Fish, a Tap Essay

I let slip to my boss recently that something has changed in me and I may be now more interested in journalism than I actually am in theatre. I’m not quite sure why this is happening to me (it might be a phase!), but I know I’ve become enamored with the “ideas circuit” as I once heard it called. What’s the idea’s circuit?  I’m not quite sure who coined the phrase and what exactly they meant, but I imagine it to be entities like Slate, NPR, Ted Talks, RadioLab; and people like Neil Degrass Tyson,  Malcolm Gladwell, and (until recently?) Jonah Lehrer. Look at your Fish

Well recently  I came across a new one for me: Robin Sloan.  Robin has led what sounds like an interesting life being a Media Inventor.  In his own words, these are people that are “primarily interested in content—words, pictures, ideas—who also experiment with new formats, new tools, and new technology.”  Robin held a position in this vein at twitter in the early years of social media. And Why am i talking about him? well he’s created this mobile app called FISH which he describes as a TAP ESSAY. Basically it’s an essay broken up into slides, and you tap the screen of your iphone to advance while you read it one slide at a time. Each slide contains about one sentence (or sometimes one word, for dramatic effect) and is styled slightly differently in terms of font and colors to make the journey dynamic.  And I really love it. Sloan’s thesis of the essay you can read for yourself, but I want to say that I think the delivery of the message is one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen.  Here’s a list of reasons why:

  1. Something about the interactivity of tapping to advance makes it feel like play
  2. Because you’re not confronted with the FULL ESSAY at one time there’s no urge to scroll to the bottom and think: this is too long. And stop reading
  3. Because each line is carefully delivered and styled appropriately it feels like your hearing someone talk.

It’s a really well done product.  I have actually loved “slideshows” for a long time (mostly for that reason that you can control how  much writing is released and pull major focus to a point if that’s what you want).  A while before discovering Fish: A Tap Essay I created a “click-through” essay in service of my Undergraduate Alumni Association titled The Third Thing College Gets You, hosted on slideshare. The idea came to me out of nowhere and I’m actually quite proud of it. Every now and then I tweet it, or post it on facebook hoping that someone important sees it, stands up at their desk and shouts: That Kid’s a Great Communicator!

That will be Mission Accomplished. Enjoy The Third Thing…  below. 🙂

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Jonah Lehrer and Imagine

Right now I’m reading a book by Jonah Lehrer, called Imagine.  It’s pop-science about how creativity works.  Author Jonah is this prodigy reporter who at the age of 31 had become become a staff writer at the New Yorker and found himself in line behind Malcolm Gladwell as the modern “Idea Man.”  Then his world fell apart.

You can read all about it here, but basically he fabricated some Bob Dylan quotes in his newest book and he has been forced to resign from … his life.

What really interests me is that his publisher Houghton Mifflin has recalled his book, Imagine, the book I’m reading.  The BF asked me if they were also recalling digital copies, which reminded me that Amazon, B&N, and Apple can actually REMOVE books from your digital readers.  Am I alone in thinking that this is crazy and a bit authoritarian?  It’s like you don’t really own it, you just own access to it.  For a while i wasn’t turning my Kindle’s wifi on because I was afraid that the book would evaporate the moment I did! (and I haven’t finished it yet!)

It’s a shame that this guy’s life fell apart.   He was developing into a hero of mine: Smart and driven, all about thinking and science, and not bad looking in certain pics (see below).  If he had been gay too I would have been in love!

Jonah Lehrer