Weekly Links & Thoughts #62

Here is a weekly selection of thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read during the weekend.

Before we get started with this week’s selection, just a quick note: I’ll be attending SXSW in Austin over the next days, so I probably won’t get a lot of reading done. I might skip next week’s reading list or it might be a bit shorter than usual.

If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like about 200 other smart people and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.

  • An invention to die for…
    All excitement about Virtual Reality aside, there is a risk that a large number of people will become hooked to the virtual world to an extent which could harm their psychological and physical well-being. Gaming and Internet addiction is not a new phenomenon of course. But VR’s high level of immersion will for sure have an even stronger impact on its users.
  • Silicon Valley Then and Now: To Invent the Future, You Must Understand the Past
    An insightful long read from 2015 detailing the formation and rise of the Silicon Valley. The text helps to understand the power of a self-perpetuating eco system and why it is so hard to build something similar elsewhere.
  • Is group chat making you sweat?
    Jason Fried came up with an extensive list of things that are annoying about group chats on messaging apps. All true, yet group chats are a fantastic way to informally and loosely but on a personal level keep in touch with a significant number of people.
  • Contracts And Chaos: Inside Uber’s Customer Service Struggles
    This Buzzfeed piece received a lot attention for revealing a significant number of rape and sexual harassment cases reported by Uber passengers. But the article is also pretty insightful when it comes to how Uber handles customer complaints internally.
  • RIP Google PageRank score: A retrospective on how it ruined the web
    PageRank, Google’s legendary score for evaluating the popularity and relevancy of a website, has been the center of attention for a whole industry of website owners and search engine optimizers. But while it helped the search engine to improve its search results, it also incentivized widespread unethical and malicious behavior. That could be one of the reasons for why Google, after more than a decade, has stopped publishing PageRank information for everyone to see.
  • Bitcoin and Diversity
    Ben Thompson begins this post with outlining the current conflict dividing the Bitcoin community, which he sees as an example of a common dilemma for the information age: Even if humans increasingly hand over systematic processes and decisions to machines, the underlying rules are still human-made, and they have been created based on the same cultural, ideological and historical baggage and norms that influence human thinking and decision making.
  • Digital globalization: The new era of global flows
    Globalization is evolving. These days it primarily is characterized by data and information flowing between countries.
  • Data Is a Toxic Asset
    Companies are harvesting and hoarding data as if it was gold. But what if data actually is a toxic asset? I have never thought about it that way but it’s thought-provoking.
  • Facebook is eating the world
    About the irresistible, magnetic force with which Facebook is pulling whole media outlets and journalistic work into its universe.
  • BMW Sees Its Future Shift to Ultimate Self-Driving Machine
    Over the past 60 editions of this weekly link list, there probably have been at least half a dozen mentions of Tesla and Google’s self-driving cars each, but very few of traditional car manufacturers who seemed to suffer from the innovator’s dilemma. But lately it seems as if the incumbents are waking up. Good to see. More fun for everyone and more competition.
  • How Tech is Killing Off Independent Pizzerias
    In many areas of the consumer Internet, the winner takes it all. It looks as if in the connected economy, the underlying dynamic of this rule – a concentration of power and market share in the hands of a few – also applies to more traditional sectors.
  • Estonia is using the technology behind bitcoin to secure 1 million health records
    This must be one of the first cases in which a government uses the Blockchain for administrative purposes. Completely unsurprising that Estonia, known for being Europe’s leader when it comes to e-government and use of digital technology for administration and citizen services, is pushing ahead.
  • The Perils of “Hope Labor”: How Patreon Is Failing Starving Artists
    A critical take on Patreon, the San Francisco-based service which allows fans and supporters of creators to donate small amounts of money. I wrote about Patreon here. The author is right with that in the end, like basically everywhere else in society, a few protagonists manage to receive the lion’s share of the attention and donations. But I consider that to be the natural course of things.
  • Has Twitter’s Change Of Heart Worked? Here’s The Data
    A few days ago I tweeted that Twitter’s move to change the “star” feature into a “heart” feature did not affect how I use this functionality. However, at least according to this analysis conducted by a third-party company, the heart element is seeing more user engagement than its predecessor. Maybe my observation of my own behavior is wrong. Or some Twitter users who always ignored the star have begun to use the heart gesture.
  • Welcome To The 15 Second Song
    Why do typical pop songs are structured the way they are, and why are they mostly 3-4 minutes long? It’s what radio wanted. Now that interactive apps and online services transform the role and meaning of music, the conventional norms of pop music are under attack.
  • “No Man’s Sky” creator: No, I don’t feel like god
    A follow-up about the fascinating Universe simulation game “No Man’s Sky”.  I consider buying a Playstation 4 just to be able to try this game.

Recent articles on meshedsociety.com

  • Apple vs FBI: The possible end of encryption
    The FBI wants Apple to unlock an encrypted iPhone through a backdoor. How this conflict will end is open, but out of the two main scenarios, one would have huge negative consequences for the whole technology industry as well as for each and every individual. Here is what could happen.
  • The supposed disadvantages of digital technology
    Three seemingly unrelated recent events involving Apple, Waze and one of Google’s self-driving car sactually can be seen in the same context.

Cartoon of the week

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