Weekly Links & Thoughts #127

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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  • Shedding Light on the “Black Box of Inappropriateness” (cherylyeoh.com.com, 3)
    After an exclusive New York Times story revealing the culture of (sexual) harassment in tech – in this case particularly involving venture capitalists – lots of new personal accounts emerged. Like this cringing one by the entrepreneur Cheryl (Yeoh) Sew Hoy, illustrating exemplary how male investors feel comfortable abusing their power to gain sexual favors from those who seek funding. Note that this specific example is not about an investor just asking someone out (though even that kind of harmless seeming move might not be wise in such a context). But this is about an investor explicitly begging for sex (“Just one night, please just this one time.”). On the same topic: Danah Boyd finds the right words describing how the culture in the industry can (and must) change.
  • The Rise of the Thought Leader (newrepublic.com, 3)
    Someone on Hacker News used the term “Eloquent Bullshitters” instead of “Thought Leader”, which might give you a hint on the direction of this long read.
  • The Problem with Being a Top Performer (scientificamerican.com, 2)
    The price top performers within an organization pay for their above-average results: They might be resented by peers who even could end up strategically undermining their work.
  • How Amazon’s Echo Is Making Major Labels Rethink Their Tunes (billboard.com, 2)
    New technology creates new challenges/opportunities, such as: What music gets played if someone tells a voice-controlled smart speaker that they want to listen to a certain artist or music style.
  • Beyond public key encryption (blog.cryptographyengineering.com, 2)
    A detailed post for the technically interested on new approaches to make encryption on the Internet more safe and more usable.
  • Beyond Bitcoin: Truly Decentralized Banking (hackernoon.com, 3)
    This piece challenged some of my assumptions about money, Gold, inflation and the potential of crypto currencies.
  • We need to talk about sex, robot experts say (reuters.com, 1)
    Provided that the following assumptions are true: 1) people won’t stop seeking sexual pleasure and novelty 2) robots, sex toys and virtual reality tech are getting increasingly sophisticated 3) lots of money is to be made – then I can imagine this becoming a huge topic and a giant market within a couple of years. So yeah, talking about it and the implications seems necessary.
  • AI Will Make Forging Anything Entirely Too Easy (wired.com, 2)
    Considering how easily influenced people already are by written fake news, once forging audio and video perfectly will become feasible, the concept of “truth” will get even more undermined. This is worrying.
  • The Faceless Boss: A Look Into The Uber Driver Workplace (npr.org, 3)
    One of the major “innovations” of Uber is how it has created a workplace with a faceless boss. Even though the company promises freedom to drivers, in fact, it heavily controls how they do their work.
  • As Uber Stumbles, Lyft Sees an Opening, and Bites Its Tongue (nytimes.com, 2)
    Over the years of its existence, Uber rival Lyft has branded itself as the “friendly” alternative to the aggressive juggernaut. That also means that its CEO and team now have to avoid any public display of Schadenfreude.
  • Music industry welcomes landmark ruling in Google delisting case (completemusicupdate.com, 2)
    A Canadian Supreme Court case which ended with the decision that Google has to delist an entire website globally on the grounds of intellectual property infringement might spell bigger trouble for the search giant.
  • Tech giants eating the advertising world (axios.com, 1)
    This year, two-thirds of all global ad dollars will go to the five tech companies Google, Facebook, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba.
  • German man hides machine dropping anti-Erdoğan leaflets from hotel room window (dailysabah.com, 1)
    Genius activism: Booking a hotel room, connecting a printer to a router and positioning it close to the open window, leaving the country and remotely initiating the printing of hundreds of political leaflets.
  • From Seed to IPO — 9 learnings by an early Delivery Hero investor (medium.com, 2)
    Last week, the German food delivery company Delivery Hero went public in one of the biggest tech IPOs in Germany for a while. One of his early investors has published an informative summary of learnings he gained about startups, entrepreneurship, marketplaces and early stage investing, from working with Delivery Hero. Turns out, it is entirely possible to build a really large tech company (from scratch!) in Europe.
  • As Paris’ mega startup campus Station F opens its doors, Silicon Valley has gone all in (venturebeat.com, 2)
    After years of political uncertainty, polarization and terrorist attacks, the French must be longing for some reason for optimism. Maybe the tech industry can help to deliver it.
  • Two Decades of Recommender Systems at Amazon.com (computer.org, 3)
    An in-depth analysis of how Amazon, the pioneer and major innovator when it comes to recommendation systems, figures out how products relate to each other.

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Amazon Echo and Spotify are a dream team in the smart home

It has become a rare occurrence that a piece of consumer software manages to impress me. It’s 2017, after all. But Spotify has just pulled that off. More specifically, Spotify’s seamless playback and sync ability across different devices.

Since I purchased an Amazon Echo speaker some weeks ago, I now frequently access Spotify on four different devices. Already before buying the Echo, I appreciated Spotify’s handover procedure to switch the device that you are listening music from (e.g. from the notebook to the smartphone). But with the addition of the Echo, the complexity of the cross-device integration has risen, without that I noticed a single issue so far.

I can ask Alexa (the smart assistant that runs on the Echo) to play Spotify, and then control the playback on the Echo either through voice or from any other of my devices that Spotify is installed on. I can skip the song playing on the Echo from my iPhone, hand over playback from the Echo to the iPad via my notebook, or reduce the volume of the Echo’s Spotify playback from my iPad. Or anything in between, except one thing: I cannot control playback on the other devices through the Echo/Alexa – but I never have felt I needed to either.

Having this kind of freedom to control one’s music playback at home is truly liberating, and it makes me wonder a bit what Apple plans to make better with its upcoming HomePod speaker. HomePod is supposed to offer a superior music experience in the smart home. But with Echo’s  outstanding music playback performance and a seamlessly integrated third party music app (such as Spotify, in my example), I wouldn’t know what to wish for more.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #126

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • The Internet as existential threat (raphkoster.com, 3)
    In the wake of this week’s major cyber attack targeting Ukraine but causing crashed systems across the globe, it’s time to consider the dependency of an increasing number of critical infrastructures on a properly working Internet an existential threat. I also dig the term “ideological malware” mentioned in this important text. In a connected age, the term “critical infrastructure” actually could be extended to the human mind.
  • Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come (wired.com, 3)
    This Wired feature was published a few days before the most recent attack. Read it and ask yourself what else this situation can be called other than “cyberwar”. For us average people who don’t work in IT security or with physical critical infrastructure, this term feels pretty empty and harmless, mostly because we don’t immediately associate it with human casualties. But it is anything than harmless, as explained in the previous article.
  • The Hackers Russia-Proofing Germany’s Elections (bloomberg.com, 2)
    As a native German, I’ve never given much thought about the existence of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). It was just there and occasionally mentioned in the media. But this piece opened my eyes to the uniqueness of the group, if seen in a global context. From the article: “All this has made CCC into something that sounds alien to American ears: a popular, powerful, tech-focused watchdog group, one whose counsel has been sought by both WikiLeaks and Deutsche Telekom AG.”
  • Laptop Replacement (mattgemmell.com, 2)
    Ok, after this heavy start, now on to something less dramatic. Some journalists and tech pundits are obsessed with the narrative of the iPad as a potential “laptop replacement”. Matt Gemmell finds this puzzling. Humorous read. “The phrase itself is strange, like you’re consciously considering replacing your laptop (implicitly with something else, otherwise you’d just upgrade to a newer laptop, surely), are assessing the iPad as a candidate, and you find that it is indeed an entirely different thing… but that’s somehow a deal breaker.”
  • iOS 11 turns your iPad into a completely different machine (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Reading this made me look forward to the release of iOS 11.
  • Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid? (psychologytoday.com, 2)
    No, but stupid headlines make us stupid (see also this depressing analysis of 100 million headlines). Snark aside, the result of the research mentioned here is fascinating: “The mere sight of one’s own smartphone seems to induce ‘brain drain’ by depleting finite cognitive resources.” Nowadays, if I am with other people, I often try to remind myself to put my phone into my pocket. It’s more respectful anyway.
  • Now That Whole Foods Belongs To Amazon, What Happens To Conscious Capitalism? (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Good question: Whole Foods stands like few other companies for an economical philosophy called “Conscious Capitalism”. But will this idea survive at the retailer now that Amazon takes over?
  • Silicon Valley’s Overdue Cultural Pivot (medium.com, 1)
  • The Gig Is Up (gothamgal.com, 1)
    Uber-bro Travis Kalanick is out, a Silicon Valley-based VC firm close to collapse after a sexual harassment scandal, and the list of women working in tech who speak up against discrimination is getting longer and longer. Hard to say how this all will continue, but 2017 might become a transformational year for the industry. Social conditioning won’t just disappear in a day and biology won’t just suddenly stop interfering with reason. But awareness among all protagonists is a big step forward. So that mistakes by individuals can be fixed, instead of having hell break loose many years later.
  • Growth is getting hard from intensive competition, consolidation, and saturation (andrewchen.co, 2)
    Has the digital industry reached the end of a growth cycle? Andrew Chen thinks so and offers a bunch of solid arguments to support his point.
  • In a few years, no investors are going to be looking for AI startups (machinelearnings.co, 1)
    This seems indeed probable: As AI techniques are becoming the default approach for any complex IT solution, there will be no point anymore in promoting something as “AI”.
  • Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’ (techcrunch.com, 2)
    In my opinion, as a guiding principle, this is a good new mission statement and a timely change. Whether the goal described can be accomplished remains to be seen, though.
  • How I learned to code in my 30s (medium.com, 2)
    As I am in this situation right now, I found this account to be highly motivating.
  • Pornhub Is the Kinsey Report of Our Time (thecut.com, 3)
    A thought-provoking and insightful feature on the sociological peculiarities, cultural impact and business dynamics of online porn.
  • How Twitter Pornified Politics (nytimes.com, 2)
    Apropos porn: This is what politics has become thanks to Twitter.
  • China orders mobile app stores to remove VPN apps (boingboing.net, 1)
    Here we see a big problem with centralized app stores: They make it too easy for those in power to withhold basic tools for the protection of digital integrity from the people.
  • A battle for supremacy in the lithium triangle (economist.com, 2)
    The modern world wouldn’t work without lithium. The Economist details where the metal comes from and how it is obtained.
  • Easiest Path to Riches on the Web? An Initial Coin Offering (nytimes.com, 2)
    Whenever something promises an easy path towards riches, one has to be cautious. Having said that, it is an exciting phenomenon.
  • Fake news of a fatal car crash wiped out $4 billion in ethereum’s market value yesterday (qz.com, 2)
    Many Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) rely on the Ethereum Blockchain. Unlike with Bitcoin, the Ethereum inventor is actually a known individual. When a fake news report declared Vitalik Buterin dead a few days ago, the Ethereum price crashed.
  • The Crypto Valley: Best Practice Example of Hub Creation (digitalswitzerland.com, 1)
    Switzerland is currently working on becoming a major beneficiary of the crypto currency boom by creating a hub of crypto companies and researchers, labeled “Crypto Valley”.

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The brain’s bandwidth problem and its cost in the hyper-connected age

One of Elon Musk’s key arguments for the need of a brain-computer interface is the limited bandwidth which currently exists for each of us to access our brains. Ever since he officially launched Neuralink in March 2017, the bandwidth problem and its consequences for societies have been occupying my thoughts.

As the world is getting incredibly complex, the limitations in regards to the quality and speed of accessing our brains lead to largely destructive results, which can be witnessed every day in the heated, polarized and binary political debates as well as in the simplifying responses to news events.

One commentator on Quora depicts the core problem with the lack of bandwidth very well:

“Picture anything in your mind, then try to relate it to another human with so much detail that they can reproduce it the same way you see it. One picture, a thousand words, and whatnot.

So, its like having a very very powerful computer with a very very crappy internet connection. Youre f***ed.”

Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #125

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • Howard Schultz Has Something Left to Prove (fortune.com, 3)
    For its effectiveness in the attention economy, this might be one of the worst headlines in history (which ironically makes me put it on top of this week’s article selection). Howard Schultz is the longtime CEO of Starbucks. He has just “stepped down” to become executive chairman. This long feature looks at what made Starbucks a global brand, which role Schultz played in this, and how the coffee chain responds to the challenge to maintain its position and keep expanding in a market which is changing rapidly due to the rise of artisan coffee trends.
  • Should Uber’s next CEO be a robot? (roughtype.com, 2)
    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is history. And now Nicholas Carr has an interesting suggestion: The next CEO should be a machine. He has a point: “Let’s face it: Kalanick’s great failing was that he was not quite robotic enough. His flaws were not analytical but human. He was a victim of his own meat.” But who knows if a robot would be better. One day, we’d probably wake up to a headline akin to this one by CNN (“The rise and fall of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick”), just replaced with “Uber’s robot CEO” .
  • Leaked recording: Inside Apple’s global war on leakers (theoutline.com, 3)
    Once you read this depiction of Apple’s measures to prevent leaks, it becomes obvious how much of a challenge such an undertaking actually is when you run a global operation.
  • The secret origin story of the iPhone (theverge.com, 3)
    This excerpt from a new book will take 45 minutes to read, but it found it worth the time investment.
  • Conglomerates Didn’t Die. They Look Like Amazon (nytimes.com, 2)
  • Amazon’s new customer (stratechery.com, 3)
    Two good takes concerning Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods which was announced last Friday.
  • Facebook’s AI accidentally created its own language (thenextweb.com, 1)
    This is both impressive and a bit creepy.
  • Turn To Email For Millennial Engagement (mediapost.com, 1)
    Who would have guessed? 58 % of U.S. Millennials (born in the 1980s and 1990s) have a separate email address for brand communication. And: “Millennials are more likely than any other generation to find email and mobile apps important when making a purchase decision.”
  • Are we building artificial brains and uploading minds to the cloud right now? (mrfuturist.com, 2)
    A fascinating thought. Indeed, if one considers that hundreds of millions of people around the planet continuously post their emotional responses, judgments, and biases online, then this data, in a gathered form, might be a potent foundation for artificially brains – that is, if these artificial brains are supposed to come with the same characteristics (and flaws) as the human brain. Recall what was written about Travis Kalanick above.
  • Bitcoin is the Most Stable Store of Value in History (hackernoon.com, 2)
    There is a case to be made that, seen over the complete period of its (still comparatively young) existence, Bitcoin has indeed been pretty “stable” – today a Bitcoin is worth orders of magnitudes more than when it emerged.
  • Network Learning Cities (jarche.com, 2)
    Insightful points regarding the importance and potential of cities in the networked age.
  • Getting Past the Dominance of the Nation State (continuations.com, 1)
    To some extend, this plea for de-emphasizing the nation state will lead to an even bigger role for cities. Coincidentally, both this and the previous article refer to the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level that is consistent with their resolution.
  • Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg (estonianworld.com, 2)
    Estonia is at it again. No other country iterates so much with digital variations of the traditional building blocks of nation states.
  • Can We Mobilize Education Like Manufacturing in WWII? (thisisgoingtobebig.com, 2)
    In order to tackle today’s major challenges regarding ideological conflicts, environment and technology, we should be undergoing the most massive mobilization of human intelligence we’ve ever seen, argues Charlie O’Donnell.
  • The most revolutionary thing about self-driving cars isn’t what you think (weforum.org, 2)
    Because self-driving cars require real-time responses and latency gets in the way of that, self-driving cars will become their own powerful data centers.
  • Adobe shows how to transition to the cloud (diginomica.com, 2)
    I remember some experts’ concerns about Adobe’s future when the company was still in the market of downloadable software. Turns out, its transition to the cloud went down exceptionally well.
  • French President Macron launches tech visa to make France a ‘country of unicorns’ (cnbc.com, 2)
    This will be one to watch.
  • What does it mean for a journalist today to be a Serious Reader? (cjr.org, 3)
    Great feature on the importance of reading for journalists. And obviously, this is not about reading tweets.
  • Why are The Economist’s writers anonymous? (medium.economist.com, 1)
    “Accordingly, articles are often the work of The Economist’s hive mind, rather than of a single author.
  • My thoughts on flight hacking and airline loyalty after 7 years of traveling (medium.com, 2)
    I wrote about my learnings and experiences in “hacking” air travel. As many of you presumably fly a lot, some of you might find some inspiration here.

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  • If you are worried about “hacked” democracy, quit Facebook
    People who consider Facebook to play a critical role in malicious actor’s undertaking to weaken democracy, should stop using Facebook (I’m not including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram here), thereby preventing themselves from contributing to the business model’s sustainability.

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If you are worried about “hacked” democracy, quit Facebook

During a recent panel discussion, The Exponential View’s Azeem Azhar and a couple of invited expert guests talked about democracy’s vulnerability in the age of information technology and social media (you can listen to the recording here). As probably surprises no one, Facebook’s role in the weakening of democracy and its institutions came up several times. And, as also should surprise no one, there was little optimism among the participants about that dubious characters will suddenly stop leveraging Facebook through bots, micro-targeting, fake news and the creation of alternate realities to undermine democratic values and essential shared minimum consensus.

But there is something everyone who is worried about the damage of social-media-enabled manipulation to the public discourse, can do: quitting Facebook. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #124

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • Phil Libin Hasn’t Eaten Since Sunday (backchannel.com, 2)
    I have no comment on what the former Evernote CEO is doing here, but it is a pretty interesting read.
  • Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That’s OK. (For Now) (reason.com, 3)
    “The surprising thing about the stereotypical aimless young man, detached from work and society, playing video games in his parents’ basement: He’s actually happier than ever.”
  • We Are All to Blame for Uber (bloomberg.com, 2)
    Agreed. Uber in its current, overly aggressive and morally kinda rotten state is how it is because the systems in which it exists have been rewarding the company’s way of doing things. At least until now. With the leave of absence of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and a couple of action points announced this week by Uber board member Arianna Huffington at an all-hands meeting, the company gets the chance to prove that it can succeed while being a bit “nicer”. Whether this actually can work remains to be seen. There is at least a possibility that without its asshole-like corporate personality and execution, the company will fail to fulfill its global hyper-growth targets.
  • Susan Fowler’s Uber Exposé Should Win A Pulitzer (forbes.com, 2)
    Pulitzer or not, with her blog post about Uber’s toxic work culture and the chain reaction it caused, Susan Fowler has changed the course of history. That’s actually a more meaningful and lasting thing than a prize, isn’t it?
  • The Coming War: Browsers Against Advertising Pollution (mondaynote.com, 2)
    Both Chrome and Safari will soon block and/or punish hostile ad formats. While in the case of Chrome that comes with questions about a conflict of interest, generally, browser makers taking the lead here is a good thing.
  • Facebook’s Safety Check is a stress-inducing flip of social norms (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Except for the use during large-scale catastrophes when a big number of people helping each other is crucial, the Safety Check is one of the worst features offered by Facebook. This text explains well why: “But by making Safety Check a default expectation Facebook flips the norms of societal behavior and suddenly no one can feel safe unless everyone has manually checked the Facebook box marked “safe”.” During April’s terrorist attack in Stockholm, about 100 out of my around 110 Stockholm-based Facebook contacts had marked themselves safe. I resisted but I clearly felt the pressure. It’s ridiculous.
  • “Google is bad for the airline industry” says CarTrawler. Airlines need vastly better data skills (centreforaviation.com, 2)
    The airline industry is worried that Google accumulates too much power in directing customers to flight fares through its (brilliant) flight search engine Google Flights.
  • In Products, as in Life, Not All Friction Is Bad (medium.com, 2)
    Most of what the tech industry is coming up with is intended to remove friction. But there are situations in which friction actually is a good thing. Interesting examples in this text.
  • This Startup Wants to Turn ‘Unboxing’ Videos Into a Big Business (fortune.com, 1)
    Every month, unboxing videos on YouTube get an estimated 10 billions views. Apparently, there are also “unboxing stars”. And now a company wants to capture this strange but lucrative niche.
  • The Other Shoe (mattgemmell.com, 2)
    A short while ago, the iPad was almost declared dead. With Apple’s upcoming release of iOS 11 and iPad Pro, the tablet device suddenly has its momentum back. It is now (for the second time) considered a potential replacement for laptops.
  • If you care about cities, Apple’s new campus sucks (wired.com, 3)
    This text might be a bit too long, but it offers a thought-provoking perspective.
  • We Need to Talk About the Power of AI to Manipulate Humans (technologyreview.com, 2)
    It has been shown multiple times: Even if they might state the opposite, humans have a tendency to become emotionally attached to robots or chatbots. The risks of being manipulated are obvious. Although, to be fair, this same is true for human-to-human interactions. Humans constantly manipulate other people to further their own agendas or goals.
  • Cryptocurrency Mining Is Fueling a GPU Shortage (motherboard.vice.com, 2)
    How did the old adage go again? “Don’t dig for gold, sell shovels”. Probably some companies are working hard right now to scale up GPU production for the Ethereum crowd.
  • The days and nights of Elon Musk: How he spends his time at work and play (qz.com, 2)
    Crazy guy.
  • Instagram’s most-followed celebs failed to label 93 percent of ads, report finds (theverge.com, 2)
    Is this due to lack of knowledge or lack of integrity?
  • This is how Big Oil will die (medium.com, 3)
    The money quote from this lengthy analysis: “This is what will kill oil: It will cost less to hail an autonomous electric vehicle than to drive the car that you already own.” Still worth reading if you are interested in how the economics of this field are going to change.
  • Inside The Chaotic Battle To Be The Top Reply To A Trump Tweet (buzzfeed.com, 2)
    One of the most absurd strategies to build a following on Twitter.
  • Quantum thought (medium.com, 1)
    A short post by me about an intriguing (and, in my opinion, fundamentally necessary) way of thinking.

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What makes Instagram the best social network right now

Here is a German version of this text.

Recently I wrote about the beginning of the “post-social media” era, explaining how social media as we have gotten to know it has peaked and has to radically change.

The most significant player of this new period that we are entering is, I’d argue, Instagram. The Facebook-owned social network currently does the best job of all competing services in satisfying people’s natural desire to connect with others while not turning into a haven for trolls, troublemakers, junk news distributors, propagandists and disinformation professionals (at least not more than what is inevitable for this type of app).

My positive stance about Instagram has been reinforced during a current trip to Indonesia, from which I return with a sizeable number of new local Instagram contacts. Based on my recent experiences during this and other travels, the service has turned into the worldwide go-to social network through which people seamlessly and casually connect with other people who they meet in various circumstances. Let me give a couple of examples from my current trip: Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #123

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • Society Is Destroying and Rebuilding Itself for the Networked Age (singularityhub.com, 2)
    A summary of the book “The Seventh Sense”, which offers a fascinating explanation for why controversial and seemingly unfit leaders such as Donald Trump or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were able to accumulate so much power: They have what the author of the book, Joshua Cooper Ramo, calls “the seventh sense”, meaning an intuitive ability to look at an object and see the way in which it is changed by connection. As unfortunate as it is in the case of the individuals I just mentioned, this type of skill is a key recipe for success in a time in which everything is connected to many networks. A quote to remember from the article: “The connection of something to a network changes the essence of what it is”. I’m getting goosebumps of musing about the dimensions of this shift of how the world works.
  • Crowdsourced Reality (truthhawk.com, 2)
    A thrilling analysis of the new dynamics for media and public discourse: Unlike in the age of mass media gatekeepers which was characterized by designed, definite narratives controlled by very few, today each member of the public is exposed to a diverse and fragmented mix of narratives and “realities”; essentially, of a crowdsourced reality. In the same vein, I once labeled the Internet “the first global platform for the exchange of ideologies”.
  • What Intelligent Machines Need to Learn From the Neocortex (spectrum.ieee.org, 3)
    Reading about neurology in the context of artificial intelligence can make for a dry, overly complicated or simplifying experience. This article on the topic, however, hit a sweet spot for a layman like me (or maybe that just means that it oversimplifies, who knows).
  • Expiring vs. Long-Term Knowledge (collaborativefund.com, 1)
    This is an awesome principle to utilize for assessing what to pay attention to and what to skip: Is it expiring or long-term knowledge?
  • Here is what banning crypto would cost and why it won’t work anyway (boingboing.net, 2)
    It’s flabbergasting how politicians can’t stop asking for something which won’t be technically feasible without cutting off a whole country from the open Internet.
  • New data on the types of ads internet users hate the most (medium.freecodecamp.com, 2)
    People hate the modal ad format, yet it is ubiquitous.
  • The Problem With Our Maps (visualcapitalist.com, 2)
    Maybe this is embarrassing to admit, but I have been unaware of how the standard model of the world map is showing completely inaccurate dimensions for the various continents.
  • In search of the early adopter (HomePod edition) (theoverspill.blog, 2)
    Charles Arthur wonders who’ll be left to buy Apple’s new pricey HomePod speaker considering that most innovators and early adopters already purchased a competing product. He might underestimate people’s loyalty to Apple products. I would prefer an Apple smart speaker over any other company, simply because I trust Apple with my data slightly more than the other internet giants. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Amazon Echo and Google Home are only available in very few countries. If Apple is smart, it’ll make HomePod available in a vast number of countries as fast as possible once it has been officially launched in December.
  • Fuck Facebook (daringfireball.net, 1)
    This brief post by John Gruber received a record amount of up votes on Hacker News. Gruber describes why he doesn’t link to Facebook content (because one never knows how long these links will last). I think, in the 123 issues of this weekly reading list, I have not been linking to Facebook more than once or twice. I intuitively don’t accept Facebook as part of the web, at least when it comes to hyperlinks.
  • Facebook Election Turns Into a Protest (bloomberg.com, 2)
    Maybe unsurprisingly, the special class of stock held by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg which gives him almost dictator-like control over the company despite only owning 14 percent of it, is widely unpopular among the stockholders who casted ballots in the company’s annual stockholder election last week.
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    The DRM-fueled lack of ebook interoperability is most likely one reason for the current growth crisis within the ebook sector.
  • Traditional sports have an esports problem (venturebeat.com, 2)
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  • What the hell is happening to cryptocurrency valuations? (techcrunch.com, 2)
    On April 1st the total market cap of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ether or Ripple was just over $25 billion. Now it’s around $100 billion. Let that sink in.
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    With the rise of crypto currencies, a new field of economics is emerging: Cryptoeconomics, defined in this piece as “the study of economic interaction in adversarial environments.”
  • How air conditioning changed the world (bbc.com, 2)
    An eye-opening read. I never thought of air condition as a transformative technology. But without it, there would be no server farms, no modern cities in many parts of the world, and apparently human productivity would be lower.
  • A New Era for Location-Independent Entrepreneurs Has Begun (summit.startupnations.co, 2)
    A post by Kaspar Korjus, who manages Estonia’s remarkable e-Residency initiative, detailing the current progress. It’s a bit self-congratulary. But I think for pulling this kind of groundbreaking project off, they have earned that. While I personally have not benefited from my e-Residency yet (mostly due to that my country of residence Sweden offers fairly good e-gov services already), I am very curious to see how far Estonia can push this idea of a virtual citizenship and a global platform for location-independent entrepreneurs.

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I stopped using Twitter and Facebook, but shareholders wouldn’t know

In their quarterly reports, publicly listed social networking companies highlight several key performance indicators (KPI). One of the metrics they often emphasize is “daily active users” (DAU). Facebook reached 1.28 billion DAU on average for March 2017. Snapchat reported 166 million DAU for Q1 2017. Twitter doesn’t specify the number of DAU in its quarterly reports, mentioning only a “14 % year-over-year increase” for DAUs for the most recent quarter, and 328 million monthly active users (MAU).

The DAU metric is useful to evaluate young companies with still a comparatively low number of users, since it clearly shows the growth rate over time. For maturing companies which have been around for a while, I’d argue that the DAU metric is a weak measurement of a company’s ability to engage and retain users. Here is why:

In November, I stopped tweeting and reading my Twitter timeline. Early 2017 I significantly reduced my use of the Facebook app (not counting Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp, of course). I’d estimate that I cut the time I spend with both services by 90 %. But if you only look at the DAU, this drastic reduction would not be reflected. Because I still almost every day check both apps at least once in order to have a quick look at the notifications. Just in case. If you, like me, frequently publish stuff on the Internet, you might get mentioned/tagged somewhere, and it’s nice to know.

Nevertheless, my contributions to the bottom line of these two apps have shrunken dramatically, because I hardly see any advertisements anymore. I don’t scroll through the news feed nor the timeline. On most days, I spend no more than at max a few minutes with Facebook and Twitter. On average, Facebook earns $17,07 per year from a user in the U.S. and Canada, and $5.42 from a user in Europe. Assuming that my usage of Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger (the latter two are essentially not monetized at the moment) remains stable in 2017 and that my usage in 2016 was completely average, then this year, Facebook will generate significantly less revenue with my activity compared to last year’s $5.42.

The DAU metric masks negative changes in user patterns of long-term users, but these are in fact what matters when evaluating the outlook for mature social networking services. Only the radical step of deleting one’s account would be reflected in the DAU metric, at least in aggregate terms. I’d argue that this is not how most people actually behave. Rather, they’d grow increasingly tired and decrease their usage over time, while still wanting to be able to do quick checks on notifications, events, live streams or whatever. While these users are not totally lost (and Facebook is doing a brilliant job of keeping them engaged through their other apps), they nevertheless mean a reduction in revenue potential for the particular service. Even if this would be the case for millions of users who reduce their usage, shareholders would not see it when looking at the DAU.

Therefore, as much as publishing DAU numbers can be considered an improvement over the totally useless MAU, it’s still just an arbitrary vanity metric that masks actual changes in user behavior in order to entice investors.

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