"matt webb"

Weeknotes: personal, public logs in the tradition of early blogging

Matt Webb (previously) is a "weeknoter." That means that once a week, he sits down and sums up all the things he's seen, done, learned and taken note of in the previous week, and makes the result public. Read the rest

Star Trek, post-scarcity and DRM

Rick Webb, then Matt Yglesias, each try to figure out how the vaguely social-democratic post-scarcity economy of Star Trek's Federation works. Here's Matt:

Webb sees a welfare state, but I actually see something different. It's simply that energy is abundant enough that people have unrestricted access to consumer-grade replicators. Under the circumstances nobody needs to work to survive and there's really no point in maintaining a cash economy. But by definition improved technology can't increase the efficiency of historical production techniques. If the promise of Sisko's is a home-cooked New Orleans meal, then Sisko's can't partake in the post-scarcity economy. Similarly, you can replicate wine in unlimited quantities but a Chateau Picard vintage is by definition a scarce commodity. People appear to operate these businesses for roughly the same reason that Starfleet officers cruise around the galaxy—for a sense of personal fulfillment rather than enrichment.

The tl;dr: it's really about what near-infinite but still-expensive sources of energy would mean for us: much becomes worthless at home, but you don't want to be the guy paying the replicator bills out on the final frontier. And then there's the human hankering for tradition and authenticity, and the deep satisfaction of entrepreneurship, and aliens to do business with...

But we are forgetting one thing. Take the wine, for example. What could make Chateau Picard more than mere personal fulfillment, in a world where it's chemically identical to cheap replicator plonk? Pervasive DRM. If you really want an explanation for how and why a post-scarcity far-future economy would look, work, and think like late-20th century America and Europe, there you go. Read the rest

Matt Webb on the role of the designer in the 21st century


Here's my friend and neighbour Matt Webb (part of the Schulze and Webb design consultancy) addressing Copenhagen's Reboot conference on what the role of a designer was and is in the 21st century. It's a great Webbrant, thought-provoking, learned, wide-ranging, weird and great.

Reboot (via Warren Ellis) Read the rest

RSS-I - an RSS feed for your decisions

Matt Webb gave the morning keynote today at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference in San Diego. His talk (From Pixels to Plastic) was a whirlwind tour through amazing and funny ideas (he opened by seeing how long he could stare at us, smiling, without cracking up).

But the wow moment for me was when he talked about a notional kind of RSS reader -- an "RSS-I" reader, for interactive RSS. The idea is to take all the little decisions that all the services you use have asked you to make (Amazon recommends a book, your mailing list wants you to approve a post, Flickr wants you to add a buddy, your blog wants you to approve some comments) and stream them into a special reader, so that they're all in one place, and you can keep track of your decisions, make them in one go, and not have to run all over the Web.

This hasn't been built, but the second Matt mentioned it, I had that galvanic feeling, that feeling of, "I need this, I didn't know it, but I need this. I really, really need this."

Webb said a lot of fantastic stuff this morning (he demoed a little plastic robot that falls over when your friends go off IM and stands up when they come back online), but this one really floored me.

Update: Here's some more links: Matt's slides,

The RSS-I slide,

Matt's blog post on RSS-I

See also: Boing Boing audio interview with Mind Hacks editor Matt Webb Brain Hacks: Overclock your amygdala Ruminations on a bee Futurism, fictional and science fictional - rambling and inspiring Read the rest

O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference earlybird reg closes Monday!

Next Monday is the last day for discounted Early Bird registration at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. Last year, the con sold out entirely -- sign up early! I'm speaking this year, co-presenting with Trusted Computing advocate Peter Biddle (notorious as the author of the Darknet paper). Peter and I will be switching up a little this time: I'm going to present the case for DRM, then he's going to present the case against it. Should be fun!

The program is still being finalized, but already there are any number of exciting presentations on the slate, including:

