The Sunday Post for February 21, 2016

The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

The extraordinarily nutso piece by Elspeth Reeve that everybody was talking about this week.

Each social media network creates a particular kind of teenage star: Those blessed with early-onset hotness are drawn to YouTube, the fashionable and seemingly wealthy post to Instagram, the most charismatic actors, dancers, and comedians thrive on Vine. On Facebook, every link you share and photo you post is a statement of your identity. Tumblr is the social network that, based on my reporting, is seen by teens as the most uncool. A telling post from 2014: “I picked joining Tumblr and staying active on here because: 1. I’m not attractive enough to be a Youtuber 2. Not popular enough for twitter 3. Facebook is dumb.” You don’t tell people your Tumblr URL, you aren’t logging the banalities of your day—you aren’t even you. On Tumblr, you can revel in anonymity, say whatever you want without fear of it going on your permanent record. You can start as many Tumblrs as you like, one for each slice of your personality, whether that’s gymnastics fandom (how I got into Tumblr) or Barack Obama-Harry Styles slashfic (it exists) or akoisexual identity (when your feelings of sexual attraction fade once they’re reciprocated). A Tumblr staffer pointed me to a blog called Dolph Lundgren & His Action Nips, which is just shirtless photos of the actor with his nipples turned into blinking GIFs.

Does Amazon's Data Speak for Itself

I try not to link to the same source twice in one weekend, but when one of my favorite writers (Paul Ford — you read his "What is Code" from last year, right?) takes on one of our favorite topics, Amazon, I can't just ignore it, can I?

I don’t have a good mental model for thinking across nine million objects, nor for exploring 80 million opinions. This is what people are talking about when they say “big data,” of course: No one knows what’s actually inside there, no one can make sense of all that stuff. No single human being could possibly read all of the reviews on Amazon in a single lifetime, and even reading the names of all the products would take six or seven months. Big data, for the most part, is made by humans—it is the record of what we clicked on, the banner ads we viewed, our paths through a site, multiplied by humanity. Sometimes it is seismic data or star charts too, but mostly what people are talking about with big data is data about human behavior that can be mined to create better predictive models for future human behavior.
One Man's Quest to Read — and Review — the World.

After just finishing our class teaching book reviewing at Hugo House, I've been thinking a lot about not only the nature and history of reviews, but what compells us to write them. Karan Mahajan's look at Michael A. Orthofer, and his the Complete Review, tease out some of the themes we love to linger on.

The Complete Review, “a selectively comprehensive, objectively opinionated survey of books old and new,” sits on the margins of the literary world, where it has flourished for sixteen years. As of last Friday, according to an analog counter on the site’s decidedly unglamorous homepage, it had reviewed three thousand six hundred and eighty-seven books, from a hundred different countries, originally published in sixty-eight different languages—an average of two hundred and thirty books a year. Virtually all of this criticism, and everything else on the Complete Review, is the work of Michael A. Orthofer, a fifty-one-year-old lawyer who was born in Graz, Austria, and brought up in New York City. Orthofer built the site—it took about five months; he coded it with basic HTML—on a P.C. at his home, in Manhattan, in 1999. For years, his name did not appear on the site, which claimed to be run by an “Editorial Board.” In 2009, on the site’s tenth anniversary, he began signing some reviews; the next year, he unmasked himself, discreetly, on the “About” page. In April, the retiring Orthofer will make his first serious bid for mainstream respectability, by publishing a book with the Columbia University Press. “The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction” is the culmination of his work so far, as well as a continuation and a promise.
German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too

Sally McGrane brings you one of those rare moments where you have to reconsider everything you thought you knew about a topic, to have your brain cracked clean open. Also… looks around, whispers at you you know, Ents—.

PRESENTING scientific research and his own observations in highly anthropomorphic terms, the matter-of-fact Mr. Wohlleben has delighted readers and talk-show audiences alike with the news — long known to biologists — that trees in the forest are social beings. They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the “Wood Wide Web”; and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.
Understanding Seattle's high-rise boom

For an tall-building and architecture nerd like me, Paul Roberts great Crosscut article is a delightful read. Curious about the future of the Seattle skyline? Wondering why we don't have 110 story towers coming soon to downtown (hint: it has to do with one of our city's nicknames, Jet City)? Wondering what the heck is going to happen on that corner that just got the hurricane fencing put up? Then, friends, this is a must read:

Consider: there are currently 13 high-rise apartment or condo buildings of at least 24 stories in development or planning in the downtown area. The average is 39 stories. Another 24 high-rises are in the proposal pipeline, according to city and industry reports.

Not all the proposed towers will be built, of course, but those that are “launched” will represent a shift in downtown housing that is unprecedented not only in size but also in socioeconomics. Like 4/C, many are being “amenitized” for an upscale market. To be profitable, they will need rents of around fifty percent above the city average, according to several industry estimates. What’s more, to judge by the heavy emphasis on studios and one-bedroom units, developers are anticipating a downtown population that is childless and even single.