Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three Ways To Guide The Grizzly

This web comic inspired me:

from Dr. McNinja

It inspired me to create an hourlong mp3 explaining three ways to guide the grizzly bear. I agree that the relationship of the conscious mind to the subconscious mind is like a midget riding a grizzly bear and struggling to control it. This mp3 explains three ways to guide the grizzly, and includes, as a bonus, a very simple technique you can use to figure out where the grizzly is going.

The other reason I created this: in my coaching I've talked to a lot of people who want to do more, but don't; or who want to be more consistent with what they do, but aren't; or who have decided to start eating in a healthier way, but have had trouble following through; or who procrastinate, who can't motivate themselves, etc. All these problems are actually very easy to solve. In every case, you've got a conscious intention which the subconscious disregards. To fix this type of problem, you need to learn how to persuade your subconscious mind to take your conscious decisions seriously. That's what this mp3 teaches.

It's on sale now for only \$19.

from wondermark

Monday, June 28, 2010

How To Win At Drop7

I get on the Drop7 (web, iTunes) leaderboard pretty much every day. Today I was on it twice in the afternoon, although now, at the end of the evening, only one of my scores is still on the board.

Right side is daily, left side is all-time

You can of course get a massive, 70,000-point bonus by clearing the board.

Before: 11,330

After: 11,330 + 5 * 7 + 70,000 = 81,365

However, that's way too rare to form a strategy around (at least currently, for me). What I use to win is much easier: chaining. If you clear one number in Drop7, it's worth 7 points; if you chain that to two numbers, the first is worth 7 and the second's worth 39. The third will be worth 109, and it keeps going up from there. Here's a shot after a chain seven steps long; I got five numbers in the last step, each worth 907 points apiece.

In a sense, it's an investment game. You get random pieces, and the value of any piece can be anywhere from 7 points into the thousands or tens of thousands, depending on how wise and/or how lucky your use of the piece is. Your goal is to get the most value out of every piece.

I like to set up my numbers like one of these:

7 6 5 (anything)

7 5 (anything) 6

6 5 (anything) 7

You get the idea. Set the big numbers up at the edges, so that they can have horizontal lines which make them blow up. Then stack. Don't let the numbers blow up until you have a nice stack. In an ideal scenario, you would have six sevens, five sixes, four fives, and three fours stacked right next to each other, along with anything else filling up the remaining spaces. When you finally let the bottom row fill out, each seven would blow up, one by one, followed by each six, one by one, and so on down the line. You'd set up a chain this way and get huge points.

In practice, the randomness in Drop7 makes this ideal situation very unlikely, but the basic principle is easy to follow.

Here are some examples:

The last two got me 1701 points apiece

This example is NSFW, as it contains some golly darn foul language. This is actually an example of what not to do. I was pointing out that I had a five-high stack of sixes, accidentally touched the screen, which made it six-high, which made all the sixes blow up, which totally wrecked what I was trying to demonstrate. But take a look anyway, because it's still an example of how to stack; before I fucked it up, I had a great stack ready to go.

Update: I discovered a great Drop7 strategy guide.

The Pirate Dystopias

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises.

I'm reading McMafia, an account of how the fall of the Soviet Union brought on the rise of transnational organized crime syndicates. This is a lifelong interest of mine. In the 90s, I remember reading about the Dieciocho, a criminal gang based in Los Angeles and El Salvador. Illegal immigrants raised in bad LA neighborhoods got involved in gang crimes, got deported back to El Salvador, got their hands on military-grade weaponry there, and brought it back to Los Angeles with them. I also remember that a lot of London music took on issues of gun culture after the late 90s; at the time, London suddenly flooded with guns, because the economic crash of 2001 killed the British appetite for Ecstasy, and the Eastern European smugglers who had built gigantic fortunes on smuggling Ecstasy into Western Europe had to think of something else they could use those smuggling networks to make money with. (By the way, I think this is the strongest argument against the War on Drugs; it is not wise to set up compelling financial incentives for the development of international smuggling networks.)

There's a quote in this book which alarms me:

The Croat, Bosnian, Albanian, Macedonian, and Serb moneymen and mobsters were truly thick as thieves. They bought, sold, and exchanged all manner of commodities, knowing that the high levels of personal trust between them were much stronger [due to shared Soviet-era connections as members of the KGB's gigantic system] than the transitory bonds of hysterical nationalism. They fomented this ideology among ordinary folk in essence to mask their own venality...Tribal nationalism was indispensable for the cartel as a means to pacify its subordinates and as cover for the uninterrupted privatization of the state apparatus.

