White Town made a #1 hit single in his bedroom on a multitrack and an Atari.
How did he make Your Woman sound unique?
You’ve got to fuck up the technology you’ve got rather than let the technology fuck you up. It took me two days to get the beats slightly out of time on Your Woman. Two days! Getting them in time took two seconds.
That was 1997. No need to edit on an Atari now. But the principle is just the same: innovation doesn’t come with a tutorial.
Before becoming Secretary of State, he worked at Ford on car safety. He described their testing programme in The Fog Of War.
I said, “What about accidents? I hear a lot about accidents.”
“Oh yes, we’ll get you some data on that.” There were about forty odd thousand deaths per year from automobile accidents, and about a million, or a million two injuries.
I said, “Well, what causes it?”
“Well,” he said, “it’s obvious. It’s human error and mechanical failure.”
I said, “Hell, if it’s mechanical failure, we might be involved. Let’s dig into this.” I want to know, if it’s mechanical error, I want to stop it.
“Well”, they said, “There’s really very few statistics available.”
I said, “Dammit, find out what can we learn.”
They said, “Well, the only place we can find that knows anything about it is Cornell Aeronautical Labs.”
[Cornell] said, “The major problem is packaging.” They said, “You buy eggs and you know how eggs come in a carton?”
I said, “No, I don’t buy eggs. I never have — my wife does it.”
Well, they said, “You talk to her and ask her: when she puts that carton down on the drain board when she gets home, do the eggs break?”
And so I asked Marg and she said “No.”
So Cornell said, “They don’t break because they’re packaged properly. Now if we packaged people in cars the same way, we could reduce the breakage.”
We lacked lab facilities, so we dropped the human skulls in different packages down the stairwells of the dormitories at Cornell. Well, that sounds absurd, but that guy was absolutely right. It was packaging which could make the difference.
Testing and iteration by dropping skulls down stairs. Smashing!
More McNamara here (my post on the terrible odds for WWII US pilots). Full interview transcript here (I made a few edits for clarity’s sake). Image by pegasus22 on Etsy.
You can relax! Our robot overlords already took control.
Three examples of their successful infiltration:
1. Ipswich Town’s PR teambots
Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings paid off all his mum’s debts. Wonderful news! A footballer with a conscience!
An Ipswich spokesman said it was:
A private matter between Tyrone and his mum.
THESE GUYS ARE ROBOTS
2. Verizon CEObot
Verizon spent $4,400,000,000 (that’s $4.4bn) on buying AOL. Blockbuster deal!
Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said:
Verizon’s vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multiscreen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience.
THIS GUY IS A ROBOT
3. Local councilbots
Water fountain dating back to 1853, adorned by Biblical quote. Historically interesting! And possibly significant!
I downloaded Digg (now an excellent RSS reader) and connected it to my ten favourite VC blogs. Now, online and offline (important in London since half my commute is on the tube), I have a constant stream of high-quality posts available on my phone.
Posts I read today:
Web vs. native apps for consumer startups
Sticking with struggling investments
Dealing with recruiting mistakes
Snapchat/no revenues debate
Why VCs in particular? Three reasons:
Connections: they know lots of entrepreneurs with new ideas
Incentivised to be open: their aim in blogging is partly to attract interesting new cos, so they have good reason to share what they know
Long-term perspective: unlike tech news (mostly ephemeral and therefore dull), VCs want to invest in ideas that have long-term relevance
So I’m finding Digg + VCs’ RSS feeds a great way to learn. It’s also an efficient way to discover new products, since they’re always plugging their portfolio companies. Combo bonus.
Sounds interesting? Here are the blog feeds, in alphabetical order:
In case you can’t watch the video, here’s what he did: once every quarter, he sent all his employees a survey – which they could answer anonymously – asking them whether he was doing a good job. Then the day after, he sent everyone the results.
The absolute numbers are not so important, so long as they’re not too low – but the trend line certainly is.
Radical transparency of this kind is only possible with real confidence and real commitment to improving your own performance.
But if you lead a decent number of people and you don’t do this, why not?
Ok, here goes: if I ever have a team of 10 or more, I’m going to do it.
(Ouch – it took ages to write that sentence. What have I done?)
Everyday experiences are shared and aggrandised – on Facebook and Twitter, ‘The best thing ever’ and ‘OMG’ moments abound.
In that context it makes sense to find new ways of representing our personal experiences so that others can share them, and to explore the means by which internal experiences can be externalised.
This video is a single shot, 4-minute video of a walk through the snow in Montreal. The soundtrack – Sufjan Stevens’s All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands – is the song that was running through my mind at the time. Very little happens (though it finishes with a nice shot starting around 03:48), but that’s the point – it’s a way of externalising an internal experience.
It’s also got a pretty neat dreamy style, thanks to slowing down the video to 75% speed (and to YouTube’s stabilisation skills – to some extent it was unintended!).
Over Christmas I watched a lot of episodes of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. It’s a fun rattle through famous earthly and not-so-earthly mysteries.
One of the most surprising things I learnt was that the Ancient Greeks made a computer. Yep, a computer!
In 1901, divers near the Greek island of Antikythera found what turned out to be a complicated mechanism for making astronomical calculations – so complicated, in fact, that nothing like it is known to have existed again until the 14th century.
The thing that interests me most about it is how people of the time might have reacted.
We’re surrounded today by technological wonders – being able to speak to my friends in Rwanda via Skype video always amazes me, never mind being able to go into space or fit millions (billions?) of transistors onto a tiny microchip.
So think how mind-blowing it must have been to see something like the Antikythera machine in action over 2,000 years ago!
Maybe God is great
In 2006 I was living in Germany. In Cologne, where I was based, there is a gigantic cathedral. Construction began in 1248 and although for some reason it wasn’t deemed to have been officially finished until 1840, I expect that it has made quite an impression on everyone who has seen it ever since the very beginning.
It is an imposing, ominous-looking building that towers over everything else in the city. Even today, for someone fairly used to being among skyscrapers, it is remarkable. But imagine seeing this in the Middle Ages when your house and most of the other buildings around were wooden huts, and even the greatest rulers had little more than a castle! Definitely enough to make you believe that there might be something in all this God stuff.
I’m going to keep an eye out for info on how people of the time responded to things like the Antikythera machine and the Cologne Cathedral. There might be an interesting comparison between their reactions and ours.
Recently I was writing up a post on studying the history of our time, and how different it would be to when I studied History at university. It struck me that one of the most interesting changes would be that students will be able to access lots of materials in foreign languages.
Clearly, non-book materials will be much more important, and video especially. Google Translate on the web does a passable (but improving) job of translating text. But the idea of studying using foreign-language video got me thinking – wouldn’t it be cool if you combined Google Translate with Siri to make something that would translate speech on the fly?