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This week’s theme: links on links on links.
Hi there, Snippets readers. After the past several weeks of excessively long posts on myths and legends and social forces of Silicon Valley, we’re going to take a little break this week and do a links-only issue. Fortunately, this week there were so many phenomenal pieces written that it’s as good a week as ever to highlight some of them especially. Regular Snippets content will be back next week!
First of all, some absolutely stand-up reporting from Casey Newton and the team at The Verge on what goes on in Facebook’s Content Moderation workplaces. First of all, the piece is really gut-wrenching and tragic at a personal level: story after story of contractors getting traumatized, radicalized, or both by the content they have to sit through is really upsetting and tells a powerful story. Behind all this, though, there’s a bigger question which is how upset can we actually be at Facebook for this problem on our hands, given that this is exactly what we collectively told them they ought to be doing? Two years ago, the rhetoric was “You need to clean up the cesspool of content on your site, and algorithms can’t handle it. It has to be actual people.” Well, they gave us what we asked for, and it’s this. Huge thanks to Casey and the team for the reporting on this. It’s a necessary story that we certainly haven’t seen the last of.
Second, the best think piece of the week without a doubt goes to perpetual quality producer and friend of Snippets Eugene Wei, who put out an absolute gem of a piece on social networks that got immediately enshrined in the “permanent required reading canon”. The concept of proof of work as underpinning the social status being established and traded on social networks is an idea that’s so good, it hid in plain sight for years, too obvious for anyone to notice it, and too perfect for anyone else to have uncovered. I’m actually working on a piece around Twitter specifically at the moment which hopefully I’ll be able to publish in next week’s Snippets, and which drew some inspiration directly from this post.
And finally, this is a really interesting story out of Hollywood that has plenty of implications for the future of streaming video, and of Hulu in particular. The case in point concerns the economics and legality of this new kind of “quasi-vertically integrated content companies”, where companies like 21st Century Fox produce content and then distribute it directly through internet entities in which they own an equity stake, like Hulu. The ruling concluded that Fox was guilty of fraud for having used their Hulu relationship as a way to conceal profits and make what James Murdoch once allegedly called “perhaps the most profitable show in Fox’s history” (Bones? Really? Huh.) look like a middling money loser that faced no obligation to share profits. Check it out.
It continues to be a really exciting and polarizing time for Crypto. Bitcoin starts making very real differences in people’s lives amidst the tragedy in Venezuela, yet ongoing fiascos like the QuadrigaCX story remain as ever-present distractions:
A fascinating and widely praised move by the University of California, who is boycotting a major publisher of academic journals in what could be the first stick of a dam to break:
Marketplaces and the sharing economy keep creating wealth, but how much of it can be sustainably monetized?
Real challenges at the intersection of student debt, credentialing, and burnout:
Other reading from around the internet:
Have a great week,
Alex & the team from Social Capital