The Long Tail

Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.

~ Chris Anderson from, https://www.porchlightbooks.com/blog/changethis/2004/the-long-tail

There are certain pivotal works in any field. If your work, or your business, is online. This is a work you should read. It would be better if you read it when it came out, back in 2004. But, at least you can read it now so you understand where the idea of the “long tail” originated.

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Dnt fd th trlls

One of the challenges for any website that allows for user content — no matter the size of the website — is how to deal with trollish behavior. There are a variety of options available, including just deleting such comments, but one option that got attention in the mid-2000s was the idea of disemvoweling.

~ From https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20210818/15321447384/content-moderation-case-study-boingboing-begins-disemvoweling-trolls-2007.shtml

Tee-hee. How did I never know about this?

But to be clear: No this isn’t something that I’m going to implement in any of the spaces where I wear anything like a moderator hat. It’s like amending graffiti; or trying to do censorship “correctly.” Those both are at best really hard, and at worst actually feeds the troll.

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Not previously possible

The idea that we should focus on disruption rather than the new value that we can create is at the heart of the current economic malaise, income inequality, and political upheaval. The secret to building a better future is to use technology to do things that were previously impossible. The point of technology isn’t to make money. It’s to solve problems!

~ Tim O’Reilly

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Campfire, marshmallows and conversation

Many moon ago, Movers Mindset had a weekly team meeting with 5 people. It was simply a video call to socialize. Work-related discussion was allowed, but mostly we were just talking about training, sharing instagram videos, discussing news and events in our sports and its surrounds, … that sort of stuff. Just hanging out with people who have a shared interest.

From the start we knew we didn’t want to record those calls. That suddenly makes everything too permanent; You have to show up looking not-insane, and you automatically hold back some of your energy to be on the safe side. But we also felt that we were losing something by having no artifact at all. Much of what we were discussing and sharing in the team call would be of interest to others— but we didn’t want non-team-members attending our private call. Thus, no recording. The meeting gave us what we needed, and that was good enough.

Time passed. (And many great team meetings were had.)

One day, as I sat around wondering how to make the already-great calls even better, my mind drifted as it so often does. It wandered back to the 80s/90s and I thought of the seemingly endless hours I’d spent on text-based chat with people in far off places. Stuck underground in some computer lab, (for real,) I’d open a text window and visit some distant friend. It was real-time interaction, but in a restricted medium; Restricted, at the time, because that’s all we had. But still, it was magical to have real-time access to other people. It felt so much more alive than bullentin boards (the online kind), Usenet, and email. Still wondering how to make our team meetings better, I recalled this once-in-a-lifetime experience I had.

It went like this…

A group of friends had all being doing Parkour together for several years. To be clear: We found ourselves doing Parkour together, and wound up a group of friends through countless shared experiences. (Ask me in person and I’ll tell ya’ some stories.) Two of the group eventually got married. The fellow ended up deployed to Afghanistan in a intelligence role with special forces. (I may have the details wrong, sue me.) Suffice it to say: Half a world away from everyone, and while not physically in immenent danger, his day-to-day surroundings drove him to depression. One day he apparently reached the cliff’s edge and in a fit of frustration he sent a message to a dozen-or-so of us, (which included his wife,) with an enormous brain dump of his current state.

He’d sent a Facebook Messenger direct-message—apparently one of the few channels he was permitted. This wall of text arrives in my phone, with a bright and cheery *ding* I suddenly have this giant message from my good friend. I was delighted to hear from him, but all of it was news to me, and frankly none of it was good. Then, two magical things happened:

We promised that we’d do pushups immediately when he wrote to us, if he promised to never miss a day. It had a terrifically witty name—which I’m not sharing because then I’d have to tell you his first name. Every day, around 2pm my time—but it was unpredictable—*ding* and I’d end up doing pushups right in the middle of the super market. Literally. Once I got caught driving, and pulled over to the side of the road to do my pushups, and message back, done! It didn’t take us long before those of us on the dm-list were racing to see who could reply, “done!” first. Our far away friend became a sort of evil pushup assigning drill Sargeant. But there’s a twist. On day one, we all did 1 pushup. On day 2, we did 2. Then 3. Then 4… And yes, we were somewhere above 100 by the end of his deployment. (Spoiler: He returned home safely.) He repeatedly told us that every day he pretty much spent the entire day planning his daily entry in the back of his mind, and day-dreaming about making us all suffer the next number of pushups. Somehow, we small band of merry idiots managed to create a small daily dose of inspiration for our far away friend. (We all got pretty good at pushups too.)

