Weekly Links & Thoughts #138

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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  • Want to Really Understand What all the Hype of Cryptocurrency is About? (bothsidesofthetable.com, 3)
    Investor Mark Suster brilliantly analyses both the huge potential as well as the risks and flaws of cryptocurrencies. Recommended for everyone who doesn’t only want to hear about one side of the coin.
  • Are ICOs diversification of speculation? (jonathannen.com, 2)
    This was probably obvious to many, but I hadn’t thought about it before: Lots of people are sitting on a considerable Bitcoin value, and investing parts of that value into ICOs (or token sales) is their way of diversifying risk and speculation. That sounds like a reasonable explanation for where the hundreds of millions worth of dollars are coming from that are, in the shape of Bitcoin or Ether, being pumped into startups and projects raising funds through ICOs right now.
  • The Apple Watch Series 3 ripoff: how carriers want to charge for zero data use (theoverspill.blog, 2)
    Unsurprisingly, the telecommunication carriers try to use the launch of the Apple Watch with LTE to rip of customers, by charging an additional fee for this connectivity via eSim, even if customers already pay for their smartphone mobile plan. As explained in the text, this is unreasonable considering that Watch users most likely will use less data traffic, and that cellular data use is not additive; it’s substitutive.
  • Courage (marco.org, 1)
    The iPhone X will be the first iPhone without the iconic home button. Instead, it’ll have a notch at the upper end of the device. Some people have mocked the notch. Marco Arment suggests that adding it is Apple’s way to ensure that everyone will recognize the device as an iPhone X, now that the home button is gone.
  • Will AI become a basic human right? Marc Benioff thinks it should (diginomica.com, 2)
    Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff made a couple of thought-provoking statements in a session at the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The International Unicorn Club: 107 Private Companies Outside The US Valued At $1B+ (cbinsights.com, 2)
    A great visualization. Europe doesn’t look too good compared to China. That is, if having lots of Unicorns is a competitive advantage (it probably is). Also notable: “In 2013, over 70% of companies that achieved unicorn status were US-based. Each year since 2013 – 2016, that share of unicorns has gone down, and last year, less than half of the unicorns added to the club (42%) were based in the US.”
  • Whole Foods Is Becoming Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Pricing Lab (hbr.org, 2)
    That’s a smart way to look at Amazon’s acquisition of U.S. high-end grocery chain Whole Foods: It’s the ultimate large-scale “lab” for experimenting with pricing strategies in an environment which Amazon previously didn’t have access to.
  • Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain (medium.com, 2)
    One shouldn’t take the headline or message from this post literally, but personally I do think the general point has merit: One’s first activities and routines in the morning do shape one’s mindset, goals and mental energy for the rest of the day. In the same way as most reasonably intelligent people wouldn’t eat a bunch of doughnuts covered with fudge first thing after waking up, it makes a lot of sense not to start the day with the digital equivalent to those doughnuts.
