Impressed with what I’m seeing of @qz

I’ve been a fan of Quartz for a while. It is a news property that is creating journalistic content really thoughtfully tweaked for mobile consumption, keeping in mind modern content consumption patterns. One of their team came in to talk to us at work late last year and gave us a great look at their business principles, and I’ve also had the chance to meet some of their London team. This morning, I read that they’re expanding into India soon (‘there is something about India that is such a metaphor for the global economy’).

This video features their publisher Jay Lauf speaking at the Digiday Publishing Conference in New York this week and spells out their approach. Worth your time.

The Making of a Modern Publisher: Atlantic Media’s Quartz from Digiday on Vimeo.

You guys! Buy @hackcircus Issue 2!


I’ve contributed to Issue 2 of Hack Circus with a story about my bot alter-ego on Twitter, created kindly by Henry Cooke. Henry’s explanation of the tech behind it in the article is what makes it way more interesting, if you ask me. He spoke about bots and suchlike at the Hack Circus event in Sheffield yesterday, can’t wait to see his presentation online.

Issue 2 is themed around reality and features things like:

  • How to tell for sure whether you’re a brain in a jar
  • What scientists know about ghosts
  • Interview with The Long Now Foundation
  • Peeking inside a radar operators’ manual
  • Why we find meaning in bots
  • Real devices from fictional worlds
  • Kate Genevieve’s magic and sensory perception research
  • Why some people think the Universe is a hologram

Buy Hack Circus Issue 2 here!

WhatsApp, circa 2012 (via @andjelicaaa)

Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.

Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.

WhatsApp lay down the facts back in 2012, evoking that Jeff Hammerbacher quote ‘The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads’. I wonder what Facebook is going to make of their very noble intentions now.

(WhatsApp blog link via Ana Andjelic on Twitter)

Thinking for the Future (via @NYTimes)

Thinking for the Future –

David Brooks on Tyler Cowen’s ‘Average is Over‘ (which I have not yet read but will make every effort to remedy).

He lists a number of ways in which we can check whether our skills complement the computer, because we’ll need them.

Obviously some of these are already true: ‘greeters’, jobs where customer service is given a premium – like this, and ‘moralizers’ (or a lack of) at Amazon, with regard to these kinds of stories. 

The comments to the article are also worth reading.

CANNOT WAIT to see @keiichiban’s #hyper-reality films get made, support it on @kickstarter

Still from original films made by Keiichi Matsuda
Still from original films made by Keiichi Matsuda

I first heard about Keiichi Matsuda when I chanced upon his project Cell a couple of years ago.

So it was a pleasant surprise then when I heard from him this week with information of his latest project Hyper Reality.

Hyper Reality is a series of short films that he is hoping to make very soon, based on a future city (set in Medellin, Colombia) that is maxed out on technology and media. Obviously these are subjects I am passionate about so it piqued me interest immediately – but more importantly, his introductory video is really phenomenal. You have to watch it.

Having seen that, I hope you’re as excited as I am about being able to see the full thing, design fiction to the extreme. It will mean a lot if you can help it get made by supporting Hyper Reality on Kickstarter – it officially launched this morning so everything is a go. Tweet, blog, contribute to the Kickstarter fund – everything is much appreciated, not just by Keiichi but by me because I really want to see the full films!

Keiichi explains the premise for creating these films really well on the Kickstarter page:

Technology is playing an increasingly important part in our everyday lives. Most of the time though, we learn about technology from the people who are trying to sell it to us. I believe that it’s important to be critical; to be aware of how these technologies could shape our future. The films will expose the amazing potential, but also the possibly dark future of some technologies, while presenting them in a way that everyone can understand.

I’ve supported it on Kickstarter. Will you?

Generation N and beyond


Native advertising inherently makes sense to me because of its potential for spread and recall over clickthroughs and the more murky pageviews of banners and buttons; 77% of display ads are apparently never seen, especially those below the fold. If native ads allow marketers to reach out to their audiences in meaningful ways that go beyond the standard ‘I’m here, look at me’ then that should be a fairly strong reason in itself to be adopted, or at least considered very strongly. Think of native advertising as being closer to ‘product as marketing’, which crucially implies a bigger customer focus, over the traditional, more brand-focussed ‘messaging as marketing’ model that we’re seeing slowly wither away.

I noted down some thoughts about the rise of native advertising and the consequent fall of display in the months to come for the company blog.

Keeping the spam out of your inbox: SpamBlocker from 2011 TED Fellow Yale Fox


Like many of you, I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated by spam emails in my inbox. So I was quite interested to hear from Yale Fox, a 2011 TED Fellow, about a new project of his: a Google Chrome extension called SpamBlocker. It basically does what it says on the tin – allowing you to block any email address you want at the click of a button. The project took 5 weeks to develop. In user-testing, Yale and his team found that domain blocking, which they had as a feature early on, resulted in some glitches but those are are currently being worked on – I can see this being useful; after all spammers are an unscrupulous lot with multiple email addresses at their disposal. Another feature in the pipeline is allowing  users to vote on the features they want developed next.



While Gmail does a good job at making your inbox more manageable (especially with Tabbed Inbox), it doesn’t remove the problem of spam altogether. That’s what this Gmail hack hopes to do. I’ve tried it for the last couple of days and it works great.

Currently compatible with Gmail and Chrome on OS X, Windows and Linux, Yale plans to add Firefox support early next week. Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and other browsers will hopefully all be tackled in due course.

Pricing is, and will be, completely free, with the option for users to donate. When donations do come in, they will be split with Animal Haven, a charity in New York. I particularly like Yale’s philosophy: ‘everything should have a cause attached to it’.

In addition to his TED pedigree, Yale is also a professional DJ but he’s changing tacks to software development as a route to making people’s live better. He says it’s ‘all part of a bigger picture’.

I’ll be watching him in his endeavours and wish him all the best.

Epic 2014 (re)-visited (via @tcarmody & @snarkmarket)

Via the always-smart-if-now-infrequently-updated Snarkmarket, where Tim Carmody talks about Bezos and Amazon, I found a link to Epic, Robin Sloan’s 2004 project for the Museum of Media History, which I missed when it first came out. It evokes 2014 – just 4 months from now (FOUR – where ON EARTH is time flying?), and brings up some very relevant thoughts. The Google Grid finds form in the Play Store, Newsbotster takes shape in some way through Google Plus, and though Google and Amazon haven’t merged to form Googlezon, the Yahoo-Tumblr deal is pretty significant, as has been Microsoft-Skype. I also just read BI’s fascinating profile of Marissa Mayer where the possibility of Yahoo exchanging their search division with was mooted (it didn’t happen of course).

As this YouTube poster said, ‘This was made in 2004. There’s no mention of the iPhone or Facebook or Twitter’ – amazingly prescient work worth a quick watch.

Project Loon’s technology & the power of moonshot thinking

This video about Project Loon’s technology is truly an example of what Astro Teller, Google’s Captain of Moonshot Thinking, evangelises day to day (from SXSW to the Big Tent to Cannes, he’s been doing a good job with that this year, if you ask me).


While on that, Google Maps is now accepting invitations for the new Maps. I saw a preview yesterday and it looks amazing – it’s pretty clear that no one can touch Google in that department for the time-being.

I also saw Google Voice Search for Chrome in action, announced at I/O earlier this year – and it looks quite radical too.

They’re doing some good stuff, controversies notwithstanding.