The deeper meaning of Spotify’s Discover Weekly

Discover Weekly

Streaming services have changed how people listen to music. But they have not changed the fundamentals of the music business: Labels sign artists, invest lots of money into turning them into sought-after superstars, and collect royalties from third parties who want to use or redistribute the music. Since most listeners would not be willing to commit to a digital music streaming service that lacks releases of the big label artists, Spotify & Co have to enter into expensive licensing agreements with the major labels. These licensing fees usually have to be paid per user and month, which makes it challenging for streaming services to ever achieve economies of scale. That explains why a service such as Spotify still isn’t profitable, despite 40 million paying subcribers: The more users it has, the more royalties have to be paid to the license owners, who then in turn pay the artists signed with them based on how popular their tunes are on the service. Here is Spotify’s own explanation of how it pays royalties.

For streaming services, the most desirable change in market dynamics would be if subscribers stopped seeing the availability of major label releases as a requirement for agreeing to pay the monthly subscription fee. So far, such an approach has not been successful for any serious contender in the streaming race. In fact, SoundCloud tried to grow without costly label deals and official licensing, focusing on independents instead, but didnt’ manage to turn this strategy into a working business model. The Berlin-based company is now adopting the conventional paid subscription model.

However, a seemingly trivial innovation introduced by Spotify last year, could lead to a paradigm shift in the streaming business: Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #89

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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  • The Third Transportation Revolution (3)
    The co-founder of Uber rival Lyft looks at the history of the automobile, how it impacted society and people’s life and outlines how the next ten years of mobility will probably play out as well as how self-driving cars will initiate another transportation revolution. This is a pretty good read, no matter whether you know Lyft or not. Just one thing strikes me as odd: In the complete 8000 word text, there is not a single mention of Uber. And that despite Uber’s very recent introduction of actual self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh. Pretending that Uber does not exist does, in my opinion, damage the effort to sell an honest, credible vision of a better, more people-centric future of transportation. Or maybe it is just a healthy reminder that corporate publishing is not the same as independent journalism, even if it might try hard to come across as the latter.
  • Neither Uber nor Lyft believe sharing is the future (1)
    Here is a vigilant observation based on the latest moves and declarations by Uber and Lyft: They companies increasingly sound as if they want to move away from the concept of people sharing their resources, focusing instead on the operation of large corporate fleets.
  • Design as Branding (2)
    John Gruber argues against tech-minded Apple critics who lament the iPhone 7’s lack of design changes. It surprises me that anyone would actually ask for significant modifications to the design of today’s smartphones. Personally I put a case around it anyway, so aesthetics play a very subordinate role. What matters is battery, performance, the screen, the OS.
  • The Netflix Backlash: Why Hollywood Fears a Content Monopoly (3)
    An informative read from the “when the rebellious newcomer becomes the establishment” department.
  • Twitter’s New NFL Live Video Feature Is Proving Popular (1)
    If this turns out to be more than a short-term effect, then I’d not be surprised if Twitter decides to fully pivot to focus on reinventing live TV. While Netflix has occupied the online market for pre-recorded TV content, no one has done so yet for high-end live TV (such as important sport events, live shows and so).
  • How Vestager took a bite out of Apple (2)
    The thought of reading about the process of policy-making in Brussels does not usually get people overly excited. But the account of how EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager took on Apple should be considered an exception.
  • The Internet Is Killing You And You’re Begging For More (1)
    A pessimist’s take on the negative effects of social media (he writes “Internet” but means social media), inspired by Andrew Sullivan’s widely shared long essay about his information addiction and the negative consequences for his life and health. I am planning to write a bit more about this topic another time, so I won’t comment too much here other than stating that I think the Internet is great, but that social media in its current state comes with high costs for individual well-being and the public discourse.
  • Cognitive bias cheat sheet – Because thinking is hard (3)
    A useful, well explained list and visualization of cognitive biases. Every day I wake up and wish that every person on Earth would have awareness of how these biases impact, interfere with and limit human thinking.
  • Messy Networks for the Internet of Things (1)
    Really insightful short read explaining a crucial difference between traditional cell phone networks and new IoT networks designed for unplanned network deployments. It sounds technical but I’d say its useful knowledge.
  • The automated city: do we still need humans to run public services? (2)
    If a machine can do a job better and more efficient than a human, and if human interaction in itself is not the point of the task, then probably not.
  • What the iPhone 7 reveals about Apple’s augmented-reality plans (2)
    What are the chances that the next iPhone, which also marks the 10-year anniversary of Apple’s smartphone, will feature augmented reality technology? Not too small.
  • What It Costs to Run Let’s Encrypt (1)
    The non-profit Let’s Encrypt made waves when it launched its free certificate authority for websites a few months ago. In this blog post the organization details how much it costs to operate the service. Nice to see that kind of transparency.
  • Bluetooth Capable Headphone Sales Surpass Non-Bluetooth Sales in the U.S. (1)
    And that is happening before the launch of Apple’s AirPods.
  • Have Spotify and Apple Music Just Won The Streaming Wars? (1)
    It seems so.
  • Don’t Use Allo (2)
    Privacy concerns aside, I did give Google’s new messaging app Allo a try. However, the messaging part is totally generic. Nothing to do there which one cannot do in 100 other apps. So the only reason to stick with Allo would be Google Assistant, a more or less intelligent chat bot. But somehow, exposing myself even more to Google just does not feel right. So for the moment I probably won’t become a frequent Allo user.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #88

