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We Are Not Google, Therefore, We Are

By - February 06, 2014

RubiconS1If you read me regularly, you know I am a fan of programmatic adtech. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important developments of the 21st century. And over the past few quarters, adtech has gotten quite hot, thanks to the recent successes of Rocket Fuel (up to 50 and holding from its open at 29), Criteo (trading above its already inflated opening price of 31), and, by extension, Facebook and Twitter (don’t get me started, but both these companies should be understood as programmatic plays, in my opinion).

But while I like all those companies, I find Rubicon’s recent filing far more interesting. Why? Well, here’s the money shot of the S-1:

Independence. We believe our independent market position enables us to better serve buyers and sellers because we are not burdened with any structural conflicts arising from owning and operating digital media properties while offering advertising purchasing solutions to buyers.

Ah, there it is, in a nutshell: “We are not Google, therefore, we are.” Rubicon uses the words “independent” or “independence” more than a half a dozen times in its S1, about the same number of times the word “Google” is invoked.

I am in full support of an independent adtech ecosystem. It’s vitally important that the world have options when it comes to what flavor of programmatic infrastructure it uses to transact – and when I say the “world” I mean everybody, from publishers to advertisers, consumers to service providers. Criteo and Rocket Fuel are important companies, but they don’t directly compete with Google – their business leverages buying strategies to maximize profits. Rubicon, on the other hand, has a full adtech stack and is focused on publishers (and yes, that’s what sovrn is as well).

Over time, we won’t be talking about “publishers” and “advertisers,” we’ll be talking about “consumers” and “services.” And the infrastructure that connects those two parties should not be a default – it should be driven by competition between independent players.

So bravo, Rubicon, for making that statement so clearly in your S-1. I wish you luck.

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How Facebook Changed Us, and How We Might Change Again

By - February 05, 2014

keep-calm-and-love-data-2(image) If you weren’t under a rock yesterday, you know Facebook turned ten years old this week (that’s a link to a Zuckerberg interview on the Today Show, so yep, hard to miss). My favorite post on the matter (besides Sara’s musings here and here – she was at Harvard with Zuck when the service launched) is from former Facebook employee Blake Ross, who penned a beauty about the “Rules” that have fallen over the past ten years. Re/code covers it  here, and emphasizes how much has changed in ten years – what was once sacred is now mundane. To wit:

- No, you can’t let moms join Facebook because Facebook is for students.

– No, you can’t put ads in newsfeed because newsfeed is sacred.

– No, you can’t allow people to follow strangers because Facebook is for real-world friends.

– No, you can’t launch a standalone app because integration is our wheelhouse.

– No, you can’t encourage public sharing because Facebook is for private sharing.

– No, you can’t encourage private sharing because Facebook is moving toward public sharing.

– No, you can’t encourage public sharing because Facebook is moving toward ultra-private sharing between small groups.

And this one’s a snapchat with about 3 seconds left, so hurry up and bludgeon someone with it:

– No, you can’t allow anonymity because Facebook is built on real identity.

None of these pillars came down quietly. They crashed with fury, scattering huddles of shellshocked employees across watering holes like dotted brush fires after a meteor strike.

Re/code ends its post with “makes you wonder what might change in the next 10 years.” Well yes, it certainly does.

A close read of Ross’ post leaves me wondering about “informational personhood.” He considers all the change at Facebook, and his role in it as an sometimes frustrated employee, concluding that what he got from the experience was perspective:

It took me probably half a dozen meteoric nothings before I learned how to stop worrying and love the bomb. A congenital pessimist, I gradually began to see the other side of risk. Now, when the interns wanted to mix blue and yellow, I could squint and see green; but I thought the sun might still rise if everything went black. I felt calmer at work. I began to mentor the newer hires who were still afraid of meteors. Today I watch Facebook from a distance with 1.2 billion other survivors, and my old fears charm like the monster under the bed: I couldn’t checkmate this thing in a single move even if I wanted to. But even now, I know someone over there is frantically getting the band back together.

Fortunately, this blossoming resilience followed me home from work:

My very chemistry has changed. In relationships, hobbies, and life, I find myself fidgeting in the safe smallness of the status quo. I want more from you now, and I want more from myself, and I’m less afraid of the risks it’ll take to get there because I have breathed through chaos before and I believe now—finally—that we’ll all still be here when the band stops playing.

This is, of course, just a staple of adulthood. It’s what we were missing that night when meteors left us crater-faced for senior prom and we all thought our lives were over. It’s called perspective, and it’s the best thing I got from growing up Facebook.

