City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Simplicity and complexity

Written in


In a moment, two snipped quotes, but first, a new tool.

I’m using NewsFire for tracking my websites these days. So far, it’s proving to be a superb solution to a situation that had spiralled out of control. I was on the verge of un-subscribing from all but about ten feeds due to the impossibility of keeping up, but NewsFire’s simple interface, with some clever complexity hidden away, is doing the trick. (Thanks to Nico Macdonald for the recommendation.)

The random collisions enabled by reading blogs in this stream of near-unconsciousness can reveal deep, otherwise hidden, patterns; indeed, sometimes about complexity and information density. It just happened. Just now.

First, Michal Migurski in a conversation with Peter Merholz and Fernando Viegas at the IDEA conference blog:

"I agree with Peter’s opinion about the relationship between complexity
and popularity. It’s a lot like pop music in that way – provide a hook
that can be hummed, and then backfill the complexity into the
production and subtext for longevity. The KLF’s book “The Manual”
articulates this more effectively than anything else I’ve seen, and has
served as a foundation for most of my interests for the past 4 or 5
years. An effective visual interpretation of information hides the same
kind of subtlety in a simple presentation."

I love that – "provide a hook
that can be hummed, and then backfill the complexity into the
production and subtext for longevity"

Then, next up, Emmet Connelly’s Thoughtwax, with ‘Local History‘ on a random encounter with an old feller outside a Blooming blue plaque on a Dublin street:

"We heard about how the area had once been a melting pot of cultures:
a stronghold of the Jewish community in Ireland (the man, who had grown
up in the area, used to earn money every Saturday evening for turning
on the lights in their houses because they refused to work), the
working class (at least until 1969, when they moved out to the
newly-built suburbs and a Northside/Southside socioeconomic divide was
created), settled British army officers and their families (who used to
display a picture of a horse in their window to indicate their
loyalty), and local tradesmen and shopkeepers (like the butcher who
refused to remove the swastika, an ancient and beautiful symbol, from
his van just because it had been hijacked by Adolf). We chatted about
famous people in history and local literature, listened to some
anecdotes, and heard about the architectural and cultural changes of
the last fifty years. All of it about the road we were standing on,
every story (to get a bit floaty about it all), invisibly woven into
the fabric of the street. We walked back into the city centre as it got dark, enthused and
fresh with one of those completely obvious but exciting realisations; there’s history everywhere."

Behind a simple facade, layered complexity.


One response to “Simplicity and complexity”

  1. Colin Avatar

    Very nice example, I subscribe to about 60 feeds (not all of them very active) but haven’t observed this sort of thing – will have to watch with more of an eagle eye. Would you care to explain how Newsfire has helped with your feed overload? I tried and bought the app a year or so ago, but have ended up preferring Vienna, which is freeware and open source. I’ve found its three column layout better for high volume useage than Newsfire’s approach which requires the user to click an article heading to view the article itself, thus losing the overview of headers and the direct ability to skip stuff that doesn’t look interesting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: