Weekly Links & Thoughts #74

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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  • No One Wants to Be Apple
    What an incredible turn of events. All this pessimism about Apple can’t be justified. Or can it?
  • Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense
    So much about the claim that computers lack creativity.
  • The Internet as Conspiracy Theory
    A captivating text about the Internet as an instrument to spread conspiracy theories and about what this says about the Internet itself.
  • There’s a pretty crazy Snapchat conspiracy theory going around
    Here we have a rather recent conspiracy theory suggesting that Snapchat’s facial recognition feature (which is widely used to apply filters to faces) could be a way to amass millions of peoples’ faces, possibly by the FBI. The likelihood of this to be true probably lies somewhere between 0 and 1 percent. However, reading this made me think about the feature a bit more. I can see why some people might be skeptical. Performing a frequent face scan with an Internet enabled app to create funny, modified face shots requires quite a level of trust into an organization and its data security measures. On the other hand, average profile photos are already enough to identify faces in most cases, as shown by Russia’s app success FindFace app. So in the end, as long as one’s photo is available somewhere on the Internet, using Snapchat’s facial recognition should not make things worse.
  • Social Media App Usage Down Across the Globe
    With third party statistics like these there is always the chance of inaccuracies. But assuming the measured reduction of time spent by Android users with the 4 leading social apps in most (big) markets is accurate, it would be a big deal, and it leads to the question whether we are witnessing the beginning of the end of social media the way we know it.
  • Ground Control To Silicon Valley
    Critical take on Recode’s Code Conference where tech billionaires are being celebrated for their visions of a future. Criticism aside, the talk with Jeff Bezos was definitely interesting. You can watch the whole 80 minute thing here.
  • Inside Uber’s Auto-Lease Machine, Where Almost Anyone Can Get a Car
    How to get more Uber cars on the road? By providing those who cannot afford a car but would like to drive for Uber with (accessible but expensive) car leases.
  • Uber’s No Good, Very Bad Deal with Saudi Arabia
    Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has invested $3.5 billion into Uber. Considering the pecularities of this country, I share the author’s criticism of the deal. And in case you are wondering what motivated Saudi Arabia to pour money into Uber, you should read this analysis. It won’t be the last investment of its kind.
  • The most interesting tech IPO of the year
    Many leading Internet and tech companies are relying on the services of Twilio whenever they send SMS to their users/customers. WhatsApp’s SMS identification alone represents 17 % of Twilio’s revenue. Now the US company is preparing for an IPO. According to Quartz its the most interesting tech IPO of the year.
  • Why It’s Time to Take Google’s PC Operating System Seriously
    Google’s Chrome OS indeed has not been taken too seriously by most, but as the WSJ notes, it’s time to change that.
  • Video is the new HTML
    In an (in my opinion) unnecessarily elaborate blog post Benedict Evans points to something interesting: How video in all its various forms and shapes (including Gifs, short clips, “native” content formats) is becoming an increasingly common container for all kinds of online content, rivaling HTML.
  • Twitter’s anti-Semitism problem is exactly why Twitter has a growth problem
    Not sure everyone is aware how different Twitter and Facebook approach the verification of new users: Facebook has some rudimentary verification steps as part of the signup process, Twitter has none. Facebook’s real name and email verification requirements do not fully lock out trolls and trouble makers, but it puts at least some obstacles in their way.
  • Voice Assistant Anyone? Yes please, but not in public!
    A new study confirms what I have been pointing out in my articles and Twitter discussions about Amazon Echo: Most people are not comfortable talking with voice assistants in public, but they like to do it in private spaces such as the car and the home.
  • 93% of phishing emails are now ransomware
    It’s amazing how adaptive online criminals are. Once a new method of scamming delivers positive results, everyone quickly jumps on the bandwagon. No complacency and resistance to change to be seen.
  • Kevin Kelly on Soft Singularity and inevitable tech advances
    Kevin Kelly is out with a new book called “The Inevitable”. I have not read it but based on the interviews with him (in which he pretty much says the same thing every time), the trivial message is that the major technology trends that excite us these days are inevitable, and that’s how it always was and always will be. This conclusion is so obvious to me and also feels like what his previous book “What Technology Wants” was partially about, so I do not understand how one can fill yet another full book about it. But who knows, those who are not too involved with the tech circus might find it eye-opening. Certainly we are far from a general public consensus about the inevitability of certain developments.
  • How the Internet works: Submarine fibre, brains in jars, and coaxial cables
    This is a long and quite heavy explainer for those who are wondering how data packets travel from the US to Europe.
  • The Broken Window Theory In Design & Product Development
    The Broken Window Theory is a very useful concept from social sciences which can be applied not only to local urban environments and social settings but also when it comes to creating software products.

Recent article on meshedsociety.com

  • Forget Facebook: Twitter looks to Snapchat for Inspiration
    Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey finds his own service to be more confusing than Snapchat. That’s an astonishing comment considering how especially people older than 30 seem to struggle with getting used to Snapchat’s user experience. Young users however might agree with Dorsey. And it’s them who he cares about the most. Get ready for the Snapchatification of Twitter.

Podcast episode of the week

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