meshedsociety weekly #214

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • People Wearing AirPods Are Making Things Awkward for Everyone Else (buzzfeednews.com, 5 minutes)
    Presumably exactly as intended by Apple: A wearable its wearer never has to remove. With digital etiquette dilemmas as the consequence.
  • Who Goes Public When? Tech Companies Maneuver to Stand Out in the Horde (nytimes.com, 5 minutes)
    When dozens of startups and tech companies are looking to go public over the course of a few weeks or months, among them some giants, then timing is everything: “The biggest concern has been steering clear of the week that Uber goes public”.
  • “Land Lordz” Service Powers Airbnb Scams (krebsonsecurity.com, 3 minutes)
    How an Airbnb scam enabled by the software-as-a-service “Land Lordz” works. So even in 2019, substituting an “s” with a “z” is still a thing within the “online underground”.
  • The Good Algorithm (om.co, 2 minutes)
    Om Malik praising the algorithm which stitched the data from eight radio telescopes together into the already famous black hole photo. Which brings up the question what a photo actually is. Malik: “I wonder how and when the lessons from this achievement will impact the future of photography, computer vision, and augmented reality.”
  • First production chair designed with artificial intelligence unveiled (dezeen.com, 3 minutes)
    The software firm Autodesk has unveiled what it claims is “the first chair in production created by artificial intelligence in collaboration with human beings”. The question the AI was presented with: “Do you know how we can rest our bodies using the least amount of material?”
  • AI is not coming for you (blairreeves.me, 8 minutes)
    Worth keeping in mind that “‘artificial intelligence’ is mostly a constructed catch-all term. That’s why, there is no need to “regulate AI”, according to Blair Reeves. What’s needed according to him is that “our concept of ‘freedom’ must expand to include not only the liberty to do certain things, but also liberty from the effects of certain technologies at scale”. And obviously he’s not talking about AI-created chairs.
  • Why the world’s leading AI charity decided to take billions from investors (vox.com, 11 minutes)
    In 2015 Elon Musk and others created the OpenAI foundation. A few weeks ago the organization (which Musk meanwhile had left) announced the shift from nonprofit to a hybrid nonprofit and for-profit model – in order to be able to raise billions from investors to do AI research. In this interview OpenAI co-founders Greg Brockman and Ilya Sutskever talk with Kelsey Piper about the step, the organization’s goals and AGI (artificial general intelligence).
  • “Ethics” and Ethics (ia.net, 19 minutes)
    The more the damaging aspects of the tech giants’ business models and inventions are becoming evident, the more demand appears to be there for ethics. Although, as Oliver Reichenstein points out, the focus is more on “ethics” (with quotes) rather than ethics. Lots of “ethics” initiatives within the industry are little more than fig leafs. Reichenstein hopes that more philosophers would discuss the basis of moral decisions outside of their academic circles in order to help tech firms on becoming more ethical. And he also calls for tech employees to ask themselves: “Is what we’re doing making people free? Or is it imprisoning them? Is it connecting humans or is it providing us data to sell crap? Is what we are doing our moral duty or are we following orders?”
  • The Impossible Burger is going to change the world (blog.rongarret.info, 1 minutes)
    How awesome it would be if a meat-free burger single-handedly could change the world :) On the same topic: What makes the Impossible Burger look and taste like real beef.
  • Why cyclists are great customers at cafés (linkedin.com, 1 minute)
    Unlike the “laptop brigade”, cyclists are apparently hungry, thirsty, crowd round the tables and are leaving quickly.
  • Why Apple Settled With Qualcomm (daringfireball.net, 4 minutes)
    Apple solved its 5G dilemma by ending a years-long legal fight with semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm.
  • The life of Julian Assange, according to the Spaniards who watched over him (elpais.com, 8 minutes)
    How Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange lived during his seven years inside the Embassy of Ecuador in London. One thing we learned: Lots of celebrities came to visit him, such as pop icon Lady Gaga, actor John Cusack, Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon and the designer Vivienne Westwood, who used to bring Assange food.
  • Investor Meeting Seating (alexcornell.com, 3 minutes)
    Hilarious and yet profound visual analysis of different seating situations during meetings between startup founders and investors. To varying degree, the provided insights might also be useful in other business/professional meetings.
  • The Worst Thing About Instagram Might Be Going Away (gizmodo.com, 1 minute)
    At least in theory, I find the idea to hide the like count which currently is being tested by Instagram compelling. Twitter is reportedly also “rethinking” the like button.
  • LinkedIn has a fake-profile problem (digiday.com, 5 minutes)
    LinkedIn might have a fake-profile problem, but otherwise, I do find it oddly pleasant and entertaining to spend some minutes there, skimming through the feed. Very little outrage, divisiveness and political tribalism.
  • Spotify, the Decline of Playlists and the Rise of Podcasts (musicindustryblog.wordpress.com, 4 minutes)
    When it comes to music streaming, it turns out that passive audiences can generate more streams, and thus rightsholder pay outs, than engaged aficionados.
  • Nature Isn’t Sacred and We Should Replace It (mavenroundtable.io, 8 minutes)
    For some, this text might be a bit hard to digest. A transhumanist presenting his perspective on the flaws of nature, the boundaries of biology and its inherent suffering as well as the illusions of environmentalism. While I generally have a bunch of doubts about the transhumanist ideology, I do think that there are some important, thought-proving points being made here. The article kept popping up at lot in my mind over the past days.
  • South Korea now recycles 95% of its food waste (weform.com, 3 minutes)
    That is impressive.

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Insights and learnings after 10 years as a curator

After soon about 10 years as freelance curator (first part time, now basically full time for various projects) with focus on written content, I am going to share some insights and learnings.