The second piece of magic happened because we were all there for it in real time. We’d each do our pushups—as the numbers got stupid-large, you’d do them in sets and start reporting your reps in real-time. And somehow, the entire thing became performance art. Soon, we were having our friend pick an “animal of the day”, and it had to be different each day. Finished our pushups, we’d try to find and share funny photos, making up our own silly captions. We tried constantly to Rick Roll each other. We did anything we could think of to make our friend, and each other, laugh. Because we were doing this at the end of our friend’s day, he’d eventually “call it” when he was ready for sleep, and we’d all drop off. Years later, we still have in-circle nicknames for each other, and inside jokes that make me giggle even now as I’m typing.

One day, after it was over, I realized how special it had all been. I opened up Messenger on my desktop browser, and I tried to scroll back through the thousands of messages. I wanted to screenshot it all and somehow make a book to give just to those who were involved. But my browser crashed from all the images, animated GIFs, etc before I got even halfway.

Now, back to those weekly meetings I wanted to improve…

Having that story about our far away friend flash through my mind was the spark I needed! In our team meetings, I wanted to capture some of that ephemeral, asynchronous-messaging based, magic. I wanted our cool meeting to somehow also be a little bit performance art that left us with something that others could enjoy, (and even find useful.) My “campfires” ideas was born.

Campfire, marshmallows and conversation! The MM team gets together occasionally in a sort of free-form discussion that’s not quite a chat, and not quite a discussion. It’s a cross between instant chat and performance art.

Each week, as before, we had a completely ephemeral video call. But at the same time, in real time, we would all co-create a long Google Doc. That sounds silly—it is. And it’s hard to do as things move around in the document. But it feels like instant messaging. At the end of the set time, we ended the call, and I simply copy-n-pasted the contents into a Discourse thread.

We eventually stopped doing them as the team shrank. But if you want to see what they were, they’re all still there, in https://forum.moversmindset.com/c/campfires/37 — they still make me smile, and I’m so glad we did them.

What—you might wonder—makes we write all this up now?

I’m bringing back this beloved idea as: Campfires in the Podcaster Community.

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Personal space

While the software has been an essential tool for productivity, learning, and social interaction, something about being on videoconference all day seems particularly exhausting, and the term “Zoom Fatigue” caught on quickly. In this article, I focus on nonverbal overload as a potential cause for fatigue, and provide four arguments outlining how various aspects of the current Zoom interface likely lead to psychological consequences.

~ Jeremy N. Bailenson from, https://tmb.apaopen.org/pub/nonverbal-overload/release/1

This is more science-y than usual for this ‘ol blog. That’s a link to a journal article, (albeit not a peer-reviewed, “real” Journal-with-a-capital-J,) which presents an actual theory about “Zoom fatigue.” We all know it’s real, but why?

There are four parts to the theory. But the one that jumped out as glaringly obvious once I’d read it is about personal space. The distance around oneself within which another person’s presence begins to feel intimate varies among cultures. Americans like a goodly full arm’s length, and—my personal experience and opinion here—Europeans are cool with noticeably less. Regardless of the specifics, if people are in your personal space, that gets tiresome. Not “omg this is lame” tiresome, but physically tiring. (That’s apparently settled psychology and science.) Guess what? It seems the apparent size of the people on your screen triggers our brain’s perception of “how close is this person?”

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Meridian

So meta even this movie?!

Yes, I really should never be watching visual entertainment. But sometimes the day goes so insanely well, that I have to choose what to do with the last hour or so of my day: Start something else, or choose some entertainment. Why I sometimes choose entertainment is left for another day. I digress.

