Weekly Links & Thoughts #116

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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  • Cloud computing’s history foretells the future of automotive (diginomica.com, 2)
    About the parallels between how individual computing gave way to cloud computing (which in turn changed the role and characteristics of computers at large) and the shift from individual car usage to connected, distributed mobility. Fascinating analogy.
  • The Crisis of Attention Theft—Ads That Steal Your Time for Nothing in Return (wired.com, 2)
    “Attention theft” – what a brilliant term. Personally I find it applicable to many more circumstances than those commercials shown on TV screens in public mentioned in the article.
  • What it’s really like to work in a Chinese mega-factory, according to a student who spent 6 weeks there (businessinsider.com, 3)
    This interview with a guy who assembled iPhones is very long (about 30 minutes reading time), but exceptionally informative.
  • Sky Mining (reallifemag.com, 2)
    Contemplating conflicting motivators behind today’s re-surge in enthusiasm for space travel. It seems to be equally about escaping the destructive impact of the threats to planet Earth that at least in parts could be considered side effects of capitalism and about exporting capitalism (and inevitability its side effects) to other planets.
  • The despair of learning that experience no longer matters (newyorker.com, 2)
    This piece left me with a lot of thoughts which I have not been able to sort properly yet. In any case, I find it quite intriguing to ponder whether many populist voters’s realization that their decades-long professional experience is not valued enough anymore could explain their  frustration.
  • Facebook and the Cost of Monopoly (stratechery.com, 3)
    Ben Thompson is disappointed by the announcements made at Facebook’s developer conference F8 (which were mostly related to AR/VR and aimed squarely at squashing Snapchat – which the latter admittedly is making easier than it has to). He considers them a sign that Facebook’s (network-powered) monopolistic characteristics are harming innovation. The possible connection between monopolism of today’s Silicon Valley culture and lack of customer-centric innovation is also the topic of this piece arguing that the Valley’s tech industry is destroying itself.
  • Build a Better Monster (idlewords.com, 3)
    The founder of the beloved niche bookmarking site Pinboard, Maciej Cegłowski, has published the written version of a speech in which he connects a lot of dots and events of recent times to outline the problematic status of quo of today’s digital business models and monopolistic tendencies of a few large companies, the increasingly massive side effects on politics and public debate, as well as possible solutions. Long but worth it and filled with succinct and observant lines to remember for later (such as this one: “One problem is that any system trying to maximize engagement will try to push users towards the fringes.“)
  • Selling Mark Zuckerberg (buzzfeed.com, 3)
    A detailed look at Mark Zuckerberg’s personal transformation.
  • Will Tech-Driven Deflation Export Japan’s Economic Woes to the World? (singularityhub.com, 2)
    Japan historically has been chasing efficiencies through technologies, which in combination with a low birth rate is being seen as a major reason for the country’s economic woes. In the light of current technological and demographic trends, it’s not to be ruled out that this could become the fate for plenty of other nations.
  • Why Kickstarter Decided To Radically Transform Its Business Model (fastcompany.com, 3)
    Gotta love Kickstarter for adopting the new U.S. corporate entity type called Public Benefit Corporation. It came with the pledge to never sell the company or go public and to offer a “general public benefit.” Remarkably, the investors were on board with the decision.
  • AI: Process v Output (thewavingcat.com, 3)
    An in-depth, well-researched and well-curated analysis of what’s considered to be one of the major challenges of applied artificial intelligence: the inability of humans to understand the process with which an AI produces its output, and the trade-off which would happen if transparency of the computing process would be the goal. For the author, there is no question: “Transparent messiness is more desirable than oblique efficiency.” Meanwhile, Albert Wenger, who actually is the VC who according to the previous piece introduced the Kickstarter founders to the concept of the Public Benefit Corporation, puts things into perspective by pointing out that no one really knows how humans do what they do.
  • Primitive reflexes and artificial intelligence (medium.com, 1)
    That’s something which humans have for sure ahead of AI: We are born with reflexes that require no external teaching at all.
  • Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove (nytimes.com, 2)
    Traditionally non-innovating former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is back with a new project, and it seems to be quite useful (from a U.S. tax payer perspective). I loved how his new endeavor was commented here: “Those of us who have been in or around the technology space since the 1990s when Microsoft used to bulldozer all in front of it are completely unused to Steve Ballmer doing things that we can uncomplicatedly see as good”.
  • The Art of Writing One-Sentence Product Descriptions (medium.dave-bailey.com, 1)
    Especially useful advice for people building or promoting products/services, but essentially good advice for a lot of things one creates in life: “If we want our product to be shared by word of mouth, then we must accept that it will likely pass from person to person as a single sentence.”
  • Smartphones Are the New Cigarettes (markmanson.net, 2)
    An apt analogy if you consider how hastingly people pull out their phones after a longer period of forced abstinence (or forced offline mode). Not really accurate when comparing the use cases though. Unlike cigarettes, smartphones actually can be used for a lot of good and useful tasks.
  • Why Americans Don’t Understand The European Startup Scene (arc.applause.com, 2)
    The fragmentation of Europe makes the startup scene hard to understand even for Europeans, I’d argue.
  • On Growing: 7 Lessons from the Story of WeChat (blog.ycombinator.com, 3)
    The Chinese messaging and social media giant did a lot of things right and followed quite an innovative playbook.
  • Meet Algo, the VPN that works (blog.trailofbits.com, 2)
    Something different: I recently created my own VPN tunnel in the cloud with this self-hosted VPN server. It’s a slightly technical task but fun if you like to challenge yourself a bit. However, if you are technical, than you will laugh at me calling this a “challenge”. Important note: As you will run this software on a commercial cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or DigitalOcean where you’ll add your payment details, you should not use this if your goal is to be completely anonymous. Use cases are encryption in public WiFis and circumvention of locally blocked websites (when traveling) as well as possibly even of geo-blocking.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Exponent.fm Episode 110: Moral Hazard
    Great exchange between Ben Thompson and James Allworth about constructive and destructive entrepreneurship and the consequences for technology and capitalism.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #115

