• "I built a working prototype of a Customer Service phone bot that has personal issues she'd like to talk about and over time falls in love with the caller. She uses the tools at her disposal (discounts, upgrades, hold music, confirmation numbers) to communicate her feelings towards you as best she can." Hah!
  • "She said she felt relaxed when she returned from the tough evacuation center life; Paro was a big help in making her feel that way. By chatting with Paro and stroking its soft fur, the residents were helped to relax and their stress was reduced. It is an unbearable moment for the residents when they are waiting for Paro to be charged (the high-end gadget can go only one and half hours with its internal battery)." Some days, I would like a Paro very badly.
  • "In an official ceremony this week, the cutter will be sealed off by a concrete wall; the chamber will then be filled with concrete, encasing the cutter in a solid cast, Han Solo-style, so that it can serve as a support structure for the tunnel. A plaque will commemorate the site. A spokesman said the pouring of the concrete was expected to take place on Wednesday." When we abandon the robots, we should give them funerals.
  • "In this column I want to look at a not uncommon way of writing and structuring books. This approach, I will argue, involves the writer announcing at the outset what he or she will be doing in the pages that follow. The default format of academic research papers and textbooks, it serves the dual purpose of enabling the reader to skip to the bits that are of particular interest and — in keeping with the prerogatives of scholarship — preventing an authorial personality from intruding on the material being presented. But what happens when this basically plodding method seeps so deeply into a writer’s makeup as to constitute a stylistic signature, even a kind of ongoing flourish or extravagance?" Oh, bravo, Geoff Dyer, bravo.
  • "His base is too good, and I don’t have the choke. He proceeds to take a more dominant position, scores points, and my body is burning from the effort. The choke he applies toward the end of the match is almost a formality, since I’m far too tired to do much more than hang on. Second place. Second place because I’m learning the triangle choke, not learning Jiu Jitsu. Chipp never wins tournaments." A fantastic piece of writing, about beat-em-ups and combat sports, and the mindset you get into as you play both. I'm not a combat sports man, but it nails some of the inside of your brain when you've played a lot of beat-em-ups, for sure.
  • "But to my eye, GIF is the most popular animation and short film format that's ever existed. It works on smartphones in millions of people's pockets, on giant displays in museums, in web browsers on a newspaper website. It finds liberation in constraints, in the same way that fewer characters in our tweets and texts freed us to communicate more liberally with one another. And it invites participation, in a medium that's both fun and accessible, as the pop music of moving images, giving us animations that are totally disposable and completely timeless."
  • "My wife and I talk about this. We talk about the protocol of the fertility clinic. We talk about her support group, and failure to produce. We talk about adoption, which is expensive and ambiguous. We talk about giving up on the process and living our lives without the ghosts of unconceived children (the most adorable ghosts there are). We talk, and talk, and wait." Powerful, sad, brave writing from Paul Ford. Sometimes, you wish things were nice for the good people in the world.
  • "I needed to get up to speed with doing recursive node structures so I coded up a project that would put a dot on the screen. When you tapped this dot, it would create a bunch of orbiting child-dots. These children could also be tapped, creating even more child nodes. This prototype took less than a day to create and I naively thought we would be done with the whole thing in a week, max. Silly me."

    Marvellous, dense post from Robert on designing Planetary: lots of show-everything, material exploration, and plussing. What detail looks like.

  • "Years later, when recounting his conversations with Beckett (which he did often), André the Giant revealed that they rarely talked about anything besides cricket."
  • "In this scenario one sunny day you're working on low-level NoSQL projects at the Gootch or wherever, and you get an email from Facebook and you go for the interview and Zuckerberg is talking about scaling PHP and suddenly pauses, gets this look in his eye, pulls his hoodie over his head and says “You have sixty seconds. You should be running.” Because engineers, as we are often reminded, are the ultimate prey."
  • "A problem with the human mind – your human mind – is that it's a horrific kludge that will fail when you most need it not to. The Ugh Field failure mode is one of those really annoying failures. The idea is simple: if a person receives constant negative conditioning via unhappy thoughts whenever their mind goes into a certain zone of thought, they will begin to develop a psychological flinch mechanism around the thought. The "Unhappy Thing" – the source of negative thoughts – is typically some part of your model of the world that relates to bad things being likely to happen to you."
  • "Designers get handed a tool kit that has as many tools as a good swiss army knife, and the maps reflect these tools. Millions of people use them to make appointments across town, find restaurants, and drive home for the holidays.

