Tag Archives: Nicholas Jackson

This Really Annoys People. Yes it Does. Oh Yes, It Does.

Farhad Manjoo at Slate:

Last month, Gawker published a series of messages that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had once written to a 19-year-old girl he’d become infatuated with. Gawker called the e-mails “creepy,” “lovesick,” and “stalkery”; I’d add overwrought, self-important, and dorky. (“Our intimacy seems like the memory of a strange dream to me,” went a typical line.) Still, given all we’ve heard about Assange’s puffed-up personality, the substance of his e-mail was pretty unsurprising. What really surprised me was his typography.

Here’s a fellow who’s been using computers since at least the mid-1980s, a guy whose globetrotting tech-wizardry has come to symbolize all that’s revolutionary about the digital age. Yet when he sits down to type, Julian Assange reverts to an antiquated habit that would not have been out of place in the secretarial pools of the 1950s: He uses two spaces after every period. Which—for the record—is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

Oh, Assange is by no means alone. Two-spacers are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste. You’d expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you’d be wrong; every third e-mail I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for “Dear Farhad,” my occasional tech-advice column, I’ve removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I’ve received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces. Some of my best friends are irredeemable two spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).

What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space “rule.” Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. “Who says two spaces is wrong?” they wanted to know.

Typographers, that’s who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.

Tom Lee:

I’m sorry, but no. It’s a lousy polemic. Here’s its structure:

  1. SEO-friendly statement of controversy
  2. Presentation of opinion A. Assertion that people who hold it are rubes.
  3. Presentation of opinion B. Invocation of authority.
  4. History lesson! Discussion of old technology; no mention of enforcement of author’s preferred orthodoxy by newer technology (e.g. HTML rendering multiple spaces as one)
  5. Rumination on beauty. Grecian urns, etc.

For now let’s ignore the ignore the bullying nature of this argument (it should be obvious to anyone that those of us who believe in two spaces are a minority that’s relentlessly and mercilessly persecuted by the bloodthirsty masses, both through jeremiads like Manjoo’s and through the technological eradication of our ability to express our beliefs). Which of the points in the above argument are rhetorically meaningful?

Only point 3 really carries any weight with me. I’ll take Manjoo’s word that all typographers like a single space between sentences. I’m actually pretty sympathetic to arguments from authority, being the big-state-loving paternalist that I am. But, with apologies to friends and colleagues of mine who care passionately about this stuff, I lost my patience with the typographically-obsessed community when they started trying to get me to pay attention to which sans-serif fonts were being used anachronistically on Mad Men.

I love you guys, but you’re crazy. On questions of aesthetic preference there’s no particular reason that normal people should listen to a bunch of geeky obsessives who spend orders of magnitude more time on these issues than average. It’s like how you probably shouldn’t listen to me when I tell you not to use .doc files or that you might want to consider a digital audio player with Ogg Vorbis support. I strongly believe those things, but even I know they’re pointless and arbitrary for everyone who doesn’t consider “Save As…” an opportunity for political action.

Nor should we assume that just because typographers believe earnestly in the single space that their belief is held entirely in good faith. They’re drunk on the awesome power of their proportional fonts, and sure of the cosmic import of the minuscule kerning decisions that it is their lonely duty to make. Of course they don’t want lowly typists exercising their opinions about letter spacing. Those people aren’t qualified to have opinions!

Shani O. Hilton:

I thought Manjoo’s argument was weak, for many of the reasons Tom mentions, but that doesn’t change facts. Here’s a little-known law of graphic design:

The number of people wishing to fit a document onto the same or fewer number of pages as a previous edition of said document, despite the new draft being longer than the previous edition, is directly proportional to the number of people who turn in said document to their graphic designer with double spaces after every period.

Okay, maybe I made that up. But real talk: Double spaces are bad.

Megan McArdle:

Let me just add: if you’re spending time worrying over whether my emails contain one or two spaces, you need to ask them to let you out of the asylum more often so you can pursue a more interesting hobby.  I double space after sentences because I learned to type on a manual typewriter, and it’s not worth the effort to retrain myself.  Even if typographers groan every time they open one of my missives.

Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic

Paul Waldman at Tapped:

As Manjoo explains, there are still teachers out there infecting students’ minds with the idea that they should put two spaces after a period. Why? Because that’s the way they learned. And I did too, when I took a typing class in 1985. But now we have computers, and fonts that use proportional spacing, which makes two spaces after a period look wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

We’re never going to maintain our global dominance if people keep doing this. You think that 10-year-old kid in Shanghai is being taught to put two spaces after a period? No way.

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You Can’t Spell “Assange” Without…

Sarah Ellison at Vanity Fair:

On the afternoon of November 1, 2010, Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks.org, marched with his lawyer into the London office of Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian. Assange was pallid and sweaty, his thin frame racked by a cough that had been plaguing him for weeks. He was also angry, and his message was simple: he would sue the newspaper if it went ahead and published stories based on the quarter of a million documents that he had handed over to The Guardian just three months earlier. The encounter was one among many twists and turns in the collaboration between WikiLeaks—a four-year-old nonprofit that accepts anonymous submissions of previously secret material and publishes them on its Web site—and some of the world’s most respected newspapers. The collaboration was unprecedented, and brought global attention to a cache of confidential documents—embarrassing when not disturbing—about American military and diplomatic activity around the world. But the partnership was also troubled from the start.

In Rusbridger’s office, Assange’s position was rife with ironies. An unwavering advocate of full, unfettered disclosure of primary-source material, Assange was now seeking to keep highly sensitive information from reaching a broader audience. He had become the victim of his own methods: someone at WikiLeaks, where there was no shortage of disgruntled volunteers, had leaked the last big segment of the documents, and they ended up at The Guardian in such a way that the paper was released from its previous agreement with Assange—that The Guardian would publish its stories only when Assange gave his permission. Enraged that he had lost control, Assange unleashed his threat, arguing that he owned the information and had a financial interest in how and when it was released.

Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic:

Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison has penned an extraordinary look into the relationship between Wikileaks and the traditional journalism outfits that have collaborated with it

Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic

Jack Shafer at Slate:

Julian Assange gives everybody headaches.

Not just the U.S. Department of State. Not just the Pentagon or Attorney General Eric Holder, who wants to indict Assange for something—anything. Not just Bank of America, which Assange has hinted will be the next to fall into his crosshairs. According to a Vanity Fair feature from the February 2011 issue, embargoed by the magazine until midnight, Jan. 5, the WikiLeaks founder has even been driving the news organizations he feeds absolutely nuts.

Assange bedevils the journalists who work with him because he refuses to conform to any of the roles they expect him to play. He acts like a leaking source when it suits him. He masquerades as publisher or newspaper syndicate when that’s advantageous. Like a PR agent, he manipulates news organizations to maximize publicity for his “clients,” or when moved to, he threatens to throw info-bombs like an agent provocateur. He’s a wily shape-shifter who won’t sit still, an unpredictable negotiator who is forever changing the terms of the deal.

“The Man Who Spilled the Secrets,” written by Sarah Ellison, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of War at the Wall Street Journal, also supplies a pocket history of the financially stressed, trust-supported Guardian. But the real meat is Assange’s relationship with the press, primarily the Guardian.

Assange started collaborating with the paper in 2010 after its star reporter, Nick Davies, convinced him that sharing raw data with a news organization would give the leaks greater visibility than merely publishing them on the WikiLeaks Web site. Once the Assange connection was made, the Guardian brought in the New York Times. Assange, flexing his proprietary rights, recruited Der Spiegel—“without consulting anyone at the Guardian or the Times,” Ellison writes—for the publication of the Afghanistan war leaks in July 2010.

The Der Spiegel deal ruffled the Guardian, as did Assange’s eventual inclusion of Britain’s Channel 4 TV network in the Afghan-files “consortium.” The Guardian‘s Davies felt so betrayed by Assange, Ellison reports, that the two have not spoken since.

Davies’ ire is only natural. All reporters become possessive of their sources. Even the most humble journalist will talk about his sources as if the individuals supplying information actually belong to him. These journalists grow furious when their sources work with other journalists. I’ve heard reporters speak with such intense pride about the sources they’ve cultivated that they make them sound like heirloom tomatoes that have been brought to vine-ripened perfection. More than anything, journalists expect a combination of trust and servility from their leakers.

Davies of the Guardian and others in the media seem to have misjudged Assange, thinking him just another source. Assange would probably slap you if you called him a “source” to his face. He calls himself a practitioner of “scientific journalism,” and while the label may be vainglorious, Assange isn’t completely loony. He has routinely published carefully collected, vital information on WikiLeaks.org. You can criticize the journalistic quality of his pages, but you can’t say they aren’t acts of journalism: They have steadily revealed unknown facts worth knowing.

Felix Salmon:

Instead, there seems to be something about Assange personally which sets people on edge and makes them dislike him intensely: his biggest fans are often those who have never met him or who have known him only for a very short amount of time.

That’s unfortunate, to say the least: it takes an issue which is messy to begin with and makes it a great deal messier. But at the same time, Assange has clearly been under an enormous deal of stress — and this is a man who once checked himself into hospital with depression after being charged with computer hacking in Australia. It’s easy to see how he wouldn’t have considered that to be an option in recent months.

My suspicion is that there’s something quite unstable and destructive about Assange’s current mental state and that there has been since before he was in Sweden. I hope his publishers have a lot of patience: getting his very expensive book into a publishable state could be a very arduous process indeed.

Henry Farrell:

Taken together, these suggest that Wikileaks-type phenomena are nowhere near as invulnerable to concerted state action as some of the more glib commentators have suggested. It needs money and proper organizational structures to work. The piece hints that the current version of Wikileaks – which seems an awkward amalgam of open source style volunteerism and personality cult – is on the brink of collapse. It also needs to be able to build and maintain connections with external organizations, both to get resources in, and to get information out. These present obvious vulnerabilities. They also suggest that it will be far more difficult to create a multitude of mini-Wikileaks than it appears at first sight. You need more than a secure connection and a website to make this model work. At a minimum, you need enough of an organization to be able to build and retain links with bigger media.

Finally, the most interesting consequence of Wikileaks is not that it has released much genuinely new information into the world (there are some consequential facts that were not widely known, but they are a relatively small part of the story). It is that it is redefining the boundary between facts that ‘everybody’ (for political elite values of ‘everybody’) knows but that are non-actionable in the public space, because they are not publicly confirmable, and facts that are both perceived as politically salient and confirmable, and hence are legitimate ‘news.’ Wikileaks means that many issues that are known are now also confirmably known, and confirmed as being known by the gatekeepers of public knowledge. I strongly suspect that this would not be true if Assange had not struck alliances with respected media organizations. The interesting action is precisely in the interaction between media organizations and organizations like Wikileaks, which are neither traditional sources nor media organizations themselves. This relationship is what will largely determine how the balance between ‘news’ and politically salient but non-actionable information shifts.

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Strawberry Alarm Clock

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic with the round-up.

John C. Dvorak at PC Magazine:

There was a big brouhaha over the weekend as the Apple iPhone alarm clock failed to work on both News Years day and January 2nd. Then the problem self-corrected on the third for some reason nobody bothered to explain.

I first found out about it on the 2nd when my podcasting partner, Adam Curry, was moaning about how the alarms didn’t work on his iPhone, and he didn’t get up on time to prep for the show we do on Sunday morning. I thought it was peculiar. Peculiar that people use the iPhone as an alarm clock!

Apparently, a lot of people use the iPhone as an alarm clock, adding more dubious usefulness to the device. I know that over the years, the mobile phone has essentially replaced the wrist watch. When people want to know the time they pull out their mobile phone and look at it. This has the added advantage of giving you the opportunity to check for important messages.

