Zeldman Video on Web Standards.

Jeffrey Zeldman providing one of the most cogent, honest, and clear explanations of Web standards I’ve seen, at least in video.

Thanks, Jeffrey, for your unyielding willingness to explain, in laymen’s terms, the import of Web standards, a movement you started near single-handedly, despite your humble objections.
“Is Web Standards an ethos? For someone who is looked at as leading the movement, I’m very un-doctrinaire … “

On Twitter.

For those who have wondered where I’ve disappeared to, it’s not very far, and yet, it’s a million miles away. I’ve started to use Twitter to record my short, arcane, and otherwise ridiculous arcania. It’s a fast, immediate, and simple rush to be able to write a thought, or even two, and post it to a small, self-selected group who have “subscribed” to this feed. In fact, “rush” is an appropriate word in more ways than one; posting a thought or two is much like a kind of philosophical “hit” to the brain, and, when it’s over (a minute or two later), the temptation to post another thought arises, quickly.
There’s an adrenaline- (and, for me, sugar- and coffee-) fueled behavior associated with Twittering (or Tweeting) that isn’t anything like writing longer, more complex, more detailed, and more elaborative narratives that typically belong on blogs. Whereas Twitter posts are quick (at 140 characters or less) and their posting immediate, blog posts are generally long and their posting immediate; this means that, after writing a longer piece and posting it to a blog, the blogger is either exhausted or elated, or perhaps, unsatisfied.
I write this in the context of a number of well-known and respected blogs now going out of business. The latest casualty, sadly, is Speak Up!, a blog that focused on the objectives, trends, and function of design. Armin Vit, today, posted his goodbye entry, and, with that, the site will rest. Armin, always a diplomatic and intelligent analyst of all things Web, wrote:

I also strongly believe that the kind of general-topic and long-form writing of Speak Up is just not as appealing as it used to be. With so many web sites devoted to quick bursts of visuals and the proliferation of short-message communication enhanced by Twitter and Facebook, it becomes increasingly hard to hold the attention of anyone. But this could all be debated.

And, it will be. The history of Western literary culture has moved from long Talmudic texts, produced and arranged and re-arranged by thousands of students to Gutenberg’s movable-type production of biblical texts to the proliferation of massive books like the Encyclopedia Britannica and novelistic forms like War and Peace. It sauntered along to well-researched articles in newspapers and magazines and academic dissertations of hundreds of type-written pages and then to shortened entries in Wikipedia and multi-paragraph posts on weblogs. And now, within the few months of Twitter’s existence, we’ve started to shutter books, newspapers, and now blogs in order to follow the disparate, tiny, yet seemingly content-rich 140-character posts of thousands of individuals.
(I do recognize that the economic models of news and news-gathering are changing quickly. But the logic of Twitter fits handily into the free-for-all of the Web’s user-driven, celebrity-focused current trajectory.)
If we continue down this path, it’s not hard to see what future, original text content will look like. Gone will be editing and editors, the smell of paper and ink, collaborative formats, multiple authoritative voices, and indexing of further reading topics. Gone will be investigative journalism, academic contextualization of events and ideas, and the production of complex thought pieces.
I don’t see the end of books or magazines, or blogs, per se. And I’m a big fan of Twitter, despite my massive reservations about its implications. But, with less long-form content being produced and digested, I can only assume that our brains will seek to emulate less the mind of gods and more the organs of birds.


Spring has not sprung here in Winnipeg, which is featuring -1 degree Celsius temperatures, snow, and the possibility of major flooding due to ice buildup over a seven-month winter.
There’s always a “but” here at Deckchairs, however. The Primavera Sound Festival features some of the most interesting acts around. To be held in Barcelona from May 28 to 30th, if I had a will and a way, I would be there.
Who the heck produced this thing? It’s a work of utter genius. The acts I would love to see include the following (in order):
Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Neil Young, Chad VanGaalen, Kimya Dawson, Spiritualized, Damien Jurado, Plants and Animals, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Black Lips, Andrew Bird, Vaselines, Throwing Muses, Deerhunter, Yo La Tengo, and Shearwater. Ooh, and I love Shearwater.


The market is shifting from Reverse into Drive, CEOs are being laid off by the Federal government, and capital is creeping out of the Sealy’s and Serta’s, and all Mr. Krugman can come up with is another deckchairs metaphor?

“It’s a plan to rearrange the deck chairs and hope that that keeps us from hitting the iceberg.”

I jest, and I think Krugman understands the capital markets better than anyone, but critique is always cheaper than praxis. Krugman was not appointed by the Nobel committee to be the world’s economist, though he seems to be knighted as such by the major media.