Hmmm. So many things to ponder here. The constant renegotiation of the rules at Facebook changed his “very chemistry.” A fascinating observation – heated debate about the rules of our social road made Ross a different person. Did this happen to us all? Is it happening now? For example, are we, as a culture, “getting used to” having the policies around our informational identities – our “infopersons” – routinely renegotiated by a corporate entity?

I think so far the answer is yes. I’m not claiming that’s wrong, per se, but rather, it is interesting and noteworthy. This perspective that Ross speaks of – this “growing up” – it bears more conversation, more exploration. What are the “Rules” right now, and will they change in ten years, or less? (And these “Rules” need not be only internal to Facebook – I mean “Rules” from the point of view of ourselves as informational people.)

Some that come to mind for me include:

- I don’t spend that much of my time thinking about the information I am becoming, but when I do, it makes me uneasy.

– I can always change the information that is known about me, if it’s wrong, but it’s a huge PITA.

– I can always access the information that is known about me, if I really want to do the work (but the truth is, I usually don’t).

– I know the information about me is valuable, but I don’t expect to derive any monetary value from it.

– It’s OK for the government to have access to all this information, because we trust the government. (Like it or not, this is in fact true by rule of law in the US).

– It’s OK for marketers to have information about me, because it allows for free Internet services and content. (Ditto)

– I understand that most of the information that makes up my own identity is controlled by large corporations, because in the end, I trust they have my best interests at heart (and if not, I can always leave).

What rules do you think much of our society currently operates under? And are they up for renegotiation, or are we starting to set them in stone?

else 2.4: “Seeing ourselves as bits and bytes”

By - February 04, 2014

faceprintThis week, lots of talk of data ethics and infopolitics. As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

Google Beat Facebook for DeepMind, Creates Ethics Board — The Information
DeepMind acquisition terms required that Google establish an artificial intelligence ethics board.

When No One Is Just a Face in the Crowd — NYTimes
Whether tracking potential shoplifters or big spenders, commercial facial recognition in the physical world using “Faceprints” is becoming a reality.

When Big Data Marketing Becomes Stalking — Scientific American
Kate Crawford argues for data broker ethics to address the current power imbalance.

The Age of ‘Infopolitics’ — NYTimes
Philosopher Colin Koopman contends that we are becoming “informational persons,” and thus we need an “infopolitics” to address the power structures that travel with data. “We understandably do not want to see ourselves as bits and bytes. But unless we begin conceptualizing ourselves in this way, we leave it to others to do it for us.”

For the NSA, espionage was a means to strengthen the US position in climate negotiations — Information
Fascinating insight into how NSA spying shaped global politics.

Tech Giants, Telcos Get OK to Release Stats on NSA Spying — Wired
Tech companies are allowed to disclose FISA orders. While the disclosing in ranges is still obscure, its a step towards surveillance reform.

Out in the Open: Teenage Hacker Transforms Web Into One Giant Bitcoin Network — Wired
Ethereum is exploring how cryptocurrency protocols and architectures could serve as a model for other parts of the internet.

Google Glass to Be Covered by Vision Care Insurer VSP — NYTimes
VSP insurance provider is now covering Google Glass, which is also getting a design refresh to be more prescription friendly, but it’s really only reimbursing the lenses, not the hardware. There’s also talk of encouraging personalization with accessories. I still want my Warby Parker model, though.

Apple Hires Chief Medical Officer From Pulse Oximetry Company Masimo, Possibly for iWatch Team — MacRumors
Recent hires in the health informatics space suggest Apple might be integrating wearables into whatever smart watch efforts they are working on.

Step One: Turn The World To Data. Step Two?

By - February 03, 2014

housenumbers1Is the public ready to accept the infinite glance of our own technology? That question springs up nearly everywhere I look these days, from the land rush in “deep learning” and AI companies (here, here, here) to the cultural stir that accompanied Spike Jonze’ Her. The relentless flow of Snowden NSA revelations, commercial data breaches, and our culture’s ongoing battle over personal data further frame the question.

But no single development made me sit up and ponder as much as the recent news that Google’s using neural networks to decode images of street addresses. On its face, the story isn’t that big a deal: Through its Street View program, Google collects a vast set of images, including pictures of actual addresses. This address data is very useful to Google, as the piece notes: “The company uses the images to read house numbers and match them to their geolocation. This physically locates the position of each building in its database.”

