• "There are 1868 cars on the highway right now. You can watch them drive by, or draw your own and it will join the front of the line. Where are they going? The journey is yours." Progressive's annual report is done vy an artist each year; this year's is a lovely Aaron Koblin piece.
  • "The choice for light as a medium is the result of a systematic exploration of what kinds of stimuli pigs respond to. We were aware of some evidence indicating pigs enjoy light. But when we saw how they reacted to a laser pointer, we knew we were on to something." Kars' frankly crazy game for pigs and people is in video form now, but he's deadly serious about it existing. I'm quite excited for him.
  • Really good look at getting your head around vim from Mislav. Especially on the money with regard to starting slow, and adding things as you need them. The worst thing you can do is _start_ with somebody else's .vim files.

The point of Twitter

09 December 2011

John Gruber on the new Twitter iPhone app:

What also worries me is that these changes suggest not only a difference in opinion regarding how a Twitter client should work, but also regarding just what the point is of Twitter as a service. The Twitter service I signed up for is one where people tweet 140-character posts, you follow those people whose tweets you tend to enjoy, and that’s it. The Twitter service this new UI presents is about a whole lot more — mass-market spoonfed “trending topics” and sponsored content. It’s trying to make Twitter work for people who don’t see the appeal of what Twitter was supposed to be.

Yes, that. It increasingly turns out that the Twitter I signed up for – the Twitter in my head, as it were – is the MVP of something else. And now, the MVP is fading away and the something else is taking over. Which is fine for acquiring new users – after all, by and large, it’s a given that most people don’t use your product. But my mental model is stuck around five years ago, when I signed up.

I signed up for this product because it made mass-texting people when I was in town easy, and led to lots of serendipitous drinking and hanging out when I was in the city. On the radio last year, I heard someone explain Twitter as “a tool for following famous people and seeing what they’re up to“. It’s interesting how the product described in the new app feels like the product described by that radio pundit: a consumption tool.

For me, it was always about the permanent backchannel with my friends. I guess I’m looking for a new mobile client now.

  • "If every additional user is putting money in the developers' pockets, then you're less likely to see the site disappear overnight." Yep. This is all quite sensible, and something I've long believed. (See also: Garrett Murray's pleading requests for Tumblr to let him pay for it).
  • "Winning and losing are only defined in their relation to us. Their meaning doesn’t come from an abstract ideal that is buried in the rules of the game, but from our experiences in life, such as witnessing war; or watching Garry Kasparov’s erratic behavior during his matches with Deep Blue; or having once won the emotionally fractured heart of the blonde from class, only to have it crumble in my hands. A game like chess is meaningful because it comments on our wider view on culture—not because placing pieces in a certain position leads to an endgame." On the battle between the logic of systems and the illogic of meanings. Useful food for thought right now.

Drivetime Spotify App

04 December 2011

Drivetime

Music Hack Day London this weekend. Tom, Blaine and I ended up making a thing which didn’t demo perfectly, called Drivetime.

It solves a common problem: how do I listen to the same classic pop and rock anthems on a Friday afternoon as people in other studios? The answer is with the Drivetime app.

Drivetime is a Spotify app. You drag a playlist into it to start broadcasting – you set your station name with a simple text field. Then, anyone loading the app can click on your name and hear what you’re playing. Not just the current track – it’ll start the track for others at exactly the point you’re currently at, and it’ll advance through the playlist when a track finishes. At any point, you can stop listening, and choose another song to listen to.

That’s it, really: a simple broadcast/listen system, all built into Spotify as a native application.

Drivetime Screengrab

The front-end is just HTML/CSS/Javascript, which is how Spotify apps are built; the communication with the client is via socket.io, on top of node.js on the server. Tom and Blaine wrote the back-end; I wrote a bunch of the front-end, which Blaine promptly made much better, and did all the hot pink neon. We all played a lot of Tina Turner in the hacking rooms, and we went home to bed betimes on the Saturday night.

All the code’s in github. The Spotify app only runs (at the moment) if you’re a Spotify developer. We might see if we can get it a bit further and release itspot, so people can listen to one another’s classic rock selections.

It was a fun hack, even if my explanation of it was incoherent, and part of a great weekend – so many superb hacks, large and small, on display.

Links & notes for this month