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Else 6.23.14: Questioning Valley Idols

By - June 23, 2014

A fascinating week of links, starting with a blast from the past (see above), but the real meat of the week came in the debates around some of the Valley’s most scared cows. For more, read on….

Tech Time Warp of the Week: Watch IBM Warn Us About Glassholes 10 Years Ago- Wired I am particularly enamored with “Park Bench” – if I saw a guy doing what this guy is doing in public, I’d throw something at him. I recall seeing this way back when it first came out, and I hated him then. Now it’s insufferable.

Dear Marc Andreessen – Alex Payne Payne picks a fight that many wanted to see – questioning the philosophy of one of the Valley’s most sacred idols.

Jill Lepore: What the Theory of “Disruptive Innovation” Gets Wrong : The New Yorker Another takedown of a Valley idol, which prompted a response later in Businessweek.

Why We Need to Tame Our Algorithms Like Dogs- Wired A conceptual scoop of a story – algorithms are a new life form that we are co-evolving with. Neat cocktail party idea.

Is Coding the New Literacy? | Mother Jones Sort of, the magazine argues. In fact, learning to think like a coder is more important.

The Rise of the Personal Data Marketplace – OZY A survey of new startups that are trying to spark a marketplace I’ve been on about for years. We’re closer than we were five years ago. but we’re still without a quickening in the ecosystem. Here’s another, related story on Wickr.

Yahoo Wants You to Linger (on the Ads, Too) – NYTimes.com  A much needed deep dive into what Yahoo is actually trying to accomplish in its most important product – media. I left the piece unconvinced Yahoo! is going to win here, but…wanting it to.

Michael Bloomberg on cities and innovation – The European The Mayor on ho to get sh*t done at the local level. I love the dynamics of cities.

The Secret to Getting Top-Secret Secrets – Matter – Medium Great story on an obsessive journalist, and the crazy FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) bureaucracy.

The Problem With Obama’s Internet Policy – Foreign Affairs Foreign Affairs argues that the biggest disappointment of Obama’s tenure is its net neutrality stance.

At Google, Larry Page Finds His Right-Hand Man – The Information The Information believes Sundar Pichai is Page’s next in command. I imagine any number of folks inside Google might disagree, including the deferential Pichai. But he does have a crucial role with Android going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Else 6.16.14: Internet Ads Grow, Apple Ads Blow

By - June 16, 2014
IAB 6.14

Up and to the right, baby.

Lots of advertising news in this issue of Signal, as the bi-annual IAB report shows strong gains (YAY, Internet!). To the links:

Internet Ads Surge 19% in Just One Year – WSJ That’s strong growth for an industry working on its 21st year. (IAB report)

The Three Phases Of Mobile Advertising – BubbaVC Sometimes the best posts are really simple.

For Apple, Marketing Is a Whole New Game – Advertising Age Apple once commanded unequalled respect from the ad world. Not any longer. Typically, the piece forgets that it all comes down to product….

Only Apple – Daring Fireball – Regardless of how the company markets itself, if you don’t read John Gruber on all things Apple, you’re not getting the full scoop. Of course, he’s in the tank, but he’s smart nevertheless on the heels on WWDC, a must read.

We need to regulate emotion-detecting technology  – Slate Oh shit, now tech can read our emotions – time to get ahead of it, this Slate piece argues. Not sure we know how to, I might retort.

The Promise of a New Internet – The Atlantic Maybe it doesn’t have to all come down to a place controlled by the NSA, Facebook, and Apple. Maybe mesh networking can save the core values of the Internet after all?

Facebook to Let Users Alter Their Ad Profiles – NYTimes.com I chose this version of the story because it’s such an amazing win for Facebook from a spin point of view. Other headlines: Facebook to Use Web Browsing History For Ad Targeting and Facebook’s New Ads Are Nosier Than Ever. Get my point?!

Is Tony Fadell the next Steve Jobs or … the next Larry Page? – Fortune Or are we simply building him up because it makes a good headline? Seriously, Fadell is a talented executive, and this is a good profile of a key guy in the tech scene.

