Quartz is shutting down Quartz Brief App

I had completely forgotten about the Quartz Brief app until this morning when I read that they are shutting it down. It was a rare app in that it willfully different than the others in the category. Rather than the usual scrolling list of headlines with a “trending” section whose only role is to make you nervous for humanity, Quartz built their app with a chatbot interface. They later added in features like a Trump snooze that would snooze anything Trump for 24 hours.

I can’t remember why I stopped using it. It might’ve been the limited amount of news that it would surface everyday. Or that I tend to scan through a lot of headlines to find stories that I want to read.

In any case, if you haven’t used it, you should download it before it’s gone to see what it’s like.

Hiking the Buttermilk Trail

Caution: This is an old fashioned blog post. The kind people used to write before social media sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. 

My son and I went on a hike last week on one of Richmond’s wooded trails that follow the river and are oddly close to downtown.

There’s a lot to take in back there. Things to look at, sounds to hear, and inferences to make.

Big and small…

Natural and human…

Official and Unofficial…

Natural and Urban…

When we came across this graffiti, he had a two word warning for me: “teenagers, dad.” Like a guide in Indiana Jones finding an ancient warning of death. I can only assume he’s learned that teenagers are punks from his grandparents. I wonder if he understands that he’s only a few years away from losing his mind to adolescence.

I was thinking about teenagers as well. Mostly noticing the paths leading from residential areas to the kinds of places that teenagers go to get away from the eyes of adults. Rocky outcroppings and secluded hiding places that we would have sought out back then. I’m sure a closer look would reveal empty packs of cigarettes and broken wine-cooler bottles.

R wanted me to play some music. But I told him that we don’t listen to music when we’re out in nature. He didn’t comment on the multiple passersby that were listening to something through their earbuds.

I wanted him to hear the noise that we were surrounded by. Hear the river. The crickets. To notice the details in the noise soup. The trees in the forest, if you will. Not sure that we got there. But we’ve got all summer…

Nike’s Jordans, Fortnight, Algorithmic Dystopia, Kids

It’s difficult to wrap your head around something like Fortnite. Kids who have never played it know the dances. My 5-year-old doesn’t know what it is but plays games he and his friends call “Fortnite.”

Brands are making products for the game: 

Nike’s Jordan Brand has partnered with Fortnite, the uber-popular video game made by Epic Games, to unveil featuring new skins wearing Jordan sneakers. The two new outfits are Grind and Clutch. Both skins include Nike Air Jordan 1s in different colorways: red and black, the colors of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, as well as the Los Angeles Lakers’ purple and yellow.

A few years ago I would’ve thought this was interesting. And it is. But things change a bit when you’ve got kids and you’re trying to balance media/cultural literacy with all of the bad that’s happening online. Addiction, radicalization, newsletter pop-ups, Upworthy.

I want to keep them out of the algorithmic maw of surveillance capitalism for as long as possible. Especially if it involves first-person shooting.

But maybe that makes me an old. 


The Sum of All Beards

Beards used to mean something.

Anyone with a beard was within 60 days of a Phish show at any given time. They owned guitars. At least one acoustic that sat next to their couch for couch strumming. Their girlfriends made hemp jewelry and drank green tea. Maybe kombucha. This was also when green tea and kombucha meant something. They drank craft beer before anyone else knew that there was more than two styles of beer. They were going to watch some friends at an open mic later that night if you wanted to join.

Their dad made you stand at attention when Sgt. Peppers came on the hi-fi during dinner.

Those were simpler times.

Then, like a fungus, beards began to spread. Hippie? Prep? Rich guy? Lawyer? Athlete? Ironic? Non-Ironic? There’s no telling who it is that’s hiding under there. Or what beard oil they prefer.

And why?

Well, just as the space race gave us Tang and silly putty, The New Republic reports that the US led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought us more than fast-casual Mediterranean chains: We are a nation drunk on ”tacticool” culture. 

Beards are Tacticool.

Don’t fight it.

Breath it in.

Let it wash over you.

Let it intoxicate you.

Let it become you.

And consider this:

Duck Dynasty was fashion-forward.

How to Measure Ghosts – A Newsletter About the History of Audience Measurement

This seems promising:

The last 100 years have been a journey to see how to measure ghosts – how to measure the invisible audiences at the end of technological distribution networks. With every decade, these ghosts have come more and more into focus, ending with a the last ten years of social media and digital advertising that has created unimaginable amounts of data about everything we see, read, click and like.

This’ll be right up the alley of anyone who is sufficiently nerdy.

It’s right up my alley.

I’m giving the free tier a spin. If it’s as good as Stratechery, the only other paid newsletter I subscribe to, I might go all in.