  • A convenience truth (jarche.com, 1)
    “Probably one the greatest barriers to positive change is convenience” […] Probably the most convenient form of communication today is Facebook.” Related: Why do we keep using Facebook?
  • You Are the Product: It Zucks! (lrb.co.uk, 3)
    If the previous two short pieces were not enough for you, here is an extensive, critical essay on Facebook which, unlike many texts about this topic, actually is fun to read. The headline sets the tone. Some people are simply better writers than the majority.
  • In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for 3 Hours (inc.com, 2)
    This does absolutely not match most entrepreneur’s and full-time freelancer’s experience. The fact that “reading news websites” and “checking social media” are mentioned as the two most popular unproductive activities indicates how much these industries are aligned with and benefiting from today’s strange mainstream work culture.
  • Study: 85% Of Jobs That Will Exist In 2030 Haven’t Been Invented Yet (huffingtonpost.ca, 2)
    Whether you consider this good or bad news probably depends on whether you are the glass half full or half empty type.
  • Dating app Tinder can be a tool for journalists (cjr.org, 2)
    Not only that. It can also be a great tool for travelers to connect with locals, beyond hookups. As pointed out in the text, the problem is potential misunderstandings about intentions. The question remains whether something like Tinder for non-dating related purposes should exist, and whether it can exist (would enough people use it?). Or maybe Tinder could just enable a way to indicate what people are looking for: “Dating”, “Networking”, for example. However, possibly the brand is too much associated with dating.
  • We have a new word for that feeling when travel makes everything new (aeon.co, 2)
    How do you call traveler’s tendency to pay attention to little, seemingly ordinary things in new environments? Things that the locals, being so familiar with their environment, wouldn’t consciously notice? There hasn’t been a word for this state. By introducing the term “Allokataplixis”, the author tries to change this. Something a bit easier to recall might work better.
  • The A.I. “Gaydar” Study and the Real Dangers of Big Data (newyorker.com, 2)
    In the age of Big Data, computers can reveal a lot of information about individuals that are not accessible through a human’s subjective perception. This should indeed be of concern, at least in a scenario in which governments, organizations and individuals haven’t uniformly adopted liberal principles (which, considering human nature, might remain the default scenario forever). Related: Should data scientists sign an ethical code?
  • Why 500 Million People in China Are Talking to This AI (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Like a much smarter, more knowledgable and more versatile version of Siri & co.
  • Here Be Sermons (meltingasphalt.com, 3)
    If you are interested in sociology and group psychology, then you might enjoy this essay about the mechanisms of sermons and its effect on movements (both in the “analogue” world as well as in the digital realm) a lot. I did.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The Apple Watch with LTE + AirPods is the future
    While during the recent Apple keynote most attention was on the presentation of the iPhone X, the Apple Watch with LTE in combination with AirPods is more likely to become Apple’s next revolution.

