News is bad for you

Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand.

Ever since I stopped writing here over a year ago, I felt I should give this blog a proper closure. Now I have finally found it.

The Death of Adulthood in American Culture

I do feel the loss of something here, but bemoaning the general immaturity of contemporary culture would be as obtuse as declaring it the coolest thing ever. A crisis of authority is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary and weird and ambiguous. But it can be a lot of fun, too. The best and most authentic cultural products of our time manage to be all of those things. They imagine a world where no one is in charge and no one necessarily knows what’s going on, where identities are in perpetual flux. Mothers and fathers act like teenagers; little children are wise beyond their years. Girls light out for the territory and boys cloister themselves in secret gardens. We have more stories, pictures and arguments than we know what to do with, and each one of them presses on our attention with a claim of uniqueness, a demand to be recognized as special. The world is our playground, without a dad or a mom in sight.

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Unfortunately, this fantastic essay ends here. It doesn’t attempt to confront the fact that the world keeps presenting us with problems requiring much bigger shoes than the overgrown kids are willing to wear.

Web Components

The exciting thing about Web Components is that they give developers as much power as browser makers.

The frightening thing about Web Components is that they give developers as much power as browser makers.

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Jeremy Keith shares his doubts about Web Components. They essentially come down to the nature of the web, with all its tinkering and generous use of duct tape. The co-author of the spec, Alex Russell, replies to that in his sensitive manner by calling Jeremy’s concerns “piffle and tosh”.

Apple Watch: Asking Why and Saying No

To ensure the Watch’s success broadly Apple needs to really articulate “Why”, not only externally in their advertising but internally to their product managers who ought to remember that Apple’s greatness is built on saying “No.”

Will Apple be able to create a demand on the expensive item that no one seems to need? Or is it another case of Apple product that becomes really great only in the subsequent iterations?

The Mathematics of Ebola Trigger Stark Warnings: Act Now or Regret It

The Eurosurveillance paper, by two researchers from the University of Tokyo and Arizona State University, attempts to derive what the reproductive rate has been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They come up with an R of at least 1, and in some cases 2; that is, at certain points, sick persons have caused disease in two others.

You can see how that could quickly get out of hand, and in fact, that is what the researchers predict. Here is their stop-you-in-your-tracks assessment:

In a worst-case hypothetical scenario, should the outbreak continue with recent trends, the case burden could gain an additional 77,181 to 277,124 cases by the end of 2014.

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While reports on the Ebola epidemic have become a sort of a background noise in the news, the growth of the disease is exponential. Yet none of the current or aspiring global powers, all busy in conflicts small and large, is willing to take a decisive action there.

The Internet With A Human Face

I don’t know if they did this in Germany, but in our elementary schools in America, if we did something particularly heinous, they had a special way of threatening you. They would say: "This is going on your permanent record".

It was pretty scary. I had never seen a permanent record, but I knew exactly what it must look like. It was bright red, thick, tied with twine. Full of official stamps.

The permanent record would follow you through life, and whenever you changed schools, or looked for a job or moved to a new house, people would see the shameful things you had done in fifth grade.

How wonderful it felt when I first realized the permanent record didn’t exist. They were bluffing! Nothing I did was going to matter! We were free!

And then when I grew up, I helped build it for real.

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The brilliant Maciej Cegłowski on spying and the loss of online privacy, not necessarily to the government.

David Graeber: “Spotlight on the financial sector did make apparent just how bizarrely skewed our economy is in terms of who gets rewarded”

As anyone who’s ever had a 9-to-5 job knows, the thing everyone hates the most is having to look busy, even once you’ve finished a job, just to make the boss happy, because it’s “his time” and you have no business lounging around even if there’s nothing you really need to be doing. Now it’s almost as if that kind of business is the most valued form of work, because it’s pure work, work unpolluted by any possible sort of gratification, even that gratification that comes out of knowing you’re actually doing something. And every time there’s some kind of crisis, it intensifies. We’re told, oh no! We’re all going to have to work harder. And since the amount of things that actually need doing remain about the same, there’s an additional hypertrophy of bullshit.

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Interview with one of the initiators of the Occupy movement. Work, leisure and why the American working class still votes right.

My Experiment Opting Out of Big Data Made Me Look Like a Criminal

No one should have to act like a criminal just to have some privacy from marketers and tech giants. But the data-driven path we are currently on, paved with heartwarming rhetoric of openness, sharing and connectivity, actually undermines civic values, and circumvents checks and balances. The President’s report can’t come soon enough. When it comes to our personal data, we need better choices than either “leave if you don’t like it” or no choice at all. It’s time for a frank public discussion about how to make personal information privacy not just a series of check boxes but a basic human right, both online and off.

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As an experiment, a woman tries to hide her pregnancy from online trackers. Not only it turned out to be pretty much impossible, but also exposed how deeply “big data” penetrated our society without a serious discussion on its implications to privacy.

You Are Boring

Everything was going great until you showed up. You see me across the crowded room, make your way over, and start talking at me. And you don’t stop.You are a Democrat, an outspoken atheist, and a foodie. You like to say “Science!” in a weird, self-congratulatory way. You wear jeans during the day, and fancy jeans at night. You listen to music featuring wispy lady vocals and electronic bloop-bloops.

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If this article will stop at least one person from posting food pictures on Instagram, it will serve its purpose. But that’s a lot to hope for.

Webstock ’13: Mike Monteiro – How Designers Destroyed the World

You are directly responsible for what you put into the world. Yet every day designers all over the world work on projects without giving any thought or consideration to the impact that work has on the world around them. This needs to change.

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Mike Monteiro on responsibility of designers to the world, the craft, the clients and to themselves. He raises many valid points. Yet I’m terrified of loud people throwing f* bombs around.