Newsletter Episode 1: The Beginning

by danhon

This inaugural episode of my newsletter experiment was originally published on 23 January 2014.
It’s episode one. Let’s see how this goes.

1. Dear Subscriber, You Are Registered As A Participant In Mass Disturbance

The Vice article seems perhaps a little overwritten, but here’s your law-reflected-in-code story for the day: it appears that mobile phones within predefined geographic areas (or perhaps, or more worryingly, just those attached to specific base stations) were sent a message indicating that they had now been tagged in a database somewhere as taking part in illegal activity. Never mind that what’s actually being tagged is the presence of a mobile device, not the presence of an actual human.
2. Cab Conversation Of The Day
“So, you work on Facebook?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Say, did you read that article that said they were going to lose 80% of the users in the next few years?”
Oh, you mean this one? (apologies for the long Google URL)
Here’s the (non peer-reviewed) paper it’s based on: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1401.4208v1.pdf, using techniques from epidemiological modeling and applying them to online social networks. Its authors are members of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, so in my humble opinion perhaps it’s worth consulting the opinion of people who know a lot more about epidemiology.
Disclosure: one of the accounts I work on is Facebook.
3. Google, the next conglomerate?
After Google bought Nest last week, there was a lot of a) speculation as to what it meant for Nest, and b) speculation as to what it meant for Google, and c) general flailing opinion, yours truly notwithstanding. Some of the most interesting discussion was around whether there was still an easily discernible business model or strategy for Google, with opinion quickly heading toward the “Google as conglomerate” model. Here’s the best piece of commentary I found:
Here’s Horace Dediu’s take, too: http://www.asymco.com/2014/01/17/googles-three-ps/
4. VR will be here in two years, for real this time
As someone who was unreasonably excited when the first Virtuality arcade units came out it looks like this time, virtual reality might actually be coming. For real. Valve, who accidentally found themselves on top of the digital distribution pile for gaming with their Steam service, have a point of view paper out on how VR will definitely make it, and what’s needed to get it there:
Virtuality arcade units, the coolest thing when you were 13: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuality_(gaming)
5. The Retro Future Universe
So there’s this io9 article based on a comment on a review (bear with me) about Almost Human, Fox TV’s new show set in the future where a human partners with a robot and – you guessed it – they fight crime. Now, I haven’t watched the show, but the premise of the comment – that the backward looking view of the future is in fact because it’s a view of the future *as seen from the 1980s* is super intriguing. There are so many science fictional tropes that don’t get the chance to be explored in moving image – what I was excited most about Blomkamp’s Elysium was that part of the action would take place on an Stanford torus, which we never get to see on film. But then most of the movie took place on Earth.
That’s it for today! Let’s see if I can do this tomorrow, too.