Podcast episode of the week:

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The Apple Watch with LTE + AirPods is the future

Here is a German version of this article.

In June 2015 I dubbed the emergence of smart assistants for the home the “next iPhone moment” (and the first since the launch of the actual iPhone). After Apple’s recent product announcements, another breakthrough of a new digital product appears to be imminent – or to be more precise, in this case it is a combination of two products: The Apple Watch LTE together with Apple’s wireless headphones, AirPods. I find it at least 80 percent likely that these two gadgets will massively grow in sales and completely redefine the mobile ecosystem over the next couple of years. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #137

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 minutes or more

  • Brain-machine interface isn’t sci-fi anymore (wired.com, 3)
    The startup CTRL-Labs is developing a brain-machine interface (BMI) which doesn’t require any kind of direct access to the brain. Instead, the technology reads signals sent from the brain to the muscles in order to let people type on an imaginary keyboard or otherwise control movement solely with their thoughts. Great profile of a startup pursuing a fascinating idea.
  • Wicked is the (New) Normal (workfutures.io, 2)
    Most of the bigger problems of a complex world are so called “wicked problems”. Wicked problems come with a different set of challenges and solution strategies than conventional problems. As outlined in the text, wicked problems cannot be approached by trying to “search for a solution” to a single issue such as for example inequality, chronic disease, asymmetric conflict, fake news, etc. —  because these phenomena are “features” of the system in which they occur, not bugs. Looking for the elusive silver bullet just produces all kinds of unintended effects.
  • Linear Thinking in a Nonlinear World (hbr.org, 3)
    Long, in-depth read on the importance of employing (counter-intuitive) non-linear thinking, because this is the dynamic shaping many, if not most of today’s events.
  • Did We Just Glimpse the Future of Augmented Reality? (medium.com, 2)
    John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, offers a smart take on the overall state and potential of augmented reality technology (AR). Considering Apple’s newest push into the field, it looks more than ever as if AR really will become a big deal. If you want to feel uncomfortable about this outlook, watch this video called “Hyper Reality” showcasting a future in which advertisment completely dominates AR.
  • iPhone X Marks Two Milestones For Apple’s Phone Pricing (news.crunchbase.com, 2)
    Analysis of the growing price spread of the various iPhone versions offered by Apple since 2011. So far, the company has managed to differentiate the device category in a way so it appeals to both the ultimate high-end as well as increasingly to people with a bit less spending power who still want to own a smartphone that comes with high status. With the new iPhone X, Apple now pushes even further along this path.
  • Why you shouldn’t unlock your phone with your face (medium.freecodecamp.org, 2)
    The iPhone X comes with a fairly controversial feature: It will allow owners to unlock the phone via facial recognition. But it is probably safer to just keep using the passcode.
  • AXA Is Using Ethereum’s Blockchain for a New Flight Insurance Product (coindesk.com, 1)
    A straight-forward real world use case for a smart contract based on the Ethereum blockchain: Paying out flight delay compensation to passengers if certain criteria such as minimum delay time and a corresponding customer rights law in the departure country are met. No manual handling of the process required.
  • Silicon Valley’s Politics: Liberal, With One Big Exception (nytimes.com, 2)
    Farhad Manjoo on the unique combination of political values in Silicon Valley: mostly left-leaning with a support for higher taxes and universal health care, but skeptical about regulations and unions.
  • Point/Counterpoint: Twitter Is An Echo Chamber (theonion.com, 2)
    Trenchantly put by The Onion: “Social media echo chambers in which communities of like-minded users simply listen to their own viewpoints being repeated back to them.” Don’t miss the counterpoint presented in the piece…
  • Infrastructure for Mature Cities (pedestrianobservations.com, 2)
    The needs of and opportunities for urban improvements and public transport differ between growing cities and mature cities. Educational analysis of strategies and best practices to renew and enhance infrastructure in mature cities such as New York.
  • Technology, complexity, anxiety, catastrophe (techcrunch.com, 2)
    There is a 90 % chance that you’ll recognize yourself at least partially in this not too uplifting depiction of an average day in the connected world of 2017. It has to be said though that an average day portrayal most likely didn’t sound more enthusiastic in past times either. It’s simply the Hedonic treadmill in full effect.
  • Are Teslas damaged goods? (digitopoly.com, 2)
    Tesla limits the technical maximum range of its cars through a software upgrade to owners who are willing to pay up for it. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the company decided to offer this upgrade for free to Tesla owners in Florida to allow them to escape the storm. While that was a nice gesture, Tesla’s approach to artificially limiting the performance of its cars raises eyebrows – at least as a first reaction, because it is uncommon in cars. But of course, this type of business model can be found in many other sectors. In this piece, Joshua Gans examines the economics behind this strategy for Tesla.
  • I Tried Shoplifting in a Store without Cashiers and Here’s What Happened (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Times are getting tougher for shoplifters.
  • Anand Sanwal is bringing love to finance data (tearsheet.co, 2)
    The B2B data company CB Insights has become an institution in investor and fintech circles. Its founder and CEO Anand Sanwal publishes a daily email newsletter to more than 300’000 subscribers using a personal tone and wit that’s probably unparalleled in the industry. Notably, he ends each of his emails with “I love you”.
  • Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (fieldguide.gizmodo.com, 2)
    Totally. RSS is still the core pillar of my news consumption and discovery of things to read. In fact, I have completely given up on any kind of app or service for discovery of written content which primarily relies on algorithmic personalization.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI (rodneybrooks.com, 3)
    If you frequently find yourself scratching your head when you read pundits’ warnings about the threat that AI could pose to humanity, this very long essay by an AI pioneer will help you to put things into perspective and to detect the hyperbole.