In the past, Google has used teams of humans to “read” its street address images – in essence, to render images into actionable data. But using neural network technology, the company has trained computers to extract that data automatically – and with a level of accuracy that meets or beats human operators.Not to mention, it’s a hell of a lot faster, cheaper, and scaleable.

Sure, this means Google doesn’t have to pay people to stare at pictures of house numbers all day, but to me, it means a lot more. When I read this piece, the first thing that popped into my mind was “anything that can be seen by a human, will soon be seen by a machine.” And if it’s of value, it will be turned into data, and that data will be leveraged by both humans and machines – in ways we don’t quite fathom given our analog roots.

I remember putting up my first street number, on a house in Marin my wife and I had just purchased that was in need of some repair. I went to the hardware store, purchased a classic “6” and “3”, and proudly hammered them onto a fence facing the street. It was a public declaration, to be sure – I wanted to be found by mailmen, housewarming partygoers, and future visitors. But when I put those numbers on my fence, I wasn’t wittingly creating a new entry in the database of intentions. Google Street View didn’t exist back then, and the act of placing a street number in public view was a far more “private” declaration. Sure, my address was a matter of record – with a bit of shoe leather, anyone could go down to public records and find out where I lived. But as the world becomes machine readable data, we’re slowly realizing the full power of the word “public.”

In the US and many other places, the “public” has the right to view and record anything that is in sight from a public place – this is the basis for tools like Street View. Step one of Street View was to get the pictures in place – in a few short years, we’ve gotten used to the idea that nearly any place on earth can now be visited as a set of images on Google. But I don’t think we’ve quite thought through what happens when those images turn into data that is “understood” by machines. We’re on the cusp of that awakening. I imagine it’s going to be quite a story.

Update: Given the theme of “turning into data” I was remiss to not mention the concept of “faceprints” in this piece. As addresses are to our home, our faces are to our identity, see this NYT piece for an overview.

 

else 1.27: “Humans are pretty good at deceiving themselves”

By - January 27, 2014

This week we read about reverse engineering algorithms for dates, anticipatory algorithms, and more social weirdness with Google Glass. As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

Gartner Says by 2017, Mobile Users Will Provide Personalized Data Streams to More Than 100 Apps and Services Every Day — Gartner
Gartner offers some estimates on apps, wearables, internet of things, and other interfaces that are becoming data.

OfficeMax Blames Data Broker For ‘Daughter Killed in Car Crash’ Letter — Forbes
The extent of data brokers’ overreach into the sensitive details of our personal lives is revealed in uncanny misfires such as this.

Amazon Wants to Ship Your Package Before You Buy It — WSJ
Patents for “anticipatory shipping” reveals how Amazon could use data from “previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, returns and even how long an Internet user’s cursor hovers over an item” to get things where you want them, even before you click “buy.”

How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love — Wired
An interesting profile of McKinlay who reverse engineered his OkCupid profile to make himself optimally appealing to more women. Still, there’s no mention about how we might expect the system to bias imperfect matches to keep us coming back for more…

How Real is Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’? Artificial Intelligence Experts Weigh In — WSJ
Stephen Wolfram and others pick apart the details of Her. Also, speaking of Her, Jonah Hill on SNL did an amazing spoof where the he falls in love with the OS that mirrors himself. (It’s kind of how I imagined Her anyway, as this perfectly suited algorithmic “other.”) Watch it.

Exclusive: Google to Buy Artificial Intelligence Startup DeepMind for $400M — Re/code
And the investments in deep learning continue…

Protesters show up at the doorstep of Google self-driving car engineer — Arstechnica
Protest go beyond the obscure targeting buses to targeting specific Google employees who are “Building an unconscionable world of surveillance, control and automation.”

Google Pushes Back Against Data Localization — New York Times
Companies are starting to offer data storage differentiation, post-Snowden revelations, but some argue this isn’t really solving the problem (the data still has to travel).

CONFIRMED: Man Interrogated By FBI For Wearing Prescription Google Glass At The Movies —Business Insider
It’s a wild story, but a good example of how we’re all learning to adjust to new technologies that we don’t yet fully understand.

Sex With Glass lets users swap position suggestions and films their whole romantic interlude. — PSFK
There’s so much going on here. Embodying the other’s gaze, and yet somehow it’s still a male-focused command. Also, how am I not surprised that this exists?

else 1.20: “The future is much simpler than you think.”

