meshedsociety weekly #219

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 miss blind, dumb enthusiasm for new tech (thenextweb.com, 5 minutes)
    It’s been 10 years since Google unveiled Google Wave (the older ones among you might remember). Martin Bryant expresses how he misses those days when the tech (blogger/journalist) crowd got enthusiastic about the latest thing to try out, instead of immediately pondering how a new product or service might make the world worse (which often is today’s default mode). I sometimes miss those times too. But reality has caught up. Back then, we very stupid and too naive. This only could last so long. In 2019, for better or worse, everything is political. Particularly tech. And therefore, it is being treated accordingly. A lot has changed in tech and the world since 2009.
  • Google Can’t Figure Out What YouTube Is (onezero.medium.com, 7 minutes)
    YouTube is a different thing for different people, and it tries to cater to all of them, which means that maybe it cannot excel at anything.
  • How Phonies and self-promoters came to rule the world (theage.com.au, 22 minutes)
    Our obsession with money and susceptibility to charisma, over-confidence and surface gloss have propelled us into an age where sham, spin, trickery and twaddle have become the new norms, writes Shelley Gare. This part from her piece is really crushing: “Each day, just by absorbing the news headlines, or turning on our devices and opening our email or hopping onto Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, we find ourselves navigating a shifting landscape of spin, sham, fake news, false claims, phishing, pretense, exaggeration, obfuscation, contradiction, empty promises, extravagant PR and outright lies, scams and fraud. And that’s before we head into work.”
  • Fintech startup Transferwise has turned employees into millionaires (sifted.eu, 4 minutes)
    Talking about money… When you join a startup and accept the often less-than-stellar working conditions, then this is really what you would hope for: The London-based fintech Transferwise has minted 33 new millionaires, bringing the total number of employees or investors with six-figure holdings in the payments company to more than 150.
  • Crowds (thereformedbroker.com, 6 minutes)
    Once crowds discover a formerly unexploited opportunity and throw money and technology at it – whether on Mount Everest, in investing, in podcasting, music festivals or craft beers – the very opportunity (at least in its original meaning) is gone.
  • There Is Too Much Stuff (theatlantic.com, 6 minutes)
    When you type “hangers” into Amazon’s search box, the mega-retailer delivers “over 200,000” options.
  • Blockchains and the “Intelligent Machine” Economy (medium.com, 9 minutes)
    What blockchain technology actually is good for beyond utopian fantasies still remains an open question. Tory Green has one of the more compelling suggestions: The blockchain will act as the “glue” that holds the emerging “intelligent machine” economy – consisting of hundreds of billions of connected devices – together and will facilitate transactions in these decentralized networks.
  • A City Is Not a Computer (placesjournal.org, 18 minutes)
    Tech firms want to reinvent the city, and optimizing it following the ideology and principles that worked for the computer and the web. But is that desirable for the future of cities? Shannon Mattern doesn’ think so, and she outlines why she rejects the metaphor of cities as computers.
  • The potentially seedy side of the hotel bed jumping community (thespinoff.co.nz, 7 minutes)
    From the “weird things social media brought us” department.
  • What Airbnb’s New Fee Structure Means for Travelers (thepointsguy.com, 9 minutes)
    Airbnb is one of the few sites for accommodations that charges travelers guest fees, which are being added during the final booking step. In order to better compete with hotel chains and online travel agencies, that is about to change, with implications for hosts and guests alike.
  • The Serene Pleasure of Watching People Cook in the Chinese Countryside (eater.com, 4 minutes)
    Good stuff. I’m getting hungry. Here are some clips.
  • The end of mobile (ben-evans.com, 4 minutes)
    About 5 billion people own a mobile phone, of which 4 billion own a smartphone. It’s the end of the story of the rise of the mobile phone (and smartphone). Now, what’s next?
  • Google’s Chrome Becomes Web ‘Gatekeeper’ and Rivals Complain (bloomberg.com, 7 minutes)
    Talk about domination: Chrome is the clear leader in the browser market, so it controls how the standards are set. Most other major browsers are now built on the Chromium software code base that Google maintains. 
  • Shut down social media platforms, ex-Facebook adviser urges (cbc.ca, 3 minutes)
    Roger McNamee, Mark Zuckerberg’s former mentor and an early investor in Facebook, who lately turned into one of the company’s biggest critics, suggests that countries should shut down Facebook, at least temporarily, in order to protect citizens’ privacy online and curb the spread of disinformation.
  • The iPod of VR is here, and you should try it (fastcompany.com, 5 minutes)
    Apparently, the new VR headset Quest by Facebook-owned Oculus is pretty good (although here is a critical take on the pricing of the device and games). Too bad for me. Moving forward, I personally will not let another Facebook-owned product into my life. There is no trust left.
  • Mass Appropriation, Radical Remixing, and the Democratization of AI Art (artnome.com, 13 minutes)
    The upcoming democratization of artificial intelligence for artists and designers will drive a revolution in aesthetics and art, writes Jason Bailey.
  • An Interview With A Man Who Eats Leftover Food From Strangers’ Plates In Restaurants (theconcourse.deadspin.com, 11 minutes)
    This was probably my favorite read this week. Like so often, if you closely inspect a social norm, it starts to look pretty strange.
  • Why are we rich but hopeless (invertedpassion.com, 8 minutes)
    Astute observation by Paras Chopra: “As we collectively pursue progress, what we become angry about is the loss that we’re incapable of anticipating at the time of conceiving our progressive visions”.