What alarms me about this is how much it sounds like American conservatism. It's easy to spot the "tribal nationalism" inherent in anti-immigration rhetoric, and Tom Frank's essential book The Wrecking Crew documents "privatization of the state apparatus" as the primary ideological and tactical goal of American conservatives since Reagan. In a nutshell, the right wing took on a strategy of staffing government agencies with activists who had campaigned for the destruction of those agencies, and did so deliberately in order to destroy those agencies. American conservative lawmakers create political corruption deliberately because it nets them their political goals, accomplishing with passive-aggressive sabotage what they cannot not achieve with honest legislation.

During the Bush years, the Minerals Management Service, the agency in the Interior Department charged with safeguarding the environment from the ravages of drilling, descended into rank criminality. According to reports by Interior's inspector general, MMS staffers were both literally and figuratively in bed with the oil industry. When agency staffers weren't joining industry employees for coke parties or trips to corporate ski chalets, they were having sex with oil-company officials. But it was American taxpayers and the environment that were getting screwed. MMS managers were awarded cash bonuses for pushing through risky offshore leases, auditors were ordered not to investigate shady deals, and safety staffers routinely accepted gifts from the industry, allegedly even allowing oil companies to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil before tracing over them in pen.

Many aspects of modern life match a police state perfectly.

Nonviolent protestors rushed by Toronto riot cops yesterday

I'm from Chicago, where ordinary people say the phrase "the cops are just the biggest gang" every day with the same air of stating the obvious that people use for the phrase "what goes up must come down" in gentler parts of the country. These days, in the former Soviet Union, "the government is just the biggest gang" is absolutely true in the most literal way possible, and American conservatives are working hard at making it true of this country as well. Science fiction warned us about the police state with countless dystopian fantasies, yet outside of Philip K. Dick and Pat Cadigan, I can't think of any sci-fi which prepared us for the possibility of a police state run by mobsters - which seems to be where things are actually going.

This is why the Internet is so important. Consider: how differently would the Founding Fathers have structured our country, if they had started today? How would you organize police forces and the legal system, if you had a blank slate and a population who nearly all carry cameras with them, every day? How many opportunities for crime that American politicians have used to destroy their government, and Croatian politicians have used to build theirs, would not be opportunities in the first place, in a world which fully made use of the new and powerful technologies available cheaply and in abundance to ordinary people?

These are the questions raised (or at least strongly hinted at) by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody, which is why I'm really fucking looking forward to Amazon delivering his new book, Cognitive Surplus, which I should receive tomorrow.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ordering Some Books From Amazon

Wake Me When It's Funny: How To Get Into Show Business And Stay There, because I'm an actor as well as a programmer.

Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels, because Mark Frauenfelder recommends it.

Cognitive Surplus, because Clay Shirky wrote it.

The Haunting Of Hill House, because Stephen King recommends it in his survey of horror fiction, in his book on writing, and in at least two novels.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do Something

It would probably amaze a lot of people if they knew the inside story of a lot of "rags to riches" entrepreneurs' lives as I do, to discover that just about the only reason for their meteoric success was simply getting into motion, before they were ready.

Quote nabbed from:

What's the best way to "market" an open source project? I think the best way is to start with a question.

A lot of programmers want more people to know about their projects, but don't want to be the spammy douchebag who goes on a mailing list to say, "hey everybody, my project is better than yours, suck my dick! click here." In open source circles, a mailing list post or blog post like "my project is t3h awesumz" may violate social norms or constitute a faux pas.

If you want to promote your work in a context like that, here's the best way: use your project to pose a question about the language or the framework it runs in. Compare code in your project to code in another project with similar aims, and explain why you went with the alternate approach. If you want to cause trouble for yourself, after explaining why you went with the alternate approach, go into lengthy detail about the personality problems of the developers behind the other project. If you want a more peaceful experience, explain why you think the other approach is good too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Handy Camera-To-Web Shell Script

This code takes pics from your camera that have been dumped to your hard drive, but not reformatted for the Web in terms of pixels or dpi, resizes them, re-dpis them, and uploads them to Amazon S3. Note that the size is pretty damn arbitrary.