After all, we will die on the spot and be humiliated by the throngs of passersby if we are not up to the second with our messaging obligations. It’s gotten so bad that the evil phones are now at our bedsides to wake us up. Then when this questionable function fails, the world goes into a tizzy.

Ron Hogan at Popular Fidelity:

Weirdly enough, the glitch only affected one-time alarm settings, not recurring alarms.  Recurring alarms worked just fine.  Apple says that “customers can set recurring alarms for those dates and all alarms will work properly beginning January 3.”  Too little, too late.

Even worse, the glitch affected the newest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4G, and the most recent versions of iPhone software.  If you updated your iPhone and needed to get up this weekend for something, then you probably overslept.  Then again, if you have to get up for something, I recommend multiple alarm clocks, not just technological ones.

Charlie Sorrel and Brian X. Chen at Wired:

Apple spokesperson Natalie Harrison told Macworld that the the bug had been officially recognized, and would fix itself on Jan. 3.

“We’re aware of an issue related to non-repeating alarms set for Jan. 1 or 2,” Harrison said. “Customers can set recurring alarms for those dates and all alarms will work properly beginning Jan. 3.”

However, some iPhone customers in Asia and Europe said they were still experiencing alarm malfunctions as of Jan. 3, according to Reuters. Also, some U.S. customers said on Twitter this morning that their alarms weren’t working.

“This is why I missed the gym this morning,” tweeted Rik Nemanick, a Saint Louis resident.

Apple claims the alarm issue has only affected non-repeating alarms — meaning if your alarm is set to go off at the same time “every Monday,” for example, it should have worked today. However, for those who set a one-time alarm for this morning, some may have experienced the malfunction.

If you’re paranoid about sleeping in late, the quick fix for the issue is to set recurring alarms. To set repeating alarms, launch the Clock app, hit the + sign to create an alarm, then tap Repeat and choose the day(s) you want this alarm to go off regularly.

The alarm code in iOS seems to be pretty buggy. This latest problem follows a bug that caused alarms to sound an hour late when both Europe and the United States flipped over from daylight saving time at the end of the summer.

An unreliable alarm clock is a frivolous bug, but it’s particularly embarrassing for Apple, a company that prides itself for fine details of its products. Here’s hoping that Apple issues a complete rewrite of its clock app whenever it releases the next iPad or iPhone.

Ben Popken at The Consumerist:

On Jan 1 and 2 of 2011, tons of people overslept, not due to hangovers, but because of an iPhone glitch that made their alarms go off. For most people this was just an inconvenience, but for one couple it was disastrous. They missed a fertility treatment deadline.

Jodi writes:

My husband and I set the alarms on both of our iPhones to go off at 6:45am on January 1. We had a very important deadline to make that morning in regards to our scheduled fertility treatment. But we missed it. The alarms didn’t go off. Apparently (according to Google) they don’t work on January 1 or 2 of 2011. Wish we would’ve known this ahead of time. Thousands of dollars and a month of injections wasted. And no one to turn to for recourse.Jodi

Sent from my iPhone

My heart goes out to you and your husband, Jodi. That is devastating. I only hope that you have the resources and fortitude to be able to pick up the pieces and try again.You might say that they should have set multiple, non-iPhone alarms, but hindsight is 20/20 and that doesn’t remove the pain of their loss.

Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic:

Unwilling to wait for another day and hope that your alarm wakes you tomorrow morning as it once used to? There’s a quick fix. Download one of hundreds of free applications from the Apple Store and use that instead. Maybe you’ll even find that you like it better than the built-in alarm.

A couple of our favorites: Nightstand Central Free is ad-supported and only gives you a few options for the sound of your alarm, but it includes a weather report and works even when you leave the phone locked and in sleeping mode. iClock Free is another ad-supported application that includes a weather report next to the time display. Once you set an alarm using this application, it will go off on your iPhone or iPod even when you don’t have the application open. In addition, you can set the app so that a puzzle must be solved before the alarm will stop ringing; a smart bonus that will help to rouse even the deepest of sleepers

 

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