It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Friday, December 14, 2012

long form, short form, and communications frameworks for the Internet

And if you’re still reading after that title, carry on!

This is a port/cross-post of something I wrote for my friends on FB, but I want to share it with all the people I know and don’t know over on Twitter and on my blog.  This isn’t a pro/con XYZ topic, it’s about how I see the world as long complex conversations.  Because I see the world this way I really suck at not looking like an idiot on Twitter, forget not pissing off my friends in the process.

—cut here—

Over in the BBS and USENET worlds we had ideas like conferences, groups, and topic and discussion threads. Today I see a lot of “why don’t we discuss XYZ?!?” and I think, “but we do. There’s an XYZ conference and at least three or four ban/support XYZ topics in conferences like Current Events, Politics, and Today’s News. We’ve been talking about this weekly, if not daily, for the past 20-something years. Yes, some of us are tired of hearing the conversation on legalizing XYZ or making it a felony, but it’s there if you want to join.”

On Facebook there is no place where those sorted discussions happen, have a specific context, and are archived for future reading. I can’t easily say, “last year Bob and Alice had a big argument about this topic and did a bunch of research. If you start reading at Ban XYZ 2011 around post 37 you’ll see links to all the .gov sites that contain the stats.” Likewise, if I don’t care about professional sports, I can’t just unsubscribe from ProSportsTalk and have all that discussion removed from my feed.  Go talk about football or baseball, have fun, I just won’t wade through it all every day.

Over on Twitter the posts are so short that it’s hard to get past posting URLs, simple statements of fact, opinion, or belief. Hell, that sentence probably wouldn’t fit on Twitter, much less something like this with paragraphs and quotes and such. There’s going to be no real discussion on Twitter as a result, and long-winded people like me end up sounding like idiots more often than not by trying to take a post (like this) and sum it up in 140 characters or less. Which is also to say, I’ll go back to using Twitter to post URLs for the public and not much else.

Where this all really breaks down is that emotionally charged events, from politics to crime to natural disaster can be hard to actually discuss in these forums. Chris Rapier and Fawn Fitter both started some, well, adult conversations on Facebook, especially compared to what is impossible to easily filter out on Twitter and that I refer to as “yelling”. So if you draw a line from Twitter to Facebook then keep going you get to the sort of conversational forums that I’d like to see more of. Yes, there’s lots of topic-specific websites these days and I do use them, but I’m not personally friends with people on those forums as I am on Facebook.

This lack of discussion context makes it hard to be relaxed about some classifications of posts, especially on various sides of a topic. On a more complex conferencing system than Facebook or Twitter, if XYZ is a crazy new diet we can make jokes about it over in the DarkHumor area and have a serious discussion about nutrition over in HealthEating.  In the same way, there’s no  conveient regional topics on Facebook  for all of your favorite local restaurants there that I can avoid until a few days before my next visit to your town when I want to scope out where I’m going to eat.  Right now I probably don’t care very much about the best seafood where you live, but a week before I visit I want a core dump of restaurant info.

So why is all this important? (And why are you still reading?) I think that for some of us, our Facebook and Twitter friend/follow lists are kept short, local, and relevant.  I don’t think I’m friends with many people on Facebook that I wouldn’t go have a cocktail with after work, ride motorcycles, hack a 3d printer, or otherwise do fun, “real world” things. For those friends and I there will often be disagreements over politics, religion, or just sheer boredom with someone’s hobby. (NO really jet, shut up about lasers and 3d printers. I know, I know.)

I just made up the name “unintentional tension” for this. There’s probably a better psych term I could use, but at the end of the day, the difficulty in classifying our posts and finding ones from others leads to a lot of us having to skip things we just don’t want to read. I do want to read about your bicycle collection but I DGAS about quilting, and if we were chatting about something in person you’d probably skip the quilting just as I’d skip what is to you annoyingly dull trivia about how lathes worked in the 1950s under belt power.


So, I really am sorry if I’ve pissed you off or hurt your feelings on probably any subject I’m passionate about, you’re bored with, or the other way around.  I’ve been in online conversations since the 80s, starting with the BBS then moving to USENET and later to The WeLL and Twitter and Facebook.  For the most part, I don’t participate in these forums to  poke reactions out of people, pick fights, or convert you to whatever OS I prefer.  If we’re really friends in the so-called “real world” I’d like to keep it that way.

