Monthly Archives of: January 2012


★ Panasonic Lumix GF-ummm..

Very shortly I’ll be looking to splash out on a panasonic lumix GF1 or GF2. I’ve read great reviews on both, although the GF1 is discontinued and can only be bought second hand. I can’t decide which to go with, it’s certainly a matter of cost and availability. I’m keen to hear if there are any love/horror stories out there, your thoughts would of course be much appreciated!

My main criteria are: great shots in low light, snug and relatively compact and a good fixed-focus lens (the 20mm f1.7 is very attractive). I’m taking this bad boy travelling with me this year – I’ve been umming and ahhing about this for the last few days.. Any advice?


★ Plotto

Have you heard of Plotto? Neither had I, up until this morning. It’s a text from 1894 by Georges Polti, which creates a structural system for creating story plots. It’s quite extraordinary, taking 36 basic plots through a staggering 1462 plot permutations. Below is one example.


Plotto is being reissued by Tin House. Fun for the whole family (if your family is full of aspiring authors, or plot geeks).

Via brain pickings


The future of youtube

The New Yorker has seen the future of youtube, and it’s not what you thought it would look like. Google is shifting gears quite rapidly, moving the focus away from user generated content to studio-produced shows & movies – even channels created solely for youtube itself. It’s a revenue driven set of decisions seeking to wrest some of the profits from the incumbent tv channels. The claim is that tv audiences watch up to several hours of tv a night, where YouTube audiences watch only a matter of minutes, and that can be changed by adding a number of things; higher relevance for linked material (by algorithms), channel content such as shows or movies, and content created exclusively for YouTube. It would seem that google is literally throwing money at this, and is trying to lure the entertainment industry to its channel.

Kyncl’s relationships in Hollywood would help in securing premium content; and, more important, he understood entertainment culture. He brought “the skill set of being able to bridge Silicon Valley and Hollywood—an information culture and an entertainment culture,” he told me.The crucial difference is that one culture is founded on abundance and the other on scarcity. He added, “Silicon Valley builds its bridges on abundance. Abundant bits of information floating out there, writing great programs to process it, then giving people a lot of useful tools to use it. Entertainment works by withholding content with the purpose of increasing its value. And, when you think about it, those two are just vastly different approaches, but they can be bridged.”

The crucial difference for me, however, is that this shows a clear misunderstanding of google’s business model. For hollywood, or the entertainment industry, there’s a clear product being sold. The challenge for their business is keeping you coming back for more. Ticket sales, DVDs and now streaming video are examples of different media, but the product is still the same. Google, on the other hand, cares very little about that kind of product. For google, you are the product they care about. Your data, your behaviour, your actions. You are the product, and you only depreciate if you stop being ‘engaged’ in the brand. Each action you make helps Google to refine and distill their digital version of you.

On YouTube, the niches will get nichier, and the audiences smaller still. But those audiences will be even more engaged, and much more quantifiable. Advertisers have to rely on ratings and market research to get even a rough approximation of who’s watching which show. Because YouTube is delivered over the Internet, the company will know exactly who is watching—not their names but their viewing histories, their searches, their purchases, their rough location, and their online social connections. As Shishir Mehrotra, YouTube’s head product manager, explained to me, “Advertising will be done at the level of the audience rather than at the level of the show. Content is no longer proxy for an audience—we know who the audience is. We know what your preferences are, the types of shows you like to watch.” If you posted a video of your trip to Hawaii on YouTube, chances are YouTube is going to advertise airfare to Honolulu to you. Advertising can therefore be highly focussed, not the blunt instrument it is now.

It’s a striking difference between the old and the new. What’s interesting about this (and I’ll follow on with this in another post) is that a) the old industries of print journalism and entertainment don’t seem to really grasp this concept, and b) it also seems like the concept of youtube is shifting very radically, the YouTube of 5 years time will be a very different beast to what we know today.

Also, its a bit shocking to think that it’s only been in existence for 7 years, the web has changed so much because of sites like YouTube. Self expression and consumption have changed immeasurably. Where it goes next is hard to say, but it does look like YouTube will be governed more by ad impressions, studio content and improved algorithms.

We’ll be watching to see what happens next.