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meshedsociety weekly #218

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).

  • Smartphones Are Toys First, Tools Second (raptitude.com, 6 minutes)
    The possibilities for individual flourishing that were introduced with smartphones are almost endless. Yet, many people are desperately exploring strategies to reduce their smartphone use. Why this conflict? David Cain: The smartphone “might be the most compelling object ever created and not because of its value as a tool, but because of its value as a toy.
  • Hobbling Huawei: How America woke up to the threat from 5G (reuters.com, 17 minutes)
    Due to the transience of daily news, it’s easy to miss the significance of the geopolitical conflict surrounding Huawei. This looks like the beginning of a technology cold war between China and the US, and 5G is at the heart of it.
  • America’s newest stock exchange wants to fix one of capitalism’s fundamental challenges (vox.com, 9 minutes)
    Eric Ries, the author of one of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurship bibles, “The learn startup”, is creating a new stock exchange, called “Long-Term Stock Exchange”. It’s mission is in the name: Fighting the short-termism that characterizes the incumbents.
  • Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard on Mindful Consumption (bthechange.com, 16 minutes)
    Great read! I find the philosophy of mindful consumption more compelling and promising for achieving a collective reduction of emissions than the environmentalist dogma of sacrifice as a moral virtue. Mindful consumption is not that hard, actually. In the end, one just has to ask oneself two questions: Is the thing one is about to buy really needed? Or does it create actual happiness? Admittedly, prerequisite is awareness of the workings of one’s mind, which require its own effort. The author’s experience resembles mine, as well: “In recent years, as my mindfulness practice has deepened, I naturally began buying less stuff”.
  • All London Underground users will be track using Wi-Fi (wired.co.uk, 6 minutes)
    Researching how people move through utilizing the Wi-Fi sensors of their smartphones. Smart (and possibly not too intrusive, although it depends).
  • The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet (onezero.medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Yancey Strickler writes about the flocking towards online spaces where “depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments” (such as newsletters, podcasts, private chat groups), and the possible negative consequences for individual influence. Personally, I worry about a scenario in which the loudest, most extreme, most neurotic people are those left with the online megaphones (who then are being amplified by traditional media), whereas people who understand that constant arguing and engaging in outrage on social media is bad for their sanity and well-being, withdraw. My impression is that this trend is in full effect (and I am complicit because I withdrew, too).
  • The platform patrons (cjr.org, 19 minutes)
    Facebook and Google have committed more than half a billion dollars to various journalistic programs and media partnerships over the past three years. These mega-platforms are now two of the largest funders of journalism in the world.
  • Google’s Duplex Uses A.I. to Mimic Humans (Sometimes) (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    This is just so surreal: Google launched Duplex as a technology which, at this stage, is capable of calling restaurants and booking a table, while sounding like a human. But in 25 percent of the calls, an actual human is doing the live-talking. However, the person on other end doesn’t know whether she/he is speaking to a machine pretending to be a human, or to a human who sounds exactly like a machine acting like a human.
