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Month: February 2018

Best Guitarist In The World Speaks

Hey look, Richard Thompson is writing an autobiography! This is stupendously exciting to me, particularly since he’s apparently going to focus on the late 60s and early 70s. Nothing against his prodigious and high quality output subsequent to those years, but that was the period of tumultuous change. I am curious to see what he has to say.

I assume that Scott Timberg is doing the heavy lifting on the writing. I don’t know his work but he has a blog. He says “Few living musicians fascinate me as much as Richard Thompson” in a brief blog entry which links to a longer chewy interview. Getting Thompson to open up on the process of learning Classical Greek is kind of cool. I am optimistic.

Waiting for a year and a half for this is no fun at all.

“Powered By Reason”

I’ll admit it: when you pop up an ad on my Twitter feed telling me about a debate platform powered by reason, the only thing I see is a hazy red cloud of danger surrounding the words “debate” and “reason.” I blame Gamergate and the alt-right for implanting this reflex deep within my soul. Why are you avoiding my attempts to rationally discuss your inferiority?

But I will rise above my bias and check it out… oh god.

Yes, that’s the problem. Not all claims are created equal; demanding that we put equal time into attacking the argument that oceans would flow away if the Earth were round is a bad idea. The quality of a debate is in part determined by the quality of the claims made during that debate.

Kialo tries to mitigate this by allowing users to vote on each statement’s impact, but that means the displayed validity of points is determined by who can turn out their side the best. Obvious flaws are obvious. More subtly, this concept accepts the assumption that all claims are worth engaging with. Consider the (decade-old!) concept of the social denial of service attack.

Are You Happy?

A long long time ago when I was a desktop support grunt at Sun Microsystems, I encountered the best support feedback mechanism in the world. Every time you closed a ticket, it generated an email to the person who opened the ticket. The email had three faces in it: a smile, a frown, and a neutral. Each face was linked to a URL. Click the appropriate face, register your opinion, go on with your day.

We had a target percentage of smiles. If you ever got a frown, you went down and talked to the person who was unhappy and got the issue resolved; then you told your manager about how you fixed the problem. This process cut down on the number of people who submitted spurious frowns. When your casual expression of dissatisfaction results in a human being asking how she can make it better, you start getting in the habit of saving the frowns for real problems.

The system was very easy to implement. The URLs were something like http://feedback.sun.com/?ticket=XXXXX&happy=1. You don’t need a web app to process that, you just need to run the logs through a bit of perl to aggregate stats. Sun probably was dumping the results into a database cause that’s very simple, but even that wouldn’t take barely any programming. No authentication or anything.

It is, therefore, quite satisfying for me to read this article on HappyOrNot. They’re a Finnish startup that makes a physical version of the smiley face feedback tool. They’re smart, they get the requirement to be frictionless, and they kept the product simple. You just press the button.

The All-In Wrestlers of 1930s London

True fact: tens of thousands of Londoners happily attended professional wrestling shows during the 1930s. This resurgence in the “sport” was thanks to one Sir Edward Atholl Oakeley, whose autobiography I really gotta read. (In his later years, long after his wrestling career ended, he became the 7th Baronet of Shrewsbury. Wild life story.) He dubbed his wrestling style “All-In,” since it allowed for wrestlers from a variety of traditions. Sir Oakeley always maintained he was promoting real sporting matches, but given that US pro wrestling had already become mostly staged by 1930, it seems pretty likely that All-In wrestling matches were also fixed.

This phase of British professional wrestling history lasted under a decade. By 1940, the quality of the wrestling had degenerated as demand rose. It became more a spectacle, less a sport, and unacceptable in the eyes of civil society. By the time promoters were running mixed gender matches, judges were handing down decrees preventing public shows.

Let’s talk about gaming!

Noir City 2018 Seattle

Seattle has a great film scene. It’s on par with San Francisco — no Alamo Drafthouse up here, but we have the Cinerama and SIFF is an excellent film society. I thought I was going to miss Eddie Mueller’s San Francisco based film noir festivals, but it turns out he runs a slightly abbreviated version of the festival up here every year.

It’s that time of year! This’ll be my third go-round at one version or another of this festival. Previous years have coincided with lapsed blogging, alas.

This year’s festival leans heavily into the classics. I am looking forward to watching The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon again. I’ve never seen Mildred Pierce or The Blue Dahlia. This should be awesome.