No ads

Farhad Manjoo over at The New York Times, of all places, actually got something extremely right. Advertising is killing the web. Under the weight of online advertising, sites are polluted not only with ugly design, but bad information. There is a lot to not like about the web, and advertising itself is the cause. It's such a core feature of the web that I think we've forgotten how fast and elegant sites can be when they aren't trying to load a dumpster's-worth of advertising code in the background.

Even well-designed sites are bad. Look at the Outline. Every article has a weird animated slideshow thing in the middle of it. And that's on a site that is pretty restrained. Don't even bother with regional news websites.

I think one of the more baffling instances of advertising making things worse online are twitter promoted tweets. Not only is this a tweet (99% it's an ad) that is forced into the users' timelines, but if the tweet has an attached video, the video will have a pre-roll ad for it. What winds up happening when you're scrolling through your feed is you'll see a split-second image of something and then it jumps to the same annoying pre-roll ad you're always used to seeing. It's a little silly and frustrating. I can't understand why anyone pays to promote tweets...

Which is why I'll also take this moment to reaffirm my interest in a truly open web where people can just post what they want to have their own spaces, apart from overt corporate control, to communicate with the world. I know almost no one reads this. I don't care. I'm still going to keep doing this.

Anyway, give the piece a read.

There's "retro gaming" and then there's "historical gaming"

It's kind of a clunky term, but I think that "historical gaming" is a more accurate way to describe high end enthusiast vintage gaming. The kind of people that insist on using CRTs and original hardware whenever possible.

Over at the Verge there's a piece about the Analogue Super NT. In the ephemeral world of retro gaming, emulation is widespread. Many emulators recreate the hardware architecture of the game system in software. The Super NT, however, uses hardware to recreate hardware and because of this, it is able to create a more faithful emulation of the Super Nintendo as it was in the early 1990s. In fact, it probably runs games slightly better than the Super Nintendo.

The article refers to the creators of the project as having an almost hi-fi like obsession with accuracy in the design and performance of the hardware, and I can certainly respect that. It's also apparent that this may be part of the key to archiving and keeping the past alive. If there weren't companies out there making analog hardware like tape decks and turntables, we would have lost even more analog music than we've already lost through the digital migration.

This also made me wonder, at what point does "retro gaming" turn into some new form of historical reenactment?

How valuable do you feel?

The Atlantic has an article on the company WeWork. In it, the company is revealed to be less valuable than its venture capital goals, but at the same time, the basic logic of the piece is that WeWork (and other startups in this bizarre world) are really only as valuable as investors "feel."

In the show Silicon Valley, one of the lines that stuck out to me in the first season was when one character was lamenting the lack of revenue. Another character said that this was a good thing, since when you don't have income, your estimated value can't really be determined. You could be worth billions. And now we're to the point that even with income, if a company is clever enough and slick enough, we can pretend like that doesn't matter and that they'll soon be worth billions.

This reminds me of a point that John Oliver (and a few other nightly joke shows) brought up: That Donald Trump's wealth fluctuates with how he feels. While that notion was derided at the time (rightly) that's exactly how startup investing works on a certain level. There are plenty of people at VC firms to crunch numbers but at the end of the day "how it feels" is really what moves the needle.

Physical Goods

I moved in the past month, and now that i have an even more stable living arrangment, I've found myself being less afraid of owning physical goods. I don't think I'll ever go back to the cluttered life I lived when I had many hundreds of DVDs on my shelves, but I bought a CD for the first time in probably a decade. That CD was Thundercat's 2017 album "Drunk."

It's an amazing album and benefits from the higher fidelity of CD, plus I wanted to be able to listen to this CD when the internet goes down or in some dark time when all of the music streaming services go offline. Ownership, at some point, does have its advantages.

By the way, a remix album of "Drunk" is coming out this year. "Drank" is a wild re-envisioning of Drunk slowed down and chopped. It's extremely disoriented in the best way possible.