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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  • The Age of Apple is Over (3)
    Is Apple the new Microsoft? It looks like it. But of course that’s nothing bad. It just means that one has to adjust expectations.
  • The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots and High Volume Publishing (3)
    Some predict a decrease in the amount of new content online, caused by the overheating or even collapse of the attention economy. However, after having been acquired by Jeff Bezos, the Washington Post is headed into the opposite direction: More and more content that increasingly caters to the long tail. A must-read analysis of the Post’s publishing strategy and what it says about the future of content (consumption).
  • The New World Order Is Ruled By Global Corporations And Megacities—Not Countries (3)
    The rise of powerful corporations as well as the growing importance and interlinking of cities across the globe as been an recurring theme at meshedsociety.com. This feature connects both trends by pointing to the common denominator: Most nation states are increasingly powerless.
  • The European Union’s online reforms help the old more than the new (2)
    The headline sums up the core problem with the European Union’s plan for a single digital market quite well. Helping startups, newcomers and innovation is only second priority. Sadly.
  • Systems blindness and how we deal with it (2)
    The theories of systems thinking are fascinating and their internalization is critical to better navigate complex world. System blindness is one part of systems thinking: The inability to see certain effects that will be the consequence of an action. These consequences are often labeled “side effects”, but as the author argues, there are no side effects, just effects that result from our flawed understanding of the system.
  • Bring your own network (1)
    This appears to me as one of the crucial principles of our times for not only new recruits but for all kinds of scenarios in which individuals team up to achieve a joint goal: People don’t only bring their knowledge, but also their networks – which in our digital era can be huge. BYON. Love it.
  • How to Teach Computational Thinking (3)
    Computer scientist Stephen Wolfram explains in this longform essay how kids can learn to think computational (with the help of the programming language he invented). Self-promoting but nevertheless quite educational.
  • Barcelona just Declared War on Airbnb (and its Hosts) (2)
    Some cities were very quick to oppose the trend of private homes being transformed into holiday apartments, others are slower. But eventually, every city has to come up with a solution which works for everyone.
  • It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley (2)
    Quite tragic, even more considering that being 40 today does not mean the same thing as being 40 two decades ago. For many people in cosmopolitan Western cities, 40 is the new 30.
  • Dear Mark Zuckerberg (2)
    In the wake of the controversy about the photo of the “Napalm girl” deleted by Facebook, Jeff Jarvis argues that Facebook needs to stop pretending that its culturally embedded philosophy of algorithmic thinking is enough to govern complex public debates happening on its platform.
  • Twilio study: most consumers now want to use messaging to interact with businesses (1)
    Twilio is biased here. Nevertheless, from my own perspective, I have a big desire to switch any kind of interaction with businesses from the phone to messaging. So far, despite Facebook’s attempts to bring c2b conversations to its Messenger, this desire is largely unfulfilled.
  • Who will buy Twitter? We ranked all the possible buyers (3)
    A solid composition of pros and cons for the most likely buyers.
  • Moon shots – the new trend in corporate venturing (2)
    Now that the Unicorn euphoria has calmed down, technology investors focus on the next thing: moon shots. Large investments in long term and risky innovation projects.
  • The returns to entrepreneurship (2)
    A 7 year old blog post nailing how entrepreneurship in the Internet age has changed compared to before, and what the impact is on society: the smart are getting richer.
  • How Nida is “uberising” hotel rooms (2)
    What an interesting sounding business model: Nida rents a few hotel rooms from smaller non-chain hotels and rebrands them as Nida Rooms, offering guests the promise of “clean budget rooms in a good location at the right price”.
  • No Driver? Bring It On. How Pittsburgh Became Uber’s Testing Ground (2)
    When reading about Uber’s self-driving car pilot project that just was kicked off in Pittsburgh, maybe I am not the only one who has been wondering: “Why Pittsburgh?”. The New York Times explains (in short: It seems as if Pittsburgh simply has not put too many obstacles in Uber’s way, unlike many other cities).
  • I rode in a self-driving Uber, and I’m glad there was a real driver as backup (1)
    So how does it feel to be an Uber passenger cruising through Pittsburgh in a self-driving vehicle? Here is a short first account.
  • Augmented Exercise: People Playing Pokémon Go Have Burned 340 Billion Calories (1)
    Totally amazing. From the article: “The reality is that one lightly augmented reality game has probably done more to get people off their couches, out of their homes, and on their feet than decades of well-meaning propaganda from governments, schools, and health authorities.”