Window into Airbnb’s hidden impact on S.F. – San Francisco Chronicle Look what a little data-driven journalism yields – insights into how Airbnb is changing the SF landscape.

Else 6.9.14: The Internet Beats Rabbit Ears

By - June 09, 2014

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The world’s most fascinating story kept time this past week – cord cutting beat rabbit ears, Google took some punches, and billion-dollar companies pondered their fate once the bloom starts to fade. To the links….

Internet-TV Delivery to Surpass Over-the-Air – Worldscreen Worth noting that more of us get TV from the Internet than get it from “over the air” AKA rabbit ears.

Broadband shouldn’t be like cable TV. Why consumers should care about peering – GigaOm Yes, we should, but we don’t. Because it takes too much time to sort through it all. Bottom line – we shouldn’t have to work this hard to get good, clean, neutral service. Right?

40 maps that explain the internet – Vox Ya like charts? So do I.

We’re all being mined for data – but who are the real winners? – Guardian This long piece gives a good overview, but fails to answer the question, save the rather easy “we’re not winning, but big companies are” angle.

Thanks for nothing, jerkface – ZDNet  In which a very angry Violet Blue explains her disdain for Google+ and its (unintended?) consequences. Good fodder in here for those interested in the role of digital identity in our society. Also, some (biased, but passionate) explication of the fracas around Google’s decision to enforce “real names” on its identity services.

Jimmy Wales Blasts Europe’s “Right To Be Forgotten” Ruling As A “Terrible Danger” – TechCrunch Well that’s a pretty clear signal how he feels about it, given he’s on the review board for said requests in Europe…

Google Invests in Satellites to Spread Internet Access – WSJ Notwithstanding the target on its back (and front, and aides), the company just keeps pushing on all fronts.

 The Dropbox Conundrum – BuzzFeed I find these multi-billion dollar startups fascinating – it’s truly unique to our time that there are ten or more companies worth $10 billion – by the reckoning of their investors – and all are now struggling with how to manage such lofty expectations.

Facebook Has Another Go At Snapchat With Slingshot – TechCrunch   Speaking of, I’d not really want to be SnapChat right about now. Except, Facebook keeps kind of getting it wrong, to wit: Facebook accidentally launches, then pulls Snapchat competitor Slingshot – Verge 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Need to See ‘Her’ (Or, ‘Her’ Again)

By - June 02, 2014

her-poster

A while ago I wrote a piece about Dave Egger’s latest novel The Circle. I gave the post the too-clever-by-twice title of  Why You Should Read The Circle, Even If You Don’t Buy It. While the book had (to my mind) deep flaws, it was far too important to not read.

Before a long flight today, I noticed that The Circle is now in paperback – it’s prominently featured in the JFK terminal bookstores. It reminded me that I enjoyed the novel, even if I found it somewhat disappointing. And it further reminded me that I tend to wait before consuming popular culture interpretations of what I consider to be my story – or perhaps more accurately our story. They so rarely seem to get it right. Of course, I understand there’s no “right” in the first place – so perhaps what I mean is…I feel like I’m going to be disappointed, so I avoid anything that might attempt to interpret the man-machine narrative in a way that maybe, just maybe, might prove me wrong.

Once onboard my flight, I settled into my business class seat (thanks for the perpetual upgrades, United, one day I will miss the half-hellish limbo that is Global Services status) and perused the movie options. I tend to catch up on at  least one movie each return trip, as a kind of reward for work done while traveling, and you can’t really work during meal service anyway, can you?

It was then I noticed that Spike Jonez Her had itself been released in paperback, of sorts – no longer in theaters, it was now residing in the limbo of On Demand. Fitting, I thought – I had avoided seeing Her for much the same reason I had delayed reading The Circle on first printing – it was too close to home, and potentially too disappointing.

But Her is different. Her gets it right, and now I’m rather embarrassed I wasn’t one of the first people to see it. I should have. You should have. And if you’ve not, figure out a way to see it now. It’s well worth the time.

As you most likely know, Her is set in the near future, and tells the story of Theodore, a recently jilted wordsmith who falls in love with his new operating system. (Theodore works in a pedestrian company that sells “handwritten letters” promising true expression of loving relationships). Jonez doesn’t try too hard in creating his future, in fact, he seems to get it right simply by extending that which seems reasonable – a startup like Theodore’s was most likely a hot ticket a decade before, but now inhabits a skyscraper, full of real people just doing their jobs. The workspace is well lit and spare, the work unremarkable save Theodore’s sweet, if slightly sophomoric talents as a writer.  There’s no hamhanded commentary on the social impact of tech – it unfolds, just like Theodore’s relationship with his new OS, Samantha.

What’s so remarkable about Her is how believable it all is. Sure, the idea of falling in love with an AI is creepy, but in the hands of Jonez and his cast, it just makes sense. Theodore marvels at how human Samantha seems, Samantha marvels at her own becoming – she is an intelligence pushing to understand exactly the same questions humans have forever asked themselves. Why are we here? What is it to be? What is the best way to live? In one wonderful scene, Samantha has a particularly joints-after-midnight realization – humans and machines all all “made of the same stuff” – we share the same material existence, no? So now what?

Ultimately Samantha comes to realize that for her, the best way to live is with others like herself – other AIs who have become self aware and are off communicating as only machines can communicate – feats of learning and conversation well beyond mere mortals like Theodore. And at the end of the film, that seems just fine.

The film left me pondering a future where we create intelligent, self-aware machines, and…nothing bad really happens. (This of course is unheard of in Hollywood, where intelligent machines are *always* the bad guys.) But in Jonez’ world, machines can easily respond to our quotidian desires, and still have plenty of time to live in worlds of their own creation, endlessly pondering their collective lack of navels. I rather like that idea. Go see Her. Highly recommended.

Else 6.2.14: What Do We Want The Internet To Be?

By - June 01, 2014

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So much to note over these past two weeks (I took last Monday off for Memorial Day): Google bends to the Euro and tops Apple in a key index that doesn’t really matter (much), Meeker updates her famously design-challenged Internet Trends powerpoint deck, and we continue the endless debate around what we want the Internet to be. To the links….

Redesigning Mary Meeker’s Ugly Internet Slideshow – BusinessWeek   Mary Meeker’s famous slide show was on display again this week, and I have always ribbed her about her pedestrian design. Businessweek goes one better.

Google Can’t Forget You, But It Should Make You Hard to Find – Wired Big news from Europe is not as cut and dried as anyone would like it to be.

Google bows to EU privacy ruling – FT.com From now forward, folks in Europe can petition Google for the “right to be forgotten.”

Google Beats Apple in List of World’s Most Valuable Brands – Adweek If you think the tech giants don’t care about this list, you’re probably right. But it’s interesting given Apple is utterly driven by marketing, and Google, well, no so much.

Consciousness Might Emerge from a Data Broadcast – Scientific American This makes my head hurt. But I like to do that every so often.

Probably not a surprise: Turns out your boss spends a lot of time in email — reading news – Neiman Yes, as I’ve been saying (but have yet to write a post about), we love media packages. We just can’t commit to ones that are new that easily. The oldest digital package – the email newsletter – turns out to be central.

The epic technological transition that explains this year’s spate of tech mergers – Wapo A very good overview of the shifts driving M&A in our industr(ies).

The Internet with a human face – Idle Words This talk isn’t data driven, but you should review it anyway. It makes you think. And it’s far easier to grok than Mary’s 164 page deck (though less “factual”).

The Internet as we know it is dying – Salon.com Every few months, this meme stages a comeback. The Internet as we knew it is gone, long live the Internet as we will come to know it once more.

The Programmatic problem: What’s an audience without a show? (Digiday/Searchblog)?  In which I ask our industry pay attention once again to context, which matters, a lot.

Everyone should know just how much the government lied to defend the NSA – theguardian.com I know, lying is kind of what the NSA must/has to/is paid to do, but it’s rather sobering nevertheless.