`convert` is the ImageMagick command-line utility; `amazon` ships with my `utility_belt` gem.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pinkberry: The Movie

A short film by William Morriss Endeavor (no really).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Google Research Validates Hacker Newspaper Design

Backstory: My miniapp Hacker Newspaper reformats Hacker News to read more like a newspaper, because newspapers spent hundreds of years honing their graphic design, and HN's design is primitive by comparison.

New research from Google validates this approach. Notice how the fifth most popular story on Hacker News in this example, a story about sorting algorithms, appears near the bottom of the page in Hacker Newspaper, in the fifth most visually highlighted format, as opposed to fifth from the top, in a format identical to all the other links, as it does in Hacker News.

I love the fact, noted in the paper, that people tend to click on the last result much more than you would expect. The reason is that people don't linearly scan down a page, but often jump to the bottom and focus attention there. A decade ago at Amazon, the personalization team exploited this effect and seized the space at the bottom of most pages on the site for our features. You see, when we saw no one had built tools to track click and conversion data, we built them, and then we used them. No one else realized the value of the space at the bottom of the page, but we did.

You can grab the PDF here: Beyond Position Bias: Examining Result Attractiveness as a Source of Presentation Bias in Clickthrough Data

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I Optimize For Minimal Effort

This went out to buyers of my internet marketing video as an e-mail a little while ago; I'm reposting it here.

I stress "epic yagni" in both Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks and its companion, followup video. I want to explain something about that.

One of my favorite books is The Book Of Five Rings by the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. In it, he talks about the long sword and the short sword. The long sword is slow but strong; the short sword is weak but fast. I oversimplify, but it'll do for now.

"Epic yagni", as I use it in the context of internet marketing, is a Musashi strategy. The short sword of epic yangi is that I am an actor, musician, blogger, and programmer in addition to being a marketer. I optimize for minimal effort and minimal time because I want to use my time and energy for other things. Most internet marketers say, "making money is easy, so I made millions." I say, "making money is easy, but life is short, so make your money quick and get on with your day."

That's the short sword - it's weak and fast, because it's a simple explanation, but it doesn't go deep. Let me go deep for a second here, and show you the long sword.

(Yes, that's what she said. Or what I said to her. Or whatever. Blah blah blah.)

The long sword is this: when you optimize for minimal effort, you create business models that are cheaper than has ever been possible in the history of our species and therefore, as far as we know it, in the history of business itself. One thing obvious: if something is cheap, you can get a lot of it for not very much money. So if you create business models that are incredibly cheap, cheaper than anything ever before in human history, then you can create more businesses, with less effort, in less time, while exposing yourself to less risk.

Consider: I've managed to launch a new product or business every month since November, except possibly for February, and some of my products are clearly lackadasical, and/or half-assed. For my upcoming t-shirt, I made the graphic, and then asked my virtual assistant to put it on a web site and turn it into a t-shirt. Total amount of time spent: something like an hour. It won't make me a millionaire, but it'll buy me some food and gas and whatnot. This is how it works. I launch a bare-minimum product, it covers my rent, I go to acting class, or I go to the movies, or I buy a guitar. On a scale from The Dude to The Big Lebowski, it's pretty obvious where I am. But The Big Lebowski would tell me that the bums lost, and he's wrong. The bums won.

Most people, when they come to internet marketing, bring expectations of effort and time that fit the business models of previous eras. Don't. It's like hitching a horse to the front of your car. You are already living in the future. You just don't know it.

Back when I wrote code for a living, I usually managed to only work thirty hours per week, and that's with a definition of work that included reading blogs and billing my clients for going to lunch. I'm one lazy motherfucker. There's no point lying to you. Most programmers I knew worked harder than me - and that's before I discovered a way to make money which allows me to focus my energy on acting classes, etc.

So say you've got this lazy guy who wants to spend all his energy on acting and writing and being a so-called artist - and he discovers business models that make him money with very little effort - but you're happy to expend a lot of effort, if it makes you wealthy.

What you could do is stay in a field where people expend a lot of effort, and a few of them become wealthy, while the vast majority are merely comfortable, at best (and many of those "comfortable" are in fact working jobs they hate). You could do that, like, for instance, if you were insanely attached to the idea of expending lots of effort.

