Reporter’s Notebook: A Dozen Digital Media Discoveries
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like coffeehouse culture or you want to discover the next Voltaire or Sartre—do it because you enjoy the nuts and bolts of running a restaurant.
This O’Reilly Media title by Jeff Potter, which is available in both print and e-book form, is a fantastic hybrid of an actual cookbook, a manual on the physics and chemistry of food preparation, and a meditation on the similarities between cooking and software engineering. It’s the first cookbook I’ve actually wanted to read linearly, from cover to cover. Thanks to Potter, I now understand the difference between baking soda and baking powder, and why you put baking soda into the mix for buttermilk pancakes, but not for regular pancakes. (Maybe you learned that in home economics class, but I was clueless).
Reading TechCrunch is usually a nasty chore—I do it because I have to see what the competition is up to. But every once in a while, TC rises above the snark and gossip and publishes something useful. Sarah Lacy’s February article tracing the cultures of Silicon Valley startups like Quora, Cloudera, Path, Jumo, and Asana back to their founders’ experiences at Facebook was such a case. If you barrel past the thrice-mixed metaphors in the headline, you’ll find a piece that helps make sense of such seeming mysteries as why Path CEO Dave Morin turned down Google’s $120 million purchase offer, or why it’s far easier to answer a question on Quora than to ask one.
12. The Atavist
The Atavist is a boutique publishing venture in Brooklyn. As this profile in Fast Company explains, freelance journalist Evan Ratliff, Wired editor Nick Thompson, and designer Jeff Rabb are trying to create a new sort of platform for long-form storytelling. You can get the text versions of their articles in the form of Kindle Singles, but they’re best consumed via the company’s iPad or iPhone apps, which add in multimedia items such as videos, photos, maps, an interactive timeline, and optional audio narration. Right now I’m reading “Lifted,” a Tom Clancy-esque story about a brazen 2009 robbery at a cash distribution facility in Sweden. I’ll be honest—the piece feels more like an art project than an offering in a serious periodical, so I’m skeptical about whether The Atavist can survive as a business. But in the meantime, it’s a really fun experiment.
13. Da Vinci HD
Today (April 15, 2011) is the 559th birthday of Leonardo da Vinci. I suggest celebrating by buying yourself a $0.99 app for the iPad or iPhone called Da Vinci HD, from a prolific but mysterious iPhone/iPad developer called Overdamped. The app includes more than 150 high-resolution images of da Vinci paintings, sketches, and studies. While most of these images are available on the Web, it’s nice to have them all in one place on a touchscreen, and heck, you can’t go wrong for 99 cents. (Plus, the images make great iPad wallpapers.) Overdamped has put out several dozen similar apps covering artists from Botticelli to Cezanne.