content come from?

Apparently, someone got it into their head that all it takes to be a journalist is an access to the wire. That the news is just pointing at information and saying “LOOK WHAT I FOUND.” That, if content is cool, then finding it must be even COOLER.

And BoingBoing is, in fact, awesome.

We’ve just already got one of those. We’ve already, actually, got THOUSANDS.

So if your idea of a great new web site is some new way of linkmining and pointing me at content — some NEW way — then I am very excited and want to know more. If your idea for a new site is “Hey, this one time I totally scooped [insert news site here] and I could totally get famous if I did it all the time”, well then congratulations — you’ve reduced the web to your old high school newspaper, printed on the office copier, and no different than 1986.

You’ve got the ability to transfer information. Immediately. To supplement or hype or credit or define. It is up to you whether you want to shoot info bullets, or fling the same shit everyone else is.

Your call.

Which brings me, because I’m so sorry I’m not done talking yet, to part two of Really Awesome Stuff We Can Do Online That We Can’t Do Anywhere Else But Damned If We’re Using It To Full.

Archival, Storage, Syndication, and Aggregation: Or, Where does it all come from, and where does it all go?

Collectors, infojunkies, and obsessives rejoice.

The web is awesome.

It’s all here. Everything. And if it’s not, yet, it will be in a minute.

We’ve got YouTube quickly filling up with all the videos ever, and new ones every day. Literally millions of billions of gajillions of minutes of streaming multimedia content. We can access is, embed it, download it, upload it, watch it, share it, and (sadly) read comments on it. LastFM is doing the same for music, with some copyright limitations, but you can find pretty much any music you want through torrents or even google. Flickr is an ongoing and nearly infinite scrapbook and art gallery. You can even collect your friends and contacts and everything in the known world (thank you, technorati, for that little bit of tongue in cheek) about them.

It’s the biggest library in the world.

It’s linkable.

It’s streamable.

It’s searchable.

It’s… a little much sometimes, isn’t it?

Which is why, if I didn’t make it clear in part one, data and linkmining are, of course, necessary. At some point, someone smarter than I am is going to get around to creating stations of content, probably staffed by pirate radio dj’s, that rebroadcast new content alongside supplemental and links. At some point. And then we’ll have reinvented radio, or network television, or magazines — maybe one better, maybe not. But didn’t I start all of this by saying I was looking at what made the web different?

Yup.

Because when you have a seemingly limitless library, and you have the ability to access it immediately, and you have the ability to choose what to broadcast and choose what to pull…

When you have the ability to push and pull the information instantly, you have something new. Take another look at the right hand side of my screen. Yes, I’m just aggregating content from my friends list — but if they thought about it, and if I had a decent readership, they could push content to their site, through their site, to my site, to my readers.

Think about that for a second.

Remeber ye olde webrings of 2000? How you could move in a lazy circle of like-minded people, sometimes jumping up or down a level if you came to a new webring link? It wasn’t perfect, but it was the seed of RSS, I think. It was certainly the seed of my sidebar. Because if you’ve got a library, but you’re also IN the library, there’s another way to link information…

If you’re grabbing my rss, and I’m grabbing yours, we probably don’t want to both link the same site in a post. But if you link a site, and I’ve got more to say about it, and I know what I say is going to show back up on YOUR site… we’ll then we’ve started to have a conversation, haven’t we? Not in the comments section, or on a web forum that shoves us into a corner.

Aggregation and syndication, push and pull, friends lists and networks — when you add those in to this ever growing library where we can store anything — there’s the potential here for a constant growth of content.

Building on information. Not just storing it and sorting it and saving it and linking it.

Constant growth and dynamically shifting content that carries you and me not _through_ the library, but makes us the authors, photographers, creators, and curators.

Of course we’ve got to put it all somewhere, that’s the point of the storage, the need for the archival.

But we’ve got to realize we need to keep moving. We can’t just be sorting the data as it appears. Or we will run out, and become a dusty echoing repository. I know you don’t believe me — I know you think there will always be new stuff. Of course there will. You just won’t get to see it because you’ll be catching up on yesterday.

Which, I suppose, is part three.

Right Now: Or, This Matters. Or, The fucking point.

(With sincere thanks to Melissa Gira for letting me blather half of this at her last night, and certainly the theft of 80% of this directly from her.)

All that long, stupid, reiteration of concepts is really just to say this:

What really, really, I’m being serious, pay attention, sets the web apart from radio, television, print, and the neighborhood coffeeshop is that you’ve got 5 seconds, you’ve got 1024×768 pixels, you’ve got a MOMENT of life, THIS moment of life, to make a point. The irony of my loooooong post to come to that point is not lost on me. It’s the entire, hurt, screaming irony of the internet.

