Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

the state of my media diet in 2010

Posted by shannonclark on January 5, 2010

As 2010 begins I have been taking stock of the media I pay attention to and am looking to add to my current diet, I’m looking for new flavors and cuisines, new forms to replace stale old ones.

At the moment my media consumption looks like:

No daily newspapers, no TV news of any form, no Radio (either over the air or Internet). I catch a few TV series, mostly at my girlfriend’s house (or via various means online) but not too many (mostly SF series & a few Food Network shows)

Magazines

  • The New Yorker magazine – I have been a New Yorker subscriber since college in the early 1990’s, however as I write this I am nearly two months behind and all year have found myself increasingly disappointed in the quality of the writing and the point of view of most of the writers for the New Yorker (Malcolm Gladwell excepted).
  • occasional issues of Monocle and even less often The Atlantic Monthly – I may subscribe to both magazines in 2010 even though I am currently months behind on my Monocle reading

And that is it. Years ago I had a dozen of magazine subscriptions (including free technical publications) and would supplement those with local free weekly newspapers and often one or more magazines purchased from a newstand. But that is no longer the case, even when I’m in one of San Francisco’s many excellent newstands with literally 1000’s of magazines available to me I rarely see one I have to buy. I feel there are, I hope, magazines out there I really should be reading – but I do not know what they are!

Podcasts and video podcasts

Mostly a mix of music podcasts & some niche focused podcasts. Here’s the roughly complete list:

  • Accident Hash – CC Chapman’s long running podsafe music podcast, in 2009 this was fairly irregular but usually enjoyable
  • American Public Media’s Sound Opinions – One of my favorites, I have been a listener since an earlier version of this show was on commercial radio in Chicago
  • CO-OP – a video podcast from Revision3 covering video games
  • Critical Hit – a newer audio podcast from students in the Game Design program at Columbia College in Chicago
  • Critical Hit: A Dungeons & Dragons podcast – from the website MajorSpoilers.com a podcast of a group of players playing D&D 4th edition – a bit of a nostalgia trip for me – but also it has been catching me up on the new rules of a game I played years ago
  • Doctor Who podshock – for my occasional Dr. Who fan discusison
  • Dungeons & Dragons podcast – an occasional podcast from Wizards of the Coast, I subscribed for a series of episodes they did with Wil Wheaton & folks from Penny Arcade playing a series of D&D games. The website archive is a bit clunky – subscribe to this podcast via iTunes.
  • Games with Garfield – an occasional podcast from Richard Garfield on game design (inventor of many great games – including Magic the Gathering)
  • The Geekbox – a group of B ay Area geeks – fun even if I’m a bit older than many of them and have slightly different tastes
  • iFanboy – I subscribe to two audio and one video podcast by the iFanboy team (the video is with Revision3) these cover the Comics industry exceptionally well
  • KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic – one of the best music radio shows anywhere – live in studio sets of great music are what they include in their podcast, but every show is available for streaming on demand.
  • Major Spoilers – another comics (mostly) but also all things geek discussion podcast from a great comics review website
  • Monocle (videos & audio podcast) – great short videos and audio podcast series from one of my favorite magazines, Monocle
  • Murmur.com podcast – from the folks who do iFanboy an occasional podcast on movies & TV & other things geek
  • NPR All Songs Considered podcast – amazing music podcast from NPR – almost always stuff I really enjoy
  • NPR: Live Concerts from All Songs Considered – videos and audios of amazing live concerts
  • Only A Game – NPR’s sports weekly podcast
  • Radio Free Burrito – Wil Wheaton’s personal podcast which he has recently restarted after his recent Memories of the Futurecast series
  • This American Life – another series I started listening to on radio, when it was first broadcast but now catch (occasionally) via podcast

There are a handful of other podcasts I still subscribe to but which haven’t been updated in months so are mostly archives in my iTunes.

It is worth noting that I no longer subscribe to any tech industry podcasts – I’m sure there are some which are engaging & well edited enough to be worth subscribing to? What are they?

