Language v. Language

Carlos Bueno’s Lauren Ipsum is a true achievement in children’s literature—or in literature in general. It’s something so completely new yet so completely old. As a former full-time storyteller/filmmaker and now designer/coder. I have been aware of and constantly intrigued by the commonalities between key “programming” concepts (such as variables, conditional statements, loops, and even recursion) and narrative structures and formulas. Reading Lauren Ipsum offered me a more concrete way to explore this intrigue.

Laurie, the protagonist in Bueno’s book, follows a fairly strict path along “the hero’s journey” that was established first by the ancient greeks. The seemingly program-ish idea that one must not travel backwards—is not really that program-ish anymore when it’s simply written as “one must not turn back.” But by writing it as “one must not not travel backwards,” Bueno allows his young(and old) readers to read and visualize the semantic logic between words more easily. What this made me think more critically was the prospect of potential impact of “programming” logic on language itself. Could it be possible that in the future, English might become more progam-ish? In what ways has it already become more program-ish than in the centuries before computing’s advent? As computers struggled to process natural language(i.e., Siri, Google Now, etc.), how far have we adapted our language so we can communicate better with computers? How many of us have learnt to ask Siri certain questions in certain ways?

I have a feeling that Lauren Ipsum won’t be the last we see from Carlos Bueno. Or the last we see from the new “programming” literature genre.

Programming as a Means to an End

Douglas Rushkoff is a very very smart and up-to-date media theorist. I have insanely high respect for him. I find in him a mutual passion for theorizing about the future in general and the specific future of communications, media and society.

In Program or Be Programmed (an obvious but nonetheless great title for this book), Rushkoff discusses the idea of the new medium and a new literacy that find root in the rise of computers. And while I agree with 99.9% percent of the arguments he makes so eloquently in writing, I did find his over emphasis on computers troubling. The ability to program is not just an ability to control computers. It is simply a way of thinking, a way of problem-solving, a way of system construction and deconstruction. Therefore, it is my belief that not all have to learn how to program in today’s popular sense, that all have to learn to write a particular language—JavaScript, Python, etc. I know a ton of computer scientists who programmed all four years through their undergraduate academic career that don’t know how to program. They are no system builders, not even system thinkers. They are deployed to repair systems, to follow someone else’s logic. Yet I know many artists who draft with pencils and paint with brushes who are better system builders, system thinkers; they construct incredibly complex logical systems in their two dimensional masterpieces.

With that said, I do thinking key systems concepts that have been popularized with the instruction and practice of computer programming are invaluable to present-day citizens who want to become system builders themselves. Again, the focus here is these key concepts. Computer programming is simply a means to an end. Tomorrow, in two years, in two decades, the world may bare witness to a new, better means to the same end. Who knows? With things like Scratch, Hopscotch, Bo & Yana, and yes—even Lauren Ipsum, I suspect the rising of this new way to come sooner rather than later.

Douglas Rushkoff, I still have insanely high respect for you.

Little Bets v. Big Bets

Peter Sims’s Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries is a book on how many smalls bets pay off better than few big bets. Filled with anecdotal accounts, Little Bets made the strongest impression on me with the Chris Rock story. It is said that the famous comedian, Chris Rock, frequently tests new and rough materials on small audiences in a intimate setting New York City. It would take multiple such tests for him to determine whether to include certain materials in his full routine that he goes on tour with. Through this and other stories, Sims is making the point that small bets—like risking telling a joke the audience does not find funny or cannot relate to—are better than relying on big bets—say Chris Rock were to perform a joke no one had heard before but also no one could relate to in front of a big, national audience. Sims is right in saying that, and obviously so. And that obviousness—is often what irks me most about Little Bets—as well as all these other “startup pep talk” books, to quote Professor Rosenberg.

Sims didn’t go into enough details. One such detail might be the specific context in which Rock makes little bets. What would qualify as new and raw materials that are even big/small enough to be tested in front of a small audience? What does Rock do with new and raw materials that are rejected by one small audience? Does he test it with another audience? And does he refine it before he tests with another audience? The devil is in the details. It’s so easy to scream small bets, agile, scrum, etc., but to me, the truth is that 1) vision and belief matter and that 2) ideas, especially ones that are potentially great, innovative and breakthrough are fragile. An over-simplified view of making Little Bets could harm more than it do good. A real world comparison between the “Little Bets” and “Big Bets” approaches would be none other than Samsung v. Apple. Both companies found phenomenal successes in the same industry, but they got their using completely opposite strategies. Apple literally bet the entire company on the development iPhone while Samsung put out little bets before and after iPhone’s introduction. I really think both strategies are fundamentally sound, and there is not one that is clearly superior than the other. Of course there are small decisions made during iPhone’s development and likewise big decisions made throughout Samsung’s rapid product development cycles, but what it comes down to really is how good a company is at executing its strategy—and really just how good the company is.

11/21 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

On the first day of class, I was really excited when I saw Branch on the list of companies that we would visit throughout the semester. That’s the one company that I knew about coming into this class. And it’s not because I knew Cemre graduated from Poly but that I was organically introduced to Branch through some influencers I followed on Twitter. I really loved Branch when they launched. I remember following conversations by prominent tech bloggers about various tech topics. I remember how insightful and punctual those conversations were. They were comparable to the best panel discussions I’d seen, and that was a great achievement. Branch made it easy to organize great panels on great topics that just hit the newswire.

Hearing the backstory of how Branch came to be as well as what its overnight success meant to the founders in the long term was enlightening. One particular take away was that it might be better to hold a design position at a company at an earlier stage and have more influence over the end product than to hold a design position at a company whose product is already well-defined. Another would be Cemre’s recommendation that we spend time in school working on “art” projects as school might be the only place where we have a chance to do that.

I had a chance to try out Branch’s pivot product, Potluck, before we went in on Friday. It was an interesting concept and certainly well-designed. Still, I don’t know how it would take off without a significant user base though. When I logged in, I couldn’t find any friend of mine to have a conversation with. It’s the same chicken-and-egg problem that many new startups face so they may well find a solution. Then again, beyond the issue of the starting critical mass—to me, Potluck is trying to do too many things at once, it’s trying to be a summary engine with the bite size content excerpts, a recommendation engine with the article cards and a communications platform with “discuss with friends.” There are existing competitors that do each or two out of the three very well; Potluck’s challenge is to do all three extremely well.

I knew I would like to ask Cemre to be an formal outside advisor or an informal mentor to my thesis project because of his interest and experience in building large scale communication tools that changed how knowledge is created and opinions are formed. I was very glad to learn about Branch and Cemre’s connection to the Obvious Corporation on Friday because the other company Obvious funded was Lift, which is the model for me to build out one of the key features of my thesis project.

11/14 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

Naama from Helloflo presented at this week’s class. Naama had a stable job at American Express before she decided to quit and start Helloflo—though it took some convincing and nudging from her husband. She covered two main topics, the viral “Camp Gyno” video that put her startup in the public’s view and Helloflo’s business model.

She talked a bit about the backstory behind the making of Camp Gyno. Naama mentioned that she had connections in the advertising industry and utilized them to produce Camp Gyno. The brainstorming dinner with these connections was where the key ideas behind Camp Gyno came to be.

The story about how Naama was able to borrow props from the lost and found at the campground, and how the weather cooperated on the day of shoot were reminders of how much success seems to ride on chance. While Naama said that the viral video wouldn’t have happened if the weather hadn’t work out, I believe it still would have succeeded simply on the strength of the camp gyno idea and the team she assembled to work on it, including the lead child actress. It would be different, but I’m sure it would still have been successful.

In addition to the viral video, I just want to also mention how much good, polished design can make a startup’s brand better. Helloflo’s design—from the viral video to the website and down to the packaging of the actual period starter kit—had a consistent design and experience. If I were a customer, I would immediately recognize that Helloflo intended to be around for a while because they invested this much into branding. And by inference, I would expect the quality of Helloflo’s products and services to be higer.

Helloflo’s business model is subscription-based. Discounts are provided based on the committed length of subscription. Naama did mention that she was in talks with the major U.S. manufacturers of organic tampons as she plans to move into shipping Helloflo-branded organic tampons in the near term. She also mentioned that the Period Starter Kit has been one of her best sellers—especially in a gifting context.

There was lots learned from Naama’s well delivered presentation, getting started as an entrepreneur, utilizing existing professional connections, importance of idea validation in the early stages, and unconventional methods to deliver product message, and strategic pivot to based on customer feedback(pivoting not necessarily based on failure but on potentially greater success). Helloflo really made a girl’s period easier without necessarily making it easier to talk about with parents; that’s a philosophical lesson I’m taking to heart in my quest to make coming out easier. So far, I’ve been pretty fixed on the idea of making coming out easier by making talking about one’s sexuality with others easier.

11/8 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

Jeremy Pease was perhaps the most relatable entrepreneur out of the bunch that we’d met. He is of or close most of our years. Jeremy immediately struck me as entrepreneurship material when he mentioned his decision to forego admission into a top tier university for Pace because of scholarship. This decision, one that was perhaps hard to understand by some at the time, paid off. Everything Jeremy did in college, on the side, and everything afterward would most likely not have been possible had he not been able to have financial stability during college. It afforded him to even entertain the idea of starting a company in college—which he did. While the first company didn’t pan out. The second did—somewhat—in the beginning. While the first two companies were considered failures even by Jeremy himself, they taught him the invaluable lesson in entrepreneurship that is to fail early and to frequent often. As his invitation to interview with YC shows, you do get somewhere by trial and error.

Regarding Pijon, Jeremy was quick to point out that contrary to his previous companies, Pijon had an “not entirely expected” load of logistic work as oppose to tech work, which he was best at and felt most passion for. When he talked about his learning process regarding handling the logistical needs for Pijon, I couldn’t stop but to think about the potential of me ever going into a vertical that I have no previous knowledge for and the amount of knowledge and experience I’d gain through that—I couldn’t help but think that it would be more than if I were to start a company in a field that I’m familiar with. Since being entrepreneurial is about making things work in your favor no matter the condition, Jeremy probably learned most through Pijon than his previous more tech-y startups.

Pijon to me sounds like one of those great ideas on paper but the execution seemed a bit lacking, especially in the variety of boxes offered. Right now Pijon only offers a boys box and a girls box. Perhaps it has to do with economy of scale, but I find a well funded Pijon that provides more variety more sustainable in the long run. I myself wish for a Pijon that lets international parents send goods from home. Of course, there’s more logistical work, more customs work, more volume purchases to be done and boxes to shipped—but that’s service that the customers pay for. In my opinion, Pijon’s main draw is in service and not in savings. That’s why I think the international students market might be a more attractive market, smaller albeit potentially more lucrative and has way lower churn.

11/1 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

This week we visited the AlleyNYC co-working space. Nate Heasely, founder of Goodnik, hosted us. Nate brought with him a couple other companies from the Goodniks in Residence program, grassroots.org and seekchange.org. I’m interested in building a social enterprise in the early stages of my career; that’s why it was refreshing to take a break from for-profit startups and the mindset of making maximum profit to see a few companies founded and run for the benefit of the society.

