meshedsociety weekly #192

Here is issue #192 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.


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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).

  • How a Handful of American Tech Companies Help Radicalize the World (buzzfeednews.com, 15 minutes)
    The most frustrating part is that there just does not seem to be any way to stop this from continuing. Maybe this is how the end of capitalism will look like: Capitalism incentivizes the unstoppable creation of highly destructive and corrosive business models (attention, polarization, controversy + personalization = billion dollar profits) which eventually leads to the collapse of modern civilization and with it, capitalism itself. See also the quotation of the week at the end of this list.
  • Meditation in the Time of Disruption (theringer.com, 25 minutes)
    Great long-read on the tech-driven commercialization of mindfulness meditation.
  • Do People Trust Algorithms More Than Companies Realize? (hbr.org, 8 minutes)
    The answer to the question posed in the headline appears to be “yes”. Particularly when people have to choose between relying on an algorithm or relying on advice from another person. However, when it comes to a choice between an algorithm and their own judgment, their trust in algorithms decreases.
  • Uber’s Secret Restaurant Empire (bloomberg.com, 4 minutes)
    When the Uber Eats team perceives an unmet demand for a certain type of cuisine in an area based on customer searches, it approaches local restaurants suggesting that they start expanding their offering for Uber Eats. It works well.
  • In Amazon Go, no one thinks I’m stealing (cnet.com, 7 minutes)
    Thought-provoking perspective: Ashlee Clark Thompson describes how black people in the U.S. are used to being specifically targeted and discriminated in stores due to a general suspicion of theft. However, when she spent time in a cashierless Amazon Go store, the experience was different.
  • Categories of Unintended Consequences (unintendedconsequenc.es, 5 minutes)
    The phenomenon of unintended consequences receives way too little attention from the broader public in my opinion, considering how present it is in our complex societies. Here is a useful summary of categories of unintended consequences, touching on unexpected benefits, unexpected drawbacks and perverse results.
  • Twitter gave you 280 characters, and your tweets got shorter (cnet.com, 1 minute)
    Not an “unintended consequence”, but at least a counter-intuitive outcome.
  • The ultimate guide to Bluetooth headphones: Wired is still king for quality (soundguys.com, 7 minutes)
    Wired headphones are still superior to Bluetooth ones. Yet, most people won’t be able to hear the difference if they’re older than 24, have some form of noise-induced hearing loss, or are in the presence of outside noise.
  • What are the best stories about people randomly (or non-randomly) meeting Steve Jobs? (quora.com, a few minutes)
    The first comment is good (but if you are into Steve Jobs, you might enjoy reading them all).
  • Working at Netflix Sounds Like Hell (gizmodo.com, 5 minutes)
    It does. On the other hand, people who worked with Steve Jobs had to put up with a lot, yet many still found a lot of meaning and satisfaction in it. In the end, many people accept extraordinary circumstances or pressure as long as they get the chance to work with a product or service that they are proud of. Which I assume Netflix employees are. This company single-handedly changed global television.
  • The internet of things is becoming a surveillance tool (staceyoniot.com, 7 minutes)
    This might be this decade’s most predictable development.
  • Driven to Distraction – the future of car safety (steveblank.com, 16 minutes)
    Car cockpits are following a similar path as airplane cockpits have done over the past decades. So there are a lot of things the car industry can learn from the airline world and from how the tasks of pilots have changed.
  • Do We Worship Complexity? (innoq.com, 4 minutes)
    Musings on the complexity of (software) systems. “There are times when complexity is worshipped – consciously or unconsciously – leading to unnecessarily complex systems.”
  • Half Of The Crypto News Outlets We Asked Would Take Cash To Post Our Content (breakermag.com, 9 minutes)
    Is anyone surprised that the crypto sector is populated by a large number of folks with questionable or non-existing ethics?
  • Waking up early serves capitalism (qz.com, 3 minutes)
    This resonates with me. The widely propagated cult of early rising is absurd, because of the opportunity costs explained in the text. I’m so happy about my current privilege of sleeping until I wake up by myself. It’s usually around 7 hours 45 minutes to 8 hours after I fell asleep.
  • How to get the most out of iOS 12 Shortcuts (theverge.com, 8 minutes)
    Personally I have still not found anything I could optimize with Shortcuts. But the Subreddit r/Shortcuts mentioned in this article looks like it could change that. And it shows quite some activity.
  • iPhone X and the tyranny of choice (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    Let’s hope that Apple’s tyranny of choice in regards to the iPhone really remains a momentary misadventure.
  • Google’s new AI scans thousands of books to answer your questions (weforum.org, 4 minutes)
    Ok, this is cool! “Type a question into ‘Talk to Books’, and the AI-powered tool will scan every sentence in 100,000 volumes in Google Books and generate a list of likely responses with the pertinent passage bolded.
  • Why Jupyter is data scientists’ computational notebook of choice (nature.com, 7 minutes)
    Jupyter, the free, open-source, interactive web tool known as a computational notebook, has within a few years emerged as a de facto standard for data scientists.