For those not familiar with the term “curation”: I would define it as the process of systematically selecting and recommending relevant information or creative work generated by others.

In this piece I am focusing on curation of text (news, analyses, essays, commentary, longform journalism, specialized information), but of course curation isn’t limited to one media form.

Synergies & marginal costs
“Synergies” might sound like boring corporate speak, but as a freelance curator, synergies are your biggest ally. As long as the topics that you have to keep an eye on for different curation projects don’t expand too much, an additional output product does only add a marginal amount of additional time required for monitoring. You are already reading most of the things anyway for your other project(s). If you, for example, spend 2-3 hours a day reading tech and startup news for one daily newsletter, producing another curated output product related to tech and startups (maybe about a specific niche within tech/startups) won’t require additional 2-3 hours of daily reading. In other words, producing only one output product comes with the highest costs in required production time/product. With each additional output product (within the same sphere of topics), the marginal costs of producing it decrease. Continue Reading

meshedsociety weekly #213

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • I let a stranger watch me work for a day and I’ve never been more productive (melmagazine.com, 10 minutes)
    The type of idea which would sound absurd at first, but (surprisingly?) seems to work: Focusmate is a virtual co-working service that pairs you with a complete stranger for 50 minutes of silent, mutual labor over a webcam. According to the author Isabelle Kohn who tried it out, the result was massively increased productivity and (surprisingly!) no creep or Chatroulette vibe.
  • Outsourcing Adulthood (thecut.com, 9 minutes)
    Who knew that the defining feature of my generation would be our ability to break down cardboard boxes? We are masters of reverse cardboard origami, a side effect of entering adulthood at the dawn of a radical new age of convenience”. Hilarious quote by Maureen O’Connor. The bigger point she makes in this piece: Many of the tasks once viewed as integral components of adulthood (cooking, laundry, driving, moving furniture, decision making etc) are no longer mandatory. One only needs a smartphone and money.
  • Are the kids all right? These school surveillance apps sure want to tell you (theoutline.com, 7 minutes)
    Meanwhile, to avoid bullying and harassment, with the help of specialized companies, schools in the U.S. are increasing their surveillance efforts.
  • How much can we afford to forget, if we train machines to remember? (aeon.co, 7 minutes)
    Important questions. Civilisations evolve through strategic forgetting of what were once considered vital life skills. Other information is being retained in external ways such as books, libraries or databases. But what becomes safe to forget? And what are the changing implications when many of our “memory partners” are smart machines?
  • How to increase your chances of finding a hidden camera (sixfortwelve.wordpress.com, 5 minutes)
    Whether you think that you’ll one day be faced with the risk of a hidden camera in an accommodation or not, this is informative.
  • Blowing a Raspberry Pi at the computer industry (sifted.eu, 7 minutes)
    The tiny, cheap, pared-back computer Raspberry Pi was created by its inventor Eben Upton in 2008 to inspire children to learn coding. It ended up selling over 25M units so far, not only to children but also to computer hobbyists and increasingly to industrial and business users. Upton now has an unusual problem for a hardware designer: he can’t seem to stop making money.
  • Boston Dynamics’ robots — impressive, but far from the Terminator (skynettoday.com, 9 minutes)
    Formerly Google-owned firm Boston Dynamics regularly captivates people’s attentions with demonstrations of impressive and sometimes creepy robots. But there remains a discrepancy between staged demonstrations and real world performance.
  • Smart home, machine learning and discovery (ben-evans.com, 5 minutes)
    When electric things entered the home, people got toasters and blenders, but no one got an electric can opener. When it comes to the smart home, we’re currently in discovery mode to find out what’s the equivalent to the toaster, and what’s the equivalent to the electric can opener, as Benedict Evans points out.
  • Record 83% of Surveyed U.S. Teens Own an iPhone (macrumors.com, 1 minute)
    That is quite an impressive stat. Also: 27 percent of U.S. teens own a smartwatch.
  • Emirates: The Media Company That Happens to Fly Jets Too (skift.com, 5 minutes)
    On the Dubai-based airline Emirates’ sophisticated approaches to buying media and providing entertainment for passengers.
  • The Lyft and Uber Endgame: Oligopoly Prices, Impoverished Workers (ianwelsh.net, 1 minutes)
    Hmm. Is there any other likely outcome (if not government regulation somehow would prevent this from happening)?
  • In China, an App About Xi Is Impossible to Ignore – Even If You Try (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    The pace and intensity with which the Chinese government is using technology to control its people and to spread its ideology, is breathtaking. I should use the word “shocking” but that would be a lie: The trajectory has been clear for a while, so there is little shock effect left. Another very predictable trend: Many other countries will likely copy at least parts of the Chinese approach.
  • Second-Order Thinking: What Smart People Use to Outperform (fs.blog, 3 minutes)
    On the ability to think through problems to the second, third, and nth order is a powerful tool to think more sophisticated. From 2016.
  • End the time management world. Start the mind management world. (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    Instead of putting all effort toward making the most of our time, one should put more effort into making the most of one’s mind, writes David Kadavy. Well put.
  • Are we assessing 21st century skills based on 20th century standards? (bold.expert, 4 minutes)
    Food for thought: “If our educational systems are truly to promote ’21st century skills’, the main purpose of assessment has to change from comparing students to supporting learning. Otherwise we will be assessing the goals of the 21st century based on the standards of the 20th century.”
  • Google Stadia has a lot of ‘last mile’ challenges (venturebeat.com, 5 minutes)
    The biggest challenge for Google’s planned game streaming service Stadia: the last mile, both in regards to technical aspects and convenience.
  • Let’s stop patronising startups (salon.thefamily.co, 4 minutes)
    I wonder if this is possible or an issue… That startups tend to be patronized and sometimes might not be taken seriously (at first) could have to do with the fact that a large percentage fails, that they often begin with an idea and end up with something very different, that they do a lot of trial and error (like children), and that – at least occasionally – they behave rather unprofessionally (or, to use an euphemism, “unconventionally”) due to missing best practices for whatever they are doing or lack of experience of the founders. I’m not writing this in a judgemental way. To me, this simply appears to be the nature of startups, and not a problem.
  • What happens if you do get a big win? (ldeakman.com, 7 minutes)
    Are you planning to get rich from a startup exit? Then here are some considerations and suggestions for how to deal with the new situation and wealth.