What you should do is apply these same, minimal-effort business models, but work on them with the same feverish intensity and sixty-hour weeks that programmers so often accept as normal.

If you do that, you're going to have more than one business. You might have more than twenty, more than a hundred. Max Klein's idea of building a new nano-business every day which nets you a dollar a day fits well here:

http://blog.cubeofm.com/how-to-become-rich-even-if-nobody-is-followin

An affiliate marketer named Chris Rempel has a system which works on very similar lines:

http://gilesgoat.lazymrketr.hop.clickbank.net/

This is the system I described using as a ClickBank experiment in the video.

Another thing you could do is find some happy medium; at one end you have working hard and getting rich, while at the other you have the Giles Bowkett, Tim Ferriss point of view, which is that lightweight, virtualized, highly distributed internet marketing business models make the process of making money so easy you should basically just hire somebody else to do it for you, or build a system to do it for you, set that system in motion, and then go do something more fulfilling.

See, most people identify themselves with the way they make money. That's the Industrial Revolution talking. That's appropriate to pre-internet business models. Identifying yourself with the way you make money is like identifying yourself with the way you do laundry. Yes, in some very tenuous sense, it must say something about you, but if you don't spend a lot of time on it, and it's just a means to an end, then it might not signify anything about you at all.

The main reason I optimize for minimal effort is I have money to make, but I don't have time to lose. I focus on this a lot, because my artistic goals matter to me a great deal, but the reality is, it's true for everybody reading this. Unless you're already wealthy, you have money to make, and unless you're immortal, you don't have time to lose.

A caveat about my laziness: I exaggerate somewhat here to make my point. I am also known to work my ass off, from time to time.

A Hypnotist I Can Recommend

I mention hypnosis now and again on this blog and on Twitter, and people ask me for more about it. I'm happy to recommend Wendi Friesen, whose web site has tons of products, some of which I've bought (and all of those which I've bought, I've found very good or even excellent). By the way, for those of you with weird/insane emotional issues about money, this isn't an affiliate link, but only because I've not had time to find out if she has an affiliate program or not.

In related news, I became a certified hypnotherapist in 2003. The certification comes with continuing education requirements, which I spaced out on, so it's no longer valid, but it's still entirely legal for me to make and sell hypnosis mp3s in the state of California, as long as I refrain from making any medical claims. That's something I may do in the near future; if you're interested or you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter or e-mail me.

In the meantime, Wendi's products are great.

Zed: Marketing Isn't Lying; Maybe It's Good You Didn't Get A Puppy

I've read Zed's rant, and I don't like it. The content didn't bother me that much, actually, but the traffic boost bothers me. I'm releasing a new video and it puts me in the uncomfortable, sleazy position of potentially making money out of arguing with Zed about his career and my code. I think that's just a bit too personal to make money off of, especially since my codes is prfekt, and that gives me an unfair advantage. I also don't want to make money off it because it looks as if Zed's gone insane.

I only saw two things in Zed's rant that I feel good about responding to:

I don't have a dog. I'm not saying I wouldn't do this, I'm just saying I don't. I will admit that the first thing I thought when I read this was, "hmm, that's a good idea, I should totally get a dog."

I also bring this up because my advice to Zed to solve his marketing problem was that he pose for a picture on his blog with a puppy. I just want to say, this is not the kind of picture I had in mind, and under the circumstances, I'm glad he didn't take my advice.

2. Here's a fucking clue Giles, marketing is lying, but it's also about presentation and optimization.

Zed's got a good point when he says that good documentation is good marketing, but this idea:

marketing is lying

is utter horseshit.

I want to address this because it's a pernicious and common misconception, because I've blogged about it before, and because it's where this whole thing started.

Marketing is like The Force; it's powerful, but it's neither good nor bad inherently. How you use it determines that. Marketing does involve shaping perceptions, and you do see lies coming from bad marketers (both bad in the sense of being bad people, and being bad at marketing), from time to time. But is lying the only way people shape each other's perceptions in the world?

Here's a 15-year-old marketer shaping the perceptions of little children for the sake of his own personal profit:

Another way people shape each other's perceptions: teaching.

And with that idea, I think I've brought enough karma into the world that I can mention I sell a video which teaches something every programmer needs to know.

New Video On Programmer Resumes

I made a new video on programmer resumes. It's pretty awesome.