  • SoFar Sounds house concerts raises $25M, but bands get just $100 (techcrunch.com, 4 minutes)
    A London-based startup called SoFar lets musicians play in intimate venues, such as people’s living rooms or small shops. The company pays $100 per band for a 25 minute set according to the article, and keeps the rest – which can be significantly more, depending on the number of attendees.
  • Minecraft Earth Wants to Be the Next Pokémon Go—But Bigger (wired.com, 8 minutes)
    This could turn into something big: Microsoft plans to launch a global, augmented-reality version of its cult game Minecraft.
  • Automakers Are Rethinking the Timetable for Fully Autonomous Cars (designnews.com, 9 minutes)
    Was there really anyone who seriously believed that this technology would be ready to be deployed at a large-scale within a few years?! Technological challenges aside, I still see the ethical dimension as the biggest obstacle. There simply is much less acceptance for any fatality caused by a computer driver than caused by a human driver, for all kinds of reasons, rational and irrational ones. Which means that as long as self-driving cars won’t be absolutely perfect (if that is even possible), their break-through will be severely hampered. A workaround could be the introduction of a dedicated road system which is exclusively reserved for self-driving cars, and which basically comes with a new, opt-in ethical framework. Such a system could then slowly expand.
  • Habits always form (m.signalvnoise.com, 1 minutes)
    Short and wise: Most of the habits we have are habits we ended up with after years of unconscious behavior. So it’s good to be aware of that process, which is happening with every single thing we do.
  • Precrastination: The Dark Side of Getting Things Done (nickwignall.com, 9 minutes)
    Wow, I had never put a label on this mechanism, but I certainly know it too well, and most likely some of you do, too: “Pre-crastination is the compulsion to immediately work on new tasks, despite long-term costs and tradeoffs.”
  • What Happens When You Always Wear Headphones (theatlantic.com, 3 minutes)
    “Urban Millennials like me don’t inhabit a world that allows for much privacy. We’ve been squeezed into closely packed offices, closely packed subway cars, and closely packed apartments. Everyone else’s noises are constantly everywhere, so your head is the only personal space you can get.”
  • Toward a New Frontier in Human Intelligence: The Person-Centered Approach (blogs.scientificamerican.com, 10 minutes)
    With the adoption of new technologies, researchers have begun to view an individual’s intelligence at a more microscopic level, able to capture all sorts of fascinating variations – across days, within days, and even moment-to-moment. That might undermine the validity of the IQ score, which represents a one-time intellectual deviation from other people who all took the test at different times in a sterile testing environment. Related: “IQ rates are dropping in many developed countries“.
  • Facebook’s A.I. Whiz Now Faces the Task of Cleaning It Up. Sometimes That Brings Him to Tears. (nytimes.com, 14 minutes)
    Would you want to work at Facebook as the person in charge of building the automated tools to sort through and erase the millions of posts with toxic content?! I seriously thought to myself “poor guy” while reading.
  • This Software Giant Runs on One Man’s Gut (bloomberg.com, 6 minutes)
    Marc Benioff, chairman and co-chief executive officer of CRM giant Salesforce.com, apparently has a reputation as an “emotional buyer”. “Sometimes he’ll buy a company during a meeting that had nothing to do with acquisition talks”.

