Veering toward rottenness
Tiny homes, common sense, crypto catfishing, loneliness, designer dogs and an internet mystery
Hi friends. Today is April 8, 2022.
And an intimidating fraction of you are brand new here, courtesy this lil Substack interview. In it, our platform overlords asked me about my curatorial criteria (such as they exist!), why I relaunched Links (my personal sourdough), and what other writers I read on Substack (a challenging choice, since everyone with a j-school degree and a lackluster job now seems to have a newsletter).
This seems as good a time as any to update you on a few ongoing/upcoming changes here. Yes, okay, so we’re not literally friends, but I’m still pretty dependent on your validation:
Paywalls: After a number of questions about why I include paywalled articles, how to get around paywalls, why internet media isn’t a glorious anarcho-libertarian free-for-all, etc etc., I have begun linking to the archive.today versions of stories on sites with hard paywalls over their content. (In the year of our lord 2022, everyone here knows how to jump a *soft* paywall, yes?) I still think you should try to pay for the sources you read often. But money is limited, I understand, and content is infinite.
Paid tier: Speaking of paying for internet content, long-time readers know that I have threatened a paid version for the past 18 months. But 2022 is my time. I know it. So if you have any suggestions, please slam that reply button and send them.
Last but not least: Classified ads! They’re returning next week. Find rates and metrics in this Google Form.
Now let’s hit the links!
If you read anything this weekend
“Can Computers Learn Common Sense?” by Matthew Hutson in The New Yorker. Spoiler alert: In keeping with Betteridge’s law of headlines, the general answer here is no. But there are lots of fun twists along the way (!), including Roombas, the game Codenames, 3D-printed turtles and cheeseburgers.
“Deception, Exploited Workers, and Cash Handouts: How Worldcoin Recruited its First Half a Million Test Users,” by Eileen Guo and Adi Renaldi in MIT Technology Review. Worldcoin has claimed its eponymous cryptocurrency will “drive a more unified and equitable” economy for users around the world. Funny, then, that they’ve pursued that ambitious and *totally* altruistic goal by pilfering the biometric data of poor and underinformed “test users.”
“Worlds Apart,” by Henrik Bøe and Christian Nicolai Bjørke for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. TikTok is the only foreign social media platform still accessible in Russia, but that doesn’t mean it’s still a window to the outside world. For this project, Norwegian journalists created two TikTok bots — one Ukrainian, one Russian — and tracked them as they fell down entirely different rabbit holes.
“The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, A Philosophy, A Warning,” by Julien Crockett in the Los Angeles Review of Books. You might have to skim some sections to get through this very looong interview with the philosopher and historian Justin E. H. Smith. But you’ll be rewarded with observations like “Twitter is a debate-themed video game” and “any well-known website veers toward rottenness.”
“The Magic of Tiny Home Videos,” by Sheon Han in The New York Times. “Before I discovered tiny-home videos, I had condemned my current living situation as a purgatory, a liminal phase before a more “complete state,” namely, owning a single-family house. This is the kind of happiness deferral that I — and maybe you — carry out in many other domains of life, usually formulated as ‘My life will really begin once I achieve X.’ But what hit me as I watched the couple with their carefully measured shelves was not a particularly brilliant insight, but something I have intellectualized but never fully felt: There is no dress rehearsal in life. Let’s freeze-frame here. Look around, we’re on-air already. This — the moment we’re in — is all there is.”
The return of r/place and Marcel the Shell. The reinvention of the spreadsheet. What Elon Musk really wants from Twitter and how everyone got so damn lonely. The app keeping Kyivans safe. What the Grammys owe TikTok. Of 150 police reports mentioning AirTags, *50* came from women who thought they were being stalked.
Trauma dumping. Crypto catfishing. “An entirely adorable invasive species” of dog. (Here comes my forever PSA: This is gross — adopt don’t shop!) Disinfo hits different outside the west. The girlbossification of NFTs. Can texting solve the male friendship crisis? (Maybe first try therapy?) War via VR. Advice via Eve 6. A simple solution: Just use Google Maps. Last but not least, a bona fide ~internet mystery~ has surfaced in the wild — just when I thought we’d hunted them to extinction.
That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.