Current Events

The Modern Luddite’s Prayer

Sherry Turkle write’s in this week’s Sunday NY Times (The Flight from Conversation) that in the pursuit of connections via technology (email, texting, social media) we are forgetting the slow rhythm and cadence of face-to-face conversations.

FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”

Reading this, I was reminded by an essay I whipped off in Paris last Summer. I was there coming off a two-week holiday. I rented a flat for my family in the Marais district and we spent each delicious day walking the city and drinking in it’s vibrancy. One evening, I think I was amped up on too much espresso and was channelling Keroac, I scribbled the words below, by hand, all in one go. I never even went back to it. But Ms. Turkle’s piece made me think of it again.

I never posted it because I’m a little of embarrassed about it but, hey, it’s a blog so what the heck, indulge me.

The Modern Luddite’s Prayer

The spindled algorithms of our time are optimizing the sinews of humanity. Gnashing life’s great works in the gears of its Engine. These are the Satanic Mills of our generation.

Spitting out matchsticks of knowledge that are mere sulfur-tipped flashes of attention-seeking knowledge, no longer able to light the pyre of change in our mossy, over-grown minds which have been deadened by years of trackpad-enabled twiddling.

We are addicted to the “new” in our Newsfeed but have lost the wisdom of perspective

Supplicants to the superior recall of the internet brain, we slavishly log time on the social media treadmill with a thirst to be first. Dark Times ahead if we continue to blindly submit to the false gods of Real-time and PageRank.

Step away from your monitor, stop stroking your little glass-faced friend. Look into your neighbor’s eyes and wonder at their soul. Smile to the passing stranger on the street and note them for who they are. Feel the warmth and smell of humanity. Marvel at life’s infinite choices.

Live to create, not consume.


Scaling to 50M users – OMGPOP’s crazy ride

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big gamer. I never got into flash game sites, Farmville, Zynga, or any of the games you can download to your phone. Yeah, I’m kinda boring that way. I first noticed OMGPOP’s Draw Something on the train when I saw someone trying to draw a Monopoly board on their iPad. The next morning, I noticed two more people drawing things on their phone. I began to recognize the UI colors and noticed more that evening.

Then the Facebook invitations started to come in. It was so easy to start, intuitive to play, and oh so viral. What better way to connect with long-lost Facebook friends than to send them a pictionary scribble? I had my kids playing and I’m sure I confused Anil Dash when my son sent him a rendition of his avatar on the cover of a book as a drawing for the word, Facebook.

All this is a lead-up to explain how this game burst onto the scene, blew up overnight getting the company acquired by Zynga from start to finish in less than two months.

So what’s it like riding a rocket ship like that? What’s it like spinning up 100+ servers in the middle of the night? What’s it like getting calls from your service vendor threatening to rate limit you because, “you’re too hot.” All these questions and more are answered by Jason Pearlman CTO of OMGPOP and one of the three systems team that was there manning the servers during their incredible growth.

“So there we were, 1 a.m. and needing a completely new backend that can scale and handle our current traffic.” – they re-wrote the backend in Couchbase and pushed it live by 3am.

“At one point our growth was so huge that our players — millions of them — were doubling every day. It’s actually hard to wrap your head around the fact that if your usage doubles every day, that probably means your servers have to double every day too. Thankfully our systems were pretty automated, and we were bringing up tons of servers constantly. Eventually we were able to overshoot and catch up with growth by placing one order of around 100 servers.”

“I think at one point we were up for around 60-plus hours straight, never leaving the computer.”

To date, Draw Something has been downloaded more than 50 million times within 50 days. At its peak, about 3,000 drawings are created every second.

All this was done with the knowledge that if the site was down for even a few hours, it would have meant the end. Draw Something was not their only game, OMGPOP had been at it for many years, with multiple games, before hitting out of the park with this one. It’s a great story of holding things together during a hard tack in their history they made it and are now well on their way to success.

Scale Something: How Draw Something rode its rocket ship of growth


Current Events

Radiohead streamed live from Coachella

15 Steps

YouTube is streaming live from Coachella this weekend. I don’t normally watch live concerts on my computer but I was working tonight and had this going on my second screen. As it got late, Radiohead came on and I ended up working less and watching more, captivated by the set which featured a series of LED panels that were playing back camera feeds of the band. These panels moved from song to song and changed colors to accent their light show, giving the effect of shards of a mirror descending on the band.

