Angry Robot

Did ‘Star Wars’ become a toy story? Producer Gary Kurtz looks back

Not a new article, but I was looking for a summary of the original plot of Return of the Jedi and this does the trick and has lots of other tidbits. Must remember to watch The People vs. George Lucas.

We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”

The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.

Foxes are incredibly shitty at mating

good to know. (via)

A History of Link Blogs

In this article, linkblogs are referred to as a “cancer”. A link post is described as “simple curation… generally featuring a blockquote from an interesting part of a piece, and then linking directly back to the source.” They are cancerous because they don’t carry the depth of regular weblog posts, but supplant the latter too often on too many sites. The author states they were pioneered by John Gruber of Daring Fireball.

So here’s what happened – I read that months ago, saw a couple other misunderstandings about the history of linkblogs (or linklogs), and thought I should write it up. I was blogging through that whole era, and I know what happened. But I decided to find sources for all of my vague remembrances, and that took a while, and then I got interested in drawing lines between early weblogs and current services like Tumblr and Twitter, and now it’s months later and here we are. A cursory yet mostly accurate trip down one leg of blogging’s dessicated spider-corpse!

It’s worth quoting at length from Rebecca Blood’s seminal post from 2000, weblogs: a history and perspective :

The original weblogs were link-driven sites. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links, commentary, and personal thoughts and essays. Weblogs could only be created by people who already knew how to make a website. A weblog editor had either taught herself to code HTML for fun, or, after working all day creating commercial websites, spent several off-work hours every day surfing the web and posting to her site. These were web enthusiasts.

Many current weblogs follow this original style. Their editors present links both to little-known corners of the web and to current news articles they feel are worthy of note. Such links are nearly always accompanied by the editor’s commentary… More skillful editors manage to convey all of these things in the sentence or two with which they introduce the link… Indeed, the format of the typical weblog, providing only a very short space in which to write an entry, encourages pithiness on the part of the writer; longer commentary is often given its own space as a separate essay.



Robot Wisdom circa 1999. All link posts.

So the first weblogs (such as Robot Wisdom) are exclusively link blogs, as the first bloggers were all web people and links were their currency. This changed, presumably because of the growth of user-friendly blog posting software such as Blogger) and Movable Type, which allowed non-web people to maintain weblogs – people who wanted to share things other than links.

Indeed, the limitations and biases of publishing software are a big reason why the medium evolved in certain ways. Blogger came out in 1999. The first Blogger interface did not have a title field, making it more suited to linklogs and shorter-form content. But they added a title field, and Movable Type (2001) had one by default, also categories, then tags, and more and more cruft and metadata. I seem to recall that in the blogging community there was a bit of fatigue with the old-style, link list weblogs, as they were the past – stale ground in a very fast-moving world. People were into exploring the new things that tech like Movable Type made possible: longer personal essay posts, yes, but also photoblogs, videoblogs, et cetera.

Many people maintained link logs still, but they became a side blog that was put in one’s sidebar along with the “blogroll” that listed one’s friends, idols, or reciprocal linkers. Consider in 2003 and the “remaindered links” section. This was often done on the backend as a separate weblog since the blogging software made it near-impossible to do it otherwise.



Kottke in 2003, with remaindered links to the side.

Delicious came out in 2003, and became the backend tech for a hell of a lot of sideblogs, as well as the precursor to a lot of web 2.0 technology to come that would gradually take over the function of weblogs by making things easy and adding social features: Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

John Gruber’s Daring Fireball debuted in 2002. The “linked list”, his version of the linklog, did not appear until 2004. It was a separate page and an RSS feed intended as a perk for his paid subscribers. At some point in 2005, it shifted to the main column of the site along with the regular posts.

In a huge development, here’s in november 2003, featuring “remaindered links” inline with regular blog posts and several other categories.

As the post explains :

Five types of content, one list. Each post type requires a unique “vocabulary” and a design/layout to go with that vocabulary. […]

By default, most current weblog software, including the package I use, doesn’t allow for different data for different post types displayed with different designs in the same list. Typically what people have done with their disparate data is to display them on separate pages or in separate locations on their site…so you need to visit the book page to see if there are any new book reviews or scroll down to check if they’ve added a new album to their “now playing” section.

To me, that seems not so optimal. A post is a post is a post. The newest content should appear at the top of the list of posts regardless of whether it’s a short movie review, one-line link, latest photo, or any other type of update to your site that doesn’t fit the typical title/text/category weblog paradigm and each type of content should displayed appropriately.

