TW Reads: November 2014

Five of our favorite articles from this month featuring Qinn Norton and Dan Hill.

What is required is not less technology, but more compassion.

Laurie Penny

  • Clockwork City, Responsive City, Predictive City and Adjacent Incumbents
    Dan Hill about the impact of predictive analytics on cities is not only a good critic of some “smart cities thinking.” It also features a convenient list of links to all the problem with Uber (minus the one from this week).
  • Against Productivity
    Quinn Norton might just be our favorite writer of this year. But even by her standard, this an exceptional piece that beautifully questions our common thinking. This one will stick for quite some time.
  • The Dads of Tech
    Astra Taylor and Joanne McNeil are challenging our assumptions about the gendered history of tech. Also, strong criticism of the tech pundit caste.
  • Make technological utopia easier with this one weird trick
    Paul Graham Raven picks up Kevin Kelly’s “desirable-future haikus“ thing and shows how we can have motivating and positively challenging utopias by leaving one all too common specifier out of the equation.
  • Sharing you can Believe in
    Cameron Tonkinwise can look back on more than a decade of researching what is known today as the “sharing economy” (never without the quotes). So he shows us what a complex and serious criticism of this current hype can look like.

What we read this week (16 Mar)

Our articles of the week: one man’s account of leaving Google, PayPal’s digital wallet, libraries of the future, thoughts on the New Aesthetic and some impressive customer service.

Quotes of the week

You want to have a mind that’s open enough to accept radical new ideas, but not so open that your brains fall out.

Michael Shermer

‘Customers’ are a repeating pattern of behaviour that expresses itself in people.

Faris Yakob

Articles of the week

  • James Bridle: #sxaesthetic
    Great commentary on the New Aesthetic and human collaboration with technology, resulting from a panel discussion at SXSW. With cameo appearances by the Higgs Boson, Kafka and Wikileaks.
  • TechCrunch: PayPal’s New Digital Wallet
    PayPal is looking to “let consumers do things with their money that have never been possible before.” Will these new options prove more convenient, or more problematic?
  • Undercurrent: How Bergdorf Goodman is Killing it in Digital
    Derrick Bradley recounts “one of the most pleasant digital encounters with a brand.” Bergdorf Goodman’s customer service went a couple small steps further than one would expect, making a huge difference in Derrick’s experience.
  • James Whittaker: Why I Left Google
    James Whittaker explains how “sharing” became a bee in Google’s bonnet, and how the ensuing social-oriented projects eventually led him to leave the company.
  • Rachel Coldicutt: The Joys of Having Nothing to Read
    Rachel Coldicutt of Caper gave this talk last year as part of the London Word Festival. Here she tells us why the libraries of the future shouldn’t make it too easy for us to find what we’re after: in other words, why they should “offer you sprouts when what you want is ice cream.”

What we read this week (9 Dec)

This week our weekly reads feature thoughts in innovation and neoteny, the post-digital world, on magazines as brands, an institutional crisis as well as the internet of things.

Quotes of the week

The Internet isn’t really a technology, it’s a belief system – a philosophy.

Joi Ito

The problem isn’t you. The problem is the problem.

Steven Pressfield

Articles of the week

  • The Internet, innovation and learning
    Joi Ito regularly writes about innovation, particularly the cultural aspects inside organizations that foster innovation. The internet as a whole is facing issues similar to many institutions – concretely through regulation efforts. Here, he points out how neoteny – the retention of childlike attributions in adulthood – can help us both innovate and save the internet.
  • The Guardian: Welcome to the post-digital world, an exhilarating return to civility – via Facebook and Lady Gaga
    “Post-digital is not anti-digital. It extends digital into the beyond. The web becomes not a destination in itself but a route map to somewhere real.” Simon Jenkins on the post-digital.
  • Megan Garber: The personal(ized) brand: Yet another reason The Economist is trouncing competitors
    The Nieman Lab looks at the way the Economist adapts to a rapidly changing news marketplace, with a focus on the magazine as a brand, and on emerging consumption and sharing patterns. A must read if you work in media.
  • More than just digital quilting
    The Economist compares the maker movement with their Arduinos and 3D printers to the hobby computer movement of the 70s. Could it also change how science is taught and foster innovation? We think so.
  • Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis
    Clay Shirky, one of the most prolific researchers on all things media & business models, shares his view on the future of news. Particularly, he sees a risk in trying to back the established news institutions and rather calls for open-minded experimentation instead. We couldn’t agree more.
  • In Defense of Friction
    Andrés Monroy-Hernández, a Berkman Fellow, on why automation of social behaviors – the frictionless sharing that Facebook is building – can be harmful for social relations.
  • The New York Times: Reveal
    The New York Times R&D Labs came out with a quite interesting prototype. Combining an internet-enabled screen/mirror, a Microsoft Kinect and some speech recognition in one case, they created a bathroom mirror that can show you the weather, news, or your personal health data. This is something we’ve seen as design studies for years, but here it is, and it looks surprisingly smooth and, well, unobtrusive. This is one to watch, and there will soon be more like it. In fact, we expect a whole new market segment to emerge here over the next few years.
  • Homesense: Final Report
    Georgina Voss and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino ran the Homesense project for two years, and helped a number of households enhance their homes through networked technology. (No internet fridges, though!) Here’s the final report with their key findings.