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #136

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • The Last Auto Mechanic (medium.com, 3)
    While any prediction about the timeframe for the emergence of a mass market for self-driving cars should be taken with a grain of salt, it doesn’t hurt to theoretically play through a scenario in which this is going to happen within the next 15 years, as the author has done. Clearly, the impact of such a shift on people’s lives and the economy at large would be tremendous.
  • Uber’s Achilles’ Heel (medium.com, 2)
    What will be Uber’s advantage over other companies in the transportation and automotive space once self-driving cars will be the norm, considering that the company’s big asset today is the well-established two-sided market of drivers and riders? Intelligent post from early 2016 about a question that most who are bullish on Uber seem to ignore.
  • Return of the city-state (aeon.co, 3)
    Modern technology tends to be distributed, decentralized and (compared to how things were in the 20th century) uncontrollable. The societal, logistical and bureaucratic consequences of this shift undermine the workings and benefits of the concept of nation states. Jamie Bartlett explains in this essay why the 21st century could see the big comeback of the city-state.
  • The Leisure Economy — where we all get paid to play games (venturebeat.com, 2)
    The idea of a future in which most people play games all day long only sounds ridiculous as long as one has a very fixed view on an alleged dichotomy between “real life” and games.
  • What’s the difference between apps we cherish vs. regret? (timewellspent.io, 1)
    That’s thought-provoking: An analysis of data collected from a pool of 200,000 iPhone users shows a correlation between time spent with an app and the level of happiness that users report about their app usage.
  • Google & Microsoft Are Building Software To Identify Influencers And Trendsetters (cbinsights.com, 2)
    The Google Trends graph about usage of the term “influencer” clearly shows it: There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the influencer frenzy. Tech giants want to capitalize on this.
  • Europe’s most entrepreneurial country? (weforum.org, 2)
    According to a new report published by the World Economic Forum and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Estonia, Sweden and Latvia are spearheading Europe’s entrepreneurialism. When looking at the map shown in the article, the north-south divide couldn’t be more evident. Speaking about Sweden, here is a piece investigating what the Nordic country needs to do next in order to become not only a European but global tech super-power.
  • Foursquare Data Shows Up Today in More Places Than You’d Think (streetfightmag.com, 2)
    New York-based Foursquare, a location startup beloved by many early adopters and tech geeks but that for a long time struggled with finding its purpose and business model, has turned itself into the primary provider of location data for many of the world’s leading tech firms.
  • How Seth Godin Would Launch a Business With a $1,000 Budget (indiehackers.com, 2)
    This is a very inspiring collection of advices from marketing big shot and business/life strategist Seth Godin.
  • The fraud curve (acrowdedspace.com, 2)
    Any successful online project or business will have to deal with fraudsters. Here is a matter-of-fact analysis of how to do that.
  • 10 marketplace monetisation strategies (medium.com, 2)
    Most people nowadays use online market places on a frequent base, for shopping, travel or service requests. How do these sites make money? This comprehensive and competent compilation of revenue streams offers answers.
  • Kik’s Pivot to Cryptocurrency (attentionecono.me, 3)
    On September 12, the messaging pioneer Kik will initiate the public sale of its crypto token Kin. To me this will be the most interesting ICO so far, considering that this is the first high-profile consumer web company trying to leverage the blockchain and essentially betting its future on it. Kik hopes that Kin will become a decentralized currency utilized by third party developers, so while fundraising is one part of the goal, the vision of establishing a widely used utility token that generates network effects is another one. Thomas Euler has spent what looks to be an insane amount of time analyzing and dissecting Kik’s undertaking. Here is the second (more technical) part.
  • The Bitcoin Bubble Is Not a Bad Thing (wealthdaily.com, 2)
    I agree with this. In fact, in my eyes a bubble only is a negative thing if its bursting makes a lot of people lose assets that they technically cannot afford to lose. As far as I can tell, at least for now, this is not the case with Bitcoin.
  • Blockchain: The right side of crazy (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Interesting recap of 6 years of following the rise of the blockchain from a VC perspective.
  • Identity Thieves Hijack Cellphone Accounts to Go After Virtual Currency (nytimes.com, 2)
    It seems increasingly true that using Two Factor Authentication with SMS as verification channel is a bad idea – at least as long as the carriers are vulnerable to social engineering.
  • Funding Your Bliss: Mindfulness Startups Scale Up (news.crunchbase.com, 2)
    Whenever I see a funding announcement by a startup in the mediation and mindfulness space, I ask myself why these companies need so much money. If there is any field which technically doesn’t require a constant expansion of content, technology, staff and growth for the sake of growth, it is this, in my opinion.
  • Definite optimism as human capital (danwang.co, 3)
    A long read offering lots of food for thought about the value of optimism for humanity’s future and related issues that shape our sense of the present time.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman: Uncut Interview — Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg
    After having listened to this interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, two things became clear to me: The duo Zuckerberg and Sandberg is the reason why I am only critical of Facebook’s dominance, but not terrified. Both appear to have a lot of integrity and a healthy ethical compass (this judgement is of course based on my limited insights as an external observer). Also I realize that if Zuckerberg ever would leave the CEO role, Sandberg could easily take over without the company taking any harm. This is relevant as Facebook and its founder often can seem to be so synonymous that it might be hard to imagine any other person leading the company.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #135

