Anil Dash: a guy who gets it

December 19, 2007 § Leave a comment

I found this snippet from Anil Dash while coincidentally cleaning out my Google Reader backlog today:

Adding features like comments from sources in a news story to Google News is an admirable attempt to bring unique value to aggregated news stories. But tasking a technology team with the duty to solicit and manage these comments ignores the fact that verifying, recording, and reporting a source is fundamentally an act of journalism. By trying to shoehorn a work of research into a primarily technological process, the news team faces the chance of fraud, abuse, error, or most likely, low participation and eventual abandonment.

An awareness that some types of information gathering require judgment and reasoning that’s not well-handled by even the most clever algorithms would help Google make its transition into being a company that creates original content.

Preach on, brother. This is why I love reading Anil’s stuff — he thinks like a journalist and a supergeek.

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Stephin Merritt: Two-day Song Writing Challenge

November 6, 2007 § Leave a comment

Savor some Stephin Merritt goodness to tide yourself over until the new Magnetic Fields album comes out this January by checking out “A Man of a Million Faces.” He wrote the song in two days as an experiment for the first installment of a new NPR series, Project Song.

My favorite part of the feature story is when Stephin names two separately recorded snare beats “Agnes” and “Billy” to help keep them straight for himself and the engineer. Maybe this is a common naming convention for song writers, but I like to imagine that only Stephin Merritt thinks to use the name Agnes.

Married to the Benjamins

June 23, 2007 Comments Off on Married to the Benjamins

I’ve been waiting for an investigation like One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead, to hit the mainstream since Ian introduced me to White Weddings a few years ago and I began to really think about what having a wedding would mean to me.

Despite the eye rolling brought on by Mead’s writing style, which includes what Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post calls “some of [the New Yorker]’s oldest pet tics, in particular an excessive use of the reportorial first-person singular,” she makes some truly chilling points about the expectations associated with getting married in the United States today.

Mead contrasts the real history of the American wedding with the wedding industry’s rewriting of it in a chapter called “Inventing the Traditionalesque.” She cites a 1939 study from the American Sociological Review called “The Cost of Weddings,” which reveals that a third of brides at the time did without an engagement ring and that the average cost of the wedding was the 2006 equivalent of $5,700 — a pittance in comparison to the $28,000 that the “American Wedding Survey’s” selectively chosen brides (mostly the readers of Condé Nast’s wedding magazines) are paying today on average.

Mead follows up this revelation with a hilarious, but also cringe-inducing, reminder of the wedding industry’s stake in our collective memory of nuptial tradition:

The traditions of not having an engagement ring or a bridal gown or a wedding reception or a honeymoon are those that the wedding industry has been more than happy to see whither away in the seventy years since the Timmons’s survey was conducted. The industry’s definition of a traditional bride is one who embraces the trappings of Bridezilla culture with enthusiasm, and her less enthusiastic counterpart is, understandably, a problem. When Vows magazine, a trade publication for wedding-dress retailers, featured an article on the “non-traditional bride,” it noted that such customers “don’t always make ‘good’ brides because they’re often uncomfortable starring in the role of ‘girl in the big white dress'” and warned retailers that the nontraditional bride was dangerously apt “to forget the wedding and prepare for the marriage.”
One Perfect Day, page 56

If that’s what it means to be nontraditional, sign me up.

Al Gore on Charlie Rose

May 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

I just finished watching Charlie Rose’s interview with Al Gore at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, which reminded me of why Charlie Rose’s show is awesome — I loves me some rational dialogue. It’s free from the link (as opposed to $0.99 on Google video), but I’m not sure how long they’ll keep it up on the Y site.

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