The Martian

At the urging of my dad I recently read Andy Weir’s The Martian. His recommendation was well deserved. It is a great book – not a great ‘sci-fi’ book, but a great book period. It’s a little geeky and a whole lot of human.

Lost on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney struggles for survival with limited resources and unlimited imagination. The character is sharp, funny, and witty. The book has an interesting narrative as most of the action is from report logs Watney is leaving after doing something. Watney tells you his plan and then in the next section tells you what happened. With every turn you’re left asking “Will he make it?” It’s a cliché description, but apt in this case – a total page turner.

Ridley Scott is making a film starring pretty much everyone in Hollywood. It looks great and, like the book, the technology is near-future and very believable. I can’t wait to see this one in theaters.

“My set is my office, because that’s where I work.”

Professional interviewer of current presidents, Hank Green, talks about legitimacy in media.

Walter Cronkite wasn’t representing a political ideology, or even discussing politics when my father watched the news as a teenager. He was discussing the news. Cable news today uses the residual legitimacy of that bygone era (that they are simultaneously destroying) to degrade the legitimacy of their political opponents.

Man, the ‘news’ is really crap isn’t it? I think younger people 1 – with easy access to information covering multiple viewpoints – have a lower tolerance for bullshit and a higher propensity to detecting it.

Hank talks about authenticity and honesty in his essay, elements that traditional news is lacking. That lack of trust is something that news 2 once had, but is sorely missing. Younger people are often labeled as cynics when we balk at the junk ‘news’ they’re throwing out. We’re considered disinterested or disconnected when we tell folks we don’t watch the 9 o’clock news. When in reality, we can see through their dishonesty and are insulted.

Will that trust and authenticity come back to traditional media? I say no. I think folks like Hank are the future of news creation. That’s what their audience wants (and expects). Folks with access to more information want honesty and trust in who is telling them the news.

You can watch the interview with the President on YouTube. Hank even shares a few thoughts about the experience on the vlogbrothers channel.

  1. I think people of any age can get information from multiple viewpoints and have an open mind, but habits are deeply embedded the older you become. I’m 33, and I sometimes have a hard time keeping an open mind about things. I fight against that fossilization.

  2. Journalism in general.

Oompf, Right in the Procrastination Button

A study from Stanford reports that heavy multi-taskers are worse at choosing which task to focus on. (“They are suckers for irrelevancy”, as Cliff Nass, one of the researchers put it.) Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.”

I fight with procrastination and focus every day. Clay Shirky lays out his reasons for removing laptops from the classroom. Mind you, Professor Shirky teaches “social and cultural effects of the internet and mobile phones”. The focus of his classes is technology, but it’s getting in the way!

Smart Albums for iPad Air Screenshots

A few years ago I wrote this tip on creating Smart Albums for your iPhone or iPad screenshots. I’m a big screenshot taker. I use them for keeping track of UI problems with projects I’m working on and even as a quick “note” to look into something later.

The problem is sorting the screenshots out from the rest of my 80 billion photos in my library. I use Aperture (yes, me and two other people) and created this Smart Album to sort out my screenshots from my iPad Air. You can probably adopt the logic for other devices as well.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 4.04.59 PM

Basically it looks for files that match all of the following:

  • Text starts with “IMG_” – standard filename prefix for iOS device screenshots.
  • Pixel height and width is between 1,536 and 2,048 – this allows for both portrait and landscape screenshots to be returned
  • Camera Model is empty – pretty much all of my other images are photos from cameras that record their model. iOS devices do not store a value for “Camera Model” in their EXIF data.
  • File Type is other – no RAW or jpegs showing up here!

If you have suggestions or modifications, please let me know in the comments below.

I asked several reporters, editors, and scholars what journalists should do to get ready for the next wave of firings. There were three strong consensus answers: first, get good at understanding and presenting data. Second, understand how social media can work as a newsroom tool. Third, get whatever newsroom experience you can working in teams, and in launching new things.


The intennable Clay Shirky on the “uncertain” future of print journalism. Spoiler alert: it’s not uncertain, it’s very certain.