I bellissimi computer di 50 anni fa

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I bellissimi computer di 50 anni fa

Docubyte ha fotografato computer come l’IBM 1401 e il Pilot ACE a cui lavorò anche Alan Turing — computer enormi di più di 50 anni fa insomma.

Pur non avendo il design di un iPhone o di uno dei Macbook odierni, c’è qualcosa di bellissimo in queste macchine.

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Abbiamo bisogno di più Firefox

EFF:

We need more Firefoxes.

We need more browsers that treat their users, rather than publishers, as their customers. It’s the natural cycle of concentration-disruption-renewal that has kept the Web vibrant for nearly 20 years (eons, in web-years).

We may never get another one, though.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), once the force for open standards that kept browsers from locking publishers to their proprietary capabilities, has changed its mission. Since 2013, the organization has provided a forum where today’s dominant browser companies and the dominant entertainment companies can collaborate on a system to let our browsers control our behavior, rather than the other way.

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Sul nuovo logo di Instagram

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Sul nuovo logo di Instagram

Tobias van Schneider:

The only thing that I personally don’t like — I’m not a big fan of the gradient, I do think the gradient is kind of obsolete. The gradient is the most generic thing about the whole branding piece. I’ve seen this gradient so many times and there’s nothing wrong in seeing a thing many times as long as it is not part of your core ingredients of your visual identity. The gradient isn’t really ownable. It isn’t really an ownable element and that’s what the problem is with the gradient.

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.blog

Automattic, l’azienda dietro WordPress, ha acquistato il dominio di primo livello .blog. Dal prossimo autunno inizieranno le registrazioni — dicono che i prezzi saranno in linea a quelli di altri domini di primo livello, e che saranno aperte a tutti (non servirà, ad esempio, avere un sito che risiede su WordPress.com per farne uso)

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Il problema di Facebook con le notizie

Si discute molto in questi giorni della sezione trending topics di Facebook, che a differenza del news feed — nel quale la priorità di una notizia rispetto a un’altra viene determinata da un algoritmo — ha delle persone dietro che scelgono a quali notizie dare rilevanza. Pare, stando alle dichiarazioni di uno dei giornalisti che lavora a Facebook, che il social network abbia optato più volte per censurare una notizia a supporto del partito conservatore in favore del partito democratico.

In realtà, trending topics è una sezione piccola di Facebook che vive nella sidebar del sito. Facebook può sì influenzare i suoi utenti scegliendo a quali notizie dare risalto, ma che sicuramente ha più impatto sulle loro idee e scelte politiche è il news feed — e il news feed ahimè ha un problema ben più grosso: ci mostra solo quello che ci dà ragione, contribuendo a una polarizzazione generale delle nostre opinioni. È editoriale ma meno esplicitamente: non ha un gruppo di persone dietro che ne curano il contenuto — come trending topics —, ma ha un algoritmo basato comunque su un principio: suggerirci cose che ci piacciono.

Come scrive Ben Thompson, è il news feed che rischia di fare un danno maggiore alla società:

This, then, is the deep irony of this controversy: Facebook is receiving a huge amount of criticism for allegedly biasing the news via the empowerment of a team of human curators to make editorial decisions, as opposed to relying on what was previously thought to be an algorithm; it is an algorithm, though — the algorithm that powers the News Feed, with the goal of driving engagement — that is arguably doing more damage to our politics than the most biased human editor ever could. The fact of the matter is that, on the part of Facebook people actually see — the News Feed, not Trending News — conservatives see conservative stories, and liberals see liberal ones; the middle of the road is as hard to find as a viable business model for journalism (these things are not disconnected).

La verità è che il problema risiede nella premessa di Facebook di essere neutrale: né l’algoritmo che determina cosa mostrarci nel news feed, né la sezione curata manualmente da un gruppo di giornalisti, lo sono. Entrambi sono editoriali — ed è il news feed, l’idea che solo quello che ci piace ed è in sintonia con le nostre opinioni debba interessarci — che dovrebbe preoccuparci maggiormente.

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Le emoji bianche si possono usare?

The Atlantic:

The folks I talked to before writing this story said it felt awkward to use an affirmatively white emoji; at a time when skin-tone modifiers are used to assert racial identity, proclaiming whiteness felt uncomfortably close to displaying “white pride,” with all the baggage of intolerance that carries. At the same time, they said, it feels like co-opting something that doesn’t exactly belong to white people—weren’t skin-tone modifiers designed so people of color would be represented online?