Grant Austin said:

The resume and cover letter advice you gave me landed me a job using technology I care about in a place with a great open source community, making 30% more money, and an extra week of vacation.

In less than two weeks I leave my State government job behind, dive into the Rails community full-time, and get paid for it. I couldn't be more excited.

That's a quote from a customer who was in my coaching program. I took everything I taught him in the coaching program and turned it into my resumes video.

Josh Black watched the resumes video, and said:

I learned a lot, laughed a lot...The pdf on cover letters was also great. Cover letters have always been a complete mystery to me, and it was nice to have a simple formula to follow, again with an example...

All in all, the whole package was fantastic. It's easily worth \$97.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Highly Recommended Eben Pagan Videos On Info Marketing

Pagan believes in "leading with the giving hand", which is to say he sells by teaching. Also means that he gives his affiliates 90% or 100% commissions, and that these videos are long - the first one is 80 minutes.

1 2 3 4

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Offshore Remote Rails Devs - How Do You Do It?

Because I sell videos about programmer self-promotion (and now a new video about resumes, still only in pre-release), I sometimes get questions about how to get work as a remote offshore Rails dev. Unfortunately, I have no idea. If you're working as an offshore remote Rails dev, and you'd like to talk about that, I think it'd be cool if you could do an interview, either via e-mail or Skype. It's a chance to help people. E-mail me if you fit the bill.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Only Thing I Truly Dislike About America

I'm a first-generation American. On the whole, I'm happy to be here; glad my parents came here from their home country. I love the entrepreneurialism and the wide, giant streets. I even like the religious wackos. After all, America started as the loony bin where Europe sent all its crazy cultists, and it's not really a big surprise how many of them got even crazier from hanging around each other. But there's one thing about America that just makes me sick: having to explain this.

This is not a bee:

It is a wasp. This is a bee:

Wasps are aggressive, cruel, predatory, and moronic. Bees are gentle creatures who manufacture honey and communicate with each other by dancing. Humanity lived in peace with bees for thousands of years, developing long traditions of beekeeping and countless recipes around honey, before America ever existed as a nation.

This is a child unafraid of bees, and hundreds of bees who have done the child no harm.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Information Diet: Less Twitter, No More Hacker News

I'm a big fan of Amy Hoy's idea of information hygiene. I think of it a little differently, as a matter of diet and nutrition, but it's the same basic principle. This past week I got myself out of the habit of checking Hacker News(paper) several times a day, and out of the habit of spending too much time on Twitter as well. (Too much time on Twitter is a subjective measure, but I'm spending less time on there, I'm sure of that much.)

Here's what I see when I wake up in the morning.

Here's a closeup of the clock.

The time is unrealistic - I shot this hours after getting up, and I know from a meticuluous spreadsheet that I get up around 6am every day now. The early rising time happened after I moved my bed to a room which floods with sunlight almost the moment the sun rises, and the spreadsheet happened after I bought my iPad. (I've been tracking my waking time every day since December or so, but I moved it to a spreadsheet once I fell in love with my iPad.)

Anyway, beneath the clock you see two note cards: one says "no Twitter or e-mail until you've done your hypnosis and visualizations" and the other says "Hacker News banned til August." I put up the Hacker News card after I noticed that the Twitter card was working really well. I put up the Twitter card because I was aggravated at how much time I spent diddling around on Twitter and how infrequently I hit my target of doing hypnosis and visualization daily. Since October, I've been tracking a variety of goals daily and weekly on a calendar system I created, so I know for a fact that I've done my hypnosis and visualization exercises way less frequently than I intended; I also know for a fact that visualization is a part of success for a wide range of masters in their fields, and that deep relaxation exercises such as hypnosis assist in heart disease recovery, in addition to a range of other benefits. By contrast, Twitter diffuses my focus and scatters my brain; I enjoy it, but it's not the way to start your day.

Anyway, these note cards have worked great. I used to check Twitter and Hacker News every morning before I even got out of bed; now I don't get to Twitter until I've listened to a hypnosis mp3 and done my daily visualization exercises, and I don't read Hacker News at all. Looking at my calendar, I haven't missed hypnosis or visualization once since setting this up. (It helps that tracking your accomplishment of daily target habits every day sets up a meta-habit of sticking to the committments you make to yourself.) I hadn't intended to check Twitter less, actually, I'd intended to get to my hypnosis etc. first thing in the morning, but I'm totally OK with using Twitter less for a while.