Quotation of the week:

  • “The internet is the technology paradox writ more monstrous than ever. It’s a nonpareil tool for learning, roving and constructive community-building. But it’s unrivaled, too, in the spread of lies, narrowing of interests and erosion of common cause. It’s a glorious buffet, but it pushes individual users toward only the red meat or just the kale. We’re ridiculously overfed and ruinously undernourished.”
    By Frank Bruni in “The Internet Will Be the Death of Us” (nytimes.com, 5 minutes)

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #191

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com 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. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



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).

  • No More Glorification of Entrepreneurial Struggle (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    On the phenomenon of “strugglepreneurs” and how their gurus keep perpetuating the myth that endless entrepreneurial struggle signals progress.
  • Did I Make a Mistake Selling My Social-Media Darling to Yahoo? (nymag.com, 7 minutes)
    Most of you probably remember Delicious, the legendary web 2.0 social bookmarking site. Here its founder Joshua Schachter looks back on its early days and wonders what had happened if he hadn’t sold the company to Yahoo (where it started its demise).
  • YouTubers Will Enter Politics (buzzfeednews.com, 17 minutes)
    Primarily, this is a text about the changes in Brazilian politics. But a secondary narrative is how YouTube’s algorithms create politicians. This will happen elsewhere, too. And of course, these algorithms bring people to the foreground who are primarily good at one thing: optimizing for maximum attention.
  • Are We Already Living in Virtual Reality? (newyorker.com, 27 minutes)
    A captivating longread from earlier this year around the multilayered question of when a human experience qualifies as “real”.
  • Do journalists pay too much attention to Twitter? (cjr.org, 7 minutes)
    They do, and its a problem.
  • Interpretability and Post-Rationalization (medium.com, 8 minutes)
    Insightful perspective from a machine learning and robotics scientist on what it means for explainability of decisions made by artificial intelligence that humans tend to post-rationalize their decisions and actions, thus actually are unable to give proper explanations at all.
  • Your next doctor’s appointment might be with an AI (technologyreview.com, 12 minutes)
    Talking to a chatbot instead of a doctor to get a first opinion on a health issue – despite some challenges, I love it.
  • AI in 2018: A Year in review (medium.com, 11 minutes)
    Year in review posts are coming earlier and earlier. But this excerpt from a talk by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker, co-founders of the AI Now Institute, about the events and concerns that occupied the minds of the AI community in 2018, is great!
  • How should autonomous vehicles be programmed? (sciencedaily.com, 4 minutes)
    “The most emphatic global preferences in the survey are for sparing the lives of humans over the lives of other animals; sparing the lives of many people rather than a few; and preserving the lives of the young, rather than older people.
  • The Gray Market’s Impact on iPhone Pricing (aboveavalon.com, 9 minutes)
    One major difference between Android phones and iPhones: There is a big and growing gray market for refurbished iPhones, which in fact helps Apple to boost sales for higher-priced flagship iPhones.
  • Even a censored Google would be better for China than Baidu (scmp.com, 5 minutes)
    Democracy-loving and Google-using Americans are actually deciding the fate of Chinese internet users – isn’t that paternalism? The Chinese are the ones who suffer from the lack of access to Google.”
  • Swedish Competition Agency Rejects Forcing Banks to Handle Cash (bloomberg.com, 3 minutes)
    In an almost cashless society, who is in charge of ensuring that access to physical money is maintained, despite lacking demand and therefore unattractive economics? This is a question Sweden currently has to figure out.
  • DAPPs are not Apps! (medium.com, 2 minutes)
    “DAPP” stands for “decentralized app” (typically relying on a blockchain), but a DAPP is not what people usually think of when hearing the term “app”. Instead, it is a layer between the protocol and the client.
  • Is Your Product Designed to Be Calm? (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    Amber Case wrote a scorecard for creating human-centered, anxiety-free technology solutions. According to her, a product is “calm” if it is designed to seamlessly, unobtrusively integrate with person’s life and daily habits. Obviously, many consumer apps are not calm at all, although things are getting better.
  • What Emails Reveal About Performance at Work (joshbersin.com, 7 minutes)
    “A study among 650 top leaders shows a 74% statistical correlation between communication patterns and the highest levels of individual performance. The finding: The highest performing leaders use simpler words to communicate, they respond faster, and they communicate more often. In other words, they are more engaged, more efficient, and more action-oriented.”
  • Networking for Nerds (benjaminreinhardt.com, 8 minutes)
    A bunch of tactics developed by the author that all boil down to one thing: make it easy for the other person – to remember you, to help, and to meet.
  • Growth Without Goals (investorfieldguide.com, 7 minutes)
    Brilliant take. One can grow without having clearly outlined goals. One can explore for the sake of exploration, without expectation. Great habits and practices make a great and successful life. Cultivate those and the rest will take care of itself.
  • What do 1980s concept cars and 2000s cell phones have in common? (uxplanet.org, 21 minutes)
    The author is very disappointed in the current and future state of technology, which “has no physicality”. But I’m sharing this mainly for the many truly stunning photos of 1980s concept cars’ cockpits

