I reckon that cut-n-paste is going to come back in a big way. Four main reasons:

1) The ratio of zine-makers to audience is too high. Everyone buying ‘zines makes them. The numbers are rising. It’s going to bleed out into the commercial market again.

2) It’s still a go-to metaphor for how pocket of the internet like Tumblr work. And as the generation currently swimming about on Tumblr starts going to art school this month, physicalising their process is probably going to involve scissors, glue and scanners.

3) Tumblrs and Jams and new kinds of markup are helping people make the web ugly again. These ugly things are going to bleed into boutiques, then totebags, then adverts, then commutes, then bookshelves.

4) Because it’s time. It’s sort of what happens next after the austerity/Scandowegian fisherman thing, the faded photo thing and the girls of classic sci-fi thing.

Artefact cards

A little while back John Willshire got in touch about testing out some of his Artefact Cards, a product he’s developing as part of his marketing and product studio Smithery.

A result of John’s “massive dislike of post-it notes”, the cards are a tactile, sturdy and archivable substitute, something to present to as well as a general brainstorming aid.

For narrative they’re super. I’ve had massive problems in the past with thinking about sequencing stories using cards, but the relatively small face of the Artefact cards means you stick only to essentials, major story beats that allow other elements of character to flow in the writing.

For copywriting I’m still trying things out. The boxing and unboxing of the cards helps throw focus on the architecture of a message or a paragraph – ‘What order should these things be said in?’ – but that creates a new problem, in which I have trouble seeing a message as a deployable object – ‘What needs to go up and when?’ – so they’ve yet to have an airing at GDS.

But, as I type I’m joining the dots on something else I’ve had in my head for a while, copywriting totems. Maybe my next test of the cards could be as little pocketable reminders, things to help thinking when a notebook is too much…

Anyway, if they sound like the sort of thing you might use then John’s made a short run available over at his website. They’re pretty cheap for what’s been a lovely addition to my toolkit.

I need more rooms

I read your blog post the other day. It reminded me of a book. In it there’s– I don’t know if you’ve read it maybe? I don’t remember the author’s name. Or the name of the book. Anyway, I read this book when I was younger where this man builds a machine – a really big machine, the whole ground floor of an old terraced house – and it’s got all of these levers and buttons. And he pushes different levers and buttons, and turns different handles. It’s a bit like Bop-It actually. He pulls all this different stuff and sometimes he has to use his toes and his feet and his arms and hands are everywhere. And only he can use it, no-one else knows where the right things are. And when he’s done what he wants he gets a story out at the other end. Anyway, it reminded me of that.”

EDIT: 08:52

I am now looking for two things one thing. One is something like the thing I described the other day. The other is the name of the book that’s being described above.

Jonty tells me that the story being described above was Roald Dahl’s The Great Automatic Grammatizator. Brilliant. At the moment the Wikipedia plot desription of it closes with the following;

The story ends on a fearful note, as more and more of the world’s writers are forced into licensing their names-and all hope of human creativity-to the machine.

Another reason I definitely don’t want that machine. The thing I’m looking for is altogether quieter. I described it on Twitter yesterday as “something that could mull over copy for me” which is about right.


There’s a phase in some of the copywriting that I do where I start using ctrl-c and ctrl-v to move fragments and phrases around a page. Sometimes the fragments are from several of my own drafts, sometimes they’re the voices of a bunch of other writers. Sometimes it lasts hours, other times just minutes. But the question is always the same; what shapes can I see if I move these around? After a while I find myself writing the sentence that needs to be written.

I realised today that when it comes to writing a biog or a positioning statement that job could benefit from a companion-bot/non-human actor.

What I want is something a bit like this

And a bit like this

As I moved words around today I realised I was looking at something a little bit like Tom’s Markov Chocolate Twitterbot. But putting the original documents through a Markov chain wouldn’t be enough, I’d want to be able to influence the outcome of the next iteration of text (to, say, pick two outcomes to propagate the next generation of text).

It wouldn’t have to be perfect. The idea is that it sparks enough connections to make me write the line I need to write.

So, does this exist? Can I have it?

Long live Paper Science!

Paper Science 7 is out today, heralding the end of a project that’s played some part in my life for the last two and a half years.

I’m immensely proud of how Paper Science has grown in that time. The last four issues in particular are a snapshot of why British comics are flourishing right now. They’re available as a collection for just £8.

I’ll probably write up some of the lessons when issue 7’s had a bit of time to settle. Until then I’m just enjoying looking at Adam‘s lovely cover.

If you’ve been involved in any way – from spending hours slaving over panels to just coming up at a show and just picking up a copy – thank you. It’s been ace.

Notes and rosaries

I had trouble connecting to the internet while I was up at Thought Bubble. Besides snatched moments on Leeds Central Library’s computer and a bit of 3G I stayed pretty much unconnected throughout, foiled by hotel Wi-Fi and fictional ethernet cables.

That meant that research and social networks were fine, but things like draft emails, starred massages, Dropboxed docs and etherpad-style text interfaces were well out.

And that’s how I make a lot of my notes now. Scattered .txt files flung throughout the internet.

I wouldn’t mention it, but there was a lot of talk about print and digital throughout Thought Bubble, a lot of talk about notes and texture and The Feel Of Things. But for every scrap of paper I have with an idea scrawled in pen I’ve now got five scraps of digital detritus. Just as disposable, just as significant, just as hard to replace.

On returning from Leeds I found my FRSTEE waiting for me. FRSTEE was built by the folks at RIG, and it’s a little snowman ornament that uses your Twitter data as the basis for its shape and details.

It’s not unrelated to the things I couldn’t access. I like the idea that toys like FRSTEE might evolve into rosary-like totems of notes and scribblings, cairns for the pathway your digital notes might be mapping. There’s a space somewhere between the back of a train ticket and the innards of an Oyster card that offers us room for such fragmentary reminders of the things we ought to remember.

James has talked about this in relation to ebooks

These records—souvenirs—are important because they serve as touchstones, aides memoires, and visual quantifiers. They remind us of where we’ve been, keep experiences in our minds, enable us to learn from them through reinforcement.

…but I honestly didn’t get what he meant by that until I found myself reaching for a textfile I couldn’t access, in a library filled with dusty hardbacks and microfilm.