October 2002


Herald Square and vicinity,  #

Herald Square and vicinity, Manhattan.

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Something I wrote for MIT's Technology Review: The Web's Missing Links. I've posted it on my site because you need to be a subscriber or pay to read the whole thing on the magazine's site. I've been told that the copyright police are unlikely to bust me for this.

The story is about backlinking, or the practice of automatically linking back to the pages that are linking to your page. Weblog people have been playing with this idea for a while, and it has some interesting implications for the wider Web as well. When I started working on this story I added a simple backlinking feature to the right column of this page. One thing I like about it is the feeling of giving up control over a corner of my own site. Someone could follow a link there and discover a new site that I've never even seen. It's all about embracing unpredictability...

The related links I would normally post here are next to the article itself.


Upper West Side, Manhattan.  #

Upper West Side, Manhattan.

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A tasty ph(f)oto(b)log from Brazil.

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The giant Coke bottle in Times Square is coming down.


Covent Garden, London, September.  #

Covent Garden, London, September.

I wrote this for the NYT's business section: Name That Tune, From Your Cellphone. It's about a little company called Shazam that I checked out when I was in London last month. One of their ads is pictured above. (In case you don't know it from your elbow, Ash is a band.)

As the headline indicates, Shazam offers a nifty name-that-tune service for cell phones. If you hear a song in a bar or on television and want to know what it is, you dial a four-digit number and stick your phone near the speaker. Shazam then zaps you a text message identifying the song and artist. The service has 1.6 million tracks in its database, several times more than your local megastore.

So how well does it work? In Shazam's offices it identified MOP's "Cold as Ice" on the radio, but later in a car it failed to get Roxy Music's "Avalon," although the music might not have been loud enough. I also asked a few other people to try it out. Graham (who helped out with EUROTRASH) gave it a shot and posted a mostly positive report on his site. (The Vines' live cover of "Miss Jackson" is not out on CD, which probably explains that failure.) And my friend Garth sent this less glowing analysis:

Tried Shazam in the excellent Coal Hole bar on Strand, good volume and clarity and low crowd noise but Shazam failed to identify both Timo Maas, "To Get Down" and Stereophonics, "Handbags and Gladrags." A message came back in 15 minutes saying that Shazam needed the music to be even louder.

Then went to The Castle pub at Smithfield, a staging post for people lining up for Fabric, a big techno emporium. The Castle was busy and lary (good english word for you) but Shazam miraculously picked off Carl Douglas and "Kung Fu Fighting" at first try. Big cheers all round, even though it's probably the least useful musical identification ever. However, Shazam is a tease. We tried assorted Abba and Robbie Williams but no joy. Shazam said the music wasn't loud enough or simply didn't respond.

Later evening saw a little party action back in the loft and I stuck the cell phone right next to the speaker for Röyksopp's "Higher Place." No problem at all. A second later it zipped back the details.

Basically we get the impression it works fine where the sound is really good. But it's all a bit rickety in raucous bars which is exactly where you could use it i guess. Might be better in a club though I wonder how it pulls apart overlaid mixes.

I would use it again for a laugh. It's vaguely fun when you have a bunch of people round a table and a few beers. But primarily in a "wow look what technology can do" kind of way rather than a serious query as to the music. I guess it might improve though the core issue seems to be the accoustics rather than their database.

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Photoblogs.org is a popularity contest.


Park Slope, Brooklyn. The  #

Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The artist Daniel Reynolds and his friends built 15 of these Drinking Birds, which are much like this one only 3,000 times heavier. The one pictured above was, appropriately enough, in the window of a wine store. When I saw him he was having a drinking problem, i.e. he wasn't drinking.

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Nipernaadi.kolhoos.ee is a photolog by a bunch of radio reporters in Estonia. They used new Ericsson phones with cameras attached and e-mailed their photos straight to the Web -- no computer necessary. There's an explanation in English. It was a summer project so it's now defunct.


Soho, Manhattan. . .  #

Soho, Manhattan.

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I wrote this for the NYT's special section on cars today: My Car Sounds Better Than Yours. It's about people who install ridiculously elaborate custom-built MP3 systems in their cars. Some related links:

-- Robert Bean's CarMP3 page, with photos of the molding job he did to make it look like the laptop screen in his dashboard was factory-installed.
-- Ryan Veety's Car MP3 Player.
-- The Linux Jeep Project.
-- MP3Car.com is where these people hang out.


Park Slope, Brooklyn. .  #

Park Slope, Brooklyn.

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These are some rough notes for an essay on photologs and digital photography. I'm writing for a general audience so some of these points are pretty basic.

Photologs are a logical development in photography, enabled and encouraged by the spread of digital cameras. The incremental cost of taking photos with a digital camera is negligible. This means people don't have to think twice about generating a regular stream of images by shooting whatever catches their eye. The cameras are getting smaller too, so people are taking them everywhere. Photography becomes more of an everyday thing and not just something you do on birthdays and vacations. The instant feedback of digital turns people into better photographers, and even bad photographers can take good photos with digital cameras because they're quite forgiving of screwups and poor conditions.

But what do you do with all those photos? Obviously you're not going to print them all out, as this involves some investment of time and money. Letting them sit on your hard drive is not much fun. If you know what you're doing, it's faster, easier and cheaper to put a photo on the Web than it is to print out a photo to stick on the refrigerator. You could build a standard Web photo gallery, but this is not so easy to update, and a photolog puts a clear emphasis on the most recent photos. If you maintain a photolog for long enough, you end up with a collection that functions much like a standard album of prints, allowing you to look back at a particular moment in time. Then there is the feedback and the community aspect of photologs.

Much as MP3 files have broken the psychological link between music and the physical format of tapes and CDs, digital photos are erasing the idea of photos as objects. In a traditional film camera the point of taking a photo, at least for non-professionals, is to create a negative that will be used to make prints. The point of taking a digital photo is to generate a digital photo file. You can do a lot of things with that file, including some things that you can't do with a print. Photologs take advantage of the 'digitalness' of digital photography in their immediacy, their global reach and in the sheer volume of images they pump out. Is this what digital cameras were made for?

Feedback is encouraged.


Consumer feedback in the East  #

Consumer feedback in the East Village, Manhattan.

Ad for Dasani on a bus stop.

In a Citibank ATM lobby on a Sunday.

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A short thing I wrote for today's NYT business section: Robotic Dogs and Singing Fish in Cross Hairs. It's about Fritz's Hit List, created by Edward Felten, an associate professor at Princeton. The list critiques anti-piracy legislation by Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings by pointing out the vast array of "digital media devices" that would be required to have built-in copy protection under the proposed law. My favorite item on the list is the TinkleToonz Musical Potty, which is clearly a must-have for content thieves everywhere.


Garment District, Manhattan. .  #

Garment District, Manhattan.

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Water Towers, by Bernd and Hilla Becher. "Since 1957 the Bechers have traveled throughout Europe and North America taking black-and-white photographs of industrial architecture: water towers, coal silos, blast furnaces, lime kilns, grain elevators, preparation plants, pithead gears, oil refineries, and the like."

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The PowerPoint Anthology of Literature, by Daniel Radosh. Via Metafilter.


Art project in NYU's  #

Art project in NYU's windows on Broadway, Manhattan.

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On a train ride up the Hudson it's hard to miss the spooky medieval ruin on a little island in the river. It's called Bannerman Castle, and its fans have taken some great photos of the place. See also Hudson Valley Ruins.


Sunset Park, Brooklyn. .  #

Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

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Noticed in the fine print at ConEd.com: "For electric and gas emergencies please call our toll-free number 1-800-752-6633. DO NOT send us Email."

NYC.gov: Department of Umbrellas. Via the informative LockhartSteele.com.


Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Shark  #

Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Shark fin decor at Jade Plaza.

Box of frogs.


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Time blurb: "Automated news services can gather headlines in a flash. Is there still room for the human touch? Is there still room for the human touch?" Yes. Yes.




Docklands, London. . .  #

Docklands, London.

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Roadside Art: The Western Avenue and Vicinity Gallery.


London. Rebecca Horn's "Concert  #


Rebecca Horn's "Concert for Anarchy" at the Tate Modern. It explodes every few minutes.

Covent Garden.

London A-Z.

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The time-lapse family. Via Shikencho.


Paddington Station, London. See  #

Paddington Station, London.
See also 1.28.

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Illegal-art.org is the Web site for an upcoming exhibit in New York and Chicago that deals with intellectual property issues. The audio section covers various sampling disputes, some of which I hadn't heard about. Some of the tracks are posted without permission, so check it out before the lawyers show up. Via Copyfight, which is also good.

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When plagiarizing from the Web, you should at least read what you're stealing. Via Romenesko.


Chelsea, London. . .  #

Chelsea, London.

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Seewhatimtalkingabout.com. Four design students in London get new Nokia phones with cameras in them and bombard each other with tiny photos. Nokia and its marketing firm make a book out of them. Some people are skeptical about camera-phones. I'm not. Via cheesedip.com.

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Oops, I spoke too soon. Here's my little story on Meetup from September's issue of Red Herring: Web Users Go Face-to-Face.


The Jubilee Line, London  #

The Jubilee Line, London Underground.
Some spectacular new-ish stations. The first two photos are of Norman Foster's vast Canary Wharf station, which serves exactly one line. It makes New York's Times Square station look like the Cu Chi Tunnels.

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NYTimes.com beefed up its travel section yesterday. The new Destinations pages have a ton of articles on everything from Alaska to Zimbabwe that have been liberated from the pay-to-read archives.


London. See also 12.29.2001.  #

See also 12.29.2001.

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While I was in London, Jonathan hooked me up with some copies of things magazine, which I knew about through its excellent weblog. The magazine's most recent issue has, among other good stuff, a nice essay by Tony Wood on the architectural history of the spectacular Moscow Metro (see someone else's photos). Did you know Moscow has a vast secret subway system that can only be used by government officials?

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Clay Shirky says people who want weblogs to make money are a little confused.


St. Cross Hospital, Winchester,  #

St. Cross Hospital, Winchester, Hampshire, U.K.

Founded in 1132, St. Cross is home to 25 poor old men known as the "Brothers."

If you are a traveler and you ask for the "wayfarer's dole," they will give you a mug of beer and a bit of bread.

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I wrote a short thing about Meetup, the brainchild of Scott Heiferman, that was in the September issue of Red Herring. I've been waiting for it to show up on their site so I can link to it. Perhaps the magazine's recent round of layoffs wiped out its Web staff.

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Mike C: Signage, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.


Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, U.K.  #

Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, U.K.

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Flâneur, "a magazine dedicated to the celebration of urban life," has a new issue up. I haven't fully explored it but I did like these photos: Taxi!

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"To argue that Morrissey’s contemporary audience skews Hispanic would be inaccurate; Morrissey’s contemporary audience is Hispanic, at least in L.A." Great article in Spin, via Catherine.

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