Category: Newsletter

The Thoughtful Web #9: Teens, Things and TMI

This is the latest of my semi-regular collections of links to the best writing about the web and technology, information, soci­ety, science, and philo­sophy. I also send this out as an email newsletter, a format better suited to the ‘slow web’ ethos I’m trying to support. If you agree, you can subscribe to the newsletter.

The Links

I promise I’ve read every single one of these, and can recommend them all.

The Interface Layer: Where Design Commoditizes Tech
Scott Belsky makes the case that the future of digital services lies in building a simple interface over convenient utilities and services — a reverse of the atomisation of apps and services we’re currently seeing.

Mobile First
No, not that mobile first. This is Ben Thompson’s theory that we’re seeing a shift where products and services — online and physical — are undergoing changes driven by smartphone culture. Based on some speculation about an unannounced product, but pretty sound theory nonetheless.

Technology Has Made Life Different, but Not Necessarily More Stressful
A study indicates that frequent internet and social media users are no more stressed than those who use technology less often, and some women even show a reduction in stress when using digital tools. By Claire Cain Miller. I love seeing data that goes against the general narrative.

The Internet of Things needs a few SMACS
Scott Jenson lays out the requirements for the ThingNet, and it’s more than just the things and a standard protocol.

Europe is Wrong to take a Sledgehammer to Big Google
Search becomes more useful the more it knows about you, and forcing a breakup of Google would make all of its services less useful. Evgeny Morozov argues that what we need is not to hobble big services, but to provide data regulations to allow thousands of smaller companies to compete.

Read the full article

Thoughtful Web #8: The Only Way is Ethics

A special, short, pre-Christmas newsletter / link dump, with a handful of articles on morality and ethics. Concepts for us to mull over with mulled wine; problems to be resolved in our New Year’s resolutions.

Technology and the Moral Dimension
Om Malik on the emerging technology sector’s lack of understanding of moral imperative, and the need to add an emotional and/or moral dimension to the products we make. We disagree on the need for regulation.

Do Artifacts Have Ethics?
Following on from Om’s post above, Michael Sacasas poses some questions we might ask in order to define the moral dimension of products, if one exists.

Collaborative Economy Companies Need To Start Sharing More Value With The People Who Make Them Valuable
That title pretty much says it all. Lisa Gansky on why the ‘sharing economy’ favours the platform owners over the participants.

Socialize Uber
Further to the link above, more discussion of how the ‘sharing economy’ creates a low-wage workforce under the control of tech companies. By Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert.

When data gets creepy: the secrets we don’t realise we’re giving away
Dr Ben Goldacre on the leakiness of our personal data, and the ethics of revealing how much organisations know about you.

Thoughtful Web #7: Identity, Privacy, and Society

For a few months now I’ve been sending a semi-regular email newsletter containing links to some of the most interesting medium-long articles I’ve read, on the subject of society, technology, philosophy, culture, and the web. A few people requested that I also publish it in blog form, so as of now you can choose to read The Thoughtful Web here, or get it in your inbox. Personally, I prefer email, it more closely captures the ‘slow web’ ethic I’m going for; if you agree, why not subscribe?

The Links

I promise I’ve read every single one of these, and can recommend them all.

Hypertext as an agent of change
On the nature of the web, and what its shareable nature means for the future of communication. Transcript of a talk by Mandy Brown.

The Group That Rules the Web
Paul Ford explains how web standards are forged, between the W3C and the WHATWG. Intended for a non-technical audience, it’s also a decent refresher for those of us working in the field.

The Secret Life of Passwords
Fascinating look at why and how we use passwords, and what they say about us. By Ian Urbina. Personally I find passwords a pain in the backside and would like to see them disappear.

Thoughts on Google+
That title really doesn’t do the article justice; it’s more broadly thoughts on privacy, digital identity and reputation, and the undelivered promise of Google+. By Chris Messina.

Who pays for us to browse the web? Be wary of Google’s latest answer
Evgeny Morozov on Google’s experiment to allow users to pay to remove ads, tracking user behaviour to make digital assistants, and the web’s tendency towards neoliberal systems.

The Programmer’s Price
Lizzie Widdicombe on the Hollywood agency that’s representing coders. Part of me thinks this smells funny, as it propogates the ‘rockstar’ paradigm. On the other hand, why shouldn’t key workers be better rewarded?

Beacon, oh Beacon, wherefore art thou Beacon?
One of the architects of Google’s new ‘physical web’ idea, Scott Jenson, talks about maintaining control over privacy in a world of low-cost ubiquitous Bluetooth beacons.

The Best

My favourite article since the last newsletter.

God’s Lonely Programmer
For 10 years, a programmer with schizophrenia has been building an operating system to communicate with his god. Jesse Hicks writes a thoughtful piece on obsession and mental illness.


I’ve updated my Speaking page to include more conferences, more videos, and a little on my speaking requirements and preferences. I’m planning to cut down on the number of talks I give in 2014 (twelve is too many), but am always open to interesting offers and opportunities, so please get in touch if you’re organising an event.

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