A web magazine you can read only if you turn off your wifi

The Disconnect is a literary magazine published on the web with a fun wrinkle: You can only read it if your wifi is off.

You can load the magazine by going to its URL, but once you're there, it displays a message telling you "Please Disconnect from the Internet".

I duly turned off my wifi, started reading the first issue, and got to the note from the editor and founder, Chris Bolin:

This magazine started with a simple thought experiment: what if a piece of the internet made you leave the rest behind?

We created The Disconnect to embrace positive aspects of the internet—ease of dissemination and access—while pushing against some of its nefarious features, like ubiquitous distractions.

The theme of this issue is straightforward: humans and our technology. Every piece in this issue describes an encounter with technology, whether it’s intentional or inconsequential, constructive or devastating. You’ll find a poem about a conflicted hunger for silence, a tale of monetizing the dead, and an exposition of the future of digital divides.

This is not a Luddite rallying cry against modernity. Technology is ingrained in our lives for good and for ill. This is nothing new: humans have altered their reality with technology for millennia, from spoken language to the written word, from agriculture to electricity. We believe that the way to a better life is forward, not backwards. Let’s thoughtfully critique our world, not naively eschew it.

It's a very fun concept! It's part of a whole pile of recent design experiments that tweak our relationship to the always-on interwebs and the casinofied psychologies of social media, ranging from Rob's txt.fyi (which I wrote about here) to Ben Grosser's experiments in "demetricating" Facebook and Twitter, or tools for removing retweets by Andre Torrez and Robin Sloan. Read the rest

What We Talk about When We Talk about Bandwidth

Cellular carriers' competing claims as to what constitutes 4G (fourth-generation) cellular data networks got me to thinking about how speed is only one part of the story about why allegedly faster networks are being built. I've been writing about Wi-Fi since 2000, and that informs my thinking, because Wi-Fi has matured to a point where raw speed doesn't have the same marketing value it once did, because networks are generally fast enough. Instead, multiple properties come into play.

I want to talk about bandwidth, throughput, latency, and capacity, and how each of these items relates to one another.

Let me start all folksy with analogies. For simplicity's sake, let's consider a medium-sized city that serves water to all its residents through one central reservoir. The reservoir's capacity represents the total pool of water it can deliver at one time to residents through pipes of varying sizes and at different distances.

The diameter of the pipe, of course, determines how much water can pass from the reservoir to your particular tap. All of the pipes are from somewhat to very leaky, so the diameter only represents the potential water you could receive at any given time (under the same pressure), while the leaks reduce that. You receive your raw diameter's water after those leaks take their toll. For people who live far away from the reservoir, I turn the pressure way down, because too much water leaks out. Thus, they receive less water with taps wide open than their pipes' diameters would suggest. Read the rest