Nate was clearly knowledgeable about the social enterprise landscape and gave a quick yet comprehensive introduction to it. The first topic of particular interest to me was the discussion around what was considered a reasonable contribution by a for-profit entity toward a non-profit cause. The 1% to 5% range Nate provided was within my expectation but the ways in which such contribution could be made—cash, stock, employee time, product—were something that never really occurred to me. Nate gave Salesforce as an example, that it provided certified 501(c)(3)s free access. Next, we were introduced to the concept of benefit corporation, or B Corp. Newman’s Own, turned out to be the mother of B Corps. Nate explained that the pioneering legal structure and framework that Newman’s Own established became the foundation for future benefit corporations. I now finally understand why Newman’s Own gives 100% profit to causes; it used to confuse me a bit why and how Newman’s Own was run the way it did. The final thing of special interest from Nate’s discussion was related to Goodnik itself, the Goodnickels, a time-based currency in a sharing economy among non-profits. The Goodnickels is quite an ingenious concept that has the potential to have similarly revolutionary effect that the coin currency produced. It could facilitate more frequent, effective and more easily documented transaction of services between non-profit entities.

Next up is Grassroots. Rob represented his team of three and gave a quick overview of Grassroots. Grassroots puts powerful tech products in the hands of non-profits. While not particularly revolutionary or groundbreaking, the services Grassroots provides are vital to the organizations’ day-to-day operation and relevance in the digital era. I can see how an organization with extremely limited tech resources or knowledge can be benefitted and get started. I do think, however, that Grassroots’ value lies in its volunteer matching program. Free products offered by Grassroots may be free but might not actually be the best fits for an organization and that companies like Microsoft and Google have begun to promote their offerings for 501(c)(3)s. Going forward, Grassroots may have to pivot to focus on volunteering to stay relevant.

The last company that presented was seekchang.org. Nicole and her husband, and a friend of his started the company. Nicole gave a brief overview on her career through marketing and personal coaching, and how it led to a natural beginning for Dara, the personal coaching app. I was eager to test out Dara before we arrived at AlleyNYC because what Dara promised to do was similar to what I wish to do for my users with my thesis project, which will be informed by the final project in this class. I downloaded the app and found that the app was very much an MVP(minimal viable product) and had limited functionality. To put in vaguer terms, I think I see more Nicole than her husband in the current iteration of Dara, and I’d like to see more significant use of data. Then again, it might just all be in future product roadmap.

10/18 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

Oh boy do I remember this day. :)

Adda Birnir of Skillcrush came to talk to the class about her startup. Skillcrush focuses on teaching programming to women, especially women who are looking at potential career switch.

Adda began by telling the story about her own career switch from print publishing to developing and entrepreneurship. I found the story quite inspiring and empowering—not just to me but potentially also to her target audience. At the time, I wondered why she hadn’t prominently featured her own story on her site. I dug around skillcrush.com recently and found that her story was published on the site albeit buried somewhat deep beneath other content. I really think her own story could drive the “you, yes you, could do this!” message very well.

In terms of developing coding curriculums for women, I personally find Skillcrush’s offerings a bit shallow. It seems more of a branded gateway to existing coding curriculum than a coding curriculum built from the ground up for women. Obviously with much less research and time invested into how women learn to code, I see an opportunity and a need to revamp the curriculum from the ground up so that it would be of interest at all to women. Having gone through a conventional intro to programming course at a large university, my feeling is that there’s no way to put lipstick on a pig that is the masongynist(maybe too strong of a word) programming curriculum that marginalizes women. In my view, the movement to teach more women to code needs what Scratch and Hopscotch have been to the movement ot teach more children to program, a complete rethinking on the how you teach women to code and through which women learn to code.

Oh yes, I’m a guy but I’m also troubled by the lack of women in the developer community. I attended a Out in Tech(LGBT in tech) event in New York City and in that community that was supposed to be all about diversity and inclusion, out of about 400 total people, the number of women represented was in the low single digits. I felt extremely passionate and eager to be a part of the product conversation in class that I kind of got into a feud with my good friend, Nikki.

It was a great learning experience. The in-class passion accumulated that led to the “explosion” has been what I felt most lacking from my Poly classes. So yes, I remember the day well.

10/11 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

One of the things I most enjoyed about the trip to Amit’s startup, Tenlegs, was its location. Relative to the offices we’ve visited so far, BMW Ventures, where Tenlegs was located, seemed more stealthy, isolated, and removed from the general startup neighborhood. It was quite special to see how location and neighborhood culture influence a startup.

