Friday Link List: Which Carr Is It? Edition

Two of my all-time favorite media writer types share a last name—”Carr”.

I often conflate the two.

This time, at least, my conflation is purposeful: I’d like to share two recent articles, one by Nicholas Carr and one about David Carr.

With me now?

First, the piece about David Carr. It’s called All the Views He’s Fit to Print {the globe and mail}. Really feel like I got to know the guy through this. Lots of gems like this:

At Casa Nonna, he is unfailingly polite. Not just to me – when the appetizers arrive, he serves us both, and when we tuck into our pasta course, he shovels a couple of his gnocchi onto my plate, unprompted – but also to the waiting staff. He repeatedly stops mid-sentence to say, “That’s lovely, thanks so much,” or “everything is lovely, thank you.” And it’s more than common courtesy.

“I waited tables for seven years, so I really care about stuff like that. It’s [expletive] hard. I had a waiter dream last night. It was like: ‘Table Four’s been here a half an hour and they don’t have any [expletive] water, what is going on?’ Still. From the old days. That’s stress, man,” he says, “that’s real stress.”

Now for the piece by Nicholas Carr, picks up on the thread of his recent book that I’m currently reading, The Glass Cage. It’s about Facebook and the potential ramifications of a social landscape mediated by algorithms:

If and when Facebook perfects its behavior modification algorithms, it would be a fairly trivial exercise to expand their application beyond the realm of shitfaced snapshots. That photo you’re about to post of the protest rally you just marched in? That angry comment about the president? That wild thought that just popped into your mind? You know, maybe those wouldn’t go down so well with the boss.

Read Facebook’s Automated Conscience {rough type, Nicholas Carr’s blog}.

Friday Link List

1. Now That’s Not Playing Very Nice, Uber {The Verge}

This is such a good illustration of the disconnect between the “we’re changing the world through algorithms and better business models” rhetoric of Silicon Valley and the reality.

Lofty means-nothing stuff like this:
Uber Screenshot

Most of these companies are run by people who think no one will notice the contradiction. And that it’s OK to play a little dirty to get more market share.

Uber is arming teams of independent contractors with burner phones and credit cards as part of its sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors. Interviews with current and former contractors, along with internal documents obtained by The Verge, outline the company’s evolving methods. Using contractors it calls “brand ambassadors,” Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection. The effort, which Uber appears to be rolling out nationally, has already resulted in thousands of canceled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for its rival to gain a foothold in new markets. Uber calls the program “SLOG,” and it’s a previously unreported aspect of the company’s ruthless efforts to undermine its competitors.

 2. Mining Your Voice for Hidden Feelings & Company Products {new tech city/wnyc}

…Emodi’s company, called Beyond Verbal, is applying 20 years of “emotion analytics” to help us understand ourselves better. These products claim to be able to determine true emotions just from listening to you speak for 20 seconds. It could also determine if a salesperson is using the “perfect sales intonation” or if a given customer calling up is ‘exasperated and furious’ or ‘exasperated and ready to listen’.

[photo credit: uber homepage on 8.28. used without permission. if that’s not OK sorry let me know.]

 

Friday Link List: Tech & Media Edition

1. The App I Used to Break into My Neighbor’s Home {wired}

When I broke into my neighbor’s home earlier this week, I didn’t use any cat burglar skills. I don’t know how to pick locks. I’m not even sure how to use a crowbar. It turns out all anyone needs to invade a friend’s apartment is an off switch for their conscience and an iPhone.

2. Behind Comcast’s Truthy Ad Campaign for Net Neutrality {washington post}

In an ongoing ad campaign, Comcast touts that it’s the only internet service provider (or ISP) legally bound by “full” net neutrality and that the company wants to expand that commitment to even more people. This sounds great for consumers; it’s the kind of thing that might convince skeptical regulators to give Comcast the benefit of the doubt. But the advertising claims come with some big, unstated caveats that could be confusing to consumers who already find the net neutrality debate a jumble of jargon and rhetoric.

3. Riding the Juggernaut That Left Print Behind {david carr/new york times}

I am a faithful reader of The Journal’s and The Times’s print edition. Both are built on a wonderful technology for discovering and consuming news, and a large part of their profits still reside in that daily artifact. But when big things happen, I stayed glued to the web, at The Times and other great news sites.