Podcast episode of the week:

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meshedsociety weekly #217

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 Tyranny of Ideas (nadiaeghbal.com, 7 minutes)
    What if you see the world through a lens in which it is run by ideas, rather than people? Nadia Eghbal writes about this thought-provoking perspective, in which people are intermediaries, voice boxes for some persistent idea-virus that’s seized upon them and is speaking through their corporeal form.
  • I turned my interview task for Google into a startup (uxdesign.cc, 5 minutes)
    He didn’t get the job but made the best (or the better?) out of it.
  • Sorry, your hardware is all software now (staceyoniot.com, 5 minutes)
    Google decided to turn Nest smart home devices that were once capable of independent communication with other devices into a zombie controlled by Google Home. It highlights an ongoing challenge for the sector: Smart products behave more like software than hardware.
  • Unraveling The JPEG (parametric.press, 19 minutes)
    A deep dive into the compression magic of the JPEG file format. “As we unravel the layers of compression, we learn a bit about perception and vision, and about what details our eyes are most sensitive to.”
  • What is the opposite of guacamole? (aiweirdness.com, 2 minutes)
    The hilarious results of tasking an AI with showing the opposite of an object on an image.
  • Evidence that pop music is getting sadder and angrier (bbc.com, 7 minutes)
    An algorithm analyzed the lyrics of 6,150 Billboard Hot 100 singles from 1951 to 2016. It revealed that the expressions of anger and disgust roughly doubled over those 65 years, for instance, while fear increased by more than 50%.
  • Study Finds Most Ransomware Solutions Just Pay Out Crypto (coindesk.com, 4 minutes)
    Companies that offer solutions to other companies that fell victim of ransomware might pretend to be specialists in fixing the problem with software, but according to a new study, they sometimes simply pay the ransom.
  • Only 4% of people trust what influencers say online (thedrum.com, 3 minutes)
    Do “influencers” deserve their label if almost nobody trusts them? However, of course it is possible that people are still influenced even though they claim not to trust an “influencer”.
  • How Silicon Valley’s successes are fueled by an underclass of ‘ghost workers’ (theverge.com, 9 minutes)
    Interview with Mary L. Gray who wrote a book about the invisible labor that powers our technology platforms. According to Gray, the great paradox of AI is that the desire to eliminate human work generates new tasks for humans.
  • A Geocode Is Not an Address (wired.com, 5 minutes)
    Geocoding systems such as the one devised by a company called What3Words offer unique codes that correspond to geographic coordinates. They are supposedly helpful for regions with inadequate or non-existing address systems. But on a philosophical level, they cannot be a full substitute.
  • The Slippery Slope of In-Product Messaging (matthewstrom.com, 4 minutes)
    Lots of apps are utilizing in-app education such as a chatbot or guided tours for new users. But investment in in-product education can limit user experience, as convincingly outlined in this piece. Like in the physical world, it might be smarter to design a tool so it is intuitively understood, instead of having to actively inform people how to use it.
  • How to thrive in an unknowable future (sivers.org, 2 minutes)
    If you like me find value in stoicism and buddhist philosophy, then you might find these suggestions proposed by Derek Sivers in 2016 inspirational or simply recognize them as the way how you look at things. Otherwise, they possibly sound extreme.
  • Part Of The Conversation (lefsetz.com, 6 minutes)
    Music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz muses about people’s need to be part of a conversation (like him I have never watched Game of Thrones, which means not being part of the GoT conversation), the fragmentation in media consumption, and the huge potential for the company that creates the product that brings in everybody.
  • Even Astronauts Binge-Watch TV While in Space (theatlantic.com, 5 minutes)
    Astronaut Drew Feustel had watched all seven seasons of Game of Thrones while on the International Space Station.
  • When Did it Became Impossible to Say, ‘I Don’t Know’? (melmagazine.com, 7 minutes)
    I suspect that most people prefer to pretend having a clue instead of admitting that they don’t know because they intuitively understand that they, themselves, fall for this when others practice this. We are easily tricked by well-presented confidence and therefore we know that employing this approach often is effective. Just my theory.
  • How scooter startups Tier and Voi plan to conquer Germany (sifted.eu, 6 minutes)
    True to the stereotype, before letting e-scooters onto its cities’ streets, Germany had to create the appropriate rules and legal framework. Now, if nothing unexpected happens, the various protagonists finally are able to enter this potentially big market.
  • One year later, restaurants are still confused by Google Duplex (theverge.com, 7 minutes)
    For people working in restaurants in the US, receiving automated, but human-sounding calls from Google Duplex still is a weird confusing experience. However, it also represents a polite type of caller.
  • Against Advice (thepointmag.com, 6 minutes)
    When someone is found to have specialized knowledge that provokes public engagement and interest, you can bet she will be asked to offer suggestions as to how others might follow in her footsteps. And you can bet those suggestions will be useless.”

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meshedsociety weekly #216

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).