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In the digital age, cognitive biases are running wild

Here are three strange ways of how the human mind works:

  • If a person with a certain strong belief is presented with clear evidence of the belief being false, this may lead to a reinforcement of the belief.
  • A person might draw different conclusions from the same type of information depending on in what way the information is being presented.
  • A person who has just been told about a phenomenon which he/she never noticed before, starts paying attention to it and now sees it/hears about it everywhere.

These examples of cognitive biases show how easily our perception and thinking is being tricked and led astray. More than a 100 cognitive biases have been identified so far. The Wikipedia list collecting them all is both a fascinating and sobering read.

Considering how flawed our thinking and perception tends to be, it’s hard not to be amazed by humanity’s achievements and how far civilization has come. As cognitive biases affect every single individual no matter their standing, academic credentials, authority or projected confidence, and produces the constant risk of wrong decision-making and subsequent conflicts, the advances and fairly peaceful state in not all, but a large number of societies is against all odds. Continue Reading

meshedsociety weekly #212

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Machines Shouldn’t Have to Spy On Us to Learn (wired.com, 5 minutes)
    Before public key cryptography was invented, people had to rely on extremely primitive and flawed methods when trying to communicate securely. With machine learning and AI, we’re in the equivalent to the pre-cryptography era, according to this intelligent piece by Zeynep Tufekci, with the main flaw being the massive trade-off of data intrusion & surveillance that usually needs to happen to facilitate machine learning. Tufekci hopes (and appears to be optimistic) that eventually, machine learning on encrypted data will become possible, doing to AI what public key cryptography did to secure communication.
  • Gutenberg’s moving type propelled Europe towards the scientific revolution (blogs.lse.ac.uk, 9 minutes)
    An enlightening look at how printing transformed competition in the “market for ideas“. There are plenty of parallels to today’s changes caused by the internet, such as this one: “With the introduction of printing, the incomes associated with elite human capital rose, and there was a ‘great expansion’ in inequality.
  • Texting Means Never Having to Say Goodbye (slate.com, 6 minutes)
    Texting changes norms of human communication and introduces generational gaps.
  • Warner Music signed an algorithm to a record deal — what happens next? (theverge.com, 5 minutes)
    The Berlin-based startup Endel is creating 100 % algorithmically-generated (ambient) music and Warner distributes the songs on streaming services.
  • A comparison of scooter startups in Europe (sifted.eu, 8 minutes)
    Scooter mania is sweeping across Europe, as VCs throw cash at a handful of scooter startups in a race to conquer the continent.
  • Why “Doing Nothing” Is the Best Self-Care for the Internet Era (gq.com, 9 minutes)
    Interview with Jenny Odell, author and artist, on the attention economy, the difficulty to get rid of the idea that one constantly should be “producing” something, and the need to find something else one could focus one’s attention on if one decides to give less attention to social media.
  • It takes approximately 1.5 megabytes of data to store language information in the brain (medicalxpress.com, 2 minutes)
    That’s less than the 128 kbps MP3 file you might have downloaded back in the days from a filesharing service.
  • It’s Tough Being the First Birth Control App (bloomberg.com, 17 minutes)
    Insightful profile of Swedish startup Natural Cycles, maker of the first birth control app. Being in this space comes with challenges.
  • Why Evernote failed to realize its potential (usefyi.com, 33 minutes)
    In-depth analysis of what the iconic note taking service Evernote got right, and how everything went downhill once the company started to release badly executed product extensions while allowing its core service to gain a reputation for bugs and lack of performance.
  • In defense of “blitzscaling” (qz.com, 20 minutes)
    LinkedIn founder and investor Reid Hoffman and his entrepreneur colleague Chris Yeh wrote a lengthy defense of their fast-scaling philosophy for startups, responding to criticism of “blitzscaling” by Tim O’Reilly, who worries about the monopolist tendencies the approach creates.
  • The Design of Apple’s Credit Card (arun.is, 4 minutes)
    Apple’s upcoming credit card is another product out of Cupertino which gives its loyal fans plenty of opportunity to obsess about attention to detail.
  • When Food Knows Your Face (nicholasjrobinson.com, 5 minutes)
    Various changes are happening related to the availability, personalization, and niche focus of food…
  • The World’s Greatest Delivery Empire (bloomberg.com, 10 minutes)
    …not the least in China, where Meituan and Alibaba have changed food delivery, making it often cheaper to have food delivered than to get it oneself.
  • Only The Rich Are Poisoned: The Preference of Others (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    A short, thought-provoking excerpt from Nassim Nicholas Table’s book “Skin the game”, about why wealthy people in a restaurant might prefer a complicated chef experience for $200 instead of a pizza for $6.95, leading him to the ultimate question of whether our choices are our own or those of salespeople. The answer, often, is obvious, of course.
  • What It’s Like Using the Internet When You Have OCD (onezero.medium.com, 7 minutes)
    One of the many questions that might arise in someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder: “What if there’s a thread I should be commenting on? What if there’s some post I should be liking? What if, what if, what if… “. Others are unable to send emails concerned that they might write something offensive or use foul language, even though such modes of communication are totally out of character for that person.
  • The Rise of Online Dating, and the Company That Dominates the Market (visualcapitalist.com, 4 minutes)
    It’s astonishing how concentrated the online dating market is. With a few exceptions, Match group has captured it all.
  • House-Hunting in Silicon Valley (theguardian.com, 5 minutes)
    Housing prices in Silicon Valley are already sky-high. With the current wave of tech IPOs (Lyft, Uber, Slack and others) and the additional crowd of newly minted multi-millionaires, things can only get more crazy.
  • What I learnt on a men-only retreat… (bbc.co.uk, 17 minutes)
    Something different to wrap up. Entertaining to read and an invitation for self-reflection.

