My transatlantic air reading: Bubble City, a blog novel by Aaron Swartz

bubble city samplesAt least I know what I will read on the plane over at the Atlantic tomorrow back to old Europe: Bubble City by Aaron Swartz. What by who? Bubble city is a blog tech novel with chapters as posts. The story takes place in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley around a startup called Newsflip going deep into current web techniques, startup happenings, Google trends & types and tokens of people with the tools of fiction. It is well written, it is witty, I’ve just started but quickly became excited about it due to its experimental character and the insider angle of the writer behind. Bubble City is the brainchild of Aaron Swartz Reddit cofounder, who is an extremely talented 20 year old American programmer, hacker (think of George Hotz or young Saul Kripke tinkering with modal logics), although in his blog Raw Thought (long time blogroll guest of Pimm) he usually writes like an old central European, highbrow human intellectual with the necessary cultural references. And that makes him a very interesting phenomenon, one that is almost missing in the American tech-web scene: an intellectual with a broad spectrum of interests and arguments. I met Aaron at the last seconds of the SciFoo Camp at the Googleplex (he writes a lot about the Number One Plex) and really liked his celebrity focused gossip liveblogging account on the event with people like Tim O’ Reilly and Henry Gee explaining themselves in the comment section.

Hopefully Aaron will be able to finish Bubble City by excluding or neutralizing or properly incorporating outworld reflexion (like this and that of Blogoscoped) into it. Finishing a novel and completing a code are not the same though and epic talent has the bad habit not to let young writers reach perfection in their early trials.

Here are 2 sections from Bubble city and the links to the 11 chapters so far (it is not aggregated as far as I know and you always have to change the numbers at the end of the URL):

Chapter 1

He popped open the recording software, making sure he got his nose squarely in its frame, his face so close thataaron swartz spittle would land on the lens. In a world where every teenage kid could stream a live feed of himself having sex to millions, only the most aggressive vlogcasters survived. Wayne was no dummy. He didn’t get to be the number seven blog in the TechnoScene rankings by sitting back and offering his opinions. No. This was war and every show a battle.

Today’s enemy? Newsflip, one of the crummy little online news aggregator sites, which was threatening to write him out of the history books by dumping the technology he’d single-handedly invented, news notation analysis (NNA), and going with some upstart competitor that didn’t even bother to have an acronym for a name. Sure, Newsflip was a tiny site in the scheme of things, but if it switched it would set a dangerous precedent.

Chapter 2

Downtown San Francisco is a world of carefully-gridded streets and looming skyscrapers, but hidden behind a gas station on Third is a place that almost looks like another world. The sun shines brightly upon a park with green grass and tall shady trees and vibrant swings with children. The park is an oval and the perimeter is lined with small, pastel-colored buildings. Here and there are a smattering of small cafes and restaurants. And the other buildings are filled with startups. Twitter here. Adaptive Path there. Even Yahoo, when it wanted to encourage its employees to be more startup-y, opened up an office in the neighborhood. Sit on the grass and chances are you’ll sit near a friend from another company or bump into them in line at a cafe. The place crawls with companies and back on the street, surveying the scene with a distant but watchful eye, lie the journalists, whose publications cover with awe the rumblings of those below. It was here that Newsflip made its home.

Jason entered the building expecting to be greeted warmly by the relaxed startup world. Instead, the scene he entered was utter chaos. “Get me CNN!” shouted a man at the front of the room, apparently to no one in particular. Others buzzed at their desks, shouting to one another, shouting at their phones, shouting at their computers, shouting at their coffee mugs. One guy just seemed to keep spinning around in his chair for no reason in particular.

Jason stood around surveying the scene for a moment until a man standing up motioned for him to come over. “What do you mean we can’t get CNN?” he shouted into his phone. “This is America.” He placed his hand over the phone and looked down. “You must be Jason,” he said. “Uh, yes, sir. Are you–” “Goddamn it, I don’t care if you have to buy it, I want a 5 minute segment on Wolf Blitzer.” He covered the phone again. “It’s great to have you on the team, son.” Jason thought this was a bit fast to be adopted as a son, but didn’t feel like he could press the point.

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11