Not Safe From Wolves

What You Should Read (September 2014)

I thought I’d share some of the better things from the pit of my Instapaper and Kindle accounts:

Playboy’s interview with Steve Jobs (1984) – David Sheff

This was probably a good piece when it came out, but knowing what we know now, I think it’s actually even better. It goes to show that every “current” piece of media we create is the history of the future, and you never know what’s going to be relevant until a lot of time has passed.

Jobs: We’re going to be able to ask our computers to monitor things for us, and when certain conditions happen, are triggered, the computers will take certain actions and inform us after the fact.

Playboy: For example?

Jobs: Simple things like monitoring your stocks every hour or every day. When a stock gets beyond set limits, the computer will call my broker and electronically sell it and then let me know.

Inside Google’s Secret Drone Delivery Program – Alexis Madrigal

Only, this one isn’t quite a secret anymore. Not a good read if you’re too Google-phobic, but drones are coming, and maybe we get to decide on who’s terms.

“When the Pony Express came along, it really reshaped society to be able to move things around fairly reliably at that speed, which was measured in many days. The U.S. Postal Service—growing partly out of the Pony Express and having it be even more reliable and starting to shorten the time—really did change society again.

“FedEx overnight delivery has absolutely changed the world again. We’re starting to see same-day service actually change the world,” he continued. “Why would we think that the next 10x—being able to get something in just a minute or two—wouldn’t change the world?”

Aol’s Chat Room Monitor Revolt – Alex Mayyasi

Hey look, it’s “digital sharecropping” again! Why Aol treating its moderators like employees backfired in the 90’s, and why Reddit is keen not to repeat those mistakes.

This author is only 25 years old, yet he finds himself dated by the prospect of explaining to young people the excitement of entering a chat room operating under the title “Sports.” Aol’s chat rooms were new, intriguing, and a draw. But people had not yet accepted that the Internet was a Wild West, always a bit out of control, so Aol worried about how to keep chat rooms safe. How could the company keep parents from barring their children from chat rooms like the sketchy park down the street?

The Making of McKinsey – Duff McDonald

It seems commonsensical, but McKinsey’s new way of looking at the use of the budgeting process sparked nothing short of a revolution. “No other mechanism of management of similar scope and complexity has ever been introduced so rapidly,” wrote one commentator just ten years later. “It is estimated that 80 percent of budgets installed in industry have been put in since 1922.”

Yes, that’s right. Budgets, as we know them today, are less than a hundred years old. And, as originally envisaged, they would be adjusted over the course of a project: no one could expect to create one budget at the outset and for that to ever be correct at the conclusion.

The Craft Beer Movement – Phil Balliet

Just as soda is dominated by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller dominate the beer market. Each produces hundreds of millions of barrels of beer per year. Together the two make 90% of all beer sold in the United States.

The “Big Two” have also bought up hundreds of other beer companies in what some call the “Beer Wars.” Stella, Hoegaarden, and even Leffe (which was founded in 1240) are now all owned by the same company that makes Budweiser.

Another Priceonomics article; this one about what it takes to get ahead as a small brewery. Amero-centric, but just knowing that the many of the ‘craft’ beers you see like ‘Blue Moon’ are actually promoted by Budweiser is interesting. (I so wanted to go with “sobering”).

What Happens when Digital Cities are Abandoned – Laura Hall

When Second Life launched in 2003, the world was captivated by visions of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash come to life.

[…]

But that was nearly 10 years ago. I wondered: what happened to all of those buildings? Were people still making use of them? So I logged in. The world of Second Life, it turns out, is not abandoned. Estimates put the current active user-base around 600,000 members; in its heyday, it boasted between 60 and 80 thousand simultaneous logins. There are often a handful of people in most of the spaces you’ll visit, but it’s easy to find privacy.

Archiving our digital selves. Total Aaron-bait.

The History of Civilization – Benj Edwards

A Gamasutra piece following the life of Sid Meier and the conditions that lead to him leading the creation of the Civilization(sic) games.

Playing Meier’s classic again is always tempting, assuming that we’ve actually eaten since sitting down for the last game, perhaps six or ten hours before. Civilization’s addictiveness is legendary. So much so that it even has a name: the “one more turn” phenomenon. While playing Civ, there’s always something cooking in the pot, something to look forward to. In your next move, a unit or building could be completed, a new city founded, or an exciting technology developed. “There was never really a good place to stop playing,” says Meier. “I’ve often found myself playing and then realized I’m late for a meeting. So I’ve been exposed to the phenomenon myself.”

Reclaiming our (Real) Lives from Social Media – Nick Bilton

Hemingway ordered a café au lait, pulled out a notepad and pencil from his pocket and began writing. Before long he had fallen into a trancelike state, oblivious to his surroundings as he penned a story that would later become the first chapter of his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.”

If Hemingway were alive in 2014, he might not have finished what he started writing that day. Realistically, he probably wouldn’t have even put a pen to paper.

Instead, he might have ducked into the cafe, pulled out his smartphone and proceeded to waste an entire afternoon on social media. Perhaps he would update his Facebook to discuss the rogue weather, snap a picture of his café au lait to post on Instagram and then lose the rest of the afternoon to Twitter.

Why are you reading this blog when you should be off writing “The Old Man and the Sea“.

Richard Feynman and the Connection Machine – Danny Hillis

I had never managed a large group before and I was clearly in over my head. Richard volunteered to help out. “We’ve got to get these guys organized,” he told me. “Let me tell you how we did it at Los Alamos.”

Every great man that I have known has had a certain time and place in their life that they use as a reference point; a time when things worked as they were supposed to and great things were accomplished. For Richard, that time was at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Whenever things got “cockeyed,” Richard would look back and try to understand how now was different than then.

I reference this one all the time. Everyone probably has a Manhattan Project of their own in their career: that one project where things went right and a group of like-minded people could bring themselves to bear on a problem they cared about and solve it.

It’s like a surfer’s high, and you could spend a career trying to get another taste of it.

Secret Servers – James Bridle

A pre-Snowden look at the emerging New Aesthetic. A rash of articles appeared in 2013 and people suddenly became aware of the tangle of wires and the (sometimes secret) datacentres filled with servers which actually dictate so much modern connected life. James Bridle was just ahead of the times.

“You could design a datacenter and, depending what you clad it in, you might be hard pushed to see it as that different from an art gallery.” New constructions like David Chipperfield’s Turner Contemporary in Margate are morphing into digital content institutes, sharing the datacenter’s challenges of managing complex internal requirements—lighting, atmosphere and temperature control—while projecting the appropriate brand values.

Active Ownership vs Minimalism – Nick Wynja

Active ownership and minimalism share values but are rooted in different theories. In minimalism, the focus is on removal, where having less leads to gaining more. Active ownership is about having the things that matter most to you and leaving behind everything that doesn’t.

For everyone who aspires to minimal values, but has their friends make fun of them because they don’t like like an ascetic hermit – consider the term ‘Active Ownership’.

I have a couple of cameras, and a few lenses, but the ones that I have, I use. They don’t duplicate each other. They serve particular purposes and all the cameras that I don’t “need”, I’ve gotten rid of. The things that I own, for the most part, are things that make me happier and that I use. Things that don’t (or that make me feel guilty for not using them!) have to go.

This is archived content. New updates will appear on insom.github.io.