What we read this week (31 Aug)

Where innovation ends and natural behavior begins, why targeted ads are so creepy, why young people aren’t buying cars, how we use our variety of screens for different purposes, and what design fiction is.

Quotes of the week

The act of writing is for many intrinsically tied to reading, mirroring the internet itself, with its ingrained expectations of interactivity.

James Bridle

Tech is not the answer to the problems of modern politics.

Alexis Madrigal

Articles of the week

What we read this week (3 Aug)

In this week’s reads: what factors determine the success of wearable technologies, proposed legislation that could help repair the patent system, the success of the New York Times’ subscription strategy, geographical discrimination on the internet, and college degree programs steered by big data.

Quotes of the week

In the US it is rightly illegal to refuse service on the basis of race or gender. It is time that we add geography to this for Internet based services.

Albert Wenger

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

Carl Sagan

Articles of the week

  • Artefact: Is Technology Ready-to-Wear?
    Wearable technology is a strong trend these days. But how does technology best integrate with our clothes? “Just put an Arduino on it!” is an old joke among those in the Internet of Things industry. Not so, says Artefact, and gives an overview of the most important factors for a successful wearable technology product.
  • EFF: Can You Believe It? Legislation that Would Actually Help Fix the Patent System
    Finally. The SHIELD Act, proposed by a democratic and a republican representative is aiming to regulate the way how patent trolls can attack innovators. It’s about time. Read this write up from the EFF on the matter.
  • New York Magazine: The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers
    A historical moment: The New York Times now earns more from readers than through advertising. And it’s not just that ad revenues are down. No, readership, and the readers’ willingness to pay for access and content, is up. This might shake up the news industry.
  • Albert Wenger: The Internet, Tape Delay, Proxies and Civil Disobedience
    Discussing the lack of live streams of the Olympic Games and the restrictions of the corresponding broadcasts, VC and Union Square partner Albert Wenger proposes a new right for the citizens of the internet: In the US it’s illegal to refuse service on the basis of race or gender. Let’s add geography for internet-based services to that list.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education: College Degrees, Designed by the Numbers
    This article takes a long and detailed look at how some American universities are using big data in an attempt to improve their systems. The projects described are interesting, but frightening – the approaches seek to improve pass rates, but should students really be directed towards courses where they’ll earn better grades? And should this be how the school’s success is measured?

What we read this week (13 Jul)

Our selection of articles this week: the problem with patents, addressing the future ‘evolvably’ rather than sustainably, transparency or the lack thereof in various industries, business models for electric cars, and decency on the internet.

Quote of the week

Still, in talking with Madrigal, you’d find that literally dozens of online, Twitterified connections had leapt from the world of his addiction to the pure, happy world of “in real life.”

Alexis Madrigal

Articles of the week

  • Mark A. Lemley: The Myth of the Sole Inventor
    This abstract of an academic paper suggests taking an approach to patents that would encourage people to invent things while being more reasonable about dealing with simultaneous inventions. A short read, but full of good points.
  • Rachel Armstrong: The Future is Now: A Letter to Arup
    A letter in which Rachel Armstrong expresses her profound disagreement with the notion that the future is ‘over-sold and under-imagined’, and arguing for more investment in long-term strategies and research, rather than focusing on the more immediate future.
  • Transparency International: Shining a light on the world’s biggest companies
    In a global ranking across a wide range of industries, Transparency International reports which industries and companies disclose relevant information that potentially inform their business interests and thus agendas. Among these 105 largest companies worldwide, the mining/oil/gas sector is among the most transparent. Who’s at the bottom of the list besides a number of banks? Well hello, Google, Apple, Amazon.
  • Pando Daily: Better Place, Tesla, and the Mainstreaming of Electric Cars
    Better Place and Tesla are two companies that on the first glance operate in the same market: selling electric cars. But a deeper look at their very different business models reveals why it matters to pay attention to this field.
  • David Weinberger: Louis C.K. and the Decent Net, or How Louis won the Internet
    Comedian Louis C.K. started selling videos of his gigs online, both cheap and free of DRM. Anyone could (illegally, but easily) share them, just like that. And guess what – he’s selling more than ever before, proving that usability and trust in your community can beat all the copy protection your money can buy. In David Weinberger’s words: “Louis C.K. won the Internet by reminding us that the Internet offers us a chance for a moral do-over.”

