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How the Times reviews tech today

I always read NYT movie reviews after I see a movie, and get a lot out of it. I would like them to treat tech as seriously.

I tweeted that yesterday, and Farhad Manjoo, who writes for a number of publications about tech, asked me to explain.

I tried to do it on Twitter itself, against my own advice, and it didn't work. Twitter isn't really good for explaining things.

The Times reviews a lot of movies, some big budget shows from major studios and others that are very small productions without much distribution, and everything in between.

Some movies are for adults, like Woody Allen's latest, or The Counselor. Some are for mixed audiences -- like ParaNorman (last year) and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (this year). I like those movies too, when I'm in the mood. But I also like stories I can sink my mind into, and really feel it. I have an adult's appreciation of art.

I always check out the NYT rating for movies, and will generally go see anything they give the Critic's Pick. After seeing the movie I look forward to reading the review, and always do, carefully -- because it gives me a perspective on what I've seen, and more to think about.

The Times reviews all kinds of things -- books, restaurants, travel destinations, art, music, theater, television, fashion, electronics, architecture. They have a way of looking at things that makes sense to me. I grew up with it. The Times approach to discourse about creativity is one that influences everything I do, especially what I do professionally, software.

When they started doing software reviews in the early 80s it was with the usual Times flair. It worked for me, because I made software for people who were likely Times readers, the same way people who perform opera make music for those same people.

But somewhere along the line they stopped taking tech seriously. It's as if they would only review Saturday morning television shows. How could television like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad take root in the culture if there was no criticism that discussed it? Yet that's where we are today with software.

Of course it's not just the Times. They're treating software largely the same way the tech industry does. Toys for teens to help them explore being a teen. But not much substance for people who have their degrees, mates, children, who are living their lives, as opposed to looking forward to living their lives. Nothing wrong with looking at tech from the young person's perspective, I would read those reviews too. But today, adults are largely left out of it.

If I wrote a piece of software today for intellectual work, I wouldn't know who to go to to get it reviewed. Anything beyond superficial twitchware, the stuff that lets you express grunts and snorts, gossip and beginner's sexuality, it's as if it doesn't exist. I want it to exist. I want it to be great, and get greater. Tech should be booming with creativity, not just money -- as the movie industry was in the late 20s and 30s. We're there, in so many ways but as a culture, because we're not talking about it intelligently and with depth, it's foundering.

 10/28/2013; 4:44:22 PM.

I want a hackable Twitter

We desperately need a hackable Twitter. We're being so totally held back by their very narrow business model.

Another tweet from earlier today, expanded into a blog post.

I get so many ideas for things I could add on to Twitter. Ways to improve discourse. So many things could work on Twitter that don't. Twitter has been stuck for years, and have actually taken big steps backwards.

This is the story of computers as a business. Something great happens, then it gets foreclosed on by a business model. Energy builds up behind the dam, and boom -- forward motion! All the things that were waiting to happen happen all at once. Just when you think it can't happen, it happens.

And no, it's not any of the startups that have tried to do what Twitter does with fewer developer constraints. Many of them have revocable openness. After the experience with Twitter, I'm going to assume that once you gain momentum, you're going to want to control the whole market, as Twitter did.

None of the open source Twitter replacements have been compelling enough to attract users. Sorry, it's not justice that determines whether a platform gets traction.

I'm not moralizing here, or calling anyone to action, just noticing something. I get tons of ideas that I can't act on. I've seen this happen before. I'm optimistic that it will break. I don't know how or when.

 10/29/2013; 9:19:13 AM.

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