Twitter asks “What are you doing?” Say it. Right now. In 140 characters. That’s it. Touch quickly. What matters, right now. Not before. Not after. Right now. Make it quick. It’s already gone.

Tumblr says “Put it here.” Link it. Bookmarklet. Make it longer if you have to. But make it short enough to parse. Right now. What matters? What do you need? What did you see? Where was it? Leave a trail, but don’t stray too far. Touch in, touch base, make it quick, it’s already gone.

What seems a horrible handicap, this speed to the point of moments dropping off the front page too quickly to linger, this fucking frenzy of information, I give you leave to take a second and consider this:

If you only spoke of what matters, right now, not before, not after, how much more could you say?

Of course we need the archives, doomed to repeat the past if we don’t learn from it, etc, etc. Of course I’m thrilled to find an online novel I can dl in PDF and read at my leisure. Of course I don’t want to replace my life with a series of disconnected moments and broken transmissions.

But.

BUT.

But this is something different. This isn’t life, any more than your favorite tv show is life, or your favorite song is life, or your well-worn copy of a handwritten manifesto you found in an old bookstore is life.

This is entertainment, advertising, and sometimes networking to the point of comfort, yes, but mostly Just Another Medium. The web has the ability to push, pull, force, and ease content to and from everyone with $30 a month or a wireless card.

From anywhere.

About everything.

But only in a moment.

And if you make that moment SO IMPORTANT that it can’t be forgotten… and then move right on to the next thing — the next thing that is SO IMPORTANT that it can’t be forgotten.

Well that’s some goddamned entertainment, isn’t it?

That’s content so damned refined I can get a contact high just from 140 characters.

You know, if you can manage that.

If only there were some way for you to create content, and fill in the spaces with more content, from someone else, to create a constant stream of information, emotion, snapshots, videos, love, music, hate, words, sex, definitions…

Not a life online, but an online that anyone alive could dip in and out of at will. A place people want to visit, interact, and then go back out into that life to bring back more.

Well, there is.

It’s already here.

As soon as the other shoe drops.

I’ve gone mad ( 2 comments )

I’ve been coding and tweaking and nattering for some godIdon’tknowhowmany hours straight, so forgive me for being insane.

I’m going to write it down, anyway.

LOLCat captions are written in “Pidgin”. True story. That’s what they’re calling it.

People are having relationships via twitter in 140 character bursts.

Others are having entire conversations cross-site in Flickr photo tags. We’re talking in tags.

How quickly can you grab the relevant information off a page? 20 words? Ten? Five?

People may be as dumb as bricks sometimes — just look at the comments section of YouTube if you don’t believe me. Give people space to write and they’ll give you back shit, 99% of the time.

But with faster communication systems we’re learning to communicate faster. Developing complicated netspeak beyond just simple letter or word replacement. Shoving an entire twelve page rant into DO NOT WANT. We’re moving into, haha, radio communication. Roger that? Only it’s multimedia, because we can toss up a pic (worth a thousand of them) or a vid or an mp3 to sup the broken grammar.

Club, groups, scenes, doctors, pros in any field have always had lingo, faster than thought communication. A well oiled machine can talk faster than an outsider can listen. A loved one can lecture or praise with a twitch of the lips. We’ve always been able to communicate this fast, but never with so many at once.

Of course, we’re still sticking captions to cats.

But once we’re fluent at talking in nothing…

Well, some do enough damage with a couple thousand words.

You could crack the world with seven.

Do Better ( 1 comment )

“Video content overshadows prose.”

I see this opinion all the damned time. Most recently (a few minutes ago) it was a comment on a thread about multimedia online magazines (in reply to this post). And, as someone that fully intends to publish some of my stories, it pisses me right off. On the other hand, picking a fight on the internet is just going to end up hurting my brain, so I’ll just rant over here.

Look. If you want to write stories, and you’re worried that some other medium is going to overshadow them, go into another business. Seriously. If you’re afraid that moving pictures are going to get more views than your prose, then you obviously can’t write a scene that breathes. If you’re afraid that people are going to listen to mp3s instead of linking your shorts, then you probably can’t dialogue your way out of a wet paper bag.

But more people watch movies than read books.

Then write better.

But people are mindless sheep that don’t want to read.

Then write so damned well that they’ll have to.

If and when ever you say “some other content would overshadow my prose,” you’re basically saying “I don’t want to be judged, I just want to be consumed.” You don’t want to be read and enjoyed on your merit, not really — you want to have written something that was read because, well, there wasn’t a whole lot else going on.

You may, now that I think of it, have a career writing ad copy. Look into that.

