On Slowness and the Slow Web

Jack Cheng writes on the idea of a Slow Web, an alternative to the Fast Web, which has taken over much of our internet lives. This is very similar to the Slow Food movement in response to Fast Food. Think for a second about what that might mean, then check out his article — I highly recommend it, and quoted some of my favorite parts below.

For the record, I’ve had a bowl of ramen noodles at Minca in the East Village with a good old friend I hadn’t caught up with in awhile. It’s a calming, slow, and very, very nice experience. And delicious.

Source: The Slow Web


The Fast Web
What is the Fast Web? It’s the out of control web. The oh my god there’s so much stuff and I can’t possibly keep up web. It’s the spend two dozen times a day checking web. The in one end out the other web. The web designed to appeal to the basest of our intellectual palettes, the salt, sugar and fat of online content web. It’s the scale hard and fast web. The create a destination for billions of people web. The you have two hundred twenty six new updates web. Keep up or be lost. Click me. Like me. Tweet me. Share me. The Fast Web demands that you do things and do them now. The Fast Web is a cruel wonderland of shiny shiny things.


Rhythm vs. Random
Let’s say I told you there was a new HBO drama that aired for one hour from 9-10pm every Wednesday night. Once you decide it’s a show you’re interested in and can make room for, the act of watching takes over. It becomes about the show. Now let’s say I told you there’s a new HBO drama that’s sometimes times an hour, sometimes half an hour, sometimes two hours, that may or may not air every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night, between 6 and 11pm. Suddenly it’s no longer just about the show. It’s about whether or not the show will be on. What next? becomes When next?

In the Fast Web, we’re faced with this proposition numerous times a day. The randomness and frequency of the updates in our inboxes and on our dashboards stimulate the reward mechanisms in our brain. While this can give us a boost when we come across something unexpectedly great, dependency leads to withdrawal, resulting in a roller coaster of positive and negative emotions. The danger of unreliable rhythms is too much reward juice.


Knowledge vs. Information

Timeliness. Rhythm. Moderation. These things dovetail into what I consider the biggest difference between Slow Web and Fast Web. Fast Web is about information. Slow Web is about knowledge. Information passes through you; knowledge dissolves into you. And timeliness, rhythm, and moderation are all essential for memory and learning.


The Slow Web
Timely not real-time. Rhythm not random. Moderation not excess. Knowledge not information. These are a few of the many characteristics of the Slow Web. It’s not so much a checklist as a feeling, one of being at greater ease for the web-enabled products and services in our lives.

Like Slow Food, Slow Web is concerned as much with production as it is with consumption. We as individuals can always set our own guidelines and curb the effect of the Fast Web, but as I hope I’ve illustrated, there are a number of considerations the creators of web-connected products can make to help us along. And maybe the Slow Web isn’t quite a movement yet. Maybe it’s still simmering. But I do think there is something distinctly different about the feeling that some of these products impart on their users, and that feeling manifests from the intent of their makers.

Fast Web companies want to be our lovers, they want to be by our sides at all times, want us to spend every moment of our waking lives with them, when sometimes that’s not what we really need. Sometimes what we really need are friends we can meet once every few months for a bowl of ramen noodles at a restaurant in the East Village. Friends with whom we can sit and talk and eat and drink and maybe learn a little about ourselves in the process. And at the end of the night get up and go our separate ways, until next time. Until next time.


1 Hour in Square’s World | Wired.com

Take a look at this infographic published in Wired last week that shows an hour of transactions that were performed through Square. Square is a rapidly-growing payments platform that makes it possible for anyone to accept credit cards, using their main feature, the free (yes, free) little white square credit-card-swiper that you might have seen at small businesses or places where people exchange money that has traditionally been more cash-focused because of temporary or mobile conditions (such as flea or farmer’s markets). Anyone can sign up and get a reader, and the app is free on phones and iPads, so if you lend out a lot of money to your friends and they never have cash to pay you back, here’s an option for you. The reader is free but every transaction gives a 2.75% cut to Square.

