Weekly Links & Thoughts #155

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. Published every Wednesday/Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.f

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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

  • Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy? (newsroom.fb.com, 2)
    Facebook is currently building a case against itself with blog posts investigating how social media might be bad for people and democracy. It’s probably unprecedented for a company to do such a thing. But of course Facebook is also an unprecedented type of company, and its leadership knows that people probably won’t just quit using Facebook in large numbers (and even if so, there’s Instagram and WhatsApp). We’ll see about where all this leads. In any case, this post by Harvard professor Cass R. Sunstein on the phenomenon of group polarization is well worth a read. I see this dynamic play out on both sides of the political spectrum: Positions become increasingly extreme and dogmatic. The theory of group polarization offers a possible explanation for why this happens.
  • “Mobs” vs “Crowds” (jjbeshara.com, 2)
    On the difference between mobs and crowds, and why everyone is constantly exposed to attempts for mob-recruitment, where power is given to volume, and wisdom gets run over.
  • The Dangers of Elite Projection (humantransit.org, 1)
    This is a widespread phenomenon among tech pundits: “Elite projection is the belief, among relatively fortunate and influential people, that what those people find convenient or attractive is good for the society as a whole.”
  • Are Driverless Cars the Future of Transport or the Last Gasp of the Automobile? (medium.com, 2)
    Some call the common assumption that self-driving cars will fundamentally transform urban transport an “elite projection”.
  • The end of the conference era (marco.org, 1)
    YouTube has possibly killed the conference era.
  • Smart Speakers and Clocks (naofumi.castle104.com, 1)
    Why do people put clocks into the rooms of their apartments and houses? Could smart speaker adoption be driven by the same underlying desire to easily be able to retrieve critical information? Intriguing line of thought.
  • Amazon Go Has the Potential to Change How Customers Think About Automation (adweek.com, 1)
    Amazon’s newly opened cashier-less store in Seattle “has the potential to change shopper expectations on how fast a transaction can go”. Also, read Ben Thompson’s analysis of Amazon’s strategy with this store concept.
  • The radical re-writing of European tech ecosystems (medium.com, 2)
    Within a comparatively short amount of time, Paris has positioned itself as one of Europe’s most promising tech hubs. Mattias Ljungman of European VC firm Atomico uses this example to explain the important role of vibrant tech ecosystems for any economy that wants to be a global leader – and for Europe as a whole.
  • Geoblocked Europe fails to clear hurdle on video streaming legislation (tech.eu, 2)
    Then again, it’s depressing how challenging it is to “defragment” Europe’s digital industry.
  • Forging a Swiss Lens: How Zurich’s tech scene changed my view of Silicon Valley (nextrends.swissnexsanfrancisco.org, 2)
    Comparing the living and work conditions in Switzerland and California (or the U.S. in general) is probably unfair. But that alone says something.
  • Tinder’s Lack of Encryption Lets Strangers Spy on Your Swipes (wired.com, 2)
    It is actually quite embarrassing that Tinder still isn’t fully encrypted. On a more general note, this is really a problem with native apps compared to web apps. With web apps in general, you see whether you are on a secure connection, indicated in the URL bar. When it comes to native apps, there is no obvious way (that I know of) to check if they transfer data through a secure connection (at least for a security layman like me). And yeah, I know that this blog is not using https either. But at least you don’t do dating here :)
  • Here are some obvious questions about the HomePod (theverge.com, 2)
    Considering that Siri is being offered in dozens of languages, I was expecting Apple to immediately launch its smart speaker HomePod also in markets where neither the Amazon Echo nor Google Home are being sold with local interfaces (like, for example, in the Nordics). But so that won’t happen. Could be a supply-related issue. Or that Apple does not consider the higher priced, music focused HomePod as a competitor to Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers, and therefore doesn’t feel the need to quickly capture markets so far neglected by those two companies. Or, another possible reason: Apple focuses on markets where its music streaming service Apple Music has a sufficiently large user base already, because HomePod will only support Apple Music natively. The Nordics are a Spotify stronghold, for example. Personally, I would like to buy a HomePod – but only once it works with Spotify. If that should ever happen.
  • In the age of algorithms, would you hire a personal shopper to do your music discovery for you? (theverge.com, 2)
    Paid personal curators. I can see that happening more often.
  • “Tweetdecking” Is Taking Over Twitter. Here’s Everything You Need To Know (buzzfeed.com, 2)
    One more addition to the list of “jobs” of the future that are already here: Selling retweets on Twitter.
  • The Rise of the Autonomous Organization (stories.lemonade.com, 2)
    Soon we all might have a lot of “colleagues” who are bots.
  • The Rise of German Board Games (theatlantic.com, 2)
    Awesome trend.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Quotation of the week:

  • “Bitcoin’s mere existence is an insurance policy that will remind governments that the last object establishment could control, namely, the currency, is no longer their monopoly. This gives us, the crowd, an insurance policy against an Orwellian future.”
    Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “Bitcoin” (medium.com, 1)

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