Online Blogs & websites

I mostly use Google Reader – currently I have 211 RSS feeds I subscribe to, but looking at Google’s stats, I mostly only read a very small number of feeds – a few customized feeds (Craigslist searches and the like). They break down as follows.

for Politics:

  • The Daily Dish – Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic Monthly blog along with a few other Atlantic Monthly political blogs
  • Jack and Jill Politics – an African American focused political blog friends of mine run

for Tech news:

  • Techcrunch – I subscribe the main, full feed but am annoyed by the partial feed elements from other TechCrunch sites
  • Mashable
  • The Next Web
  • Scobleizer – I have been reading Robert Scoble since before he joined Microsoft
  • Venturebeatfull disclosure – I wrote for Venturebeat in 2009
  • Boing Boing
  • and really that’s about it – I don’t get to or read many other blogs and of the above I average only about 25% at most of any one of them – and usually closer to 10% or less of their posts. I subscribe to many other tech industry blogs, but these are the ones I read the most frequently.

for Food

But again I have some 150+ other feeds I subscribe to yet rarely, if ever, get around to reading. If the feed isn’t a full text feed, even if from a very close personal friend, I will almost never, ever read that feed. Since I read on my iPhone over 50% of the time I’m reading RSS feeds, a non-full text feed requires a crapshoot of loading another site which is rarely well designed for an iPhone (or which breaks the links as far too many mobile site’s versions do) vs the easy navigation between stories when all full text and in Google Reader which has a great iPhone interface.

So clearly I am missing a great deal – what would people suggestion I add in 2010?

Please leave suggestions as comments below – for print publications, podcasts, video podcasts or other forms of media I should pay attention to on a regular basis  in 2010. Please include areas I am missing as well as media in fields I am already following (so suggestions for business/econ focused podcasts are welcome). Even media which is niche & seemingly not likely focused for me – but which is a great example would be welcome suggestions. I’ll listen to or read everything suggest – at least once on the web.

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Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, iTunes, music, personal, podcasts, politics, reading, San Francisco, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

What makes a great magazine or blog

Posted by shannonclark on August 23, 2008

I am an avid reader have been since I learned to read as a young child. In my time I have subscribed to many magazines. In high school I also edited the high school literary magazine, an issue which won awards.

Great magazines are much more than merely collections of great writing. The editors create a magazine’s voice through layout, article selection, and the context they choose to provide (or conversely choose not to provide) around the individual stories.

In today’s blog and web obsessed world it is easy to forget the value and impact of the overall form on the readers but it is worth considering it carefully.

I received a gift of a subscription to Gastronomica last year, but have not had a chance to read the issues I have received until recently when I started to read the Fall 2007. I haven’t yet finished that issue but had an immediate reaction after reading a few articles which is much the same as my feelings about another similarly highly respected magazine Granta.

Namely that while both magazines have great individual articles they are lacking something important, specifically a clear editorial voice and context to each article in the issue. In the case of Granta this lack often means that I do not know as I read an article if it is fiction or non-fiction (an no, this is not at all always clear given the types of writing Granta has published in the past). In the case of Gastronomica I found myself wanting some introduction, something to fill the white space around the articles with context, with who the author is, with why these particular stories were published in this particular issue and in this particular order.

So to get back to my subject, what does make a great magazine or blog?

  • Context such that the resulting issue (or overall website in the case of a blog) is greater than any individual piece. Sure this still leaves room for great individual articles and stories, Malcolm Gladwell’s many amazing pieces for the New Yorker for example or Andrew Sullivan’s cover article on Obama for Atlantic. But my point is that a great magazine expands upon the work of individual authors and creates a whole which is greater than the parts – both in each issue and over time.
  • Design. I fail on this account frequently on this blog. Great blogs tend to incorporate images, text and increasingly video to enhance and illustrate both each post as well as the overall experience of reading that blog. Indeed I think many of the major blogs (at least in Technology) have a policy of at least one image for every post, usually more than one, which help to anchor the post and make it more than just words. In the case of magzines design – the fonts, layouts, images and especially the structural choices have a major impact on how the magazine reads. Some magazines, The Economist perhaps most famously, have articles that run into each other, often resulting in articles that continue for many pages, whatever the editors feel the topic requires. In contrast many other magazines restrict stories to one page (or part of a page) in many cases and in most others if the story needs a bit more they relegate the end of the story to the back of the magazine (the famous continued on…).
  • A point of view. Great magazines are not for everyone, they are for a particular audience and they wear a point of view clearly and without shame. This does not mean that a magazine which does reporting should not practice great journalism (and the reporting of facts not opinions that requires) but in the selection of what stories to report upon, how to present them and what to invest in and pursue the magazine, at least the great ones, come at the world and the subjects covered from a particular point of view.