Square is also trying to push a mobile payments platform that lets you pay via your phone, without needing any card, at local businesses that you frequent or just want to check out. The businesses must be listed in the Square directory, meaning that they’re all set up to accept money that way, and you can just walk in and add purchases to your tab on your smartphone, which gets confirmed at the register (iPhone and certain Android devices only, at the moment). Not only does it cut out the need for carrying your wallet, as Square emphasizes, it also encourages recognition between local, smaller businesses and their frequent customers. Or even just any customers.

Square is definitely not the only mobile payments platform out there, but they’ve been pushing hard to get their little white block out there, and the map is fascinating to look at. I can’t say it’s a favorite device of mine, because I’ve used and experienced it before and it’s always been finicky and difficult to work with — mostly in problems getting the cards to swipe and register, which seems to be more of the hardware. I’m always scared it’s going to break, because it’s connected to your device through the headphone jack. While it’s great that they’ve worked so hard to get their product and app out, I think that their reader can probably be improved, and it’s interesting that they’re sort of letting everyone test-drive the hardware on such a large scale when it’s not quite reliable yet. But clearly that has been working for them, looking at this map.

1 Hour in Square’s World | Wired Business | Wired.com

What Are Those Circles?

The circles represent single transactions going through the Square payments system during a one-hour period on a recent Thursday afternoon–the larger the circle, the bigger the dollar amount of the sale. These transactions happened around 4 p.m. Eastern. So think happy hour in New York, and lunch hour in San Francisco, where Square is based. A busy period for Square and the merchants who use it.


A U.S. judge yesterday threw aside a much-anticipated trial between Apple (s aapl) and Google-owned Motorola Mobility (s goog) over smartphone patents. The decision and a blog comment by the same judge could prove to be a watershed moment for a U.S. patent system that has spiraled out of control.

In his remarkable ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner stated that there was no point in holding a trial because it was apparent that neither side could show they had been harmed by the other’s patent infringement. He said he was inclined to dismiss the case with prejudice — meaning the parties can’t come back to fight over the same patents — and that he would enter a more formal opinion confirming this next week.

The order is extraordinary not only for what it said but for who wrote it. For the unfamiliar, Richard Posner is a legend in legal and academic…

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The Virtues of Daydreaming

“Certainly she was losing consciousness of the outer things. And as she lost consciousness of outer things, her mind kept throwing things up from its depths, scenes and names, sayings, memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting.”

– Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

Studies that show how taking a break from a problem, working on other tasks, daydreaming (and night-dreaming), and letting your mind wander can help you come up with more solutions or more creative approaches.

Read: The Virtues of Daydreaming, by Jonah Lehrer for The New Yorker

The World of Wes Anderson

I didn’t grow up wanting to make movies; what I really wanted to be was an architect. I had this drafting table with all these little instruments I would arrange carefully around the edges. I used to draw everything. When I was in fifth grade, I started to make Super 8 movies, and I liked that very much. I also got interested in George Lucas at about that time, and then, by seventh grade, I became obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock. But I still wanted to be an architect. Sometimes I thought I might also like to be a writer. I didn’t settle on film until I was in college.

There were two reasons I became a filmmaker instead of, say, a novelist. I have always been interested in the visual composition of things. It’s part of why I liked to draw so much. But I also love to put on a show. In fact, I enjoyed that long before I even thought about making movies. I’m not essentially a camera guy; I don’t take very good still photographs and I never have. But I do feel comfortable with the other aspects of filmmaking.

People respond strongly to my work, one way or another. I care about critics in the sense that if you have a good review, it’s nice to hear about it, and if you have a bad review, it’s quite nice not to hear about it. When I am making a movie, I try to put all of that out of my mind and think just about the world I am creating. When people criticize my work, they often seem to say either that my worldview is too specific or, “Who needs your world?” Those are not criticisms that resonate with me, because what fictional world do you actually need?

To write a screenplay and not make the movie, or to make a movie from a screenplay I didn’t write, both seem odd to me; it’s hard for me to divorce the creation and direction processes. For that reason, I have never given up on a script. When I settle in on something, I just work on it until I kind of get it—though that can take a while. But as long as I have an idea in mind, I will pursue it. It just seems to flow: If I made the thing up in the first place, then that is a reason for me to direct it.

