Things that are going and gone. The looming end of Google Reader leaves me looking for some other way of grokking my 322 feeds. I want a solution that I know isn’t going to be withdrawn arbitrarily because my use of the service doesn’t figure in some sort of business model, so I think I need to roll my own solution. A data store I can sync across machines, some tooling that lets me read and mark items; probably a doc-oriented database and some libraries based in ruby or python should do it. I start some hunting through a search engine not provided by Google.
In my search I find a library that seems promising, albeit hosted on code.google.com (I think resentment is a good emotional state to inhabit while judging service providers). I find python package which is pretty mature, started in 2002. Looking through the source I find the clincher. It has nothing to do with the quality of code, but the serendipity of the find: its originator is Mark Pilgrim, the developer and writer behind lots of influential online resources who suddenly vanished from the internet. People call it ‘infosuicide’, erasing your digital traces. I see the attraction, whenever my completionist self-archivist nature faces up to the impossibility of capturing the definitive information simulacrum of my life.
Pilgrim did it properly, marking all his domains as ‘410: Gone’. It’s the opposite of Google’s approach really. Pilgrim has gone, but yet here I am looking at his code, planning to use it in my search for a solution to the Google problem. Google are taking their tools away, fully expecting me to carry on gorping at their corporate might.
Translation and less-than-pristine reinterpretation damage the fidelity of the message. There is no copy-and-paste equivalent for verbal storytelling. A photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of an image will always render that image indistinguishable from the original.
The reason waterall is predominant is because it is perceived as cheap. A colleague of mine who is the director of a digital agency recently pointed out that ‘agile’ often tends to mean that you all get to go off for a week and play around and have some fun; if you can find clients willing to pay for such things, then great. Naturally, the client would rather not spend money on fun: they have a project and a plan, and they need it built. Selling agile methods is often onto a hiding because of the perception that agile is expensive frivolity while waterfall will get you something made within sight of your budget.
That’s really a problem about buzzwords. As soon as you take a process and brand it, it is easily separable from the process and can be coated in any arbitrary associations. The label becomes more important than the practice it was meant to signify. A week or two after I did a class on Kuniavsky’s critique of the waterfall method, a guest speaker from a digital agency came in and raved to the same students about this method they use called ‘waterfall’. A couple of days ago I saw a recruiter advertising a post in a design shop where they use ‘agile methods such as waterall’. It doesn’t help to use a different label - scrum, user-centred design, spiral - it’s the label itself that is the problem. The only way to mitigate the effect of this semiotic drift is to be as transparent as possible about your practice.
Just like in each human relationship it comes to misunderstandings: If Vincent sends positive signals by up and down movements, it is possible that Emily interprets even those signals as negative. Disagreement is preprogrammed. The unpredictable interaction and interplay between Vincent and Emily, caused by their tense relationship, trigger the viewer’s individual projections. Intuitively he will be searching for similarities to particular patterns of human behavior.
“Sam Bland has spent a lot of time with Google Goggles. He’s learned how it sees the world and how it communicates — they play games together. Goggles is the image search feature in the Google mobile app, and by layering the app’s best attempts to match his photos, Bland has created an artistic view of the world as seen through Google’s eyes. His first experiment with it, for example, was a picture he took of a tennis racket. Google sent back a series of pictures that, while similar in tone and shape, had nothing to do with tennis. There was a polar bear, a nuclear missile launch and stock photo of a box of pills, among other things. Instead of being disappointed, Bland was fascinated. He liked that Google was confused.”