Matthew David Rodgers


Entry 12

First week of Los Angeles being totally re-opened– and it was so hot nobody wanted to leave the house. Hopefully that’s it for the heat waves until late summer, but I’m girding myself for it anyway.

Not too much really happening this week. I’m desperately missing Halt And Catch Fire, but I’ve been working my way through the syllabus, which has actually been really fantastic. I’ll have to look more into the person who created it; I’m fascinated about what else I could learn from them.

One of the highlights from the syllabus this week was a little retrospective on Susan Kare’s work designing icons for the Macintosh. So much personality in the sparse design.

Still working my way through the build your own text editor tutorial - my suspicion was correct: it’s a lot more interesting once you get through the archaic work of rendering with VT100 escape signals. I’m still interesting porting this, maybe to a canvas/web version, or maybe just in Go, or even Rust if I take the time to learn it.

Also started Ted Lasso this week, I’m halfway through. Immaculately written and paced. I’m having a blast, and I’m told it only gets better (and season two around the corner!).

Returned to Breath Of The Wild this week in honor of a trailer for its eventual sequel. Still lose interest often in a game as big and open-ended as that, but it’s hard to deny how magical it is. Other than that, still getting my ass kicked by Dark Souls 3.

A thought that I had this week: I realized that I never– NEVER– want algorithmically suggested content. It particularly shows up in social media, where I explicitly follow certain people, and yet still get the app trying to push other things under my nose, trying to wring engagement out of me. But it’s everywhere: Netflix deliberately hides a browseable catalog from you, only offering you different types of suggestions. Spotify plays what it thinks you’ll like once you reach the end of a playlist or album, and even their shuffle feature is a tuned algorithm!

I think this has been on my mind lately because of my new practice of blocking all ads and suggested content on twitter. It’s made me much more mindful, not only on twitter but in all the places where a service attempts to outfit me with an IV of content suggested by an algorithm.

But also, Halt And Catch Fire’s last season centers around our characters creating a pre-google web indexing company– a directory for the web. But their company is miles apart from what we think of when we think web index. Rather than an algorithm that indexes the web, they have a team of humans that curates the content, aggregating and categorizing sites by hand. Of course, the web was much smaller at this time, but even then, it can’t scale correctly, and the company does not succeed.

But this curation feels so radical in today’s tech landscape! It’s so antithetical to the algorithms fed by data, learning their way through our world. It’s very rarely perfect– or even as good as the algorithms. Think of asking a record store employee about some tiny band that you learned of in passing– that encounter may well just end in a shrug and a “I don’t know”.

But curation is always, ALWAYS more personable than the suggested content. That record store employee might be able to recommend something similar, or they may be able to give you something totally different, something totally new to you, unexpected and thrilling. The algorithmic content is only ever one way – but curation is a two party system, a human suggesting something to another human. You learn about the curator as much as they learn about you.

I’m wondering now what it would be like if all the services in my life that suggest content to me were replaced with curation. Would it be better? I suppose it depends on what “better” means. I hope that it would be more fulfilling.

To close out: a retrospective on Joni Mitchell’s album Blue. Admirers, collaborators, and lovers reflect on the 50 year old masterpiece. Even crotchety old David Crosby is totally effusive. A real treat.