Better Than Reality: A Fundamental Internet Principle

Ways to Be Better Than Reality

  • be non-linear: don’t force users to live through a stream of time that they can’t control
  • customize service: computers can do different things for different people
  • be asynchronous: a customized link to check the status of an order allows a customer to resume a “conversation” many hours later without spending any time on reestablishing context
  • support anonymity: if people don’t have to reveal who they are, they may be more willing to do certain things
  • link liberally: links are the foundation of the Web and can make anything into an extension of your own service
  • support search and multiple views: different people have different preferences, and there is no need to be limited to a single way of doing things on the Web
  • be small and cheap: because of the efficiency of computers it is possible to deal in much smaller units than before
  • be free: it costs very little to offer free samples over the Web, so a book publisher could offer a free chapter and a consultant could offer free advice on some frequently asked questions (while charging for the full product or service, of course)
  • ignore geography: support users who access your site from home, the office, the car, while away on business trips or vacations, and from anywhere in the world

Ulysses and the Lie of Technological Progress

Joyce picked June 16 as the time of the novel partly to commemorate his first date with his future wife

.. it’s easy to render James Joyce a staid and honorable figure of cultural uprightness. But nothing could be less the case. Ulysses bathes in low-culture vulgarity

.. We chose Twitter, still a relatively esoteric “microblogging” platform in 2007, because it offered a perfect format for our interpretation. For one part, the invitation to post messages, in public, unfiltered, whatever thought or idea came out of one’s head perfectly paralleled Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness writing.

.. We registered 54 Twitter accounts in the names of Ulysses characters—from@BuckMulligan to @WifeOfSheehyMP, and converted the passages we’d selected and time-coded into 140-character tweets, adding @-mention cross-references where appropriate.

.. Twitter had published an application programming interface (API) for its service. Using the API, I wrote some software to automate the posting, such that everything would be timed correctly.

.. Adrienne LaFrance explained how a Pulitzer-nominated, 34-part investigative journalism series vanished entirely from the web. One reason: it was built on a technology platform, Flash

.. Works produced for HyperCard, Apple’s once-popular programming tool, have long since ceased to be viewable on modern computers.

..  One of the features that allowed Ulysses to become canon—hardly the only one, but one nevertheless—was its ability to be read by human eyeballs in 2016 as much as in 1986, 1956, or 1926.

.. The Twitter public timeline had been retired

.. The ultimate lesson of Ulyssesis that everything that seems permanent decays and returns to earth. But in so doing, it doesn’t vanish. It facilitates new growth, both native and invasive.

.. Bloomsday is the most contemporary of holidays, because it puts the lie to the conceit of contemporary life: that we move ever-forward through progress, amassing knowledge and innovation and adeptness. How quickly forgotten is the fundamental lesson of modernism—that entropy rules

.. It celebrates the ultimate technological advancement no matter the period: not discovery or innovation, but the warm, drunk rumble of the conversation between progress and decay.

An open letter to Jack Dorsey

Right now Facebook is completely dominating us. There’s no good outlet for blog posts that integrates well with FB because they don’t allow linking in their timeline posts.

If you look through Facebook, you won’t find many outbound links, they do all kinds of things to discourage it.

So they’re turning the web into a Facebook thing. Because that’s where we have to post to get engagement. But we can’t use the rest of the web. And that’s the problem.