By - January 20, 2014

This week we thought about the data in our homes, connecting the Internet of Things, and what’s next for the openness of the internet. As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

 

Nest thermostat acquisition is Google’s home invasion — New Scientist
Google’s $3.2B acquisition of Nest is all about staking a claim as the data interface into the home.

Why Her Will Dominate UI Design Even More Than Minority Report — Wired
Downplaying the dominance of screens and interfaces in the “slight future.” Also – Her was great for a lot of other reason that resonated with the themes we’ve been mulling over. Highly recommended!

Theodore, and the disappearing interface of the “slight future.”

Internet of Things: The “Basket of Remotes” Problem — Monday Note
But to get to that “slight future” vision of seamless interactions with technology, we need to do a lot of work to integrate interfaces so that they begin to talk together, fixing the “Basket of Remotes” problem.

This group just created a address book for the internet of things — GigaOM
The Wireless Registry is trying to become the DNS or addressing system for connected devices. I, for one, am excited by the prospect of sending out a bat signal that declares my food allergies in a restaurant.

The internet of bees could save our food supply — Quartz
RFID sensors allow Australian scientists to study bees’ routine movements for clues to identify causes of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Back to the Digital Drawing Board — New York Times
Susan Crawford suggests that all is not lost with the latest net neutrality ruling—instead this is a chance to more clearly define internet service as a “common carriage.”

Eagle Scout. Idealist. Drug Trafficker? — New York Times
The Times has an in-depth profile on the man allegedly behind the Silk Road and a closer look at the libertarian ideals behind his vision for internet commerce.

Big Data + Big Pharma = Big Money — ProPublica
A closer look at the data markets for prescription habits and preferences shows us what is at stake with these kinds of emerging information asymmetries.

else 1.13: “Keep the instrument in its place”

By - January 13, 2014

This week, we look at more applications machine learning, new wearables from CES, and some visions for the coming year. As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

How Google Cracked House Number Identification in Street View  — MIT Technology Review
Interesting details into the development of the neural network  that’s helping to identify distorted street numbers picked up by Street View images.

Pinterest, Yahoo, Dropbox and the (kind of) quiet content-as-data revolution — GigaOM
A nice rundown of the acquisitions that point to movement in machine learning and parsing of text and image content for consumer social platforms.

Sony’s new Core fitness tracker will be the ‘heart’ of its wearable experience (hands-on) — The Verge
Among the many wearables featured at CES, Sony is experimenting by drawing together activity trackers and life loggers, combining self-quantification and journaling features into one consolidated device and application combo.

This Clear, Flexible Electronic Circuit Can Fit on the Surface of a Contact Lens — Smithsonian Magazine
Flexible, printed circuits “one-sixtieth as thick as a human hair” are are the near-future of wearable sensors.

Bitcoin’s Incredible Year — Forbes
Kashmir Hill offers a thorough overview of the last year in bitcoin, which started in January valued at $13.50.

Portraits From Clips and Bytes – NYTimes
Interesting profile of data artist R. Luke DuBois who uses “technology to expose something about a subject that is not normally visible.”

Where Do We Go From Here? 8 Hypotheses About Tech in 2014 — The Atlantic
Alexis Madrigal has a nice take on the technoanxiety of the last year that has left us all a little skeptical and jaded. Happily, there are a lot of overlaps with where we have been focusing our attentions for the book.

Big Data and Its Exclusions — Stanford Law Review
Big data isn’t just about the privacy risks of inclusion by capturing data. This paper looks at who is excluded from an emerging data-driven ecosystem, and suggests a way to reconcile the data haves and have-nots with a “data antisubordination” doctrine.

Machine envy — Aeon
A nice history of science case for continued hypothesis-driven science, and the instruments that support it in an age of Big Data correlation.

Please enjoy this video of dancing drones — Engadget
Just for fun, watch this video of drones dancing like some retro-futuristic mash up of Daft Punk and Busby Berkeley.

else 1.6: “Ghosts in the machine”

By - January 06, 2014

Back from the holiday break, we look at data’s influence on culture; glass, both as a material for transmitting bits, and as a wearable interface; and the (im)permanence of data.