Last year, the hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, debated whether white people can use darker skin tones when sending emoji, or if that amounts to cultural appropriation.

Eli Schiff:

It was at this point that the troubling nature of the situation became more clear. It is not simply that it is problematic for whites to use the white emoji, but so too is it racist for them to use the brown shades and the yellow default. In sum, it is racist for whites to use any emoji.

There are two choices going forward: either white users should refrain from using emoji, or an alternative default must be drawn. Perhaps green, blue or purple would be an ideal choice as they don’t have racial connotations.

In effetti non ho mai considerato l’uso di un emoji che non fosse gialla. Come conseguenza — e anche per via del fatto che il giallo è stato adottato da serie TV come i Simpson — il colore di default del sistema finisce con il venire associato a sua volta ai bianchi — quasi a voler sottointendere che non hanno un colore.

Come sottolinea Eli, sarebbe stato possibile evitare questo problema optando per delle emoji blu o verdi come default. Scrive sempre il The Atlantic:

This seems to be the crux of the matter. White people don’t have to use racemoji or risk denying their identity; the default works fine. Perhaps the squeamishness on the part of whites has more to do with the acknowledgement that only white people hold this special privilege; to use the white emoji is to express a solidarity with people of color that does not exist.

So it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle. When white people opt out of racemoji in favor of the “default” yellow, those symbols become even more closely associated with whiteness—and the notion that white is the only raceless color.

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Cosa ne pensa Facebook dei giornalisti?

Gizmodo:

But if you really want to know what Facebook thinks of journalists and their craft, all you need to do is look at what happened when the company quietly assembled some to work on its secretive “trending news” project. The results aren’t pretty: According to five former members of Facebook’s trending news team—“news curators” as they’re known internally—Zuckerberg & Co. take a downright dim view of the industry and its talent. In interviews with Gizmodo, these former curators described grueling work conditions, humiliating treatment, and a secretive, imperious culture in which they were treated as disposable outsiders. After doing a tour in Facebook’s news trenches, almost all of them came to believe that they were there not to work, but to serve as training modules for Facebook’s algorithm.

Pare che utilizziamo meno Facebook per le cose personali, o meglio: le cose personali si sono spostate da Facebook — un luogo pubblico dove, data la massa d’utenti, è quasi impossibile prevedere la reazione degli utenti a un post — a Messenger — un po’ più appartato e sicuro. Di conseguenza, mentre Facebook migliora Messenger, tenta anche di cambiare lo scopo del news feed incentrandolo più sulle notizie e sull’attualità che sulla nostra cerchia d’amicizie.

L’articolo di Gizmodo descrive come le notizie proposte vengono selezionate, ricordandoci ancora una volta di una cosa ovvia: non esiste un algoritmo neutrale — ma a Facebook, così come a Twitter e agli altri aggregatori di contenuti, piace farci credere che il loro lo sia.

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Come disegnare un’interfaccia — nel 1987

Le Human Interface Guidelines sono delle linee guida scritte da Apple che spiegano come deve essere l’interfaccia di un’app per iOS o Mac — affinché risulti usabile e abbia una buona UX.

Bryant Hodson ha postato su Medium alcuni estratti dalle Human Interface Guidelines del 1987:

People appreciate visual effects, such as animation, that show that a requested action is being carried out. This is why, when a window is closed, it appears to shrink into a folder or icon. Visual Effects can also add entertainment and excitement to programs that might otherwise seem dull. Why shouldn’t using a computer be fun?

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Confezionare un prodotto per l’Apple Store

Marc Barros, il fondatore di Moment Lens, descrive le precide guideline che la scatola di un prodotto deve rispettare, se vuole finire fra le mensole di un Apple Store:

Moment had to work within Apple’s color spec, the majority of the box had to be white, and the product itself had to “be the primary focus of the package.” (Yes, those guidelines are strongly reminiscent of the company’s own white boxes that just read “iPhone” or “iPad.”)

“In traditional packaging, the front of the box would be about selling the “why”—why would you want this thing,” Barros says. “But to Apple it’s about the ‘what.’ The front of the box says ‘Mobile Photography Kit.'”

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Come trovare l’iPhone al buio, con l’Apple Watch

Nella prima schermata di Glances dell’Apple Watch — quella con vari bottoni, per attivare/disattivare bluetooth, modalità aereo, audio, etc. — c’è un bottone per far squillare l’iPhone, utile per ritrovarlo quando non si riesce a capire dove lo si è lasciato.

