More from: Idea

How Romantimatic

I read a blog post by Greg Knauss, the creator of an iPhone app called Romantimatic, an app “to remind the distracted or forgetful to text nice things to their significant other”. Sounds like a cool app, right?

The blog post is only partially about the app itself, instead focusing more on the “medium-level Internet pile-on” that happened after its release.

Here is a paragraph from the article:

Derision from Cult of Mac. Disapproval from Esquire. The accusation that my goofy project has killed romance as we know it from Elle. Fifteen hundred words of high-minded arm-chair psychology and moral indignation from the Atlantic, including the comparison of the app’s users to — reductio ad absurdum — those who need reminding not to harm animals. And thousands and thousands of excoriating tweets.

Such a harmless app, but such a harsh reaction! It made me think about why people view it as indicating something broken in the person who uses such an app.

I figure it has something to do with people’s perception of being included in a technological solution to a social or interpersonal problem without their consent.

A hypothetical analogy would be a dating website… but one that didn’t connect the user with other users, but showed them automatically created profile pages of non-users using external sources like Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts. All those disparate, but publicly viewable, data streams are out there, and it would only take one startup to use it to automatically create dating site profiles.

The users of the dating site could then pay to get the phone number or email or other contact information of their top picks, and end messages asking for dates.

But that sounds creepy! Right? The Romantimatic app is nowhere near as extreme as this example, but I think the visceral reaction against it comes about because it feels like it lands somewhere along a path that leads to such a world. We want to have social connections that have equal amounts of effort, time, emotion, and even money, flowing both ways.

The smartphone technology element is only one factor in this equation. The technology can be far more simple, like a stranger approaching you for the purposes of romantic engagement in a bar is acceptable and not creepy, but the same stranger approaching you in your kitchen is utterly unthinkable.

The level of social engagement is variable too. It doesn’t just have to be about romantic relationships. The creepiness still arises when there is unequal access to the technological solution; being signed up for email news letters or being added to FaceBook groups without permission gets at the same source of discomfort. Taken to the extreme: email spam.

While it would be a completely different app, one that functions like Romantimatic but was accessible by both parties in a relationship would bypass the creepiness factor and the resulting reactions. I can imagine a game where the user’s partner one would put in some simple keywords or phrases that they’d like to hear from their significant other, but that remained hidden in the app. The user would then compose a new romantic text message whenever they are reminded too, and if they guess the keyword or phrase they get… well, probably nothing but a gold star. The point of the game isn’t the game itself. The game is simply a way to make sure that the partner knows the romantic text messages is part of a technological solution, and their entering some keywords is consent of inclusion.

Idea: every story is based on a true story.

I recently read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and I noticed that so many of these fantastical stories from the 19th Century are frame stories. I love the idea that the author didn’t make up these stories, but received a manuscript and was just passing it along (Connecticut Yankee), or it happened to their uncle (A Princess of Mars (admittedly not 19th Century)), or they are a reporter just passing on the story of another person (The Time Machine).

Each one of them has some telling detail that convinced the author that the “person” they received the “true story” from was not lying. It could be a bit of technology, or something they noticed, or a fact that they otherwise couldn’t have known.

Any, my simple observation is that any story could, in theory, be given the movie tag line “Based on a True Story” or even “A True Story”.

It works like this:
1. Begin each story with someone sitting down to write or read a story.
2. Then tell the story that they wrote or read.
3. End with a scene showing the person finishing the story.

That’s it! The “Based on a true story” claim is only about the frame story of someone sitting down to either read or write the story within the story. As long as that frame character makes no claims to the verifiable truth of the framed story, you’re good to go.

Of course, they can claim they believe the framed story, but that just means that at some point the reader/writer must claim that, and so it is true, and you’re still good to go.

I might write a script that adds a scene of someone sitting down to read an ebook to the beginning of every novel in public domain, and then publish them all here on my blog.

“”The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells” by Luke Burrage – A True Story!”

Again, maybe this idea should just stay in my head.

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Idea: Real Time Beatles Tribute Band

I just watched a Beatles tribute show by a band called The Beatles Experience. It’s hard to judge how good a tribute band is when they are playing such music. Even the worst karaoke performer can get the everyone joining in with Hey Jude, and it takes really bad audience not to at least shake it up a little when they hear the a band knock out twist and shout. I don’t want to compare The Beatles Experience to a karaoke set, they were way better than that, but there’s no doubt that it’s the material that is the real strength, and the real attraction.

So that made me think: what would be the “greatest” tribute band be like? Would dressing and looking exactly like the Beatles do the job? How about playing every song note for note, perfectly?

Here’s my outline for the ultimate Beatle’s tribute experiment. I’ll call them the Real Time Beatles.

  • Get four guys, all about the right age.
  • Make sure they don’t know too much about the Beatles, but immerse them in popular music from the 50’s.
  • Make them play together in a club in Germany for years, but only other people’s music.
  • After enough time, let them learn and play only the very first Beatles songs.
  • We know when the Beatles wrote each song, and when they performed them for the first time. Only let the Real Time Beatles learn those songs after the correct time has passed since the previous song.
  • Over the years, they learn and perform only the songs that the Beatles knew and played at the same point in the band’s career.
  • I’m sure we have the set lists from many of their concerts, so the Real Time Beatles can play those same sets on the correct dates.
  • They have to change their hair and clothes to fit with photos of the band at the time.

One of the main reasons the Beatles stopped doing live shows was that they became too popular. The screaming fans would scream so loud they couldn’t hear the music, and the band on stage couldn’t hear the music either. But the Real Time Beatles won’t have that same problem! They can keep doing live shows, but incorporate the material from the Beatles albums that was never performed live.

And then, at the moment that the Real Time Beatles reach the point where the Beatles split up, keep the band together. At this point they will be some of the most knowledgable authorities on the Beatles music, having learned every song in order, and progressed as musicians to fit the mould these songs have provided. We can then feed in music from the solo careers of the Beatles.

At this point they can start writing and performing their own music.

Will the music be any good? No idea. The experiment is one of nurture over nature, with four random musicians who live the same musical lives as the most popular band of the century. It would be a fake continuation of a band who played the same music, but without the fame and accolades. At least the music would be interesting. Right?

Mainly I like the idea of the commercial interest in the Real Time Beatles. If you book them in the first year, the set list would be limited. “Can you do this and this and this?” “No, sorry, we’ve not released Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band yet.”

And if you want to book them for a certain date, they would turn up with a pre-selected set list and outfits. “Yeah, sorry, I know you want us to do these other songs, but this is the date of our Mets stadium show.”

“Look, we’d love to a gig next weekend, but we’ll have to do it without George. He’s going to be unconscious in a drugs haze.”

“If you want us to perform Long and Winding Road, you’re going to have to book us again in three years.”

“The Frog Song? Are you high?”

It would be cool to set up some famous photo shoots too. A recreation of Sargent Pepper’s album cover, but with different famous people as cardboard cutouts. Abbey Road zebra crossing walk. That would be fun.

Or maybe all this is only interesting in my head. Such things normally are.

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