The Annotations: No. 4

Shifting Forms

An introduction to Issue 4, in which we considered dissolving forms and shifting patterns.

In the margins

  • Issue No. 4 focused on evolving forms and perspectives in journalism, publishing, and content strategy, and how these new patterns shape how we create, and how we absorb information and ideas.

A look at how Homicide Watch challenges assumptions about murder coverage and its implications for journalism.

In the margins

  • Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case. by Laura Amico (homicidewatch.org)

    “Together we have said: Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case. Together we have said: Save Homicide Watch DC. Together we have said: Training young journalists in crime coverage is necessary. Together we have said: We care.”

  • Crimespotting (stamen.com)

    “Crimespotting is an interactive map of crimes in San Francisco and Oakland, and a tool for understanding crime in cities.

    We believe that civic data should be exposed to the public in a more open way. With these maps, Stamen is hoping to inspire local governments to use this data visualization model for the public release of many different kinds of data: tree plantings, new schools, applications for liquor licenses, and any other information that matters to people who live in neighborhoods. We welcome inquiries from municipalities and other interested parties who seek to provide their data to the public in a more transparent and sharable manner.”

  • Bosnian Researcher Counts War Dead, And Faces Threats For His Methods, by Dzenana Halimovic (Radio Free Europe, rferl.org)

    “’Each victim has a name,’ says Tokaca. ‘We need to find out the truth—who, where, and how individuals were killed, to be able to talk of reconciliation. If we want to move forward, we have to have a clean balance sheet.’”

A meditation on the beautiful simplicity of HyperCard as a communication tool.

In the margins

  • Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard (smackerel.net)

    “HyperCard delivered significant computing power to creative people who had few preconceptions about what it should be used for. Artists, writers and other non-programmers dived in. Stacks were shared via BBSes, floppy disks and books. Many experienced programmers embraced HyperCard as well, and extended its functionality. There was an explosion of interactivity as amateurs, artists and creative professionals created interactive games, stories and other experiences.”

  • HyperCard Overview (museumvictoria.com.au/)

    “HyperCard is difficult to explain; it is not a paint program, but you can paint with it; it is not a draw program but you can draw in it; it is not a word processor but you can type in it; it is not an animation program but you can construct animations with it; it is not a database, but you can use it to construct a database; it is not a presentation program, but you can develop a presentation with it; it is not a calculator but you can get it to make calculations and be a calculator; it is not a simulator, but you can simulate physical entities such as electronic circuits!”

  • HyperCard: What Could Have Been, By Leander Kahney, (Wired.com)

    “‘I have realized over time that I missed the mark with HyperCard,’ he said from his studio in Menlo Park, California. ‘I grew up in a box-centric culture at Apple. If I’d grown up in a network-centric culture, like Sun, HyperCard might have been the first Web browser. My blind spot at Apple prevented me from making HyperCard the first Web browser.’” —Bill Atkinson, Designer of HyperCard

In which Allen considers tailoring as a metaphor for editorial design.

In the margins

  • Journalist-centred design for the CMS, by Martin Belam (currybet.net)

    “One of the trends I’d most like to see influencing news organisations over the next two years is simply this: user-centred design for the CMS.”

    “This isn’t a form that looks like data entry, or a view onto a database. It hasn’t been assembled by some developers putting radio checkboxes where they think they should go, or setting the size of a text area to what suits their monitor. It has been based on watching journalists at work.”

  • The Shape of Design, by Frank Chimero

    “The responsive creativity that design requires is similar to what installation artist Robert Irwin started to do with his art in the 1970s. Irwin would make no formal plans before arriving at the gallery where his work was to be shown. Instead, he’d walk into the room and spend a great deal of time observing the qualities of the space, assessing the shape of the room, and judging its light. He would then devise a plan and conceptualize the art based on his observations. The art he produced was a direct response to the context of his work. The space became his material; each piece was an ad hoc exploration.”

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

Matt asks us to consider our content’s relationship with its future and how information in context can create richness and complexity.