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #190

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com 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. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



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).

  • Please Purchase My Personal Data From Me Directly (mcsweeneys.net, 4 minutes)
    Cutting out the middle men aka the big tech platforms. Actually, why not?!
  • Why Doctors Reject Tools That Make Their Jobs Easier (blogs.scientificamerican.com, 7 minutes)
    There was a time when doctors rejected the use of the thermometer and preferred to define whether a patient had fever by feel alone.
  • Movement rises to keep humans, not robots, in the driver’s seat (freep.com, 7 minutes)
    People who don’t want to give up driving a car themselves because they love it so much. Depending on how many they’ll become and how much influence they will be able to gain, this could become yet another serious obstacle for the protagonists of the self-driving car race.
  • The amazing ascent of Priscilla Chan (qz.com, 26 minutes)
    A very interesting profile of Priscilla Chan and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which she runs together with her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Gotta admire when a romantic couple manages to be a great team even in professional regards, which certainly seems to be the case here.
  • Pack Experience (ribbonfarm.com, 15 minutes)
    A fascinating sociological perspective! The offline world is designed around “pack experience” – families ride in cars together, groups of coworkers, take elevators together, dating couples go to movies in pairs. The internet is disrupting this default mode. Online, individual experience reigns supreme. Disruptions of higher-order social realities, at troop, tribe, or nation-state levels, can all be traced back to pack-level disruptions.
  • Five Questions for rethinking civilization (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    This is the beginning of an upcoming ten-part series called “The Next Enlightenment”, and it provides plenty of food for thought in the form of questions such as “What kind of freedom can a solitary person achieve?” and “Why do we teach our children responsibility, but not integrity?”.
  • Instagram Has a Massive Harassment Problem (theatlantic.com, 20 minutes)
    In this long piece, Taylor Lorenz completely destroys the cliche of Instagram being the friendly, polite platform where people can exist without having to deal with trolls and harassment.
  • Interviews with former Google employees to find out why they decided to leave (businessinsider.com, 11 minutes)
    Google is widely considered as one of the best places to work. But that doesn’t mean that all employees stay forever. Here is an informative collection of individual reasons why people left Google.
  • Brave New World Revisited, Revisited (spectator.us, 6 minutes)
    While George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is often brought up as a cautionary example for where we are headed, Huxley’s Brave New World should not be ignored – because in large parts, his vision has already come true.
  • Algorithmic merchandising will erode trust in Amazon (shift.newco.co, 7 minutes)
    Amazon is increasingly seduced by the short-term profit potential of using algorithms against customer interest.
  • Why doesn’t Silicon Valley just give Saudi Arabia its money back? (sfchronicle.com, 4 minutes)
    In the light of recent news events, Silicon Valley is finding itself in deep trouble about its close ties to Saudi Arabia. For example, the Saudi royal family owns about 14 percent of Uber, both directly and through its part-ownership of the SoftBank Vision Fund.
  • How Index Ventures became Europe’s startup success factory (wired.com, 7 minutes)
    For a VC firm with European roots, London-based Index Ventures has been remarkably successful. But judging from this portrait, the major reason for this accomplishment ironically appears to be that the firm does also operate from San Francisco, and that it sees itself as a “global firm with European outlook”.
  • The new Palm is a tiny phone to keep you away from your phone (theverge.com, 10 minutes)
    Do you feel like getting a second, tiny phone to help you get away from your main phone? Sarcastic tone aside, in the end that’s one of the promises of smartwatches as well.
  • Lord Keynes Would Be Proud (medium.com, 8 minutes)
    A clever thing suggested by the author: The most rational way to spend Bitcoin is to buy something with a regular credit card and sell just enough Bitcoin to pay the credit card bill. Ideological cryptoheads don’t like this suggestion, because it doesn’t get them closer to their libertarian utopia.
  • On Podcasts, News and Well-being (blog.amitgawande.com, 3 minutes)
    Maybe there is a case to be made to not fill every available minute of one’s day with a podcast in order to create some periods of intentional boredom? I’m undecided.
  • Scaling Audio Service: How we launched a high-quality Text-To-Speech service at NZZ (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    But nothing against audio, of course. In fact, an increasing number of people prefer to listen to newspaper articles instead of reading them. So the Swiss newspaper NZZ built a system which lets users listen to its stories. Here its head of digital product explains how it was done.
  • Noticing internal experiences (lesswrong.com, 2 minutes)
    This could be en enlightening exercise: Sitting down, observing one’s thoughts, and writing them all down, no matter whether they make sense or are connected to each other in any way.
  • Animals that are currently monitored using facial recognition technology (nymag.com, 6 minutes)
    Salmon are the latest entry in a growing cornucopia of animal faces loaded with AI into databases.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #189