Recently on meshedsociety.com

Podcast episode of the week

  • a16z Podcast: Sleep!
    Thought-provoking discussion between Arianna Huffington and Nitasha Tiku about our culture’s (and the tech industry’s) problematic relationship with sleep.

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Apple AirPods vs Google Glass

You can read a German version of this article here

AirPods vs Glass

I am currently in a mood between anticipation and disappointment about a new gadget: Apple’s upcoming new wireless headphones AirPods. I see a significant potential in the new headphone device that is said to hit the stores in the end of October, and I’d love to try integrating it into my digital life. However, the AirPods’ shape is nearly identical to the one of the default iPhone headphones “EarPods”, and those just do not stay in my ears longer than a few seconds. Any pair of dirt-cheap no-name headphones are fitting better for me. As long as Apple won’t release a second version with a different shape, I won’t shell out the €179 for a pair of AirPods.

That’s a shame of course, because as a concept, I see much more in those little gadgets than just a wireless version of standard in-ear headphones. This Slate article and this one on TechCrunch do a good job explaining the product and the big picture behind. In regards to the strategical meaning for Apple and the implications for the users and the digital landscape, I actually see some major similarities to Google’s (failed) Augmented Reality headset Glass. Let’s have a closer look at that comparison. Continue Reading

KoHub: How a UK-born programmer created a community for traveling digital workers on a Thai island

A few weeks ago, I spent some days working from a coworking space called KoHub. It’s not your average coworking space: KoHub can be found on the tropical island of Ko Lanta, situated right in front of the shore of Thailand’s East Coast. Unlike places such as neighboring Phuket, Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand or Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali, Ko Lanta in comparison must still be considered an insider tip for travelers and location independent workers alike. But probably not for too long. Tourism is growing and KoHub is thriving. I wanted to learn a bit more about why one would open a coworking space on an island and how the journey has been so far, so I sat down with James Abbott, a 39-year old UK-born programmer and global traveler who runs KoHub together with his team.

James, the most important question first: How’s your Internet connectivity at KoHub? Considering that the place is located on an island in Southern Thailand.
We have two lines, one with 100 Mbit/s downstream and one backup line with 50 Mbit/s. The upload speed for our main line is 30 Mbit/s. So I’d say it’s pretty good for the type of environment that we are in. One time, we had 90 people working at once at KoHub. That pushed the limits of course, but it was not a big issue.

90 people at once sounds crowded. Especially considering that KoHub is fairly young.
True, but we are a large enough space and of course that was a one-time peak. During the months of the low season, sometimes only 5 to 10 people are around. So the occupancy varies a lot. But overall the numbers grow nicely. KoHub indeed still is fairly young, and we are only now reaching the phase in which we are experiencing an increasing number of returning members, who also start to invite their friends. So the word is spreading.

