Glenn Fleishman

Glenn Fleishman, @glennf, is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, a fortnightly electronic periodical for curious people with a technical bent. Glenn hosts The New Disruptors, a podcast about connecting creators and makers to their audiences, and writes as “G.F.” at the Economist's Babbage blog. He is a regular panel member on the geeky media podcast The Incomparable. In October 2012, Glenn won Jeopardy! twice.

Greg Pak and Jonathan Coulton Kickstart Everything

Jonathan Coulton and Greg Pak launch a crowdfunding campaign to create a series of comic books based on characters from Coulton’s songs

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Vinyl Vault lights fuse on copyright time bomb—but is it armed?

Amoeba Records’ new out-of-print music service proves a deep knowledge of the industry it cherishes. But the much-loved music store’s archive of obscure classics is also a potential time bomb, ticking away inside a bizarre legal tangle that few in the business are inclined to unravel.

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Setting the record straight on Aaron Swartz's contributions

I don't have more to say about Aaron Swartz's death; I knew him a little, but felt his loss keenly. As coverage appeared, however, I found myself concerned about his legacy. Aaron did so much in such a short period of time, but several of his accomplishments have been glossed over in a way that distorts his contributions.

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The Sound of Silence in the National Library

The Library of Congress occupies three massive and ornate buildings in the center of Washington, D.C. But those edifices house just part of the collection, which spans hundreds of miles of shelves across many less-interesting buildings, and extends to media beyond books.

To find the heart of the nation's audiovisual memory, I took a lovely drive in October along ever smaller highways heading southwest from Washington, D.C., to Culpeper, Virginia, where sound recordings, films, and video reside in temperature-controlled vaults beneath Mount Pony.

Passing historical sites like Manassas (where Bull Run is located) , and watching the landscape shift rapidly from government buildings and commercial high rises to strip malls to farms and antique stores, it felt as if I traveled through time as well as distance on the 75-mile trip.

But the library's Culpeper facility is firmly rooted in the 21st century, and its existence owes much to the latter half of the 20th. While the focus is on what's buried inside, it's hard to ignore the beauty of the setting, its landscaping, and the building's architecture; it's the best use of concrete that I've ever seen in interior design, and I say that completely unironically.

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What it's like to be on Jeopardy

A spam filter almost scotched my chance to be on television. I was scanning through the usual detritus of offers in July 2011 to enhance body parts and transfer large sums of money from people in distant lands, and spotted this subject line: “Jeopardy! Contestant Audition in Seattle”

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Andrea Seabrook's DecodeDC

Andrea Seabrook had a brilliant career at National Public Radio (NPR), and spent the last several years covering Congress in Washington, D.C. If you listen to NPR, you know her voice, and likely perked up when the anchors threw it over to her to give insight into the latest federal nonsense. Seabrook recently walked away from that rare thing, a stable job in public radio doing precisely what she loves, to start a podcast called DecodeDC hosted by the new Mule Radio Syndicate. She has three episodes of truthtelling in the can so far.

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Kickstarter re-commits to ideas instead of pre-orders

Kickstarter updated its policies for product design today: a move that will cost the firm money but relieve tension caused by fast promises and slow delivery.

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XOXO: Maker Love, Not Thwart

I have fallen in love with a building, hundreds of people, a MakerBot, a portable toilet trailer, food trucks, and two men each named Andy. Is it possible to fall in love with a conference? If so, I have. The organizers named the conference XOXO for hugs and kisses. This was presented without hipster irony or marketing-speak. They meant it. They delivered.

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In Letterspace, No One Can Hear You Kern

We spent $2.5 billion to put Helvetica Arial on Mars (and incidentally, an SUV-sized robotic science rover), and yet not a cent was devoted to kerning. The Curiosity rover carries a calibration target for its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), an adjustable focus camera designed to take close-up pictures. It's one of 17 cameras on the rover, but it's the only one that has its own target for testing a photo against known colors, brightness, and scale. (​Update: ​The sundial on top of the rover has color swatches for the mast cameras.)

But as a former typesetter, I had to poke fun at the kerning in the word "Target", where the "a" in any design software would be neatly tucked underneath the "T". NASA is old-school in type, too, as this is Helvetica, not Helvetica Neue.​ (Update! Readers note this is Arial, as the angle terminators on the upper-case C give it away! Go, go, Microsoft fonts!)

The calibration target includes a 1909 penny as a homage to the practice of using a coin for scale in images. One of the scientists bought the penny from the first year Lincoln appeared on its front, and sent it on its merry mission. The target is now lightly dusted with Martian soil, but still useful for its purpose.

