Our friend and Senior Editor Paul Miller has decided to take a hiatus from the internet. Here is all the news of his adventures and his weekly diary updates in one convenient place: the internet.
May 3, 2013
Offline: how to use the internet
Whew! What a week.Read Article >
First came Monday, and then Tuesday, and then there was the internet. You know how in Star Trek when they engage the warp engines and the Enterprise kind of stalls for a moment while its projection blurs toward the future, toward the stars, and then it’s gone? I’m in the blur phase.
Mar 26, 2013
Offline: boiling it down to the essentials
At the end of a Veggie Tales episode, from his perch on a kitchen counter, flanked by his faithful sidekick Larry the Cucumber, Bob the Tomato asks, "what have we learned today?" It’s an important part of classic children’s programming: after the entertainment comes the morals. Come for the hilarious veggie hijinks, stay for the turn-your-life-around-kid Bible verse.Read Article >
Well, my veggie hijinks are about to come to a close, and now it’s time for me to boil them down into digestible Life Lessons and, you know, write a bestselling book about my experiences.
Feb 27, 2013
Offline: making music and fighting my computer
Computers are where music goes to die. Now, I frequently like to point out that my internet abstinence has nothing to do with a dislike of technology itself — gesturing toward the iPad I’m holding to illustrate the point — but with music, I find technology to be the very devil itself.Read Article >
Perhaps it traces back to my folksy upbringing. My dad had his own bluegrass band while I was growing up, and many an evening the Millers would gather ‘round and jam out classic gospel tunes. I was typically on the “drums,” which is not a traditional bluegrass instrument (guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, fiddle), and therefore I was often admonished for my volume and “untraditional” rhythms. But it was this very give-and-take between the players that made those times special — it was just as important to listen as it was to play.
Feb 6, 2013
Offline: love, loss, and dating without Facebook
There’s only been one girl in this year without the internet. I liked her “that way,” and she didn’t like me “that way,” and so that was that. But it was fun while it almost lasted.Read Article >
Our original chance encounter was brought on by boredom. I was sitting alone in my apartment, and none of my friends were returning my calls. It was a holiday weekend, I have lame friends. So I called my parents, grabbed my skateboard, and puttered around Union Square while I confessed my problems with singleness to my folks. They were literally pitching me on a sort of embarrassing meat market conference meant to pair off Christian homeschoolers, when I saw a familiar face.
Jan 30, 2013
Offline: my quest to find a ‘StarCraft’ replacement in my life
I miss StarCraft, man. I just miss it.Read Article >
StarCraft wasn’t a game for me, it was a lifestyle. It was a “no, I can’t go out tonight” sort of thing. A start-at-7PM-end-at-2AM thing. StarCraft bent me to its will. It made my brain operate in new ways, taught my fingers to click and type in a new rhythm, conditioned my ass to fight the burn of sustained sitting. It asked me to learn how to lose without rage, to learn from my mistakes, to iterate, to memorize stupid build orders. Most of all, StarCraft was a new way to be friends with people.
Jan 17, 2013
Offline: how my creativity got killed
Last week I found myself slouched on a couch, ten feet away from a pair of $107,000 speakers. I was on the 35th floor of The Venetian hotel, which towers over the tail end of the Las Vegas strip. I was listening to an overwrought piano cover of Joni Mitchell’s immortal “A Case of You.” I was unhappy.Read Article >
Moments before I’d listened to a pair of $75,000 speakers. Moments before that, I enjoyed my second demo of the best-of-show favorite Oculus Rift VR goggles. Maybe I was still nauseated from the Oculus demo, or maybe I was just a little tired, but I got to wondering, “Is this all the pleasure that a $107,000 pair of speakers can really provide?”
Jan 8, 2013
Offline: why am I here?
When I was a kid I had a box of “electronics.” Basically, it was cannibalized parts from various decrepit gadgets, like RC cars, walkie talkies, and cassette players. I always dreamed of mashing together a few circuit boards and making something new, but obviously had no knowledge of that process. But I kept the box. There was something intrinsic to that tangle of wires and transistors that felt like technology to me.Read Article >
I still have collections of useless electronics. I don’t take them apart anymore, but I keep them around “just in case.” My old GameBoy Advance that I don’t have any games for. Adapter dongles for anything to anything. A Sanyo Xacti, that little Nike+ step sensor thing, an armband to hold the iPod nano I gave away to an ex-girlfriend.
