over 7 years on 2010-06-03

[LETTER] WEEK IN REVIEW: MEDIUM AS MESSAGE, DORMS, CONEY ISLAND, VENTER


1. the medium is the message, our college photo book:this weekend at my fifth college reunion my "blockmate" ed rawlinson presented a gift he had been promising since 2005... he created and had printed a photo book compilation of our four years. the book was wonderful, it brought back tons of memories, but it also was a very clear demonstration of just how true it is that the "medium" is always the message.

the story told through the printed photos was clearly "r-rated" but knowing the body of potential material from which ed was choosing, he clearly avoided publishing the "x-rated" version. the book wasn't the 'truth' of our four years, it was the 'truth' of our four years relative to the medium of a printed book that can sit on a bookshelf.

to be clear, the book version of our four year history went far beyond what any of us would want on facebook, and clearly crossed the line of what we would someday want our kids to leaf through, but it wasn't anything we would be terribly upset having girlfriends or parents thub through with a forgiving eye.

it yet again reiterated for me that you are always writing with an audience in mind - the "truth" of anything is always relative.

2. on college dorms: at my 5th reunion we stayed back in the college dorms. on my hallway i was once again living for a few days with a set of my closest friends. after five years living in nyc, it was an amazing reminder of just how much incremental density matters.

to explain, i am a huge believer in manhattan because the intense density of the city coupled with the fast subway system means you are no more than 10 min away from exceedingly high bandwidth face to face connection with millions of other people. manhattan is a massive human co-location facility, subway stations are switches, subway tunnels are fiber.

living back in college dorms reminds me of the huge advantage of not just being in the same co-lo facility, but sitting in the same rack as the other people i like and want to spend time with. i am not sure exactly what the correct metric of time/space upon which to draw, but i find the incremental density absurdly valuable, and it threw into stark contrast for me even more why i learned so much and had so much fun in college. i would absolutely love to live in dorms again, and i would kill for a communal dining hall.

3. on coney island, soho house, and population distribution: on monday i took the f train to coney island to do some people watching - which is a particular zoo on memorial day - and then back to soho house (i get a real kick out of the fact that both summer lounging spots are on the same train). i was fascinated by the distribution of people on the beach and at soho house... (see #2)

at coney island, the human density on the part of the beach closest to the subway is mind-blowing. you see a sea of closely packed humans, you can't even see the sand. however, if you walk even 5 min away from that closest beach, it is still crowded, but resembles a much more reasonable miami city beach. the same is true of bathroom lines. why is the clumping so intense?

1. people actually get value out of the density. they don't want free space, they actively want to be closely clumped together.
2. people assign a very high cost with 5 min of walking. they want free space, but it is too expensive to get so they settle.
3. people don't know that there is open beach 5 min away. it is an information problem.
4. people are just not rational

i especially liked going directly from coney island to soho house and witnessing a similar phenomenon. the density of human beings on the soho house roof was *almost* as intense as it was at coney island, and none of them were swimming - so they weren't there for the pool. clearly in the case of soho house we are talking #1, people get value out of the density, even if it means they can't get a good deck chair.

4. letter.ly reactions: have been interesting so far. i am surprised how many people have been excited by the concept of selling a newsletter of their own. also, it is interesting to listen to people asking for different things. some people want embedded marketing, others want writing samples, reviews, etc. my view is that those things are best accomplished by other vertical platforms in an open web (like facebook 'likes', twitter reputation, etc.).

the core reaction which i believe makes a lot of sense so far is that the reputation of a person is different from the reputation of a newsletter they write -- how much are they investing in it/etc. i will try some light changes to fix that.

5. other blips:

zumba: my dad has been telling me what a big deal it is for a year. i met an instructor in cambridge. check out the company, it is a big deal which has indeed been totally under my radar.

sensor nets: hp is investing in them like crazy so it seems. smart move. another technology we have been talking about for decades that i think isn't too far away anymore, we just need better battery power.

craig venter creates life: how is there not more coverage of this? it is the most important thing that has happened yet this year. it is in some ways terrifying - i don't see how turning 'viral engineering' into a biological metaphor can possibly end well - but this is the world we will be playing in, and no question we are going to be playing with a lot of environmental leverage.

i am likely going to up the frequency on my writing and cut down on the 'week in review' style. let me know what you think


original swl blogposts and letters 2007-2010