What we read this week (22 November)

Our favorite articles of this week. Have a great weekend.

Articles of the week

  • What Screens Want
    Brilliant web essay by Frank Chimero, and not only because he features James Burke and The West Wing. I bet that this one will come up in a lot of conversations in the next months.
  • Prada Revolutionaries
    “Bright Green has become the left's version of right-wing transhumanism: an excuse to not solve today's problems, because tomorrow's technology will fix them for us.”
  • Tom Armitage » Driftwood
    “Driftwood is a talk I gave at Playark 2013. It was meant to be a talk about leftovers (the theme of the conference being ‘reclaim’), and about Hello Lamp Post. In the writing, it turned into a broader overview of my own work – on six years of projects around cities and play.”
  • Meet The ‘Assassination Market’ Creator Who’s Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins – Forbes
    “Assassination Market, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations.”
  • Ross Andersen – Humanity’s deep future
    "When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?"
  • Bitcoin As Protocol | Union Square Ventures
    “There is no other widely used protocol in the world today that accomplishes this: with bitcoin anyone can make a statement (a transaction) and have this be recorded in a globally visible and fixed ledger.”
  • Content economics, part 4: scale | Felix Salmon
    "It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of the CMS when it comes to the question of who’s going to win the online-publishing wars."
  • InMoov » Project
    "Here is “InMoov”, the first life size humanoid robot you can 3D print and animate. You have a 3D printer, some building skills, This project is for you!!"
  • Apple and Google Maps, and Defaults | Matt Mullenweg
    “If Microsoft did this a decade ago we’d call for the DoJ to reopen their investigation. Apple has the best phone, best tablet, and in many ways the best operating system — we should not give them a pass for this blatantly self-interested and user-hostile stance.”
  • Instagram and Youtube — Benedict Evans
    "WhatsApp and Instagram are not in different categories – they're direct competitors for time and attention." – This spot on.

What we read this week (8 November)

Our favorite articles of this week. Have a great weekend.

Articles of the week

Week 142 – Working in Times of Strangeness

It’s an essential part of building a business for the 21st century to deal with the “strangeness” of our times.

We featured this quote in some of our presentations:

You can’t help but realize, that the next 10-to-40 years are going to be really strange. Totally strange. And… that rate of strangeness seems is going to get exponentially more strange. And the problem we have right now is the people that are in charge of this stuff don’t understand a) how strange it’s going to be, or b) the form of the strangeness itself.

Ben Hammersley

And then we have days like yesterday that are best summed up this way:

Twitter today reads like a @GreatDismal novel in realtime, and reality unfolds like a Jason Bourne plot in realspace #EdwardSnowden

– Juha van ‘t Zelfde (@juhavantzelfde) June 23, 2013

I find myself going back and forth between different layers in my everyday life these days. As we mentioned in previous weeks, work is plenty. Currently, our greatest challenge is how to get all those projects done. Then I open my Twitter app and a completely different world opens up in which our worst apprehensions are coming true. The US and UK governments have found ways to track and collect our complete digital communications and are chasing the guy who told us around the world.

So there are tons of work and tons of things to think about and I’m asking myself how to behave in a situation like this. Do I just close all input channels, put on some music and drown myself in work to wait and see what will come of it all? Do I immerse myself in every little news item that emerges, join and start endless conversation about what this means and where it will take us? Should I move all our company data away from any of those US platforms that are involved in PRISM or would that make our work impossible? What role should privacy and data security play in my consulting work? This is but a fraction of the questions lingering at the fringes of our minds at the moment.

There are no easy answers these days and we embrace that. It’s an essential part of building a business for the 21st century to deal with the “strangeness” of our times. To immerse and retract, to drown and zoom out, to adapt and resist. We move back and forth to keep the balance and to avoid the two extremes we fear the most: lethargy and panic. Practically, this means that we prepare a workshop or develop a strategy deck in the morning and write an essay on the problem of the commercialization of technology in the afternoon.

What we’re finding right now to be most important for us is to organize ourselves even more then before. With so much work, input and conversations going on, we need fixed points to regroup and re-plan. Inspired by the agile development system, we’ve started doing quick stand-up meetings in the morning and the afternoon to quickly discuss what each one of us is working on in the next hours. This also helps our minds to keep on track and to feel more accountable for how we spend our days. It’s just one very practical tool to keep organized.

I don’t know exactly why this is like that, but somehow all the “strangeness” happening around us is invigorating. Everything is uncertain, nothing is determined. I feel extremely privileged to be in a position where this is a blessing, not a curse. How dare I not make a move.

So, how do you adapt your work in times of strangeness?

Week 140 + 141

While we are busy churning away multiple projects, Igor takes a closer look at an aspect of how to deal with the revelations made by Edward Snowden’s leaks.

Busy two weeks. We are dealing with multiple concurrent client projects and planing new ones. When a project got postponed, we used to fall out of productivity rhythm. Now, we just turn our head to the next big todo. We like how things are working out these days.

