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Matt Thompson
Works at National Public Radio
Attended Harvard College
Lives in Washington, DC
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Matt Thompson

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(Whoops; somehow lost the first paragraph.) Git is software that can take a snapshot of your code (the snapshot is what we call a "git repo") and compare that snapshot to any other snapshots it's taken (sort of like 'Compare documents' in Microsoft Word).

Having the repo makes it a snap to deploy code from your computer to a production server, because you just "clone" the repository to that server. That means that you can make a bunch of changes to the code on your computer, then tell the production server to pull all of those changes from the master repo.

GitHub is a hosting service for your code. It understands the language of git, and lets you store a clone of your repo in the cloud. That lets you 1) deploy from the GitHub server to your production server, 2) enable other folks to view the code and clone it to their own environments, 3) use some additional functionality around the repo, like getting a pretty UI to view all your commits, an easy way to zip your code to send to others, etc.

Apparently git can do a lot of stuff, but I've used it mostly for a very simple deployment workflow. After I cloned the repository first on GitHub and then from GitHub to my production server, deployment for me is now just three steps: 1) commit any changes to the code on my computer ("git commit -a -m 'Description of the snapshot'"), 2) push the new code snapshot from my computer to GitHub (git push), 3) pull the new code snapshot from GitHub to my production server (ssh into production server, then "git pull"). It takes about a minute each time. If it ever got much more complicated, I'd probably investigate using a deployment library like Fabric to manage these tasks.
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Matt Thompson

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(again, via +Tim Carmody)
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Matt Thompson

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What I was saying about Maud Newton's piece this weekend: First off, I really did love it. I have to love a piece that credits DFW with having invented the tone that would ultimately characterize blogs. But I don't at all think that his slangy insertions - the sort ofs, totallys and reallys - are ultimately about anticipating backlash or pleading for likability. She zooms in on these qualifiers that feel ostentatiously overhedged to her and loses sight of what surrounds them - sentences performing rhythmic gymnastics, endless sentences, balanced impossibly on the most fragile of participles, always threatening to collapse into incoherence. A "sort of" in the midst of those sentences isn't usually really a hedge; it's a defocusing - a way to counteract the otherwise distancing precision of his prose. When he uses such a qualifier, it's not [just or especially] that he wants you to like him more, it's that he wants to cross your eyes and let the labyrinth of words blur a little bit, to turn your attention to the sense rather than the sentence. When he describes a character's memory that happened at "fifteen, more like nearly sixteen," he's not apologizing or stepping back, he's summoning something almost-specific, precisely imprecise - nuanced. He's not being insincere, he's being evocative. His writing is lulling, cadent. It's okay that you seem to have missed the predicate of that sentence you just started wandering along. Just keep on following it down that alley; you'll end up somewhere fun.

M.N. starts with Tense Present and ends by saying, "the best way to make an argument is to make it, straightforwardly, honestly, passionately, without regard to whether people will like you afterward." And after hearing that, I wonder if she'd read Tense Present. It's a broadside. Sure, it has qualifiers. Sure, it takes a few self-deprecating pokes at prescriptivists even as it attempts a rousing duel with descriptivism. But he's not backing away from prescriptivism at all. He's fighting for it - earnestly, passionately, honestly, and all of that. There's no "aw-shucks-I-could-be-wrong-here" about his description of Fries' intro to Webster's Third: "so stupid it practically drools." The qualifiers here aren't a hedge, they're a way of introducing nuance. This isn't a Defense of All Prescriptivism - it's a defense of this prescriptivism, in this context, for these reasons. (He would have hated that use of "in this context," btw. It's OK. I still consider myself a descriptivist.)

And about what M.N. identifies as the real problem - that lesser writers have poorly imitated all this defocusing and nuanced hedging - I think Tim has it exactly right:
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Very much agree: The it's-all-about-likeability framing here didn't ring true to me. This, in particular, chafed: "Smith has pinpointed the reason so much of what passes for intellectual debate nowadays is obscured behind a veneer of folksiness and sincerity and is characterized by an unwillingness to be pinned down. Where the craving for admiration and approval predominates, intellectual rigor cannot thrive, if it survives at all."

She's absolutely right that contemporary forms of argument, in very-very-very general, have taken on a more conversational, convivial sensibility that can all too easily slide into evasiveness. Today's discourse is slippery. (But also: nuanced. And also, often: lush. And also, often: exhilarating.) Whether all that has anything to do with DFW, though, is less clear. For one thing, writing that's slang-ridden and parenthetical and aw-shucks-y and self-consciousness is nothing new; the terms may change, but discursive prose — and please-like-me prose, and I'm-just-the-messenger prose — has been around since way before Wallace, and for that matter since way before the web. The very first lines of The Odyssey find Homer denying his own authorship of the ones that follow.