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 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Critical States (medium.com, 2)
    The moment when water is ready to turn into ice is called a critical state. For shallow observers, the surface doesn’t look different to the previous state though. For success in life or business, it is crucial to identify those metaphorical critical states early on to spot and seize opportunities that others are missing. Inspiring.
  • What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017? (theatlantic.com, 2)
    A sound compilation of causes for the massive number of retail bankruptcies in the US in 2017. There already have been as many this year (9) as in all of 2016. The most fascinating suggested reason on the list: “Many young people are driven by the experiences that will make the best social media content—whether it’s a conventional beach pic or a well-lit plate of glistening avocado toast. Laugh if you want, but these sorts of questions—“what experience will reliably deliver the most popular Instagram post?”—really drive the behavior of people ages 13 and up.” I’m not 13 anymore but I would be lying to say that I have never caught myself thinking “This would look pretty cool on Instagram!” before doing something.
  • An off-grid social network (staltz.com, 2)
    Compared to the freaky-sounding peer-to-peer social network called Scuttlebutt profiled in this piece, Mastodon suddenly looks like pure establishment.
  • Why Uber Won’t Fire Its CEO (backchannel.com, 2)
    Due in part to the dual-class share structure which many tech founders have come to embrace, company boards’ influence over who gets to be CEO is being diminished. In the case of Uber, according to Jessi Hempel, the only person who can decide whether Uber needs a new CEO is its cofounder and current CEO, Travis Kalanick. I guess, if we would talk about heads of state, such a scenario would be labeled “dictatorship”.
  • Autonomous Trucking Overlooks Skilled Labor Need (supplychain247.com, 2)
    The looming disappearance of millions of truck driver jobs is often cited as a consequence of the ongoing trends towards automation and the emergence of self-driving vehicles. However, as always, things are more multifaceted.
  • End of road for trucking startup Palleter (medium.com, 2)
    Staying on the topic of trucking: The European startup Palleter had an interesting idea: Using a smart technical platform to fill unused capacity in trucks on demand. However, as the founders detail in this piece, their hypotheses had a a few flaws which made the whole idea unfeasible. So they shut down the company instead of raising money. As their update at the end of text notes, after its publication they received a lot of ideas and proposals, so this might not be the end of Palleter after all.
  • How BlaBlaCar faced growing pains and had to change its focus (techcrunch.com, 2)
    One more article focusing on vehicles on four wheels: Informative account of the French ride sharing company BlaBlaCar’s pivot away from Western Europe towards the Russian market.
  • The Spiritual, Reductionist Consciousness of Christof Koch (nautil.us, 3)
    An Illuminating interview about consciousness. The more you think about this feature of the brain, the more enigmatic it appears.
  • Shenzhen is a hothouse of innovation (economist.com, 2)
    Yet another insightful profile of the southern Chinese city Shenzhen’s rise as a hardware and innovation hub.
  • OK Google, do you track ads? (internetofpeople.eu, 1)
    A controversial Burger King commercial deliberately triggered Google’s smart speaker Google Home. Here are two relevant observations/conclusions.
  • A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel (hbr.org, 2)
    Worth noting: The quantity of the Facebook usage matters according to the research. So checking Facebook occasionally won’t make people instantly feel worse. With extensive usage, the risk rises significantly.
  • The News Feed is Outdated: How Stories Changed the Way I Think About Social Media (blog.bufferapp.com, 2)
    But maybe all this will be obsolete very soon, considering the rise of stories as (possibly) the successor of the feed concept. The stories feature is being used very differently than a feed-based system, so researchers can start over.
  • This is the Jeff Bezos playbook for preventing Amazon’s demise (recode.net, 2)
    Jeff Bezos’s yearly letter to the shareholders, including lots of advice for professional flourishing. I instantly loved the concept of “disagree and commit” highlighted in the text.
  • It’s time for Google and Facebook to freak out about Amazon (mashable.com, 1)
    It’s certainly going well for Jeff Bezos’s company. Google is responding by turning its image search into a product search engine.
  • Apple’s AirPods make me feel like an alien (theverge.com, 1)
    What happens next is crucial: Will this feeling persist or will an increased number of people wearing AirPods help to normalize the AirPods product design? I am optimistic for the product.
  • Is Slack a product or a feature? The pros, cons and competition (diginomica.com, 2)
    A relevant question, well explained. Related observation: It’s a very subjective impression but lately I haven’t heard anyone rave about Slack anymore. Novelty definitely has worn off, which means the company is entering a more challenging stage.
  • The art inside you (medium.com, 1)
    A beautiful motto for the age of automation: Finding the art inside you.
  • Fuck virality, I want my ideas to be radioactive (markcarrigan.net, 1)
    I have made it my mission to only recommend radioactive articles in this weekly list, no viral ones… in all seriousness, while the label “radioactive” sounds pretty absurd, I like the point being made.
  • Singapore scientists teleport lemonade over the internet (cnet.com, 2)
    Eye-catching headline, and only a bit sensationalistic. The main difference to “real” teleportation is that the lemonade on the sender’s side didn’t vanish after the procedure. So it was rather a reproduction over a long distance instead of an actual “teleportation”. Still, kind of cool.
  • The new age of Ayn Rand: how she won over Trump and Silicon Valley (theguardian.com, 2)
    The works of the Russian-American novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand have influenced the world view of many of Silicon Valley’s tech libertarians – and not only those.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The internet brings people into space
    Tesla & SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazo founder Jeff Bezos have earned a lot of money with their web companies, which they now use to fund bold, visionary and pretty risky endeavors far beyond their initial focus areas. Seen through this lens, the effects of the internet are actually changing the world twice.
  • The end of roaming surcharges is a milestone for the EU
    For people living in the European Union, June 15 this year will be a date as import and symbolic as March 26 1995 was. At that day the Schengen agreement of open borders went into effect.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • The Knowledge Project: Naval Ravikant
    Naval Ravikant is the CEO and co-founder of AngelList and has invested in more than 100 companies. In this podcast interview he talks for a full 2 hours about a wide spectrum of topics, such as reading, habits, decision-making, mental models, and life. I was not bored a single second.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #114