In the margins

  • Striding with ITV into the future of news, by William Owen (madebymany.com)

    “When we first began talking to Michael Jermey (Head of News and Sport) and Julian March (Head of Online News) at ITV in Spring 2011 we quickly hit on a simple design strategy that played into ITV News’ strengths: lead on a stream of real time content that includes lots of short-form video playing directly in the stream – so that whenever I come back I know there’ll be something new. But the stream would have some particular characteristics: we’d push lots of big photographs through and tell stories with words and pictures, learning a lesson from Picture Post and Life; we’d have editors curate the stream using multiple sources and content types, aggregating the best of the web and not just ITV/ITN-generated material; and we would also filter the stream to make it possible to follow individual stories.”

Craig suggests that you need to build your community before you build your website.

In the margins

  • Publishing startups and the great fuzziness, by Craig Mod (craigmode.com)

    “I find myself questioning the how and why we publish as we do, as we have. A year ago I wouldn’t have pegged Facebook as a viable platform to start a publishing enterprise. Now, I recognize there’s a subset of content creators that are crazy not to start with Facebook.”

  • Simple Tweets Of Fate: Teju Cole’s Condensed News, by NPR staff (npr.org)

    “I had started doing research for a book that I’m writing, which is about Lagos, Nigeria — a narrative of contemporary life in the city. But as I was doing my research I found that there was certain material that I couldn’t really put into the book. Odd stories, news of the weird — strange little things of the kind that would happen in any complicated modern society. And what was I going to do with this material? So I started writing short stories based on those narratives. I found that Twitter was a perfect place to post them.”

Melissa suggests content strategists are well positioned to anticipate and deal with creative destruction, progress’ double-edged sword.

In the margins

  • Fix the machine, not the person, by Aaron Swartz (aaronsw.com)

    “Three months after they got back to the US and reopened the plant, everything had changed. Grievances and absenteeism fell away and workers started saying they actually enjoyed coming to work. The Fremont factory, once one of the worst in the US, had skyrocketed to become the best. The cars they made got near-perfect quality ratings. And the cost to make them had plummeted. It wasn’t the workers who were the problem; it was the system.”

  • Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room, by David Weinberger

    “Libraries are breaking new ground in using all available data—including contributions from readers—to make it far easier than ever for readers to find and understand the resources they need. Science is advancing at an unheard-of pace thanks to new collaborative techniques and new ways to publish vast amounts of data and troll it for patterns and inferences. Businesses are managing in an era that defies predictions by finding expertise in every corner of their organizations, and across the broad swath of their stakeholders. So, we are in a crisis of knowledge at the same time that we are in an epochal exaltation of knowledge.”

  • Apple customers now on the front lines of ‘creative destruction’, by David Morganstern (zdnet.com)

    “According to generations of economists, “creative destruction,” is the term that describes progress in an economy. Things change and there are structural winners and losers. What’s good for some is bad for others. There’s a rabbinic saying on the subject: “A heavy rain may be good for the fields, but is bad for the roads.” And this concept is now applied to everything under the sun, including your iPhone.”

“Change is good, Donkey.”

Shrek (2004)
Sara introduces bridging and infiltrating and how you can use them to get big organizations unstuck.

In the margins

  • On culture: The 5 questions you need to ask your next employer, by Sean Blanda (seanblanda.com)

    “As a job seeker, I prioritize culture not because I like to have a cappuccino machine in the office. I prioritize culture because I want to be dedicated without any reluctance or regret. I want to believe that if I hustle I’ll be moving some cosmic needle (and my own career) in the right direction while having a good time.”

Erin looks at the evolving page, newspaper, and book and what these changes mean to readers and makers.

In the margins

  • Why the Inverted Pyramid must DIE, by Guy Bergstrom (redpenofdoom.com)

    “If you are a writer, you know all about the inverted pyramid. It’s one of the first blueprints we get taught: put the most important stuff on top and the least important on the bottom, like an upside-down pyramid.