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com 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. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



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).

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #188

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com 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. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



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 Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years (gq.com, 11 minutes)
    Yuval Harari is kind of all over the place right now. In my opinion, rightly so (but he also seems to have hired someone with amazing PR skills). Even though I’ve read his most recent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, I still found this interview with him highly interesting to read. Harari explains that he considers emotional intelligence and mental balance to be the most important skills needed to handle the upcoming decades. “The hardest challenges will be psychological”.
  • Why Animal Extinction Is Crippling Computer Science (wired.com, 4 minutes)
    Fascinating perspective from a computer scientist: Animals represent biological problem-solving algorithms created by natural selection. When a species is lost because of questionable human behavior, it’s also the loss of algorithmic secrets.
  • The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job (theatlantic.com, 10 minutes)
    The other type of automation: The one that isn’t forced on people, but that people (primarily programmers) create themselves. It’s not always appreciated and sometimes does backfire.
  • The Myth of The Infrastructure Phase (usv.com, 7 minutes)
    A very smart framework. The history of new technologies shows that apps beget infrastructure, not the other way around. It’s not that first we build all the infrastructure, and once we have the infrastructure we need, we begin to build apps. It’s exactly the opposite.
  • How Bird & Lime can build moats (blog.usejournal.com, 8 minutes)
    How to compete and differentiate in the (over?)hyped field of dockless e-scooters.
  • How a Small Start-Up Reverse-Engineered Swedish Banks and Hacked Its Way to Over 500,000 Users (netguru.co, 3 minutes)
    The Swedish startup Tink reverse-engineered the non-public APIs of the banks, aggregating data (mostly account details and savings rates) from the top 30 banks in Sweden into one single place and built it into an app. Instead of suing Tink, the banks started cooperating with it.
  • For Rent: 98-Square-Foot BR in Co-Living Apt., Community Included (wsj.com, 5 minutes)
    Flat sharing is now being branded as “co-living” targeting millenials, enhanced with services and turned into big, tech-powered business.
  • Data Factories (stratechery.com, 11 minutes)
    What is Facebook? A data factory. It processes data from its raw form to something uniquely valuable both to Facebook’s products and also to advertisers.
  • World’s Oldest Torrent Still Alive After 15 Years (torrentfreak.com, 3 minutes)
    Being covered as the oldest torrent still alive by the media comes with the perk of people seeding it as a torrent just for the sake of it.
  • The Rise of Netflix Competitors Has Pushed Consumers Back Toward Piracy (motherboard.vice.com, 3 minutes)
    Apropos torrents: They seem to experience a kind of comeback, caused by exclusivity streaming deals which mean that people would have to subscribe to and pay for not only one but several streaming services at once to get access to the most talked about shows.
  • In Praise of Mediocrity (nytimes.com, 4 minutes)
    Tim Wu laments the loss of the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.
  • Risk Management (collaborativefund.com, 4 minutes)
    “Risk management comes down to serially avoiding decisions that can’t easily be reversed, whose downsides will demolish you and prevent recovery.”
  • Your Work Is the Only Thing That Matters (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    Ryan Holiday (author of “The obstacle is the way” and “Daily stoic”), points out an unintended consequence of, what one might call, total brand and business control for creatives: It diverts attention away from the most essential part of any creative profession: Making great stuff.
  • “Social network” of brains lets people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads (technologyreview.com, 5 minutes)
    Scientists have created a network that allows three individuals to send and receive information directly to their brains.
  • Fitbit may have helped catch a killer, again (techcrunch.com, 2 minutes)
    If someone who wears a fitness tracker or health monitoring smartwatch dies, the device can help the authorities to figure out whether the death is the cause of a crime or not. If these devices keep catching on, investigators can rejoice.

