Justin Duke

Simply put

Chris Eidhof tweeted a good thing:

One of the replies to the tweet was also very good:

This reminds me of a lesson learned back when I was an English major 1.

I’d turn in papers filled littered with clearly and obviously binding a piece of evidence and a conclusion, like:

Obviously, Shelley’s ending for the Creature — like much of the action prior — mirrors the fall of Satan as depicted by Milton. The passage by which Viktor remarks, “the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil”, is an homage to Paradise Lost (and clearly, by extension, the greater English canon, and the way by which author’s literary creations assume lives of their own, for good or for ill.)

Each time I did that, my professor would correctly point out:

We use words like “obviously” to point out things that are not necessarily obvious; we use words like “clearly” in absence of a better way to provide clarity.

Those little bridge words don’t just belittle (and, on occasion, befuddle) your reader: they are bad prose and betray your lack of mastery of a subject. The next time you find yourself writing “simply”, ask yourself: is it that simple? Or are you just trying to will simplicity into existence?

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"We're just ordinary and forever"

Everyone is rightfully super pumped about 17776, the newest project by Jon Bois.

It’s awesome to see Bois get wider recognition. His work on the Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles, Breaking Madden, and other things have been plumbing the depths of absurdist storytelling for a few years now, but this is his most ambitious project, and it’s kind of amazing to watch him get linked by a bunch of media and tech guys. 1

And, to talk briefly about the actual content of the piece: it’s halfway-ish published at this point, and it’s really really great. It jumps from the aesthetics of lunchables to a Vonnegut-esque humanity of machines to the quiet crises of immortality in a way that is totally dextrous and entertaining.

Emma Phipps has a good take on its place in the landscape of Internet Content:

Because, on its surface, 17776 is bad content. It’s weird, it’s long, it demands attention. It’s not skimmable. In the age of virality, this is the kind of that would probably get laughed out of most pitch meetings, if anyone even had the courage to bring it up in a pitch meeting. Going purely off of the established rules of Good Internet Content, this should not even exist.

This is a valuable idea to mine: that the same media economy that justifies the existence of something as value-neutral as The Ringer can also allow the existence of this. 2

But mostly, I’m just happy that something so brazenly weird exists, that I can be still so surprised and delighted by something in form and content, and that everyone else is taking to it so warmly too.

As the deluge of content swells and swells, a question I keep coming back to is “will I remember anything about this book/blog post/podcast/album/game/show in a month? In a year? Does it have any lasting value?”

I don’t see myself forgetting about 17776.

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Someone who's still on the dock

Michael Crichton, as quoted in The Art of Editing, ostensibly talks about editing but really talks about a great many other things:

In my experience of writing, you generally start out with some overall idea that you can see fairly clearly, as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore. All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room and, you have to assume, the ship’s exterior. What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the dock, who can say, Hi, I’m looking at your ship, and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.

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Long before wisdom

I am loathe to applaud venture capitalists for saying sensible things, but Mark Cuban said some very sensible things on Twitter (and was quoted in this relevant Quartz story):

I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. [You need] someone who is more of a freer thinker.

And, in the tweet itself:

Artficial intelligence will write programs long before they create wisdom.

Steinbeck once wrote that I guess the trouble [with socialism] was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist.

Similarly, I think most STEM majors — or at least most programmers — think of themselves less as self-admitted truck drivers who drive a different genre of truck and more as practitioners of something that approaches philosophy.

I don’t think AI is as close as a lot of people think it is; but I don’t think it’s as far away as a lot of people think it is, either.

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