AMY GOODMAN: What are you facing? When you say “the lesser of two evils,” what was the other choice?
LADAR LEVISON: Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that. I would like to, believe me. I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore, which is why I’m here in D.C. today speaking to you.
So let us hope that this is what the sale signifies: the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age’s major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence. We hope it marks a beginning, because we know it marks an end.

Michele Catalano is my friend



Michele Catalano is my friend. So take that as you will, before you read this.

Yesterday morning, she published a story on the Internet that caused a media ruckus. It had implications about the government spying on Americans. By yesterday afternoon, she was being pilloried as a liar, or at least a provocateur.  

I believed Michele was telling the truth to the best of her knowledge from the get go—because she’s a friend. An Internet friend, sure, but a friend whom I know well enough to know wasn’t Making Shit Up. She lives online, and uses the medium to express herself. I would wager that many of us today find the distinction between Internet friends and real friends increasingly if not completely meaningless. And so, she often goes online and talks to her friends (or: “friends”) about her moods, her kids, her jobs and, sometimes, things that have upset her. Things like six cops who identified themselves as part of a joint terrorism task force coming into her home.

And so, here’s the thing: it turned out that she got a key assumption wrong. Yes, they were there to ask about search history, but that questioning was triggered by an employer, not government monitoring. She accurately portrayed her perception, but she didn’t know a key detail, and it turned out to be one that would have avoided a subsequent frenzy.

There was this sin too: she wouldn’t answer questions from the media. She took a lot of heat for dropping a bombshell and then walking away. (She didn’t, completely. I was in touch with her via DM on and off all day yesterday. But still, she didn’t talk to the press in an official capacity.) The media doesn’t like to be ignored. Especially when its by one of their own, which Michele, more or less at least, is. 

And so the media was left simultaneously arguing that her husband (not a writer; not a reporter) should have been more aggressive with the police (gotten badge numbers, refused to answer questions or allowed a search of the home) while also making the case that she should be more supple with the press (return our emails, answer our phone calls).

Don’t talk to the cops; do talk to us.

Michele is a loudmouth. And rude. And sarcastic. And as I began turning this over in my head yesterday, I made an assumption too. I assumed she had—over her many years online—perhaps said something obnoxious or sarcastic or both that landed her on Some Sort of List. That was wrong. But what is true is that it is in character for her to say fuck it and walk away from a big mess of people questioning her story and motives with her middle finger in the air. She was under no obligation to talk to the press, no matter how much we wanted her too.

—And to be clear, I attempted to get her to talk to Wired on the record.—

Two days ago, most people had never heard of Michele Catalano. And then yesterday, she was all over the news, being used a convenient prop for our existing prejudices—be they about the police state, hysteria about the police state, or fucking blogging platforms. She made the mistake of writing about something that traumatized her, with an attempt at levity, that wasn’t thoroughly and completely documented and then refusing to answer questions about it from a story-hungry media beast. She made the mistake of failing to anticipate how her story would be received. So maybe she deserves to be pilloried for that.

Maybe she of all people should have understood what the media is, and how it operates, feeding on itself and its sources and shitting out traffic and truth.

But she didn’t. And so, now we get to call her a liar, or at least a provocateur.

And you may think of her as a liar, or at least a provocateur. Or you may think of her as someone who reached out to other human beings to share a troubling story she didn’t fully understand.

Either way, Michele Catalano is still my friend.


The objectively best things that have ever been on the Web

I’ve thought about it a lot and these are the best things that have ever been on the Web in order and this list is objective not subjective so fuck you.

1. The Britt and Tiff posts to Craigslist Missed connections in 2001.
(And if you have any idea what I’m talking about without googling the internet archive you are a Master Mason and I will love you unconditionally regardless of anything else, yum-yum.) And look, okay, these aren’t in and of themselves that funny. I know. Reading them now you’re like, wut? But you have to look at them in their place and time. Craig and his list used to just be a local san franciscoy/ay area thing. Local people went to CL missed connections for the same reasons people read them in alt weeklies: they were desperately bad. But unlike your local Wednesday streetcarpet, CL offered the chance to reply troll. And so people did. But Britt and Tiff took that next level, and instead of just snarkily replying to people (the norm) started using CL for narratives. And more to the point, she/they/he/whoever just used the board to post whatever they wanted. Craigslist was whatever they wanted it to be. If you ever read the best of craigslist, it was because of  the pioneering work of Britt and Tiff. Or maybe I’m overstating things. Because in fairness, it was really dumb. So anyway, eat shit if you don’t like Britt and Tiff.  