James

KoHub founder James Abbott, with the view from his coworking space.

How did KoHub happen?
It’s a bit of a longer story. I left the UK 12 years ago with the goal of extensive traveling. I have been a programmer basically since the age of 6, but in 2004, if you wanted to see the world, you had to find alternative means of financing. No one was traveling with laptops back then. Wi-Fi was rare, and if you wanted to work, you had to go to Internet cafés, coding away with bad connections on bad computers. It was very hard to do much. I met some people who still tried it, but their tasks mainly were limited to email communication and selling or buying shares. Generally, working with the computer remotely was a bad idea. So instead I became a dive master and immediately an instructor, and then I used this job to fund my travels across South America, the South Pacific, Australia and South-East Asia. I think I ended up creating a coworking space because over the past ten years, I had various experiences related to remote work and community building. As another source of income I started to sell analytics software for professional Poker players over the Internet and programmed for websites of clients. At one point I lived on a sailing boat for 2 years, floating around in South-East Asia, managing websites for people (and in between I did diving). Eventually I thought I was done with Thailand, but a friend insisted that I should visit Ko Lanta. I came once, and then over and over again, often for periods ranging from a month to 6 months. The last 2 years I’ve been here full time, building KoHub.

Lanta

Ok, so that explains the choice of location. But what made you open up a coworking space?
First I came for diving and kept doing programming gigs as side projects. I was involved with a community website, which taught me a lot about dealing with problems of real people. And then, at one point, I visited Bali and Ubud, which is known for its vibrant coworking scene. I got so inspired and I realized that I wanted to try building a coworking community on an island I like living on, which of course was Ko Lanta, which had become like a second home. I knew of the house close the beach which had been empty for 2 years and decided to rent it. That was in mid 2014. In November 2014, after 3 months of renovation, KoHub opened its doors.

Where did the money come from?
From my own pocket. I had some savings, some money left from selling the sailing boat, and income from my programming jobs. First I thought I could run KoHub as a side project and continue to invest the revenue from programing and selling software into the coworking project. But I quickly had to face the reality that KoHub was a full-time job. I never knew how intense such an undertaking would be. Probably because I wanted do it right. I didn’t just want to create a shared office space on Ko Lanta. I aimed at building a community around a coworking space, which takes a lot of energy and also money. Nowadays we have about 10 full-time employees, also rent needs to be paid. The membership prices are rather low, because we want to make it affordable for many. So it definitely has been and still is a challenge. Also, because the bigger it gets, the more attention it requires.

Kohub

What does make KoHub special, in your eyes?
Apart from the fact that it is a part-open-air office on an island in Thailand, it’s definitely the community aspect and the fact that we organize activities daily. Some people of course want to keep themselves to themselves and that is fine. But generally, this environment attracts a certain type of person and it also gets the best out of these people. That’s why I’d say we’ve been thriving in regards of community. The relationships that I’ve seen develop here are really strong. For me, KoHub is also some kind of social experiment. I noticed that when you have over 40 people here at once, the dynamics change. Different cliques and smaller groups are forming. It can be emotionally draining to be involved, but it’s also absolutely fascinating.

When you described how you founded KoHub it sounds as it is easy as a foreigner to just open up a coworking space in Thailand…
In Thailand, starting a company is very doable. Keeping it going is very tricky. It takes a lot of energy and knowledge to keep going. Learning the Thai language helps of course. Considering how much time I’ve stayed here, I am utterly disappointed in my own knowledge of Thai. It is just very hard to find the time. In most cases, when you are busy, you want to communicate in a language which enables you to get things done. That’s why most of my staff prefers to talk to me in English :)

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At which point did you feel that KoHub is actually something which can work in the long-term in a sustainable way?
I still don’t really know haha. But sure, at one point it became clear to me that the team and I managed to built something which other people actually liked. But it is hard to put a date on that because we have been ever expanding. The space, the community, the team, everything is growing. It is the way I like it. And I like to see the community getting what it needs. It is kind of an organized anarchy at times. When we are really busy it can be pretty crazy. But still. We try to deliver what people are looking for, within our vision to create a kind of oasis for people who are on the road or who want to start experimenting with remote work, who come here, meet friends and move on.

