Category Archives: Web

Novemberween resolution: take (at least) a couple of months vacation from social networking.

I’m moving my online activity here for public communication and (e)mail for private. Ideally, I’ll spend my extra time writing real letters. If you would like to get in touch in a way you can touch, write me:

Haapaniemenkatu 12 A 40
Helsinki 00530 Finland

lost in compression

I have been doing lots of video communication living abroad from my family and fellowship, and it is a challenge.

At first there was a honeymoon novelty phase, but now I feel like we are starting to get used to the rhythm of it, and annoyed by the shortcomings. It is somewhere in the uncanny valley of communication… feels a little like a face-to-face conversation, but then lag, A/V dropouts and freezes, and the lack of eye contact really drive home that this isn’t natural. Have you ever tried to sing together?

Lag seriously messes with the conversational flow, especially with multiple parties experiencing different lags from each other. With casual video chatting these don’t matter so much, but in a meeting where people are trying to make decisions it is a bit of a battle.

I hear myself rambling sometimes, rewording my point a few times, to fill in the lack of the normal subtle cues that all parties are on the same page. I catch myself looking at the camera “in the eye,” which is really backwards.

We’ll get used to it, and develop systems for explicitly communicating the subtle, subconscious things that are lost in compression. I’m noticing “sounds good to me” verbally filling in what might have been understood without words in person. Lag will decrease, A/V quality will be better, and maybe depth cameras will adjust the angle of our gaze to better approximate eye contact.

fam hangout

My daughters don’t know a world without video chatting. In 2009 I was 14300km away and my first was able to communicate with me with sign language. This wouldn’t have happened with just audio. My second didn’t meet my folks in person for 3 months, but when she did there was immediate recognition.

Some thought-provoking writing on the video-communication-centric future we might be heading towards:

Your children will know a very different way of relating to people who are not physically present. It will change the way they work, maintain friendships, relate to family members, fall in love, and experience the world. It will change their sense of self, and self-worth. It may be a boon, or it may be harmful. Most likely, it’ll be a bit of both, because after all, it’s still about people.

Alex Payne (via Henri Bergius)

no accounting for algorithmic taste

I went to check out G+’s new layout, and saw this poorly-done meme image at the top of my list.

Now, I understand the appeal of things like this. They tickle the recognition part of the brain, and since many children play this game, many people will have that recognition and click the Skinner button. Lately, image memes have been spreading in Facebook as well, but at least there you can connect the idea to a person in your social circle. With this one, 134 random G+ Herpderps +1ed it, and that is enough for the algorithm to consider it “hot.” If this is what’s hot on G+, count me out.

On the web, curation is important. If I feel like wasting some time getting exposed to random ideas, I’d like them to have some redeeming social value*.

Boingboing is curated by a handful of people that make it their job to post interesting stuff. Reddit has designed a curation algorithm that works with subcommunity curators that seems to work better than Google’s (at least this crappy image would never have made it to Reddit’s frontpage).

Youtube’s frontpage is a wasteland. There is plenty of good content in YouTube, but with 60 hours of video uploaded every minute, most of it is bound to be crap. In this random screenshot it looks like two clips are recorded by pointing a camera at a TV. Couldn’t their algorithm at least weed those out?

Compare YouTube’s frontpage video selection to Vimeo’s:

I would be interested in 5/6 of the videos on Vimeo. I would avoid 6/6 of YouTube’s top videos like the plague, unless morbid curiosity compelled me click one of them, and then I would feel bad about the decision.

Most of the videos on Vimeo’s homepage are also in YouTube, so there is plenty of good content, but I almost never find it from YouTube itself. It is always a link from a blog or another service. This decentralized curation isn’t a bad thing, but within the site there is obviously a lot of work to be done.

* Thanks Dad.

design insanity

Look at my new index design… very experimental… I’m trying to have a lot of information crammed into one page, but still be readable.


The TOC links on the left don’t move, and they magnify the corresponding section on the page. The fisheye magnify effect is inspired in part by the OS X dock, with the hovered section getting bigger, the surrounding sections a little smaller, and everything else the smallest readable (in CSS: large, small, xx-small). The javascript behind the effect is pretty simple. I even figured how to get it to work in IE 6.

Since I’m just playing I don’t really mind that it isn’t the most usable design in the world, but if you have any critiques or suggestions, let me have ’em. I’d especially like to know if it works in Opera, IE 5, or Safari.