Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever

The headline is oddly STEM-specific, but yes, it used to be that if you worked with computers at all, you had to understand your computer’s file directory structure, so all college instructors could expect that their STEM majors had probably learned this concept as part of their earliest computer training. But the “search” function on individual computers (and also the list of recently saved files that almost every software tool…

Hear That? It’s Your Voice Being Taken for Profit.

Why do tech companies give us these cool free digital voice assistants? (Hint: If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold.) Because of recent major advances in natural language processing and machine learning, individuals will soon be able to speak conversationally not just to their phone assistant or smart speaker but to their dedicated bank assistant, kitchen equipment, restaurant menu, hotel room console, homework assignment, or car.…

“Link In Bio” is a slow knife

We don’t even notice it anymore — “link in bio”. It’s a pithy phrase, usually found on Instagram, which directs an audience to be aware that a pertinent web link can be found on that user’s profile. […] For a closed system, those kinds of open connections are deeply dangerous. If anyone on Instagram can just link to any old store on the web, how can Instagram — meaning Facebook,…

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A Successful Failure: The TI-99/4A Turns 40

My family had one of these when I was 12 or 13. The games I remember include a Pac-Man clone called “Munchman,” but I think I remember learning BASIC, blocky computer graphics, word-processing, and using a speech-synthesizer. The TI-99/4A was a great computer to learn on. I remember making a Star Trek combat simulator (based on the text-only battle games that were popular at the time), and I remember being…

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In February, 2001, I was blogging about computer nostalgia, Napster, a horror typing game, usability, and web blurbs.

In February, 2001, I was blogging about Computer nostalgia and text adventure games.“Walking into a room rendered in the Q3 engine can be lovely and impressive, but when you’ve only 16K to tell a story, you have to rely on the gamer’s imagination to provide the details. Just the words ‘you are on a beach’ can summon vistas no game can provide.” — James Lileks Napster. File-sharing was destroying the…

Texas lawyer trapped by cat filter on Zoom call, informs judge he is not a cat

A Texas lawyer accidentally left a kitten filter on during a video conference call with a judge and was unable to change it, eventually responding to a judge’s query about why he was being addressed by a digital feline by saying: “I’m here live. I am not a cat.” Later, the judge wrote: “These fun moments are a byproduct of the legal profession’s dedication to ensuring that the justice system…

The Myth of North America, in One Painting

Fascinating art history — a thoughtful close reading of a painting. Great example of multimodal journalism. The clouds are heavy and black. A grim day for fighting. In the air is the smell of damp, and mortar fire. It’s a little after 10 a.m. on Sept. 13, 1759. The battle is almost over. In the distance, the wounded French soldiers are retreating. And a young general in a red coat…

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In November 2000, I was blogging about the US Presidential election, mirrors, Arts & Letters Daily, and more

In November 2000, I was blogging about Ursula K. Le Guin Why we perceive mirrors reversing things left/right but not up/down Pioneering blog Arts & Letters Daily (just a year older than my own blog) Nick Montfort’s constrained poem “Upper Typewriter Row“ The 2000 US Presidential Election controversy (ballot design, hanging chads, recounts, political cartoons) The Web Economy Bullshit Generator The Onion’s fake “Fontly Speaking” typeface design column. James Lileks’s…

Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19

There are some sound pedagogical reasons for turning cameras on. Thus, I suggest sharing those reasons with the students before giving them the choice of what to do about their cameras. Explain why you are making your request. For example, being able to see students’ faces gives instructors a quick and easy way to discern whether students are finding the material engaging, at least in smaller classes. One instructor told me that “I asked students to turn their cameras on to say hi to their classmates at the beginning and end of class, and those were the best moments of the class.”

Deadline seems to have briefly published, then taken down, story that says Pence has tested positive for coronavirus

Deadline seems to have briefly published, then taken down, a breaking news story including the sentence “Pence announced late Wednesday that he is among those who have tested positive in the ongoing White House coronavirus outbreak.” 1. Google search for “tom tapp coronavirus pence” shows a hit for a Deadline story with a headline prefaced “PREP. DO NOT PUBLISH UNTIL THE NEWS CROSSES.” 2. Clicking the URL takes you to…

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In September, 2000, I was blogging about PICK UP AX, Bellamy’s Looking Backward, WB Yeats, Jupiter Communications, and why Flash Animations Suck

In September 2000, I was blogging about The nerdy, 3-person 1990 play PICK UP AX The full text of Edward Bellamy’s Utopian fantasy Looking Backward (written in 1888, set in September 2000) The papers of William Butler Yeats (donated by his son to the National Library of Ireland) An elitist press release from Jupiter Communications that catered to web users with the fastest computers and Internet connections Why Flash animations…

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In July, 2000, I was creating handouts on the sounds of poetry, prototypes, and writing for the web

It seems that an unusually high percentage of links I posted to my website in July 2000 no longer work, but here are a few links that I could find via the Wayback Machine: The guy who invented the “pet rock” won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest for really bad writing. Humorous courtroom transcripts Q: All your responses must be oral, OK? What school did you go to? A: Oral. In…

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In May, 2000, I was blogging about the ‘I Love You’ virus, hacking URLs, PG Wodehouse, and Pez poetry

In May, 2000, I was blogging about The “I Love You” IRC virus A college that shifted to online applications only A poem about Pez that has lodged this couplet forever in my brain: What art thou, Pez, that must needs be dispensed? T’ be merely wrapped would leave thee so incensed? Hacking the URL A school for doctors with bad handwriting P.G. Wodehouse