How did the locals react to your project?
As a tourist destination, Ko Lanta is still relatively small. There are none of the big supermarkets or chain stores here. I think we have 5 to 10 years until the development will get really intense. But of course there are plenty of hotels and resorts. It took more or less amost 2 years to make people on a larger scale understand what KoHub represents. The concept of remote work, coworking and digital nomadism is new for most people. That’s why these labels, as annoying as they sometimes can be, are needed. As people started to understand that we are not just an Internet café but a community I was keen to get our community involved with the local community. It took a long time to built the contacts and trust, but nowadays we have great initiatives going on, such as assisting with teaching English at local schools or doing other kinds of projects with locals. The Tourist Authority of Thailand also got curious. They see us as an opportunity to develop tourism during the low-season, during which everyone on the island is struggling to make ends meet. Our members inject money into the local economy when few others are here. People start noticing that, especially our neighbors. Regarding the charity projects, we are doing them not doing only to help out the locals but also to bring new members here. Charity activities always bring you closer to local people and culture. You change the word locally, not globally. For members, that aspect can be very attractive, too.

Are you happy with where KoHob is right now?
When I came her first, I was the only nerd on the island, so to speak. Now Kohub has really transformed things. We put Ko Lanta on the map as a place to visit for those location-independent workers who are in South-East Asia. And the general trends are pointing into the right direction. In a Forbes ranking, KoHub was ranked second among the best coworking spaces in Asia, and for Inc.com KoHub is one of the 5 most beautiful places in the world to start a business. So that’s very encouraging. However, from a finance point-of-view, we are still vulnerable. Two bad months is enough to put us out of business. So we have to be very disciplined with spending and prioritizing.

How much do you do KoHub for the money?
The only constant thought about money I have is to be sustainable and to have the means to not only survive but to thrive. I do not want to stand still, I want to develop KoHub further.

That sounds as if you would have nothing against opening additional KoHub locations elsewhere.
You know, of course I had that thought. I have been approached about that question as well. I have some side ideas in terms of opening up a more globalized community. A lot of our members are meeting at other spaces when in other countries. So we got a great culture. It would be fitting to give them spaces to collaborate elsewhere. But I am very nervous about the idea. The coworking movement is a very open collaborative movement at the moment. Young, fresh, with a lot of independents. I spoke to quite a few who have multiple spaces. The general consensus is that it does not scale well. You inherit all the old problems and new ones. Physical community dynamics are very tricky to replicate. You need to be very sensitive to the local environment. However, to repeat myself: I do not want to stand still. So we’ll see what happens next with KoHub.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #87

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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  • When You Change the World and No One Notices (2)
    After you have read this piece, you might start to think about specific contemporary projects, inventions or innovations and wonder whether they’ll  change the world some day without anyone having noticed yet.
  • We might live in a computer program, but it may not matter (3)
    It’s amazing how much attention the idea of the world as a simulation is receiving lately. But not unjustified: Considering how considerate our societies are regarding the stories of religion and gods, there is no way to treat this hypothesis in a less serious manner. In fact, rather the opposite. Nevertheless, l’ll remain skeptical of all explanations which lack proper scientific proof until proof is there. There is little intrinsically positive in just believing things.
  • VR Pioneer Chris Milk: Virtual Reality Will Mirror Life Like Nothing Else Before (2)
    This is a very catchy assessment of the unique nature of VR: Every other medium is an externalized version of an event, but VR can bridge that gap.
  • Are Cities Too Complicated? (2)
    Whenever I travel to cities in Asia I think to myself how much more logical, coherent and smart they feel compared to those in for example Europe. This text explains the phenomenon: Those cities that have been growing and evolving over many centuries have reached a state of “overcomplication” due to the many different types of infrastructures and technology systems that power them and that were built up over long periods of time.
  • Apple’s luxury watch dream is over (2)
    When the Apple Watch launched, it led to intense debates about whether a smartwatch can successfully by marketed as a luxury accessory comparable to analog watches. Now the answer is clear: no.
  • Is Elon Musk trying to do too much too fast? (2)
    We’ll really only know once he either has achieved everything he aims for or once his companies will be saved from bankruptcy through an acquisition by a tech giant.
  • Google, Uber, and the Evolution of Transportation-as-a-Service (3)
    Extensive analysis of the looming rivalry between Uber and Google.
  • What is Silicon Valley? (3)
    That sounds like a trivial question, but for most people, the answer actually requires a longer explanation. This is it, worth reading even for those who are well aware of what Silicon Valley represents.
  • Venture Communism: How China Is Building a Start-Up Boom (3)
    When China does stuff, it often becomes a thing of extreme dimensions: “Just one city, Suzhou, near Shanghai, has announced it will open 300 incubators by 2020 to house 30,000 start-ups.
  • Now that anyone can be a DJ, is the art form dead? (2)
    Quite a predictable but still significant take on how the switch to digital has changed (and in many ways, devaluatedt) the art of DJing.
  • Apple and the Peoples’ Tax Revolution (1)
    The author of this piecee suggests that the European Union’s actions against Apple’s tax evasion tactics will be the beginning of bigger, people-driven movement to force legislature (and thereby company’s) to pay the intended tax rates on profits.