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 like this weekly selection and want to support it with a few bucks, you can do that through Patreon. A big thank you to the existing Patrons. You are great!

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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Becoming a “better” human in the digital age
    In the digital age, the human brain can be tricked and manipulated more effectively than ever before, as most recently shown by Uber’s attempts to influence its drivers’ behavior. So how to maintain a level of autonomy then? Most probably by developing the ability to go against one’s nature and primal instincts – which humans have done many times before.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • a16z Podcast: Cryptocurrencies, App Coins, and Investing in Protocols
    This podcast offers rather challenging content due to the complicated nature of the topic, but the participants try their best to make it as comprehensible as possible. In my opinion, the potential of using cryptocurrencies to fund and finance startups, open source software and new protocols is too intriguing to be ignored.

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If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #113

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.

Personal note: Back from vacation!

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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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  • The future of the open internet — and our way of life — is in your hands (medium.freecodecamp.com, 3)
    A griping depiction of the repeating dynamic that steers information technology towards corporate monopolies until a new technology comes and disrupts the old order. But when it comes to the Internet, there might be no disruptor.
  • Tech and the fake market tactic (anildash.com, 3)
    How the tech industry leverages the advantages of the free market in order to create rigged markets.
  • Systems smart enough to know when they’re not smart enough (bigmedium.com, 3)
    Machines have an over-confidence problem, writes Josh Clark, who also has some ideas about how to handle this situation. One might want to add that most humans have an over-confidence problem as well.
  • The Trade-Off Every AI Company Will Make (digitopoly.org, 2)
    Like a person who starts a new job, an AI with machine learning capabilities has to “practice” in order to get better. Companies that want to utilize AI are therefore faced with a tricky question: when to shift from in-house training to on-the-job learning.
  • The Wonders of the Future (collaborativefund.com, 2)
    Big breakthroughs don’t happen on their own. They are a conglomeration of small discoveries and often unforeseen.
  • Tech Bigwigs Know How Addictive Their Products Are. Why Don’t the Rest of Us? (wired.com, 2)
    In my eyes, psychological dependency (or addiction if you want to call it that way) on digital technology is a massive challenge. Those who fail to resist and fail to remain in control are, more than with any other information technology before, becoming subject to large-scale manipulation by commercial and ideological actors.
  • Why we can’t put our smartphones down – and what it’s doing to our relationships (newatlas.com, 2)
    Related to the previous article. It’s the first time I hear the term “phubbing”. It stands for “phone snubbing” – phone distractions that occur in the presence of other people. What’s described here makes a lot of sense to me: “The more one romantic partner perceives that they are being phubbed, the more it hurts their feelings, which ultimately fed into reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression.”
  • Reframe Work And Be Free (truthhawk.com, 1)
    A brilliant way to view work: investing time instead of spending time. An added thought from myself: If a certain work doesn’t feel like a good investment, it’s probably something one should try to let go as soon as possible.
  • Lessons in Tenacity from the Co-Founder of Foursquare (firstround.com, 3)
    For over ten years, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley had a vision, and he never gave up.
  • Is Netflix ringing the death knell for cinemas? (denofgeek.com, 2)
    Betteridge’s law applies of course. But Netflix undeniably is changing movie distribution and consumption patterns, so it will have an impact on cinema.
  • The Google Pixel does not exist (phonearena.com, 1)
    Google’s Pixel phone is said to be the best Android smartphone on the market – but it appears as if Google is not really keen on selling it to people.
  • Apple Is Pushing iPad Like Never Before (aboveavalon.com, 2)
    A lengthy, in-depth analysis of Apple’s latest strategy for the iPad. The tablet market is not as dead as some claim it to be.
  • Why Employees At Apple And Google Are More Productive (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Some companies from the tech sector are remarkably more productive than the average company, while having not significantly more “star players” among their employees. The key to this success lies in how these high performers are distributed among the teams.
  • Poaching passengers: An Uber driver endorses Juno (blog.wandr.me, 2)
    Occurrences during which Uber drivers try to get a passenger to join them on another ride-sharing app highlight Uber’s issue with lacking driver loyalty – which only remains unproblematic for Uber as long as no serious (global) competitor exists.
  • Upgrade your Medium (blog.medium.com, 2)
    Evan Williams, founder of Medium, outlines the rough details of the platform’s upcoming subscription system. This will be interesting to watch.
  • It Will Take Google 22 Days to Find You (motherboard.vice.com, 1)
    If you launch a website that you don’t index for search engines and that you solely tell a few friends about who you encourage to spread the word, how long does it take until Google finds you? One guy tried it.
  • Now We Know Why Microsoft Bought LinkedIn (backchannel.com, 2)
    At least in parts the reason my be: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who is extremely well connected, appreciated and influential in Silicon Valley.
  • Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse (vanityfair.com, 3)
    I have seen some criticism about this long read (for example here) but I found it to be pretty effective at making the reader feel how much the (possibly sensationalist) debate about AI as a potential threat is captivating the industry big shots’s minds. In the end, no one knows. In comparison to this superior AI that some are afraid and others are excited about, an Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking or Ray Kurzweil are not much more intelligent than anyone else. So everyone is just speculating about the future while being subject to the same cognitive limitations.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #112