As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

 

How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood — The Atlantic
Alexis Madrigal and Ian Bogost do a little datamining to uncover the grammar of Netflix: 76,897 combinations of overly specific genres to tailor to every taste. It’s a great story of data journalism, and of the emerging influence of data on our culture. And they even built a generator from the data, which offered me “Hitman Coming of Age Stories.” Read through for the Perry Mason puzzle at the end: “The more complexity you add to a machine world, you’re adding serendipity that you couldn’t imagine. Perry Mason is going to happen. These ghosts in the machine are always going to be a by-product of the complexity. And sometimes we call it a bug and sometimes we call it a feature.”

netflix the atlantic

Data Broker Was Selling Lists Of Rape Victims, Alcoholics, and ‘Erectile Dysfunction Sufferers’ — Forbes
If you’re in the camp that says “what’s the worst that could happen if brokers are selling your data for advertising,” this list of vulnerable categorizations could change your mind.

The Postmodernity of Big Data — The New Inquiry
Getting a little heavy on the theory, but this is a nice start tying together big data, postmodernism and skepticism.

Kanye West Now Has His Own Cryptocurrency and It’s Called Coinye West — TIME
Amid the Bitcoin hype, new currencies like Coinye West and Dogecoin are cropping up, testing out the fundamentals of the cryptocurrency model.

The spread of glass — Benedict Evans
A concise and interesting metric about the spread of glass as the transit for our bits: “It’s all just glass with a data connection.”

I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass — Wired.com
Some interesting observations from a guy who wore Glass for an entire year – namely that he grew to really hate having to look at his smartphone. As for me, I’m compiling a list of all the places I consider briefly but decide not to wear Glass out.

One code to rule them all: How big data could help the 1 percent and hurt the little guy — Salon
This offers a nice discussion of the tension between algorithmic regulation (that is, putting regulation into programmable machines, such as Youtube DMCA takedowns) and the problem of regulating the algorithms themselves.

Do We Want an Erasable Internet? — WSJ.com
Do we assume the permanence of data, or not? This discusses the differences between a “forever internet” versus “erasable internet.”

Target confirms breach: 40 million accounts affected — ZDNet
This story got a lot of coverage over the holidays, but the most interesting thing here is that Target apparently stored CVV codes, which shows that if the data can be stored it will be stored, even if it’s not supposed to be.

Hyping Artificial Intelligence, Yet Again — The New Yorker
John Markoff’s front page discussion of deep learning seemed a little vague and hype-y to us,  though we’ve been paying close attention to latest AI surge, too. The New Yorker offers a little historical context.

We need to talk about TED — Benjamin Bratton
Criticism of TED talks oversimplification of complex issues and memification of ideas isn’t new, but it has never taken the form of TED talk before… #meta.

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower — The New York Times
The New York Times editorial board came out in support of classifying Edward Snowden as a whistle-blower (as opposed to a traitor) and calls for clemency. We tend to agree.

else 12.16: “It’s not entirely rational”

By - December 16, 2013

This week, Google is on our minds and in the news, cookies are used for surveillance, the ephemeral web isn’t so ephemeral, and we’ve got more friends thinking about our emerging Data Society.

As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

 

Google’s Road Map to Global Domination – NYTimes
A long read on Google’s continued efforts to map the world. We’ve seen how important the map is to the success of the self-driving car. But is this a question of the map and the territory? “It’s not entirely rational to build a map like Google has.” Includes obligatory Borges reference, of course.

Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots – NYTimes
Google is acquiring Boston Dynamics, robotics firm responsible for animal-like robots in BigDog. The company also has ties to DARPA. And the autonomous plot thickens…

Google Removes Vital Privacy Feature From Android, Claiming Its Release Was Accidental – EFF
Seems like a privacy-enhancing feature that blocked apps from collecting personal data like location information was accidentally released in a recent version of Android.

NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking – Washington Post
Slides suggest GooglePREFID cookies are used to identify surveillance targets. And that seemingly innocuous advertising use of cookies bleeds into more problematic uses.

4 Reasons Why Apple’s iBeacon Is About to Disrupt Interaction Design – Wired
Bluetooth Low Energy will bring us contextual information, tying content to the physical world around us.

State of Deception: Why won’t the President rein in the intelligence community? – The New Yorker
Details the political challenge weighing privacy and security against each other. The interesting takeaway for me was about the illusion of oversight: “People get on this committee and the first thing the intelligence community tries to do is get them to be ambassadors for the intelligence community rather than people doing vigorous oversight. The intelligence community basically takes everybody aside and says, ‘Here’s the way it works. . . .’ There’s no discussion about privacy issues or questions about civil liberties—those usually get thrown in afterward.”

Surveillance: Cozy or Chilling? – NYTimes
This piece explores the bodily metaphors we use to understand legal precedents for surveillance. “This framing question of ‘expectation of privacy’ is how courts currently determine what government behavior is permissible. And surely our metaphors for new technologies are vital to explaining what we ‘expect’ in terms of privacy.”