Quotation of the week:

  • “It’s 2019, AI is about to take off, and are we really going to just keep on doing the same thing and assume the rules of the economy are going to be the same as they were in the ‘70s? To me that’s ridiculous, that’s a stupid approach. We need to evolve and advance as fast as possible.”
    Andrew Yang, who’s gunning to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, interviewed by Matt Simon (wired.com, 8 minutes)

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meshedsociety weekly #211

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Technological aging (lemire.me, 3 minutes)
    I can just guess that what’s described here as “technological aging” is what many of you are afraid of to experience (and so am I): “The idea that with chronological age, people tend to fail to adopt new technologies up until the point where it becomes too hard for them to catch up”. With this weekly list, I’ll try to do my part in helping us to protect us from this phenomenon :)
  • Measuring the Value of Digital Goods and Services (medium.com, 4 minutes)
    The gross domestic product (GDP) fails to measure intangibles (such as free online services), and how they relate to consumer well-being. Now researchers propose an interesting way to measure their impact and perceived economic value to consumers: Asking them how much money it would take to relinquish the products for a period of time. “In Europe, digital maps on phones are valued at 59 euros (currently about $67) per month. And the free messaging tool WhatsApp, is worth fully 536 euros ($611) per month, the survey indicates”.
  • It’s Ecosystems, Not Inventions that Truly Change the World (inc.com, 5 minutes)
    A smart way to look at the structure of large-scale (technological) changes: It’s not one great event or invention that tips the scale and changes everything, but (initially) hardly noticeable connections that complete a network/ecosystem. My take: This also applies to societal/global changes and could help to understand why predicting the future is so hard for humans to get right: One has to notice a lot of seemingly non-related and often subtle, non-obvious dots and connect them in a multi-dimensional way. This requires system’s thinking, which is not exactly a human strength. What humans are “good” at instead is connecting a few seemingly related but in reality arbitrary dots and come up with a big story for them. A story that usually is wrong.
  • The Amish, and Strategic Norms around Technology (lesswrong.com, 4 minutes)
    Fascinating insight: The Amish relationship to technology is not “stick to technology from the 1800s”, but rather “carefully think about how technology will affect your culture, and only include technology that does what you want.” In the end, it’s mostly about adding friction to transportation and communication.
  • Scientists Like Me Are Studying Your Tweets—Are You OK With That? (howwegettonext.com, 9 minutes)
    What you post “publicly” on a social media app or on a dating profile could very likely end up being part of some researcher’s work or used to train an artificial intelligence. That brings up ethical questions such as to what extend a public tweet is “public”.
  • 10 years of Grindr: A rocky relationship (bbc.com, 5 minutes)
    Years before Tinder launched and changed (casual) dating for the masses, the dating app for gay men Grindr already was available on the iPhone.
  • How Spotify and Discover Weekly Earns Me $400 / Month (stevebenjamins.com, 5 minutes)
    Very informative insights from an indie musician who manages to make a few bucks by ending up in people’s personalized Discover Weekly playlists on Spotify. As an artist he prefers Spotify over Apple Music, because Spotify offers indies more ways to reach listeners.
  • Expanding Our Horizons – Efficiently (edgeperspectives.typepad.com, 7 minutes)
    On the superiority of a “scalable learning model” over a “scalable efficiency model” in a rapidly changing world.
  • Microsoft leads the way in banning April Fools’ Day pranks (theverge.com, 2 minutes)
    Please, can all other companies follow suit?!
  • The danger of ‘I already pay for Apple News+’ (techcrunch.com, 7 minutes)
    Josh Constine really, really – really – doesn’t like the philosophy behind Apple’s new subscription service for magazines and newspaper content.
  • Many options – none good. Why Apple may not have 5G before 2021 (digitstodollars.com, 6 minutes)
    Apple is facing a challenge when it comes to bringing 5G support to the iPhone, which has to do with the fact that the current manufacturer of modems for the iPhone, Intel, most likely won’t have a 5G modem available until next year. The options available to Apple to work around this are all not ideal, as described in this informative piece.
  • The Sometimes Catastrophic, but Mostly Just Embarrassing Consequences of Screen Sharing at Work (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    A downside of using the same device for professional and personal matters.
  • William Grant & Sons released ‘world’s first’ blockchain whisky to monitor consumer habits (thedrinksbusiness.com, 3 minutes)
    A Scotch whisky which can be traced from source-to-bottle on a blockchain. Here is the general dilemma with news like this: It’s hard to evaluate from the outside whether the use of blockchain actually makes business sense for the specific scenario or is just the result of someone wanting to look tech savvy and get some easy media attention.
  • So Much For ICOs Taking Over VC (news.crunchbase.com, 2 minutes)
    ICOs are effectively dead.
  • How to Deliver Constructive Feedback in Difficult Situations (medium.dave-bailey.com, 10 minutes)
    A very useful introduction and guide to Marshall B. Rosenberg’s extremely intriguing (but challenging) “Nonviolent Communication” (NVC) framework, with a focus on professional situations. But NVC is as helpful in private matters (too bad I only learned about it very recently).
  • The Startup Empathy Dilemma: As Power Grows, Empathy Often Diminishes (leowid.com, 9 minutes)
    Evolutionarily, it is a very new phenomenon that 1 person can hold power over hundreds of thousands of people like Jeff Bezos or Tim Cook or even millions of people like politicians do. That this literal power imbalance has brought about many unforeseen effects, not least directly impacting our brains.
  • 7 principles for utopian communities (kristoffer.substack.com, 1 minute)
    This is a compelling list for ways to allow a startup/product/idea to transform into some type of small-scale utopia.
  • American consumers spent more on Airbnb than on Hilton last year (recode.net, 3 minutes)
    Meanwhile, Airbnb itself is increasingly branching out into the hotel space, as stressed by the recent acquisition of hotel booking service HotelTonight.
  • What We Can Learn From the World’s Centenarians (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    How to live like the people in the so called “blue zones”, places where people have the longest life expectancy and healthiest lives.