Nothing can compete with the shimmering immediacy of now, and not just when seismic events take place, but in our everyday lives. We are sponges and we live in a world where the fire hose is always on.

But once a sponge is at capacity, new information can only replace old information. Last month, researchers at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand published a study that found that comprehension, concentration and retention all went off a cliff when information was taken in online. (Then again, there are those who say that we see everything and remember nothing because we don’t have to, that the web now serves as our memory.)

4. Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy {new yorker}

Talking so freely about your life helps you to know the weight of those feelings which are too vague, or too spiritual, to express—left unspoken and unexplored, they throw your own private existence into relief. “Sharing” is, in fact, the opposite of what we do: like one of Woolf’s hostesses, we rehearse a limited openness so that we can feel the solidity of our own private selves.

Friday Link List

1. Two Pittsburghians send mail to everyone on Earth

Or at least that’s the goal:

Michael Crowe and I are in the middle of writing a unique hand-written (or hand-typed) letter to every household in the world. […]

Each letter is different, and where possible personally addressed. We sign them “love Michael & Lenka”, and write in a chatty, friendly tone about topics of possible mutual interest; the weather, gentleness, Roseanne, etc.

In an attempt to discover these shared interests we often travel to the town, suburb, or small village that we plan to write to and live amongst the future recipients of our letters while we write them. We walk the same streets, eat the same bread brought from the same shops, observe the views from their hills, count the daffodils in their gardens, and so on.

Via {very short list}.

2. What Should We Be Worried About? {mother jones}

A new collection of essays entitled just that asks some of today’s biggest thinkers to divulge their fears and worries.

One of my favorites, Nicholas Carr, rants about the patience deficit (of course):

Given what we know about the variability of our time sense, it seems clear that information and communication technologies would have a particularly strong effect on personal time perception. After all, they often determine the pace of the events we experience, the speed with which we’re presented with new information and stimuli, and even the rhythm of our social interactions.

That’s long been true, but the influence must be particularly strong now that we carry powerful and extraordinarily fast computers around with us. Our gadgets train us to expect near instantaneous responses to our actions, and we quickly get frustrated and annoyed at even brief delays. I know that my own perception of time has been changed by technology. If I go from using a fast computer or Web connection to using even a slightly slower one, processes that take just a second or two longer—waking the machine from sleep, launching an application, opening a Web page—seem almost intolerably slow. Never before have I been so aware of, and annoyed by, the passage of mere seconds.

3. Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed {new york times}

Vincent Zandri hails from the future. He is a novelist from the day after tomorrow, when Amazon has remade the worlds of writing, printing, selling and reading books so thoroughly that there is hardly anything left besides Amazon. […]

A few years ago he was reduced to returning bottles and cans for grocery money. Now his Amazon earnings pay for lengthy stays in Italy and Paris, as well as expeditions to the real Amazon. “I go wherever I want, do whatever I want and live however I want,” he said recently at a bar in Mill Valley, Calif., a San Francisco suburb where he was relaxing after a jaunt to Nepal.

Friday Link List: Really Short Edition

1. What’s a Penny Worth? {npr’s planet money}

The Planet Money team never ceases to amaze my with its ability to take topics that seem among the most mundane imaginable, and turn them into really interesting pieces of journalism.

Enter Episode 539:

We have three stories on the penny. First, we go on an expedition through the streets of Manhattan to find something, anything, we can buy for one cent. Next, we talk to a guy who’s betting on the government killing the penny. And finally, we visit a place where people dream of how pennies could change everything: the internet.

 

2. How Businesses Are Rating YOU {new tech city}

Host Manoush Zomorodi investigates how she got slapped with a bad Uber rating she wasn’t even supposed to know about. But that’s just the beginning. Just as the Fair Credit Report Act regulated the use of personal information in private businesses in 1970, privacy advocates and now the White House are calling for laws that regulate opaque consumer scoring that’s extracted from petabytes of data.

One of my favorite parts was from Bob Gellman, author of The Scoring of America {link to the whole book for free, I think?):

Everybody’s scoring everybody all the time, according to all kinds of characteristics. Do we all have to live according to a certain model in order to be treated properly in this economy?

(This episode is the second part of the episode I covered previously.)