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 (6 Jan)

Lots of great articles this week. Read about a Somali terrorist group’s social media strategy, the internet as a human right (or not), networked science, the way copyright is broken and plenty more.

Quotes of the week

The best way to predict the future is to hang out with some of the outliers already living it. We don’t make ‘predictions,’ but instead tell stories about the people and products that are exciting us before they’ve gone mainstream.

David Rowan

Internet Access Is Not a Human Right.

Vint Cerf

Articles of the week

  • Slate: Twitter of Terror
    A Somali militant group unveils a new social media strategy for terrorists.
  • Duke University: What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2012?
    The copyright system is pretty badly broken. Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain shows a few of the cultural works that would have entered the Public Domain – allowing you to reproduce, remix, and share them – under the copyright law in its 1978 version. That is, before copyright was extended from 28 years after publication to last ridiculously long, namely for 70 years after the author’s death. There is a whole treasure trove of culture, locked away and in many cases inaccessible.
  • mobiThinking: Global mobile statistics 2011
    A comprehensive, massive overview of mobile stats for 2011.
  • anideo: Harmony
    Apple’s overall success is being mostly attributed to their superiority in design. While there is no argument about their excellence in this field, it is much more then just the design that leads to such success.
  • The Atlantic: To Know, but Not Understand
    The Berkman Center’s David Weinberger, internet theorist and author of seminal books like The Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined, tackles a new subject: Big Data, and how to deal with it. This article offers an abstract of Weinberger’s new book.
  • heise online: Sparkassen führen NFC-Payment ein
    (Article in German) It is somewhat of a surprise to see the German Sparkassen Group implement NFC chips into their normal banking cards starting 2012. Nevertheless, we are curious how both consumers and retail will react to it and how the conversation will be shaped by this announcement.
  • The Next Web: Amazon’s e-book tax loophole could mean lower European prices, but that’s bad for UK competition
    Without making much fuss, Luxembourg cut the VAT, and in effect ebook prices for consumers. Ebooks, unlike paper books, are subject to full VAT across the EU. So this could change market dynamics quite a bit: Both Amazon and Apple sell their ebooks from Luxembourg, and might now be able to undercut local book prices. Here’s the German perspective (in German).
  • New York Times: Internet Access is Not a Human Right. As an elder of information technology and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, Vint Cerf says the internet should not be a human right. Sounds outrageous? The point Cerf makes is an excellent one, actually: It’s important not to protect the tool, but rather its empowering qualities. A must read.
  • ReadWriteWeb: Google+ Is Going To Mess Up The Internet
    Jon Mitchell, one of the regular authors at RWW, documents his frustration with Google+. An interesting read with some very well placed arguments. The problem with Google+ right now is that nobody really can figure out what Google wants it to become and as soon people stumble into new insights around it, it becomes all very overdramatized and hectic. Google needs to take charge of the communication around its favorite product. But then again, Google was never good at that.
  • brand eins: Das digitale Urheberrecht steht am Abgrund
    Brand Eins, certainly one of the best business magazines in Germany, inquires into the way copyright works – or fails to work – in a digital context. It’s a long, in-depth interview in German. Well worth reading.
  • Clay Shirky: Newspapers, Paywalls and Core Users
    Newspapers have been experimenting with paid vs free content for a number of years, sometimes more, often less successfully. Clay Shirky thinks that 2012 might be the year where newspaper economics could start working out. That is, they might work out once newspapers stop treating all news as a product and all readers as customers.
  • GigaOM: You are what you curate: Why Pinterest is hawt
    A nice overview of a trend that’s been surging for awhile now, and is still gathering steam: Online content curation. Focusing on Pinterest, GigaOM explains why curation services are so successful and why we can expect a wave of services that make curation even more streamlined and structured.
  • CNN: Digital music sales top physical sales
    Digital music purchases accounted for 50.3% of music sales in 2011. That’s a first, and proves beyond any doubt that consumers are willing to pay for online content, and that the CD won’t be missed for long. Now the big question is: Will we see music purchases rise further, or see on demand streaming take over? In other words, is it ownership or access to music that consumers are willing to pay for?
  • Forbes: The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives
    Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of management, did intensive research on some of the biggest corporate fails in recent history (Enron, Tyco, WorldCom etc.). Some years ago, he published the 7 habits that the senior executives at these companies all had in common. Eric Jackson has revisited them for Forbes. Recommended reading for anyone in executive positions.
  • Do Designers Actually Exploit The Poor While Trying To Do Good?
    A very interesting discussion with Jan Chipchase about design research and the work of big corporations in third world countries.