What's the most exciting project you worked on?

Seth Godin writes:

If someone asks you that, are you excited to tell them the answer?

in his post What are you working on? saying that you should be excited, even if it’s just your weekend project. I’m not that demanding, but I open all my interviews asking the candidate: “What’s the most exciting project you ever worked on?”. It can be years ago, I understand that sometimes we get stuck in shitty projects, but if you never managed to work in an exciting project I really worried.

How exciting? You should start talking, moving your hands around and forget you are in an interview. That exciting should be. Bonus points if I have to stop you because you just keep talking about the project and I have to do an interview.

Tron: Legacy: how it should have ended

Did you watch Tron: Legacy? If not, stop reading now, this post has spoilers, go watch it, and then come back. I’ll wait.

No, really, I’ll wait, I’m not going anywhere.

Still here? Ok. Visually, Tron: Legacy is amazing. I’m not going to do an in-depth review, I’m just going to say how I think it should have ended.

When Kevin, Sam and Quorra are fleeing, Tron and Clu should get close to their airplane, side by side, ready for the final blow. Clu’s airplane is on the left, next to Quorra, Tron’s airplane is on the right, next to Kevin. The end is near and Kevin mutters “Tron”. Tron then opens his helmet revealing a young Bruce Boxleitner that sais in his wonderful voice: “I’m Tron, I fight for the users”. Tron then does a barrel roll as his suit and airplane turn blue and crashes hard on Clu’s airplane.

Maybe my ending is more Hollywoodish, but with it they could then make Tron: return to the grid.

Science fiction fans: would you put your money where your mouth is?

The SciFi channels changes its name to Syfy to be able to attract people that don’t like science fiction, pissing off scifi fans. Then they cancel good shows and keep crappy ones. Recently they’ve cancelled Stargate Universe and people is all pissed about it. Meanwhile Star Trek, once a magnificent series, is rebooted into a dumb lens flare designed to make money out of idiots.

SciFi fans, it’s clear mainstream media no longer cares about you and as time goes on they’ll care less and less. I’m not sure why, I have a couple of hypothesis but that’s not important. What’s important is what you are going to do about it. First, you’ll have to make a sacrifice, you’ll have to forget about Star Trek, Stargate, Babylon 5 and all those great franchises. They have owners and the owners are saying “screw you!”.

The future is independent media, even user generated content. There’s no much of it yet, but it’s growing and it requires your support. For example, Pioneer One is an independent series released straight to BitTorrent. Have you donated to it already? It might not be exactly what you want, but if it succeeds it’ll send a clear message that it’s possible and maybe someone else will create what you want. You don’t have any money? Cancel your cable TV and use that extra 50$ or so per month to donate to Pioneer One or the next interesting thing.

Meanwhile technology is getting better and better and creating great content is getting easier, just look at this beautiful short:

As people get the ability to tell any story they want, instead of the sceptic, bland, non-challenging and generic stories Hollywood tells we’ll get much more interesting and fascinating tells. The future is going to be awesome but we may need to push, to band together and collaborate, to have it sooner.

Idea to help Hugh Laurie (House) with his leg

I’ve heard or read that Hugh Laurie is having some problems in his leg by having to fake a gimp all the time by acting as House. I think I’ve got a solution, it’s not cheap but it’s cheaper than having the actor not being able to perform anymore:

Build a set that is a mirror of the current sets down to the text in the doors, then have Hugh Laurie gimp with the other leg, film everything like than and then mirror the result, so that Hugh Laurie can balance out which side he’s straining.

I bet that it would also be a very interesting acting challenge.

Never assume

Picture by Horia Varlan

I was studying impro with a great teacher, the lessons ended late at night and at that time I was still driving and had a car, so I would take everyone who wanted to go in the same direction as me after the lesson. It was lot of fun.

One day, one of the women that rode in my car left a bottle. I mean a water bottle of those that you throw away to pollute the environment once you are done drinking the contents… or spilling it. I’ve found it on the car the next day.

I decided to use it as a well intentioned joke and tell her that she forgot the bottle in my car. I was expecting her to just throw it away, but that isn’t what happened. Instead she hugged me and thanked me deeply about returning the bottle.

Obviously I was surprised about her reaction, so she explained:

Whenever I travel, I buy local bottles of water and I keep them, I collect them. This one you’ve returned it’s from Chile, see, it’s not a brand you can get here.