Dec 18, 2012
Offline: listening to music
New York Magazine just recently listed its top 10 albums for the year. I only had heard one of them; in fact, I’d only heard of one of them.Read Article >
The album is called good kid m.A.A.d city, a Short Film by Kendrick Lamar. It’s by some fella named Kendrick Lamar. I bought it on a recommend from my good friend and editor Thomas Houston, the unofficial tastemaker / GIF-tracker around the Verge office. I asked innocently what he was jamming out to at the moment, he told me, and so I went to Best Buy and paid Real Deal Paper American Dollars for the album on Compact Disc. When Thomas recommends something, I listen. When he Tumbles a GIF, I lol. At least I did back when I could Tumble online. This guy has taste for days.
Dec 10, 2012
Offline: into the woods
I have a friend named Cash Lawless. First name Cash, last name Lawless. He’s a hair dresser, naturally. But outside of his profession he’s the epitome of masculinity: he builds motorcycles, he plays street ball, he breaks hearts, and his name is Cash Lawless. He’s recently started to hike the Appalachian Trail, one section at a time, in a "roughing it," self-sufficient sort of way. I knew about this hobby, and admired it, but never considered going along. Until I did.Read Article >
Cash doesn’t do anything halfway. Before he even hiked his first section of the "A.T." (as the Appalachian Trail is referred to by the canteen-and-neckerchief crowd), Cash tested out his sleeping bag and tent on the roofs of friends. He started showing up places in his water-wicking pants, and broke in his hiking boots religiously — which he refers to as the "Ferrari" of hiking boots, without irony.
Dec 3, 2012
Offline: how do you look at porn?
It was late June, about two months after I left the internet. I was in Mexico City, and there was no HBO in my hotel room, so at around midnight I ventured out into the narrow, dark streets, bouncing from convenience store to convenience store in search of a magazine. I tried to buy it casually, disguise it among some snacks, but my face was still flush as I handed over the pesos.Read Article >
The magazine was soft core to the max — pillow soft. I found only one of the women in it attractive, and was soon bored with my purchase. To hide it from the hotel maid, I put the magazine in my bag, and that's how it ended up flying home with me back to New York. As I cleaned out my bag the next day I found the magazine, and instead of throwing it in my own garbage can, risking discovery by my roommate, I walked to the street corner with the evidence in a plastic bag and threw it into a public trash can.
Nov 5, 2012
Offline: the election
In a newspaper recently I read an editorial about "the L word," the L word being, in this instance, "Liar."Read Article >
Apparently it's rude in politics to call someone a liar. I was actually not aware of this. I thought you were supposed to call liars by their name. Isn't to do otherwise a lie? I understand the concept of "spin" and being selective about which facts you offer an uninformed sucker, and even the term "intentionally misleading." But what about lies? Do they exist anymore in politics?
Nov 2, 2012
Offline: the hurricane
It's been six months since I left the internet. So far, I think I made the right choice. At home the other day, to help convince myself I was doing well, I stacked all the books I'd read so far. It was two, almost three feet high! More importantly, if I want to read a book, then I just read it. I just say: "Hey you, book, come over here, let me read you." It's a stunning ability, one I haven't possessed since I was 10 and a member of Pizza Hut's Book-It club.Read Article >
Still, all these books later, I feel like I'm writing more or less the same article over and over. I was hoping for a few more hijinks to share with you, but most of my time writing seems spent in introspection. Specifically I think there's one question that sums up this entire experiment:
Oct 26, 2012
Offline: missing out
We, and in this case I mean "society," not the royal "we," are obsessed with not missing out. The phrasing here is important: we're not obsessed with knowing everything, catching everything, being in-the-know at all times on all topics, because of course that's impossible. But we just can't stand the thought of "missing out."Read Article >
Now, "missing out" is a difficult term to define, purposefully vague as it plays in a tape loop-of-fear in our heads. So I'll offer a few symptoms.
