Slow Build Digest
Year one post-*that day* — and the rest of the week that was.
You’re reading Slow Build, a weekly-on-Fridays newsletter about technology’s complications and possibilities.
Me right now:
My favorite writing app, Scrivener, is an enormously powerful tool that at once manages to give you both a 30,000-foot-up and in-the-weeds look at what you’re working on. Alas, that makes it really difficult to ignore when you’ve waaaaaay overshot your word count.
In the spirit of redemptive brevity, here’s our quick hits for this week:
Yesterday was, of course, the one-year anniversary of scores of people piling into the U.S. Capitol building in violent protest of Joe Biden’s winning of the presidential race. It’s a moment to look both back and forward.
—Facebook’s reduction of its policing of election-challenging posts immediately post-election was, find ProPublica and the Washington Post, a misreading of the political landscape that created a Petri dish for sentiments like “WE WILL HAVE CIVIL WAR IN THE STREETS BEFORE BIDEN WILL BE PRES.”
—The idea that no Facebook, no January 6th is “absurd,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
—One still unanswered question: what role if any did the Twitter-for-the-right Parler play?
—In that vein, what about podcasts? A new analysis finds them a purveyor of seed corn for election-stealing rhetoric, but spared much scrutiny because they’re more difficult to study.
—One takeaway from considering the last year in full: Twitter and Facebook are to a greater degree holding politicians to their policies.
—Still, the number of mentions of tech or the Internet or social media, etc., in Biden’s 24-minute speech yesterday decrying the events at the Capitol and warning of what’s next: zero.
The Elizabeth Holmes’ verdict in the Theranos case that came Tuesday is a decent reminder that Silicon Valley-style ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ can go seriously wrong.
—But Nature offers this spin, arguing that there’s already a good, if unsexy, corrective available in the biotech space: peer-review.
The Chinese government’s “regulatory crackdown” is narrowing the future possibilities of people there who trained up to work in the industry.
—That said, it’s curious that this is presented as straight reporting. “Fear and gloom now rule,” really?
Ryan Kaji is a 10-year-old who stars in YouTube videos showing him playing with toys. Fun hobby! Also, “[e]ven conservative estimates suggest that the Kaji family take exceeds $25 million annually.”
A deep dive into this current iteration of Senate candidate J.D. Vance suggests it has much to do with Peter Thiel and the Thielean worldview.
The editor-in-chief of Wired says the publication is moving past the simple “binary” of some past coverage – in short, tech good, then tech bad — to something more nuanced, saying “[b]oth the optimist and pessimist views of tech miss the point.”
The ‘future of the Internet’ feud between Jack Dorsey and Marc Andreessen is explained here as best one can.
—A slightly more explicable fight: Elmo has had it up to here, again, with Zoe’s pet rock. “Rocco doesn’t even have a mouth!”
Europe’s witnessing a twist on ‘crypto winter.’ Kosovo is responding to its energy crisis — the country is headed into the coldest part of the year with its power grid, per utility operators there, “overloaded” — by banning cryptocurrency mining. Energy minister: “All law enforcement agencies will stop the production of this activity.”
—Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, a government-decreed Internet blackout in response to protests over fuel prices has put the brakes on cryptomining there, and “[w]ithin the hours of the outage, bitcoin’s computational power sank.”
—And the Mozilla Foundation will, for now at least, stop taking donations in crypto after one of Mozilla’s founders objected to having anything to do with “planet-incinerating Ponzi grifters.”
Old-school BlackBerrys stopped working on Tuesday. The devices once ruled Capitol Hill here in the U.S., in some ways a holdover effect from how well they performed on September 11th. (Remember “CrackBerry” talk?) But they’ve almost completely been replaced — in the House of Representatives, at least, some 99% of mobile phones today are iPhones.
Humans are, for now at least, still better than AI at making difficult weather predictions: “Experience—their ability to observe and draw connections where algorithms cannot—gives [human] forecasters an edge that continues to outperform the glitzy weather machines in the highest-stake situations. Though tremendously useful with big-picture forecasting, models aren’t sensitive to, say, the little updraft in one small land quadrant that suggests a waterspout is forming…”
Washington State is newly requiring home sellers to answer, “Does the property currently have Internet access?” — a detail perhaps more important to buyers in the work-from-home, school-from-home era.
—Why? A bill passed last year by the state legislature made it so.
Buttigieg pronunciation watch (no, not like that)":
Finally, just for fun, there’s a simultaneous-key keyboard so fast it supposedly got banned from speed-typing competitions, which, it turns out, are a thing.
Thanks for reading, and until next week.