What I assumed was garbage was actually something very valuable for her. I’m so glad that I didn’t act on my assumption and I was able to return the collection item. The moral of the story is: never assume.

The quality of documentaries

I got cable TV for the first time in the 90s. It was truly revolutionizing. We’ve never had so much access to so many different channels before, and I think we were getting something like 30 or 40 channels. I clearly remember two things about it:

  • Channels that would play the same movie over and over the whole day, one movie per day, with no interruptions.
  • Very high quality documentaries.

We had a channel called QualityTV which was exactly what its name said. I think it was a local (Argentinian) channel. For our family it was an Oasis. Our TV was tunned to it a lot of time and the documentaries were truly educational. Many of them happened in classrooms, with professors and blackboards. Sometimes in labs, doing scientific experiments. Before I went to high school I’ve already had a good grasp of magnetism thanks to that. I still remember the experiments with wires, electricity and a compass.

Then other documentary channels appeared including Discovery and there was a process which put channels like QualityTV out of business and today the documentary programming looks like this:

  • The 10 biggest explosion ever recorded.
  • The history of machines, and how they explode.
  • The future of explosive and how they could destroy the moon.
  • Dictatorships of the world, and the explosions they caused.
  • Medicine of the future: saving people from explosions.
  • Urban explosions.
  • Let’s build something and the blow the hell out of it.
  • Watch 1200 explosions en 45 minutes of TV.
  • Explosions, how the fuck do they work?
  • Building motorcycles (don’t worry, we’ll blow up something in the process, or at least, get someone hurt).

They are obviously after numbers, after rating and dollars. It’s a sad day for education. Well, no, it isn’t. It’s a sad day for TV, which is in its path to death anyway (at least as we know it). Today my living room has a huge TV connected to… my computer. I got cable and we watched maybe for 10 hours total. So I canceled it.

We’ve never had so much access to so much quality “TV” as we do today. And we are able to pick at any moment what we want to watch, nobody picks for us (isn’t that powerful?). Yes, there’s a lot of noise and crap out there, you just have to filter it out. Let me show you what the big screen at my home shows when it’s on (and I’m not watching a movie):

  • TED: amazing talks, lot’s of them, very interesting people, very optimistic most of the time. Since I’ve discovered they’ve added subtitles I’ve been watching TED at dinner with my wife almost every day and the result is amazing conversations, it’s so stimulating.
  • Ignite: it’s similar to TED, they are conferences but they are very short and fast. I think the quality is not evenly high as TED’s, but it’s still quite good. Their slogan: enlighten us, but make it quick.
  • FORA.tv: I know it because Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to be there quite often, but I haven’t watched it a lot.
  • BigThink: feels very much like TED or Ignite. I don’t know it well because a friend just recommended it to me yesterday.
  • This Week In: this is a podcast network; I mostly watch This Week in Startups but there’s a lot of different video podcasts that you can also watch live and interact with the hosts. You can also download to listen to them or watch them on your iPod or Android phone or whatever.
  • TWiT: another network of podcasts, more radioish in feel, which you can watch live sometimes or download for later. It’s more techish than This Week In. You may want to start with This Week in Tech.
  • GoogleTalks: lot’s of amazing 1-hour-long conferences.
  • Open Universities: many universities are recording their lessons and putting them online. You won’t get a title, but you’ll get what matters: knowledge. I think one of the reasons I’ve landed at google was SICP, which is a set of lessons about programming, probably one of the first open classes. Now MIT has Open Course Ware and I’m sure there are many others out there.

Notable mentions: sometimes there are good speakers and I just search for them on YouTube and I play one video after the other. Some I like:

  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson: he’s an astrophysicist and the director of the New York planetarium. He’s also a great speaker and quite funny.
  • Dan Savage: he has a column about sex and love and most videos are him answering questions about sex, love and relationships. Quite hilarious although the content might be NSFW.
  • James Burke’s Connections is now online. That’s a documentary about the modern history of society, the history of technology.

There’s enough educational and interesting material that exists and that’s being produced to keep me busy full time, every day of the week for the rest of my life. The challenge is picking which ones I want. There’s really no excuse for watching crappy TV other than wanting to watch crappy TV (and there’s nothing wrong with that!).

I bet there are even many more gems out there that I’m missing. So, what’s your source of quality TV? Please share!