Mac Kung Fu ha un piccolo tip: tenendolo premuto si attiva il flash dell’iPhone, in modo da rendere la ricerca ancora più facile.

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Il feed cronologico sta morendo

La cascata d’informazione non filtrata e ordinata cronologicamente a cui ci ha abituato Twitter, Instagr.am, i blog prima e Facebook poi è un modo sempre più inefficace di processare e organizzare l’informazione online, scrive Casey Johnston:

The feed arose as a simple way to take advantage of the new possibilities of the web. How should information be sorted when it’s being created continually, and not in packaged issues or editions? Early on, putting content in a long list according to the time it was posted made the most sense. It’s the easiest way to organize anything, ever: You just make a pile, and the oldest stuff is at the bottom. It was a perfect paradigm for social networks: It’s transparent, so you don’t need to explain to your users how it works. It fits nicely on a smartphone. Best of all, it encourages people to constantly refresh, which reads as a certain kind of engagement.

Unfortunately, chronological order doesn’t scale well. Once a medium or platform has had its here-comes-everyone moment, the stuff you actually want to see gets buried in an undifferentiated stream — imagine a library organized chronologically, or even the morning edition of a newspaper. People are doing too many things and they are happening all at once, and the once-coherent experience of people using a platform unravels into noise.

Nel momento in cui un servizio raggiunge un numero considerevole di utenti, il rumore diventa troppo forte e non solo si fa fatica a tenersi aggiornati ma si fa anche fatica a capire con chi si ha a che fare — con chi si sta comunicando:

And, as it turns out, the same neutrality and transparency that made time-based sorting so appealing can be a particular liability for social media. It’s an established fact of social media services that, once they reach enough size that the potential audience for a post becomes nebulous, people shy from posting on them, because they can’t predict what reaction they’ll get. This — called “context collapse” — is why we’ve seen group messaging services boom as broader social media ones have flattened; in your Slack or HipChat or GroupMe, you know how your friends or family will react to a link you post. On an open and unfiltered social media feed, the outcome of posting to a public is far too unpredictable.

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Quitter: un’app per chiudere le applicazioni inattive

Applicazione

Quitter: un’app per chiudere le applicazioni inattive

Marco Arment ha rilasciato un’app gratuita, per Mac (la sua prima app per Mac), che permette di dare una scadenza alle applicazioni inattive. Utile per chiudere Twitter, Slack o Spotify in automatico dopo alcuni minuti di inattività.

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Cos’è successo a Google Maps?

Justin O’Beirne ha notato che la cartografia di Google Maps è cambiata notevolmente negli ultimi anni: le strade si sono fatte più prominenti, mentre molte delle città un tempo segnalate sono sparite dalle mappe.

Mettendo a confronto due mappe dell’area di New York, una del 2010 e una del 2016, si nota come la prima ponga un’enfasi sui nodi (le città) e di come la seconda, invece, si concentri più sulla rete (le strade):

Nessuna delle due, però, è particolarmente usabile o utile. Se vi capitasse di perdervi nell’area è probabile che anche quella del 2016 non vi servirebbe a molto: riporta i nomi di solo 8 città, contro la prima che ne segnala segnala 46.

Il cambiamento è avvenuto probabilmente a causa dello smartphone — della necessità di rendere la mappa leggibile anche su schermi piccoli. Scrive Justin:

Given these trends, it’s likely that Google Maps was optimized for mobile — and this explains some of the changes we observed earlier.

Unfortunately, these “optimizations” only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances already in the maps. As is often the case with cartography: less isn’t more. Less is just less. And that’s certainly the case here.

Google should add some of the cities back to its maps, and the maps would be better and more balanced.

I hope that they do.

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In memoria di Google Reader

Silvia Killingsworth:

There was a time (2007) when I had hope for this Internet. There was once a humane way to sift through the day’s news that wasn’t just standing under a faucet of opinions and viral pixels that get stuck to you and then you have to pass them on like germs because you are just a vector. It’s like if, instead of reading the newspaper (haha paper) of your choice, your neighbors and frenemies just shouted whatever they thought was newsworthy in your general direction, UNSOLICITED.

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Il problema principale dei giornali

Your problem is that you make shit. A lot of shit. Cheap shit. And no one cares about you or your cheap shit. And an increasingly aware, connected, and mutable audience is onto your cheap shit. They don’t want your cheap shit. They want the good shit. And they will go to find it somewhere. Hell, they’ll even pay for it.

