Complete 2013 Roundup

This entry is part 7 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

It’s time again for our annual roundup.  In many ways, 2013 was a year of endings and beginnings for this blog. So, since I like marking boundaries and naming things, I am going to name the relatively self-contained 2007-2012 period The Rust Age and notionally classify it as history. Starting with 2013, we are in the as-yet-unnamed post-Gervais-Principle second age of Ribbonfarm.

New readers interested in history can dive into the past via that link, which has past annual roundups, curated selections and a map of historical interest. Those uninterested in the past can safely join the party starting with this 2013 roundup. I’ll be making a serious effort to limit my use of back-linked references to pre-2013 material, going forward. The past will of course, continue to haunt the present in unexpected ways, but I’ll try to let sleeping ghosts lie.

Now for the roundup, starting with the 21 resident/guest posts, followed by the 24 posts by me, and some commentary.

Resident Blogger Posts

Ribbonfarm hosted three resident bloggers in 2013, each of whom wrote a sequence of posts on a broad theme. You should add their blogs to your reading list if you want to keep up with their ongoing work. Maybe we’ll have them back for a second residency in a couple of years.

From Drew Austin of Kneeling Bus, we had the Metropolitan Vapors residency byline: a set of posts exploring urbanism themes.

  1. Navigating the Holey Plane
  2. Machine Cities and Ghost Cities
  3. The Wave of Unknowing
  4. Civilization and the War on Entropy
  5. Freedom in Smooth Space
  6. The Networked Narrative
  7. The New Human Wilderness

Fro Kevin Simler of Melting Asphaltwe had the Biology of Human Behavior byline: a set of posts exploring various aspects of human behavior from unexpected perspectives. Kevin has one post left to go in the series, which will be published in January.

  1. Anthropology of Mid-Sized Startups
  2. Honesty and the Human Body
  3. The Economics of Social Status
  4. Consciousness: An Outside View
  5. Projected Presence
  6. UX and the Civilizing Process

And from Mike Travers of Omniorthogonalwe had the First-Person Plural byline: a set of posts exploring various aspects of the idea of agency.

  1. Patterns of Refactored Agency
  2. Solidarity and Recursion
  3. So I Shall be Written, So I Shall be Performed
  4. War and Nonhuman Agency
  5. I and Thou and Life in Aspergerstan
  6. The Government Within
  7. Morality for Exploded Minds

Finally, there was one one-of guest post this year: Sam Bhagwat’s Algorithmic Governance and the Ghost in the MachineSam will be one of our residents in 2014. Look out for further details in January.

My Posts

I had 24 posts of my own in 2013.

  1. A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality
  2. The Locust Economy
  3. Social Dark Matter: On Seeing and Being Seen
  4. The Dead-Curious Cat and the Joyless Immortal
  5. Binoculars versus Cameras
  6. Adventures in Amateur Talking-Headery
  7. Stone-Soup for the Capitalist’s Soul
  8. Eternal Hypochondria of the Expanding Mind
  9. Schumpeter’s Demon
  10. The Gervais Principle VI: Children of an Absent God
  11. Aphorisms: Collection 1
  12. On the Unraveling of Scripts
  13. Players versus Spectators
  14. You Are Not an Artisan
  15. The Quality of Life
  16. On Freedomspotting
  17. An Archetypes Map
  18. The Exercise of Authoritah
  19. Truth in Consulting
  20. The Mother of All Disruptions
  21. On Lifestyle Rigidity
  22. On Staying Grounded
  23. The Gooseberry Fallacy
  24. Our Diurnal Civilization

Off-ribbonfarm, I had two posts in Aeon Magazine, American Cloud (which made the 2013  Top 10 list at Longreads, at #9) and Deep Play

Some highlights.

  • There were experiments with parables (#7, #9)
  • Some big-picture cultural commentary (#2, #8, #14, #24)
  • Some some navel-gazing (#6, #19).
  • Isolated bits of tech-commentary (#3, #18, #20).
  • The finale of the Gervais Principle, which led indirectly to…
  • …a sequence of 9 posts on the nature of life scripts, individual liberty (#1, #4, #12, #13, #15, #16, #21, #22, #23).

In terms of popular hits, I think The Locust Economy (#2) and You Are Not an Artisan (#14) were the major hits of the year.

As another point of interest, though my own output went down from 30 to 24 posts, thanks to the residency experiment, the overall number of posts on the site rose from 34 in 2012 to 45 in 2013. Which is exactly the rebalancing I was hoping for.

The Year Ahead

The past year has been something of a significant reboot for me for several reasons, which is why I decided it would be useful to mark off a boundary and call the 2007-2012 period The Rust Age (why? why not?):

  1. The resident blogger experiment (which will continue in 2014)
  2. The completion of The Gervais Principle series (which defined the blog in its first half-decade)
  3. The evolution of off-blog experiments into a serious line of activity: two ebooks, experimental webinarshangouts
  4. The cohering of Refactor Camp in its second year, thanks to repeat attendees and the emergence of a small community of online/offline activity around it, in the Bay Area and New York.

As a heads-up Refactor Camp 2014 will be held on March 1-2 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. Mark your calendars if you plan to attend. Previous years’ attendees will get dibs, but I expect around 10-15 tickets will be left over for new attendees. Keep an eye out for the formal announcement in the next few weeks.

It isn’t quite clear yet what I’ll be trying out on this site in 2014. There will be a new cohort of resident bloggers for one thing. For my own writing, I am sort of in a clean-sheet mode, looking for new bunny trails. We’ll see where I end up. I will probably continue the off-blog experiments. Possibly another ebook or two from old material, maybe more experimental webinars/hangouts.

Suggestions and feedback welcome, as always.

Series Navigation<< Complete 2012 RoundupComplete 2014 Roundup >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Are we to expect Game of Pickaxes to emerge in 2014 as well, or is that project on hold? Merry Christmas. JG

  2. Stay tuned. More on that in a few months.