Recommended Reading: Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

I just read and enjoyed this:

Among some computer engineers, Lena is a mythic figure, a mononym on par with Woz or Zuck. Whether or not you know her face, you’ve used the technology it helped create; practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena. Yet today, as a 67-year-old retiree living in her native Sweden, she remains a little mystified by her own fame. “I’m just surprised that it never ends,” she told me recently.

Read “Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs”

Recommended Reading: The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire

I just read and enjoyed this:

What’s on your mind? Right now, as I’m writing this, The New York Times is breaking the news that Facebook, after a year of staggering revelations concerning everything from misuse of private data to enabling Russian election interference to knowingly providing inflated metrics publishers used to remake the media landscape, has been caught giving other big companies access to its users’ information outside the framework of its normal privacy rules.

Read “The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire”

Recommended Reading: Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche

I just read and enjoyed this:

Draw me your map of utopia and I’ll tell you your tragic flaw. In 10 years of political reporting I’ve met a lot of intense, oddly dressed people with very specific ideas about what the perfect world would look like, some of them in elected office—but none quite so strange as the ideological soup of starry-eyed techno-utopians and sketchy-ass crypto-grifters on the 2018 CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise.

Read “Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche”

Recommended Reading: The problem with studies saying phones are bad for you

Choice quote:

The actual research hasn’t come to one neat conclusion, and that may be because the field has relied on self-reports. It’s possible to measure how much time you spend on your phone; it’s just that most research — some 90 percent of it, estimates David Ellis, a lecturer in computational social science at Lancaster University — hasn’t. People are notoriously unreliable reporters of their own behavior: people misremember, forget, or fudge their responses to make themselves look better.

Read “The problem with studies saying phones are bad for you”

50 years on from the Mother of All Demos

Fifty years ago today, on December 9th, 1968, Douglas Engelbart presented the Mother of All Demos, introducing the oN-Line System (NLS) to the world and with it then novel concepts such as the computer mouse, hypertext or remote collaborative document editing. In my humble opinion it is probably the most important moment of HCI history in the 20th century.

Watching this today, it is astonishing how seemingly simple and (nowadays) familiar technologies such as the computer mouse had to be explained from the ground up back then. If you got an hour and a half to spare, spend some time (re-)watching the event (now available on Youtube, but still also available at Stanford), or read about its importance and legacy at Wired or Ars Technica. Wired also shared a fascinating look at how they pulled it all off.

(Previously)

Recommended Reading: The Bullshit Web

I just read and enjoyed this:

The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff.

[…]

The combination of huge images that serve little additional purpose than decoration, several scripts that track how far you scroll on a page, and dozens of scripts that are advertising related means that text-based webpages are now obese and torpid and excreting a casual contempt for visitors.

Read “The Bullshit Web”

Recommended Reading: An inversion of nature: how air conditioning created the modern city

I just read and enjoyed this:

The shopping mall would have been inconceivable without air conditioning, as would the deep-plan and glass-walled office block, as would computer servers. The rise of Hollywood in the 1920s would have been slowed if, as previously, theatres had needed to close in hot weather. The expansion of tract housing in postwar suburban America relied on affordable domestic air conditioning units. A contemporary museum, such as Tate Modern or Moma, requires a carefully controlled climate to protect the works of art.

Read “An inversion of nature: how air conditioning created the modern city”

Recommended Reading: The Lottery Hackers

I recently read and enjoyed this:

Gerald Selbee broke the code of the American breakfast cereal industry because he was bored at work one day, because it was a fun mental challenge, because most things at his job were not fun and because he could—because he happened to be the kind of person who saw puzzles all around him, puzzles that other people don’t realize are puzzles: the little ciphers and patterns that float through the world and stick to the surfaces of everyday things.

Read “The Lottery Hackers”

Recommended Reading: Ways to think about machine learning

I just read and enjoyed this:

We’re now four or five years into the current explosion of machine learning, and pretty much everyone has heard of it. It’s not just that startups are forming every day or that the big tech platform companies are rebuilding themselves around it – everyone outside tech has read the Economist or BusinessWeek cover story, and many big companies have some projects underway. We know this is a Next Big Thing.

Read “Ways to think about machine learning”