A full size image is available from NASA.

Strange superhero Flaming Carrot goes digital

The 1980s had many surreal and outré comic-book stars. I recall particularly following The Tick, Concrete, and Nexus. They were respectively a nigh-invulnerable, possibly mentally ill superhero with a chubby accountant sidekick in a moth-themed flying suit; a writer whose brain was transplanted by aliens (themselves possibly escaped slaves) into a nearly invulnerable rock-like body often performing missions of mercy; and a man (later others, including men, women, and children) picked by a nearly omnipotent being residing in the center of a planet to atone the genocide of his father by being forced to be an almost indestructible and thoroughly powerful superhero, lest he face disabling pain.

You catch the theme here, right? Omnipotence, invulnerability, superhero—all but the Tick reluctant. Into that mix, Flaming Carrot was something altogether different.

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Indie Capitalism relies on crowds—and you can do it too

Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt are enthusiastic fellows. The makers of the Glif iPhone tripod adapter and Cosmonaut stylus for capacitive touch screens, you can't help but get a contact high from the joy they get out of designing stuff and running a company. I've met and spoken to them several times, and I always end up feeling pumped up about charting one's own course in life.

Glif famously started as a Kickstarter project when the two guys still had full-time day jobs. It was an early success story of crowdfunding, raising far more than they'd set as a goal, and led to them starting a company called Studio Neat, which now has a four-product line-up.

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Cul de Sac Cartoonist Racks His Pen

We told the story of Richard Thompson, the cartoonist behind the fey and subversive comic strip "Cul de Sac," back in April, describing his battle with Parkinson's, and his plans to keep producing the daily cartoon even as the disease progressed. Unfortunately, Thompson says he cannot keep up with the demanding schedule, even using a colleague to handle inking his roughs. The strip's last installment is September 23. Thompson's inker, the cartoonist Stacy Curtis, wrote a tribute as well. Thompson has a gift of combining satire, the blurred memories of childhood, and a delight in life that I'll miss in his strip. I hope at whatever pace he is able, we continue to see new work from him.

Oatmeal Spells F U in Money Shots

I am kneeling on a sun-dappled hardwood floor with stacks of $20 bills in $2,000 bundles in each hand helping to spell out the word "douchebaggery," and thinking: $220,000 just doesn't seem like that much money. I found myself in this position after asking Matthew Inman, the artist behind the cartoon and business The Oatmeal, if I could take pictures when he withdrew the cash he will ultimately hand over to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation in order to use it to make fun of a Web site that threatened him with legal action.

This is the latest episode in a saga that BoingBoing has documented in quite some detail, and which began June 11, when Inman posted an annotated version of a letter he had received from Charles Carreon, a well-known attorney representing FunnyJunk, a user-submitted content site, complaining about a post Inman had made a year ago. Inman complained in 2011 about FunnyJunk's business model, noting, "Most of the comics they've stolen [have] no credit or link back to me. Even with proper attribution, no one clicks through and FunnyJunk still earns a huge pile of cash from all the ad revenue." It's a common problem with sites that rely on submitted items, and each site has different policies on how to manage such unauthorized postings. Inman didn't issue DMCA takedown notices, though he would have been within his rights. He says he's just not interested in engaging in that sort of behavior. (By the way, did you know you have to register an agent with the copyright office to qualify for the safe-harbor provision of the DMCA? Me, neither! FunnyJunk's registration was received May 29, 2012, shortly before its lawyer sent the letter to Inman.)

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Crowdfunding a guide to crowdfunding

Crowdfunding imageCrowdfunding has fascinated me since 2009, when Kickstarter, Sellaband, Indiegogo, and others were starting to pick up steam in allowing hundreds to thousands of individuals to contribute relatively small amounts to fund artists and groups recording albums, building products, and making films.

Even after thousands of projects had been funded and completed, it was common to read articles or blog posts stating that crowdfunding was a flash-in-the-pan and a fad. People would become tired of backing efforts, the argument went, and stop contributing. Donor fatigue is a real problem with any fundraising, whether for non-profits or commercial outfits. But it occurs when you pass the hat with the same group of people. What's evolved with crowdfunding is that every project has a unique audience, although some lucky projects break out through word of mouth and mainstream coverage to reach a much broader range of potential supporters.

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Raise Every Voice

Photo: Scott Snider

The phone system doesn't allow us to hear people at a distance in the same way they quite literally sound to us when up close. Alexander Graham Bell's accidental dehumanization has been redeemed in part by a technologically related godchild. And it only took about 150 years.

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