If you like to take the mystery out of things by putting them into a historical context have I got a book for you. The Battle for Christmas is not about the phrase "war on Christmas" and all of the BS that conjures. This book is about how Christmas evolved from a rowdy public festival into the more family-focused holiday people practice today. Nissenbaum also explores the origins of Christmas trees, Santa, and gift-giving. He supports his arguments with detailed historic documents and reading it feels like visting a familiar but alternate universe. I like to revisit this book every year around this time as my family cuts down a tree, hauls it inside, and puts shiny things on it.
For a lighter take on the history behind Christmas traditions check out Mark Forsyth's A Christmas Cornucopia. I'm a big fan of Forsyth's books about language (especially The Elements of Eloquence) and he brings his same humor and love of language to this topic.
Justin Kosslyn is addressing global security concerns at Google and here he argues that friction can be a positive force in technology. We tend to think of friction as something that should be removed from every aspect of our lives. (e.g. If we could only do our banking transactions faster than we could spend more time doing what we want.) Kosslyn argues, "It’s time to bring friction back. Friction buys time, and time reduces systemic risk. A disease cannot become an epidemic if patients are cured more quickly than the illness spreads." Ezra Klein at Vox ties this idea to the success of podcasting in The case for slowing everything down a bit: "I believe that one reason podcasts have exploded is that they carry so much friction: They’re long and messy, they often take weeks or months to produce, they’re hard to clip and share and skim — and as a result, they’re calmer, more human, more judicious, less crazy-making." Meanwhile, Farhad Manjoo signs off of his NYT technology column with a similar sentiment in How to Survive the Next Era of Tech (Slow Down and Be Mindful): "Adopt late. Slow down."
YouTube is ending its video annotations feature and Andy has rounded up a collection of some of the most innovative uses. It's a great reminder that people are endlessly inventive with any tools they have available to them. Even though most annotations are an annoying distraction, people did interesting things with them and we lose some of our history when companies remove content. Check them out within the next couple weeks—then they'll be gone.
The headline is a little alarmist, but this is a great explanation of some bitcoin scam code that someone placed into a popular node package. I agree that building businesses on top of volunteers is not sustainable and I hope the Node community can work on a solution. Reusing community code is a fast way to develop but you trade away some security.
They call it Cyber Monday. (But Tuesday's just as wired?) Why do we call anything internet-related cyber-? Oxford University Press describes the etymology as a mashup between cybernetics in the 40s and William Gibson's coinage cyberspace in the 80s. Interesting that it has the connotation of "steering" or "control". And here's some cybermusic for your cyberbackground as you cybershop with your newfound cyberknowledge. I propose we ditch the old fashioned cyber and call it Information Supermonday instead.
I've things you wouldn't . This article about emoji history on iOS is great. I remember downloading some sketchy app in 2008 just to unlock the hidden emoji keyboard. It's hard to remember how unusual it seemed to see pictures in the keyboard area. Many were hard to decipher and there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to them. The mystery made them compelling. Previous phones had built-in smileys but they weren't in wide use. I think the variety of emoji available made them something special that we're still enjoying incorporating into our language. Apple is missing something about their ambiguity by making emoji hyper-realistic, but they are pretty to look at on their high-resolution screens. I'm glad Emojipedia is keeping this history so past emoji won't be lost like in the .
On this Podcast Saturday I'd like to recommend another pillar of my podcasting pantheon. Minor television personality John Hodgman is in reality a prolific comedian and author. The conceit of his podcast is that he is a judge that settles the kinds of interpersonal disputes we all have with our friends and family. The show is that, but also a frequently touching reminder to be kind and thoughtful with others. It's part of the Maximum Fun network where you'll find many more great podcasts.
Good morning Newsletter Wednedsay fans! I have been a fan of Mule Design Studio since I lived in California eons ago walking around wearing this provocative shirt they designed. Their monthly-ish newsletter includes a handful of short posts from personal stories to global news. Sure it promotes their upcoming talks and books and events as well, but those things are good and you won't mind. This link is to their blog which I guess you could also subscribe to but this post is about their newsletter which you can sign up for at the very bottom. Your design mind will thank you.