Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.
A week ago, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone in their quest to develop reusable rockets: Their Falcon 9 rocket, used as part of their CRS-8 mission to send the Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station, successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) floating droneship platform in the Atlantic Ocean. This was far more difficult (and awesome) to pull off than the Falcon 9’s previous landing in Cape Canaveral, FL.
Skip to 27:10 if you only want to watch the landing, or for a quieter experience, watch this separate 4k video. The @SpaceX Twitter account also tweeted onboard footage of the landing. Photos from the mission can be found on the SpaceX Flickr page.
Speaking of Elon Musk-related things (sort of), “Underscore” David Smith recently wrote a great review of the Tesla Model S, which actually just got a fresh look following the recent Model 3 unveiling. (Man, Elon is keeping busy these days, isn’t he?)
I know and am keenly aware that writing a blog post extolling the virtues of an undeniably expensive car is ripe with peril. I thought long and hard about whether I even should. In the end what made me write this post was the overwhelming excitement I feel about driving it. It genuinely feels like the future. Each time I walk up to it, even months later, it puts a smile on my face.
Joss Fong and Estelle Caswell of Vox explain why people should reframe the way they think about climate change:
In other words, we got lucky. Despite plenty of regional climate variations — some of which contributed to the fall of great civilizations — temperatures and sea levels have been stable enough for agriculture to lead to society and for society to eventually lead to industrialization, science, medicine, the internet, and the device you’re using to read these words. Now, with man-made global warming, we are tossing that stability away.
Some might look at this chart and conclude, “Why worry about man-made global warming when natural climate change is inevitable?” But if an ice age is coming down the road, it wouldn’t be for thousands of years. The things that matter to us operate in a much narrower time scale. Electricity dates back only 130 years.
In other words: The planet will be fine either way. It’s us we need to worry about.
I found this full, 47-minute-long making-of documentary of Zootopia via Khoi Vinh, whose description is better than anything I could come up with (bold emphasis mine though):
The meat of the documentary, though, is the in-depth examination of the process of developing the movie’s storyline; not just the fascinating workshopping protocol (the writers and producers periodically gather in a room and, as a group, basically critique the screenplay into shape), but also lots of frank discussion about the tricky ideas at the heart of the film. A lot of careful thought went into how to render the emotional truth behind experiencing racism, and the documentary takes a detailed look at the filmmakers grappling with that. However, it also betrays one of the unfortunate truths of the production; the movie is commendably bold about addressing prejudice, but it’s evident from watching the documentary that of the five-hundred plus people who contributed to the film, hardly any were non-white, and even fewer were African-American.
Despite that last fact, Zootopia has already become one of my all-time favorite Disney films. I had no expectations going in, and came out blown away.
Whatever your opinion on the film, take time to watch the whole documentary above.
Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels of Polygraph analyzed a ton of film script dialogue and proved an unfortunate truth about Hollywood that pretty much everyone already suspected was true:
Across thousands of films in our dataset, it was hard to find a subset that didn’t over-index male. Even romantic comedies have dialogue that is, on average, 58% male. For example, Pretty Woman and 10 Things I Hate About You both have lead women (i.e., characters with the most amount of dialogue). But the overall dialogue for both films is 52% male, due to the number of male supporting characters.
This next quote gets back to that unfortunate lack of diversity at Disney mentioned above:
In January 2016, researchers reported that men speak more often than women in Disney’s princess films. We validated this claim and doubled the sample size to 30 Disney films, including Pixar. The results: 22 of 30 Disney films have a male majority of dialogue. Even films with female leads, such as Mulan, the dialogue swings male. Mushu, her protector dragon, has 50% more words of dialogue than Mulan herself.
Jonas Downey, writing for Signal v. Noise on why “clean and minimal” interfaces aren’t necessarily better than messy ones (bold emphasis mine):
So…wait. If beautiful, fresh, clean, and simple are so important, why hasn’t someone upended all of these products with something nicer? It’s not for a lack of trying. There are countless simpler, better-looking Craigslist and Photoshop competitors, for example.
The answer is that these products do an incredible job of solving their users’ problems, and their complex interfaces are a key reason for their success.
I’m reminded of a quote from Jakob Nielsen’s 2005 piece on Amazon’s UX design:
[…] what’s good for Amazon is not good for normal sites.
Mark Scales, writing for Outsider Japan in 2006 (with a few edits of my own):
Hikaru Dorodango is the Japanese children’s pastime of packing earth into balls roughly the size of normal billiards balls and polishing them to a high shine. Hikaru translates as “shiny” and dorodango can be broken down into doro (“mud”) and dango (“a round dumpling made from pressed rice flour”). The origins of this pastime are unknown but children have been making these spheres as a traditional pastime. Until recently the tradition had been dying out but was re-popularized by Professor Fumio Kayo.
If you want to make dorodango of your own, Jason Arnold of Make: magazine wrote an excellent walkthrough with photos for every step of the process.
(I discovered hikaru dorodango via Kevin Rose’s excellent email newsletter, The Journal. You should sign up; he doesn’t clutter your inbox with crap.)