Sidestep: That’s also why, in four days or so, people are going to start annoying the ever loving fuck out of me by posting Nanowrimo stats. So that, come December, they can say they’ve written a novel. It wasn’t, you know, great or anything. But if you don’t hold it up to any other content it’s still a whole lot of words. That counts, right?

budgie: is at work. At home. That shouldn't be as weird as it sounds. via Twitter

Tuesday April, 22 2008 01:02 AM PDT
budgie: is at work. At home. That shouldn't be as weird as it sounds.

mattfraction: HOLY SHIT IT'S STORMAGEDDON '08 via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 11:28 PM PDT
mattfraction: HOLY SHIT IT'S STORMAGEDDON '08

melissagira: Bisexuals, you're such a server load. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 10:40 PM PDT
melissagira: Bisexuals, you're such a server load.

mattfraction: @Remender ha ha "jokes" via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 09:43 PM PDT
mattfraction: @Remender ha ha "jokes"

wilw: New post on my blog: Radio Free Burrito Episode X http://tinyurl.com/693ztv via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 09:13 PM PDT
wilw: New post on my blog: Radio Free Burrito Episode X http://tinyurl.com/693ztv

wilw: Attention music lovers! There is a new episode of Radio Free Burrito online at this very moment: http://tinyurl.com/6rbrbe via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 08:33 PM PDT
wilw: Attention music lovers! There is a new episode of Radio Free Burrito online at this very moment: http://tinyurl.com/6rbrbe

amosborne: How far backed up was twitter? Well, @warrenellis has just _now_ informed me that it's Saturday on Whitechapel... via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 07:50 PM PDT
amosborne: How far backed up was twitter? Well, @warrenellis has just _now_ informed me that it's Saturday on Whitechapel...

rstevens: I can really only sing along to Zappa songs. Karaoke has failed me. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 07:50 PM PDT
rstevens: I can really only sing along to Zappa songs. Karaoke has failed me.

amosborne: Oh dear, twitter just unclogged all at once. Hi, everyone. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 07:38 PM PDT
amosborne: Oh dear, twitter just unclogged all at once. Hi, everyone.

rstevens: Another ball, another Pokeman via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 07:36 PM PDT
rstevens: Another ball, another Pokeman

freaky deaky via Trixie Bedlam

Monday April, 21 2008 07:06 PM PDT

trixiebedlam posted a photo:

corner invader via Trixie Bedlam

Monday April, 21 2008 07:05 PM PDT

trixiebedlam posted a photo:

rstevens: @shehasnostrings Whoa. That may be the very last straw in the bacon wagon! via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 06:57 PM PDT
rstevens: @shehasnostrings Whoa. That may be the very last straw in the bacon wagon!

::currently listening via Warren Ellis

Monday April, 21 2008 06:44 PM PDT

STARLIT’s cover of "Modern Love" cracks me up. Wait for her to get to the chorus, a couple of minutes in.

rstevens: why hello there baked potato with bacon salt and a fresh pot of coffee! come spend the night in my body. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 06:41 PM PDT
rstevens: why hello there baked potato with bacon salt and a fresh pot of coffee! come spend the night in my body.

warrenellis: @angelcityblues twitter's caching is FUBAR - I've gotten your last 4 hrs of sends in the last 15 mins. Hello. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 06:20 PM PDT
warrenellis: @angelcityblues twitter's caching is FUBAR - I've gotten your last 4 hrs of sends in the last 15 mins. Hello.

warrenellis: No, little pop-up reminder window. I refuse to update Adobe Air so that all my desktop apps instantly break. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 06:05 PM PDT
warrenellis: No, little pop-up reminder window. I refuse to update Adobe Air so that all my desktop apps instantly break.

rstevens: Chelsea Clinton works for a hedge fund? Another childhood crush ruined. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 05:39 PM PDT
rstevens: Chelsea Clinton works for a hedge fund? Another childhood crush ruined.

links for 2020-04-22 via Warren Ellis

Monday April, 21 2008 05:36 PM PDT
  • (tags: event sf)
  • ambient set performed by brian from the Werewolves live
    (tags: music mp3)
  • “I predict a new fascination with carelessness, a new tolerance for ?whatever? in a ?whatever generation? - an architecture that prides itself on neither history nor theory”
    (tags: manifesto)

mckelvie: Back in London. Stayed up all night on Sunday as flight was so early, thanks to @ivanbrandon for the hospitality while I waited. via Twitter

Monday April, 21 2008 05:34 PM PDT
mckelvie: Back in London. Stayed up all night on Sunday as flight was so early, thanks to @ivanbrandon for the hospitality while I waited.