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.

A personal note: I’ll be taking a few days off next week. Edition #113 of meshedsociety.com weekly will be published on March 30.

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  • Is Facebook a Structural Threat to Free Society? (truthhawk.com, 3)
    I honestly have a hard time finding flaws in this comprehensive, well laid out argumentation. While I deeply admire Mark Zuckerberg for his achievements, the amount of power that he has been able to accumulate along the way is absolutely terrifying, as is the quasi-impossibility (for regular human beings who don’t want to go to the forest to talk) to completely remove oneself from his digital empire. Related: The Data Selfie extension for the Chrome browser shows what Facebook can learn about their users.
  • We didn’t lose control – it was stolen (ar.al, 2)
    The inventor of the WWW, Tim Berners-Lee, is worried that the public has lost control over their personal data and concerned about the general state of the web. Aral Balkan argues that Silicon Valley stole the data and the web as it was intended from the people and used it for the creation of “surveillance capitalism”.
  • The Token Economy (thecontrol.co, 2)
    The network effect is a powerful force for products to gain exposure and users/customers. With the rise of the Blockchain an iteration of the network effect is emerging, labeled by the author as “network ownership effect”. This effect is occurring when users of a service/product are being turned into owners through the purchase/provision of Blockchain-based tokens.
  • Airpods are Apple’s Best Product Since the iPad (calacanis.com, 2)
    Without having used them yet I am very optimistic as well. Read my previous post “Apple Airpods vs Google Glass”.
  • If Your iPhone is Stolen, These Guys May Try to iPhish You (krebsonsecurity.com, 2)
    When iOS devices get stolen, thieves often use third-party iCloud phishing services to get hold of the iCloud account credentials in order to remotely unlock their prey. Here is an inside look into this dubious industry.
  • What’s Apple’s next chapter in podcasting? (sixcolors.com, 2)
    Apple’s (and iTunes’s) leading role in the distribution of podcasts is remarkable considering how little focus Apple has put on the podcast ecosystem. It can only be a question of time though until the company gets serious about offering a superior podcast experience for both the consumer as well as the producer.
  • How Ed Sheeran Broke The Charts (musicindustryblog.wordpress.com, 2)
    The English musician Ed Sheeran is clocking up billions of plays on the leading music streaming services, leading to a massive domination of the official music charts which attempt to simultaneously measure sales and streams – a pretty flawed approach.
  • Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones? (nytimes.com, 2)
    If that’s the case, is that a better outcome or not? (part of the answer might be given in this week’s podcast recommendation, see below)
  • The body is the missing link for truly intelligent machines (aeon.co, 2)
    AIs need an embodied relationship with their environment in order to really “think” like a human, argues Ben Medlock, the co-founder of SwiftKey which was acquired by Microsoft.
  • Voice and the uncanny valley of AI (ben-evans.com, 2)
    A lot of people in the tech industry want voice to be the next big thing. While it in some regards definitely is, the existing concepts still struggle with huge unsolved problems. Expectations of an immediate shift of most digital interactions towards voice are therefore most likely way too optimistic.
  • Can you be friends with a robot? Aristotelian Friendship and Robotics (philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com, 3)
    Great food for thought which challenges one’s mental concept of friendship.
  • What Will Matter In The Future? (anothervoice.co, 2)
    A couple of smart suggestions for and ideas on how to think about the future and upcoming changes. I like the quote by Marshall McLuhan mentioned in the text a lot: “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
  • The Uber Bombshell About to Drop (danielcompton.net, 2)
    This post has been widely shared over the past days. In the wake of an ongoing lawsuit against Uber filed by Google, the author compiled a list of indicators that would suggest that Uber and a former Google employee came up with a canny (and highly unethical) plot to gain access to Google’s knowledge in the field of self-driving cars. As far as I can say, it is speculative but worth reading nonetheless.
  • Silicon Valley Is Having a Meltdown Because It Can’t Use Uber and Lyft at SXSW (slate.com, 2)
    The tech crowd complains about the absence of Uber and Lyft during the SXSW conference in Austin, and here is a response to that which I find very adequate. This paragraph nails it, especially the last sentence: “The outburst from SXSW reminds me that so many loud voices don’t just not participate in that conversation about general mobility improvements in cities, they’re not even conscious of its existence. They think a city like Austin could reach “full function” with a handful of multinational taxi companies. They didn’t even think to complain about how Austin’s transit system has cut service in recent years, and ridership has fallen along with it—down an astounding 12 percent in 2016. Looking for a bus isn’t an instinct they have anymore.”
  • Airbnb CEO Says Its IPO Is ‘Halfway’ Ready (skift.com, 2)
    Considering how well tech IPOs of unprofitable companies are often doing, the upcoming public listing of profitable Airbnb should break records.
  • ShatChat (500ish.com, 2)
    A justified rant about Facebook’s introduction of a Snapchat-like Stories feature in its Messenger app.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Towns, commerce and the future
    The creation of shopping clusters outside of city centers and the rise of e-commerce are leaving the hearts of towns (in Europe) or the suburbs (in the US) deserted and in decay. But there is a solution. It requires to put conventional thinking aside.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Cracked podcast about online outrage culture
    The cracked editors discuss the little “outrage machine” in our pockets, the addictive character of micro-outrage which now can be had as many times as one wishes during a day, and how certain actors are extremely skilled at using this situation for their own benefit. This is stuff with serious implications for public discourse, politics and individual health.