I have been asked why I don’t make a big-budget movie or what’s considered a Hollywood movie. I don’t feel particularly compelled to do that sort of thing. The more economical you can be, the more fun you are going to have. I find it all slows down when it gets really big. The process can be so much more light on its feet and inspiring when you are nimble.

I am not sure anybody knows what they are doing when they start out. That is probably true in any creative profession. I wrote my first film, Bottle Rocket, with Owen Wilson when we were still at the University of Texas. It started with the idea that we would make a full-length feature. But we only had enough money for a few minutes, so that was what it ended up being. We showed that short at Sundance, and then on a separate track, through Kit Carson and Polly Platt, to director Jim Brooks. He was immensely supportive and helped us get the movie made at full length. Jim was the person who gave Owen and me our careers.

It took me a long time to get to Moonrise Kingdom. I had lots of material, but after a year I had only a few pages of a script that added up to very little. Then Roman Coppola, whom I work with a lot, helped me figure out the story. A month later the script had gone from the 12 pages I had done in the first year to 100 pages, and it was done.

My writing process is mostly collaborative. I usually like it that way. In some situations, it takes the form mostly of consulting with somebody, and in other situations, it means sitting there all day long with somebody next to me. Right now I am writing a script on my own, but I talk to a collaborator for an hour a day. And then I go write. These discussions are absolutely necessary. At this point I could just finish the thing. But getting it going, getting it figured out—I usually need help.

I don’t write in any one place. Darjeeling we mostly wrote in India—that made it an adventure, and our writing process was affected quite a bit by what we saw. Mr. Fox I wrote with Noah Baumbach in England at Gipsy House, where Roald Dahl lived. This movie was written mostly in Italy, but we filmed it all and edited it in the U.S. And now I’m working on something that takes place in Europe, and will travel around and work on it.

It’s always hard to describe the process. I don’t sit down and plot things out. Not usually. Moonrise Kingdom didn’t come into my head in a conventional way. I had a very conceptual idea; I didn’t have a story. I had an idea of doing something on an island that was a romance between a 12-year-old boy and girl, that it was within the world of children, and I imagined different characters that were in the mix. But it was really much more about the atmosphere. My ideas were mostly of images and dramatic scenes. But I couldn’t tell you why they were up on the roof of a church in a hurricane. Or why the scout troop built a treehouse on the very top of a tree. I just saw it that way.

Once the script is finished, I have always done little storyboards—I have found over the years that I make more mistakes if I don’t plan it out. When we made Mr. Fox, as with all animated movies, we had a “sketch” version of the whole movie set to voices and so on before we shot a frame. On this new live-action movie, I did the same thing for many of the more complicated sequences.

Music is always important. On Moonrise Kingdom I wanted to use Benjamin Britten from before there was a script. There was also a French pop song by Françoise Hardy that I wanted to use. I had the idea of a theme with this song, but the rest of it sort of works its way in over the course of time.

I try not to think of specific people to play characters when I am writing. But it’s a hard trap to avoid. Sometimes an actor just seems perfect for a role. I don’t know who else could have played Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic except Bill Murray. And that is also true of Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums and Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore. In the end, though, if you just 100 percent cannot have the person you want, you have to figure out somebody else.

The collaborative process doesn’t end for me with writing. If anything, it intensifies when we are on the set. Even if I know exactly what I want when I am filming, I need people to help me figure out how to get that across. Sometimes knowing what you want doesn’t mean you know how to make it happen or how to communicate it to an audience. There are any number of people whom I rely on to different degrees—the cinematographer Bob Yeoman; Roman, in the past; Jeremy Dawson, who produces, is very involved. And of course my editor, Andy Weisblum, is a key person for me. A good part of what I want them all to do is to prevent me from making mistakes.

I don’t really know what I want people to take away from my movies. Nothing specific. People’s experiences of the same picture can be radically different. It would be nice if people like the films I make, and hopefully they have a real life span, but once I am done with a movie, my energy needs to go into the next thing.

I am thrilled that Moonrise Kingdom opened the Cannes film festival. It’s the world’s biggest festival and I care deeply about French cinematic culture. But I was also terrified because it’s a lot of attention. Of course, whenever anybody asks me if I’m excited about anything, I tend to not want to say yes. I don’t know why.

source: The Wall Street Journal