The Facebook Cortex

July 17th, 2012 | daybook

Robert Scoble is a well-known internet writer and videomaker whose chief skill appears to be the almost childlike, obsessive early-adoption of new services.  He was bitching for months about not being on Twitter’s suggested-users list because he followed tens of thousands of people, and currently has more than a million people in Google Circles or something.  In a recent post about “scalable living,” he linked to a statement he made on Facebook, of which this is the relevant chunk:

Compare my profiles at to and you’ll see the benefits of frictionless sharing on Facebook. On Facebook you can see a LOT more about me. My Quora questions. My foursquare checkins. My Spotify music. My Pinterest repins. And a lot more.

Google, on the other hand, hates automatic sharing of who you are. I believe this puts Google at a huge strategic disadvantage.

Interesting word, there.  “Benefits.”  He’s told Facebook probably tens of thousands of things about his life and economic activity.  Robert Scoble is, in fact, one of Facebook’s most delightful products.  He’s turned over his short-term memory and the digital wormcast of his waking hours over to a company that sells advertising space on the basis that their products – also know as “their users” and their tracked activities – can be induced to spend money through targeting.

Put another way: there is, in fact, a little bit of Robert Scoble’s brain that is now the Facebook Cortex.

And, through his usual hyperactivity, he’s become an even better product: there are 350,000 people following Scoble on Facebook, clicking Like on his Foursquare checkins and Spotify reports – and by those actions Facebook can compile consumer profiles on each of them, too.  That little chunk of brain that Scoble has turned over to Facebook is helping to make all his readers better products, too.

Scoble’s looking ahead to contextual computing, and the idea that putting all this data into Facebook will eventually make his life easier because other services will be able to extrapolate it into daily-life informational aid.  Because, of course, Facebook is all about you being able to take your data out of it.

Oh, hey, here’s Scoble in 2008, being kicked off Facebook for scraping his contacts data out of his account.

Services, of course, may be able to pay Facebook for the use of Robert Scoble’s Facebook Cortex, and of the products who’ve been pulled into his pseudo-social wake.  Scoble may even wish to pay services to use widgets powered by his own data that the service has paid Facebook to access.

Perhaps there will be tangible benefits (for values of “tangible”) for allowing Facebook to colonise a tiny corner of our brains, in the future.  If we continue to report, we get things.  Amusingly, Bruce Sterling suggested in Eindhoven suggested that something like that could be a condition (or even the condition) of a citizenship that allows you access to basic social services.  Perhaps, once again, Robert Scoble is the canary in the coalmine of social media.

Him and his little blue Facebook Cortex, automatically reporting away in the social dark.



(Disclosure: yes, I have a small Page on Facebook.  It’s an aggregator.  You know what sort of thing gets posted here.  If someone releases jenkem as a retail product, I’m sure Facebook will be the first to inform my Facebook readers.)


July 16th, 2012 | station ident, three panels

Everyone loves Chip.


A couple of times over the last year, I did a thing for people who make comics called Three Panels Open.  Literally, a three-panel comic.  The only rules were that it had to be legible at a width of 640 pixels, which is the width of the content bar on this site, and that it had to be three panels long.

Perhaps you’d like to do a three-panel comic to be posted here.  If so, email the image to, and please include your name and the website and/or twitter account you’d like it to be associated with.  Same rules apply: three panels, and it can’t turn to mud when I run it at 640px.  Ideally, it’s a piece of new work, and not just a clip from your current comic. (Though obviously I’m happy to plug said current comic as thanks.)  I’m only going to run the ones I like best, I’m afraid.  However, there’s no time limit on submissions.  Three Panels Open will be a semi-permanent element of the site.

Spread the word, please.

Chip is on Twitter as @zdarsky

This Week

July 14th, 2012 | daybook

Joss, on Friday at San Diego:

Whedon also said he is going straight from Comic-Con to London to meet with Warren Ellis about another project.

Yes.  This week I am in London, working with Joss on this damn thing again.  You want to know how good a friend I consider him?  I have to be working BEFORE ELEVEN O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.  I am rarely awake before eleven.  In order to do this I will have to be on a train before ten.  This is tantamount to asking me to chew up an entire sheep and spit out a woollen blanket before I am allowed coffee.

I’m preloading a few pieces in the system, but consider me gone until Thursday.

A Note On Friday

July 13th, 2012 | mobilesignals


July 12th, 2012 | daybook

Still here. Took delivery of a new laptop yesterday — the 15-inch Lenovo Ideapad Y580 with the FHD screen and the i7 chip, for those who care — so I should be productive again shortly. Although I’m writing this on the iPad, because I won’t be productive on the Ideapad until the gel tape I ordered from Amazon arrives. Because the Ideapad has sharp edges. On the leading edge, where my wrists sit when I type. Which is why I have red grooves in my wrists, like a very tired cutter armed only with a butter knife, this morning. So I have to put gel tape over the edges. Other than that, it doesn’t seem like a bad machine, the usual Lenovo and Win7 crankiness aside.

The really nice thing, of course, is how quickly I can get a new machine up and running these days. I use a service called Ninite, that creates a loadpoint for new machines — a little executable file that contains the installation commands for the programs I need. Start it up, and it goes off and downloads and installs every program I selected (from a long list on their site). There were, I think, only four things I needed that they didn’t have on their list. And all my work lives in Dropbox. So, within an hour of taking delivery of the machine, I was away, with Chrome and 1Password all synced, iTunes library recompiled and entirely within my preferred setup.

(All I really have to do is puzzle out my Livedrive instance — I have two external drives hooked to Livedrive, but Livedrive won’t recognise them as anything other than new drives, because they’re piping through a laptop with a new name. So I may have to re-upload 35GB of ripped CDs to keep everything straight, which is a little irritating, but still…)

Anyway. No heavy writing until the gel tape arrives, but I’m around, on a machine that won’t (so far) crash if I cough on it.