And! Anyway! More importantly! To be Wallace-y about it! (Sort of!) It's hard to talk about the style of blogging without also talking about the culture of blogging itself. So much of that culture has its roots in the message boards and listservs that defined the early days of the web; from the outset, and (again) long before DFW came along, there was a conversational element to web writing that — and on this point of Newton's I totally agree — encouraged its prose to adapt the qualities of spoken conversation. It was a style that was firmly rooted in the fact that the web has always been, fundamentally and quite literally, a collective. Blogging may have begun, to borrow Dave Winer's phrase, as "the unedited voice of a person"; as a cultural institution, though, it quickly evolved into "the unedited voice of a community." The we-ness of the web is implicit. Its architecture aestheticizes our consciousness of each other — it makes the links between us visible and knowable, and preserves our interactions with each other, and converts the erstwhile ephemera of those interactions into something permanent and powerful and newly meaningful.

I mean, the emoticon alone! :-)

So you can say that that new dynamic makes us, as individuals, more needy, more self-conscious, more like-oriented, and that those biases leak into our expression of our opinions (and perhaps even into our sense of those opinions in the first place). And there may be some truth to that. But the more intuitive interpretation — and certainly the less cynical one — is that it's not our rhetoric that's changing; what's changing is actually the nature of argumentation itself. Implicit in DFW's rhythmic-gymnastic sentences (and, wow, that is the perfect description, Matt; his style = pageantry + athleticism + intense seriousness + intense ridiculousness + tons of fluttering ribbons) — and implicit in the we're-in-this-together structuring of his prose — is the notion that "argument" is not, actually, argument at all. It's not necessarily logical; it's certainly not legalistic. Newton seems to assume that argumentation is a kind of mathematical proof set to words, and that it is above all individualistic in its efforts to persuade. An argument is something that can legitimately be, you know, yours. Increasingly, though, on the web and around it, even something like opinion — even something like passion — is a collective endeavor. And Wallace's writing, consciously or not, reflects that.
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Matt Thompson is an Editorial Product Manager at NPR, where he's helping to coordinate the development of 12 niche, local websites in conjunction with NPR member stations. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the Poynter Institute, having completed a four-year term on the organization's National Advisory Board in 2010. He currently serves on the board of the Center for Public Integrity.

Before coming to NPR, Matt served as an interim Online Community Manager for the Knight Foundation. From 2008 to 2009, he was aDonald W. Reynolds Fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute; his explorations in building context into news websites have been widely cited in discussions about online journalism's future. He came to RJI from his position as deputy Web editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he led the creation of the Edgie-award-winning, socially networked arts-and-entertainment website, as well as managing other technology and interactivity-related projects for

Matt moved to the Star Tribune after serving as the first online reporter/producer for the Fresno Bee, winning first- and third-place Best of the West awards in 2004 for his multimedia projects. At the Bee, he led an internal advisory committee exploring the paper's strategies for acquiring new audiences. He worked at the Poynter Institute from 2003-04 as the Naughton Fellow for Online Reporting and Writing. While at Poynter, he and his colleague Robin Sloan produced the Flash movie EPIC 2014, a picture of the media past set 10 years in the future, which was written up in the New York Times, Financial Times, USA Today, the Guardian, on MSNBC, and elsewhere.

Matt graduated with honors in English from Harvard College in 2002, after writing his senior thesis on the television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Outside of work, he blogs at, has completed one Twin Cities Marathon, and is itching to get ready for another.

  • Harvard College
    English, 1998 - 2002
  • The Master's Academy
    1989 - 1998
Basic Information
In a relationship
  • National Public Radio
    Editorial Product Manager, 2010 - present
  • Reynolds Journalism Institute
    Donald W. Reynolds Fellow, 2008 - 2009
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune
    Deputy Web Editor, 2005 - 2008
  • Fresno Bee
    Online Reporter/Producer, 2004 - 2005
  • Poynter Institute
    Naughton Fellow for Online Reporting and Writing, 2003 - 2004
  • Scout Productions
    Production Assistant Intern, 2002 - 2003
  • Knight Foundation
    Interim Online Community Manager, 2009 - 2010
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Washington, DC
Toronto, Canada - Minneapolis, MN - Orlando, FL - Fresno, CA - St. Petersburg, FL - Boston, MA - Columbia, MO