Quotation of the week:

  • “Culturally the iconic white AirPods and jewel-like Apple Watch embody the spirit of the iPod.
    Horace Dediu in “Airpods” (asymco.com, 3 minutes)

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meshedsociety weekly #210

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Stages, Structures, and the Work of Being Yourself (thefrailestthing.com, 8 minutes)
    Profound essay! If one, as suggested by the sociologist Erving Goffman in the book “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” from 1956, sees every interaction with others similar to being on stage at a theater, where people perform impression management, then in a virtual environment and particularly on social media, the stage is potentially everywhere, leading us to internalize the performative mode, while at the same time being exposed to a constantly expanding variety of perspectives, stances, and forms of life performed by others. Like at a theater, after a while, everybody needs a backstage. And backstages are increasingly rare.
  • In Andrew Yang, Internet Finds a Meme-Worthy Candidate (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    The 44-year old Yang is among the many candidates who want to become the Democratic party’s candidate for the US presidential election. He’s an entrepreneur, political neophyte, and in favor of introducing a monthly $1,000 basic income.
  • Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Polarized Crowds (nautil.us, 10 minutes)
    A study of 205,000 Wikipedia topics and their associated “talk pages” reveals that the highest quality articles are overseen or written by an ideologically diverse group of people. Politically diverse editor teams on Wikipedia put out better entries—articles with higher accuracy or completeness—than uniformly liberal or conservative or moderate teams. 
  • What Would Happen to Uber & Lyft if the Economy Went Downhill? (therideshareguy.com, 7 minutes)
    Uber and its rival Lyft never had to deal with a recession, because the economy has been doing well during most of their growth phase. Worth pondering what a worsening economy would do to their already shaky economics.
  • Do one thing every day that an algorithm didn’t choose for you (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    Nice little suggestion for a daily task. I have an additional one (although it can be combined) which I have been trying to implement myself lately: Do one thing every day that the algorithms which know your patterns likely would not have predicted.
  • The News Audit: An Easy Way to Make Time to Be Productive (nickwignall.com, 13 minutes)
    The psychologist Nick Wignall outlines his structured approach to eliminating unnecessary news consumption, which he calls “News Audit”.
  • I Rode an E-Scooter as Far From Civilization as Its Batteries Could Take Me (gizmodo.com, 8 minutes)
    An amusing report from what the author speculates might be the “deepest ride into the wilderness on a startup e-scooter in human history“. For the 134 minute ride into the outskirts of San Francisco, he paid $34.50, plus an expected $25 drop off charge for a ride which ended outside of the service territory area.
  • Human chipping – will it ever go mainstream? (sifted.eu, 9 minutes)
    You might have read about the Swedes who have chosen to put a chip under their skin. Here is a status update on that trend, as well as a personal experience report by the author, Mimi Billing. She writes that since two years ago she has a microchip implant, but so far she never got the chance to use it.
  • Let big data unlock the secrets of our bodies (theguardian.com, 3 minutes)
    Ida Tin, co-founder of Berlin-based women’s health app Clue, on how femtech could provide a technological liberation of women.
  • Lean ICT: Towards Digital Sobriety (theshiftproject.org, 7 minutes)
    According to a report published by the French carbon transition think tank The Shift Project, the share of ICT in global greenhouse gases emissions has increased by half since 2013, rising from 2.5% to 3.7% of global emissions – with no change of this trend in sight. The solution according to the organization is an approach it calls “Lean ICT”, which includes measures such as buying the least powerful equipment possible, changing equipment as rarely as possible, and reducing unnecessary energy-intensive uses.
  • I tried to understand location tracking. It’s nearly impossible (fastcompany.com, 8 minutes)
    Hyperbolic headline, but informative article on where New York-based tech company Foursquare gets its vast trove of realtime location data from: Lots of apps that use Foursquare’s location technology and for which users have chosen to activate constant location tracking.
  • Being An Instagram Influencer Is Hard Work, So This Guy Made A Bot To Do It For Him (buzzfeednews.com, 5 minutes)
    If you know how to code, you can automate the whole process involved in becoming an influencer on Instagram, and then use your newly won credibility and great follower count to ask for free stuff.
  • Increasingly, Your Brand Is Its Reviews (streetfight.com, 6 minutes)
    Insightful exchange on the importance of reviews for people’s choices and brands’ perception.
  • Inverting the Effects of Facebook (haxel.ca, 8 minutes)
    A theoretical concept of how an hypothetical “Anti-Facebook” could look like. “No longer is it a system of zombified consumption but is instead a system of self-sustaining and meaningful social reciprocity.”
  • The New Social Network That Isn’t New at All (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    In the meantime, there are newsletters as social network ;) (from a curator perspective at least).
  • Finding Gold in the AI Value Stack (medium.com, 9 minutes)
    A look at the best entrepreneurial opportunities in the mainstream adoption of machine learning.
  • The Crash of the Boeing 737 Max Is a Warning for Drivers, Too (slate.com, 6 minutes)
    When the role of automation reaches a point at which humans become the backup, problems arise. Catchy quote from the text: “Robots make excellent backup drivers to humans. Humans make terrible backup drivers to robots”
  • Britain’s porn watchers likely to be caught with their pants down by porn block (yougov.co.uk, 2 minutes)
    In April the UK will implement a restriction for visitors to porn sites which is a first of its kind anywhere in the world: They have to confirm their age using a driving license, credit card, passport or mobile SMS. As this survey shows, many Brits are unaware. Gotta love the headline, by the way.
  • 130 EU businesses sign open letter against Copyright directive Art. 11 & 13 (nextcloud.com)
    The European Parliament is due to vote on the controversial Copyright directive next week, March 26. As a protest against it, German Wikipedia has been blacked out today.

