The delightful Stewart Butterfield: "Q So do you think Slack is worth $3 billion? A It is, because people say it is." Read the rest
"Don't plan on camping outside an Apple store," writes The Verge's Jacob Kastrenakes. "Steep learning curve," warns the NYT's Farhad Manjoo, "But once I fell, I fell hard."
Update: It will be available in select stores. [via] Read the rest
Farhad Manjoo reports on the recent demise of GigaOm, the tech news website founded by Om Malik. Though it roasted $30m before creditors shut it down, "digital media darlings" are unfazed.
Gigaom’s downfall does not offer easy lessons for media start-ups. Gigaom, pronounced Giga-ohm, was special, and not in a good way, according to more than half a dozen staffers and executives, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing nondisclosure agreements with the company. It was a company troubled by poor leadership, a history of spending beyond its means and an inattention to major problems that had dogged its businesses for years.
Just because everyone's gliding on thermals of burning money, doesn't mean they'll all crash in the same field. Read the rest
Yesterday, Amazon announced the Fire Phone, its $200 answer to high-end Android models and the iPhone. The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo interviews Amazon chief Jeff Bezos. Read the rest
The Onion cooked up a brutal item today: a fake op-ed from CNN.com's managing editor, Meredith Artley, explaining why the above was CNN's homepage this morning.
There was nothing, and I mean nothing, about that story that related to the important news of the day, the chronicling of significant human events, or the idea that journalism itself can be a force for positive change in the world. For Christ’s sake, there was an accompanying story with the headline “Miley’s Shocking Moves.” In fact, putting that story front and center was actually doing, if anything, a disservice to the public. And come to think of it, probably a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people dying in Syria, those suffering from the current unrest in Egypt, or, hell, even people who just wanted to read about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, put the story in our top spot.
The real Meredith Artley took it in stride.
CNN did, at other points today, prioritize the destruction in Syria and the burning of Yosemite. [Pastpages via Farhad Manjoo] Read the rest
Farhad Manjoo: "Google has a single towering obsession: It wants to build the Star Trek computer." [Slate] Read the rest
Farhad Manjoo writes that Zynga, no longer shielded by its early success, is now in a death spiral fueled by universal contempt: "If you’re looking for this generation’s Pets.com, Zynga is pretty much it." Read the rest
Baby cry decoders! Advanced bouncing chairs! Surveillance systems! A Voice Activated Crib Light with Womb Sounds! In the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo has an interesting roundup of apps and gadgets for babies. Read the rest
"Call [it] a 'blacktag'—a trending topic initiated by a young African-American woman in Hollywood, pushed to a wider audience by a black woman in South Africa, and then pushed over the top by thousands of contributions from who appear to be black teenagers all over the United States."—Farhad Manjoo, in Slate. Read the rest
Reporters who attended the "Antennagate" presser today in Cupertino were invited to tour the company's "$100 million antenna designing and test facilities." They're blinding us with science! Bonus: When I right-clicked to save this jpeg from the Apple website, I noticed that the original file name included the words "Stargate Chamber." The hell with your free bumpers, Mr. Jobs, I want one of these suckers!
Related: Farhad Manjoo of Slate didn't go to the press conference, but he published a decidedly sour, not-impressed take on the day's Apple news. Wilson Rothman, formerly of Gizmodo and now of MSNBC, has a contrasting recap piece here.
(HT: Glenn Fleishman)
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"The iPhone turns 'heard about garys internship at the whitehouse?' to 'Heard about farts internship at the whorehouse?" At Slate, Farhad Manjoo explores the technical underpinnings of cellphone autocorrect. Read the rest
An interesting Slate piece points out a correlation between rates of infection by "cat poop protozoa"—that's Toxoplasma gondii— and success rates in soccer:
If we set aside the qualifying rounds (in which teams can play to a draw) and focus on matches with a clear winner, the results are very compelling. In the knockout round of this year's tournament, eight out of eight winners so far have been the teams whose countries had higher rates of Toxo infection. If we go back to the 2006 World Cup, seven out of eight knockout-round winners could be predicted by higher Toxo rates. The one exception to the rule was Brazil's defeat of Ghana, a match between two nations that each have very high rates. (Aside from having the winningest team in World Cup history, Brazil has quite a few cases of Toxo: Two out of three Brazilians are infected.)
It gets better. Rank the top 25 FIFA team countries by Toxo rate and you get, in order from the top: Brazil (67 percent), Argentina (52 percent), France (45 percent), Spain (44 percent), and Germany (43 percent). Collectively, these are the teams responsible for eight of the last 10 World Cup overall winners. Spain, the only one of the group never to have won a cup, is no subpar outlier--the Spaniards have the most World Cup victories of any perpetual runner-up.
Landon Donovan Needs a Cat (Slate, thanks Farhad Manjoo)
Toxoplasma (cat-poo parasite) hypnotizes rats
Mood-altering cat parasites make women friendly
Documentary about crazy cat ladies
Being a Parasite Vector Isn't All Puppies and Unicorns Read the rest
Slate's Farhad Manjoo says his hope for the big Apple announcement this week (which I'll be live-blogging from San Francisco) is "a tablet that's as easy to use as an appliance." Read the rest
Farhad Manjoo writes in to tell us about his Slate series looking back on Y2K, ten years later, "In the first part, which is up now, I look into how Y2K changed the tech industry, and whether it was all a waste. In the second I look at the unacknowledged success of Y2K--it was one of the only times in recent memory that the world has come together and spent a ton of money and time to prevent disaster (which we can't seem to do with other impending crises)."
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How big a deal was Y2K? In the run-up to new century, the United States spent about $100 billion combating the bug--around $9 billion by the federal government, and the rest by utility companies, banks, airlines, telecommunications firms, and just about every other corporate entity with more than a few computers. The rest of the world was no slouch, either; estimates for global Y2K-readiness spending range from about $300 billion to $500 billion.
Yet despite all that spending, the world quickly forgot about it. The Senate Committee's final report (PDF) avoids any deep inquiry into whether the money was well-spent, and no other government, private, or academic agency has since looked into the bug. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that we're all a little embarrassed about the whole thing. Just about everyone who'd been worried about Y2K before Jan. 1, 2000, slouched away in shame afterward, less interested in assessing what went right and what went wrong than in distancing themselves from a perceived boondoggle.
Farhad Manjoo sez, "I just wrote a piece about why office IT restrictions hurt productivity. There's a great deal of research showing that people are more creative and driven when they feel some sense of autonomy at work; locking down their computers works against that goal."
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The restrictions infantilize workers--they foster resentment, reduce morale, lock people into inefficient routines, and, worst of all, they kill our incentives to work productively. In the information age, most companies' success depends entirely on the creativity and drive of their workers. IT restrictions are corrosive to that creativity--they keep everyone under the thumb of people who have no idea which tools we need to do our jobs but who are charged with deciding anyway.
If I sound a bit over-exercised about what seems like an uncontroversial practice, it's because I am--for too long, office workers of the world have taken IT restrictions sitting down. Most of my co-workers at Slate labor away on machines that are under bureaucratic control; they need special dispensation to install anything that requires running an installation program, even programs that have been proved to be safe--anything that uses the increasingly popular Adobe AIR platform or new versions of major Web browsers. Other friends are blocked from visiting large swaths of the Web. IT departments install filtering programs that block not only adult sites but anything that might allow for goofing off on "company time," including e-mail and chat programs, dating sites, shopping sites, and news sites like Digg or Reddit (or even Slate).