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • What We Get Wrong About Technology (timharford.com, 3)
    The most significant, game changing innovations and inventions often are those that seem so trivial that no one pays attention to them or realizes their long-term impact.
  • Proactive Paranoia (reallifemag.com, 2)
    Interesting read on a principle named “OPSEC”, following the idea of radical distrust of everyone one associates with, employed by the often shady personalities that run and contribute to market places on the dark web.
  • Will AI enable the third stage of life? (kurzweilai.net, 2)
    The Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark is out with a new book, named “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”. It apparently is more accessible than his masterful but pretty challenging (for those who don’t call math their passion) first one “Our Mathematical Universe”. Here is a short excerpt from his new book. Also note Sam Harris’ podcast interview with Tegmark linked further below.
  • Let’s face reality: US Teens engage with iMessage more than any other social platform (hackernoon.com, 3)
    As an iOS user, there is something special about sending a text message to someone only to see it being transformed into “iMessage”.
  • Reflections on a trip to crypto valley (medium.com, 2)
    Alexander Lange of Berlin-based Earlybird VC joined a crowd of about 25 crypto enthusiasts to visit Zug in Switzerland, also known as “crypto valley” (because many startups in the field of blockchain and crypto currencies have their legal base there).
  • How Blockchains mirror Nature (blog.consensusx.com, 2)
    Intuitively, it seems logical that human-made systems that represent aspects of social behavior follow certain mechanisms found it nature. Still, intriguing observation.
  • Burger King launches WhopperCoin crypto-cash in Russia (bbc.com, 2)
    We are living in crazy times. This news also made me wonder whether all loyalty programs soon will become blockchain-based and thereby enabling peer-to-peer trade of company-specific currencies? Which airline will be the first to reward frequent fliers with tradable coins on a blockchain instead of traditional miles?
  • The Top 10 Mistakes Crypto Newcomers Make (decentralize.today, 2)
    If you plan to put money into crypto currencies or tokens, you better read this. Note that this list only will make sense if you have acquired enough theoretical knowledge about how this stuff works.
  • Facebook Ditched The Red Cross For Hurricane Harvey Relief (buzzfeed.com, 2)
    One of the ever-growing number of second-order effects that Facebook’s dominance has on society: The company can channel donation money away from the established actors if its leaders think they are not effective enough, thereby disrupting how charity works.
  • The Difficulties Of Running A Sex-Inspired Startup (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Startups in the buzzy field of “sextech” (which is not the same as the porn industry) are facing various obstacles, from getting funding to access to essential b2b services – because of people’s fear about what other people might think (about them getting involved in this area).
  • ‘Link in Bio’ Keeps Instagram Nice (theatlantic.com, 2)
    The absence of abilities to effectively link to external content might actually be one of Instagram’s major features, even if it for creators of content can sometimes feel like a bug.
  • This VR cycle is dead (techcrunch.com, 3)
    Virtual reality has in fact managed to end up in another “Trough of Disillusionment” (to apply a stage from Gartner’s Hype Cycle here).
  • 8 Lessons from 20 Years of Hype Cycles (linkedin.com, 3)
    Speaking about the Hype Cycle: What one can learn about innovation and technology when revisiting and analyzing past versions of it.
  • It’s Time to Think Beyond Cloud Computing (wired.com, 2)
    With IT and AI integrating deeper into every part of our life, low latency becomes a necessity. In this regard, cloud computing has limitations. So here comes “Edge computing”.
  • Uber’s new CEO (stratechery.com, 2)
    Dara Khosrowshahi, who until now successfully ran Expedia, is Uber’s new CEO. Ben Thompson explains why he is a smart choice.
  • Skyscanner’s Gareth Williams On How Its Bet On Asia Led To Its Big Win, Being CEO and The Future Of Apps (webintravel.com, 2)
    Almost a year after its $1.7 billion acquisition by Chinese travel giant Ctrip, the founder of European flight and travel search engine Skyscanner talks about how it all happened.
  • Beyond anger (aeon.co, 3)
    A deep, essential essay from last year about the problem of giving in to anger. I wish the protagonists of the digital outrage machinery would reflect on this. One quote from the piece: “Whenever we are faced with pressing moral or political decisions, we should clear our heads, and spend some time conducting what Mandela (citing Marcus Aurelius) referred to as ‘Conversations with Myself’. When we do, I predict, the arguments proposed by anger will be clearly seen to be pathetic and weak, while the voice of generosity and forward-looking reason will be strong as well as beautiful.” The cited Marcus Aurelius was one of the key figures of the ancient Stoicism philosophy, which was my best discovery last year.
  • Maybe We All Need a Little Less Balance (nytimes.com, 2)
    “I don’t believe that balance — which essentially asks us to never go all-in on anything — is the right solution”. I would agree with the author if that’s how balance is defined.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Twitter and Trump: A truly destructive relationship
    Some people wish Twitter would ban Trump. But for Twitter, Trump is by far the biggest asset. Without him, the company’s notoriously weak performance would be even worse. This puts the company’s liberal CEO and staff in a very uncomfortable, almost pitiful position.
  • Learning to code, 420 hours later: How to teach yourself Python, for free
    After 420 hours of learning to code with Python, spread out over 20 months, I am formally completing the project (but of course I will continue with coding). Here is the whole chronological list of sites and resources I used, and how I did it.