On Second Thought … Facebook wants to know why you didn’t publish that status update you started writing.  – Slate
The status updates you abandon are still being watched – if not the content then at the very least the occurance. A new study reveals self-censorship patterns on Facebook.

Disruptions: Internet’s Sad Legacy: No More Secrets – NYTimes
Even the services we thought were bringing us the emphemeral web are not as temporary as we might have expected. It is safer to assume everything is stored.

Computer Algorithm May Soon Be Picking Hipsters Out Of The Crowd – Red Orbit
Visual sorting algorithm tells the difference between hipster and goth style, binning “urban tribes.” Even if you wouldn’t call yourself a hipster, this algorithm can spot your beard.

Data & Society
danah boyd et al. are launching Data & Society, a new think/do tank addressing “social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development.” We’re excited to see more activity like this—keep an eye on this space!

12.9 else: “The most mericful thing in the world”

By - December 09, 2013

This week, the tension between industry, governments, and regulation gets hashed out over the NSA, drones, bitcoins, and DNA databases; bots are running research on our behalf, and I became “postdigital.”

As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

 

Tech Giants Issue Call for Limits on Government Surveillance of Users – New York Times
Coordinated efforts by industry leaders push back on surveillance standards. Seems like a good first step towards an open dialog between industry and government to talk more openly about their data relationships.

Amazon Drones Are Part of Jeff Bezos’s Pre-Lobbying Strategy – New York Magazine
The drone announcement is more than a PR stunt, it’s “charmware,” laying the  groundwork to get regulators on the side of progress. “And while these companies haven’t always mastered the regulation surrounding their chosen targets…they have found that charmware can be an effective technique for ­getting what they want. Making tantalizing preview videos, conducting social-media campaigns, and telling consumers how much better their lives will be when—not if—these products are legalized have become central to their business plans.”

DNA Testing Is Not Why 23andMe Is in Trouble – Motherboard
The FDA’s shutdown of 23andMe isn’t as much about individual consumers’ access to personal health information, as it is about the subsidized genomic dataset that the company is building and its future potential value.

Bitcoins: The second biggest Ponzi scheme in history – The Daily Dot
Gary North makes the case that bitcoins are not stable enough to be considered “money” and don’t provide consumer value otherwise.

For Bitcoin, a Setback in China and an Endorsement on Wall Street - New York Times
Interesting attempts at characterizing and comparing bitcoin, to Tulip bubbles and commodities trading.

Sentient code: An inside look at Stephen Wolfram’s utterly new, insanely ambitious computational paradigm – Venture Beat
Offers a look inside Steven Wolfram’s vision for smarter programmable knowledge to provide answers to complex questions. And it has a lot to do with autonomous coding: “What we’re trying to do is that the programmer defines the goal, and the computer figures out how to achieve that goal,” he said.

This Landmark Study Could Reveal How The Web Discriminates Against You – Forbes
Researchers are sending bots out to run comparative analysis on discrimination through personalization around the web, potentially offering some transparency to an otherwise opaque and individualized process.

Heartbreak and the Quantified Selfie – New York Magazine
Personal data gets really personal. Lam Thuy Vo explores using data as self-help/therapy to cope with a divorce. There are some interesting visualizations and personal meaning making of data, even if we’re not 100% sold on the neologism of the “quantified selfie.”

3D Me – Sara’s blog
I visited the Out of Hand exhibit this weekend in New York, and got Shapeways 3D scanned with a Microsoft Kinect device. It’s a novelty self portrait in this instance, but it demonstrates how easy it’s getting to scan things in the physical world, turn them into data, and spit them back out into the world as printed objects. I have been “materialized as the postdigital!”

My Shapeways scan, ready for 3D printing.

Can Ad Tech Really Change the World? – Digiday
Following on John’s post last month, Digiday explores some novel applications of adtech for data exchange. “Millions of dollars have been spent on technologies that allow advertisers to chase consumers across the Web in order to sell them shoes and insurance. But what if those same technologies could one day help cure cancer, eliminate car crashes or mitigate global warming?”

HP Lovecraft on Big Data – The Atlantic
Food for thought in the age of big data correlations, surfaced by Alexis Madrigal: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”

The Artful Accidents of Google Books – The New Yorker
Blogs are collecting (and fetishizing) the traces that reveal the physical form of the book as it becomes digitized in scanning efforts, including marginalia, library records, and the hands caught scanning pages.