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Welcome to issue #209.

The result of last week's totally sophisticated emoji-in-the-subject-line experiment: The open rate was 43 %, which means there was zero noticeable change compared to all the past issues without emoji in the subject line.

Now let's get right to it!

Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).
  • Discord: How an App for Gamers Went Mainstream
    (, 7 minutes)
    Discord, founded four years ago as a chat service for gamers, is having a moment. It’s essentially like Slack but for all non-work scenarios, and feels a bit like IRC (for those who remember).
  • This Guy Is Charging People For Every Character They Text
    (, 3 minutes)
    “Expensive Chat” is a public chat room where everyone has to pay a penny per character typed. A business model for Discord to look into? :)
  • TikTok Is Rewriting the World
    (, 12 minutes)
    With more than 500 million users, TikTok (which became part of in 2018) has already come further than Discord in regards to mainstream adoption. Unlike all the other major social media services, TikTok does away with the friend/contact/follower-first (and algorithm-second) model. Instead, at TikTok the algorithm decides from the first second who/what people see and do on the app. Also worth mentioning: TikTok is the first Chinese social media app which managed to capture the hearts of (mostly younger) users in the West.
  • Human Nature as a Service
    (, 5 minutes)
    People seek status. Social platforms have enabled status-building to be ten times easier and better, thus their success. Now, emerging platforms are going deeper into human instinct. Such as TikTok: TikTok has created 10x social capital from dancing, writes Nicholas J. Robinson.
  • AI Superpowers – A History of Chinese Startups and the Implications for the Future of Startupland
    (, 4 minutes)
    Investor Tom Tunguz highlights two ideas from the book “AI Superpowers”: The influence of machine learning (aka AI) in the world and the fierce competitive dynamics in China.
  • Rules for the Design of Algorithmic Systems
    (, 10 minutes)
    The German Bertelsmann Stiftung and iRights.Lab have created 9 formal criteria for enabling the socially beneficial design and oversight of algorithmic systems. By the way, if you understand German and are interested in the ethics of AI, I’m creating a weekly curation about the topic for the Bertelsmann Stiftung. You can read it and sign up for it here.
  • Tracking urban gentrification, one building at a time
    (, 3 minutes)
    How to continuously spot gentrification trends in cities? By using artificial intelligence and Google Street View to systematically capture changes on buildings.
  • Facebook’s News Feed and self-perceptions of knowledge
    (, 10 minutes)
    A study shows that Facebook’s article previews generate knowledge. However, there is a disparity in the effect of this knowledge: Audiences who only read article previews on Facebook think they know more than they actually do, especially individuals who are motivated to seek emotions.
  • Compulsory licensing is better than blocking acquisitions
    (, 4 minutes)
    How to deal with ever more powerful tech giants buying up innovative startups that one day might have turned into a competitor? Here is an intriguing suggestion: Instead of regulators blocking these kind of mergers (which 2020 US Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren aspires to do), the acquiring market leader could be forced to license the startup innovation it wants to buy, to the laggards.
  • Self-Driving Car Fleets: Transportation As A Service
    (, 11 minutes)
    Ideas and assumptions about the business models that are likely to emerge around self-driving cars.
  • Would you be happy being interviewed by a robot?
    (, 6 minutes)
    Using a robot instead of a human recruiter to find out whether this could reduce unconscious biases.
  • Amazon’s Alexa Has 80k Apps–and No Runaway Hit
    (, 6 minutes)
    True. So maybe it is time to get rid of the mental analogies to the world of visual mobile apps?! I’m totally happy using Alexa (or any other smart assistant) only for playing music/podcasts, asking for the time or weather, and setting the alarm/timer (in addition to controlling the smart home which I certainly would do if my home would be “smart”).
  • Apple vs. Spotify: Who’s Really Right?
    (, 6 minutes)
    Nuanced analysis of Spotify’s antitrust complaint against Apple and accompanying campaign. While reading I had the following idea: Would it be a viable solution if Apple agreed to remove the 30 % App Store fee for all app categories for which Apple itself is competing with an app in the App Store? The fact that Spotify has to pay 30 % of the revenues generated through the App Store while Apple Music does not clearly creates an uneven playing field and an unfair competitive advantage for Apple. Not being present in the App Store isn’t really an option for a worldwide consumer-focused tech company either.
  • Why podcast fans will always reject a “Netflix for podcasts”
    (, 6 minutes)
    Agreeing with the author: “I don’t want celebrities who have many other ways to reach an audience to become the extent of what people think “podcasting” is.
  • Founders flee to Estonia’s digital paradise
    (, 6 minutes)
    Interesting, but sadly only scratching the surface. This article could have been more in-depth. Anyway, the philosophy of “government as a service” is just very sexy! I blogged about this in 2015: "Ask what a country can do for you (and the world)".
  • It’s Winter – a simulator of the depressing, cold Russian urban outskirts
    (, 2 minutes)
    “It’s Winter” is a first-person indie game without an end or purpose. “The player is confined to a tiny apartment in a block of flats somewhere in urban Russia on a snowy winter night. Many of the objects are interactive: fry the eggs, throw away the shells, take out the trash, open the window, turn on your rusty old radio or broken TV.” Should be perfect for VR, too.
  • Why does the London Underground still not have Wi-Fi in tunnels?
    (, 5 minutes)
    The London Underground does have much worse connectivity than most other public transport systems below ground, and zero phone connectivity. Causes for this are among others the high costs, the very narrow tunnels that have lots of twists and turns as well as lack of space to install on-the-train infrastructure.
  • There will soon be a whole community of ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes
    (, 5 minutes)
    For people living in shantytowns ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes could one day become a real boon.
  • Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same
    (, 4 minutes)
    The hipster effect: “The counterintuitive phenomenon in which people who oppose mainstream culture all end up looking the same”. 

Podcast episode of the week:

Last issue's top 3 most clicked articles:

(It never happened before that the top 3 were claimed by the same source) +++

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