phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Fall updates

It is starting to feel like Fall here in New York, and I am up to some new things since the last time I wrote here in January (!). By the way, those New Years resolutions? They are going terribly! So it goes.

The big news, if you hadn’t heard, is that I’ve left my job at the New Yorker magazine. I am still very proud of how the redesign turned out, and I learned a ton from my many amazing colleagues there, but after two years it just felt like time for me to move on. So I am back to freelancing, and feeling excited to work on some new things. And yes, I am looking for new clients, you should hire me!

In addition to freelancing, I’ve also started a fellowship at Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. I’m working with an awesome group of collaborators using telephony and wifi darknets as tools for gathering stories. I’ll be posting more about that here in the coming weeks.

Also, if you look around, you may notice I’ve updated my WordPress theme a bit. The underlying structure is very similar to what I had before, but I focused on a few key improvements:

  1. The page layout is now responsive, so it works better on very small and very large screens.
  2. Whenever possible, I’ve minimized my reliance on third-party tools (for example, I no longer use TypeKit for my header fonts).
  3. So long green and red, hello pink! I’ve also made it easy to change the color scheme in the future through the magic of Sass variables.
  4. Comments are gone! At least for now, maybe I’ll change my mind about that. I do love getting feedback about stuff I post on here, so drop me a line if you might have otherwise left a comment.

Of all the changes in this website update, the one I feel best about is cutting out the third-party tracking. I’ve noticed that YouTube embeds serve up a DoubleClick advertising tracker, just by loading a page with a video, which isn’t cool. Now video embeds only load on demand, after you’ve hit the play button (mobile visitors may need to tap two times). Naturally, you’ll still be tracked by Google if you play an embedded YouTube video, but otherwise the page shouldn’t leak data to any off-site parties.

Third-party trackers, before and after.
Third-party trackers, before and after. Mint is the one thing I kept around, but it’s hosted on my own server.

The bottom line is I am in control of what goes up on phiffer.org, which includes things like hidden advertising trackers. Now there is slightly less ambient surveillance around here. Plus the pages should load marginally faster!

Twelve years of phiffer.orgphiffer.org

Twelve years ago, on May 26th, I registered the domain phiffer.org. It started out as a kind of online sketchbook. The first thing I posted here was an experiment in direct manipulation of the page. The point was to surprise visitors with an unexpected opportunity to create something. It’s a very crude drawing interface, and a bit pointless, but I’m amazed that it still works (for the most part). Go web standards!

The site has gone through many permutations since then, but it’s still primarily my online sketchbook. I’ve adopted a fairly conventional weblog format, but I’m still interested in exploring that element of surprise. I’d still like to try out some new things here. More to come!

Link

Update: James reminded me of this box grid interface in the comments.

Making Radio Labwww.wnyc.org

From WNYC’s Radio Lab podcast:

In spring of 2006, Jad and Robert took the stage at the SoHo Apple Store to talk about the making of Radio Lab. Jad geeks out on the nitty-gritty of digital sound editing, and Robert discusses the editorial questions raised in creating imaginative soundscapes. Film-editor Walter Murch weighs in on the components of storytelling.

MP3 Link

Link

Haliburton patents frivolous patenting?appft1.uspto.gov

Filed in 2007, Patent Acquisition and Assertion by a (Non-Inventor) First Party Against a Second Party:

Methods for a first party to acquire and assert a patent property against a second party are disclosed. The methods include obtaining an equity interest in the patent property. The methods further include writing a claim within the scope of the patent property. The claim is written to cover a product of the second party where the product includes a secret aspect. The methods further include filing the claim with a patent office.

Alas, my prior art has been one-upped by a comically evil corporation.

Link via Doron

How To Speakisites.harvard.edu

Patrick Winston is a professor at Harvard who gave a great lecture on how to give a great lecture.

He emphasizes how to start a lecture, cycling in on the material, using verbal punctuation to indicate transitions, describing “near misses” that strengthen the intended concept, and asking questions. He also talks about using the blackboard, overhead projections, props, and “how to stop.”

I was reminded of this after seeing some 404 errors in my server logs to a podcast version of the videos I put together, but forgot to transfer to my new server. To download these into iTunes (and onto your video-enabled iPod), go to the Advanced menu, choose Subscribe to Podcast and enter: //phiffer.org/etc/how-to-speak.xml

Link (See also)

Lessig eats his own dog foodfixcongressfirst.org

Lawrence Lessig is primarily known for his Creative Commons project as well as books and masterful presentations on the same topic (the excellent free_culture presentation was my first exposure to his ideas).

More recently he’s been talking about reforming politics, about reforming Congress in particular. His argument is simple: money in Washington undermines our faith in democracy. It only makes sense, then, that he’s offered his supporters an opportunity to opt-out of those familiar MoveOn-style email fundraisers.

In this email, we’re doing something that no other advocacy group has ever done (or at least none we’ve heard of): We are giving you the opportunity to opt out of any email that asks for money — forever.

Not opt-out of emails altogether, just get rid of the “Donate Now” link at the bottom. From the special opt-out link:

Use the form below to opt out of future email appeals for financial contributions to Change Congress. We’ll still email to let you know about the latest news and opportunities to get involved in our work, but we’ll never ask you for money again.

Link

The second post

This is my second post here. That is, if you only count the longer-form stuff and ignore my prior attempts at blogging. I wrote a sufficient amount of explication in my first post, but I’m going to indulge just a bit longer with the meta blogging. I’ve been an enthusiastic blog reader for several years now and thought I’d look back at some other Second Posts of my long-time favorites. I’m hoping to ape these blogger-heros to the extent that I can.

(more…)

On patience

I’m writing this on a train somewhere between Oakland and Van Nuys on the Coast Starlight train line. It’s my first attempt at writing anything substantial in quite some time. I’m a little uncertain how this will go. But I don’t expect to finish today. That is, I don’t anticipate this writing exercise to reach some conclusive state, at least not right now. I plan on returning to this tomorrow, maybe later in the week. I’ll cut, paste and tinker with the wording until I’m happy. What’s the rush?

(more…)