One last thing, the reason it says "Hacker News banned til August" instead of "Hacker News banned" is that it's really, really easy to commit to a change if you constrain it to a time frame. If you say "I'll never check Hacker News again!", it's bullshit; it's too much too soon, and your habit will re-assert itself. If you say "I'll read Hacker News less", it's bullshit too; setting non-specific goals doesn't help anybody. If you give yourself a temporary time frame, it's just an experiment, and you're free to change your mind later, which means you can commit to the experiment fully while it runs.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Logical Demon Yenta High School: Recovered Sketches

I've always loved Logical Demon Yenta High School, an obscure manga about a 16-year-old Ayn Rand defending St. Petersburg, Russia - her original home town - from various oni (demons from Japanese mythology) by ranting at them until their heads exploded. The manga character Ayn Rand goes by the name Ayn Rand in her St. Petersburg childhood, even though in reality she went by her given name (Alisa Rosenbaum) during that time. I assume the various supernatural creatures she fought in the manga, and the witch hunters who train her, are likewise fictional.

It's incredibly hard to find any evidence at all that Logical Demon Yenta High School ever really existed. Ayn Rand was in some ways a libertarian L. Ron Hubbard; she gathered a cultlike organization of followers around her and that organization protects her memory to this day. The similarity extends even to naming conventions; Hubbard's group was the Scientologists, Rand's the Objectivists. Logical Demon Yenta High School incorporates this with periodic battles between the two camps (even though neither organization existed yet, during Rand's years in Russia), and adds a third organization, funded and controlled by oni, called the Truthologists. I suspect, but absolutely cannot prove, that the Objectivists sent people to Japan in the 80s to destroy Logical Demon Yenta High School. Rumors on 4chan and elsewhere suggest that the Yakuza were involved, that the manga's creator went insane and disappeared, and that UFOs descended on Tokyo to destroy every copy of the manga and every episode of the anime.

A while ago I decided not to take these rumors seriously. They're obviously some indie manga scene joke. Instead I started hunting on eBay for copies of the manga. They were hard to find. Even the rumors about it were hard to track down. It seems odd that an entire media property possessed of such originality, verve, and literacy could just go Croatoan like this, but in a world where the Heart Throbs only get 804 views on YouTube, I guess anything can happen. I'm not going to press the Objectivist conspiracy theory angle too hard - I don't want to see if they can fight as fiercely as the Scientologists - but I've heard stories. That's all I'm going to say.

The good news is I was able to find some very, very crude sketches of two of the main characters, the 16-year-old Ayn Rand and an oni called Demon Einstein, who was half-man, half-snake, and one-sixteenth Hydra on his mother's side, which sounds irrelevant but comes up in the story quite a bit, as Hydras can regrow their heads on demand, and this demand grew very high among oni who were trying to invade a city but kept finding themselves battling a 16-year-old girl with the power to make an oni's head explode just by ranting at it. Demon Einstein kind of became the go-to guy for the oni over the course of the comic, because for most people getting your head exploded is kind of a one-time deal, while for Demon Einstein it was just a serious headache. In the first few years of the series, the oni tried to block out Rand's voice, but it didn't work out. They tried headphones and Walkmen, they tried fuzzy earmuffs, and in one twelve-episode story arc, they even tried hiring construction workers to build things next door, but eventually they just settled on Demon Einstein.

Again, these sketches are very crude, but I don't care; I'm a big fan of this show, and it deserves to be remembered. Here they are:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Adams Theory of Content Value: As our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero.

This is ridiculous.

Start here:

As our ability to search for media content improves

This unproven assumption sees not one attempt at verification or demonstration at any point in Adams's post. If you've been using Google since its early days, you can think of at least one counter-example to Adams's blind, unvalidated, example-less optimism: search has gotten much, much worse. Spamblogs did not exist before Google; Google prioritized blogs over other content, imposing the Californian imperial agenda on the Web, and for this reason, Google bears a large part of the responsibility for bringing spamblogs into the world. If you search for "ipad wallpapers", Google will try to steer you to iPod wallpapers. If you search for exact programming terms involving punctuation on Google, terms like the Perl special variable `\$'`, you're fucked; even telling Google to match your search term exactly will not cause it to match your search term exactly. Finding good information about technical material online requires more pre-existing expertise than it did just five years ago.

