New Yorkers who want to be somewhere they are not are always in a rush, especially when taking the subway. Observations of a New Yorker giving directions demonstrate that they frequently have more than one route to a given destination, and choosing the optimal one is a non-trivial task.
From the Essex/Delancey station, one can take either the M train or the F train uptown to almost any station in Manhattan along this particular line. However, the trains arrive on different platforms, which are separated by a long stair case. It is impossible to observe both platforms simultaneously, and there is no automated indication of which train will arrive first and therefore reach a given destination fastest.
Commuters have devised a novel solution. Between train arrivals, passengers will cluster around the stairs separating the two platforms. As soon as there is more than one passenger, they will evenly distribute themselves along the stairs, re-calculating in O(1) time whenever a new node is added. When a train arrives on either platform, the nearest passenger, or edge node, signals the next node by glancing slightly in the direction of the rest of the passengers, and the message is similarly propagated throughout the network, allowing everyone to board the first train to arrive.
The result is an optimal, low-latency, low-overhead solution, built on existing hardware, following the primary rule of the subway: never make eye contact or speak to anyone.
And it’s a magical little reminder that New Yorkers, whatever our reputation, are good neighbors. Smart too.
DIY Days launched today in Los Angeles, and here is my video presentation that I made remotely, since I was unable to make it to LA this time.
The video is also available on YouTube.
As promised in the video, here is a list of some of the tools I use and recommend. If you have any to add, post them in a comment. I’ll update this post if I find any others that are useful.
General Information Tools
WordPress: This is the blogging software that runs this website, as well as foureyedmonsters.com, Workbook Project and tons of others. It’s free and open source. You can have it hosted for free on wordpress.com, or you can download it and install it on your own web server and customize it further. In addition to blog posts, you can set up more permanent “pages” for information about your film that isn’t time-based (example).
Learn more and get WordPress at http://wordpress.org
Google Analytics: Most web hosting services provide basic reporting, but Google Analytics offers a clean, more reliable way to track your web traffic and drill down to find more information. I use this mostly to learn where incoming links are coming from and to see which pages and posts on my sites are getting the most attention. This is also free. If you have WordPress, you can use this plugin to easily get Analytics running on your site.
Learn more and sign up for Google Analytics at http://google.com/analytics
Search Engine Optimization: This is not a specific software tool so much as a tactic for making your website easier to find through search engines. There are a few WordPress plugins out there, but your best bet is to search around the web for articles. Andrew Peterson, who worked on the Four Eyed Monsters distribution team sometimes blogs about SEO. Some people try to game the system or cheat to get higher search rankings, but I try to use tactics that will also make a site easier and more informal for humans as well as for Google.
Learn about Search Engine Optimization on Wikipedia
Social Networks: This includes the obvious sites, like Facebook and MySpace, but many other sites have social networking components. YouTube, Flickr, Twitter or any other site that let’s you link up to other friends on the same service is a social network. Most social networks will show your friends what you’re up to, and they will show their friends in turn that they’re watching you.
Spreading and Sharing Tools
Social Bookmarking: A variety of tools exist that allow you to bookmark resources on the web and share them publicly. I use del.icio.us (a.k.a. Delicious), but there are a ton of others (Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, etc.), each a bit different in exact purpose and features. Encourage your audience to share your videos, posts, etc. on these sites. I use Social Bookmarking RELOADED, which is a WordPress plugin that automatically adds social bookmarking links to every post on my blog. Also, check out ShareThis, which is what you saw on the Iron Sky site in the above video.
RSS and Atom Feeds are formats of machine-readable XML versions of websites. They’re great for reading blogs using news reader software, such as Google Reader. The idea is that posts on blogs you read are pushed to you through the reader software so you don’t have to remember to go back to the blog website. They’re also great for syndicating information between sites. The differences between RSS and Atom are subtle and technical, so for right now, they’re almost the same exact thing.
Learn more about feeds
Feedburner is a tool for optimizing RSS and Atom feeds that come out of your blog. It will also help you track how many people are reading your blog through the feed, and you can easily set up an email digest version of your feed. I use this plugin to easily integrate Feedburner into my WordPress blog.
Learn more and sign up at http://www.feedburner.com
Twitter is a service that allows you to very easily post short updates, up to 140 characters from your cell phone, IM (Jabber/GTalk), a website or a variety of software. People can subscribe to your Twitter feed using RSS/Atom or through Twitter itself via those same platforms (text messages, instant messaging, etc.). You can also use the same RSS feed to syndicate these updates to your website, Facebook or other services. This is a great way to keep the updates coming without much time investment.