Podcast episodes of the week:

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Twitter and Trump: A truly destructive relationship

Here you can read a German version of this article.

There probably is no other company in the world that has maneuvered itself into such a complicated and even pitiful position such as Twitter.

As the prime communication channel for infamously impulsive and notoriously conflict-ready U.S. President Donald Trump, Twitter’s platform is playing a critical role in the various minor and major squabbles which Trump is engaging in around the clock. In fact, Twitter’s platform is enabling these squabbles in an unique way, as the service’s unfiltered real-time character, brevity, viral dynamics and emotional user behavior amplifies any seemingly trivial 140 character message thousandfold, and – with helpful participation of click and outrage-driven media as well as tweeting anti-Trump activists – turning it into “world news”.

It’s hard to exactly pin down what would have happened in a world without Twitter (and without a service exactly like Twitter). But the world would look different for sure. It’s speculative but maybe Trump wouldn’t even be President. Presumably that’s the type of reasoning which led the former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson to launch a crowdfunding campaign intended to raise enough money to buy a majority stake in Twitter – in order to subsequently being able to ban Donald Trump from the service. Continue Reading

Learning to code, 420 hours later: How to teach yourself Python, for free

A bit about 1 1/2 year ago, I started to teach myself programming with Python. Today I feel confident to formally complete my project.

I am honestly a bit proud to be able to code on what I consider an intermediate beginner level. After continued and steep improvements over the past months, I am now past the “Coding Inflection Point”. This means that I have internalized the majority of the basic approaches to and patterns of Python programming and can now in some situations actually rely on established routines to write code.

If you draw a parallel to learning a spoken language, it is the moment at which you are able to hold basic conversations in your newly acquired language. Yet whatever you express is primitive, ridden with errors and characterized by a small vocabulary. You constantly have to look up words or grammar. Sometimes, when talking about more complicated stuff, you have to give up (but you’ll use this insight for future improvements). Still, you feel excited about your new skill.

With this post I want to briefly summarize how I taught myself coding with Python. This will be the last article of my my little inofficial series of posts, and from now on it it will the only one that matters. Let’s get to it: Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #134

