The strandbeest as a metaphor for our role in machine evolution

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Theo Jansen’s “strandbeest” creatures captured my imagination. If you like these eldritch and fascinating machines you can copy his plans and make one yourself. Which makes me wonder: are we creating them, or serving them? Theo Jansen is an inventive Dutch artist who builds creatures called strandbeests (calling them “kinetic sculptures” doesn’t do them justice) out … Continued

When the “meaning ratio” drops to zero, you’ve got a problem

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Every word you write should be meaningful. We can measure this as the “meaning ratio,” which should approach 100%. Conversely, when the meaning ratio nears zero, you’ve got froth, not content, which is an accurate characterization of the job description I analyze today. The brilliant Edward Tufte analyzes graphics with the “data-ink ratio”: the proportion of ink in … Continued

My Mike Wallace moment on “60 Minutes”

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In mid-2000 I get a phone call at my desk at Forrester. “This is Jay Kernis from ’60 Minutes,’” the caller says, and that’s the beginning of an experience that will teach me a lot more about how television actually works. I’m a pretty prominent TV analyst at this point. I’ve predicted the future of WebTV … Continued

Orwellian Peeple

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An app called Peeple plans to allow everyone to rate each other. The founders’ language reveals the terrifying, Orwellian logic at the center of this bankrupt idea. Peeple’s idea of rating people is breathtakingly naive. Rating people as drivers or passengers, sure. Rating restaurants and building contractors, that makes sense. But all people are a mix of … Continued

Is it a trend or is it bullshit?

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Trends are hot. Jump on one soon and you may gain an advantage. But some of the “trends” you read about or hear about at industry conferences are hogwash. I’ll explain how to tell the difference and what to do about it. Millennials aren’t having children! Police are predicting crimes before they happen! There’s a reason you … Continued

Top posts and reflections on 6 months of daily blogging

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I blogged every weekday for 6 months (150 posts). I got lots of advice and didn’t listen to it. I did popular posts on writing, politics, social media, and corporate doubletalk. And damned if I didn’t create an identity for myself. My friends told me that I shouldn’t use bad words. They said daily blogging was … Continued

The Facebook privacy hoax illuminates the viral bullshit machine

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A message purporting to preserve your privacy rights on Facebook is making the rounds. It’s a hoax. But it’s a great example of how the current state of the Internet is perfectly suited to spread bullshit. As briefly as possible: the idea behind the hoax is that Facebook is going to charge you for privacy … Continued

Post-John Boehner, New York Times unleashes metaphorical tsunami

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How many metaphors can The New York Times pack into one article about the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner? Enough metaphors to choke a . . . c’mon, help me here. To choke a something-or-other. Can you spare a metaphor? Metaphors are a great way to frame a story; knowledgeable people will often supply one in a … Continued