Quotation of the week:

  • “The bulk of the systems we currently interact with online are designed on purpose to appeal to our cognitive biases instead of helping us overcome them.”
    Albert Wenger in Freedom to Learn (continuations.com, 5 minutes)

Podcast episode of the week:

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meshedsociety weekly #209

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Discord: How an App for Gamers Went Mainstream (theatlantic.com, 7 minutes)
    Discord, founded four years ago as a chat service for gamers, is having a moment. It’s essentially like Slack but for all non-work scenarios, and feels a bit like IRC (for those of you who remember).
  • This Guy Is Charging People For Every Character They Text (motherboard.vice.com, 3 minutes)
    “Expensive Chat” is a public chat room where everyone has to pay a penny per character typed. A business model for Discord to look into? :)
  • TikTok Is Rewriting the World (nytimes.com, 12 minutes)
    With more than 500 million users, TikTok (which Musical.ly became part of in 2018) has already come further than Discord in regards to mainstream adoption. Unlike all the other major social media services, TikTok does away with the friend/contact/follower-first (and algorithm-second) model. Instead, at TikTok the algorithm decides from the first second who/what people see and do on the app. Also worth mentioning: TikTok is the first Chinese social media app which managed to capture the hearts of (mostly younger) users in the West.
  • Human Nature as a Service (nicholasjrobinson.com, 5 minutes)
    People seek status. Social platforms have enabled status-building to be ten times easier and better, thus their success. Now, emerging platforms are going deeper into human instinct. Such as TikTok, which has created 10x social capital from dancing, writes Nicholas J. Robinson.
  • AI Superpowers – A History of Chinese Startups and the Implications for the Future of Startupland (tomtunguz.com, 4 minutes)
    Investor Tom Tunguz highlights two ideas from the book “AI Superpowers”: The influence of machine learning (aka AI) in the world and the fierce competitive dynamics in China.
  • Rules for the Design of Algorithmic Systems (algorules.org, 10 minutes)
    The German Bertelsmann Stiftung and iRights.Lab have created 9 formal criteria for enabling the socially beneficial design and oversight of algorithmic systems. By the way, if you understand German and are interested in the ethics of AI, I’m creating a weekly curation about the topic for the Bertelsmann Stiftung. You can read it and sign up for it here.
  • Tracking urban gentrification, one building at a time (techxplore.com, 3 minutes)
    How to continuously spot gentrification trends in cities? By using artificial intelligence and Google Street View to systematically capture changes on buildings.
  • Facebook’s News Feed and self-perceptions of knowledge (journals.sagepub.com, 10 minutes)
    A study shows that Facebook’s article previews generate knowledge. However, there is a disparity in the effect of this knowledge: Audiences who only read article previews on Facebook think they know more than they actually do, especially individuals who are motivated to seek emotions.
  • Compulsory licensing is better than blocking acquisitions (digitopoly.org, 4 minutes)
    How to deal with ever more powerful tech giants buying up innovative startups that one day might have turned into a competitor? Here is an intriguing suggestion: Instead of regulators blocking these kind of mergers (which 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren aspires to do), the acquiring market leader could be forced to license the startup innovation it wants to buy, to the laggards.
  • Self-Driving Car Fleets: Transportation As A Service (medium.com, 11 minutes)
    Ideas and assumptions about the business models that are likely to emerge around self-driving cars.
  • Would you be happy being interviewed by a robot? (bbc.com, 6 minutes)
    Using a robot instead of a human recruiter to find out whether this could reduce unconscious biases.
  • Amazon’s Alexa Has 80k Apps–and No Runaway Hit (bloomberg.com, 6 minutes)
    True. So maybe it is time to get rid of the mental analogies to the world of visual mobile apps?! I’m totally happy using Alexa (or any other smart assistant) only for playing music/podcasts, asking for the time or weather, and setting the alarm/timer (in addition to controlling the smart home which I certainly would do if my home would be “smart”).
  • Apple vs. Spotify: Who’s Really Right? (tomsguide.com, 6 minutes)
    Nuanced analysis of Spotify’s antitrust complaint against Apple and accompanying campaign. While reading I had the following idea: Would it be a viable solution if Apple agreed to remove the 30 % App Store fee for all app categories for which Apple itself is competing with an app in the App Store? The fact that Spotify has to pay 30 % of the revenues generated through the App Store while Apple Music does not clearly creates an uneven playing field and an unfair competitive advantage for Apple. Not being present in the App Store isn’t really an option for a worldwide consumer-focused tech company.
  • Why podcast fans will always reject a “Netflix for podcasts” (fastcompany.com, 6 minutes)
    Agreeing with the author: “I don’t want celebrities who have many other ways to reach an audience to become the extent of what people think “podcasting” is.
  • Founders flee to Estonia’s digital paradise (sifted.eu, 6 minutes)
    Interesting, but sadly only scratching the surface. This article could have been more in-depth. Anyway, the philosophy of “government as a service” is just very sexy!
  • It’s Winter – a simulator of the depressing, cold Russian urban outskirts (tass.com, 2 minutes)
    “It’s Winter” is a first-person indie game without an end or purpose. “The player is confined to a tiny apartment in a block of flats somewhere in urban Russia on a snowy winter night. Many of the objects are interactive: fry the eggs, throw away the shells, take out the trash, open the window, turn on your rusty old radio or broken TV.”
  • Why does the London Underground still not have Wi-Fi in tunnels? (wired.co.uk, 5 minutes)
    The London Underground does have much worse connectivity than most other public transport systems below ground, and zero phone connectivity. Causes for this are among others the high costs, the very narrow tunnels that have lots of twists and turns as well as lack of space to install on-the-train infrastructure.
  • There will soon be a whole community of ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes (fastcompany.com, 5 minutes)
    For people living in shantytowns ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes could one day become a real boon.
  • Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same (technologyreview.com, 4 minutes)
    The hipster effect: “The counterintuitive phenomenon in which people who oppose mainstream culture all end up looking the same”. 