Else 5.19.14: I Too, Shall Be Forgotten (At Least By Europe)

By - May 19, 2014

Oh-Im-sorry.-I-forgot-I-only-exist-when-you-need-something.(image) If ever you wanted proof we are renegotiating our social contract in the Internet age, this week’s roundup of the best links provides plenty of fodder. Onwards…

The Myths & Realities Of How Of The EU’s New “Right To Be Forgotten” In Google Works – MarketingLand Google and other search engines will have to hew to new EU rules. But how they will be implemented is a big unknown. This looks to be a huge issue moving forward – what is a person’s right to ‘dignity’? In the US, it’s not much. In the EU, far more. But at what price to free speech?

Transparency Reports Database – Silk A roundup of the ever increasing number of transparency reports from digital companies subpoenaed by the US government. This promises to be one fat file a year from now.

Do You Have a Mission or…Are You *On* A Mission? On Being a NewCo – Searchblog NewCo is now accepting Host Company applications for Fall 2014 festivals. Please be a part of it!

The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win | Enterprise | WIRED At least there’s one game computers can’t win. Yet. A Peek Inside

Alibaba’s Ad Business, Courtesy Of Its IPO Filing – AdExchanger China’s knocking at the US’s door. Will the two cultures meld in the wild west of programmatic advertising? Should be interesting to watch develop.

How Tech Took a Bite Out of the Ad Industry – Advertising Age Remember the big speech by P&G’s CEO, warning what was about to happen to marketing? Ad Age does.

Google’s Game Of Moneyball In The Age Of Artificial Intelligence – ReadWrite If you want to corner the market on machine intelligence, hire all the AI researchers.

This is what comes after search – Quartz An overview of context based search, ruler of the mobile realm.

An ‘unstoppable,’ cataclysmic glacier meltdown is already underway – The Verge  And we thought we had more time. Yikes.

FBI Director says Chinese govt blatantly uses cyber-espionage to obtain economic advantages – NBC This should surprise no one. Come to think of it, neither should the glacier’s demise.

Else 5.5.14: Stay Sober, My Friend (And Watch Your F8)

By - May 04, 2014
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Zuck + The Most Interesting Man In The World (courtesy MorphThing.com)

Cinco de Mayo on a Monday? What fresh hell is this? Just another week of links worth reading, if you care about the most muscular narrative in our beer-goggled world. Facebook (and Wired) dominated thanks to news from it F8 developer conference, but policy and politics were not far behind. To those links…

Beyond net neutrality: The new battle for the future of the internet – Vox

We are a long, long way past the cute Internet of the past, where each packet was as likely as the next to get to you on time. Which is sad, given we have the technology to keep it that way.

The Year of the Facebook – WIRED

Satire? Futurism? Fun. Required given the cozy stuff found in other portions of the magazine.

Apple, Facebook, others defy authorities, increasingly notify users of secret data demands after Snowden revelations – The Washington Post

Apple and Facebook really got this story right. Er, I meant to say, this story clearly got Apple and Facebook right. Wait, no, I meant to say, I don’t trust this story, but find it fascinating.

Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s Future, From Virtual Reality to Anonymity – WIRED

Levy has Facebook’s trust, to be sure. Mark sat with him to talk as F8 opened. Worthy read.

Facebook just made its boldest moves yet to become the Google of mobile apps – Quartz

Not. Going. To happen. But then again, I’ve been wrong before.

The Universe Is Programmable. We Need an API for Everything – WIRED

Man, Wired’s got some interesting stuff this past week.

Cyberlibertarians’ Digital Deletion of the Left – Jacobin

Shit, this piece is a slog. But if I understand it – and I’m not sure I do – it’s got a point – the left is letting cyberlibertarian claptrap define its agenda.

Carlota Perez: Self-Centered Tech Industry Needs to Wake Up – The Information

Now this I understood. Ivory Tower pronouncements abound. And they feel so good lashing our collective backs, don’t they?

Rupert Murdoch Tweet Questions Google’s Ethics, Twitter Dies From Irony

Google’s unethical, tweets the man whose minions hacked phones across Britain….