2. Filepile

3. Mahir. But only the very first original xoom.com site, or whatever was before that, before he had his own domain or email address or any of that other mersh bullshit.

4. That Autotune the News with Joe Biden where he sings you’ve got to believe.

5. Mike Monteiro’s twitter from 2008-2011

6. All Your Base

7. There was probably something on 4chan I missed. Fuck it. Let’s just say 4chan. 

8. The Ben Brown video about how Metafilter makes you smarter and more angry

9. Suck.com, Feed Magazine, and The Finger, which were all actually the same thing but they didn’t realize it which is why they’re gone. (And shut up, just shut up, about Plastic.)

10. Paul Ford Choire Sicha

11. The XKCD about someone being wrong on the Internet

12. The entire trapped in a closet series

13. Kottke.org

14. The ipad

15. Ready Steadman Go

16. The Internet vs. research paper cartoon 

17. Brunching Shuttlecocks

18. keyboard cat

19. That long post Kanye wrote that time he rage quit the Internet

20. That time Gizmodo turned off all the TVs at CES. 

21. Some fat kid

22. We’re all fat kids

 

UPDATED: I almost forgot. 23. BArack Obame is your new Bicycle. (eat me)

 

OOOOOOOOOPS: I left off number 25, Anil Dash’s Prince obsession (please stop cyber bullying me)

 

How to Publish A Story That Explains How to Use Social Media to Juice Your Story's Popularity

I paid to have my latest Wired story promoted on social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, to try to show that a lot of the metrics* we use to measure a story’s success are bullshit. It worked. When the story went live today, the page appeared with more than 15,500 links on Twitter, and 6,500 likes on Facebook. The story is a part of Wired’s Cheats package for the latest issue of the magazine. It needed to go live online at the same time readers encountered it in print, and it needed to have all those social shares set up in advance. 

That posed an inherent dilemma: How can you make a story popular without attracting any attention to it?

I listed the services I used in the story, but I didn’t get into how we managed to have all those likes and links set up in advance. It was easy, but it took some creativity, largely thanks to Wired’s Jenny Mckeel who thought through all this. 

The entire package was going live at once. I could publish my story a little bit early, but the timing needed to be very close. I wanted all the public-facing stats (like the 15 thousand links and Twitter and 6,000 Facebook shares) to be live by the time the text appeared. Certainly, if someone found it in print or on the tablet, it needed those metrics to already be there. To make that happen, we cheated. 

The Cheats package was scheduled to go live on July 16, but we quietly published the URL on July 13 without any of the actual story text. To keep it from appearing on the front page of Wired or in  RSS readers, we back dated it to July 1. That let us keep the URL structure it would eventually need to have with the month and year (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/07/cheat-page/) without it being so front facing that lots of people would stumble on it and think it was some sort of mistake. Once the page was up, I went to Fiverr and paid to have it linked on Facebook and Twitter. Because most of these accounts doing the retweeting only have a follower or two (max) it meant the page was able to appear popular, while still remaining largely invisible. 

This morning (or last night) at a little after 1 am, I added the story text, set it to the current time, and hit update. Now it showed up in RSS readers and I could openly tweet it form my main account. (I had originally used a secondary Twitter account I have for testing 3rd party stuff to link to it and score retweets.)

So now, the story goes “live” and as if by magic it has tens of thousands of social shares listed on it the instant real people start to encounter it. It worked. 

*As is site traffic, to a very large extent. My original idea was to use a botnet to throw traffic at it, but Wired’s lawyers said “no, no. Don’t do that.” 

stop hiding your imperfect and incomplete ideas for years. Stop collecting them in your head, like dying butterflies in a glass jar. It’s always better to let them fly.

wired:

So here’s a challenge: Wired wants you to come up with your own Vine optical illusions and share them with us. Use the tag #WiredOpticalIllusion on your Vine posts over the next 24 hours — that’s right you have ONE DAY, folks — and we will collect our favorites and share them here on Gadget Lab. Only add the tag to your own videos, and only post new videos that you yourself (or you and your friends) created.