Podcast episode of the week:

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meshedsociety weekly #208

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • The A.I. Diet (nytimes.com, 8 minutes)
    This is cool: According to the latest research, a truly healthy diet may have to be personalized. With the right amount of data and an algorithm to detect the patterns, this is becoming feasible.
  • VR: You are not your thoughts (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    Absolutely fascinating: Using virtual reality to explore one’s own mind. It could be an approach to treat anxiety and other disorders in the future.
  • Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious (nautil.us, 6 minutes)
    The 21st century is in dire need of a Turing test for consciousness, argues Joel Frohlich. Although he doesn’t provide the definite answer promised in the headline (could be an editor’s fault, though).
  • Competitive Hormone Supplementation Is Shaping America’s Future Business Titans (palladiummag.com, 10 minutes)
    This seems to be a bit of a speculative post, but the probability should indeed be quite high that tech heavyweights such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Sergey Brin are using testosterone supplementation – which would influence their behavior and decision making. On a more high level, the author wonders about the general impact of increased consumption of supplementation on trends in business behavior – and society.
  • The Servant Economy (theatlantic.com, 6 minutes)
    A critical summary on the last half decade of the consumer internet: Venture capitalists have subsidized the creation of platforms for low-paying work that deliver on-demand servant services to rich or at least wealthier people, while subjecting all parties to increased surveillance.
  • Lyft’s IPO filing shows how founders create their own supremacy in Silicon Valley (recode.net, 4 minutes)
    Uber rival Lyft is about to go public. The two co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, own about 7 percent of the company’s stock. But they maintain close to majority control of the company thanks to a dual-class stock structure that awards them 20 votes for every one vote held by other investors.
  • The new French Tech Visa for Employees (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    France introduces what is “probably the most open Startup Employee Visa in the world“.
  • Delete Never: The Digital Hoarders Who Collect Terabytes (gizmodo.com, 12 minutes)
    If the trend towards streaming and commercial access to content and information on demand from the cloud continues, these digital hoarders profiled here might one day turn into a valuable, unique non-corporate source for all kinds of digital data that otherwise has vanished.
  • Which type of Smart City do we want to live in? (thewavingcat.com, 3 minutes)
    The question posed in the headline is not a rhetorical one. It’s an actual one. What should smart cities be optimized for in the first place? For efficiency, resource control, and data-driven management? Or for participation & opportunity, digital citizens rights, equality and sustainability? Not sure if this is really as binary as suggested in the post, but probably for thinking it through and making fundamental decisions, this is helpful.
  • Limiting Your Digital Footprints in a Surveillance State (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    How a technology reporter in Shanghai protects himself against the surveillance state.
  • Drowned out by the algorithm: Vaccination advocates struggle to be heard online (nbcnews.com, 8 minutes)
    Quote from an “amateur vaccine advocate” cited in this piece describing social media’s negative impact on scientific and medical knowledge: “We can do more inflammatory stuff that the World Health organization can’t do. And the inflammatory stuff, as you can tell by the anti-vaxxers, does well on Facebook.”
  • From Co-ops to Cryptonetworks (a16z.com, 8 minutes)
    A thought-provoking analogy between cooperatives (participatory enterprises that are owned and operated by their members) and cryptonetworks.
  • A Word Use That Doesn’t Add Up (nytimes.com, 5 minutes)
    A mathematics professor laments the inflationary and imprecise use of the term “exponential” to describe all kinds of growth.
  • The Difficulties of Elimitigation (unintendedconsequenc.es, 6 minutes)
    It’s said that to successfully eliminate something one must replace it with something new. But this method is applied poorly. One reason: When deciding what to eliminate, people often assume best case scenarios without regard to second-order effects.
  • It’s Not Enough To Drive Change, You Also Have To Survive Victory (digitaltonto.com, 6 minutes)
    In a similar vein as the previous post: Achieving change is not enough if then backlash is too strong to ensure survival. Here the focus is on business, but this insight obviously also has relevancy for politics and other parts of society.
  • Anti-dating apps (jwtintelligence.com, 3 minutes)
    Might there be a market for this? On apps that promise to help modern daters to heal after heartbreak.
  • 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2019, curated by Bill Gates (technologyreview.com, 15 minutes)
    On Bill Gates’ list, among other technologies: Robot dexterity, new-wave nuclear power and the cow-free burger.
  • Microsoft Excel will now let you snap a picture of a spreadsheet and import it (theverge.com, 1 minute)
    Clever! For people who deal a lot with spreadsheets, this might come extremely handy.