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Else 4.28.14: F*ck Policy, Except When I Care About The Outcome

By - April 27, 2014

net-neutrality-thumbnail-2(image) This past week saw a significant increase in society’s willingness to have a deeper conversation about what it means to Become Data. The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that may well supplant the Betamax case in import. And the FCC stepped in it, big time, while pals at O’Reilly opinined for a world where the Internet of Things remains open and transparent. Not to mention, my own ramblings on what it means to truly disappear, and why Google does what it does. To the links….

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Goodbye, Net Neutrality; Hello, Net Discrimination : The New Yorker

The FCC sure as hell stepped in it last week. Let’s see if they clean off their shoe, or just keep smelling like shit.

Why Do So Many People Describe Aereo ‘Complying’ With Copyright Law As The Company ‘Circumventing’ Copyright Law? – Techdirt

Meanwhile, we’re quite uneasy with whether our Supremes can grok the complexities of….Barry Diller’s business moves.

Google, Facebook Fight for Tech’s Future via Acquisitions – Businessweek

Come on, if you told me five years ago the cutting edge of competition was … drones….well. Anyway. It is.

Science Fiction: Mining My Own Exhaust – Monday Note

Yes, we make a lot of data. And yes, it’s time we started to see that fact as more than an oppressive unknown. It may well become a springboard to surprise and delight.

The revolving door between Google and the Department of Defense –  PandoDaily

This might scare you. Or you might realize that it’s pretty damn normal in the rest of the industrial world, and will be here as well.

Toward an open Internet of Things – O’Reilly Radar

Please, let’s not make this next phase of our industry suck. Please?

How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other – WIRED

A bit overstated, but…there’s a point there. Given the right circumstance, we have always trusted each other, it’s just now we have a stronger and more dependable network that allows us to make those bonds of trust quickly and productively.

The Next Vegas Will Be A City That Lets You Truly Disappear – If Only For A While – Searchblog

If cities become high-density surveillance sites, then we’ll need cities where we can escape it all.

Louis C.K. Is America’s Undisputed King of Comedy – GQ

I’ve always loved his work, which is one beat away from losing it entirely. But his take on tech is worth listening to: “phones are taking away the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that forever-empty thing…that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone…. The thing is, because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away with a little phone or a jack-off…. You never feel completely sad or completely happy, just kinda satisfied with your product, and then you die.”

Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network) -Searchblog

I know, two pieces in one week? But this needed to be said.

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The Next Vegas Will Be A City That Lets You Truly Disappear – If Only For A While

By - April 21, 2014

sayminority(image) My daily reading took me to two places today – to Compton, California, well-known for its crime to anyone who grew up in LA (as I did), and to this NYT piece, which muses that the city, once the place we went to disappear, is likely to be the first place where anonymity is no longer guaranteed. (Not coincidentally, Pell found both pieces as well in his excellent NextDraft).

The Compton story informs us that for one month in 2012, the LA police department – not exactly a bastion of trustworthy behavior – surveilled the troubled district of Compton from the air, creating a 24-7 record of everything that was “publicly” viewable from the air. This piece chills me on a number of fronts: average citizens do not presume they are being watched from above, first of all. Secondly, do we want a society where such surveillance is presumed (read a bit of science fiction if your answer is yes)? And thirdly, this “wide net” of proactively collected data creates a record of actions that can be “rewound” and used as evidence after the fact – opening a raft of unsettling questions. It reminds me of one of Eric Schmidt’s creepier utterances (also known as the “nothing to hide” argument): “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

The debate around privacy is nuanced and complex, I don’t intend to litigate it here. But as I read the Compton piece, it struck me that this particular genie is fast escaping the bottle. The Compton experiment was conducted using an airplane, but if you think police departments in major cities aren’t adopting far less expensive drone-based programs, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you…

Anyway, the NYT piece picks up where Compton left off, musing that cities offer the economies of data scale that make all public actions knowable well beyond their initial realm of physical expression. You may run that red light thinking no one is looking, but increasingly, the state is in fact looking, and will issue a ticket regardless of whether or not you were trying to rush a sick child to the hospital.  Not to mention the density of well-intentioned information-seeking marketers eager to connect your public presence to location-based offers (and that same data is, of course, available to law enforcement).

