Tag: Technology

With all the attention given to urban applications of machine vision — from facial recognition systems to autonomous vehicles — it’s easy to forget about machines that listen to the city. Google scientist Dan Ellis has called machine listening a “poor second” to machine vision; there’s not as much research dedicated to machine listening, and it’s frequently reduced to speech recognition. 7 Yet we can learn a lot about urban processes and epistemologies by studying how machines listen to cities; or, rather, how humans use machines to listen to cities. Through a history of instrumented listening, we can access the city’s “algorhythms,” a term coined by Shintaro Miyazaki to describe the “lively, rhythmical, performative, tactile and physical” aspects of digital culture, where symbolic and physical structures are combined. The algorhythm, Miyazaki says, oscillates “between codes and real world processes of matter.” 8 The mechanical operations of a transit system, the social life of a public library, the overload of hospital emergency rooms: all can be intoned through algorhythmic analysis.

From Urban Auscultation; or, Perceiving the Action of the Heart by Shannon Mattern (via Andrew Small)

Then I got into small Twitter feud with Timothy B. Lee, a writer at Ars Technica, about those stupid sidewalk delivery robots. He used one, waited 90 minutes for his order to be delivered, acknowledged “this generation of the technology is only going to be viable in fairly high-density areas,” but refused to accept they were yet another bullshit tech solution that could be more easily solved with e-bike couriers in the limited areas where robot delivery would make sense distance-wise. He kept arguing that scale would bring down cost, while refusing to recognize that the very same scale will mean crowded, inaccessible sidewalks, which people will not accept — the same way they hated dockless scooters intruding on sidewalks.

From Enough with the autonomous crap by Paris Marx

Glory be: with some jiggery-pokery using a couple of different plugins, I’ve now got a no-maintenance blogroll page.

There’s some serious irony in the ePub of Future Histories reminding me after every chapter that it’s really only licensed to me. Shouldn’t a book seeking an escape from digital capitalism let me really own my own copy of it?

Apple needs to turn this April Fool’s joke from 2018 into a reality, as in the interest of my wanting a single, coherent digital ecosystem that just works across all my devices, most of which already are Apple products, I would buy one without hesitation.


  1. My head canon is that Apple’s just been waiting for this to happen to E Ink technology.

How hard do you think it would be for me, a non-coder, to write a Safari extension whose only function is to add a button to the toolbar that when clicked takes you to a URL you’d set in the extension’s configuration? I don’t want to set my WordPress admin URL as my browser home page, but I visit it so frequently it would be nice to have a toolbar button that takes me there.

My Annoying Weblog Self-References Use Case

Here’s essentially what I wish I could do on my blog: effectively, I’d like a webmention plugin that only handles self-references — in other words, when a new post of mine links to an old post of mine — and creates a “this post referenced by” section on the old post(s). Something that wouldn’t just be dumped into WordPress comments management, but had its own separate management hooks and administrative tab (e.g. References, or something). What’s more, because I always have to make it even harder: because only some of my blog posts have titles, I’d need the generated links to use the post title if there is one (p-name), else use N number of words from the body (e-content). Ideally it would be nice if I could have this and also a separate process for external webmentions should I ever decided to make use of them, but my understanding is that incoming webmentions use the first endpoint they find; I’d gladly sacrifice the ideal if I could have the first priority want.


  1. I admit that I feel like this really should be its own, self-contained process which wouldn’t interfere with or at all relate to existing comment, trackback, pingback, or webmention functionality in any way.

Finally today I got to finish up a side project I’ve been itching to get done: restoring my old MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2011) to a clean High Sierra (the most recent macOS it can use) and listing it for sale on eBay, where this model seems to sell for as much as $320. The goal here is to get within spitting distance of an iPad Mini so that all my damned devices just naturally work together (excepting my Kobo, because Apple won’t make an E Ink e-reader) — part of my increasing midlife need for Things That Just Work.

Tomorrow is the scheduled arrival of my EyeVac Pet Touchless Vacuum which I hope will revolutionize my housecleaning; literally the extra back-aching steps of having to sweep the floors into a dustpan and then empty the dustpan into the trash keep me from sweeping the floors anywhere near as often as needed.

I’m not sure if it’s something about the storytelling this season or the cheap-video look to it, but there’s a Killing Eve waiting for me from Sunday that I’ve just not been rushing to watch.

Unsupported Use Case

During my own personal heyday of WordPress usage, I’d always wanted two particular features: a way to add updates or addenda to posts such that they automatically had their own timestamps and were their own database items, but attached, so to speak, to the posts they are on; and an easy way for old posts to list new posts which link to them, without having to open up to external trackbacks or pingbacks (or, now, webmentions). It always had seemed to me that these were pretty damned close to being no-brainers, and that they’d be features used widely if implemented, whether in the WordPress core or through plugins. I’m honestly surprised that in the decade or more since, these features still do not exist. My entire life, sometimes, seems defined by being an unsupported use case.

Really Complicated Syndication

Decades later, it’s weird to see that individuals, developers, and corporations still don’t seem to agree on what RSS is for.

I’ve pretty much always been of the philosophy that if you provide an RSS feed, it’s there to be used; I’ve always assumed that’s why software tools typically offer a choice between providing full-text feeds or excerpt-only ones: the feed is there to be read, but some writers and publishers want readers to come all the way to their own website for the full post.

The key part there, however, still would be that the feed is there to be used. There might have been competing (b)acronyms, but to me it was always Really Simple Syndication.

I can see the argument in favor of apps providing a list of suggested feeds from which the user can select all, some, or none rather than just providing a default set of feeds, but I don’t feel strongly one way or the other on that point. On the general, though, I’ve always felt that if you don’t want people using your RSS feeds, don’t provide them.

I’m very open, however, to the idea that this is just a mental holdover from the wilder early days of the web, which were more deeply informed by the more cyberpunk ethos of the pre-web internet.

Copyright holders of course can insist upon whatever form of licensing they want; I’m just used to the early idea that providing an RSS feed at all in and of itself was a license for use.

That idea can fall apart pretty quickly, though, since you’re typically not providing an RSS feed, say, for the purposes of other people wholesale reproducing your content on their own sites for commercial purposes. But is offering default feeds in an RSS reader really the same thing?

Link Log Roundup for May 11, 2020

In this edition: labor surveillance, viral surfaces, blurb writing, knowing the risks, testing questions, child vaccinations, engineering ventilators, actuarial science, Cannon Beach, bunk beds, institutional discrimination, public pharma, money for Western states, virtual reality, false balance, the social safety net, salon workers, opening up the streets, and public opinion.

Once you’ve finished Tristan Cross’ vivid description of responding to the pandemic’s social distance by recreating his favorite pub in virtual reality — and only once you’ve finished it — watch the embedded video of his friends hanging out, which is included towards the end. At one point, quite unexpectedly, it actually made me teary.