  • Fortnite is free, but kids are getting bullied into spending money (polygon.com, 11 minutes)
    The thing kids playing Fortnite want to avoid at all costs: Playing with the default skin, which comes with a significant social stigma, gets them bullied as well as called “default” (which in that context is an insult).
  • These Robotic Objects Are Designed to Be Stabbed and Beaten to Help You Feel Better (spectrum.ieee.org, 8 minutes)
    Researcher Michal Luria and her colleagues created the concept of “cathartic objects”: robotic contraptions that you can beat, stab, smash, and swear at to help yourself feel better; devices that are specifically designed for letting humans vent negative emotions.
  • It’s Time to Break Up Facebook (nytimes.com, 25 minutes)
    In my eyes, it matters comparatively little that the author of this lengthy opinion piece is Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who left the company in 2007. His opinion is as good (or bad) as the one of any other expert. What matters more is the argumentation and ideas put forward. He suggests, among other things, that Facebook should be forced to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp into independent companies. Such a step would definitely change the power dynamics in the social web and messaging space and make the whole sector competitive again. And it would put the original Facebook under quite some pressure, because suddenly, there won’t be a fallback anymore.
  • Rethinking digital service design could reduce their environmental impact (bristol.ac.uk, 3 minutes)
    Fascinating: If YouTube would avoid sending video to users who only want to listen to audio, the estimated reduction in CO2 emissions would correspondent to the annual carbon footprint of 30,000 UK homes.
  • Learning to sell the iPhone (sixcolors.com, 8 minutes)
    For a very long time, Apple didn’t need to make much of an attempt to actually sell iPhones. That has changed. Nowadays, employees at Apple retail stores are apparently actually expected to move the product.
  • On the Utility Fallacy (calnewport.com, 3 minutes)
    Useful concept: The utility fallacy is the tendency, when evaluating the impact of a technology, to confine your attention to comparing the technical features of the new technology to what it replaced. In reality, the more important story is almost always how the technology ends up mutating our socio-cultural dynamics.
  • The Information Diet (futurecrun.ch, 15 minutes)
    What if one would approach information consumption through a similar framework as one would use to accomplish a healthy diet? Compelling framing of a real problem: widespread over-consumption of junk information/news.
  • The Case for Modern Productivity Tools (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    An increasing number of startups are realizing the power of spreadsheets and the spreadsheet “metaphor” as an end-user development approach. The target group are users who don’t see themselves as programmers but want to create their own “IT solutions”.
  • On Social Machines for Algorithmic Regulation (PDF) (arxiv.org, 20 minutes)
    Easy-to-read research paper exploring how even without China-style official governmental planning, an algorithmically-shaped and -controlled society could emerge, and what the technological, ethical and political implications would be.
  • History of the Capital AI & Market Failures in the Attention Economy (kortina.nyc, 28 minutes)
    A thought-provoking analogy: In the same way as a well-intended and on paper useful AI can have ill-designed structures and incentives leading to undesirable feedback loops and outcomes, the same can apply to capitalism. And instead of giving up on all the benefits of these systems, its better to improve them and to re-align the incentives.
  • AI tech generates entire bodies of people who don’t exist (ctvnews.ca, 2 minutes)
    An AI developed in Japan can now generate high-resolution, photorealistic renderings of bodies, faces, clothing and hair of people who don’t exist. Online fashion stores might love that technology. Their human models probably not.
  • The Challenge of Abundance: Boredom, Meaning, and the Struggle of Mental Freedom (singularityhub.com, 7 minutes)
    In a world of abundance, which we never have been closer to than today, a massive challenge emerges: to come to grips with our own individuality and freedom.
  • Markets Are 10X Bigger Than Ever (blog.eladgil.com, 6 minutes)
    Valuations of tech companies as well as the size of financing rounds and IPOs keeps growing, and one simple explanation is that software markets and businesses today are several times bigger than they were 10-15 years ago.
  • Airbnb Spawned an Ecosystem of Startups (bloomberg.com, 5 minutes)
    Along with the rise of Airbnb, money has been pouring into digital travel startups that help keep the noise low and the sheets crisp.
  • Spotify’s leanback instant listening app Stations hits iOS (techcrunch.com, 3 minutes)
    For years, I have been wishing for Spotify to release a secondary, highly simplified single-purpose app. In Australia, Spotify is now testing a minimalist mobile app which gives direct access to various types of stations.
    I hope they’ll expand this concept. I’d have nothing against multiple Spotify-operated special-purpose apps. One for playlists, one for podcasts, one for audiobooks…
  • The hyper-specialist shops of Berlin (theguardian.com, 9 minutes)
    The German capital hosts the world’s first specialist ant shop, and that’s just one of the surprisingly large number of shops in Berlin that sell only one thing.

Video of the week

  • A Conversation with Mark Zuckerberg and Yuval Noah Harari (newsroom.fb.com)
    I found myself totally captivated by this 90 minute long exchange between author Yuval Noah Harari (who does not need any introduction to this audience, I’m sure) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a truly amazing chat, and despite having been organized by Facebook itself, does not feel like a corporate publishing at all (except visually. On what planet did the spaceship land in which this was filmed?!) Harari’s takes and arguments are pretty inconvenient to Zuckerberg and Facebook. Kudos to the company for having done that. It’s great to see Zuckerberg patiently exposing himself to the type of critical view points put forward by Harari.