Podcast episode of the week

Weekly Links & Thoughts #86

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, do like more than 200 other smart people (as of August 2016) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Length indicator: 1 = short, 2 = medium, 3 = long

  • Yuval Noah Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will (3)
    A brilliant analysis of our age of “dataism”, put into an historical context, by the author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari.
  • Robots Can Restore Our Humanity (2)
    And here we have an optimistic take on how robots and automation will force our society to give up on the scalable efficiency model which is increasingly disfunctional anyway, and to find ways to evolve human work. One of many smart pharagraphs from the piece: “Go check out a children’s playground and show me a child that doesn’t have creativity and imagination. We all have that potential and a strong desire to express that potential. The challenge is that we have been processed by a series of institutions, starting with our school systems, that were designed to squeeze out these attributes in the name of scalable efficiency.”
  • Which Country Would Win in the Programming Olympics? (2)
    In part surprising and generally very insightful rankings about where the world’s best programmers come from. Switzerland is among the leading countries, whereas the U.S. and India didn’t make it into the top 20.
  • Other People’s Money: The Apple Story (1)
    A brief, knowledgeable commentary on the various aspects of the EU commission’s billion dollar tax decisions regarding Apple.
  • Nations Can Be Startups, Too (1)
    The metaphor of a nation as startup is useful because it can totally change one’s thinking of what’s possible.
  • No Filter: DJ Khaled and the FTC’s Snapchat Problem (2)
    With the rise of Snapchat’s and Instagram’s stories feature, ephemeral user-generated content is becoming widespread. That causes headache for regulators such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): One of its tasks is to ensure that advertisements and paid-for product endorsements are clearly marked as such. However, the investigation of violations is difficult if celebrities and influencers such as DJ Khaled get paid for saying things in a Snapchat or Instagram Story that vanishes 24 hours later.
  • How Uber’s Failure in Japan Can Help Startups Everywhere (3)
    A smart analysis of Uber’s failed attempt to apply the “U.S. playbook” everywhere in the world.
  • How Nextdoor reduced racist posts by 75% (2)
    Intelligent user design and dialogues can help to build a less hostile online environment, as the experiments of leading U.S. neighborhood network Nextdoor have proven.
  • Qwant: The encrypted search engine that really could challenge Google (2)
    Informative profile of Qwant, an ambitious search engine founded and based in France, highlighting among other things the challenges that competitors of Google are facing.
  • Alexa, give me the news: How outlets are tailoring their coverage for Amazon’s new platform (3)
    There is a chance that Amazon’s smart home speaker Echo and the corresponding software-based personal assistant Alexa will emerge as an important platform for news distribution. This report details the early trials and experimental approaches by media outlets.
  • How I Used & Abused My Tesla (3)
    The ultimate hype article, featuring a Tesla that has been used as an Uber car as well as the “world’s fastest hotel” on Airbnb. However, apart from the evangelism, the post also provides plenty of interesting insights.
  • Volvo is quietly becoming a tech superpower (2)
    While Tesla is the tech community’s favorite car, most incumbents from the automotive industry are scaling up their tech ambitions as well. Another frontrunner is Volvo, according to this piece.
  • Facebook recommended that this psychiatrist’s patients friend each other (2)
    The strange thing with Facebook is that it is uncomfortably “aware” in moments when users don’t appreciate it, but it fails to be intelligent when it actually would be useful: Like when I am adding a person who stands next to me by typing his/her name, and Facebook doesn’t seem to leverage our (approximate) location to make a quick suggestion.
  • The Difference Between “Remote” and “Remote-First” (2)
    My favorite way of working is remotely, so no one needs to convince me of the appeal of a “remote first” company culture.
  • Rethinking Retail: When Location Is a Liability (2)
    Giant retail chains are struggling in an environment in which their cost-intense portfolio of local stores and the attached old-school mindset is becoming a burden.
  • Indian ISPs Speed Up BitTorrent by ‘Peering’ with a Torrent Site (1)
    Fantastic example of how the torrent technology can be used for innovation.
  • Using the Blockchain to Fuel a P2P Solar Revolution (2)
    One of the sheer unlimited possible use cases of the Blockchain.
  • Victory for Net Neutrality in Europe (1)
    I am putting this link at the end of the list, despite its huge importance. But hopefully everyone has heard the good news already. Thanks to all the activists who relentlessly fought for this over so many years.

