Trivial Posts #20: Cliffhangers, Knitting, And Error Trapping

What Have I Been Up To?

Two appearances online from myself to highlight this week. The first is an appearance in the popular culture podcast ‘From The Sublime‘ where I talk about cliffhangers in modern television (with a specific focus on Doctor Who’. The second is a review of Microsoft Office 2016 on Forbes.

Which Is The Better Star Wars Trailer?

The nostalgia and new crew style that debuted this week for ‘The Force Awakens‘… or the genuine wish fulfilment of the PlayStation Christmas?

Metafilter discusses the weaker trailer

Indie Music And Knitting

Finding a post on being self-employed and selling content is easy. Finding one that mixes in the indie music scene from the late nineties is a little bit harder. Finding one I’ll recommend? Over to Karie Westermann:

I learned a hard lesson when I first started out: I handed over the rights to a pattern for a pittance and saw somebody else make a lot of money from it when I could barely cover rent. And that got me thinking. I still work with mainstream publications on occasion (and some of them are incredibly indie-friendly and lovely!) but time & experience has taught me to be wary of Big Besuited Companies offering me deals too good to be true.

Indies pay the price by having to do all the things – including all the tough things mainstream publishing would normally have done for us – but I maintain it is worth it.

So, clutching my gladioli, I began thinking about where indie knitting businesses are heading.

Clutching My Gladioli – On Making It Work as an Indie

Who Is Maggie Goldenberger?

A long time ago, when she was young, Maggie Goldenberger dressed up and took silly polaroids…

Goldenberger remembers the details of the very day that immortal photo was taken.

“I remember having a lot of fun picking out the items,” she said, “and Kaelyn running downstairs to pick out books.” Kaelyn had suggested that Goldenberger should hold the American Girl doll tie-in books, with their saccharine pastel covers of smiling tween girls. Crucially, it was the Goosebumps books, with their instantly recognizable hyper-colored cover images by illustrator Tim Jacobus, that made the cut.

Deciding against the coonskin cap, Goldenberger put on the vest, hoisted her hair up into intentionally dorky pigtails—she never wore them like that otherwise—brandished the chosen books, and pulled an intentionally hideous face for the camera. Normally, she hardly ever wore her retainer like she was supposed to, but it felt right for the character: she put it on for the shoot.

Years later, Reddit found it, and Ermahgerd was born. This is the story of the meme.

The Untold Story Of The Ermahgerd Girl

Everybody Is Perfect, But Programmers Know Differently

Mentioned previously in Trivial Posts is Margaret Hamilton, one of the Apollo computer programmers. For Ada Lovelace Day (once again, thanks Suw) Robert McMillan looks at a legend of computing… and error trapping:

…Hamilton created a program note—an add-on to the program’s documentation that would be available to NASA engineers and the astronauts: “Do not select P01 during flight,” it said. Hamilton wanted to add error-checking code to the Apollo system that would prevent this from messing up the systems. But that seemed excessive to her higher-ups. “Everyone said, ‘That would never happen,’” Hamilton remembers.

But it did. Right around Christmas 1968—five days into the historic Apollo 8 flight, which brought astronauts to the moon for the first-ever manned orbit—the astronaut Jim Lovell inadvertently selected P01 during flight. Hamilton was in the second-floor conference room at the Instrumentation Laboratory when the call came in from Houston. Launching the P01 program had wiped out all the navigation data Lovell had been collecting. That was a problem. Without that data, the Apollo computer wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get the astronauts home.

Hamilton and the MIT coders needed to come up with a fix; and it needed to be perfect.

Her Code Got Humans To The Moon

Messaging As A Platform

Where can you find the future of online activities? Many people believe that the answer is in the IM client, and achieving dominance of the replacement to SMS is a key strategy for many companies, including Facebook. Returning to Wired, David Rowan looks at Facebook’s Messenger platform towards the future.

How people see interaction inside mobile phones hasn’t changed since flip phones,” he says. “You have a keypad to dial, a phonebook icon to access contacts, another for messages and one for your voicemail. It’s app-centric, not people centric. If today no phone existed, you wouldn’t create an app-centric view of the world, you’d create a people-centric view. WithMessenger, everything you can do is based on the thread, the relationship. We want to push that further.

Zuckerberg’s App For Everything

Seven Years A Square

Of course the other potential future is Twitter. After ‘Moments’ was launched last week, the re-org from incoming/returning CEO Jack Dorsey should put Twitter onto a more realistic footing after it’s Silicon Valley fuelled growth.

Dorsey was instrumental in Twitter’s acquisition of Vine, a social network for sharing six-second videos, which has become an impressive video platform in its own right. It continues to grow at a rapid clip. Similarly, the recently acquired Periscope, a live-broadcasting platform, has started to grow nicely. Dorsey’s skills are also visible at Square and in its many services. The company’s point-of-sales system, readers, and business services reflect a coherent and effective design process.

And isn’t it nice to be reading Om Malik on tech 2.0 again?

Jack In The Box: Can Twitter Be Saved?

This Week’s Long Read: Boom Town

Joni Tevis looks at the Nevada nuclear test sites, the Viewmaster 3D, the hula-hoop, Buddy Holly, and more, in an evocative look back the long summer of the Atmoic Fifties. Settle in for a fascinating portrait of a lost time.

Atomic Summer

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.