Social Network Soiree

If you’re in New York City during the evening of Tuesday, May 14, here is an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up: Social Network Soiree: Discussion, Champagne, Experiment at the Eyebeam atelier in Chelsea. Speakers include the night’s tipping point, Malcom Gladwell, esteemed technoartist Natalie Jeremijenko, social network visualizer Josh On, Nike ID guy Jonah Peretti and former media lab networker Rick Borovoy. Also, some chunes by my roommate Jamie Rollins. It should be an enlightening set of talks, and a good place to do a bit of networking (nudge, nudge).

Wireless apartment hunting

You know you’re a geek when you tote your laptop to an apartment showing in order to assess the local wireless capital. And guess what: it pays. I looked at two today in similar neighborhoods.. pretty equal spaces, all things considered. But one has free wireless, and there you go.

Maybe next time I’ll walk around the city looking for a massive and exposed 802.11 signal, then knock on the door and ask if they have any available apartments.


Oooohhh… *tremble*: the 3rd annual Detroit Electronic Music Festival released its schedule today. After the first two, I wasn’t too sure that I would be coming back, but how can I resist? There’s something about finishing classes and driving 18 hours to listen to bangin’ techno.

Artists that are provoking me: Dave Angel, Juan Atkins, the Mad Professor, DeepChord, Jon Tejada, Drexciya, Green Velvet, the Advent, Stewart Walker, T-1000, Dave Clark, Marco Carolla, not to mention the rest of the techno regality that comes out of the woodwork for afterhours events. All in beautifully surreal, bombed-out downtown Detroit. I can’t wait.

Suckers to Nigeria

Everyone with email receives the Nigerian email scam (also known as the “4-1-9” or “Advance free fraud” scheme); I receive a solicitation at least once a month, usually more. As Douglas Cruickshank of Salon points out, the scam is more than 10 years old, with origins in the standard postal system (the USPS has a webpage to help recognize the physical scam letter).

I always assumed that the constant flow of email means that the perpetrators are still finding suckers, but I had no idea it was this bad: in the last year, 16 people were had for a cumulative $345,000.

Snopes has a well articulated history of the scam.

Persistence persistence persistence

I spoke with a group from the Washington Post today, including a member of the subsidiary Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive. They haven’t thought about branding to the weblog community, but they should. Here’s why: unbeknownst to the rest of the world, they guarantee story and URL persistence. Link to a Post story, and it will never go out of date, which means people reading your archives won’t be forced to look in Google’s cache to understand the context.

URL persistence is a powerful agenda, one that other news organizations (e.g. Yahoo, NY Times, etc.) aren’t taking up. I’d like to see the Post get the readership they deserve for taking on this bear.

Humor on the web

I was lucky enough to catch a unique panel last Thursday, part of the MIT Communications forum: Humor on the Web. Moderated by Henry Jenkins, the panel contained John Aboud and Michael Colton, co-editors of the Modern Humorist, and Tim Harrod, senior writer for The Onion.

The session began with opening remarks from the Aboud and Colton, who procured their favorite Modern Humorist gags. I took note:

Tim Harrod followed with a fuzzy-warm speech about his perfect job at The Onion. Given the audience (MIT undergraduates), he decided to tell a joke that he had been saving for quite some time:

“I understand that wizards of the coast is going to be augmenting the star wars CCG with a new holiday special card. When played, one member of your opponents party dies of boredom.”

Which, of course, was received with a deafening uproar of laughter. I sat silent in fear. He showed a few slides (yes, projection slides) of his favorite science-related onion articles, and told some stories about entertaining responses they have received via email. He was particularly impressed when Stephen Hawking responded to their story, “Stephen Hawking Builds Robotic Exoskeleton.” Considering that Hawking is said to be one of the greatest physicists alive, also said to be the Einstein of our time, he thought it was quite an honor that the man spent over an hour tracing out an email with his eyeball.

The editors received a terse and to the point response to an article describing an American Airlines plane crash: “Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men Faulted in 747 Crash.” The one-line email said simply “Fuck You. American Airlines doesn’t fly 747’s. Captain Blah DeBlah, 767 Pilot” Mr. Harrod also relayed a few interesting facts about The Onion:

  • Historically based in Madison, Wisconsin, the entire publication is now run from Manhattan
  • The staff consists of 9 full-time writers and “a few trusted sources that provide headlines.” That’s it. No submitted stories, no freelance writers. 9 very, very funny people
  • After September 11, there was speculation that the Onion had nothing to say (until the now-famous 9/26 issue was released). In reality, writers were stranded away from their office
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Onion originated in print form around 1988, 5 years before the web even existed