Recently on meshedsociety.com

  • The one big question about today’s groundbreaking emerging technologies
    Will Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, automation & robots, drones, Blockchains and 3D printing reach mass-market adoption all at once, or will a few of these emerging technologies go through more years or even decades of maturing? The answer will shape the next years and decades.

Video of the week

  • Flow of People
    A video showing how long time it takes for 200 people to cross a starting line, depending on their means of transportation. Not sure what to conclude, but obviously, cars take much more space, which causes delays.

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The one big question about today’s groundbreaking emerging technologies

A German version of this article can be found here.

We are living in an extraordinary time, characterized by a continuous acceleration of (digital) progress. The emergence of various groundbreaking technological innovations overlaps. The time period within which their impact unfolds is shorter than ever in history.

The following trends are widely considered the most relevant and the closest to large-scale breakthrough:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Electric vehicles
  • Automation & robots
  • Drones (especially for shipping and logistics, but also in military context)
  • Blockchain
  • 3D print

This list is not complete, but it contains the areas which currently receive most public attention, which constantly produce news and which could quickly push economies and societies into a period of much more radical changes than what we have seen so far.

However, the big question is this: Which of these technologies are really ready for prime time? The laws of hypes ensure that no large expectations, prominent backers, public attention and successful pilots can guarantee that a new technology or innovative approach won’t turn out to be unfinished and in need of several more years or even decades of tinkering. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #85

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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Length indicator: 1 = short, 2 = medium, 3 = long

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #84

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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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 200 other smart people (as of August 2016) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Length indicator: 1 = short, 2 = medium, 3 = long