[MORE: Show Us Your Best Vine Optical Illusions]

gingercast:

Episode 3

wired:

“Hello.”
The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.
“Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said. “Here, drink this. You’re slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose.”
I was taken aback. “How did you…” I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.
“As soon as you hit Google’s territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws–or lack thereof–apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn’t speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it.”
Welcome to Google Island.

wired:

“Hello.”

The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.

“Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said. “Here, drink this. You’re slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose.”

I was taken aback. “How did you…” I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.

“As soon as you hit Google’s territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws–or lack thereof–apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn’t speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it.”

Welcome to Google Island.

Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults: the office, restaurants, museums, buses, trains, malls, supermarkets, barber shops, banks, post offices. Even at the park and other places where dogs belong, they’ve been given free rein. Dogs are frequently allowed to wander off leash, to run toward you and around you, to run across the baseball field or basketball court, to get up in your grill. Even worse than the dogs are the owners, who seem never to consider whether there may be people in the gym/office/restaurant/museum who do not care to be in close proximity to their dogs. After all, what kind of monster would have a problem with a poor innocent widdle doggie? It’s a dog’s world. We just live in it. And it’s awful. Bad dogs!

I hate dogs: They’re lounging in our offices and licking us at our cafes. It’s time to take America back. - Slate Magazine

A few years ago I would have said, “Oh, Slate. You’re so contrarian!” But after having a kid who gets regularly run roughshod over by people who just say of their terrible, terrible canine companions that won’t sit, won’t stay, won’t not jump up and knock your child over, “oh, he’s friendly, he won’t bite” I’m totally down. Word, Farhad.  

NoPa = Prospect Heights. You moved away for a few years and came back and all of a sudden there was a whole neighborhood that your friends spent time in that never was a neighborhood before. In San Francisco’s case, it was a neighborhood named after a restaurant. This is basically the worst thing I can imagine.

New York Elsewhere - The Morning News

The writer is completely and utterly wrong (and I assume, kidding/trolling, but maybe not). I say that because of a small crime I took part in, a civic misdemeanor that is still playing out.

In 1999, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I moved into a little garden apartment on Fulton between Central and Lyon. The neighborhood was then still widely known as the Western Addition—and with good reason because it was and is a part of the Western Addition. While it didn’t have the homeless issues that plagued (and plague) the Haight just across the panhandle, crime was still pretty bad. If you wanted to buy crack, it was very, very easy to do so on Central at Grove. 

It wasn’t even remotely trendy, but we loved it for the old Victorians, some of the best in the city, and its central location. There were occasional all night house parties at The House of Love, complete with giant naked pileups in the front room downstairs, The Justice League and Storyville had great shows. The Fulton Street Bar was an oasis of pool tables and punk rock jukebox. It was nice. 

At the time I worked for a soon to be ill-fated start up web magazine. One of my writers was Annalee Newitz. When I changed jobs there, she took my old gig editing the tabloid section. We were co-workers and pals. Then the whole thing went to shit, and we both moved on.*

Annalee got a job as an editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. This was back when Alt-Weeklies were still a Thing City People Read Every Week. And when it came time for her to put together the Best of the Bay issue in 2000, she asked me if I could write one of the neighborhood guides. Sure. But which neighborhood? We had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: I guess I could write about my neighborhood. The neighborhood association keeps pushing this dumb NOPA name—you know, like SOMA, but for North of the Panhandle instead of South of Market—but it’s a made up thing and nobody actually calls it that.
Her: That’s perfect. Can you get me 1000 words including four or five venue write-ups by Monday?

And so I wrote this thing about a neighborhood that didn’t really exist. It was (as far as I’m aware, and I could be wrong) the first time NoPa showed up in print on anything other than some huckster impresario’s real estate flyer. It was certainly among the first. 

It was hard to find anything to write about in, um, “NoPa.” There were virtually no restaurants, and the few that existed weren’t any good. Did I want to write about the PopEye’s? No. Of the four things I wrote about, one was a corner store. That was what kind of neighborhood it was.

And then Fly Bar opened, which, for whatever reason, was popular with yuppies. The Justice League became The Independent. Little Star started serving deep dish.  El Rico finally closed or was shut down by the health department and Little Chihuahua moved in. Cafe Abir opened a sushi restaurant, then a sake bar. The bar/brothel on Fulton closed. Storyville turned into an Asian fusion restaurant. The empty lot where Plaza Foods (and a very downmarket version of the original Fallettis) re-opened as an Albertson’s.  The crack house vanished. Things changed. Look! It’s Papalote. It’s Nopalito. It’s Four Barrel. Would you care for some gelato, sir?