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • The world belongs to those who create vs those who consume (sophiaellis.co, 1)
    “We’ve become spread thin and our attention is sucked away secretly (or not so secretly) by new distractions we accept as normal and unavoidable to the point where a mere 3 hours of actual work out of a 16 hour day feels “productive” and “exhausting”.”
  • The lives of bitcoin miners digging for digital gold in Inner Mongolia (qz.com, 3)
    One of the most commonly cited arguments questioning predictions of a “jobless future” is that future jobs are hard to imagine. In this case, this rings true. While Bitcoin is a comparatively small industry (right now), there is no way that 10 years ago, anyone would have come up with a suggestion that being involved in mining cryptocurrencies would become a thing. Because cryptocurrencies didn’t exist.
  • Ethereum leads AMD and Nvidia GPUs to a historic quarter (venturebeat.com, 2)
    When there is a gold rush, sell shovels.
  • Estonia could offer ‘estcoins’ to e-residents (medium.com, 2)
    Estonia’s digital team is playing with the idea of releasing crypto tokens and to sell them in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to people willing to invest in the country’s digital future. Amazing how this little Baltic country keeps expanding the philosophical boundaries of what nation states (can) do.
  • Welcome to the Era of Decentralization (blog.elizabethyin.com, 2)
    This thoughtful piece takes a short look at the history of the internet, the startup industry and underlying technological trends in order to derive why the blockchain is so extremely promising. This remark particularly resonates with me: “In fact, how this will all play out is extremely fuzzy in my mind. But that’s what makes this exciting. There are so many new possibilities – something will change, but we just don’t know what”.
  • Artificial Intelligence Is About To Make Us All Managers. But Are We Ready? (blog.trello.com, 2)
    The hypothesis presented in this post could turn out to be utter bullshit. But one cannot be sure. It is at least a fun question to ponder.
  • Why We Should Send All Our Politicians to Space (singularityhub.com, 2)
    Aside from the fact that it is currently still impossible to do, this is a fantastic point. And if virtual reality is being utilized to replicate an immersive space experience, maybe the intended effect could be achieved rather soon.
  • We Live in Fear of the Online Mobs (bloomberg.com, 2)
    Well put: “We now effectively live in a forager band filled with people we don’t know. It’s like the world’s biggest small town, replete with all the things that mid-century writers hated about small-town life: the constant gossip, the prying into your neighbor’s business, the small quarrels that blow up into lifelong feudsWe’ve replicated all of the worst features of those communities without any of the saving graces, like the mercy that one human being naturally offers another when you’re face to face and can see their suffering.”
  • This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley (thecut.com, 3)
    Excerpt from Ellen Pao’s upcoming book about her time at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The depicted behavior and mindset of some of Pao’s former male colleagues indeed does sound unbelievably incompatible with the modern world.
  • Ikea’s smart home dares to make sense (wired.com, 2)
    On the one hand it would be astonishing if an “outsider” (seen from the tech industry) would manage to bring the smart home to the masses. On the other hand, if Ikea pulls this off, it somehow also would feel like a very logical thing.
  • Indonesia ride-hailing giant Go-Jek finds new opportunities in food delivery (asia.nikkei.com, 2)
    When it comes to all-in-one-app concepts that are dominant in Asia, reports usually focus on China’s WeChat. But Indonesia’s tech giant Go-Jek is no less interesting, as it successfully combines transportation, delivery/logistics and payment services under one digital platform. The company which is only active in its home market recently received a massive $1.2 billion in funding – unsurprisingly led by WeChat parent Tencent.
  • Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable (ethanzuckerman.com, 2)
    The distributed Twitter alternative Mastodon hasn’t caught on with the masses anywhere, but it appears to have a significant share of users in Japan – thanks to the (from a Western perspective somewhat uncomfortable) phenomenon “Lolicon“.
  • Facebook’s Safety Check feature gets its own dedicated button, can be accessed anytime (techcrunch.com, 1)
    “When Safety Check is accessed by way of the new button, you’ll be able to view a feed of disasters”. Facepalm.
  • My Journey From Struggling Actress to Successful Tech CEO (women2.com, 2)
    Katelyn Gleason describes in this short essay why and how she picked an entrepreneurial career in tech instead of the chance to get applause from an audience as an actress.
  • How to secretly communicate with people on LSD (qualiacomputing.com, 3)
    This text from 2015 about ways to encrypt information so that only people on LSD can decrypt it might change one’s perspective of the limits (or limitlessness) of communication. Mind-boggling.
  • On almost every indicator, Germany’s south is doing better than its north (economist.com, 2)
    A fascinating read! I’m originally from Berlin but I was not aware how clear-cut this north-south divide is nowadays (if you see a paywall request, open the article in an incognito window of your browser).
  • air berlin’s Entire 60 Person E-Commerce Team Has Set Up a Website Looking for Work (viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com, 1)
    Germany’s second biggest airline air berlin is bankrupt. While negotiations with potential buyers are ongoing, the e-commerce team tries to get hired as a package. Interesting move.

