rethinking the ownership of the web canvas

I still read a lot online; mostly through a feed reader, which I pay for. Part of reading through a feed reader is not seeing the content in its original context, except for those sites that encourage the user to click through to read something.

If you’ve been online for a while, you will be deeply familiar with the way that online advertising generally works. The banner ad itself is over 20 years old. Immunity to online advertising is called banner blindness: the particular structures that appear on a webpage are often not noticed by seasoned readers of the web.

This led – over many years – to an escalation of online advertising: becoming more and more difficult to avoid – full-screen pre-roll pages, site takeovers: all kinds of things.

I wouldn’t normally comment, but the Next Web, May 2015 (I’m including the date in case you need to find it in the wayback machine) did something I haven’t seen before, and appeared to change the relationship between ad and content.

On this site, when it loads, you’re presented with the site’s top nav, and some social media buttons, and a small “show article” link, but the article itself has floated off to the right of the browser window, so only a small sliver is showing. You know you’re on the right page, but the message is a new one to me – this is the advertiser’s space, and we’re just going to place the article over the top of it, because we know that’s important to you.

It made me think “I should pay more attention to this ad” – admittedly, for products I’d already heard of, and with really beautiful design – in a way I haven’t seen for a long time.

The ability to shape the experience of a visitor to your site should not be underestimated, even as there’s perceived pressure that “no one reads your site” anymore.

There is still a strong tendency among the people who build the web to think of it as a “page” first, and to limit their output to the constraints of print and paper. Admittedly, of responsively designed paper, but paper nonetheless. The capacity to communicate a sense of home and place, a hierarchy of interactions between stakeholders, has barely been tapped.

I expect to see even more innovation in the content-publisher space, even as the giant sites like Facebook move to bring more of the web’s content within their walled garden.

resources for modern storytellers

Over on Medium is a list of 60 free tools for modern storytellers. Writing, websites, sources of payment, reporting, organisation, news updates, audio, video, images and resources; emails, social media, SEO.

It’s a good list, but the trouble with such a list is not knowing where to start. It’s a long journey between wanting to be a storyteller and actually having a successful online business. 

So bookmark the list, but start with the small things. Write one story. Put something out into the world. Don’t worry about having a 3-year master plan, just start simply.

netflix: overview

I’ve had a fairly busy month, with a fair bit of doing some laptop-work in the evening with something on the TV in the background. Much of the last month this has been some kind of Netflix show or movie, and overall I’ve been impressed.

The range is not exhaustive, though there is plenty to watch. Overall, though, it’s been the stability of the platform that I’ve enjoyed. The system remembers what you’ve watched, where you were up to, and there is not long to wait before whatever you’re trying to watch starts up.

Compared to Apple-TV, where you can wait minutes (sometimes much longer) before a movie, or even a trailer is ready to play, this is quite impressive. As much as I have wanted to support Dendy Direct, I’ve found their system to be really flakey in its connection from iOS device to Apple-TV via airplay. If i had to choose whether to support Dendy or the iTunes store, I would support Dendy, but if it’s not going to play back the movie without dropping sessions or endless buffering, then that’s going to be a problem.

Overall, it seems like having another streaming service available is going to be a good thing for improving the quality of every streaming entertainment provider.

The final question is whether having access to so much material is a helpful thing: I suspect it’s a little too tempting for me to watch more than I’m aiming to watch, and saps my enthusiasm for creating new things (it’s been, for example, a long time between blog posts here).

netflix: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America 2 seemed as good a test as any for watching a movie on Netflix. I haven’t watched the first Captain America movie, but as with all good blockbuster sequels, they’ve worked hard to make this unnecessary.

Lots of namedropping of other pieces of the Marvel universe, this is a Chris Evans / Scarlett Johansen buddy adventure of sorts: there are plenty of other characters kicking around, but it’s mostly a sequence of five-minute set pieces thrown together.

If you’re looking for a series of well-shot action sequences and hero rhetoric, of if you’re a particular fan of the character (I’m not really a big fan), you’ll enjoy it.

The Netflix platform seems really solid in Australia: instant buffering, the interface of the app and across devices works well, and it’s easy to use. I’m keen to see what impact this has in the wider streaming ecosystem, and what impact it has on other interfaces and membership sites.

Dear Delicious, Dulwich Hill

Dear Delicious, Dulwich Hill

Dear Delicious coffee. 245 Wardell Rd, Dulwich Hill (near the train station). Found this one via Google – I thought someone had mentioned a new place in Dulwich Hill, but I couldn’t remember much detail: sorry if you were the one who told me about it! Easy to find, and being a Sunday afternoon, relatively easy to find parking nearby. 