I remember noticing that a check cashing place had closed and was now a gallery. That was when you could really feel the money money money coming. More so than Bar Crudo. And definitely more so than when NoPa opened.

Speaking of which…

When the neighborhood was still “transitional,” and gangsters still hung out on the corner of Grove 24 hours a day, I was walking up Divisadero** when I passed a woman standing on a ladder. She was scraping paint off of a derelict bank building that had long stood empty. I asked her what she was doing, and she told me the was opening a restaurant there. This, as it turned out, was Allyson Jossel. And at the time (I believe it was 2005) opening a Fancy Restaurant on Divis—at least on that part of Divis—was anything but a sure bet. It took courage.

And while I wish I had not been priced out of that part of town, and while Divisadero Street now makes me I groan and gnash my teeth, and while I can’t stand the detestable little shits who hang about in the parklets or the polar fleece farmer’s market, and the whole scene just depresses me and reminds me of everything I hate about the city I love(d), and, and, and…

Well.

More power to Nopa for having the guts to move there when they did—albeit many years after the neighborhood took its name.***

————————————————————————-

*One of our other co-workers was a young kid just out of Berkeley who was working 20 hour days in the art department and doing all kinds of back end work for something like $18,000 a year (in San Francisco!) named Andy Baio.

**I was on my way to my rent-a-mailbox, which I had because all of our mail and packages would get stolen. It was called the Post-All Center. And although it lost its lease and shut down, you can still see it painted on the walls of NoPa, by the then up-and-coming muralist Brian Barneclo.

***Anyway. I’m sorry about whatever role I played with the name. I know that, like the gentrification of the neighborhood itself, it would have happened with or without me. But still. For both of those things: Sorry.

PS: I swear to you I’ve had nothing whatsoever to do with naming FolSoMa. 

jimray: Twitter’s music app is beautiful, in that now-tiresome way apps from...

jimray:

Twitter’s music app is beautiful, in that now-tiresome way apps from VC-backed companies are required to be, sacrificing utility for aesthetics and looking dated as soon as it hits your neighborhood app store. That’s fine, they’ve got plenty of designers to restyle it every 18 months.

All things considered, La Taqueria is offering a better burrito. But Chipotle is offering a better burrito-based business proposition. Chipotle has better-designed spaces, with greater menu visibility and superior clarity as to what your options are. Chipotle’s lines move substantially faster. Your mileage may vary as to the merits of a prudent slim burrito vs Chipotle’s mega-calorie bomb, but in some sense Chipotle is offering a better value proposition. More realistically though if a burrito was to materialize at my desk I would want it to be a La Taqueria burrito.
Maybe you were hoping for something radically new and different from a Facebook phone. If so, Zuck just broke your heart. But so what. Facebook never does anything new. New doesn’t matter in the blue. What matters is this: What Mark Zuckerberg announced today runs software called Facebook Home that makes it easier for people to spend more time with Facebook. And that’s all he really needed to pull off.

The Fresh Ten Commandments: The Fresh Ten

thefreshten:

The Fresh Ten

Recent events have made it clear that we are suffering from a broken moral compass.  People today could use some general guidance.

Since the original ten commandments seem somewhat narrow and obsolete (too much focus on livestock, servants, and jealous god issues), here is a modest first draft of a fresh set. 

  1. You shall treat all people with respect regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or national origin.
  2. You shall not kill, assault, nor intimidate with threats of physical violence.
  3. You shall not rape, sexually coerce, nor intimidate with threats of sexual violence. 
  4. You shall cultivate intellectual curiosity, be open to new ideas, and  respect the scientific method.
  5. You shall not cheat, nor cheat others out of what is rightfully theirs.
  6. You shall not lie, deceive, nor spread lies about others. 
  7. You shall not steal, that is to say take or use what rightfully belongs to another person in a manner that causes harm. (Stealing is a trickier concept than it once was. How do you say yes to Fair Use and no to software patents?)
  8. You shall keep your promises.
  9. You shall not waste natural resources nor pollute the shared environment.
  10. You shall take responsibility for your actions and their consequences.


Clear?

Great. Re-post this everywhere and maybe it will sink in.