Book Review – Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us

It started with six pieces of Lego. Dan Lyons, former Newsweek technology editor, as well as writer on the HBO series Silicon Valley (and former Fake Steve Jobs), meets a Lego “Serious Play” trainer who asked him to make a duck in 30 seconds. He fretted, then worried, wondering if it was all a trick, before finally presenting his duck to her. It turned out that it didn’t matter what he did, that it was all just a game, a way to jump-start conversation. And that left him rattled.

In his book, Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us, New York Times bestselling author Dan Lyons critiques how this sort of “Serious Play” activity is all the rage in Silicon Valley, as startups and tech companies mess with the heads of their employees. He criticizes how it looks like a “cult of happiness,” which is facilitated through a new way of working.

And if you’re not in Silicon Valley, it’s coming soon to a company near you.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Break up Facebook (and while we’re at it, Google, Apple and Amazon) – The Guardian

It is time to use antitrust again. We should break up the hi-tech behemoths, or at least require they make their proprietary technology and data publicly available and share their platforms with smaller competitors.

Robert Reich is right; there are companies that have far too much influence, and they need to be broken up. Google and Facebook are dangerous for democracy, and dominate online advertising, and Amazon is dangerous for retail.

Facebook and Google dominate advertising. They’re the first stops for many Americans seeking news. Apple dominates smartphones and laptop computers. Amazon is now the first stop for a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.

However, Mr. Reich is wrong; Apple does not dominate smartphones and laptops, at least not in the entire world. They are first in the US, but with around 40%; that’s not anti-trust level domination. Worldwide, however, Apple’s market share is around 12%, and Samsung is in the lead at around 20%. Apple does dominate the high end of the smartphone sector though.

As much as I use Amazon for practicality – I live in a rural area near a town of around 25,000 people, so local shopping opportunities are limited – I do understand that they are killing off retail.

In the second Gilded Age as in the first, giant firms at the center of the American economy are distorting the market and our politics.

We must resurrect antitrust.

Yep.

It’s worth noting that Tim Cook recently said in an interview that regulation of these firms will be necessary; he knows it is coming, and is planning for it, whereas Facebook and Google are just playing coy and fighting it. Apple will come out well with this approach.

Source: Break up Facebook (and while we’re at it, Google, Apple and Amazon) | Opinion | The Guardian

Why you should read this article slowly – The Guardian

Are we doomed to read distractedly in the digital age? Technology seems to deter slow, immersive reading. Scrolling down a web page with your thumb feels innately less attentive than turning over the pages of a book. Reading on a screen, particularly a phone screen, tires your eyes and makes it harder for you to keep your place. So online writing tends to be more skimmable and list-like than print. At the top of a web article, we are now often told how long it will detain us, forewarned that the words below are a “15-minute read”. The online reader’s put-down is TL;DR. Too long; didn’t read.

The cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf argued recently that this “new norm” of skim reading is producing “an invisible, game-changing transformation” in how readers process words. The neuronal circuit that underpins the brain’s capacity to read now favours the rapid ingestion of information, rather than skills fostered by deeper reading, like critical analysis and empathy.

We shouldn’t overplay these dangers. All readers skim. Skimming is the skill we acquire as children as we learn to read more sophisticatedly. From about the age of nine, our eyes start to bounce around the page, reading only about a quarter of the words properly, and filling in the gaps by inference. One of the little miracles of silent reading is that we can do it so quickly and yet also subvocalise, semi-hearing the words in our heads. Skimming is all part of that virtuoso human act.

I remember being taught how to skim in grade school, in order to efficiently read a newspaper. Given that American news journalists – at least back then – often used the the inverted pyramid approach, skimming was a good way to get news without having to read to much, and to know when we wanted to read more.

People who complain about skimming are missing the point. When they talk about reading articles on the internet, skimming is a useful strategy. The problem, however, is when that’s all that people read. I don’t think many people skim novels, though sometimes when a book isn’t that good, and I want to get to the end, I do skip some of the slow parts. Skimming non-fiction books is certainly a valid strategy, because you may not want to read every expanse an author presents.

I do agree that slow reading, or deep reading, is very useful, and worth doing when you read a really good book. But skimming isn’t new, and it’s not changing the way we read. Swiping and scrolling probably have more of an effect on attention spans than skimming articles.

Source: Why you should read this article slowly | Books | The Guardian

How to Post to Instagram from Safari on a Mac

It is well known that Instagram only really works on a smartphone. There are apps for iOS and Android, but there isn’t even a tablet version of the app. You can, of course, view Instagram from the desktop or on a tablet, in any browser (check out my photos on Instagram), but you can’t post or manage your photos.

Well, actually, you can, with a bit of trickery. If you use Safari on macOS, you can do anything that you can do in the Instagram app. Here’s how.

Read more

Lefsetz Letter – Galaxy S8

Replacing your mobile phone today is like replacing your computer, something you used to do every couple of years and now do every six or seven. You see the functionality is good enough. Now it’s solely about fashion.

[…]

The days of cool hardware are done. The focus is on what the hardware, which is good enough, can do. Software reigns. And not only productivity apps software, but music, art, anything that can be accessed/streamed.

This has been obvious for years. I’ve said this ad infinitum, but once the iPod, and then the iPhone, was able to handle all the forms of media that we can access (music, text, photo, and video), and was able to run apps, including demanding games, there was nothing else to do. The only real improvements in phones any more is in the cameras, and most people don’t care about that; the camera in their current phone is good enough.

The future is about software, but even more about services (i.e., software on a server). This is why Apple is investing a lot on that part of the equation. Only those who want to be cool really need the latest smartphone, be it from Apple or Samsung. But this is why the hardware companies and carriers have introduced subscription pricing for phones, along with a new device every 12 months. Because without it, people will realize that they don’t need to pay all that many to refresh their phone.

Source: Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Galaxy S8

Get this: Tech industry thinks journos are too mean. TOO MEAN?! – The Register

The tech press has dared to lean away from its core mission of making technology companies more profitable, says tech advocacy house ITIF.

The industry-funded think tank has cooked up an 18-page report [PDF] that laments what it says is a shift in the media from a “positive” attitude in the 1980s and 1990s to one that is more confrontational in the past two decades.

According to the ITIF, as tech news outlets have meandered from their central mission of hyping up technology and splashing around headlines about companies delivering quality products and treating customers fairly, multi-billion-dollar corporations have found the growing levels of criticism quite inconvenient.

“This report finds that there has been a notable decline in the favorable coverage of technology in the US media,” the think tank claims.

FFS. Seriously?

Tech giants, we’re not your cheerleaders.

I couldn’t have said it better.

Source: Get this: Tech industry thinks journos are too mean. TOO MEAN?! • The Register