    HOWEVER: I want you to know something. Come a little closer so I can whisper it in your ear: “The inverted pyramid MUST DIE.”

  • Why we need to blow the article up in order to save it, by Mathew Ingram (gigaom.com/)

    “Many media outlets—and not just traditional players like newspapers or magazines, but even some newer and more digital-savvy ones—still think of the article or the story as the bedrock foundation of news and journalism. But with so many different sources of content, and so many different ways of distributing it and displaying it, is that really still the case?”

McGrane explains how adding more structure to your content will set it free.

In the margins

  • Stop Publishing Web Pages, by Anil Dash

    “Start publishing streams. Start moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices. Insert your advertising into those streams using the same formats and considerations that you use for your own content. Trust your readers to know how to scroll down and skim across a simple stream, since that’s what they’re already doing all day on the web. Give them the chance to customize those streams to include (or exclude!) just the content they want.”

C.W. Anderson examines golden truths in journalism and the fictions in the space between.

In the margins

  • An Antidote for Web Overload, by Matt Thompson (Nieman Reports)

    “For the longest time, whenever I read the news, I’ve often felt the depressing sensation of lacking the background I need to understand the stories that seem truly important. Day after day would bring front pages with headlines trumpeting new developments out of city hall, and day after day I’d fruitlessly comb through the stories for an explanation of their relevance, history or import. Nut grafs seemed to provide only enough information for me to realize the story was out of my depth.”

    “After years of working in online newsrooms, though, I had hit upon a secret—talking to journalists was like having the decoder ring without having to do the work. If I didn’t understand a story or why it was important, I could ask a metro editor about it. Without fail, she’d lay out the history and context in lush narrative detail, often with entertaining depictions of the players involved and fun asides with snippets of political trivia. Ten minutes of conversation with a good reporter could unlock the fundamentals of a beat so thoroughly I’d walk away feeling like an expert on the topic.”

McGuire suggests that books ought to live first on the web, to embrace the internet’s data riches.

In the margins

  • Post-Artifact Books and Publishing: Digital’s effect on how we produce, distribute and consume content, by Craig Mod (craigmod.com)

    “The future book—the digital book—is no longer an immutable brick. It’s ethereal and networked, emerging publicly in fits and starts. An artifact ‘complete’ for only the briefest of moments. Shifting deliberately. Layered with our shared marginalia. And demanding engagement with the promise of community implicit in its form.”

  • What is a book?, by Roger Sperberg (futureofthebook.org)

    “When we ask, What is a book? we know any answer will be slippery but our certainty is unwavering. In our test, it requires only that we remember the greater part of any book resides not in the physical, but in the invisible world. Then whether we have one author or a collaboration, unchanging text or mutable, physical pages or electronic, static images or dynamic, audio, video, connection to the web or not, whatever the manifestation the future brings us, there should be no confusion. Then as now, each of us will know a book when we see it.”

The editor of The Silent History reveals how the novel was made and discusses the relationship(s) between its form and its content.

In the margins

  • The Rumpus Interview with Kevin Moffett, by Adam Levin (therumpus.net)

    “He said they didn’t have to simulate a codex, either. Not only didn’t they have to simulate a codex, he said, but they shouldn’t; they should do more and other, and they should do so newly, own their form, make real use of the devices on which they’d be read to open up heretofore unexplored narrative possibilities. ”Like how?” I said, but I said it in the wrong voice. I said it in the voice of a threatened, old-guard, however medium-young novelist. This is not a voice that Horowitz likes. It makes him cagey.”

  • Russell Quinn: The World’s Most Wired Storyteller, by Shoshana Berger (wired.com)

    “Then, one afternoon, sitting in a coffee shop in Zurich reading the latest issue of McSweeney’s with his iPhone nearby, it suddenly dawned on him what he wanted to do next. He sent an e-mail to a generic ‘contact us’ address at the Quarterly’s website, saying he’d make an app for them if they’d share the profits.”