It’s certainly possible to produce a street-legal vehicle that’s capable of flight — both the PAL-V and Terrafugia are both working prototypes. But they’re a far cry from the Zemeckisian dream of shuttling your children through the skies to soccer practice. And what happens when your uncle has a few too many at Christmas dinner and takes off in his flying car? And what about rush hour? No one wants to end up stuck in traffic at a few thousand feet on limited fuel. Without the navigation systems that Boeing described in their initial feasibility study, these vehicles will never be cleared for anyone to use with just a few hours of driver’s ed and a road test — if you want to fly one of them today, you’ll need a pilot’s license.
In which I address the popular notion that consumer technology is as good as science can make it right now.
Privileging face-to-face conversation makes a virtue of proximity and reduces the wide world to a set of hyper-literal possibilities. It’s so obsessed with the real that it’s unrealistic, atavistic, and just silly. There is nothing like talking to somebody IRL, it’s true. There is also nothing like body language or like the feeling of being looked at when you want to be. But when it’s good there’s really nothing like sexting.
I am fascinated by the IRL fetish. And sexting.
Clubbin’ (Taken with Instagram)
I was never trying to evade the subpoena (as I’ve mentioned, the possible consequences are minor). I’ve been much more interested in feeling out the contours of the avatar I use to walk through this space. Users can vanish without a visible trace in a second. I imagine if they switched their account name right before deleting it and registered the old name as a dummy user with the same information, even the state would have a hard time knowing what to ask for. Twitter is unlike flesh space in that a) you can change your name whenever you want and b) there’s an external system that secures each name to a user and respects your nominal choices as soon as you make them. So there is a @destructuremal ostensibly operated by aMalcolm Harris, but from minute to minute it could be anyone. By the time the subpoena goes through, they could be in Indonesia or be a child or a robot or an empty shell of useless data. In Twitter you never need be more than a name, and you can change it whenever you want.
Amazing story of how the legal system struggles to understand Twitter.
But for all their power, little is known about the demographics of these users (often called "alpha geeks") other than their tendency to adopt new technology before the rest of humanity. Where do they live? What do they look like? How closely do they resemble the users who will follow in their footsteps?
To find out, we dug into the user bases of three recently-launched publishing platforms: Svbtle, an invite-only blog publishing network; Medium, a minimalist publishing platform from the Twitter dudes (also currently invite only); and App.net, an open infrastructure-level version of Twitter (open to anyone, but charges $50 a year). The results paint a portrait of typical early-adopters: white, male, and (at least in the case of Medium) mostly influencers based in major tech hubs.
My first data piece for BuzzFeed is an demographic study of early adopters. Read the stats, or skip to the methodology at the end to find out how I did it (and see the code on github).
Today, eight years since the first signs of Parkinson’s and after months of fiddling, my body is almost free of symptoms. With the stimulator turned off, a Parkinson’s test shows 20 significant impairments. With the stimulator on, it drops to two. Add just a touch of L-dopa and it drops to zero.
Amazing story in Wired about a new surgery for Parkinson’s where doctors implant electrodes in the brain.
Welcome to our creepy future.
For those who aspire to some kind of fame, even Internet fame, Twitter looks like a great in. It is, in many senses, a meritocracy, with the smartest, funniest, or most interesting accounts eventually gaining a large following. But, unsurprisingly, many people were unsatisfied with their tiny feifdoms of followers on the social network. Armed with the early revelation that most users tended to follow back a percentage of those who followed them, these people set out to follow as many people as they could as a way of gaming the system. The process of following, however, was both laborious and excruciatingly boring.
Then someone wrote a script that automated it.
I’m keeping track of spammers and reporting them religiously, and you should, too.
Shortly after Twitter began burrowing its way into the early adopter crowd, a pattern began to emerge among its users: people started taking notice of how many other users followed them. In retrospect, it’s only natural that a service which allows us to amass a “following” should inspire such religious devotion to the ego; after all, we’ve seen this with Facebook before.
But while Facebook has a hard limit to the number of people in any one user’s network, Twitter has no such thing. And when Ashton Kutcher engaged in a public race with CNN to see who could reach a million followers first, suddenly the game began to take on more epic proportions, and the concept of “Twitter Fame” began to emerge in the public consciousness.
Follow-back spam is a natural outgrowth of this phenomenon, and the subject of my latest article for BuzzFeed.