Another flaw with Adams's argument is that the price of content has been going up. I myself sell internet marketing videos for \$197. As for the people who taught me how to do it, they sell for way more than that. This is an ongoing economic trend which began in the early 20th century, chugged along, growing slowly, and then suddenly skyrocketed in recent years with ebooks and videos online. (It also saw a smaller boom at the advent of desktop publishing.) Without the Internet, the number of information marketers would be much smaller, and the money they make would be smaller too.

Likewise, Apple's made loads of money off me by selling me an iPad and then reminding me I can buy videos to watch or music to listen to; I've even bought music from iTunes that I already had on pirated mp3s locked up in some dusty old USB hard drive, because I didn't want to deal with figuring out how to sync it to my modern computers, transferring it over to my media drive, and putting it on my iPad.

Now comes the iPad, which is destined to become primarily a criminal tool, and it will cause a change in society the same way that widespread illegal boozing caused a change in Prohibition laws.

That sentence was way overkill; all you really need is the first phrase: why would I get up off my comfortable sofa?

Take my critical tone with a grain of salt. I like reading Dilbert, and I use Google everyday. But this mid-1990s Wired magazine bullshit flies in the face of how I make my living. The online futurist community has a giant blind spot to unprestigious uses of technology; they can see the demise of newspapers, but not the rise of information marketers, because journalism is prestigious, and ebooks on teaching your parrot to talk are not. If this blind spot disappeared, Scott Adams would see the massive industry that thwarts his thesis. How he missed the reality of the iPad, though, I don't know.

Use Ack With Haml

Most people recommend that you add a Haml type to your `~/.ackrc` file, but that didn't work for me, possibly because I use the standalone Perl file version of Ack. Instead I made this simple edit in that file itself.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Code Review Service

I've been doing a code review for a client and it's proving fun. I also set up a goal to launch a new business every month in 2010, so I'm going to set up a code review service as my June business. For businesses and individuals new to Ruby and/or Rails, who want to find out how they're doing. Includes Skype consultations and detailed report on code idioms, suggested refactorings, strengths and weaknesses of the code base, best practices, and more.

To inquire re: my availability, e-mail gilesb@gmail.com.

Living A Full Life

There's something perversely admirable about millionaires going to jail and scheduling their work around it, like true professionals. Many people will never go to jail or become a millionaire; it seems very ballsy to do both.

Code == Art: One Tiny, Simple Supporting Argument

There's a sometime debate afoot:

of all the different types of people I've known, hackers and painters are among the most alike

vs.

hackers are nothing like painters

I think this discussion is far from settled.

I did come across one argument in favor of the "code == art" side recently. Creating a new code project requires two things: an idea, and technical skills. Creating a piece of art requires two things: an idea, and technical skills. The technical skills could be skills like Ruby, TDD, and sysadmin shit; they could be skills like representational drawing, perspective, shading, or color theory. In either case, they are matters of technique, and you need to spend a certain amount of time on the skills themselves in order to have any hope of seeing the idea to completion.

The similarity may end there, but it's a similarity for sure.

The interesting question: does the similarity end there? It's pretty easy to say yes if you're building .NET apps for the state of Georgia. What if you're building this?

For the sake of argument, let's compare it to making spaceships. You can make spaceships for the government. You can make them for the military. You can make them for eccentric billionaires, or in cutting-edge startups. You can even build them as art projects:

Maybe hacking is just a kind of making. The simplest answer to the debate is that hackers are artists when they hack to make art. But an answer like that is only useful for qualifying as a member of Tautology Club.

The problem with this idea is that it ignores the art of code itself. Programmers often describe this code as being more beautiful or elegant than that code. Talk to enough programmers and you'll hear some piece of code described as beautiful, sooner or later. But spend enough time among an isolated group of people who all work in the same field, and you can hear real estate sales techniques described as works of art. Is that meaningful?

The obvious answer is no, but consider answering with "yes" for the sake of argument. It might work. Listen with an open mind, and you can learn a lot about human nature from the real estate sales techniques which real estate salesmen describe as works of art. The real problem with this "code == art" idea is that it's impossible to resolve the question definitively without entering the greatest intellectual quicksand question in all Western civilization: "what is art?"

Al Held's painting The Big N, housed in the Museum of Modern Art