The truth is that the best and most important things the media (let’s say specifically the news media) has ever made were not made to reach the most people — they were made to reach the right people. Because human beings exist, and we are not content consumption machines. What will save the media industry — or at least the part worth saving — is when we start making Real Things for people again, instead of programming for algorithms or New Things. Joshua Topolsky

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Invece di posizionarsi come social network, Twitter dovrebbe puntare di più sull’API

Dave Winer:

S3 set the pattern for all the subsequent AWS services. And they’re delivered so many, filling almost all the niches you could imagine, sometimes with multiple products. But the one niche they have never attempted to fill is what Twitter does. Real-time Internet-scale notification with an easy to understand user interface. Turns out this is one of the big things that was missing from the Internet itself. […]

Because there is no web service that does what Twitter does, yet — it’s not too late for Twitter to open up another business model. I think it would totally kick ass. We need it. And I think they’d quickly forget that Twitter was ever going to be, exclusively, an advertising-based system.

Nel momento in cui Twitter ha ristretto le API è diventato meno interessante e promettente. C’è ancora tempo per invertire la rotta, invece di ridursi nell’ennesimo social network e alternativa a Facebook.

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Unicode passa troppo tempo a pensare alle emoji?

BuzzFeed:

Ultimately, Unicode’s Emojigeddon boils down to a few essential questions: Are emojis a language? And if not, what exactly are they? Why are their regulation and evolution overseen by a bunch of language nerds and engineers? Typographers, linguists, and text-encoding experts including Unicode’s president generally agree that the character set does not rise to the standards of an emerging language.

“People have strategies for stringing them together, of course, and deriving greater meaning — everyone knows eggplant is an erection and people sext with the vegetables, but that does not make it a substitute for language,” Everson said.

But for others, emojis’ ubiquity makes the character set a meaningful mode of expression that transcends traditional linguistic barriers — vegetable sexting included — and is quite the opposite of a dumbed-down “cartoon.” Language or not, they argue, when millions of people zealously adopt a new, authentic way to communicate, it becomes important whether Everson, Unicode, or any linguist, typographer, or academic agrees.

C’è una questione interna al consorzio Unicode — l’entità che si occupa di codificare i caratteri dei vari alfabeti del mondo. Compito di Unicode è di far sì che anche lingue sconosciute o morte siano rappresentabili in codice, assegnando a ciascun carattere un codice univoco. Unicode è anche l’entità che si occupa delle emoji, e la questione è questa: le emoji sono un linguaggio?

Secondo alcuni contributori storici le emoji stanno distogliendo l’attenzione del consorzio da alfabeti e caratteri meno conosciuti ma comunque importanti — per chi ha a che fare con manoscritti o testi antichi, o per chi usa un alfabeto poco conosciuto o popolare ma comunque parte della propria cultura. Unicode garantisce che anche queste persone possano scrivere e fare uso, su un computer, della propria lingua.

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I camion che si guidano da soli stanno per arrivare, e automatizzeranno milioni di posti di lavoro

Techcrunch:

Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren’t the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks.

Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.

L’incentivo economico di un camion che si guida da solo è troppo alto perché non succeda. Oltretutto mentre costruire un’auto in grado di districarsi fra le strade intricate e trafficate di una città è complesso, muoversi in autostrada, fra le città, è una questione più semplice — accadrà molto prima.

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Fuga dalla realtà

If I had to summarize it, it’s this: Our phone puts a new choice on life’s menu, in any moment, that’s “sweeter” than reality. If, at any moment, reality gets dull or boring, our phone offers something more pleasurable, more productive and even more educational than whatever reality gives us.

But it also changes us on the inside. We grow less and less patient for reality as it is, especially when it’s boring or uncomfortable. We come to expect more from the world, more rapidly. And because reality can’t live up to our expectations, it reinforces how often we want to turn to our screens. A self-reinforcing feedback loop. Tristan Harris

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Il giornalismo deve sorvegliare gli algoritmi?

Columbia Journalism Review:

Algorithmic accountability builds on the existing body of law and policy aimed at combatting discrimination in housing, employment, admissions, and the like, and applies the notion of disparate impact, which looks at the impact of a policy on protected classes rather than its intention. What that means for algorithms is that it doesn’t have to be intentionally racist to have racist consequences.

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