★ Warning: Upcoming Churn

I’ve hosted on for the last 4 years, and I’ve been fairly happy with their service. It was a breeze to set up the gmail hosted account, and their web hosting seemed quite nice and simple to use (aside from a few stumbles starting up wikis and wordpress the wrong way..). Very recently I started using to host a few other websites (on wordpress) and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. No longer did I need to configure databases, the server-side install was a breeze and the automatic tools made life much easier. It all seemed so much nicer than my cludgy install over here and I started thinking of greener grasses elsewhere.

This past week I took the plunge. I’ve churned from MyDomain to just host. The thing that got me to churn in the end was the apparent inability for MyDomain to upgrade my account to php5 from 4. This resulted in the latest WordPress (3.3 at time of writing) refusing installation, and a bunch of useful plugins throwing fatal errors. So I’ve decided to up roots and move on over to justhost. I can foresee a number of problems in doing so, and I wouldnt be surprised if this site sees some minimal amount of downtime. In the long run its worth it. All the old links should still work just fine, and the feed won’t be affected (I’m fairly sure of that). I thought I ought to warn you of the downtime and leave you with the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that I’m thinking of all of you.

I’ll keep on writing here in the meantime, I’m not even sure when the churn will happen and how painful it will be. We’ll soon see!

[update] I’m reposting this as the churn has happened and I lost a few old articles. Goes to show you can never be too careful backing up your site..


★ Cameras on the verge

Anything you could ever want to know about the basics of camera use, over at the verge.

Here’s a small snippet to give you a taste:


If there’s one rule to follow in photography, it’s that cameras with larger sensors take better photos. That’s a generalization, of course, but it’s based on a very basic empirical truth: the bigger the photosensitive surface area, the more light is taken in at a time. Practical evidence for this is abundant, from the Nikon 1 series that disappointed everyone with its undersized CX sensor, to the Nokia N8, which remains the smartphone camera champion today thanks to its class-leading 1/1.83-inch sensor.

Full-frame cameras derive their name from the size of their sensors, which match the “full frame” of 35mm film, and are predictably the professionals’ favorite choice. With a full-frame camera, a 24mm lens gives you exactly that focal length, whereas with smaller sensors, you’re subject to a crop factor that tends to turn everything into a slightly more zoomed-in version of itself (i.e. if the sensor is 1.5 times smaller than full-frame, as with Nikon’s popular DX format, you get 1.5 times the focal length; with a 24mm lens, that’d mean an effective focal length of 36mm).

I hadn’t noticed this before, but the verge also has quite an excellent product review page, for example here’s the Nokia N8 compared to the iPhone 4S.  Not too shabby.


★ Just shameful, Paypal

One shameful story over at Regretsy, about a transaction gone wrong via paypal.

I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.

This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.

Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as “counterfeit” even though there is no such thing in the violin world.


Via Kottke (via ftrain).



★ Stay curious

If you’re a designer (heck even if you’re not a designer), stop everything and read this article by Mike Monteiro, over at net magazine. It’s what Jason Santa Maria describes as a rallying call for designers to take wake up and take 2012 by storm. It does have the sheen of a new years resolution list, but honestly it does ring true for me outside of holiday reality distortion time.

Take a look for yourself

6. Stay curious

Don’t be the designer who gets proficient and then stops. It’s easy to make a steady living doing that one thing you’re really good at. Until something comes along and obliterates it. Aim higher. Remember those guys who were really good at Debabelizer? (Ask your parents.) Don’t spend your career satisfied with doing things you’re good at – try to do things you’re not good at. You’ll eventually be good at more things, and you’ll know what you honestly suck at. And you’ll have a longer career.

There’s a ton of great shit coming down the pike this year, including stuff that’s gonna surprise us. Not to mention the stuff we’re still getting used to from last year. The future’s not only fun, it’s messy. Welcome it with open arms.

The future’s not only fun, it’s messy.


★ A monumental effort

I can only guess at how much time and effort went into crafting this ode to the cinema of 2011. Apparently Matt Shapiro has been making these for the last 5 years, beginning in 2006 when he was just 14!

His 2011 cinescape is the best of the lot, check it out below.