The Magazine Closes

A pity. I subscribed from day one, and I've never cancelled, but I've read it less and less frequently. Magazines on digital are still not a resolved idea. 

My labor of love the last two years has been The Magazine, first as its hired hand and then, in May 2013, as its owner. The sad truth has been that, while profitable from week one, the publication has had a declining subscription base since February 2013. It started at such a high level that we could handle a decline for a long time, but despite every effort — including our first-year anthology crowdfunded a bit under a year ago — we couldn't replace departing subscribers with new ones fast enough. We're a general-interest magazine that appeals to people who like technology, and that makes it very hard to market.


How To Hire Designers

Mike Monteiro just writes the best stuff about the process of design as a job of work. You have to love the title too. 

Most people have never hired a designer in their lives. They will live good, fulfilling, happy lives. They will throw birthday parties for their children, they will mow their lawn, they will upgrade their car at a reasonable pace, and they will grow old and happy surrounded by people they love, knowing they’ve lived a good life.

And then there will be people who have to hire a designer at some point in their lives. Maybe just once. Maybe on a regular basis. This article is for them.


Thanks, Rackspace

Rackspace have always been great, but this is awesome. Kudos.

Cloud-computing company Rackspace, a target of a lawsuit from Rotatable Technologies, refused to pay $75,000 to settle a suit and challenged the company's patent, US PAT. No. 6,326,978. Rackspace won, and the patent was declared unpatentable.

"This means that Rackspace will not pay one penny to this troll, nor will Apple, Netflix, Electronic Arts, Target, Whole Foods, or any of the other companies sued by Rotatable for how they use screen rotation technology in their apps," Van Lindberg, a Rackspace vice president, wrote on the company's blog in a post headlined: "Another Patent Troll Slain. You Are Now Free To Rotate Your Smartphone."


Andy Ihnatko's Apple Watch Ambivalence

Interesting observations. And whether I agree or disagree with Andy, I love that he's the kind of guy who properly pluralises mouse as mouses.

And remember that this is a watch, strapped to a human wrist. It can’t be dogged down too tightly or you’ll cut off the blood flow to your hand. So the demonstrator sometimes used their right thumb to steady the opposite side of the watch while their index finger was working the wheel or pushing the button underneath it.

Mind you, photos, videos and descriptions of the original Mac seemed clumsy to many people who had never worked the mouse themselves. In the abstract, you’re constantly taking your hands of the keyboard to push this chunky bar of soap around the desk and then going back to the keyboard. But in practice, it’s not awkward at all.

So long as I’m comparing the controls of the watch to those on the original Mac mouse, though, I can’t help but point out that it only had one button. The mouses that preceded it has lots of controls but the Mac team decided that with this brand-new device, one button was sufficient and led to a cleaner device that was easier to use.

It really is important to remember how each interface breakthrough comes with a learning curve. The original Mac (and the Mac Plus that followed it) came with an audio cassette explaining how to use a mouse.

The Apple Watch Is Perfect For Chinese Input

This is a great idea. I'll need to get learn Chinese for it to be any use to me: At the moment I can only manage numbers, and my girlfriend's name.

I was absentmindedly fondling my old-school Swatch watch while reading Chinese when it struck me: A touch-sensitive watch face is an ideal size and shape for inputting Chinese logograms — better even than a smartphone, because you can do it continuously, and inconspicuously. Just frame the watch face with you thumb and middle finger, then “sign” with your index finger.

That’s enough to let another Apple Watch wearer read your full-fledged Chinese texts in real time. You’re not even dependent on OCR software to transcribe your scribbles into machine-readable text — the only recognition ability needed is that of another human.


Standing Up For U2

The knee-jerk U2/Bono hate gets on my nerves too. 

Call it the Tony Blair test: I’m a Labour voter, and he still gives me consistently egregious reasons to regret that he ever won power. But if push came to shove, I’d still vote for him as a Labour PM, because he’s the least worst option. I’d certainly vote for Blair a thousand times before I voted for the heartless, bloated, conservative monstrosity that came after him – just like I’d buy (or accept graciously) thousands of U2 albums of diminishing quality before I bought one by Coldplay.


Scribble Pen Funding Gets Canceled By Tilt

Despite our best efforts to resolve the matter with Tilt, they have not provided any material response. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to end our crowd funding efforts and seek private investment for Scribble Pen in order to continue the pursuit of our dream. Any donations will be refunded to you per terms and conditions and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Disappointing for those hoping to get a Scribble Pen soon, but it must be devasting to the team working on it. Here's hoping they find their funding soon.


75% Of Ikea's Product Images Are CG

There were people who said, ‘It’s CG, so it can’t be as good’. But the real turning point for us was when, in 2009, they called us and said, “You have to stop using CG. I’ve got 200 product images and they’re just terrible. You guys need to practise more.” So we looked at all the images they said weren’t good enough and the two or three they said were great, and the ones they didn’t like were photography and the good ones were all CG! Now, we only talk about a good or a bad image - not what technique created it.”

A few years ago some of my photography Masters students were looking at this trend—the replacement of commercial photography with CG. How long until we're having the same conversation about fashion photography?

Emoji Everywhere

Fabulous article on Emoji, including this on the forthcoming emoji-only social network:

One potential test of emoji’s staying power is Emojli, a forthcoming instant-messaging app on which users communicate solely with emojis. Though the app is still under construction, I imagine it as a wordless cross between texting and Twitter. “This is not our day job,” said founders Matt Gray and Tom Scott over email, “it isn’t a source of income, we’re doing it because we thought it was a funny idea”—particularly the aspect of emoji usernames.