  • This is Your Life in Silicon Valley (2)
    Even though this parody piece focuses on people actually living in and around the Silicon Valley, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the regular readers of this weekly link list recognize themselves in parts. My favorite quote: “You are all too busy making your own points and citing articles to really listen to each other. ” I really know that one. Others do, too (thanks @polexa for sharing this video).
  • Scenes From the Terrifying, Already Forgotten JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn’t (3)
    A gripping eye-witness account of a recent mass panic that took place at New York’s JFK airport after people thought they were experiencing a mass shooting. A powerful reminder of how false stories evolve, spread and set people in motion.
  • “A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment (3)
    Twitter didn’t like this lengthy Buzzfeed feature. Unsurprisingly. But clearly, the company failed in coming up with effective tools and solutions to the troll problem. However, one needs to be fair and admit that stopping harassment on a global publishing service is more complicated than some seem to think. Regulating speech is a messy business with possibly far-reaching consequences for every user. Imagine you want to jokingly tweet “You are such a moron” to your best friend on Twitter but it doesn’t let you because its algorithm has identified this tweet as harassment. This wouldn’t be a good approach. Nevertheless, Twitter needs to do something. My hope is that it will follow a principle based on the idea that everyone keeps their right to post whatever they want, but that every user also gets the right to not having to see what others are trying to catch their attention with. Currently, that’s not really possible (except for verified accounts, which are being rolled out more broadly, but which still are not available to everyone). If you want to use Twitter the way it is intended, you are basically forced to pay attention to your mentions.
  • No Control: Thoughts On The End Of The Headphone Jack And The Future Of Digital Music (3)
    Smart, critical analysis of Apple’s love-hate-relationship with DRM and the problematic decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone – which, like so many things, can been viewed through an optimistic lense and a pessimistic one, depending on one’s focus.
  • The Worry Piece (2)
    An accurate description of the widespread type of opinion piece that expresses concern about the negative impact of technology on social behavior and personal well-being; the one that always includes the recommendation that people should read a book.
  • The Internet Doesn’t Route Around Surveillance (1)
    A rather depressing quote from the article: “If people are concerned about the confidentiality and integrity of their communications, they will have to treat the internet at large as a hostile network over which one must tunnel securely.”
  • Cortana: The spy in Windows 10 (2)
    The trade-off between a futuristic user experience & privacy seems to be especially big with Windows 10 and Cortana. Or maybe it’s just the same as with every other current system.
  • The Chinese answer to Apple is falling apart (1)
    In technology, you never know which company will be the next to rather quickly go through the process of rise & fall. The latest contender: China’s former smartphone shooting star Xiaomi.
  • China’s big Artificial Intelligence (AI) push (2)
    Meanwhile, Chinese companies are making big advances with the proliferation of AI, fostered by a favorable environment for this discipline, such as the weak protection of people’s personal data.
  • Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction (2)
    Great. Still waiting for that chip which would provide me with perfect skills in a specific language. I’m serious, actually. I cannot prioritize learning Mandarin & Arabic right now, but it’d love to speak it.
  • Edward Snowden is now earning up to $25,000 a speech (1)
    I admire what Snowden did and the risks he took. Good to hear that he can fund his (probably rather weird) life in Russia. However, I had the “pleasure” to listen to one of his live interviews (at an event that otherwise was fantastic). It felt as if it was pre-recorded. Everything Snowden said sounded canned. His answers to questions were too long, which I interpret as a sign that he has started to take himself way too seriously. Overall he gave the impression that he is so intertwined with “his” topic that there is no room for any doubt, any joke, any counter argument, any human touch. It makes me a bit wary of him.
  • Move over, phones. Cars are becoming the new mobile target for marketers (2)
    Sounds like another reason not to own a car. Although, of course, one could – as always – argue that showing highly targeted personalized ads to people driving are better than the most irrelevant billboards you stare at while waiting for or sitting in the subway. But somehow, I personally don’t feel that way.
  • News is afflicted by its own climate change: It’s called social (2)
    A pretty clever metaphor.
  • Revenge of the nerds (2)
    The Economist points to a trend its author observed among Silicon Valley’s big shots: The former nerds are using their freedom, technology and (tiny parts) of their money to turn themselves into superfit “jocks”.
  • The bandwidth bottleneck that is throttling the Internet (3)
    Very informative post about the latest challenges and expected solutions to satisfy the ever increasing need of bandwidth.
  • Inside the mind of a venture capitalist (2)
    Bad news for those not in the rocket business: These days, a venture capitalist is more likely to fund a startup aiming for space than a social web app. At least this one.
  • Pirate Bay is The King of Torrents Once Again (1)
    I lost track of how many times over the past 10 years I’ve been reading about news that sounded like the end of The Pirate Bay. And yet, it’s still there. Astonishing.
  • Forget Self-Driving Cars: Autonomous Trucks, Trains And Ships Will Transform Commerce (2)
    Smart drivers of trucks & captains of ships would already today keep their eyes open for that online course about remote management of driverless truck, train & ship fleets. They’ll need this skill soon if they want to have a future in their industry.
  • Kanye West, Leonard Cohen And Death Of The Creative Full Stop (2)
    Interesting point: Why are most music releases considered finished once they have been released (with the exception of remixes)? Yes, mostly because of historical limitations of physical media. In the digital age, the approach maybe should change. Because it could.

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