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If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #111

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 almost 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • I dared two expert hackers to destroy my life (fusion.net, 3)
    An eye-opening experiment which teaches a few important (and sobering) lessons about personal IT security. I’d say this is a must-read (or must-watch as there also is a video).
  • The Invisible Force That Warps What You Read in the News (backchannel.com, 3)
    Serious food for thought, especially for people in tech: How “narrative gravity” directs journalist’s and blogger’s focus and coverage towards the stories that fit into the existing narratives, even if the result can be a very skewed depiction of reality.
  • What do Uber, Volkswagen and Zenefits have in common? They all used hidden code to break the law (medium.freecodecamp.com, 2)
    Companies utilizing software to circumvent the law is a thing now.
  • Why the dark net is more resilient to attack than the internet (newscientist.com, 1)
    In order to make the Internet more resilient against attacks, the leading players should learn from how the dark net works.
  • Millennials have a voice first love affair (readmultiplex.com, 2)
  • How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants (washingtonpost.com, 2)
    Not so much to add other than: While younger generations are as usual a driving force behind the shift to voice, the typical Amazon Echo buyer presumably is older than 30 (which is the age at which most people have their own place).
  • The Internet of Microphones (mjg59.dreamwidth.org, 1)
    In the wake of this week’s Wikileaks dump of internal CIA documents, here is something to keep in mind: It’s the smartphone microphone that creates the biggest (because constant) vulnerability in everyone’s personal life, not smart home devices such as smart TVs.
  • Why Companies like Lyft, Uber, Postmates, Instacart etc Will Never Be Profitable (hackernoon.com, 2)
    An intelligent analysis of the gig economy’s flawed economics and a suggestion for how its protagonists can become sustainable businesses: By renting own assets to the providers of services on the platforms, like Amazon did with its storage facilities for retailers or cloud resources for developers.
  • YouTube TV will be huge. Apple must respond (theregister.co.uk, 2)
    With its new TV subscription service (US-only for now), Google is stepping up its game in competing with cable companies and over-the-top video services such as Netflix and Amazon Video. How long can Apple afford to wait?
  • How YouTube Is Changing Our Viewing Habits (npr.org, 1)
    Related: With personalized suggestions for what to watch, YouTube is having a significant impact on people’s viewing habits – and a responsibility it doesn’t seem to acknowledge yet.
  • Will Native-Social Ads Dominate Mobile? (streetfightmag.com, 2)
    Probably yes, because most other ad types don’t work that well on mobile.
  • 2017: The year people are forced to learn new skills… or join the Lost Generation (enterpriseirregulars.com, 2)
    While this post focuses on enterprises and managers, I’d argue that in 2017 (and from now one forever), the need to learn new skills essentially applies to every person below a certain age.
  • Sexbots and the Singularity (futureofsex.net, 2)
    Possibly the most inevitable trend in tech.
  • Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish (jocelyngoldfein.com, 2)
    A superb explanation for what culture is – here in the context of organizations, but the definition would also work for the broader cultures and sub cultures in societies: Culture is the behavior people reward and punish. So simple, so well put. In consequence: If one wants to change a culture, one has to alter what’s being rewarded and punished.
  • Inside the Changes That Could Save Twitter’s Business—and Reshape Civil Discourse (slate.com, 3)
    I don’t know why this became such a long, self-congratulatory piece. I summarize it for you: Twitter’s timeline is getting more similar to Facebook’s news feed thanks to the algorithmic selection of tweets. That decision comes with the same benefits and flaws as can be experienced at Facebook. The author finishes his post with the following claim: “We’ll be better off with a more automated Twitter than we would be with no Twitter at all”. A few years ago I would have agreed. Now I doubt it. But of course it’s a purely theoretical point to discuss.
  • You Don’t Get AMP (blog.153.io, 2)
    Google’s AMP initiative (“Accelerated Mobile Pages”) is catching on. But when referring to AMP, the various parts of the undertaking easily get mixed up. This post clarifies.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • What Uber’s crisis means for the company – and what it doesn’t mean
    To say that Uber is used to controversies would be an understatement. But a couple of recent missteps and scandals led to a dimension and intensity of criticism which the company hasn’t experience before. However, what does the negative press really mean for Uber? Let’s have a look at the possible impact on the five groups that the transportation giant relies on.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • PessimistsArc: Horseless Carriage
    The Pessimist Arc podcast dedicates its most recent episode to the hostilities early car owners in New York had to endure. People labeled the car, which was about to replace the horse, as “devil wagon”.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #110

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 300 other smart people (as of January 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Deep Work => Flow – A proven Path to Satisfaction (robinwieruch.de, 3)
    I enjoyed this summary of the two books Deep Work by Cal Newport and Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a lot. It made me question my own approach to work and the numerous situations during the day at which I allow myself to inadvertently lose focus. If you haven’t read both books, I’d highly recommend spending 30 minutes to read this.
  • Uber Is Doomed (jalopnik.com, 3)
    It’s easy to misunderstand this headline as a prediction of an imminent collapse of Uber, but that’s not the case. The author basically summarizes everything that he thinks is wrong with Uber, its culture, its business model, and its impact on the economy. The list is pretty long.
  • Everything is fucked and I’m pretty sure it’s the Internet’s fault (markmanson.net, 3)
    “Civilization was built on people’s ability to suppress their baser instincts—their tendencies towards tribalism and narcissism, their penchant for slaughtering each other over superficial and imagined differences. It took millennia of education and advancement for us to learn how to not do this.” Yes, and now, thanks the Internet, a reverse process has set in. Hopefully, it’ll only be temporary.
  • Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence? (scientificamerican.com, 3)
    Digitally-fueled neotribalism is not the only challenge for modern civilization. Big Data and AI also force us to face uncomfortable questions.
  • LinkedIn endorsements are dumb. Here’s the data. (blog.interviewing.io, 2)
    LinkedIn’s endorsements feature does not exist to tell the truth about a user’s skills, but primarily as a justification for LinkedIn to be able to sell expensive services to recruiters, argues
  • The rise of artificial intelligence is creating new variety in the chip market, and trouble for Intel (economist.com, 2)
    The rise of AI leads to more demand for specialized processors such as Nvidia’s. For Intel, that spells trouble.
  • Supercomputers for Weather Forecasting Have Come a Long Way (top500.org, 2)
    Probably something few people think about: The weather forecasts that they seek are created based on simulations by incredibly powerful supercomputers.
  • Why Learning Is A New Procrastination (thecoffeelicious.com, 2)
    Been there, done that. But I’d argue that learning still is one of the better forms, if not the best form of procrastination
  • What we lose when we rely on streaming (hallama.org, 2)
    For collectors, the streaming age poses big challenges.
  • This site is “taking the edge off rant mode” by making readers pass a quiz before commenting (niemanlab.org, 2)
    Removing some of the impulsiveness of online comments and coming up with ways to ensure that those who comment an article actually have read it appears to be a smart approach towards improving the quality of comments without removing the comment possibility.
  • Want to Know the Future? Most People Don’t, Study Suggests (livescience.com, 1)
    “The research, which surveyed more than 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain, found that 85 to 90 percent of participants said they wouldn’t want to know about certain future negative events in their lives, and 40 to 70 percent said they wouldn’t want to know about certain future positive events.”
  • Even China Can’t Kill Bitcoin (bloomberg.com, 1)
    This is essentially a law of nature, and it also applies to Bitcoin: “Every time a government sets out to abolish something people like, the well-liked thing moves to where it can’t be stopped.”
  • The Governance of Blockchains (thecontrol.co, 2)
    Nick Tomaino describes one of the essences of the concept of Blockchains: They enable a new paradigm in governance. The Blockchain allows people who do not know each other to agree to a set of rules and coordinate it in a way that’s beneficial for the group – without relying on centralized organizations to reach consensus.
  • Japan takes step toward enormous bank of personal data (asia.nikkei.com, 1)
    Japan wants to launch a so-called “information bank” that would store data on customers currently held by companies and public entities. Individuals then would be able to consent to the data being shared with third parties. A centralized approach like that seems more feasible in the short-term, but still falls short in comparison to a scenario in which each and every individual “owns” their data in a decentralized manner, as described in this essay by Aral Balkan.
  • You are building a self driving AI without even knowing about it (hackernoon.com, 1)
    Speculative, but not unlikely: Google’s Captchas keep asking users to identify street signs and storefronts as part of a data collection effort for Google’s self-driving car algorithms.
  • Stop Fabricating Travel Security Advice (medium.com, 2)
    Over the past weeks, plenty of advice about how to get through immigration checkpoints without having to reveal personal data stored on one’s devices has been circulating on the web. Here’s someone who self-identifies as “Information Security Researcher” who suggests not to listen to these recommendations.
  • One year in and only now are we getting to know Apple Watch owners (medium.com, 3)
    Who are the people who own and use an Apple Watch? Here are some answers, based on a (non-representative) survey among more than 1300 people who bought the gadget.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #109

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.