I watched this 10 minute long film called Meridian the other day. Film Noir. Clearly a new movie, but set in 1947 Los Angeles. Hard boiled detective and a green partner. Mysterious woman. Missing people. The ocean, freak storms. It was almost surreal—parts of it definitely were. It has a story, but no resolution. Sometimes you just have to Wikipedia…

oh! Now I get it. It is literally a digital codec test piece. Really, go read the short Wikipedia article on, Meridian (film).

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Podcast fracturing continues

Exciting times! Facebook is getting into the game of making Yet Another ™ place that podcast creators will have to jump through hoops to get their podcast shows heard.

Isn’t this all so strange? I mean, shouldn’t the content creators have the power? Shouldn’t entities looking to create a business model have to deal fairly with the creators? It’s as if we, the podcast creators, are doing something fundamentally wrong…

https://openpodcastdirectory.org/

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White-with-orange

white-with-orange, orange
white-with-green, BLUE!
white-with-blue, GREEN!
white-with-brown, brown

I have probably said that sequence—sure, aloud many times, but mostly muttering under my breath, always moving my lips—about 9 gazillion times. If you know what that is, I weep for you; and we have a support group which meets at the bar and the first round is on me.

I’m reading—literally just this moment… I have my arms stretched around the book as I type—On Writing by Stephen King. (Highly recommended by the way. In parts deeply useful, deeply touching, deeply funny, just all-around deeply.)

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

~ Stephen King from, On Writing

POW! my brain muttered “white-with-orange…” And I was yanked, much in the way I’ve yanked L I T E R A L L Y miles of wire through ceilings… hell, I know what a plenum is and why you can pull that cable through it and not this other cable. POW! “white-with-orange, orange, …” Yanked back to good old, kill-me-now I’d forgotten this and hoped I’d never remember it: T568B.

B. BEE! mind you. omgbecky don’t go all white-with-green on me to start the sequence ‘cuz that’s T568A and if you we do B on this end, but A on the punch-down blocks back in the squirrel closet we won’t even get link lights let alone have the tester [magic box of circuitry] be happy.

Never mind when they started using Category-5 cabling and I stripped off the jacket… Actually, with Cat-5—or was that 5+? or Cat-6… I need a drink—where the jacket is sort of partly heat-shrunk on so you need a special tool just to get the jacket cut before you can pull it off. And then you discover not only are the pairs of wires twisted—bro’ that’s so Cat-3, right? No, now in Cat-5 the pairs are twisted at different rates—the number of twists-per-inch is different on each of the four pairs to reduce the magnetic inductance coupling—no, I’m not making this stuff up; pay attention, kid. Oh, and they’re not only twisted, but the pair is actually in a stuck together jacket—so you need this other little tool that you shove onto the end of the pair and it has a teeny razor blade in it that cuts the wires apart like—sorry for this metaphor—like a razor cutting the skin between your fingers, as you push and spin the tool to separate the wires.

Then you can wrestle the pairs, in the right order (see above!) into the shape, like a whale tail. Eight tiny wires that you VICE-finger-pinch flat, then cut ’em all off in one go. Wizards could shoot those eight tiny wire snips into a little trash catch we had with us so we didn’t leave ’em in the ‘ol office carpet. Then—hey, don’t slip!—slide the plug on the end, and stuff it in this special tool… When you grabbed it, you had to exactly judge where to grab cuz if you’re too far from the end it’s not good, too close to the end and you can’t get the plug on fully, and you can’t move your fingers at all because it takes full-strength to pin 8 tiny wires perfectly in the right place after you cut them off in one go.

Or if you’re making up a wall-jack or a punch-down panel you can just sort of lay the wires in the v-grooves—but don’t untwist them too far, each one is a tiny radio antenna—and “punch” them down with a tool that trimmed the ends—which always managed to ping, pong, bing, bong right into anything that you couldn’t get into to retrieve them. Ever wonder why vents on computers, and everything are on the sides?

One. That’s one. This office has 150 more wall jacks, and the other ends of course, and all the wires have to be labeled cuz the rat nest has to make sense…. and then you have to test it and if one single wire isn’t perfect.

So yeah, that was fun. Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?!

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