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Welcome to issue #216 of meshedsociety weekly!

I've built my first "web app" using Python. Although calling it web app is an insult to all real web apps. It's only a plain site showing a random article every time you reload it.

All of you actually contributed to it, because the articles are those that have received most clicks from you. My plan is to add the top 3 of all 216 issues of meshedsociety weekly (minus those that are outdated). However, as Mailchimp doesn't appear to offer a single report with this type of data across all sent issues, this is a manual process, so it'll take a while. For the moment, about 140 articles are included. Check it out: If you have any suggestions for how to expand this, please hit reply and let me know.

Now let's get to this week's reads!

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).
  • Fortnite is free, but kids are getting bullied into spending money
    (, 11 minutes)
    The thing kids playing Fortnite want to avoid at all costs: Playing with the default skin, which comes with a significant social stigma, gets them bullied as well as called “default” (which in that context is an insult).

  • These Robotic Objects Are Designed to Be Stabbed and Beaten to Help You Feel Better
    (, 8 minutes)
    Researcher Michal Luria and her colleagues created the concept of “cathartic objects”: robotic contraptions that you can beat, stab, smash, and swear at to help yourself feel better; devices that are specifically designed for letting humans vent negative emotions.

  • It’s Time to Break Up Facebook
    (, 25 minutes)
    In my eyes, it matters comparatively little that the author of this lengthy opinion piece is Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who left the company in 2007. His opinion is as good (or bad) as the one of any other expert. What matters more is the argumentation and ideas put forward. He suggests, among other things, that Facebook should be forced to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp into independent companies. Such a step would definitely change the power dynamics in the social web and messaging space and make the whole sector competitive again. And it would put the original Facebook under quite some pressure, because suddenly, there won’t be a fallback anymore.

  • Rethinking digital service design could reduce their environmental impact
    (, 3 minutes)
    Fascinating: If YouTube would avoid sending video to users who only want to listen to audio, the estimated reduction in CO2 emissions would correspondent to the annual carbon footprint of 30,000 UK homes.

  • Learning to sell the iPhones
    (, 8 minutes)
    For a very long time, Apple didn’t need to make much of an attempt to actually sell iPhones. That has changed. Nowadays, employees at Apple retail stores are apparently actually expected to move the product.

  • On the Utility Fallacy
    (, 3 minutes)
    Useful concept: The utility fallacy is the tendency, when evaluating the impact of a technology, to confine your attention to comparing the technical features of the new technology to what it replaced. In reality, the more important story is almost always how the technology ends up mutating our socio-cultural dynamics.

  • The Information Diet
    (, 15 minutes)
    What if one would approach information consumption through a similar framework as one would use to accomplish a healthy diet? Compelling framing of a real problem: widespread over-consumption of junk information/news.

  • The Case for Modern Productivity Tools
    (, 3 minutes)
    An increasing number of startups are realizing the power of spreadsheets and the spreadsheet “metaphor” as an end-user development approach. The target group are users who don’t see themselves as programmers but want to create their own “IT solutions”.

  • On Social Machines for Algorithmic Regulation
    (, 20 minutes)
    Easy-to-read research paper exploring how even without China-style official governmental planning, an algorithmically-shaped and -controlled society could emerge, and what the technological, ethical and political implications would be.

  • History of the Capital AI & Market Failures in the Attention Economy
    (, 28 minutes)
    A thought-provoking analogy: In the same way as a well-intended and on paper useful AI can have ill-designed structures and incentives leading to undesirable feedback loops and outcomes, the same can apply to capitalism. And instead of giving up on all the benefits of these systems, its better to improve them and to re-align the incentives.

  • AI tech generates entire bodies of people who don’t exist
    (, 2 minutes)
    An AI developed in Japan can now generate high-resolution, photorealistic renderings of bodies, faces, clothing and hair of people who don’t exist. Online fashion stores might love that technology. Their human models probably not.

  • The Challenge of Abundance: Boredom, Meaning, and the Struggle of Mental Freedom
    (, 7 minutes)
    In a world of abundance, which we never have been closer to than today, a massive challenge emerges: to come to grips with our own individuality and freedom.

  • Markets Are 10X Bigger Than Ever
    (, 6 minutes)
    Valuations of tech companies as well as the size of financing rounds and IPOs keeps growing, and one simple explanation is that software markets and businesses today are several times bigger than they were 10-15 years ago.

  • Airbnb Spawned an Ecosystem of Startups
    (, 5 minutes)
    Along with the rise of Airbnb, money has been pouring into digital travel startups that help keep the noise low and the sheets crisp.

  • Spotify’s leanback instant listening app Stations hits iOS
    (, 3 minutes)
    For years, I have been wishing for Spotify to release a secondary, highly simplified single-purpose app. In Australia, Spotify is now testing a minimalist mobile app which gives direct access to various types of stations. I hope they’ll expand this concept. I’d have nothing against multiple Spotify-operated special-purpose apps. One for playlists, one for podcasts, one for audiobooks…

  • The hyper-specialist shops of Berlin
    (, 9 minutes)
    The German capital hosts the world’s first specialist ant shop, and that’s just one of the surprisingly large number of shops in Berlin that sell only one thing.

Video of the week:

  • A Conversation with Mark Zuckerberg and Yuval Noah Harari
    I found myself totally captivated by this 90 minute long exchange between author Yuval Noah Harari (who does not need any introduction to this audience, I’m sure) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a truly amazing chat, and despite having been organized by Facebook itself, does not feel like a corporate PR at all (except visually. On what planet did the spaceship land in which this was filmed?!) Harari’s takes and arguments are pretty inconvenient to Zuckerberg and Facebook. Kudos to the company for having done that. It’s great to see Zuckerberg patiently exposing himself to the type of critical view points put forward by Harari.
Last issue's top 3 most clicked articles: +++

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