If you're looking for me, I'm 🐙🏩.


OKCupid Plays Games With Its Customers' Relationships

First Facebook, now this:

Similarly, the research conducted by OKCupid and Facebook didn't necessarily have to manipulate or lie to users. Surely, OKCupid's customers have dated in defiance of its algorithm before. Why didn't OKCupid, rather than misleading people, simply follow the fortunes of those who dated with a low predicted probability of success? In some of those cases, the algorithm would be right, and in others it would be wrong. With enough interactions between its users, it seems that OKCupid could have put together a data set similar to the one it got by subterfuge.

Listening to this story reported on BBC Radio 4 yesterday afternoon I was annoyed that it wasn't being called out as the unethical and shoddy business practice that it is. Can any of OKCupid's customers trust them ever again? Especially when founder Christian Rudder posts stuff like this. I can think of a better experiment: If all of your customers stop paying for the stuff you're "just making up", how long before you go out of business?


Marvel's Iron Fisted Man

Some at Disney are so intimidated, says one source, that they believe "he has spies or is listening in on phone calls," though this person allows that "it could be paranoia." (Or not: A Marvel veteran says "the way to curry favor is to tell Ike that someone spent more than he should have.") Perlmutter once complained that journalists at a junket were allowed two sodas each instead of one, and Disney ran out of food at an Avengers media event because of Perlmutter's constraints, causing reporters to pilfer from Universal's nearby suite for The Five-Year Engagement.

There's no arguing with Marvel's success as a studio, but It sounds like a nightmare working with Perlmutter. Great article. 


Over 1 Trillion Images A Year

Ben Evans on the phenomenal, out-of-control explosion of imaging:

We can't yet see how much this will change things. The proliferation of imaging is a profound change that bears comparison with the way vinyl and especially the transistor took music everywhere two and three generations ago, or the way the steam press and railways took print everywhere in the 19th century.


The universal scope of the camera and the saturation of our lives with the photos we take also means that 'taking pictures' is now no more meaningful a term than 'writing'. Hence Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook or WhatsApp photo sharing are no more all 'photos' than Word, Indesign, Wordpress and twitter are all 'text'. Photos are no longer a category.

The end of photography as an actual thing, then?


Bangkok Mall Overtaken By Fish

I've always enjoyed Bangkok's shopping malls not for their opportunities to engage in acts of consumerism, but for the way they highlight cultural differences between the western brands that dominate and the native people of the city. This though, is on a whole different level:

There's something particularly eerie about an abandoned shopping mall. Perhaps it's the stark contrast from its intended purpose: to see such a sterile place once designed to entice throngs of shoppers into its doors, now so completely devoid of any human life, dilapidated and darkened with time. It's basically the very definition of post-apocalyptic. But in the case of the (now ironically named) New World shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, abandonment by humans doesn't equate with lifelessness. The mall, which reportedly caught fire in 1999 (rumored to be arson by a competitor), has since flooded with several feet of water and become a paradise for koi and catfish.

Amazing photos. Like something out of a Sandy Skoglund shoot.


More Digital-To-Analogue Tomfoolery

This time: Turning CDs into playable vinyl.

Using a modified Wilcox-Gay Recordette—a 1950s home stereo and recording device—Kolkowski cuts grooves into a CD, making it playable on a turntable. The re-engineered CD plays at 45 rotations per minute for up to two minutes and 50 seconds. The audio result is “a nice, warm sound, like it’s been remastered through an overdriven tube amplifier.”


Get The Web In Newspaper Form

Fun new (UK only, for now) service from Newspaper Club, for diehard paper fiends:

PaperLater is a new service, brought to you by Newspaper Club, to help take stuff you don’t want to read on screen and print it as a newspaper. It’s quick and easy and only £4.99.

I've seen a few things printed by Newspaper Club, and they're great. 


Jimmy Iovine Speaks His Mind


The Beats partnership with Hewlett-Packard? A marriage of convenience that will be terminated when the contract is up. “Computers are made for talk,” he said. Aside from Apple, “every other computer sounds like a portable television.” Beats struck the HP deal, he said, to make Dell jealous enough to improve the sound of its computer speakers.

Hollywood? “Desperately insecure.” Silicon Valley? “Overconfident.”

I could grow to like Jimmy.


Don't Back Up To Optical Discs

Be warned: Optical storage just isn't a long-term back-up medium.

Recordable CDs—the kind you can burn or rewrite—tend to have more complicated degradation issues than their professionally-recorded counterparts. That's partly because they're made from organic dyes that break down faster, France told me. And as far as different kinds of discs go, CDs tend to be more stable than DVDs, mostly just because DVDs hold more data, so there's more to lose.

I used to back up to CD/DVD, until I tried to access some of those files. All gone.


Roger Christian Offers Clue To The Look Of Episode VII

Great interview with one of the original Star Wars' geniuses, and this caught my eye:

ESQ: What are your thoughts on the upcoming Episode VII? Do you hope to be a part of it somehow?

RC: It's a different animal now, because George really isn't involved at all. John Rinzler [Lucasfilm executive editor and writer] said, "Look, you should be an adviser for them, because they're trying to do what you did with the [production set] look and everything." He gave my name. So we'll see.