How long have I been staring at a blank screen, this accusing white box, struggling to compose the first sentence of a post I know will be difficult to write? About two minutes, actually, but that’s at least ten times longer than ChatGPT takes to compose a full page. And it’s those two minutes – and the several days I struggled with this post afterwards – that convince me that ChatGPT will not destroy writing. In fact, I think it may encourage more of us to write, and more still to consume the imperfect, raw, and resonant product of our efforts.
I’m a pretty fast writer, but I’m a deliberate and vicious editor – I’ll happily kill several paragraphs of my own text just minutes after I’ve composed them. I know that the best writing happens in the editing, and the most important part of composition is to simply get some decent clay on the wheel. ChatGPT seems to be really good at that clay part. But it’s in the second part – the editing – that the pot gets thrown*.
Once upon a time, I’d read the yearly lists of “best albums” from folks like Rick Webb or Marc Ruxin, and immediately head over to the iTunes store for a music-buying binge. Afterwards, I’d listen happily to my new music for days on end, forging new connections between the bands my pals had suggested and my own life experiences. It usually took three to four full album plays to appreciate the new band and set its meanings inside my head, but once there, I could call those bands up in context and apply them to the right mood or circumstance. Over years of this, I built a web of musical taste that’s pretty intricate, if difficult to outwardly describe.
About two years ago, I started paying for Spotify. Because I’d paid for “all you can eat” music, I never had to pay for a particular band’s work. Ever since, my musical experience has become…far less satisfying.
Welcome back to Else – I took a week off for Spring break, so this covers two weeks of the best stories related to the work I’m doing on the book. Reflecting an increased focus on Google, this edition of Else is flush with Google news, from its purchase of Titan Aerospace to its unusual willingness to show us a peek behind the curtain of Google X. Google also had a confounding earnings release, took steps to consolidate power in the hands of its founders (again), and had an entertaining wrinkle in its ongoing tiff with European publishers.
This week, we’re excited about what the new M7 sensors mean for iPhone activity tracking, we’re thinking about how to rebuild trust in the internet and tech companies post-Snowden, and we’re listening to some music that plays with the boundaries between analog and digital. As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS.
I’m a fan of Amazon, always have been, though my relationship with the brand has, ironically, never been particularly personal. I don’t feel emotional about Amazon, I feel – transactional. This despite the fact that I have probably spent more on the site than the combined college savings accounts for my three kids (Hi Kids!).
It’s been a while since I’ve posted images and such from the other side of life. It’s been a rather strange, disjointed, fast-paced summer. No long breaks, no monumental family vacations. A lot more work than I’d like. But time for riding, mountains, and wine…and pictures of same. So to them:
My family has been going to Mammoth Lakes, California since the 1960s. My mother has a place there, and this is her dog, who lives to swim after sticks in Sierra lakes. Not a bad living…That’s Crystal Crag in the background for anyone who knows the area.
This is one of the many single tracks from the top of Mammoth Mountain down – this is the backside of the mountain, looking out toward the lakes and across to the Southern Sierra. That’s my son on the trail. We had a great day riding the mountain, which included some pretty ridiculous technical stuff, even some man-made nuttiness where you get essentially sideways, to wit:
Last night my wife and I did something quite rare – we went to a concert on a Sunday night, in San Francisco, with three other couples (Wilco, playing at The Warfield). If you don’t have kids and don’t live in the suburbs, you probably think we’re pretty lame, and I suppose compared to city dwellers, we most certainly are. But there you have it.
So why am I telling you about it? Because something odd happened at the show: Wilco enforced a “no smartphone” rule. Apparently lead singer Jeff Tweedy hates looking out at the audience and seeing folks waving lit phones back at him. Members of the Warfield staff told me they didn’t like the policy, but they enforced it – quite strictly, I might add. It created a weird vibe – folks didn’t even take out their phones for fear they might be kicked out for taking a picture of the concert. (A couple of intrepid souls did sneak a pic in, as you can see at left…)
Tons of folks have asked me for the “official” playlist this year. Each year I choose music to sample while folks are coming on or off stage, or as the audience comes in or out of the main room. This year I was hit with a wave of nostalgia – for reasons that I’ll explain later – and I made a list that spanned nearly all eight years I’ve been programming the event.
I have to say, I’m really, really proud of how the event came off, of all the folks who made it happen (including our speakers, staff, advisory board, and my partners at TechWeb and O’Reilly).
The playlist is 109 songs, and I’m way too lazy (or tired) to figure out how to put them into an actual live app. So here’s a picture of them. If any of you have suggestions for how I might create a playlist, I’m all ears. I’ve been looking for a good app for that for some time, and I keep not finding the right one….