Oct 16, 2012
Offline: news in free fall
On Sunday afternoon I called a friend to see if he wanted to go shopping. He informed me that he was watching the jump. I flipped out, hung up the phone, and sprinted down to my coffee shop, which has CNN on most days.Read Article >
CNN wasn't showing the jump when I tuned in. For a moment I was scared Felix and co. had scrapped the jump again.
Oct 10, 2012
Offline: the mailbox revisited
Let's celebrate the small successes: I can mail things now. I do it on a regular, multiple-times-a-week basis. I mailed two things today, in fact.Read Article >
If you'll recall, there was a time I could not mail things. But now I can mail things. I mail renewal slips for magazines, insurance claim forms, self-addressed stamped envelopes requesting photos of my new nephew, personal letters to close friends, personal letters to new friends.
Oct 1, 2012
Offline: touching the iPhone 5
So far three: Josh's, Ross's, Sam's. How could I not? A few minutes at a time. Giving them back like a hot potato, trying to quench my desire before it grows too hot and I bike to the nearest Apple Store and pay whatever it takes for a device I can't use. In my brief encounters I heft and examine, slotting it into the nooks of my hand, reaching across the screen with my thumb to test the requirements of 4 inches. I sidescroll back-and-forth on the home screen. Did I just see lag? Wait, how does the panorama work? What's Passbook? Don't tell me. Oh man, I need this. Here, take it back, leave me alone. I'm a Huawei man now. Do I look weak? I feel weak.Read Article >
I'm sure a million words have been spilled by tech journalists trying to describe the new iPhone. With every iPhone, I find our prose gives out under the weight of adulation, even though it's adulation on a leash. We might try to sound flippant, as if we just woke from sleep to a phone call (our review editor, hoping for a shortage of one-way-or-other bias), and are trying to mask the grog in our voice. "Oh, it's taller and thinner and lighter I guess, but it's still just an iPhone," we fool ourselves into saying through cotton mouths. Apple seems to have anticipated this line, running a full-page ad in my newspaper every day with a simple photo of the iPhone and that cocky "The most iPhone yet" tagline.
Sep 24, 2012
You know what I hate? Email. I hated it before I left the internet, and I hate it now. It's a cancer on our society. It is all-consuming. Email has absorbed into itself short messages, long messages, cute conversations between two people, futile conversations between a dozen people, calendar invites, Twitter subscription notifications, Facebook friend requests, password recovery, file exchange, file storage, coupons, project management, newsletters, infighting, backbiting, apologies, diatribes, bills, receipts, payments, and the great how-to-stay-organized minds of our generation.Read Article >
As the months pass since my departure from the internet, my friends are getting better and better about slip-ups like "hey, check this out," or "just Google it," but "just email me" persists. If I ask for contact information, I'm looking for a name and a phone number, but I get an email instead. There's something so ingrained about email. I don't have the phone numbers, home addresses, or even Tumblr URLs memorized for most of my friends, but their email addresses spring easily to mind — almost like they are that address.
Sep 13, 2012
I was raised by Tim "The Toolman" Taylor to believe Real Men don't ask for directions; and then they get lost in the wilderness and get berated by their wife. Such is the way of things. But, like a precocious young JTT, I've decided to blaze my own path and stray from Tim's example: I love asking for directions.Read Article >
Before I left the internet, I did it as a sort of thought exercise. I don't need help from this salesperson, but maybe they'll prove their worth — if they're bluffing, it will only take a couple Google searches to find out. Sure, I could order the thing on the menu that sounds good to me and that I can pronounce, but maybe the waiter is really good at pronouncing things, and has a personal favorite? Of course, nobody goes anywhere without Google Maps to guide them, but if I ask a local for their preferred train route, I might get an enlightening, helpful answer. Asking was a way of broadening my mind, a flexibility exercise like yoga. It was a luxury.
