The Rhythms of Information: Flow-Pacing and Spacetime

by Ryan Tanaka on September 24, 2014

Ryan Tanaka is a musician, writer, programmer and product manager living in the Los Angeles area. For every article that he writes, Ryan also improvises a live musical piece as means of organizing his ideas. (Below, or here.)

“Flow Pacing” is a phrase used in chemical, sewage, and water facilities in order to describe the treatment methods of its contents, often referring to techniques that inject/extract chemicals and materials into its flow.  Flow pacing can be a very interesting challenge for engineers, because in addition to tracking physical dimensions and working with limitations of resources, you also have to take time into consideration when dealing with its problems and potential solutions.  When the flow of content is non-stop and never ending, you don’t really have the luxury of measuring change in terms of absolutes — it must be introduced gradually, as a series of iterations or applications happening over time.

Ambient-Minimalism

If today’s improv were to be written down in musical notation, it might look something like this.

 

Chlorine injections that flow too slowly leaves the water tainted; too fast, poisonous.  But the solution is never to dump chemicals into the flow as a one-time event: the process is always ongoing, constant and never-ending, so long as the mechanism itself exists.

I think that it makes a lot of sense to think of the internet in this way, since we already tend to conceptualize information networks as though they were servicing liquids of some sort.  Information “delivery” was an oft-used phrase in technical fields in the past, but due to the increased reliability and consistency of today’s information networks, it’s more common now to conceptualize information as “flowing” from one point to another.  We have increasingly begun to see information as being fluid rather than solid, in other words.

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We Have Them Surrounded in Their Tanks

by Jordan Peacock on September 17, 2014

Jordan is a 2014 blogging resident visiting us from his home turf on Google+ and hewhocutsdown.net.

“We have them surrounded in their tanks.”

So spoke Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, the infamous Iraqi Information Minister in the first days of the American invasion. His missives should be an inspiration to public relations personnel everywhere; he was unshakably on-message even as the foundations on which he stood collapsed. His clueless investment in Saddam Hussein’s regime ended swiftly but not poorly (he was reportedly captured and released by the Americans, and is now living in the United Arab Emirates).

Muhammad was a true believer in Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government, and its collapse was inconceivable. In this respect his belief functioned much like that of those apocalypticists whose rapture passes them by, an evaporative cooling effect separating the doubtful from the doubling-down. al-Sahhaf was clueless to be sure, but clueless need not mean unintelligent, nor is the ability to stay on message dependent upon cluelessness.

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Geopolitics for Individuals

by Kartik Agaram 09.09.2014

Kartik is a 2014 blogging resident visiting us from his home turf at akkartik.name. I recently spent a month playing a board game called Diplomacy, and it turned out to be a surprisingly mind-broadening experience. Pretending to be the German Empire before the First World War, exchanging missives all day with the other “great powers” […]

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How to Fall Off the Wagon

by Venkat 09.03.2014

Self-help ideas generally belong to one of three schools of thought, whether the originators realize it or not: values-first, goals-first or process-first. Norman Vincent Peale (Power of Positive Thinking, 1952), Wayne W. Dyer (Erroneous Zones, 1976) and David Allen (GTD, 2002) are the authors of the pioneering mainstream classics of each sub-genre. Those dates are significant: the schools […]

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The Creation and Destruction of Habits

by Venkat 08.26.2014

Just for fun, I decided to try and weave a tweetstorm-style chain of thoughts through a chunk of my writing over the last few years. As you might expect, it isn’t exactly short, but at 42 tweet-sized chunks, it’s a decent feat of compression. I’ll spare my twitter followers the actual storm though. 1/ There are […]

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The Veil of Scale

by Venkat 08.20.2014

There’s an old Soviet-era joke about communist notions of sharing. Two party workers, let’s call them Boris and Ivan, are chatting: Boris: If you had two houses, would you give one to your comrade? Ivan: Of course! Boris: If you had two cars, would you give one to your comrade? Ivan: Without a doubt! Boris: […]

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The Economics of Pricelessness

by Venkat 08.12.2014

The digital economy has taught us a lot about one extreme of pricing: zero. The price-point of zero is a place where weird things happen. We now know what it is to have our attention productized in three-way attention markets. We understand what it means to  devalue to a zero price, things which required nonzero effort to […]

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Seoul Station

by Venkat 08.06.2014

More fiction. Because I can. And because it’s August and all of you are probably off vacationing anyway. If you think it’s unsettling to suddenly find yourself in a strange place, with no idea how you got there, try doing it with no idea where you came from. With no sense of there having even […]

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The Heirloom Lounge

by Venkat 07.30.2014

A short story. A sci-fi short story. A kitchen-sink sci-fi short story. You’ve been warned. The flight had been delayed for another hour and my glasses had just been bricked by yet another update. Plus the rim was cracked from when I’d sat on it earlier. There was a printing and service station at the other […]

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Structure Follows Context

by Venkat 07.23.2014

I like mirroring principles in business a lot. My two favorite ones in business are Conway’s Law (product structure follows organizational structure) and Chandler’s Law (structure follows strategy). In conversations about business in recent years, I’ve been adding two more principles to complete a loop of sorts: market structure follows product structure and strategy follows […]

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