Before class, we signed up for Tenlegs. To be honest, when I landed at tenlegs.com I didn’t understand right away what Tenlegs was about beyond a portfolio platform. It was also not immediately obvious how or why I would upload my personal work onto Tenlegs. Though I see now they improved their landing page design to address the confusion I encountered. Still, I still find the number of products Tenlegs offers quite overwhelming and seem lack of focus, which could ultimately be why Tenlegs was so confusing to begin with. Currently, they offer a portfolio showcase platform, a portfolio consumption platform, and a social connections platform built on top of the same portfolio product. They also tackle online education on the side with partnerships with existing academic institutions and programs, which seem like a huge undertaking on its own. During our discussion with Amit and John, it was also brought up that Tenlegs had built a proprietary content management system that required significant labor and capital. But yes, there are a lot of things Tenlegs offer.

Out of everything Tenlegs does, the custom-built content management system seems most interesting to me. Content is shared across a project-centric intranet of sorts. Collaborators can gain easy access to files associated with a particular project and how they’ve evolved and changed in context. It actually reminded me of a design project I did earlier that conceptualized a similar idea. I’m excited by and plan to keep an eye on where Tenlegs takes their CMS.

Apart from Tenlegs’s product, I found the co-founder dynamic between Amit and John quite intriguing. Amit has a background in business and management while John has a business in design. Neither has a traditional background in tech or engineering; yet their products and the many decisions made prior to creating them seemed very tech and engineering driven. It would be interesting to learn more about how the co-founders made up for the lack of core tech talent.

10/4 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

This week in class, we listened to Sai talk about his startup, Kipin Hall. I thought it was nice to be seeing the education startups back-to-back. Between Nihal’s Course Horse, Alex’s Brite Class and Sai’s Kipin Hall, there were interesting differences in where and how the companies were founded, in why the founders pursued their ventures, and most importantly—in what the products do and how well they do them.

Sai’s background as a successful tech entrepreneur that has been in both startup and enterprise environments was inspiring. His passion for education was obvious from the passion with which he told his tale; the very fact that he chose current students to be his co-founders at Kipin Hall was just further concrete proof. I also found the way Sai approached the class as an audience—by asking a bit about each of us and mentioning tools(Node.js, Angular.js, Django, Posgress, MongoDB, etc.) that might be of interest to some of us—friendly and way easier to identify with.

More general tips on entrepreneurship that Sai mentioned that I took special note of include how important it is to validate your idea before you pour time and resource into it, and that it is important that one does not rely on validation of ideas from friends or family. He also mentioned the significance of a product’s time to market. I also noted the care and attention Sai gave to Kipin Hall’s launch experience. At Kipin Hall’s launch, Sai hired a couple student curators to curate content that is being generated through Kipin Hall to make sure that the product’s tone is set right—right from the start. I thought it was an insightful call for Kipin Hall because it was going to be a service that relies heavily on user generated content.

In terms of Kipin Hall as a product, I found it to be significantly more appealing than Brite Class. While Sai briefly discussed a couple interesting potential directions for a pivot, I found the existing offering quite strong. The use of existing conventions familiar to the Twitter generation is great. Effectively a forum for peer discussion that takes place in realtime with instruction, Kipin Hall lets students voice their concerns and it lets the instructors monitor and respond to such concerns or questions in parallel. I see Kipin Hall not only capable of accelerating the pace of learning but also enabling new ideas to form and be nurtured.

9/27 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

This week we met with Alex Epshteyn, CEO of Ngaged Software. Alex’s product, Brite Class was stimulating. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about the presentation coming into Friday’s class because of what I knew of the product from its product webpage. There was a slight chance that I came into class preparing to be underwhelmed… To my pleasant surprise, I was wrong. I found Brite Class to be very cool and equipped with truly innovative features. Now, as a designer, the product’s faux-iOS Web front-end was a little harsh on the eyes, but that didn’t distract me enough from seeing the product’s magic sauce: context.

Brite Class records not just videos. It records contexts around ideas that form in real time by professors and students. It syncs all this with the video. That makes Brite Class a very powerful product in a package. I did question Alex about alternative business models—where Ngaged relies on a wholesale, top-down(institution-individual) licensing model, I wonder what might be possible if Brite Class was taken apart and put into separate functional products that individuals could purchase on their own and bring to the institution. To me, it seemed that if the broken apart Brite Class products were good enough, which I think they very well could be, this alternative model could exponentially accelerate growth and expand the limited marketing and sales reach that is currently restricted by word-of-mouth and direct sales. I gave Google Apps for Education and Google Apps for Government as examples of products that underwent a similar product and business model transition.

Alex’s story itself is another highlight of the day. He has had significant work experience in the corporate, the enterprise world. In particular, he was in the business of selling digital displays. The backstory about how he went into creating Brite Class was inspiring in terms of where we might find the breakthrough product idea: it might get suggested to us by existing customers. We should always keep an eye open and an open mind to be ready when it hits us.

9/20 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

At the Varick St Incubator, we first heard from Steve Kuyan. Steve talked a bit about his past entrepreneurship experience which had its highs and its lows. He stressed the importance of failure and the amount he learned through failure. Steve also mentioned the SPARK program through which graduate students can work for a startup in the incubators. It’s a program I’m definitely interested in and will apply to next semester.

Eric and Kyle’s decision to leave their big law firm jobs were enlightening in how they believed in their own ideas and the potential that it might all be worth it even given how much they’re losing per five minutes at lawyer rate. It also showed that even if we don’t end up in ‘tech’ tech, we might still be able to find tech perspective to go after once we’re on our jobs for some time. I wish CaseRails could’ve demonstrated their product during the presentation so we could get a better idea of what exactly the product did. From just their verbal presentation though, I wasn’t able to see how the product was more than a combination of formatted templates, hypertext linked documents and version control software. That was why I raised the question of patentability during the Q&A, which given the fact that Eric and Kyle were patent lawyers, was quite a difficult question for me to ask in the moment. Eric expressed confidence in the patentability of their idea. While I disagree with him on that, I agree with his answer to another one of my questions asking why a large law firm wouldn’t just copy CaseRails at any given point in time—that the large law firm would just buy the company in the end because it would be more cost-effective for them.

Nihal presented his startup, CourseHorse.com, which won the Entrepreneurs Challenge last year. Nihal was probably the most articulate speaker we’d met thus far. He clearly appeared to have been asked all the questions we threw at him and he did seem like he could do the presentation about CourseHorse when he’s asleep. A few things that interested me included CourseHorse’s customer acquisition methods and the similarity CourseHorse shares with Groupon—both from product and business points of view. I raised both questions with Nihal. He fully addressed my question regarding customer acquisition but was a bit murky about the parallel with Groupon. Perhaps it was because we were short on time and I didn’t ask the question point blank. My question regarding CourseHorse and Groupon mainly concerns an over-saturated product catalog and buyer’s fatigue that were both observed in Groupon’s later growth phases and I think could be seen further down Course Horse’s product life.

9/13 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

Today’s field trip to the NYU-Poly DUMBO Incubator was a lot of fun. Samir was an eloquent speaker, and was quick to address some of the myths about entrepreneurship and startups. In particular, I was drawn to his discussion around the fragility and worthlessness of an “idea” before it gets productized.

I found Stewart’s Impact Stimulations intriguing, and I thought its goal to “gamify work” had a lot of potential. However, I found his execution lacking. Perhaps it was because of his background and substantial experience in retail, Stewart and his product didn’t seem to have ventured much into game design. Rather than a full-fledged game system that “gamifies work,” Levels Pro really seemed more like a fancy check-in system to me. The games had to be fun for the employee to be interested enough to see past the “ploy” that Levels Pro was in fact an employer’s tool, a point poignantly made by our classmate Nikki. In my opinion, unique game mechanics need to be created to gamify each task, and therefore, mobile phones aren’t really suited for gamifying work because it takes too much attention off of the employee and it takes away too much of his or her ability to focus on work. A more subtle, background platform such as wearables might be better suited for the problem.

Ricky and Seth’s Salesbus.com was also interesting, and it was more relatable because I just went through college and could relate to the need for income and the ability to sell friends on products I loved. I did not, however, get a sense of what Salesbus’s magic sauce is. They had a solid business model that was proven with decades of direct sales business but they weren’t introducing anything groundbreaking—yet. They simply brought direct sales to the digital age and targeted a good demographic for it. What could get interesting though—and Ricky did talk a bit when I asked—was Salesbus.com’s future involving social. I asked about potentially leveraging a user’s social or professional graph such as those on Facebook, LinkedIn or even Klout to boost the user’s credibility or literally “klout” to recommend products. Say if someone was endorsed on LinkedIn for his or her knowledge in 3D design, the Salesbus.com platform might show that he or she would make good recommendations for stationeries.

I learned a lot from Alexandra’s social venture startup, Kinvolved. I was immediately drawn to Alexandra’s presentation as I’m also interested in creating a similar, socially-minded, for-profit social enterprise. Other than a huge encouragement boost to the idea of starting a social company, Kinvolved gave me another insight into how I should pick a specific problem in a wider area that interests me to solve. She mentioned how education was in serious trouble, but all the scrambling around hiring better teachers was all moot if the students didn’t even make it to school on time or at all. That really got me into thinking about whether coming out was the the fundamental problem that LGBT teens face today…

9/6 Media Organizations Reaction Chart

Out of this week’s readings, Scott McCloud’s comic on browsers would be the one I had most fun reading had I not already read it—I’ve been a big fan of his illustrative comics. Other than that, I had the strongest reaction to the article on Wired.

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet, an article by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff, presents contrasting arguments on who’s to blame for the Web’s “death.” First of all, I admit, I was immediately put off by the area chart at the top of the page that showed the “Proportion of Total US Internet Traffic.” The chart’s categorization was arbitrary, confusing and short-sighted—granted, three years have passed since the article’s publication, but I do not see any reasoning behind sorting “peer-to-peer” and “video” into separate categories considering how most of the “peer-to-peer” traffic is really “video.” Also, what is “newsgroup?” The time scale for the chart also seems inappropriate and misleading. The “proportions” of US Web traffic in 1990 is of course going to be drastically different and more diverse, but does that diversity relate at all the points being made in the article? No, not in my opinion. I know it was just a chart, but it got me off on the wrong note and I was not looking forward to reading the rest of the article. I was not wrong.

The rest of the article, which was laid out in an annoying two-column, white vs. red layout(should’ve been single-column with white vs. red), was making the point that the “front-end” of the Internet, “the Web,” was dead and that it was being replaced by other front-end clients(apps) and device portals that hooked up to the Internet’s backend, Web Services. I don’t disagree with the point, but I also didn’t know what the big deal was. The Web’s death has been predicted many times and it has indeed died a few times. From the early days of the browser wars to the times where Flash dominated and to the present 2013(not 2010) day in widespread HTML5 compliance, the Web has played different roles. It’s just looking for a new role now. In my opinion, “the reports of the Web’s death are greatly exaggerated.”

Phantom Ride in the 21st Century Wormhole

Black & White | 00:53 | Experimental

Phantom Ride in the 21st Century Wormhole is a video installation study of space and existence in the digital age. The video models after the genre of phantom ride films that emerged shortly after film’s invention. Just as how the first phantom ride films allowed audiences of their time to experience the time-space through the new medium, Phantom Ride in the 21st Century Wormhole attempts to create a summary experience of the time-space in our digital age through digital video recording, virtual reality, and video conferencing technologies. The video installation investigates the various factors of presence in the digital time-space: network speed, network bandwidth, network latency, the diversification of control and display screens, etc.