It’s snowing and raining and gray here in ol’ Winnipeg, Canada.
This pretty much captures the spirit of the world.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAOxo8qH_AQ&hl=en&fs=1]

Fusion Fun.

Thomas Friedman, in his ongoing attempt to push the boundaries of innovation in the U.S., argues for a push on “fusion” as a way to have a purchase on a massively game-changing energy source.
In his piece today, The Next Really Cool Thing, he writes:

Last Monday at 3 a.m., for the first time, all 192 lasers were fired at high energy precisely at once — no small feat — at the target chamber’s empty core. That was a major step toward “ignition” — turning that hydrogen pellet into a miniature sun on earth. The next step — which the N.I.F. expects to achieve some time in the next two to three years — is to prove that it can, under lab conditions, repeatedly fire its 192 lasers at multiple hydrogen pellets and produce more energy from the pellets than the laser energy that is injected. That’s called “energy gain.”

It’s also called “playing with fire” (pun intended). A few years ago, a physicist warned that that we simply don’t know what we’re doing by forcing elements together that previously didn’t exist together on Earth. Sure, it would be “cool” to have a “miniature sun” just fifty miles east of San Francisco. But do these scientists know how to capture, confine, and control that sun? What happens if this new sun created so much energy that it consumed the state of California, the North American continent, or the planet itself?
While I reserve some respect for Mr. Friedman and his desire to pursue “clean” energy, this is the kind of “reporting” that gave us a nice war in Iraq, a worldwide economic crisis, and a greenhouse warming. Are we all a bunch of suckers, hoping that we’re going to gain free energy—without risking the very structure of the planet?
If journalists like Friedman can’t ask the hard questions of these scientists, I worry not for the future of journalism but for the future of our little existence.


Wolfram Research is planning on launch its Wolfram|Alpha in May. If it’s real (and I have some small doubt that it can truly work as planned), it could change the way we interact with the Web, find information, and experience ideas online. Wolfram|Alpha is a computational tool that can answer natural language questions by digging deeply into the known informational universe and provide meaningful answers. Computation over lookup is its model.
Nova Spivack has a detailed description of it but, in a nutshell, here’s what he says Wolfram|Alpha is:

Where Google is a system for FINDING things that we as a civilization collectively publish, Wolfram Alpha is for COMPUTING answers to questions about what we as a civilization collectively know. It’s the next step in the distribution of knowledge and intelligence around the world — a new leap in the intelligence of our collective “Global Brain.” And like any big next-step, Wolfram Alpha works in a new way — it computes answers instead of just looking them up.

Spivack, who got a tour of the system recently, also says the following:

One of the most surprising aspects of this project is that Wolfram has been able to keep it secret for so long. I say this because it is a monumental effort (and achievement) and almost absurdly ambitious. The project involves more than a hundred people working in stealth to create a vast system of reusable, computable knowledge, from terabytes of raw data, statistics, algorithms, data feeds, and expertise. But he appears to have done it, and kept it quiet for a long time while it was being developed.

It appears that Wolfram|Alpha is a perfect compliment to Google’s search tool and a more trustworthy friend of the Semantic Web. Although it’s billed as a computational model, this new product/service may offer a more reasoned and humane approach to Google’s in that it allows a the praxis of questioning the logic of conclusions. It would be nice, for instance to be able to ask “When do most economists predict an end to the current credit crisis?” and get an answer based on a set of real, if biased, known data. I’m eager to find out more.
UPDATE: I tried out its competitor, [true knowledge] (what is it with the extra characters in these new systems?) by asking the following questions and receiving the following XML responses:
How many stars are in the milky way?

completeness unknown

How big is eifel tower? [purposely mis-written]

completeness unknown
324 Meters (1,062.99 feet)

Stewart on CNBC.

If you want a good laugh-cry, check out The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on March 4, 2009. He skewers, in one fell swoop, Wall Street, Rick Santelli, and the horrible pundits on CNBC. UPDATE: Will Bunch, at The Huffington Post, provides great commentary on Stewart’s research-based reporting.
For those not in Canada, the video should appear here:
.cc_box a:hover .cc_home{background:url(‘http://www.comedycentral.com/comedycentral/video/assets/syndicated-logo-over.png’) !important;}.cc_links a{color:#b9b9b9;text-decoration:none;}.cc_show a{color:#707070;text-decoration:none;}.cc_title a{color:#868686;text-decoration:none;}.cc_links a:hover{color:#67bee2;text-decoration:underline;}