Posted on May 12th, 2019
For ages, I've wondered why Google Docs still clings to the sheet-of-paper metaphor when lots of its users never print out most of their documents.
Of course it does make sense for "Print layout" to be an option. Many people do print docs, and students make up a huge portion of the users. What I find strange is that Google Docs imposes this UI—you cannot escape the sheet of paper with its edges and isomorphic physicality even if you're just c...
Posted on April 7th, 2019
A special characteristic of open source software (OSS) is that you don't need institutional support to get started. It's interesting to compare this to physical infrastructure, like dams or railroads. Before you can begin those projects, you need upfront capital, permits, rights-of-way, environmental impact reviews, community hearings... and so much more.
By contrast, all you need in order to begin a digital infrastructure project is an inte...
Posted on March 23rd, 2019
I recently spent a day at Sea Ranch, a strange and beautiful place. Sea Ranch is a planned community with a distinctive architectural style: simple timber-frame structures clad in wooden siding, and gardens all planted with native flora. The Sea Ranch Design Committee enforces strict design rules on all 1,800 homes along that 10-mile stretch of the Northern California coast. The result is a cohesive, calming aesthetic unlike anywhere else I've...
Posted on February 9th, 2019
Many people have reached out asking what books have been most impactful in shaping my views on cities. I've written and rewritten answers enough times that I figured it's most efficient if I just write it up one time here and share the link. 🙂
Order Without Design by Alain Bertaud
Reason to read this: Offers rigorous yet humble models for how urban systems work. This kind of analytical rigor is incredibly rare in urbanism!
This was one ...
Posted on February 3rd, 2019
I. Loan application
Before serving time for mortgage fraud, Toby Groves seemed like the last person who would get into that kind of trouble. His older brother had been sentenced for the same crime twenty years earlier, and Toby had seen how it destroyed his family. He swore he’d never make a similar mistake.
Then in 2003, the company he’d founded ran into problems. Out of a sense of responsibility to his employees and their families, Toby to...
Posted on December 30th, 2018
Jake Auchincloss emailed me about my recent post For the greater good: the game theory of zoning and made the constructive point that a homeowner's mindset is "situation-dependent, not ingrained". At the end of the post, I had written that "Individualists and Regionalists are odd bedfellows". Jake pointed out that there may be tension at the abstract level of the Individualist-Localist-Regionalist framework, but that in practice people don't o...
Posted on December 26th, 2018
I was in London for a conference for a few days in late October. The city was lovely, an unexpectedly nice place to wander. I came in with low expectations, expecting a drab, grey metropolis congested with traffic and filled with suited financiers scurrying from place to place. What I found was an agglomeration of charming urban villages, each with their own specific flavor. They were pedestrian-friendly, spotted with parks, and draped with tr...
Posted on November 29th, 2018
This is a Spanish translation of notes from about a year ago. You can find the original in English here.
Estas notas provienen de leer dos publicaciones del blog fantástico Urban Kchoze:Urban kchoze: Japanese zoning (aquí está la copia anotada)Urban kchoze: Euclidian zoning (aquí está la copia anotada)
El sistema japonés es inclusivo, distinto al sistema americano que es exclusivo. La forma típica de zonificación en America se llama zonificac...
Posted on November 17th, 2018
A debate I’ve come across again and again is whether language is objective or subjective. It tends to crop up in moments like when dictionaries update the word "literally" with contradictory definitions or when people argue that Ebonics isn't "correct" English.
The working definitions we'll use:objective: something that can be correct or incorrect, i.e. really out there in the world independent of whether or not you perceive itsubjective: so...
Posted on November 16th, 2018
Pro-housing advocates criticize "NIMBYs" as being uncooperative and selfish. However that's not how the so-called NIMBYs see themselves. The difference is a question of the granularity of your analysis.
Individualists vs Localists
A question I hear a lot is: "Why do NIMBY homeowners support zoning laws? Isn't it in their best interest to allow for the highest and best use so that they can sell their own property for the maximum price? Don't t...
Posted on November 8th, 2018
Update: A few people have criticized my spending only a single Friday night in Manchester. I meant to highlight the fact that that my experience isn't comprehensive, not to imply I think I have some deep understanding of the place after just one short weekend. However I realize it may have come off as the exact opposite.
So to clarify the limited scope of this post: I was in Manchester for a short time, and some specific differences in culture...
Posted on October 5th, 2018
Epistemic status: High confidence about my own experience, mid-high confidence that it generalizes to others'.
Epistemic effort: Low-to-medium effort. It's a concept I've had in my head for a while, then I did a stream-of-consciousness oral draft with Otter.ai, and then I then read it over once for minor editing.
I have received a lot of positive feedback for noting my epistemic status and effort at the top of my posts. This is hilarious, bec...