Video of the week:

  • Rachel Botsman: The Currency Of Trust
    An entertaining and insightful 23-minutes long talk by author and lecturer Rachel Botsman who researches trust and particularly how it is changed and impacted by technology. One point she makes: Trust is not created by transparency, but by integrity.

Thanks for reading! If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection in thex future, sign up for free for the weekly email.

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meshedsociety weekly #207

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • In China, This Video Game Lets You Be a Parent (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    “Kong Qingxun, a 21-year-old blockchain entrepreneur in the southern city of Guangzhou, has raised eight generations of sons in the game. He let the first boy play lots of soccer and video games. But he didn’t get into college, so Mr. Kong changed his approach.” Fascinating. Lots of thoughts about this: Could a software that lets people “play” being parents be a way to train future parents for the challenges of having a child? How probable is that one day successfully playing such game will be “obligatory” for future parents? And what about this: Could for some having a “simulated” child eventually be the preferred choice over a real one?
  • 5G will change your business faster than you think (thealeph.com, 13 minutes)
    Beyond all the marketing hype, 5G is truly disruptive. Great piece.
  • Foldable phones: a brief history of their beginning (theverge.com, 6 minutes)
    Will foldable phones also be disruptive? Gadget reporters are clearly excited about the new paradigm, and this bullish take is just one example. The question is: How much can gadget enthusiasts be trusted here? After years of stagnation in the smartphone sector, they are longing for renewed excitement, and foldables satisfy that. But is that a relevant sentiment from the perspective of the average consumer?
  • Wikipedia’s Lamest Edit Wars (informationisbeautiful.net)
    Stuff Wikipedia editors have been fighting about: Is it a neutral point to say “an animal is cute”? Is the main character of Grand Theft Auto IV Serbian, Slovak, Bosnian or non-specificially Eastern European? Are Bono’s harmonica skills relevant? Entertaining visualization.
  • The future of Instagram face filters is glossy, metallic, and surreal (theverge.com, 5 minutes)
    According to the article, Instagram came up with a clever approach to user-generated augmented reality filters: In order to use one, you had to follow their creator. I’m using past tense because it worked for me without following the creator. So they might have changed it by now.
  • The complex allure of cursed images (mashable.com, 10 minutes)
    From the “investigating internet culture” department: the “cursed images” meme; pictures or photographs that are disturbing to the viewer due to the poor photo quality or content within the image that is abnormal or illogical.
  • Y Combinator accidentally let 15,000 people into an exclusive program — and now has decided to do it on purpose (recode.net, 5 minutes)
    Sounds like quite a bold decision for the Western world’s arguably most renowned startup accelerator.
  • Humans Who Are Not Concentrating Are Not General Intelligences (srconstantin.wordpress.com, 8 minutes)
    Food for thought on human intelligence, doing things on autopilot (such as reading a text or talking without actually being concentrated) and the appearance of being smart.
  • Poor-quality relationships linked to greater distress than too few relationships (digest.bps.org.uk, 4 minutes)
    Interesting research on “social loneliness” (having too few friends) and “emotional loneliness” (having friends but not feeling emotionally close to them)”: The quality of relationships appears more important to mental health than the sheer number of them. Also: “Every childhood traumatic experience increased the odds of belonging to the emotional loneliness class by 28 per cent”.
  • Smarter Parts Make Collective Systems Too Stubborn (quantamagazine.org, 6 minutes)
    Improving the sophistication level of the parts of a system, counter-intuitively, doesn’t necessarily improve the performance of the system as a whole.
  • Universal Music CEO to artists: Fine-tune your lyrics for smart speakers (cnet.com, 4 minutes.com)
    First streaming changed music (for example the album or the length of songs), now smart speakers do it again: People can’t ask for a song when they don’t know what title is, so the logical consequence seems to be that the title of a song must be front and center in its lyrics.
  • Acing the algorithmic beat, journalism’s next frontier (niemanlab.org, 9 minutes)
    With the rise of AI in all parts of daily life, politics and business, there’s a lot to cover for journalists.
  • AI is reinventing the way we invent (technologyreview.com, 15 minutes -> use browser’s icognito mode)
    Two strenghts of AI in comparison to humans: recognizing patterns in huge amounts of data, and “thinking” out of the box. This could help save science from its current “productivity problem”.
  • Finnish is too complicated for AI (Twitter thread)
    Joose Rajamäki explains why the Finnish language breaks any natural language processing algorithm.
  • Netflix Is Shrinking the World (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    Instead of trying to sell American ideas to a foreign audience, Netflix is aiming to sell international ideas to a global audience.
  • Meet the “minotaurs”: The companies that have raised more than $1 billion (axios.com, 2 minutes)
    If a startup manages to find a really big market with winner-takes-all-economics and then raises $1B in funding, this investment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, explains Felix Salmon.
  • Survey shows deep skepticism toward the press among tech workers (buzzfeednews.com, 6 minutes)
    “Tech’s newfound place under the media microscope has led to grousing among tech executives, in public and private, that the press has overcorrected, going too far in its antagonistic coverage toward the industry, blaming it for problems it didn’t create, and ignoring its successes.”
  • Rule Thinkers In, Not Out (slatestarcodex.com, 5 minutes)
    Reframing troubled geniuses and controversial yet evidentially smart figures of the “idea industry”: They are like black boxes: generators of brilliant ideas, plus a certain failure rate.
  • Quadratic voting (wikipedia.org, 2 minutes)
    Probably I’m late to learn about this approach to voting, but I love the idea: Participants cast their preference and intensity of preference for each decision (as opposed to a simple for or against decision). I want to live in a country which implements this.

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