MMOG: Modestly Multiplayer Online Game Building Workshop -- a half-day session on building tiny, federated virtual worlds Toward a New Animism: Old Interaction Paradigms for an Everyware World, Adam "Everyware" Greenfield's presentation on figuring out how to live in a world where all our possessions are smart enough to be trouble If Paper Could Talk, What Would It Say?, presented by Osborne-creating PC hero Lee Felsenstein, on using printed codes to store machine-readable audio No Program Left Behind: Liberating TV from the Tyranny of the Ephemeral, wherein BBC maverick Tom Loosemore (BBC Backstage) opens the kimono on the Pandora Box, a PVR that can record every TV program on every channel at once and archive them all for nine months Super Ninja Privacy Techniques for Web App Developers -- Marc "Wesabe" Hedlund explains the fine, subtle, transcendental points of maintaining privacy through good application design From Pixels to Plastic: the always gnomic and fascinating Matt Webb on the coming revolution in outputting pixel-based designs in solid, volumetric plastic Your Web App as a Text Adventure -- I loved this thesis-statement: "Quite bluntly, if your web application can't easily be adapted as a classic text adventure, your application has serious problems on multiple levels" Body Hacking: Quinn Magnet Sense Norton takes us on a stomach-churning adventure through the world of extreme body-mods RFID Guardian: A Personal Platform for RFID Privacy Management -- when I saw Melanie Rieback present her prize-winning paper on RFID firewalls at USENIX LISA in DC, I knew we had to have her at ETECH; her research on the security of RFIDs shows how we are sleepwalking into a world of incredible instability and insecurity

In 2007, we expect internet access to be instant, music collections to fit into our pockets, and communication as a constant.

Read the rest

Futurism, fictional and science fictional - rambling and inspiring

Matt Webb -- gnomic Internet thinker, mind hacker, and fictioneer -- gave a beautiful talk to an Design Critical Theory MA class at London's Goldsmith College, entitled "Sci-fi I like, Fictional Futures, Goldsmiths." It's a 50-slide ramble through the futurism, real and science fictional, that inspires Matt. There are plenty of thought-provoking bits here, and lots of funny gracenotes -- all in all worth a look, even if it is somewhat distractingly set up as fifty pages' worth of material with only a few paras per page (maybe he'll consolidate this into some meatier chunks -- say, five or ten pages in all).

It’s a control room from Project Cybersyn. In 1970–1973, the revolutionary Chilean government managed to recruit Stafford Beer, a cyberneticist who worked on the feedback loops of management in corporations. He was pretty famous at the time. They were designed by Gui Bonsiepe, a German modernist.

Anyway, the Chilean government called him up, and he built what he called “an electronic nervous system” connecting all parts of the country to the government.

It all worked by telex, and there were 7 seats in the control rooms because that was known to be the most efficient. The swivel chairs encouraged creativity.

These rooms would feed complaints, comments and statistics up and down to the government, and it meant a centrally planned economy actually worked, and the government could respond appropriately. Factories installed it on their floors, because they could tell the government what they needed, and it was liked centrally too because they had up-to-date stats the whole time.

Read the rest

Cory speaking at Denmark's Reboot this weekend

In a couple hours, I'm leaving for Reboot, Denmark's annual, spectacular technology conference. This year's line-up of speakers is nothing less than stellar:

Douglas Bowman, Stopdesign; Lee Bryant, Headshift; Paula Le Dieu, BBC; Jason Calacanis, Weblogs Inc.; Ben Cerveny, Interaction designer and author; James Cherkoff and Johnnie Moore of OpenSauceLive; Régine Debatty, we make money not art; Cory Doctorow, EFF / Boing Boing; Anders Bertram Eibye, The Danish Design School; Jyri Engeström, Aula, blog: zengestrom.com; Jason Fried, 37signals; Ben Hammersley, International Man of Mystery; Thomas Harttung, Aarstiderne; Chris Heathcote, Nokia; Michael Heilemann, BinaryBonsai/Kubrick; David Heinemeier Hansson, Rails/Instiki/Basecamp; David Helgason, OverTheEdge; Matt Jones, Nokia; Stefan Kellner, plazes; Hugh Macleod, gapingvoid; Loic Le Meur, Sixapart; Matthias Müller-Prove, mprove / Sun Microsystems; Ulla-Maaria Mutanen, Hobbyprincess; Dragos Novac, Krogos Software; Tor Nørretranders, Author; Nicolai Peitersen, Philosopher, Kesera; Felix Petersen, plazes; Scott Rafer, Feedster; Martin Roell, roell.net; Doc Searls, weblog; Nils Schneider, The iPodLinux Project; Robert Scoble, Microsoft; Malthe Sigurdsson, Skype; Mikkel Holm Sørensen, Ph.D., design philosopher; Michael Thomsen, former research director, LEGO/Interactive Institute; Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia; Matt Webb, weblog, Mind Hacks; Harald Welte, gnumonks/gpl-violationsgnumonks; David Weinberger, weblog; Peter Lindberg, Oops (weblog)

Says co-organizer Nikolaj Nyholm, "we're sold out, but we'll have some for sale at the door as we're sure to have some no-pays and unused sponsor tickets."