By the way, meshedsociety.com weekly has now its own landing page where you can subscribe for the email: weekly.meshedsociety.com. If you tell your friends and colleagues, I’d be more than happy.

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump (medium.com, 3)
    When I saw the headline and the name “Trump”, I expected yet another interchangeable think-piece with little substance. But boy how I was wrong. This is a griping and well-informed feature detailing the significance of the legendary online messaging board 4chan for the emergence of a lot of contemporary cultural and political patterns and trends. While reading I realized how little I knew about 4chan. The author does a great job explaining how the community – which based on its own self-image has been made up of mostly young males living in their parent’s basements – is connected to cult memes, Anonymous, Gamergate, Pepe the frog, outdated left vs right politics, and the cultural war that eventually brought Trump into power. The text is extremely well-written and – according to a friend of mine – even offers new insights to people who already possess a fair share of knowledge about 4chan.
  • Zoltan Istvan on transhumanism, politics and why the human body has to go (newatlas.com, 3)
    Zoltan Istvan is an American transhumanist who intends to run for Governor of California in 2018 as Libertarian. In this interview, he talks about what he calls the “universal right to indefinite lifespans”, explains why he thinks that moving beyond the human body is better than trying to fix it, and drops a couple of other catchy lines that some people certainly will find crazy. But so would have been the thought of being able to do a wireless video call from one side of the planet to the other 100 years ago. So while Istvan clearly represents a form of fundamentalist ideology, there is no reason to at least entertain the ideas proposed by him and a few like-minded individuals. Which is something Yuval Harari has done – more about that further down below in the “Podcast episode of the week” section.
  • How Silicon Valley Is Trying to Hack Its Way Into a Longer Life (time.com, 2)
    So what are people associated with the Silicon Valley-centric transhumanist mindset doing in order to extend their life? Here is a list of undertakings.
  • Norway is reaching tipping point for electric vehicles as market share reaches record breaking 37% (electrek.co, 1)
    Incredible, particularly the fact that this is happening in oil-rich Norway.
  • In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant (theguardian.com, 2)
    Valid point, I guess. Adjusting to the age of automation means equipping today’s children with the skills that robots wont be able to compete on.
  • Interactive competence (medium.com, 1)
    One skill to learn, not only for children: interactive competence: The ability to connect with information and people, as and when needed.
  • George Orwell and Useless Work (shift.newco.co, 2)
    How does a person live day to day in poverty, being exclusively concerned with survival? George Orwell, widely known for his dystopian novel 1984, personally experienced such a state of existence, and wrote about it 80 years ago.
  • The race for autonomous cars is over. Silicon Valley lost (autoblog.com, 1)
    The verdict in this post might be premature, but for the moment it indeed looks as if the tech giants have realized that building and selling complete cars should better be left to other players, who know how to do it.
  • The Myth of the Entrepreneur (thinkgrowth.org, 2)
    Entrepreneurship is often glorified as the pinnacle and main driver of innovation. What these stories routinely ignore is the crucial role government funding for academic research plays in order to get to those entrepreneurial breakthroughs that captivate everyone’s attention.
  • Social Media Needs A Travel Mode (idlewords.com, 2)
    This is an intriguing idea: During travel, most people leave important stuff at home, or in a safe place. But with data stored on social media services, it’s all or nothing (unless you use a dedicated “travel smartphone”) – which can become a problem if you have to deal with overly invasive immigration officers.
  • Accuracy on the Internet: The Price of Freedom is Personal Responsibility (seapointcenter.com, 1)
    I’m linking to this short piece mostly because of the statement from the headline. It seems as if while many people have been embracing the freedom brought by the Internet, they have not understood the personal responsibility that comes with it.
  • Trump is causing a political app boom, data shows (techcrunch.com, 1)
    No surprise here. The demand for coverage of politics and Trumpism seems insatiable.
  • UberEVENTS is anything but über (hackernoon.com, 2)
    In the U.S., Uber offers less known service called “UberEVENTS”, which allows event organizers to provide rides for attendees free of charge. These rides are instead billed to the organizer. The author describes his rather frustrating experience using the service.
  • Apple Doesn’t Need to Buy Netflix (aboveavalon.com, 2)
    Why Apple would or wouldn’t have to buy Netflix, based on the performance of Apple Music.
  • The Robot Tax And Basic Income (avc.com, 1)
    Bill Gates is a proponent of a robot tax. Not everyone else agrees. But the topic will for sure be subject to intensifying debates.
  • Rule by Nobody (reallifemag.com, 3)
    A critical analogy of bureaucracies and algorithms, which share certain self-preserving and evasive characteristics.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #108