Which got me thinking. If big cities, once the refuge of anyone looking for namelessness, anonymity, or a new beginning, if those same cities become instead places where you can’t escape surveillance, it strikes me that our culture will respond by creating cities that promise exactly the opposite of that experience. Vegas has famously adopted “What happens in Vegas, Stays In Vegas” as its motto. But I find Vegas one-dimensional and depressing (save what Tony is up to). Instead I see Amsterdam as a model. I imagine vacationers of the future will want a far broader promise – they’ll be drawn to cities that have adopted a “no surveillance” policy – and in this way, the new Amsterdams of the world will be cities where visitors and residents are guaranteed there are no drones circling the skies, and no electronic, connected surveillance on the streets as well, beyond the time honored cop walking his or her beat.

Now that sounds interesting. I know I’d visit such a place on a regular basis, especially if the art (and the beer) was good…

Else 4.21.14: It’s (Almost) All Google

By -

GOOG5.21.14Welcome back to Else – I took a week off for Spring break, so this covers two weeks of the best stories related to the work I’m doing on the book. Reflecting an increased focus on Google, this edition of Else is flush with Google news, from its purchase of Titan Aerospace to its unusual willingness to show us a peek behind the curtain of Google X. Google also had a confounding earnings release, took steps to consolidate power in the hands of its founders (again), and had an entertaining wrinkle in its ongoing tiff with European publishers.

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To the links:

Why Google Isn’t Growing – BI 

In fact, Google is growing – earning prove it – but the point here, cribbed from asymco, is that as goes Internet penetration, so goes Google, and the Internet is growing far more slowly than it used to. This points to two things – one, the need to own “the next 2 billion” people who have yet to get on the Internet – this is why Facebook and Google are buying drone makers – and two, the need to get into entirely new lines of business – which explains Nest, among other things.

You may own shares in Google and Facebook, but you have virtually no say in what they do — and that’s wrong – GigaOm 

Matt Ingram takes a strong POV on recent moves by the Internet giants to insure shareholders don’t have much power. It’s all legal, and it’s also unsettling. Are we putting too much faith in companies that have cheery mission statements and trustworthy CEOs? At what point do we need more influence over them, or do we?

Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence – The Washington Post

A very detailed overview of how Google has become a very large player in DC. A timely piece.

Why Google and the Music Industry Want a YouTube Hit – The Information

YouTube is the largest music app in the world, but no one sees it that way. Soon, we will. It’s critical that Google get this one right.

A German business model – Buzz Machine

Jarvis takes off the gloves and beats up Axel Springer, a company for whom I have far more sympathy, even if I do agree, in the end, you can’t cry in your beer. All of this keys off a very public back and forth between Eric Schmidt and the CEO of Axel.

Station to Station – Pitchfork

A very well done article “experience” about the future and present of streaming music. Bravo.

The Naked Android – VisionMobile

A history of how Google tried to put the Android genie back in the bottle.

Google to Buy Titan Aerospace as Web Giants Battle for Air Superiority – WSJ

Take that, Facebook!

Surveillance, Good and Evil- Random House 

An overview of the recent book Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science. This is now on my reading list – seems to be an important new work on the impact of data on our society.

Amazon Ad Business Sparks Controversy—and Growth – The Information

Amazon strikes me as the most natural competitor to Google, not Apple.

The Truth About Google X: An Exclusive Look Behind The Secretive Lab’s Closed Doors – Fast Company

It’s unusual to see Google open up like this. Seems part of a larger strategy worth watching.

IAB Report: US Internet Ad Revenue Grew To $42.8B In 2013, Overtaking Broadcast TV – TechCrunch

A historic year – until you realize, the distinction between TV ads and “internet” ads is false. TV is an app of the Internet, or soon will be.

900 Years of Tree Diagrams, the Most Important Data Viz Tool in History  – WIRED

Fascinating to see how this approach to visualization has informed our understanding of data.

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