(Thanks, Nikolaj!) Read the rest

Mind Hacks authors at London's Foyle's Books, Mar 23

The authors of Mind Hacks (an amazing O'Reilly book that explains how your brain works and lets you play with your perceptions in illuminating ways) will be doing a public reading/signing at London's Foyle's books on March 23:

How does your brain work? Why do people have a ‘special mug’ for their morning cuppa? Why do faded jeans do wonders for your legs? In Mind Hacks at Foyles Tom Stafford and Matt Webb will explain how experiments, tricks and tips related to each specific operation of the brain, from motor skills to subliminal perception, can help us to learn a little more about this fearsomely complex nerve centre.

No previous neuroscience experience necessary. Please bring a pen – and your brain.

6.30pm The Gallery 2nd Floor Foyles Bookshop 113-119 Charing Cross Road London WC2H 0EB

Tickets £4 redeemable against purchase on the evening of any book from O’Reilly, publishers of Mind Hacks.

Link Read the rest

Boing Boing audio interview with Mind Hacks editor Matt Webb

I'm starting to get interested in podcasting, so I interviewed Matt Webb, the co-editor of the new book, Mind Hacks, just published by O'Reilly. It's 25 minutes long, and I even created a cheesy Garageband theme song for what I hope is the first of many interviews.

Note: Matt wrote me with the following info -- "This is the McGurk video I was talking about. Just proving that I'm nothing without my notes, I incorrectly remembered the McGurk sounds! It's a visual 'ga' and an aural 'ba' that combine to the perception of 'da.' No 'va' at all (that's a variation on the experiment)."

The Mind Hack's weblog is here.

Link to BitTorrent file of my interview with Matt Webb.

Link to BitTorrent stats. (Thanks, Chuck!) Read the rest

Brain Hacks: Overclock your amygdala

Matt Webb -- whose party trick is uttering gnomic, interesting, mind-bending sentences at the drop of a hat -- has gone public with his new project. He and a brain-scientist pal are co-writing BRAIN HACKS for O'Reilly: a hundred pithy tips for overlocking your amygdala.

To get where it is, the brain has made some fascinating design decisions. The layering of systems has produced a complex environment, with automatic and controlled highly mixed. This development over biological time has introduced constraints. As has the architecture--it takes time for slow signals to make their way from one area to another. And there are computational difficulties too: How much of its capabilities can the brain afford to invoke when a sub-second response is required? The tricks used leave traces. There are holes in our visual field that we continually cover up. There are certain sensory inputs that grab our attention faster and more thoroughly than we'd expect.

You don't need to know all of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and so on to know how your brain works. I'm not a neuroscientist. I write, my undergraduate degree is in physics, I hack in my spare time, and I work in new media. But neuroscience has got to such a level now - with the imaging techniques in the last three or four years - that we can make focused probes into particular functions, and illustrate the traces that these design decisions have left (see where+how they are, and draw that up the stack towards conscious experience) and we can look at them one by one.

Read the rest

Apple sells Matt Webb a lemon, then treats him like crap

Matt Webb bought a 12" Powerbook and got a lemon. He's spent over a month calling Apple, trying to get it fixed, getting ignored, getting promises broken, not having his calls returned, getting the machine returned still broken, sending it back again. This is outrageous: Apple UK needs to do a better job if it plans on retaining customers.

It's happened again. Same problems as last time. mutt can't make temporary files, the computer won't shut down cleanly, then it won't boot (stays at the grey Apple screen) DiskWarrior can't repair it (and it freezes in Target Disk mode). If I go into verbose mode on book, the errors are:

Load of /sbin/mach_init, errno 2, trying /etc/mach_init Load of /etc/mach_init failed, errno 2

The hardware check, on the original CDs, comes back fine.

Coincidentally, it's after about 11 days of usage (again), and after the hard drive has got 45Gb of data on it (again).

I called tech support. Very helpful guy in the Danish tech support call centre. He says the next thing they'll ask me to do is reinstall.

Hang on, I've been here before.

I'm not going through this again.

I know this story. This is the one where I spend days doing what tech support ask, send my computer off, Apple hang onto it for months and send it back, still broken.


(via Plasticbag) Read the rest

DaVinci's notebooks, a page a day

Matt Webb is a real Renaissance geek, and as such he's too busy to actually read the great and defining works fo the Renaissance, such as DaVinci's imposing 1,565-page Notebooks. At least not all in one gulp. So Matt's poured all of the Notebooks (scarfed from the Project Gutenberg site) into a script that sends out one page a day as RSS. This is not unlike Phil Gyford's Page-a-Day-Pepys'-Diary thing.


(via Kottke) Read the rest