What didn’t help to stay on track where the revelations about the NSA. Those kind of stories are right up our alley. They a broad, many people provide valuable perspectives and we are very keen to understand it all. So here is our take on what is happening right now.

Revelations about the scale of the surveillance state have been making their rounds on every media channel. The leak by Edward Snowden seem to have started something that should have been going all along: real reporting on the issues. We’ve been seeing multiple articles emerge that look deeper into what seems to be an extraordinary setup by the US government to spy both on its own citizens as well as on the rest of the world.

We live, once again, in times in which the future that we’ve used to read about in science fiction books is not only upon us, but is even scarier.

But I want to focus on one specific aspect in this situation. Not many years ago, the most convincing argument why companies like Google can’t screw with privacy too much was: it’s very easy to switch from one service to another. Especially when it’s a search engine. As we can see today, this is not the case anymore. Many of the big players in the technology business managed to integrate themselves into our life in a similar manner as the financial institutions did. Technology is now also too big too fail. To switch away from Gmail, Dropbox and Facebook means severing oneself from an ecosystem that many other, small vendors use to make their product work. The APIs that we hailed as saviors of the open web, those who helped create those ecosystems in the first place, are now coming to hunt us.

There are, of course, alternatives to all those services. Open source alternatives and ones that provide the user with a lot more security and privacy. And yet, convenience and the existence of those proprietary ecosystems make it very hard for people to make the switch. This is both because the lock-in mechanisms have been designed to keep user in, but it also because the open, more secure alternatives aren’t making their argument in the most effective way.

For a long time, I have been a strong supporter of the open source movement, used to run my machines on Linux and kept away from proprietary solutions as much as possible. That changed a couple years ago. Not because my views changed necessarily. I just discovered that for this stage in my life, I want convenience and “just works” more.

The same applies to security. As an informed user, I can take care of quite of few precautions. I’m mostly only going online through a VPN, I have a Tor browser installed and I could reactivate my GPG key. But this is not a scalable solution. Even after the revelations about the extend of NSA’s capabilities to tap into our data, we will not see mass adoption for those security measures.

We obviously can not rely on our governments to protect us. We also can’t rely on the companies who host and own our data to prevent governments on accessing it as they see fit.

In a world in which we still need to fight arguments like “I don’t have anything to hide”, who will be able to provide both new questions and the ways to answer them that are adequate to the world that we live in?

What we read this week (29 Mar)

A short story on meat and machines, a new weather service, Vice and “gonzo journalism,” Mac apps and the configuration process, and cracking passwords.

Quote of the week

They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.

Terry Bisson

Articles of the week

What we read this week (21 Sep)

Dystopian nightmares about the future of travel, Apple’s changing their maps software based on strategy and not user experience, hardware investment is on the rise, a futuristic motorbike that can’t fall over and a look into cities are all in this weekly reads.

Quotes of the week

It sounds about as crazy as it can get, but maybe that’s what we need more of in this world. Kim also machined his own spectacle frames from titanium. What can’t this guy do?

Peter Ha

 We’re not at a point where the government is going to go digital for any of that stuff, I mean, I’m not even allowed to laminate my Social Security card.

Neil Hughes

Articles of the week

  • CNN: Apple’s secret plan to join iPhones with airport security
    In an effort to ease the various time-consuming security routines at airports, Apple seems to be lining up a technology that comes very close to a digital passport and sends your data to whomever has the authority of demanding it. However, the project is still quite far from being put into practice due to major concerns with verification, universality and infrastructure.
  • Anil Dash: Who benefits from iOS6’s crappy maps?
    The release the of the new maps-app with iOS6 has caused a lot of noise in the short time it has been available. Anil Dash goes in depth to say why it is a worse product and what this could mean for the future of the company post Steve Jobs.
  • TechCrunch: The Mobile/Social/Local/Cloud Land Grab Is Over
    In a glance over the shoulder to the tech world of 2006 when most of what is now part of life was just getting started (Twitter, Dropbox, iPhone) TechCrunch’s Jon Evans cleans up the rubble cluttering up everyone’s view and draws a keen prognosis on the next boom.
  • TechCrunch: Lit Motors Will Shake Up The Electric Vehicle Market With Its Two-Wheeled, Untippable C-1
    From afar it looks like a boring copy of the BMW C1 – motorbike. From close up it’s a high-tech non-tippable, electric driven transportation project. Creator Danny Kim is quite sure that he is going to bring some disruption into the market with this vehicle as it solves the main problem of any motorbike: it’s safe.
  • NPR: Odd Things Happen When You Chop Up Cities And Stack Them Sideways
    Armelle Caron is French and has a passion for cities. Between 2005 and 2008 she took to some of the more famous ones like Paris, N.Y. or Berlin and ‘restructured’ their ground structure.