Quotation of the week:

  • If politics becomes a behavioural science of triggers and emotional nudges it’s reasonable to assume this would most benefit candidates with the least consistent principles, the ones who make the flexible campaign promises.
    Jamie Bartlett in “The war between technology & democracy (medium.com, 17 minutes)

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #187

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com 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. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



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).

  • Why the Apple Watch Series 4 is a big deal (thealeph.com, 6 minutes)
    While the first versions of the Apple Watch were a solution looking for a problem, with the Series 4, Apple really has made clear what it will be good for: to help people to live healthier lives in a radically changing world which requires people to take care of themselves and to stay fit. The author makes a great point when he writes: “Apple didn’t come out with a compact ECG to compete with hospitals. What Apple wants is to skip hospitals altogether through an early detection system.” The company is ahead of the curve, plus it can leverage its pro-privacy positioning. This is much harder for Google/Android. And “indies” such as Fitbit will struggle anyway to compete with Apple head on, so they must look for niches.
  • FOMO in China is a $7 billion industry (marketplace.org, 7 minutes)
    The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) that the headline refers to is a particular kind of FOMO: one of fearing to miss out on information and knowledge that can bring people ahead. As a consequence, there is a thriving “pay-for-knowledge” (podcast) economy in China.
  • Startup Nation? Entrepreneurs Still Toil in Macron’s France (bloomberg.com, 4 minutes)
    Changing a culture takes much longer than a few years. I’d like to propose a “readiness test” for the mostly export oriented European countries to understand at which point a nation really is ready to become a “startup nation” (which would mean global success and recognition): if the lingua franca within the ecosystem (and for example on conferences) is not the country’s native language, but English; even when two natives talk to each other within a business context. Unless this is the case, it’s impossible to break out of local cultural programming and thinking patterns, to attract large numbers of startup-minded foreign talent, and to fully internalize the necessary mindsets. I’m not claiming that language is the only important criteria. By far. But I consider it a Litmus test.
  • Artificial Intelligence Will Keep Our Loved Ones Alive (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    This will very likely happen, and people might be shocked how little data from text conversations will be needed in order to create a bot which at least in 80 % of the situations resembles an actual person.
  • Computers can solve your problem. You may not like the answer. (apps.bostonglobe.com, 11 minutes)
    The Boston Public Schools used an algorithm to reconfigure start times in order to make more efficient use of buses required for transportation to the school. The algorithm was created by the MIT and promised racial equity. It seemed to be a smart solution for BPS – except that many parents didn’t like the changing start times suggested by the algorithm. It’s an interesting aspect of the increasing use of algorithms in society: They might present humans with objectively better solutions for certain tasks or processes, but require an openness to change among people which isn’t the norm.
  • Amazon just pulled an Apple on the smart home (staceyoniot.com, 7 minutes)
    Amazon is taking over the smart home by getting both developers and manufacturers on board and providing an outstanding user experience. But of course, given Amazon’s dominance, from a macro perspective, this is not necessarily something to be celebrated.
  • Want to See What’s Up Amazon’s Sleeve? Take a Tour of Seattle (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    Seattle is a special city. As the home of Amazon, it is the place where the giant tests various stationary retail and logistics concepts.