Web service of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #133

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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  • Diversity Crisis in AI, 2017 edition (fast.ai, 2)
    The overwhelming majority of engineers who work on artificial intelligence (AI) software are white males. Considering the expected impact of AI on the world, and also considering that every single individual (gender, ethnicity, age etc notwithstanding) has biases and blind spots, not having maximum diversity in this field is absolutely undesirable. This is, in my opinion, a major mistake in reasoning by James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the controversial memo: He assumes that a biological difference in the average distribution of traits between women and men would justify not to give diversity efforts the highest priority possible. But irrespective of the “supply” of engineers and underlying reasons for imbalances, the fact that diversity in software engineering and related professions is more critical than ever doesn’t change. Therefore, in my eyes, if that means a positive discrimination of underrepresented groups in software engineering, that’s actually a necessary price to pay. You need what I call “diversity of biases”, so that they can correct each other. This probably matters less when a company is specialized in developing fart apps. But with AI, the stakes are slightly higher.
  • Visualizing the Diversity of the Tech Industry (visualcapitalist.com, 1)
    Informative overview. A bit surprising that Uber, widely considered the pinnacle of bro culture and Testosterone, actually is ahead of Facebook and Google, both when it comes to the percentage of female employees, and also in regards to ethnical diversity (I’m not implying that bro culture and Testosterone are limited to only white males, of course).
  • Sense Hacking: The Real-Life Cyborgs of the DIY Augmentation Scene (howwegettonext.com, 3)
    Fascinating stuff: About the effort to provide humans with an additional sense to detect electromagnetic waves typically imperceptible to us.
  • See the cool kids lined up outside that new restaurant? This app pays them to stand there (washingtonpost.com, 2)
    Surkus is a new app which allows anyone willing to pay to manufacture a crowd. This might be the end of everything cool and trendy, because if this business model works, no future hipster will know anymore if a queue to a new venue is organic or paid-for (you might need to open the article in an “incognito” window of your browser to circumvent the paywall).
  • Instagram’s Kevin Systrom wants to clean up the &#%$@! Internet (wired.com, 3)
    In comparison to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram has managed to establish itself as somewhat of a “happy place”, comparatively free of the exhausting debates, outrage and hate that flourish on other platforms. The Facebook-owned company is actively pursing that philosophy, essentially trying to create something akin to a digital Disneyland.
  • How I think about free speech: Four categories (juliagalef.com, 1)
    Julia Galef, whose work and fight for rational, self-critical thinking I am a big fan of, offers intelligent thoughts on the nuances and limits of free speech – a question which seems increasingly hard to navigate in a polarized, connected world.
  • Inside the Wild World of Sneaker-Buying Bots (motherboard.vice.com, 2)
    From the department of “things you probably didn’t even know existed”.
  • Quick Thoughts on Amazon’s Echo Show (500ish.com, 2)
    It’s remarkable how the display-equipped version of the Amazon Echo has managed to “reinvent” the tablet concept for a specific purpose in a way which actually gets people excited. This emphasizes how important seemingly small iterations to products actually can be.
  • Inside the Increasingly Complex Algorithms That Get Packages to Your Door (technologyreview.com, 2)
    “If one single driver has to go to 57 stops, you already have a quattuorvigintillion possible combinations”.
  • The State of Cryptocurrency: Mid-2017 Edition (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Taylor Pearson went to the 2017 Blockstack Summit and presents his take aways about the state of cryptocurrency technology and market.
  • The Token Effect (blog.ycombinator.com, 2)
    Explaining Bitcoin, Ethereum, smart contracts and ICOs in an article which only takes 4 minutes to read is quite an achievement!
  • The Actually Distributed Web (linuxjournal.com, 2)
    Open source advocate and co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Doc Searls, explains how and why the Blockchain (he uses the term “distributed ledgers”) could make his long-term vision of full agency for individuals as distributed peers on the internet become reality, at last.
  • The Blockchain Problem Space (blog.ironbay.digital, 2)
    But what happens if one puts all passion about the alleged world-changing potential of the Blockchain aside and evaluates it purely as a technology ?
  • Platform Sprawl Leaves No Industry Behind (sloanreview.mit.edu, 2)
    It’s not unthinkable that eventually every single industry will be characterized by platform dynamics.
  • No More Lost Decades (medium.com, 1)
    According to the perspective presented here, the decade of startup “Blitzscaling” is over, the next ten years will be about building real businesses.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Podcast episode of the week:

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Bitcoin, a Black Swan: What can be learned from a missed opportunity

Here is a German version of this article.

Until recently, there was no decision or lack of decision in my life that I regretted afterwards. With the rise of Bitcoin, this changed slightly. I nowadays occasionally catch myself thinking that I missed a big opportunity by not purchasing a few Bitcoins early on, when one BTC only cost a few bucks. I am probably not the only one with that sentiment.

I was actually quite close. In 2011 I mentioned Bitcoin in a blogpost for the first time. So at that point I was aware of the crypto currency. However, it took a few more years until I actually made a purchase – for the sole purpose of a text I was about to write about the purchasing procedure. So I only bought 0,1 BTC, which I paid about 50 Euro for. At that point, one BTC was already valued at around 500 Euro / 600 USD. Today, after an unprecedented increase particularly over the past weeks, the Bitcoin price hovers around 4000 USD. Continue Reading