What we read this week (25 Nov)

Payment isn’t the future of NFC, Facebook is ruining sharing, privacy online is hard (so here are a few pointers), the US are building a firewall and Amber Case shares her mind-blowing tech setup. Enjoy!

  • Why payment isn’t the future of NFC
    Janne Jalkanen knows a things or two about NFC. Before becoming the CTO of the up and coming Finnish startup Thinglink, he worked for Nokia and was there known as ‘The Godfather of NFC’. Here he muses about why mobile payment is by far not the most interesting way to use NFC and what he hopes for that will come out of this technology. (➟ Instapaper)
  • CNET: How Facebook is ruining sharing
    Molly Wood share a very good analysis of the new “frictionless” sharing mechanisms in Facebook. They might not be such a good idea after all, and it’s obvious already that they make us more hesitant to click on links inside the social network. (➟ Instapaper)
  • Facebook is Gaslighting the Web. We Can Fix It
    Anil Dash with a scathing analysis of Facebook’s content sharing policies: Facebook has moved from merely being a walled garden into openly attacking its users’ ability and willingness to navigate the rest of the web. The evidence that this is true even for sites which embrace Facebook technologies is overwhelming, and the net result is that Facebook is gaslighting users into believing that visiting the web is dangerous or threatening. (➟ Instapaper)
  • Debating Privacy in a Networked World for the WSJ
    Researcher Danah Boyd shares indepth insights into the way privacy works online, and gives pointers for companies to get it right. (➟ Instapaper)
  • NYTimes: Firewall Law Could Infringe on Free Speech
    Rebecca MacKinnon, founder of Global Voices, summarizes the damage the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act would have – a bill discussed in the US House of Representatives that would emulate China’s system of corporate “self-discipline,” making companies liable for users’ actions. The burden would be on the Web site operator to prove that the site was not being used for copyright infringement. The effect on user-generated sites like YouTube would be chilling. (➟ Instapaper)
  • The Setup of Amber Case
    True geeks that we are, we love to learn how our peers set up their technology infrastructure. UseThis asked UX Designer and Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case about her tech setup, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Mind=blown. (➟ Instapaper)
  • HBR: The Question That Will Change Your Organization
    Polly Labarre with a great reminder why questions rule. (➟ Instapaper)
  • Everything is a service
    Service is kinda big these days, nothing new here. But Dave Gray of Dachis Group has written a big article, connecting a lot of dots and giving a great overview about the change in our economy. (➟ Instapaper)
  • HBR: What I Learned Building the Apple Store
    Ron Johnson, CEO of J.C. Penney and former senior VP for retail at Apple, about how you don’t need Apple products to be successful in retail. (➟ Instapaper)
  • On Systems and Strategy
    Clay Parker Jones, another brilliant mind at Undercurrent, “explores the features of adaptable systems and puts forward four key things that will help you design strategies that don’t suck.” He looks at a lot of real world systems and how their creators try to fail proof them (sometimes without success). (➟ Instapaper)
  • Luddite legacy
    Technology is now killing jobs faster than it’s creating new ones. And more and more, the machines don’t even need workers to operate them. The only way to create new jobs today is to go for the things that “make people human”. (➟ Instapaper)

Btw. we really like what Evernote has done with Clearly, a Chrome extension that, similar to Readability, allows you to read content on the web in a much more comfortable fashion. If you read the articles above in Chrome, we highly recommend using Clearly.