Learn more and sign up at Twitter.com
Disqus: WordPress and other blogging software come with built-in comment functions. Encourage your audience to post comments to keep the discussion going. Disqus is a service that plugs in to your blog and enhances the discussion features. Use these to keep your fans invested, get feedback on what you’re posting and see which fans are most involved.
Learn more and sign up for Disqus
cforms: This should be obvious, but not every film site has this. I use this WordPress plugin to create a great contact form on my site so people can email me directly and privately without me having to post my email address online, which invites tons of spam. It also tracks incoming emails in a database so I can keep an eye on who’s in touch.
Here are some film and media channel sites that show off some of the tools and strategies I talked about in this video.
For some tips on what not to do with your site, read this article I wrote a few months ago on bad Flash movie websites.
Thanks to Alex Johnson for shooting this video.
Today, I decided that it would be cool to have an elimination tournament of “Frat Pack” movies. Films would be judged, two at a time, by a panel of judges to be selected by me. The winning film would be rewarded with a mention on blog.chirls.com. To qualify, a film must have at least two of the following actors: Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughan, Jack Black. Films directed by Wes Anderson are ineligible, as are films whose titles begin with “Meet the.”
Other highlights: made breakfast, changed sheets.
Thank you for showing us what life is all about.
“I left God’s country,” said Leon Mosley of Waterloo, Iowa, co-chairman of his state party. “They could use a bunch of people from Iowa to come here to show New Yorkers what life is all about, what being patriotic is all about, and what country is all about. I’m as confident about Bush being re-elected as I am that eggs are going to be in New York tomorrow morning.”
I’ve got a few goodies for those of you who are missing out on all the way cool stuff I do and see every day. Most of you, I know. But hey, that’s why I’m here!
The New York Times did a whole section on the history of Times Square, which just turned 100 in April. I know this one is way old, but it’s good. And like the Times, I like to come to the story way behind the curve but give it the full treatment. There’s a cool slideshow narrated by James Traub. A Day in the Life is surprisingly fascinating: “And what of the sights? ‘We did see the Eiffel Tower,’ says Julie Pasket. She meant the Statue of Liberty, but the confusion is understandable. All those French structures look alike.” Even better is a comment by Elaine Swann, 85, in Their Times Square who says, “The idiot tourists come in droves. I want to kill them when I’m trying to get across the street.” I know, Elaine. I know.
Next up, Monday was the premiere event for Meme, a new “music, art and mixed media” organization. Off to a bit of a rocky start with a 25 minute atonal clarinet/laptop duet, the evening turned out nicely, thanks in part to the handsome and funny host. The second piece, another atonal clarinet/laptop duet, was quite a bit better than the first, mostly because it was quite a bit shorter. This time, they played in front of a large, digital projection of a screensaver, which eventually dissolved to reveal soft-core porn. So that was pretty cool, I guess. Everything after that managed to be relatively innovative and engaging. A guy jamming on his electric cello, Kamala singing a Mozart opera thing into a webcam and a fun music video/sex documentary. there was plenty more after that, but I had to leave around 12:45 am to go somewhere even more fabulous. Not to go to sleep or anything like that.
Wednesday was more mainstream, but no less fun. Metropolitain Opera in the Park on the Great Lawn. One of my favorite summer events, almost up there with the (practically identical) Philharmonic in the Park. An unusually large crowd turned out for Madama Butterfly. I didn’t really follow the story, since it was in French or something. But the wine was good…or at least, there was a lot of it.
Keep an eye out for the Philharmonic as well as Bryant Park Movie Night every Monday this summer. See you out there.
I have been described as “indefegable” by the always-adorable, malapropic AB. Not sure what that means. At best, it’s something like “undeserving of a link.”
Also, did you guys notice they took down (most of) that ugly chain-link fence around the Central Park Reservoir? It’s been replaced by a shorter, friendlier cast-iron-type thing. That’ll make my daily jogs all the more pleasant. Awesome.
There was a farmer’s market in Rockefeller Center today. What’s that about?
I can’t even tell you how many times this sorta thing has happened to me. This lovely little news item is worth the read.
Nothing yet. I’m having my people look into it.