  • Revolut’s Nikolay Storonsky Is Building The Amazon Of Banking (forbes.com, 6 minutes)
    Profile of one of Europe’s most interesting startups right now (at least for a b2c fintech fan like me).
  • The Post-Sale Stay-Period (avc.com, 2 minutes)
    When a startup is acquired, this is a logical step for most founders to make their own exit, writes Fred Wilson. The fact that the Instagram founders stayed with the buyer Facebook for a whole 6 years after the acquisition actually is astonishing.
  • How to have a good conversation (marginalrevolution.com, 2 minutes)
    Do you favor the common approach to “good” conversations or Tyler Cowen’s suggestions?
  • Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room (quantamagazine.com, 7 minutes)
    It is still ridiculously easy to confuse an AI. Here it was done by adding a picture of an elephant into a living room scene and to task a computer vision algorithm with correctly identifying the objects it saw. It totally failed.
  • Why McDonalds & Starbucks are All-In on Native Mobile Apps (medium.freecodecamp.org, 5 minutes)
    It’s a bit of an obvious read, but it raises awareness about a phenomenon which I only recently became consciously aware of: Restaurant chains (at least here in Sweden even smaller ones) release their own native mobile apps, which sometimes include exclusive discounts and other goodies to incentivize people to download and spread the word about it. Remarkable that it took 10 years since the launch of the app economy for this to become a major trend (or for me to realize this).
  • The Problem with Facebook Is Facebook (logicmag.io, 13 minutes)
    Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy” says in this interview that all the negative effects that Facebook has on society and which emerged over the past years are not mistakes – they’re fulfillments of a vision. They happen by design.
  • The Mines (pedestrianobservations.com, 4 minutes)
    A fascinating analogy: People moving to San Francisco or the Silicon Valley to work in tech is similar to how in the past ambitious young man went to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which they went back home. The various issues that the Bay Area is struggling with are at least in part a consequence of this.
  • How Dieselgate saved Germany’s car industry (theverge.com, 4 minutes)
    Imagine if in the end, Dieselgate would in fact turn out to be the thing that the German car industry needed to free itself from the innovator’s dilemma.
  • 13 cities that are starting to ban cars (weforum.org, 7 minutes)
    This is not a list of cities that want to ban cars completely at this point, but that are limiting car access at least temporarily or in certain areas. It’s a good trend.
  • The Publisher’s Patron: How Google’s News Initiative Is Re-Defining Journalism (en.ejo.ch, 13 minutes)
    “How did Google become so popular among publishers? The answer could be money. Google appears to have turned itself into a Renaissance-style patron of journalism. It is rare that a private company hands out so much cash to other private companies, with apparently so few conditions.”
  • Apple News Is Giving the Media Everything It Wants—Except Money (slate.com, 12 minutes)
    Apple News has been kind of an under-the-radar service. But it appears to become increasingly important for many publishers. However, there is a catch: “Slate makes more money from a single article that gets 50,000 page views on its site than it has from the 54 million page views it has had on Apple News this calendar year.

Quotation of the week:

  • If you have food, friends, and a comfortable place to live, you are all set to live an incredible life. Everything you buy, and every experience and commitment you add to the plate beyond this point is a tradeoff: a guaranteed reduction in cash and free time, in exchange for a possible increase in thrills delivered by fun or novelty.
    Peter Adeney in “Why you should Get your Shit Together Before you Make it Big” (mrmoneymustache.com, 8 minutes)

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #186

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com 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. Usually published every Wednesday/Thursday (CET),  just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.