    But what if, instead of a swiss army knife, we used a box of crayons? Or charcoal and newsprint? Or play-doh? What would those maps look like? What could they tell us about the world?"

  • "One thing that I learned during the launch of the original Macintosh in 1984 was that the press usually oversimplifies everything, and it can't deal with the reality that there are many people playing critical roles on significant projects. A few people always get too much credit, while most people get too little, that's just the way it has always worked. But luckily, it's 2011 and I can use the service that I helped to create to clarify things." This is Good And Proper. (Also it's good management).
  • How ads used to be made. Some beautiful photographs here.
  • Useful notes on the modern way of deploying Rails applications with Bundler and Capistrano.
  • '"The expectation is slightly weird here, that you can do this stuff without killing yourself," added McNamara. "Well, you can't, whether it's in London or New York or wherever; you're competing against the best people in the world at what they do, and you just have to be prepared to do what you have to do to compete against those people."'

    This is what McNamara considers responding to controversy. I'm furious that men like this are allowed to manage other human beings.

  • "This is an atlas, then, made by that other nature, seen through other eyes. But those eyes have been following me, unseen and without permission, and thus I consider provoking breach a necessary act." This is good.
  • "csvkit is a library of utilities for working with CSV, the king of tabular file formats." Ooh.
  • "Synapse is an app for Mac and Windows that allows you to easily use your Kinect to control Ableton Live, Quartz Composer, Max/MSP, and any other application that can receive OSC events. It sends joint positions and hit events via OSC, and also sends the depth image into Quartz Composer. In a way, this allows you to use your whole body as an instrument." Oooh. OSC into anything; really nice, dead simple, and exactly the sort of thing I've been considering poking.
  • "Passing the salt will never be the same. We all knew it was inevitable. Passing the salt by hand just isn’t efficient enough in a world of bullet trains and pizza delivery and broadband. Luckily the condiments have come to life! They will waddle wherever you tell them to, so the next time someone wants the pepper, wind up the key, and pepper they shall have! Mercilessly marching towards them like the terminator, more of a threat to dull tastes than the human race." Not sure they're £20-good, but I do like this condiment set made of small robots.
  • "Here’s a complication of some common and useful time & date calculations and equations. Some, though very simple, are often misunderstood, leading to inefficient or incorrect implementations. There are many ways to solve such problems. I’ll present my favorites." These are, indeed, useful, and I've been using a few of them recently.
  • "Finally, if one can wrap a game around a complex issue like the national budget and engage that many young people, we should be able to do the same with other important policy issues, from climate change to health care. The budget was about the most boring issue one could take on compared to Lost, Heroes, World of Warcraft, or playing Moto Racer on the iPhone." Really interesting set of conclusions from a large-scale serious game.
  • "There was once a world of living robots. But one day a bad accident occured in the main power generator. The world fell into a deep sleep. Bring life back to the world!" Wonderful animation and art design, and a charming little game. It'll take you about 10-20 minutes. It's brilliant.
  • Dustin Curtis didn't like the American Airlines website, and complained on his blog; a UX architect from AA gets back to him and explains how things are; Dustin responds. I need to write something longer on this, but in a nutshell: I understand Dustin's position, but it feels naive, and I think he confuses corporate culture with business practice. I want my airline to have a corporate culture of conservatism and fustiness, just like I want my bank to be severe and serious. That doesn't meant their website has to suck, but it also doesn't mean that their sucky website is their CEO's fault.
  • "ART & COPY reveals the stories behind and the personal odysseys of some of the most influential advertising visionaries of our time and their campaigns, including Lee Clow (Apple Computer 1984, and today’s iPod); Dan Wieden (“Just Do It”); Phyllis K. Robinson (who invented the “me generation” with Clairol); Hal Riney (who helped President Reagan get re-elected); and George Lois (who saved MTV and launched Tommy Hilfiger overnight). Directed by Doug Pray (SURFWISE, HYPE!, SCRATCH), ART & COPY captures the creative energy and passion behind the iconic campaigns that have had a profound impact on American culture." Sounds good – Scratch was excellent.
  • "I hope you find this overview of the future timeline of Facebook Usernames useful to understand where this exciting feature is going in the future, how our industry will adapt and respond to this sort of innovation, and how our tech trade press will hold the powerful company's feet to the fire as this sort of capability becomes mainstream in the years to come." Meanwhile, Anil Dash drops the awesome.
  • "This is what Tim O’Reilly warned about in his definition of Web 2.0. He said that one of the new kinds of lock-in in the era of [cloud computing] will be owning a namespace." Chris Messina, being thoughtful about the Facebook Usernames issue…