Karma Police

What was also amazing was the fidelity of the feed. Rarely a buffer dropout, almost no pixalation. The shots I’ve posted here were all screenshots taken off my computer.

Paranoid Android

Every now and then I snap out of my assumptions and recall what it used to be like trying to experience good music. The trips to the record store, trying to record something off a radio broadcast, mix tapes, concert scalpers, sneaking up into the hills behind Red Rocks or the Greek Theatre. . . now this stuff just finds you across the web at your desk!

It never ceases to amaze me how far we’ve come.


Current Events

Tilt Shift, Timelapse Cities

I think I stumbled across a new genre. Shooting your city in time lapse and giving it the tilt shift treatment.

San Francisco

New York



Does your city have a particularly nice timelapse, tilt shift video?

Current Events

The Original Mashup

Now that Spotify has embedded music, I thought it’d be fun to try out the original mashup. You need to have Spotify running first in the background but once you have that up, Press play on the movie then press play on Dark Side of the Moon album below the movie when you see the third roar of the MGM lion.

Um, well scrap that. Someone’s already put it all together into a YouTube video. Sit back and enjoy The Dark Side of the Rainbow, the original mashup.


Caine’s Arcade

Caine’s Arcade is a charming short film about a 9-year old boy who built a homemade  arcade out of cardboard boxes at his dad’s used auto part store in East LA and how a community rallied to show him some love.

One day, by chance, I walked into Smart Parts Auto looking for a used door handle for my ’96 Corolla. What I found was an elaborate handmade cardboard arcade manned by a young boy who asked if I would like to play. I asked Caine how it worked and he told me that for $1 I could get two turns, or for $2 I could get a Fun Pass with 500 turns. I got the Fun Pass.

Nirvan Mullick

Current Events

Speed of Execution

The Instagram deal came together in record time: A call late last week from Mr. Zuckerberg to Instagram Chief Executive Kevin Systrom led to a weekend powwow at Mr. Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto home and ended in a handshake Sunday night, people familiar with the matter said.

The Wall Street Journal on the $1 billion Facebook acquisition of Instagram

Current Events

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone. What’s on your schedule today? Brunch with mum? Easter egg hunt? Or maybe a visit to see the Easter Bunny? Find this gem and more at the Cheezburger network’s Sketchy Bunnies.

Current Events

The Other Side of Elvis

I’ve been digitizing some of my old cassette tapes from college and found this little clip tucked in as filler. It’s a rare clip of Elvis, lashing out at reporters and paparazzi spreading gossip about his drug addiction. Even the fans in the audience seem a bit taken aback by the violence of his words.

It’s not an Elvis you’re used to hearing but it is one that sticks with you (as it has me)  through the years.

Current Events

commis restaurant

As we were seated, we were offered a small bowl of stones with two, small toasted cheese treats covered in ash to look like the small pebbles on which they were arranged. When I asked the server what was put before us, “A bowl of rocks, sir” was the reply. More Amuse than Bouche.

We scored two of the six seats at the counter and were able to watch the open kitchen prepare meals. It was a small kitchen with six chefs working in close quarters, moving through their stations in a choreographed dance. The restaurant seats 31 and all the action takes place in the kitchen but in almost complete silence. Norah Jones hums quietly over the hi-fi but from the kitchen it’s all hushed reverence of the locally acquired ingredients.

Each of the six dishes of the fixed price meal (our menu for the evening) were prepared in front of us. Arranged is a better word.  Rhubarb confit was carefully plopped off a spoon with just the right flick of the wrist to give it the right consistency.  One was slightly off leaving a trail dripped off to the side, the chef winced, started over again. Each chef had a pair of tweezers tucked into a breast pocket on their grey apron which they would whip out to arrange flower petals or lightly fried mint leafs just so. Each dish was a beauty to behold.

It was like eating ikebana arrangements.

It was a fantastic meal, well worth paying extra for the wine pairings that brought a wide variety of interesting local wines to go with each dish.  After stints at Coi in San Francisco and Manresa in Los Gatos, head chef James Syhabout is back in his native Oakland (he went to Oakland Tech). Deservedly, Commis was awarded it’s first Michelin star after only four months of business and continues to attract people from across the Bay.

Commis Restaurant
3859 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

A New Restaurant Gets Noticed – New York Times

My flickr photoset of the evening