Weekly Links & Thoughts #76

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with 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 over the weekend.

If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 200 other smart people (as of June 2016) 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.

  • What If There’s No Next Big Thing?
    Unlike what the title suggests, this essay does not try to argue that one day we’ll be out of new things. But it questions some of the seemingly self-evident assumptions of a culture of technological progress and hypes. Makes you think.
  • I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything
    I  know of people who listen to podcasts with 1.5 or even 2 times the regular speed, but apparently, the same practice also works for TV shows and videos. Interesting account including a look back into the past on how the spoken word and the rise of the written word impacted people’s ability to gather information quickly.
  • How ISIS Became The World’s Deadliest Tech Start-Up
    That’s quite a catchy metaphor.
  • Saudi princess defends Uber: “Change often happens slowly in our ancient kingdom”
    If a Saudi Princess argues that the presence of Uber in the country has a massive positive effect on women’s ability to get around and to start working then one probably should listen. Not because she is a Princess but because she is a Saudi woman and probably knows the reality of women in the country better than people outside. Her final remark is especially noteworthy: “I have no doubt that one day Saudi women will be able to drive off into the sunset. We’ll Uber in the meantime.” That’s the astonishing thing about human cultures: Sometimes, impending changes are widely considered inevitable, yet it is impossible to jointly and through consensus speed up the process to get there.
  • Kickstarter Just Did Something Tech Startups Never Do: It Paid a Dividend
    Gotta love Kickstarter for breaking the norms of the tech industry.
  • Europe’s $1 billion tech companies are starting to outperform their Silicon Valley counterparts
    As an Europe-focused investment bank, one could argue that GP Bullhound is biased. But the comparison of the average yearly revenue certainly looks interesting.
  • Phones without headphone jacks are phones with DRM for audio
    Rumors about Apple’s plan to remove headphone jacks from the next iPhone persist. The move is not in the interest of consumers.
  • Amazon Echo and Alexa really matter
    A bunch of good arguments for the significance of Amazon’s smart-speaker Echo and its personal assistant Alexa.
  • Europe’s robots to become ‘electronic persons’ under draft plan
    “Electronic persons”. Even if this draft won’t lead to further measures right now, this is a fascinating and possibly inevitable idea.
  • Buffer News and Updates Tough News: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs. How We Got Here, the Financial Details and How We’re Moving Forward
    Buffer is the tech industry’s most transparent company and thus always a guarantee for highly educative and informative insights. This post is no exception. A must-read for everyone affiliated with the startup world.
  • Google helps you self-diagnose with its new symptom search
    Sounds like a heaven (or nightmare) for every hypochondriac. But that aside, there is demand. Apparently about 1% of Google’s searches are symptom-related.
  • The Sausage Index: Which Dating Apps Have the Most Dudes?
    An informative (US-centric) look at the online dating landscape featuring various graphs.
  • Any song on SoundCloud can be pressed to vinyl thanks to new service
    From a sound quality perspective, this cannot be good. But the idea itself is amusing. We have gone from digitizing music from analogue recording to putting all music productions online as playlist to pressing the digital songs from these playlists onto analogue recording mediums.
  • Instagram’s growth is astounding, if you ignore the US
    A short post pointing out the two general themes related to Instagram’s milestone of 500 million active users: The app is growing rapidly everywhere except in the U.S. – where Snapchat increasingly outperforms Instagram. Sooner or later, the same will happen elsewhere.
  • Why I think TheDAO is a Success
    Two weeks ago I linked to a piece focusing on The DAO, a crowdfunded investor-directed venture capital fund based on the Ethereum Blockchain and run completely autonomous, made possible by so called “smart contracts” – code that defines the possible actions and rules for everyone participating. Turns out that a flaw in the code allowed for unintended exploitation, which inspired one individual to empty out more than 2 million ether (about $40 million). Now the tricky question: If smart contracts which a group of people have accepted as “rulebook” enable undesired actions, would that be wrongdoing or not? This is what the DAO community has been debating over the past days, following the “hack”. It might sound like geek problems, but in fact one might consider it a crucial philosophical question for the information and computer age: Should code govern organizations/groups instead of decision making committees comprising of humans, and if so, how can this be done in a way consistent with the underlying principles of autonomy yet without becoming unable to adjust the contract if necessary?
  • Sam Altman takes a break from Twitter
    Sam Altman, the president of the Silicon Valley’s famous startup accelerator Y Combinator, is taking a break from Twitter because the platform “rewards negativity”, is “extremely addictive” and makes him “feel worse after using it”. Many others have expressed similar thoughts before.

Recently published on meshedsociety.com

  • The optimal broadband speed
    When your broadband download capability increases from 1 Mbits to 50 Mbits, it’s a game changer. But if you upgrade from a 250 Mbits to 500 Mbits connection, there basically is no difference in the user experience. Doesn’t that dynamic sound familiar? Yes, it’s pretty much the same as with money.

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