So why do I have issues with both Granta and Gastronomica which both publish man individually amazing and great pieces of writing?

For one both seem content to only let the stories speak for themselves, in both cases I am left without a lot of context about who the writers are, why they are writing from the perspective which they are. Even the New Yorker does this to a bit, with many stories published over the years where the reader is assumed to know who the author is (and why for example the author might talk of the Kennedy’s as cousins or do countless other cases of name dropping).

These are then magazines which all too often are written for a very particular community, one which is perhaps too narrow. But further by not taking the smallest of steps to give context as a reader I lurch from story to story (and not at all clear which are memoir, which are reporting, which are fiction, which are some form of meta-experimental mashup of forms).

The result for me as a reader is I am left willing to close the magazine unfinished and read something else.

So what would be an example of a great magazine I have read recently?

Monocle a relatively new (just a bit over a year old) news, lifestyle and design monthly magazine published out of England which is my favorite new discovery of 2008. Every issue, along with the website, starts with a very cohesive and comprehensive design senseability. Clear typography, heavy use of lots of images, long form reporting with a very personal focus, and a very comprehensively global perspective.

In part Monocle is one of my favorite new discoveries because of this highly global perspective, unlike the majority of US media (of all forms, web included) Monocle is focused on a truly global perspective, with in depth coverage of cities and news stories from around the world. Cities which in many cases I doubt have gotten even the barest of mentions in most US media anywhere.

But I am also reacting positively to the very clear point of view present throughout all parts of Monocle. A point of view that highlights design, which assumes that the readers of the magazine love good design (including some who would buy great examples of design directly from the magazine) and which focused on a fully global perspective. The magazine tends slightly towards a male demographic but does cover both men’s and women’s fashions and design elements. They also include a wide range of mediums – on the web they have films (for subscribers), in print they include custom Manga (in English but layed out in the traditional layout) which include both an ongoing story and advertising.

This strong sense of design is also built into the overal magazine’s experience. Most of the magazine is in black and white, but in a very high resolution and high quality print and paper, but each issue includes some in depth stories presented in high resolution color as a special section of the magazine, in all parts of the magazine a large number of images add richly to the stories while at the same time the editors clearly give writers room to write relatively long and more in depth stories than are frequently found in US media. Stories which go on for multiple pages and which include dozens of photos, vs the few pages and only a couple of photos if that found in most US media. Even the physical form feels more like a book than a typical throwaway magazine, as a result it is a magazine I am likely to hold onto for a while into the future.

Which brings me to a final point, I also very positively appreciate how Monocle combines advertising and content in a very smoothly integrated whole. The advertisers ad to the overal experience of the magazine and clearly are seen as positive partners in the magazine’s success. As a result I am left with a positive perception of these advertisers even as some of them are unlikely to get my business (as they are in many cases EU based firms).

What are your favorite magazines? What do you think makes a great magazine?

Posted in geeks, internet, reading, reviews, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Reading, writing, blogs, media and the new workplaces

Posted by shannonclark on July 14, 2008

Since sometime in early 2000 I have been an entrepreneur, at times with employees and an office and for the past few years with no fixed office and either only a handful of people working with me, at present just one co-founder who also has other active projects.

In the mid-90’s I bought my first laptop, with the money I made selling off my first computer I had bought for myself, a NeXT Cube which was my computer for the first two years I was in college. It still remains both the most expensive and in many ways the best computer I have ever owned. I bought the NeXT secondhand, and even then it was about the cost of a very nice used car (if memory serves I think it was about $6000 but this was some 17+ years ago). As it turns out since owning it taught me Unix, launched my career in technology and much more it was also perhaps one of the best purchases I have ever, even to this day, made.

