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.)

Friday Link List: Making Connections Edition

1. Missed Connections for A-Holes {new yorker}

We made small talk in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s. You said that you literally could not live without the salsa you were buying. I wish we could talk again. You used “literally” incorrectly. It really pissed me off. I wish you could literally not live without that salsa, because then I’d take it from you.

 

2. Spurious Correlations 

Tyler Vigen has created a site that draws attention to the ways in which statistical terms like correlation can be manipulated to fit a narrative:

Spurious Correlation

See also: Andrew Sullivan’s take and On the Media’s TLDR.

3. The EU Sticks up for the Right to Be Forgotten {npr}.

This seems cool but gosh will be a nightmare for the tech companies to manage.

Audie Cornish: So, give us a quick kind of sketch about the case that brought about the ruling. I understand it involved a man from Spain. He wanted to delete an auction notice of his home from a Spanish newspaper.

Meg Ambrose: That’s right. Usually, the content that we talk about with the right to be forgotten is much more salacious. This guy wanted an old debt to be removed from his Google search results. He took his complaint to the Spanish Data Protection Agency, who determined that he did have a case for the right to be forgotten. And the agency ordered Google to remove links to that content. It moved through the courts as Google appealed it and the case that came down was shocking, I think, for most people.

See also: Andrew Sullivan’s take.

4. A Spoon That Shakes To Counteract Hand Tremors {npr}

This is really cool:

“There’s a little motion sensor right near the spoon,” Pathak explains. “If I had tremor, it’s going to move opposite to what the shaking is doing. So, if I move to the left, it’ll physically move the spoon to the right.”

And that cancels out the tremor as the spoon moves from plate to mouth. In a clinical trial, the Liftware spoon canceled out more than 70 percent of a user’s tremor.

Friday Link List: App Edition

1. CyclePhilly hopes to record biking patterns to help plan bike lanes {technically philly}

To use the app, a rider starts the route, bikes to their destination and hits save. Then they’ll be prompted to record the purpose of the trip, such as a work commute, going to school or social. Their personal routes are stored on the device and a copy of the route they took is uploaded to CyclePhilly servers to be analyzed by planning authorities.

Unfortunately, I won’t be using the app, because an iPhone can only track one activity at a time, and I already use RunKeeper to track my rides.

You should use it though.

2. Recording the Global Soundscape {science friday}

Inspiring new app:

What is the sound of your local environment? How does it make you feel? How will it sound in the future? Ecologist Bryan Pijanowski is looking to answer these questions and create a soundscape of every ecosystem on the planet through the Global Soundscapes project.

3. Not on App Store

Smug hipsters are awful, especially when they plaster the real world with expressions of their smugness.

Via {today in tabs by rusty foster}

4. How We Love {ted radio hour}

I know I know. Just listen to it.