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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 European Union Versus the Internet (stratechery.com, 15 minutes)
    Ben Thompson makes strong arguments for why the European Union is misunderstanding regulation of the internet and tech giants (caveat: see my comment for the next article). At the end of the piece he suggests a much smarter approach than the one currently favored by Europe’s politicians.
  • EU’s Copyright Directive and the P2P Internet (staltz.com, 6 minutes)
    However, one reason why I am not extremely worried about the consequences of this kind of bad regulation is explained well here. In short: The decrease of user experience as a result of new regulation could eventually kill the “old” internet (the one dominated by giant centralized platforms) and pave the way for a new iteration which circumvents this regulation by design. While I am writing this, I’m starting to wonder if the hidden intention of the EU’s regulation might in fact be to decrease the user experience of the likes of Facebook and Google to the point at which users will flee these services. Seen from that perspective, any criticism of the latest regulatory measures (such as the one voiced by Ben Thompson) would entirely miss the point. Because then the regulation would neither be primarily aimed at protecting copyright nor at being balanced, pragmatic and at finding a good compromise for all parties. Instead, it would be meant to actively sabotage the workings of today’s commercial internet, while simply accepting plenty of collateral damage. This wouldn’t have to be an explicit “hidden agenda”. It’s enough if this scenario would be discussed during informal backroom conversations and would exist in the collective awareness of the members of the EU parliament. No one can just say “We want the U.S. tech giants to lose a lot of users so they eventually will go where MySpace went”. But this might exactly be what some people hope for.
  • How AI changed organ donation in the US (qz.com, 19 minutes)
    Insightful and educational read about one of the success stories of AI: Enabling the creation of complex organ donor chains to more effectively match donors and those in need. Lots of lives have been saved.
  • This AI Predicts Obesity Prevalence—All the Way from Space (singularityhub.com, 3 minutes)
    How does the AI predict obesity prevalence when looking at satellite images? Correlations between the physical makeup of a neighborhood and the prevalence of obesity. Lots of things that could skew the results, but fascinating approach in any case.
  • Forget the new iPhones, Apple’s best product is now privacy (fastcompany.com, 8 minutes)
    In the current climate and with all the issues surrounding big tech, it is almost comically easy for Apple to position themselves as the “better” guys. And at least to some extend and from the point of someone who can afford Apple products, there is truth to it.
  • The $1,500 iPhone (500ish.com, 7 minutes)
    Speaking about Apple: M.G. Siegler discusses the decline and subsequent explosion of the iPhone price and outlines Apple’s path towards one day potentially launching a monthly subscription offering akin to Amazon Prime – but for Apple’s products and services. By the way: Who invented the iPhone? At least if you look at the technological achievements that underpinned it, many people.
  • What cardiologists think about the Apple Watch’s heart-tracking feature (washingtonpost.com, 4 minutes)
    One more Apple thing: The Apple Watch Series 4’s heart-tracking feature (initially only available in the U.S.) is cool. But there is at least a small risk that it will create lots of hypochondriacs and cause many unnecessary visits to the doctor. However it will for sure also lead to a few necessary visits to the doctor. So it is benefits vs costs.
  • The strength of a monopoly can be guessed at by calling customer support (blogs.harvard.edu, 2 minutes)
    Intriguing point.
  • Are Ride-hailing Platforms Keeping their Drivers Honest? (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    The frequent occurrence of dishonest taxi drivers is one of the main reasons why people in many countries choose on-demand transportation services such as Uber. A study tried to find out whether Uber drivers really are less prone to taking advantage of riders. Turns out, yes.
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You (commoncog.com, 15 minutes)
    A critical review of the concepts and strategies proposed in the 2012 book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” written by Cal Newport about how to personally become successful and have a fulfilling profession. The overall philosophy described by Newport is solid.
  • It’s Like Amazon, But for Preschool’ (hackeducation.com, 4 minutes).
    For those of you who enjoy cynical commentary on tech billionaire’s philanthropic endeavors. In this specific case, Jeff Bezos and other’s who target the education “market”.
  • 100 Days of Digital Minimalism (nickwignall.com, 9 minutes)
    Whether one agrees with his radical approach or not (no podcasts?! 😱), it’s an inspiring read.
  • Cycling Is Key to Safer, Healthier, More Vital Cities (citylab.com, 11 minutes)
    Cities that are built around cycling as a primary means of non-pedestrian transportation are clearly doing it right. Related read: Life in the Spanish city that banned cars.
  • Proof of Work is Efficient (medium.com, 11 minutes)
    A contrarian, in-depth take on the common narrative of Bitcoin and other crypto currencies being highly energy-inefficient.
  • What was the one book that you read and it actually changed your life? (news.ycombinator.com)
    Lots of contributions to this comment thread on Hacker News.
  • What Most Remote Companies Don’t Tell You About Remote Work (blog.doist.com, 9 minutes)
    Remote work clearly is not for everybody. This post depicts the experience of someone who clearly belongs into an office surrounded by colleagues. I on the other hand have a hard time imagining ever working non-remotely again. I’ve done it for 8 years now and I love it. There is no one-size fits all solution. In the ideal world, all information workers would get the chance to find their best setup, and thrive.
  • Amazon Maintains Smart Speaker Market Share Lead, Apple Rises Slightly to 4.5% (voicebot.ai, 4 minutes)
    Numbers for the U.S.: “Amazon Echo device share stands at 64.6% with Google Home products is use by 19.6% of smart speaker owners. Apple HomePod has been adopted by 4.5% of smart speaker owners while 11.3% say they have access to a smart speaker that is not made by Amazon, Google or Apple. “
  • How WhatsApp Destroyed a Village (buzzfeednews.com, 25 minutes)
    How does WhatsApp exactly contribute to lynchings in India (which, by the way, happened also before WhatsApp existed)? This feature offers a good understanding of the situation and of the challenges that arise when people in areas where a lack of education, media/internet literacy and trust in authorities prevails, suddenly are carrying a powerful device which connects them to everybody else.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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What makes iOS 12 very exciting