What we read this week (13 Apr)

Our reads this week: an impressive Kickstarter project, thoughts on the cognition of organizations, patent battles in Germany, Instagram’s sale to Facebook, and a collection of pieces on the New Aesthetic. Enjoy the weekend.

Quotes of the week

Agility, context, and a strong network are becoming the survival traits where assets, control, and power used to rule.

Joi Ito

Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button.

Clay Shirky

Articles of the week

  • Third Wave: The New Aesthetic
    The New Aesthetic is the topic of much debate and discussion at the moment, and though it’s still hard to put our finger on what exactly it is, it’s clear that the ideas emerging are very interesting. We gathered together some perceptive articles and material on this matter into an overview of the topic.
  • New York Magazine: When your favorite app sells out
    Earlier this week, Instagram announced that it had been bought by Facebook for a tidy one billion dollars. Paul Ford discusses why the tech world has responded to the deal with such disappointment, and what this reponse tells us about what we really value in the products we use.
  • Wired: Pebble E-Ink Smartwatch
    The Pebble is a snazzy wristwatch with an e-ink screen. It works with your iPhone or Android phone to inform you of many things, from events on your calendar that are coming up to how fast you’re currently cycling. Coders can also write their own apps for the watch, so many more handy tools could be yet to come. The project is being funded through Kickstarter, where it raised an astonishing one million dollars in 28 hours.
  • MIT Media Lab: The Cognitive Limit of Organizations
    Joi Ito contemplates the nature of the relationship between organizations and information. Innovation and the intellectual development of society will depend increasingly on collaboration between organizations, Ito predicts. A transformation is taking place: the network is becoming increasingly valuable, while individual power and control over resources may just be standing in the way of progress.
  • New York Times: German Courts at Epicenter of Global Patent Battles Among Tech Rivals
    Germany is friendly to patent holders — so much so, in fact, that companies are feeling they have to move some of their operations elsewhere in order to flee the consequences of lawsuits. The German courts are overburdened with patent suits, many of them nuisance suits, designed simply to impede the competition. With so much energy and money flowing into these processes, many are wondering if things need to change.

What we read this week (Dec 16)

This week we read about smart homes, customer service, remix culture as the new prohibition, patents, Facebook’s revenues and ROI in Social Media Marketing.

Quotes of the week

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be creating things on the web. This year’s advances in browsers, standards, and smart thinking have enabled us to finally begin to web design. We’re no longer forced to think of the web as a digital reproduction of physical pages, but rather to finally embrace it as its own thing.

Dan Cederholm

The hardest thing to do, and I think the most important, is for agency leaders to unlearn everything we’ve been taught over the years. It’s very hard for people my age to admit they don’t know anything. Fact is, when I was young, I asked older people for advice. Now I’m old, and I ask younger people for advice. Our role as leaders is no longer to be the experts.

Clark Kokich, Razorfish

Articles of the week

  • Can’t get no satisfaction: Why service companies can’t keep their promises
    Dave Gray of Dachis again with another look at the service economy and the foundations for a decent customer service.
  • 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.
  • Waxy: No Copyright Intended
    “Remix culture is the new Prohibition, with massive media companies as the lone voices calling for temperance.” – A wonderfully insightful article by Andy Baio about a generation of people growing up without even understanding the fundamental concept of copyright.
  • TechCrunch: Apple Made A Deal With The Devil (No, Worse: A Patent Troll)
    Especially over the course of the last 12 months, we have seen an increase in the number of lawsuits targeting manufacturers of Android-based devices. Some of them came from Microsoft, some from Oracle, but mostly it was Apple who was trying to prevent others from competing with their products. In an unusual journalistic quality, Jason Kinacid from TechCrunch depicts how Apple transferred valuable patents to a company that can only be described as a patent troll to increase the opportunity for lawsuits. While the use of patents in general is debatable, it becomes obvious that Apple is using those tactics not to protect their assets, but to hinder innovation.
  • Business Insider: Facebook’s Revenue Numbers Just Leaked, And The Numbers Look Underwhelming
    An interesting glimpse into what seem to be Facebook’s revenues. Let’s just say: Facebook is definitely turning a solid profit, but failing the high expectations. Read the full article for some more concrete meat.
  • What I Learned When I Started a Design Studio
    Khoi Vinh with valuable insights that apply to many more businesses than just design studios.
  • There is No ROI in Social Media Marketing
    Sean Jackson, CFO of Copyblogger, says that asking for the RoI of social media is like asking for the RoI of your employees using email. Marketing is not an investment but an essential communication tool.