Where the magic happens - Dear Delicious, Dulwich Hill

We arrived near the end of the shift for the week, looking for a snack and some beverages. Sadly, this meant we were missing the core strength of the cafe: sustainably produced local foods – the plates on adjacent tables looked delicious, but that’s for another visit.

Dear Delicious, Dulwich Hill 

The chia pudding (with activated almonds, sugar coated chia seeds, and macerated strawberries), though, was delicious: great blend of textures and flavours. I wasn’t as sure about my own first choice of beverage: the mug of cocoa nibs and vanilla was a bit too subtle for my ageing palette: for what I was after, I think I should have ordered the hot chocolate!

The cold drip coffee was well put together – the flavours coming through well: it’s a small rig near the counter, the waitress looking across to see if there was any available.

Flat white: Dear Delicious, Dulwich Hill

Coffee itself is pleasant enough: the flat white was perfectly fine, well presented. A worthy option in the Dulwich Hill scene.

Humber, Wollongong

White Horse Coffee. 226 Crown St, Wollongong. If you haven’t been to the Crown St Mall and surrounds recently, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Lots of construction work has finished, there’s more parking, and there are new premises open, like this one: Humber, just beyond the Crown St Mall on the railway station end.

Humber, Wollongong

 It’s a pleasant fit-out with lots of rivets and wood in the finish. We bring the kids along, and after a while perched on the too-high-for-toddlers benches, a table is cleared and we relocate them to some cushions on a windowsill, where they’re much more comfortable.

Humber, Wollongong

There are staff on the floor to make sure you’re seated in the cafe, and bring you menus, but it’s order and pay at the counter, and table numbers are handed out. Staff are patient and friendly with the crowded nature of the place: the tables-for-two err on the side of too small for one of the generous mains each and a side to share (though if you can finish that much food, you’re doing well).

Humber, Wollongong

The coffee setup is impressive: there’s a moccamaster behind the espresso machine, and a cold-drip rig (not running on the day I visit). Plenty of potential here as the staff find their feet over the next  weeks and months.

where the magic happens, Humber, Wollongong

Perhaps tellingly for how many espressos I’ve been having lately, I could tell how this one was going to taste. You can tell that the White Horse coffee beans has made the journey in one piece, but not all espressos are created equal: this one is a little too long, and the crema dissipates a little too fast.

espresso: Humber, Wollongong

 Lots of potential here: looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Official website: humber.bar

apple TV – Frost : Nixon

Apple TV: Frost/Nixon 

I’d added this to my wishlist a long while back, having heard good things about Michael Sheen turning in another transformative performance, and Frank Langella’s Nixon. I’m a few years too young to know much of Nixon except – as the movie points out towards the end – the tendency we have today of adding the suffix “gate” to everything.

Director Ron Howard somehow makes a two-hour long movie about the making of a series of TV interviews into something highly watchable, engaging, and ultimately a story about two very different personalities, and about legacy and ambition. 

If you’re curious about the historical period, or a fan of Howard’s direction, or Sheen (or – for that matter – Sam Rockwell, who has a tidy little side part with a couple of scenes), or would like to see Kevin Bacon as an ex-military aide, it’s worth a look.

DVD: Whiplash (2014)

I was really looking forward to Whiplash – I tried to catch while it was still at the movies, but it was a time of transition for me, and it was harder than I thought to grab a couple of hours (not to mention finding someone to go with me).

But once a movie is on DVD in wide release, it’s much easier to track down and carve out some time, albeit in a second-screen way. And so I didn’t bring the single-mindedness of attention to taking in the film that I was hoping. Which is a shame, as it’s a film that celebrates what can be accomplished with single-minded focus on a single task.

If scenes of an authority figure shouting at his terrified followers are upsetting to you, or you’re not a fan of swearing, you’ll want to avoid it, but if you’re a fan of drumming, good cinematography, and a riveting (and Oscar winning) performance from J.K. Simmons, then it will repay the investment of time.

book: gospel patrons

Gospel Patrons book cover

Book: Gospel Patrons – history remembers the people who changed the world, but tends to gloss over how they were able to do the things for which they’re remembered. John Rinehart in this work makes the case for taking seriously the notion of financial support for endeavours to spread the Christian message. It’s a quick read, but tells the story of people who took personal risks just to support what was being done in different parts of the world.