But the next computer I owned also had a major impact on my life, in an equally important but vitally different manner. That computer was a Compaq laptop, I think it was a 486 but I’m not actually certain now, in any case it was that laptop which granted me mobility, which allowed me to work off campus, to work portably, which started my lifelong habit of working from cafes (and while still in college from desks in libraries – do less of that now however). In short that laotop also in many ways sparked my writing habit and fit better the direction I was headed academically.

When I had bought the NeXT it was because having started to use Mathematica while a summer intern at Argonne National Lab I wanted to own a computer which was capable of running Mathemica and at the time all NeXT’s came with a copy of Mathematica pre-installed. My plan entering college was to be either a math or a physics major (or possibly a history major, even entering college I was torn in multiple directions).

However that summer at Argonne National labs working with research physicists followed by the first quarters of university level phsics and calculus somewhat convinced me that my passion wasn’t fully in either field. I loved science and math, but I was also too interested in the humanities and too interested in being rooted in the reality of the world and other people (not that academic history is all that rooted either as I would also learn later). So early in my first year at the University of Chicago I changed my courseload considerably and started along the path to a history major, not a science major. Though it didn’t fully take for a few years (in part because I had a scholorship which I anted to keep for a year or two).

But getting back to the point of this trip into my past history of computer ownership.

In the past few months I have been reading once again at my historically common pace, a pace I haven’t been keeping up for much of the past few years. Historically since I learned to read (at a fairly young age) I have read multiple books a week, some weeks at nearly a book a day pace or even faster. As a child I would go to the library and return with a bulging backpack full of as many books as they would allow me to check out at one time, and before they were due back in a few weeks I would have read them all and on returning them would check out still more books. Or I would spend hard saved allowances or money from lemonade stands and holiday presents in the aisles of the local used bookstores where I grew to know the owners and even started my serious book collecting while still young and in high school (I entered high school at the age of 13 and graduated at the age of 16).

However for the past few years I have been reading more and more content online, reading a lot of individual articles and research papers offline (printed out) but fewer and fewer books for much of the past few years. This year, however, that has shifted.

Two years ago when I moved into my new apartment, connected up a new DSL connection and bought my iMac desktop I ended up owning a printer which though networkable is both no longer configured correctly for my internal network and doesn’t have a working driver for the Mac OS X. And I haven’t yet replaced it, instead I have managed to mostly live without printing out anything for the past few years. In turn this has, perhaps somewhat negatively, meant I no longer spend as much time printing out and reading academic papers, dissertations, and other long form articles.

And in the past few years my online habits have changed many times over. A few years ago I mostly read individual blogs directly at the blog sites, or I used Bloglines to skim a vast collection of blogs I had subscribed to – but which I was never caught up with. I switched to Google Reader which remains my primary means of reading most blogs.

A year ago when I bought my iPhone I started using my iPhone and the versions of Google Reader which were made for the iPhone to read my feeds, now I read more feeds via my iPhone than I do via my regular computer browsers.

What this means, most crucially, is that while I am keeping up with my much edited down collection of blogs I read plus the posts which some of my friends share via Google Reader, I am only rarely also seeing and reading the comments which form such a vital part of many blogs. I’ve also mostly stopped participating in online discussion forums, which for many years while I was in Chicago in particular, were a vital part of my online activity.

In recent months in addition to Twitter which I started using two SXSW’s ago, I have also to a lesser degree started using Friendfeed. There I do see more discussions, though I only dip into them myself and only very rarely does anything I share in my feed there spark a discussion (even spark a single “Like” or “Comment” at all).

And my blogging which had for a while now been mostly only here at this blog has bifarcated. I’ve been blogging for Centernetworks, for the Conversation Hub of SuperNova, at the MeshWalk blog for MeshForum, and at my new blog Slow Brand.

I no longer quite know how or where to define myself online, perhaps I should start using a service such as FriendFeed but even that doesn’t capture the multiplicity of my online identities or the many different ways I work, read and play online.

So all this is to say, what do you use as your workplaces today? Now I have shifted to my primary tool being my iPhone, my secondary tool my laptop, and my desktop though useful is my third option, though keeping my media libraries and the like in sync across my many devices is also increasingly difficult.

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, personal, reading, tablet pc, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »