Weekly Links & Thoughts #63

Here is a weekly selection of 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 during the weekend.

Due to me attending SXSW in Austin (which was great by the way), this week’s edition is a day late, sorry for that.

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  • The Echo From Amazon Brims With Groundbreaking Promise
    I have been excited about the potential of Amazon’s smart home device Echo since I heard about it for the first time, and many others seem to share that enthusiasm. However, as I have noted, I am not comfortable with the idea that it is Amazon which listens to everything I do at home. Fortunately, with Protonet Zoe, a German startup has announced a rivaling product, and one can expect additional contenders entering this race.
  • What Happens When the Surveillance State Becomes an Affordable Gadget?
    Long read about the increasing surveillance risks caused by cheap and ever more advanced IMSI catchers. IMSI catchers are devices which allow organizations or individuals to eavesdrop on smartphones by pretending to be cell towers.
  • The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Bitly: How a Free Link Shortener Became a Real Business
    Inspiring story for entrepreneurs and everyone who was under the assumption that with the end of the short-url hype a few years ago, its main player Bitly would die.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Go: Showdown
    Skip this piece if you already have spent hours reading about the historical victory of the software AlphaGo over the South Korean Go grandmaster Lee Sedol. If you do not feel fully informed yet about what happened and why this is being considered a massive breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence (AI), you should read this text.
  • AI, VR, and AlphaGo
    Sounds like a reasonable hypothesis: VR will accelerate the progress within the field of AI, because it allows for new ways to collect information about human behaviours in real-world settings.
  • The Speculative Time-Complex
    A philosophical excerpt from an upcoming magazine issue explaining how the post-modern technology-powered world changes the meaning of past, present and future.
  • The Hollow State Politics: The Left Behinds vs. Technorati
    The divide between Technoratis and the “Left behinds” will, in my opinion, become one of the main sociopolitical challenges of the next decades. Or maybe it already is.
  • The Music Startup Meltdown
    Times are tough for music startups, mostly because the music industry has learned how to extract money from the upstarts.
  • Facebook’s Messenger Bot Store could be the most important launch since the App Store
    I am not sure about that claim, but certainly Messenger becoming a full platform will lead to a new gold rush among developers.
  • Schibsted challenges itself by launching Shpock in Sweden
    This is an amazing move: The Norwegian media giant Schibsted operates Sweden’s biggest classifieds site Blocket. It’s Sweden’s Craigslist, but even worse and more old-fashioned, plus pricey for those who want to sell things. Because Blocket charges users who publish an ad as well as those who want to edit an existing ad, it is a massive cash-cow for its owner. But Schibsted realizes that this cannot go on forever. Eventually, a new player will evolve and disrupt Blocket. So the company has decided to be that new player by bringing its recently acquired Austria-based mobile classifieds service Shpock to Sweden. Shpock does not charge its users at all. Self-cannibalization at its best, and in my opinion a smart move for an incumbent who wants to remain significant. Personally I think this is a special strength of the Swedish culture: To let go of an old approach/concept if necessary. My fellow Germans and others are struggling much more with that.
  • A bias toward change
    Related to the previous link: A good take on why having a bias towards change is the better approach compared to having a bias towards thing are staying the same.
  • Uber’s many scandals are affecting recruitment at every level
    Sarah Lacy (who has an ongoing beef with Uber) points to something frequently overlooked: Uber’s reputation as ruthless and “bro-ish” company is significantly hurting its employer brand. I can contribute with a recent anecdote: During SXSW in Austin I was taking a ride with Uber’s biggest competitor Lyft and the driver (who used both Lyft and Uber) said he prefers Lyft over Uber because of Uber’s “asshole CEO”.

Video of the week

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