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 300 other smart people (as of January 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Universal Basic Income Accelerates Innovation by Reducing Our Fear of Failure (evonomics.com, 2)
    A brilliant text. One of the best I’ve read about the potential of a basic income. When it comes to the core argumentation for considering such a solution, usually the focus lies on the angle of smarter, more efficient social welfare – about ensuring that even when millions of additional jobs are being automated, people will still be able to pay for basic needs. In this essay, the other, in fact more exciting angle is being emphasized: That a basic income would empower more people to take risks such as becoming entrepreneurs, by reducing fear of the consequences of failure. If you decide to read it, pay particular attention to the insurance analogy. I find that one very intriguing.
  • When Good Intentions Backfire (points.datasociety.net, 3)
    Engineers and journalists should think 10 steps ahead in order to imagine how products, ideas or principles that are born out of good intentions might be manipulated or repurposed in much less desirable ways later, suggests Danah Boyd.
  • Channeling Steve Jobs, Apple seeks design perfection at new ‘spaceship’ campus (reuters.com, 2)
    Amazing how much effort and focus on details Apple is putting into creating its new headquarter. Of course, if any company would be a candidate for such an approach, it’s Apple.
  • I’ll never bring my phone on an international flight again (medium.freecodecamp.com, 2)
    An eye-opening text that makes a gruesome prediction: “It’s only a matter of time before downloading the contents of people’s phones becomes a standard procedure for entering every country.”
  • Amazon Go For China? WeChat Store Of The Future (chinachannel.co, 1)
    A completely automated physical store that handles customer identification and payment through WeChat. Incredible.
  • Amazon’s Friction-Killing Tactics To Make Products More Seamless (firstround.com, 3)
    An interesting read even if you are not specifically involved with building products – it’s valuable to learn about the drive towards less and less friction even if you are just a user/customer. Often, it’s the presence of friction which makes incumbents vulnerable to the upstarts.
  • Trust: the inside story of the rise and fall of Ethereum (aeon.co, 3)
    Very thought-provoking take questioning Blockchain enthusiasts’ hope that technology could replace the human dimension of trust.
  • Why our company’s remote work system failed (medium.com, 2)
    When people prefer to keep coming to the office despite the availability of remote work opportunities, then this is a clear statement.
  • Inside Medium’s Meltdown (businessinsider.com, 2)
    After reading this I am undecided whether I now believe less or more in Medium. If the problems are caused by the personality and ideals of his founder & CEO Ev Williams, then the question is if he can put those aside.
  • How tech ate the media and our minds (axios.com, 2)
    This sums it up well. Also, this process happened while no one noticed it (the neo luddites don’t count, because they are generally against everything that has to do with digital technology).
  • In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books (qz.com, 2)
    A striking point.
  • A fuck-you money attitude (m.signalvnoise.com, 1)
    “Fuck-you money” means being well-off enough to be able to tell anyone off for any reason without risking one’s livelihood. But how often does this really happen? Asks David Heinermeier Hansson aka DHH.
  • The Disease of more (markmanson.net, 2)
    Maybe part of the answer to this question is the “disease of more”. Nothing is ever “enough” and relative happiness quickly plunges back to the famous “7” on a 1-10 scale, meaning that the next venture has to happen, and it has to be bigger than the previous one.
  • One person at a time (jarche.com, 1)
    A brief note on the importance of individuals as nodes in the networked society – which is what we are headed to right at this moment. These nodes become so crucial because “our institutions and markets will fail to deliver in a network era society because they were never designed for one.”
  • The Meaning of Decentralization (medium.com, 3)
    Apropos networks: These networks sometimes tend to show decentralized characterics. Here is a well thought out explanation of what decentralization actually means, what different types exist and why some of them are harder to achieve than others.
  • Here’s What Happens When @realDonaldTrump Tweets A Link (buzzfeed.com, 1)
    Trump uses the public version of the URL shortener Bitly which allows everyone to check click statistics for any Bitly URL.
  • Has Facebook slipped up with VR? (bbc.com, 3)
  • Google Daydream hasn’t done anything to fix VR’s biggest problem – it’s just not very good (androidpolice.com, 2)
    Two pieces that illustrate how the optimism about the short-term impact of VR is currently taking a few hits. Is there any limit to the number of times VR can loop through the different stages of the hype cycle?
  • Don’t Look Now, but the Great Unbundling Has Spun into Reverse (nytimes.com, 2)
    The great unbundling of traditional media is followed by the great bundling of digital media. The economics of bundling are too attractive and powerful to be neglected.
  • Mass entertainment in the digital age is still about blockbusters, not endless choice (economist.com, 2)
    That’s an interesting point considering how frequently it is lamented that during water cooler talks, people today are lacking this one single show or movie which everyone watched the evening before on TV. Other than that the consumption does not happen at exactly the same time for everyone, might that just be myth?
  • How Sonos will take on Alexa and Google: by integrating them (theverge.com, 3)
    Sonos could have been the company that introduced the concept of smart home speakers instead of Amazon. Now the iconic maker of wireless speakers is trying to catch up – by wanting to play nice with all the new contenders in the field.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The crisis of optimism
    People have lost their optimism for the future – with the exception of the technology industry in Silicon Valley. And so they turn to the banal methods of the past. What could bring optimism back?

Video of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #107

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 300 other smart people (as of January 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Zuckerberg’s Lock-in Effect
    Facebook has become a revenue and profit machine. But the company’s success comes at a cost for politics, societies and the maintenance of social peace. The undesirable effects of the “Facebook world” have become so apparent lately that CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be seriously concerned. Tragically, even if the 32-year-old would start to have doubts about what he has unleashed, it wouldn’t matter: He cannot fix the damage anymore. He has locked the company into a highly effective business model. Abandoning it is not an option. It’s his very own Lock-in Effect.
  • Medium can be the better Twitter
    When looking at Medium.com not as a publishing platform but as a social network around smart ideas and constructive discussions, it has huge potential to actually become the better Twitter.

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