Weekly Links & Thoughts #106

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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  • On Progress and Historical Change (3)
    An absolutely brilliant essay shedding light on questions about inevitability of progress and historical changes. I found especially the second half to be truly enlightening and educating.
  • The Data That Turned the World Upside Down (3)
    This comprehensive article detailing the impact that big data analysis has on political marketing and opinion-making made huge waves when it was published in German a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s available in English as well. The authors drew criticism for too far-reaching conclusions and for buying all the claims made by Cambridge Analytica – the big data firm profiled. But in my eyes certain flaws of this work don’t invalidate its important message: That large-scale data collection and the new possibilities for microtargeting of single individuals based on their digital interest profiles offer powerful tools to subtly and effectively manipulate people’s political positions, thereby influencing public opinion.
  • More than one million people will work from coworking spaces in 2017 (1)
    To be honest, I found this number to be surprisingly low, considering how many people I know who at least occasionally hang out at co-working spaces. But that only shows in how much of a bubble we “tech people” live in.
  • The Schedule and the Stream (3)
    Thanks to the Internet, media consumption is moving from a schedule- to a stream-based paradigm. That also shifts the public space, which in the stream is currently quite contested. Thought-provoking reflection.
  • Does the era of No Interface also mean No Revenues? (2)
    Will the looming shift from screen to voice interaction kill large parts of the advertising market? A captivating question to ponder, and one which Amazon does not need to worry about too much. Theoretically, one could make a case for that Google (or Facebook) should buy e-commerce companies, to mitigate possible risks that will affect their advertising-based business models in a voice-first world.
  • Apple strategy in ‘smart home’ race threatened by Amazon (2)
    This piece offers interesting details on the different approaches by Apple and Amazon towards how third party manufacturers get their products connected to their respective company’s smart home platform. It’s a slow but thorough vetting approach taken by Apple vs a quick but less quality-focused one by Amazon, akin to the different app approval procedures for Apple’s App Store and Google Play. As we have learned, both paths come with their own particular set of weaknesses.
  • Silicon Valley’s criticism of Donald Trump (2)
    I’m admittedly rather thrilled by how the U.S. technology industry is being forced to take clear sides now that Donald Trump sits in the White House. For too long, the leading companies of the industry were able to adopt “good” policies only when it helped their PR or recruiting efforts. The rest of the time, they were busy externalizing the costs of their disruptive business models. Now they have to face reality like everyone else.
  • Is Tech Disruption Good for the Economy? (2)
    The study presented here, focusing on 85 years worth of patents, suggests that overall and seen over a long period, tech disruption is indeed good for the economy (in terms of total wealth created), despite its destructive impact on certain industries.
  • Google, in Post-Obama Era, Aggressively Woos Republicans (2)
    Is this an indicator for a broken system, or just an inevitable aspect of how the world works?
  • Instagram Stories is stealing Snapchat’s users (2)
    Snapchat must hate this narrative. Just imagine if Facebook’s Instagram would mange to screw up Snapchat’s imminent IPO in the last moment.
  • Hideo Kojima says games and films will merge together (2)
    That’s what I expect as well. My guess is that people will eventually be able to switch between a lean back (passive consumption) and a lean forward (active participation) experience as they please.
  • Earn Anywhere with the 21 App (1)
    A curious concept. 21 offers users a personal online profile and messaging inbox which pays users Bitcoins for reading messages as well as for accomplished micro tasks advertised through the service. Here is my personal profile.
  • Why is Successful Change so Difficult? (3)
    Intelligent analysis of the difficulty of getting an organization to accept and embrace change. Many of these insights should be applicable to other contexts such as a incentivizing change within a society as well.
  • India Is Building the Infrastructure for a Truly Digital Economy (2)
    Along with the controversial cash ban and ambitions to investigate a future implementation of an universal basic income, India appears to push hard towards transforming its society.
  • Smartphone orders clog Starbucks shops, forcing coffee giant to revamp store designs (2)
    The phenomenon of unintended consequences is always fascinating.
  • Software Is Politics (2)
    Not sure if the majority of IT engineers and tech entrepreneurs are aware of how political their actions are.
  • With the Internet of Things, we’re building a world-size robot (3)
    Renowned security expert Bruce Schneier comes up with an effective metaphor for the Internet of Things and explains in detail why the market is unable to ensure that all the parts of this “world-size robot” are properly secured.
  • United we stand, divided we fall (2)
    Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, wrote a passionate, gripping letter to the 27 EU heads of state or government, summarizing the challenges faced by the EU but also outlining the potential of a united Europe. Completely resonates with me.
  • The Throughput of Learning (3)
    This philosophical & somewhat abstract look at the goals and process of learning will require 100 percent focus of you, but it can change your perspective on the topic.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • What’s next?
    I am scratching my head about the state of the world, but don’t have any good conclusions. However, a few thoughts keep swirling through my mind, so I wanted to pen them down. Featuring Hegel, brain hacking, counter-intuitive outcomes and more.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #105

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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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The year when social media died
    It was nice while it lasted, but for me it’s time to move on. (please note: obviously the headline requires some abstraction. As everyone is aware of, social media services are still there and see a lot of activity. I hope what I mean with “dead” will get apparent when reading the article).
  • The internet does to the world what radio did to the world
    In finally found the time to (re)read Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding media”.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Rationally Speaking: Jason Brennan on “Against democracy”
    An extremely thought-provoking interview about the flaws of democracy and a concept called Epistocracy (knowledge-based voting) which could replace it. Here is a review of the interviewee’s recent book, “Against democracy”. Personally I don’t think making voting-rights depending on a basic competency test akin to a driver’s license (but of course free) necessarily would have to be labeled as abandonment of democracy, but I am not an expert on this topic so I keep the option open to change my mind (or to reject the whole idea of Epistocracy).

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #104

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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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Saving obsolete jobs
    Does it really make sense to artificially save jobs that technically become obsolete? For politicians apparently it does. For society? Most likely not so much.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #103

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.

I have been sick over the past days, which caused this week’s edition to be a bit more compact than usual.

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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #102

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.

I hope everyone had a good start into 2017! Let’s make this a good year, against all odds!

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  • Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People (3)
    Brilliant, critical, very extensive examination of the favorite topic of today’s smartest minds in tech.
  • On the Exponential View (3)
    Information technology is changing the face of humanity and leading to exponential developments. This very informative transcript of a talk explains why it is happening, what opportunities this offers and how it is the cause of a lot of today’s tension in politics and society. Basically, a lot of dots are being intelligently connected here.
  • At CES 2017, Amazon revs Alexa everywhere strategy (1)
  • AirPods Kick off Apple’s Battle for Our Ears (2)
    I group these two pieces together because both Amazon’s Echo hardware and Alexa personal assistant as well as Apple’s AirPods represent the “battle for our ears” proclaimed in the headline. In my eyes this will probably be the major story in consumer tech this year: Voice control and personal assistants are capturing everyone’s mind. For the moment, Amazon is focusing on homes (read here about simple things to use Echo with Alexa for), Apple on use outside of the home. Eventually of course, these use cases will merge, promising a pretty thrilling race. The competition currently lags behind, even if Google is trying its best with Google Home (and the software “Google Assistant”), while Microsoft pushes Cortana. But Amazon has definitely a leg up on the competion.
  • Alexa: Amazon’s Operating System (3)
    Smart explainer on the importance and history of consumer operating systems, culminating in the conclusion that Amazon has found its very own mass-market ready operating system in Alexa.
  • It’s too bad soft sexism isn’t a civil liberties issue (1)
    With personal assistants becoming ubiquitous, the issue of them reinforcing gender stereotypes is moving into the spotlight as well. I see why it is problematic that these assistants usually carry female names and default “personalities”. From that perspective, Google has made a better choice with “Google Assistant”. However, it sounds super boring. In my opinion, the ideal name would be one which does not instantly gets associated with a specific gender. Then users could make their own choice what “personality”/gender they prefer.
  • Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players (1)
    A sign of things to come: A tech company testing a new AI program in public initially pretending for it to be an individual. Basically, a bot when you don’t expect a bot.
  • Virtual Reality Can Leave You With an Existential Hangover (2)
    When it comes to Virtual Reality, employing some systems thinking might be wise. There could be significant and possibly completely unexpected side-effects around the corner. Just think about if suddenly millions of people would develop strange mental conditions. I know, I know, this sounds like those fear mongers who thought the human body would be severely damaged when riding a train at 40 km/h. But with the immersion level that VR is promised to deliver, any comparison to earlier technology is kind of skewed.
  • The internet is broken. Starting from scratch, here’s how I’d fix it. (1)
    To stop the decline of what made the internet great, Walter Isaacson suggests a couple of improvements and changes to its core infrastructure, including a voluntary system for those who want to use it, to have verified identification and authentication.
  • How Digital Nomads Went From Niche to Normal (2)
    As someone who practices it myself, I don’t have the impression that location independent work (or “digital nomadism”, if you fancy that label) really has left its niche, but the headline makes more sense with some context from the article: For many startups and tech companies, having people working from other places than the office has become normal.
  • The Tesla Advantage: 1.3 Billion Miles of Data (2)
    Tesla’s big competitive advantage: Through its autopilot software, it can collect massive amounts of driver data, which is exactly what a car company needs for a future of self-driving vehicles.
  • The Difference Between Impatience and Having No Tolerance for Inefficiency (1)
    I dig that distinction proposed here: Impatience and having no tolerance for inefficiency are two different things. And boy, how little tolerance for inefficiency I have!
  • Why Hasn’t a Killer App Emerged for Finding Local Events? (1)
    The market of services for finding local events has indeed seen surprisingly little action and success stories.
  • Dropbox Could Have One of 2017’s Most Interesting IPOs (2)
    The narrative about Dropbox is changing quickly. From a company struggling to compete in an environment of fast-moving giants the outlook seemingly has gotten brighter again. At least according to this text.
  • Be Recklessly Confident when “Learning How to Code” (2)
    Highly motivating for everyone who is learning to code, and generally thought-provoking for everyone else as well: How to think and behave when learning a skill characterized by a steep and fluctuating learning curve.
  • Quantum computers ready to leap out of the lab in 2017 (2)
    Some high tech stuff here. I can’t say I understand everything about Quantum computing yet but things are clearly heating up.
  • Why Emojis are failing to evolve into a form of Language (2)
    “Emoji are so popular they’re killing off netspeak” – but not sufficient enough to form a totally new language.
  • Finland trials basic income for unemployed (1)
    I am excited that Finland’s highly anticipated basic income experiment has been launched. But I am also disappointed that it focuses on unemployed people only. That means this experiment won’t tell anything about how those who are employed would be impacted (e.g. whether they would quit current jobs and move to something they perceive as more meaningful, or for example start companies). It will neither help to position the basic income as a neutral type of social welfare, instead connecting it with the negative associations that many people already think of when hearing of social welfare. The goal of Finland’s trial is simply to incentivize unemployed people to get a job, even if it is pays little, because they’d keep the basic income. Basically, this is not an unconditional basic income, but one on the condition of being unemployed in order to be eligible in the first place – which is a completely different type of concept. But in order to remain optimistic, maybe this nevertheless turns out to be a smart way to get started; to slowly get the public used to it. The first of many small steps forward.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Really too big to fail
    Can today’s tech giants fail? The list of blunders, complaints and pessimistic predictions is long. But Facebook, Google, Amazon and a few others don’t seem to be affected at all. It’s time to make peace with the idea that these companies are becoming too big to fail.
  • The obsession with “Fast-moving consumer news”
    Some people promote the idea of quitting or at least significantly reducing the consumption of day-to-day news. But wouldn’t that be just looking away from the problems? Somehow, yes. But considering the sad state of online media today, maybe that’s still the better option? A couple of notes about a debate which is gaining relevancy.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Philosophize This: Are you living in a simulation?
    If you have read the first article linked to in this week’s list and haven’t totally lost your appetite for pondering the (admittedly obscure) idea of our existence being a simulation, you might like this podcast episode. Generally this is a recommended podcast, approaching a heavy topic such as philosophy in a lightweight, but (as far as I can judge) still not too shallow way.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #101

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.

This is the last edition of 2016. The next meshedsociety.com weekly will be published on January 5. Happy New Year!

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #100

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.

Edition #100 – it’s been a hell lot of reading for everyone. I hope you’ll stick around until #1000.

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  • Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News (2)
    Very good food for thought. In my opinion, quitting the news does not mean to stop informing yourself. I see it as a call to be selective, to be mindful about how one consumes news, and to question whether one is motivated by entertainment needs or an actual desire to better understand the world. For the latter, day-to-day news can be one tiny contributing factor.
  • The State of Technology at the End of 2016 (2)
    The risk is that the players of today’s technology industry have become the incumbents.
  • The Inside Story Behind Pebble’s Demise (2)
    The smartwatch pioneer Pebble is becoming a part of Fitbit and ceases to exist in its current form. Informative story about what went wrong.
  • United We Stand, Divided We Fall (3)
    In a slightly optimistic take, the author argues that despite what it looks like, people today are actually united: in their fear. Fear of the “big shift” which is reshaping the global landscape. Fear that is perpetuated and increased by cognitive biases. What could help to tackle this challenge, according to him, would be the transformation of our institutions from a model of scalable efficiency to scalable learning.
  • This Is What Happens When Millions Of People Suddenly Get The Internet (3)
    Despite decades of time to get used to the new rules and laws of the digital information and media landscape, many people in the West lack the necessary mental tools to accurately evaluate the truthfulness of things they read online. Now imagine a country like Myanmar, which has been basically offline until very recently, but in which seemingly out of nowhere, everyone has access to Facebook.
  • This Is Water (1)
    Technology isn’t a tool or something we use to get a job done anymore. It’s the actual water we are swimming in. This sounds maybe trivial but if one really puts some effort into thinking about it, it can change one’s perspective.
  • Privatizing Our Past (1)
    Quite a straight-forward description of a looming problem: Machine learning uses our knowledge of the past to predict the future. Increasingly, that past (in form of data) is privately owned. This can’t be good.
  • Let Me Point out to you How Ridiculous the Trump Tech Meeting Was (1)
    Just for the protocol and historic documentation of this already legendary meeting that took place on Wednesday.
  • The Peter Thiel Pedigree (3)
    Of course Peter Thiel was present at the meeting. Here, we have an interesting long read profiling his quite successful Thiel Fellowship, which identifies young top talents and helps them grow and succeed through mentorship and what is said to be an extremely valuable network.
  • The Art and Science of Investing (1)
    Like technology, investing in it is not only science but also an art. Which explains why some are better at it than others.
  • A Short History Of The Most Important Economic Theory In Tech (2)
    About the importance of the principle of increasing returns and network effects for the success of Silicon Valley.
  • Hidden Complexities in Product Changes (1)
    A reminder for those who assume that changing or adding a little feature to an app or service must be a quick, simple task
  • Amazon’s deal to put an Echo in all Wynn Las Vegas hotel rooms is a brilliant marketing move (1)
    Yes. The same goes for VR and some other upcoming technologies. Also as part of their attempt to differentiate from Airbnb, hotels could choose to turn (some of) their rooms into high tech labs where curious people can try out the new stuff they wouldn’t be ready to buy for their homes yet.
  • If you get rich, you won’t quit working for long (2)
    A point very relevant in regards to the discussion about a universal basic income. The widespread assumption that everyone would get really lazy is based on the misconception that people mostly work to earn money.
  • How Tesla came out of nowhere and reinvented the car as we know it (3)
    The still rather brief history of Tesla in one handy article.
  • How the Swedish Capital Became Europe’s Unicorn Powerhouse (3)
    Extensive and, in my eyes, accurate analysis of the factors that made Stockholm become one of Europe’s most successful tech clusters.
  • The Future of Travel: Agentless Airports (1)
    I would not mind to see even more automation at airports.

Recently on meshedsociety.com

Video of the week

  • The Russian App That Has Destroyed Privacy Forever
    Facial recognition & identification is probably one of the scariest technologies, because its misuse by questionable characters and government authorities is guaranteed. This 6 minute video profiles the Russian app that is bringing such a system to the mainstream.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #99

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 Secret, Dangerous World of Venezuelan Bitcoin Mining (3)
    After years of crisis and in the lights of galloping inflation, Venezuelans turn to Bitcoin, despite becoming even more vulnerable once they manage to create some wealth. Both a hopeful and depressing read.
  • Nobody is home (3)
    An enlightening essay about the meaning and importance of the concept of “home” and how it is being disrupted in our global, connected world. It made me think about why I never have a problem developing a feeling of “home” almost anywhere in the world, whereas others seem to struggle with this so much more. I concluded that my perception of home is virtual and not so much about physical location and tangible stuff.
  • Amazon Go and the Future of Work (3)
    You have probably heard the news of Amazon’s cashier-free supermarket. The concept is fantastic from a customer’s point of view (possible privacy implications aside). But the obvious flip side is the disappearing need for cashiers – which in the United States is the second most-common occupation as mentioned in the article. On the other hand, no one is born feeling the deep urge to work as a cashier. So the occupation itself does not need to be preserved. The question is only how to keep a society running in which additional millions of people with mixed to low skill sets are struggling to find new ways of making a living.
  • Understanding That Unregulated Monopoly Was Always Uber’s Central Objective (3)
    Uber would be happy of course if all those former cashiers would become drivers (until the large-scale roll out of driver less cars, of course). This long and pretty harsh analysis argues that Uber’s end goal is and has always been a monopoly. I disagree with the claim made by the author that Uber has not created innovation and that it adds little value in a competitive market, but I share the concern about Uber’s monopolistic tendencies.
  • The slow, uninteresting death of Android tablets is unfolding, and it is no one’s fault (2)
    One frequently hears about the decreasing demand for the iPad. But there is a similar trend happening for Android tablets – only that even less people seem to care about this.
  • Milking the iPhone (3)
    One of the reasons why tablets are being ignored? The cannibalization through large screen smartphones. This is an extensive and informative analysis of how Apple has built its product strategy around the iPhone, trying to squeeze as much profits out of it as possible until the need for the next groundbreaking cash-cow becomes pressing.
  • Best Buy vs. The Apple Store (2)
    An entertaining tale highlighting how Apple’s store concept might have peaked in regards to the customer experience.
  • How to Stay Informed Without Losing Your Mind (2)
    I bet many people who have proudly called themselves “information junkies” in the past are asking themselves this very question. I do and I actually have installed the Chrome extension mentioned by the author in order to remove the news feed from Facebook.
  • Facebook and Google make lies as pretty as truth (2)
    An interesting angle to the fake news debate: Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s AMP reduce quality media sites’ abilities to distinguish themselves visually from fake news outlets – because on the new, lightweight, mobile-optimized layouts promoted by the two giants, content always looks the same.
  • How Jack Dorsey Runs Both Twitter, Square (2)
    This article is one year old, but it hasn’t lost its relevancy at all: The CEO of Twitter and Square has just confirmed that he does not plan to end his unusual double role. How he is able to pull that off is a mystery to me.
  • State of Startups 2016 (3)
    A bunch of numbers, facts and graphs about the state of the U.S. startup sector of 2016.
  • Without Technology Inside, How Can Prisoners Thrive When They Get Out? (3)
    This is probably not something most of us think about often, but it’s an important issue: If a prison sentence would come with any intention of rehabilitation and reintegration back into society, access to technology during the the time in prison is essential. Otherwise, how would anyone expect individuals released from prison to thrive in our digital economy?
  • A Governance Alternative to Faltering Nation-States (2)
    Majors of cities and urban areas from all over the world are participating in a new global governance project to discuss challenges that nation-states fail to tackle. Way to go, the city is the new nation state. Or something like that.
  • Berlin: The City With the World’s Toughest Anti-Airbnb Laws (3)
    A balanced analysis of how Berlin’s legislation intended to limit the spreading of Airbnb is affecting (or not affecting) the city’s housing market and its people.
  • 4chan raids: how one dark corner of the internet is spreading its shadows (2)
    One wonders what kind of individual would feel good about being part of a hate-driven community such as this one.
  • The age of outrage (3)
    The editor of the British satire magazine Private Eye’s take on the crumbling support for the principles of free speech and the growing lack of acceptance of opposing ideas. He reminds the readers of how George Orwell observed similar trends 70 years ago.
  • Crony Beliefs (3)
    Some psychology to end this week’s edition: An extremely fascinating essay investigating why the human brain seems to be so accepting of the weirdest, most unreasonable beliefs.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #98

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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Recently on meshedsociety

  • My year of learning to code, in review
    In January 2016 I joined an online course for learning the programming language Python. It was my first serious attempt to learn coding. 11 months later I am still going strong. Here are my insights and recommendations for others who might be interested in doing the same.
  • I just subscribed to 60 blogs via RSS and maybe you should, too
    Some inspiration (and a list of sources) for those online news consumers who had been avid fans of the RSS format in the past but who have started to rely a lot on their social graph for discovery.

Podcast episode of the week

  • Stuff to blow your mind: Is social media driving us insane?
    As you might guess, listening to this podcast episode will not give you the answer to the question raised in the title. But this is nonetheless an informative, easy-going and casual conversation focusing on the various studies and research undertakings looking into the impact of social media on individual well-being. It’s quite long, about 90 minutes, so if you are all about efficiency, maybe this is not your type of podcast. I enjoyed it, though.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #97

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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Podcast episode of the week

App of the week

  • Highly
    It rarely does happen these days to find a new, exciting app. Which is why I have never recommended one here before. But Highly seems very promising. It is service for reading recommendations based on quotes from within the shared articles. I was a big fan of a German service called Quote.fm which did something similar a few years ago, so chances are good that I will become a regular user of Highly.

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