Setting this up was non-trivial, which explains why it was so rare:

What I’ve actually done is created 5 separate weblogs with MT and, using a bunch of MT plugins (MTSQL,Compare, MTAmazon, ExtraFields, etc.), have aggregated the 5 weblogs on the front page of the site. Which sounds complicated (and is!). But only in implementation (due to the limitations of the software). Really it’s just the appropriate data presented with the appropriate design(s) in the appropriate context(s). One site, lots of content, many ways to view it.

The observant reader will… observe that such a technical mess could be avoided by using Tumblr. Tumblr was a blogging platform based on a mutant category of blog called a tumblelog. It was almost exactly what Kottke was describing: a unified flow of posts of different types, with each type distinguished by a different design. The term was coined (by why of Ruby fame) in 2005, and Tumblr itself was launched in early 2007.



Projectionist, an early tumblelog.

Tumblr now has over 150 million users. Some consider link blogging a type of “microblogging”, and the boss of that world is Twitter, which launched in 2006 and now has 500 million users. It’s not the same thing as a linklog, but it is indeed a service used by many to exchange links, and is displayed in much the same way.



Twitter, structure wise, hearkens back to Robot Wisdom

Facebook, with its billion users, presents mixed links, posts, photos and other types of data units in a mixed stream, just as kottke started in 2003.



Facebook has a structure similar to 2003 Kottke and tumblelogs

That’s pretty much the evolution as I can trace it. If there were other sites that beat Kottke to the mixed-design unified stream format, the ur-tumblelog, I’d love to know of it, so let me know and I will update this post.

Into the Cave of Chile’s Witches

aka Island of the Witch Mob (via)

How Valve hires, how it fires, and how much it pays

Valve sounds basically like an anarchist company. (via)

The Making of Pulp Fiction

epic behind-the-scenes

Why I'm quitting Facebook – Douglas Rushkoff

“Facebook has never been merely a social platform. Rather, it exploits our social interactions the way a Tupperware party does.” (via)

Here’s my problem with quitting Facebook: if I were to do so, I would have to write a self-righteous Facebook post explaining why I were doing so, and maybe some of my friends would see it. If I didn’t, all my friends would see of my quitting was that I had de-friended them. They would discover this later, when they tried to send me a message or something.

There are Facebook apps that can auto-respond to messages and tell people you’re taking a break from the site and to email you directly, but I’m not sure how well they’re going to work.

Kelefa Sanneh: Reinventing a Great Scotch Distillery

Laphroaig is my favourite whiskey and after it, Bowmore. (via)

Eight Innovations In Urban Farming in the United States

Battle Academy on iPad outsells PC by 5 to 1

This is a $20 game. I have a feeling that never putting your game on sale is a pretty decent approach on the App Store (Minecraft has never been on sale, is a relatively expensive $7, and can often top the charts). But being a known quantity pre-app store debut undoubtedly helps.

On Google Glass

and the “participatory panopticon”:

  <blockquote>        <p>The participatory panopticon is a world where accusations can easily be documented, where corporations will become more transparent to stakeholders as a matter of course… It’s a world where we can all be witnesses with perfect recall. Ironically, it’s a world where trust is easy, because lying is hard.</p>  </blockquote>

The Magazine: now with full-article sharing, web subscriptions

Marco addresses one of my biggest problems with paid content: I can’t link to it on my blog. He’s doing a paywalled web version of The Magazine, which was previously iOS newsstand only.

Sony reveals the PlayStation 4 ahead of holiday 2013 launch

So here it is. Interesting game streaming from cloud to PS4 and from PS4 to Vita.

Heal Yourself, Skeletor


The 3D-printing pen

FADER Explains: Harlem Shake

last week I felt dumb for not knowing about this, but it only started the week before. Crazy InterNetLand. (via)

Education, not panic needed over coyote-wolf hybrids

coywolf?! I dunno, I’m calling for just a little bit of panic.

Letterboxd • Your life in film

this could be dangerous.

The dueling plans for the Downtown Relief Line

Both Metrolinx (provincial gov’t transportation arm) and City Hall are planning different DRLs. I’m not sure this is that big a problem, as different alignments should certainly be studied, and who’s paying for the thing is far from clear at this point. (via)

The Pirate Hacks Of Africa

“Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas”. Nuff said.

House of Cards, Netflix, long movies and short TV series

“when you remove the old model of having to produce six to 22 weekly episodes, many seasons don’t actually have a compelling reason to be six to 22 hours.”

The Apple iWatch


Most Facebook Users Have Taken a Break From the Site, Study Finds

“Only 12 percent said the site’s significance increased over the last year”. (via)

L.A. Noire gag reel is hilarious, used to show strengths of MotionScan

George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year

‘“Finally, in terms of money, I got it,” he wrote. “Money forestalled disgrace.” …. “The cumulative effect of an absence of wealth was the erosion of grace.”’