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meshedsociety weekly #215

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).

  • Software, the Tough Tomato Principle, and the Great Weirdening of the World (florentcrivello.com, 12 minutes)
    Florent Crivello invents the “Tough Tomato Principle” as an iteration of Marshall McLuhan’s famous “The medium is the message”: We make tools so they accommodate the world; until the world remolds itself so it accommodates our tools. Currently our world is remolding itself to software.
  • Microsoft, currently the most valuable company, is having a Nadellaissance (bloomberg.com, 15 minutes)
    Microsoft survived an innovator’s dilemma as well as an identity crisis, thanks to its CEO Satya Nadella. How did he do it? One important thing was radically de-emphasizing the Windows brand and massively focusing on the cloud. According to the text, he also has “no swagger”.
  • Jack Dorsey Is Gwyneth Paltrow for Silicon Valley (nytimes.com, 6 minutes
    Besides his jobs as CEO of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey has become a lifestyle guru with a loyal following.
  • What I learned moving from my smart home to an apartment (staceyoniot.com, 6 minutes)
    For those who are embracing the smart home, moving may become a bit more of a mentally complicated task
  • Google Is Eating Our Mail (tablix.org, 5 minutes)
    The problem with one email client being so dominant like Gmail: If it rejects emails (like in this case from a private email server) for illegitimate reasons, it undermines a lot of the technology’s traditional strengths and open philosophy.
  • How to Write Email with Military Precision (hbr.org, 4 minutes)
    Writing an email like described in this piece from 2016 might be efficient, but how would recipients feel about the robotic tone?
  • The Efficiency Delusion (onezero.medium.com, 9 minutes)
    On the technology industry’s obsession with removing friction and seeing everything as an efficiency problem, and the wider implications: “Some human or civic interactions thrive when they’re deliberate and erode when they’re sped up.
  • 22 Things I Learned as a Tech Entrepreneur (The Hard Way) (innospective.net, 14 minutes)
    Great collection of startup wisdom.
  • This Estonian Start-Up Has Become a Thorn in Uber’s Side (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    Might Bolt have the potential to become a serious European Uber rival?
  • Estonia’s e-revolution rolls on: Now it’s first in Europe with cross-border e-prescriptions (zdnet.com, 4 minutes)
    While we are at the topic of Estonia: The country has implemented Europe’s first cross-border digital prescription service for residents of Finland. Finns can now buy their medicine prescribed by doctors in Finland at pharmacies in Estonia.
  • The gig economy is quietly undermining a century of worker protections (qz.com, 6 minutes)
    Apart from the flexibility in regards to the schedule, it’s hard to argue against that gig workers’ overall have a more vulnerable position in comparison to employed workers. On the other hand, gig work is most likely better than being unemployed, which some of the gig workers would have been.
  • A Coming Crisis of Cognition (medium.com, 15 minutes)
    Jeff Jarvis ponders the implications of journalism being obsessed with stories and narratives to try to explain human motivation, while growing evidence from neuroscience shows that human behaviors aren’t necessarily driven by clear purposes, ends, or goals.
  • How Twitter Users Compare to the General Public (pewinternet.org, 9 minutes)
    The 10% of users who are most active in terms of tweeting are responsible for 80% of all tweets created by U.S. users.
  • The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over (theatlantic.com, 8 minutes)
    According to Taylor Lorenz (probably the best journalist right now when it comes to stories about youth culture-related social media trends), a year ago an influencer could post a shot with manicured hands on a coffee cup and rake in the likes, while now people will unfollow.
  • Apple employs an in-house philosopher (qz.com, 3 minutes)
    … but he is not allowed to talk about it to the press. Of course not.
  • I Can’t Do Anything for Fun Anymore; Every Hobby Is an Attempt to Make Money (bennettnotes.com, 2 minutes)
    I have kind of the opposite “problem”sometimes: There is an urge in me to protect hobbies (= activities that deliver happiness) from becoming business opportunities (out of worry that this might kill the joy). Related: David Kadavy on why it is important to create for yourself first, not for success.
  • Gallup Global Emotions Report (bbc.com, 2 minutes)
    I find this report fascinating. It doesn’t look at overall happiness but at the presence of positive and negative emotions. The countries where most people report daily positive emotions are all in Latin America.

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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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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.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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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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