Aug 31, 2012
Offline: avatars and alts
In Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Johnny Mnemonic, Hackers, and just about every other chilling pseudo-cyberpunk vision of the future, there are two worlds. One is physical, where Real Death is possible, and where you choke on the pollution of New Tokyo-Beijing or whatever. The other world is virtual. You play an avatar in that world, or perhaps just a disembodied viewpoint, or you get polygonal hands to wave out in front of you, but there is only one virtual reality. If you're on the network, you're on The Network.Read Article >
This is nothing like the year 2012. Sure, we've flirted with this concept. Some people have poured thousands of hours of their lives into a World of Warcraft avatar. That avatar quotes lore, has a touching personal backstory, makes friends, gets married, quests, lives, and almost breathes in Azeroth. But most hardcore WoW players have a dozen or so alts. Those alts aren't much more than stacks of numbers: level earned, hours played, equipment gained, prestige, achievements, guild rank, etc. Instead of pretending like WoW is real, people install fancy toolbars to automate certain arduous tasks, voice chat in unglamorous strategy lingo with their guildmates over Ventrilo, and grind out quests with a step-by-step guide on their phone or in another window.
Aug 24, 2012
Offline: 'My Dinner with André'
A couple years ago, I borrowed all of my friend's Criterion DVDs and Blu-rays. I still haven't given them back, and watch them from time to time. (In case he's reading this: I'm "sorry".) The other night was my second crack at My Dinner With André. I loved it the first time, but I wasn't sure how it would hold up.Read Article >
Well, it was incredible. Pretentious, self-defeating, quirky, and incredible.
Aug 13, 2012
Offline: how's it going?
It's all anybody asks me. I tell them I'm not using the internet for a year, and they just need to know: "How's it going?"Read Article >
"It's going great," I say.
Aug 7, 2012
Desktop 2.0 and the future of the networked operating system
The new wave of operating systems is, if not useless, at least pointless without the internet. Believe me, I've tried. I couldn't set up a Nexus 7 without connecting it to Wi-Fi, Mountain Lion isn't sold on DVD or even thumb drive, and Windows 8 without the internet is basically Windows 7 with a bizarre, pointless, fullscreen Start Menu. Every app wants a log-in, needs to be married to some cloud service, longs to share, hopes for updates, bathes your computer in push notifications.Read Article >
This is a wonderful thing.
Jul 19, 2012
Offline: a day with a little bit of Internet
Once upon a time, not so long ago, before I left the internet...Read Article >
I was sitting in my coffee shop, and the Wi-Fi wasn't working well. It would give me fat bandwidth in spurts, and then stall on any mission-critical website. It was infuriating. In spite, I set a file to download, and watched the Kbps fluctuate from the single digits, to triple, and back again. IRC, the only service I use that seems designed for these pre-broadband horrors, was saving up messages and then delivering them in bursts every couple of minutes.
Jul 12, 2012
Offline: hard to binge
The hyperlink architecture of the internet allows for an only-in-the-21st-century kind of binge. It always starts innocuously enough. Like, one time I saw a video of someone explaining their Yu-Gi-Oh deck, and I didn't understand 90 percent of the words they were using. So I read the Wikipedia entry on Yu-Gi-Oh. And then I watched some more YouTube videos. And then I read a Yu-Gi-Oh card game-specific wiki. And — OMG — I watched so many more YouTube videos.Read Article >
Seven hours later, at midnight, I was pretty sure Yu-Gi-Oh wasn't for me. What about Magic the Gathering? Three hours later, I fell asleep at my computer — dreaming about the Lord of The Rings collectible card game.
Jul 5, 2012
Offline: What is the internet?
My sister helps take care of a 7-year-old, who recently asked "what is the internet?" It's a good question. She (the 7-year-old) thought it meant computers and phones. I remember chuckling at the expense of elders who thought the Internet Explorer icon on their desktop was the internet. Will a future generation chuckle at me while I maintain a concept of the internet that was conceived in the dial-up era? Back then, the internet was something you'd "connect" to, and then "disconnect" from when your session was over and your parents wanted you to free up the phone line and go outside for once in my life. How simple and carefree we were.Read Article >
So is the internet computers and phones now? Is it more? I've found over the past couple months that I can't ask a question without getting an answer that was checked or double-checked on the internet. If someone recommends me something to read in "The New York Times," they read it first on the internet, even if they intend for me to read it in my paper version. I can't ask for directions without someone being on Google Maps in seconds, no matter how loud I protest. Every conversation feels informed by the internet in some way, or like it will end up on the internet some way. Even when I want to tell people what I do and to look me up, I have to resort to a pitiful "Uh, just Google 'Paul Miller' and 'The Verge' and 'Offline' and my articles should show up." What else would I do? Carry around autographed hard copies of my works?