It doesn’t usually happen that I feel like writing about a new release of iOS, but with version 12 which was just made available by Apple, it does. This latest operating system for the iPhone and iPad could have a groundbreaking effect on user habits and the technology industry large.

These following 3 features of iOS 12 are significant in my eyes and justify a hot take:

  • iOS 12 makes older devices faster
    One of the key features for iOS 12 is performance – and this extends to older devices. I installed iOS 12 on an old iPhone 6s Plus as well as on an iPad Mini (first or second generation, not sure), and they certainly seem to run faster again. If this experience holds true for many others, this could slowly change the prevailing paradigm of having to own a device not older than about 2 years in order to get optimal performance. For some consumers this means that instead of upgrading their phone at least every 2 years, they can wait maybe a year longer  – and instead get an Apple Watch in addition (at least this is what Apple would want them to do).
  • Time well spent features
    Google added features for users to analyze and control their usage and app habits with its latest version of Android, “Pie”, and now Apple follows suit with “Screen Time” (available in the settings section). I played around with it and instantly could see how this will make me waste less time with certain app categories. There appear to be many options for customization as well. Setting everything up properly takes a bit time, so the question is how many users will do it. But let’s say many will, then this can have a profound impact on the app industry: If millions of users for example decide to limit their daily social media budget, the impact might be a significant slump in minutes spent on Instagram, Facebook etc.
  • Shortcuts
    For me, this is the most interesting feature addition to iOS for many years. With shortcuts, owners of iPhones and iPads can connect various actions which previously required separate actions from the users, to workflows that can be triggered at once (for example through Siri). Apps can create their own shortcuts and promote them to their users. But it is also possible to download a dedicated “Shortcuts” app from the App Store and custom-build productivity-enhancing solutions. The latter method requires a rather complex procedure (for being iOS), and I wasn’t spontaneously able to come up with anything useful. In the end, this customization through a dedicated app might remain a feature that’s awesome in theory but attractive for few in practice – or it simply requires a bit of getting used to. I’m now monitoring consciously how I use my iOS devices, to become aware which frequent procedures I might be able to put into a workflow. In any case, I love being able to play around with something like this. It also got me to activate Siri on my iPhone. Having used an Amazon Echo for a while made me realize the potential of voice control, and shortcuts might be exactly what’s needed to turn me into a Siri loyalist, too.

There are some other additions to iOS 12 which I have no opinions about yet. But these three are fantastic, in my eyes. They make iPhones and iPads more fun and potentially more efficently to use, help to spot and kill destructive user habits (Dopamin craving is a curse), and enable more people to use Apple devices – even those who don’t have the means or willingness to constantly upgrade to the latest device or to buy anything else than a used device.

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The hottest technologies are all losing steam simultaneously

Have you noticed that many of the most anticipated technologies of the past years all seem to be losing steam at the moment?

Self driving cars? Lots of doubts.
Blockchain? Still lacking killer applications, and the corporate world is losing interest.
Crypto currencies? Things are said to be worse than during the dot-com crash.
Virtual reality? It doesn’t look good right now.
Machine Learning/AI? Stuck. Continue Reading

A brief survey about meshedsociety.com weekly

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