This entry is an example of why I suck at Twitter and barely pass over on Facebook.  Some write comic strips, others write songs, a few write poems, a few more write books, but some us write a never-ending journal.  Maybe it’s because I’m from the south or read too much Burroughs and Pynchon in college; but these dialogs, the long, complex, and sometimes tedious or boring is simply how I see and understand the world.

posted by jet at 22:04  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

head bumps and reading skills

One of the things the docs warned me about in rehab was that post bonking my head I might perceive reality a bit differently than before. I’ve noticed a few minor kinetic bits here and there, but they’re mostly related to two weeks of being in bed and losing some of my muscles. (I can play catch and walk backwards already, not sure I could do that before the fall…)

However, after bonking my head in the basement I also found the latest Jameco catalog, and something about it just isn’t right.

posted by jet at 17:39  

Friday, October 28, 2011

why have a 3d printer, redux

Awhile back I made a simple stand for the NookColor (that I posted to thingiverse) and sometime in the past few months I apparently lost it, as I can’t find it now.

I discovered this while getting ready to assemble my Mk.7 Stepstruder and realized I could print another pair out faster than I could dig through the entire house looking for the first set I printed.

Which makes me wonder — why can’t I do this when I can’t find the cap for my pen or some random generic plastic part for a battery pack? If it’s easier to print one out than find it, what happens when I find the one that I lost? Toss the one I printed in the Imaginary ABS Recycling Bin?

posted by jet at 22:30  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So why would someone own a laser cutter?

I asked a similar question almost a year ago, Why would someone own a 3d printer?.

Is the answer different? In my limited experience, yes. You can make a lot of useful things with a laser cutter, but it’s not as trivial to own as a 3d printer. To begin with, the laser cutter is far more dangerous to operate than a 3D printer. Most of us think of cheap red laser pointers when we think “laser”, but those a far cry from a Class IV “cutting” laser that can sever a finger or permanently blind you.

Oh, and it’s invisible. An invisible laser that can permanently maim or kill you. Thus the various safety interlocks that prevent the machine from operating when the door is open, just like a microwave oven.

That being said, I think laser cutters are in the same class as “professional” 3d printers used in manufacturing. It’s probably not something you would own as much as something the local co-op or library or commercial printing shop would own, maintain, and use for you. When you need a stack of flyers printed and go to the local print shop, they run the machine for you, it’s not going to be much different than that.

The other issue is finding a place to use it safely. Laser cutters are safe to operate in self-test/alignment mode, but as soon as you start cutting and etching you run into the problem of toxic fumes.

Most of the media I’ve seen go through a laser cutter has been acrylic, polycarb, and other plastics — all of which generate some seriously nasty fumes when they are etched or cut. My experience is that the warnings in the Plexiglass(r) MSDS are %100 correct. Not only do you need space for a laser cutter, you need an exhaust fan that can move a lot of air outside very quickly. (The commercial Epilogs I’ve used had fans that were loud enough to drown out normal conversation, I don’t know who specified them so they might have been overkill.) Cutting / etching wood has similar problems — lots of smoke from the wood and whatever byproducts come from burning the glue if you’re cutting plywood. Paper’s not really a problem, and cutting PVC and some other materials will actually destroy the lens so those aren’t cut in the first place.  [Edit: When laser cut, PVC releases free chlorine gas which combines with atmospheric oxygen to form hydrochloric acid which is bad for the mechanicals.  I suppose If you had a laser cutter filled with an inert gas it only be a matter of safely disposing of the exhaust gases.]

So going back to the original question, I think the answer for now is “because they can”. If you have the space (a big garage or a studio/hackerspace) and time (I’ve got 50+ hours into my lasersaur build) it’s certainly an experiment worth trying.

posted by jet at 12:16  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

late night design du jour — kinect tripod adaptor

I was going to cut an adaptor plate out of aluminum, but my pal Golan challenged me to do something on a Makerbot/Reprap that used as few non-printed parts as possible.

Final version requires one non-printed part, a 1/4-20tpi jam nut:
3D printable Kinect Tripod Adaptor

(If you have a high-quality printer, you could print a threaded insert.)

posted by jet at 22:13  
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