Friday Reading #19

I am fascinated by the ‘acquihire’, the act of a large company buying a smaller company to either take on its excellent staff members or to take its competitive prodcut out of the market or for numerous other reasons. Ever since Facebook acquihired my once beloved FriendFeed, a four man startup, in 2009 for around 50 million dollars I was fascinated by the trend. The main acquihire was the CTO of FriendFeed Bret Taylor who became CTO of Facebook, until he left last year to start up again. He had previous with Google on their Maps product and is clearly a clever chap (lots of features that FriendFeed had years are ago are still drip feeding into Facebook). The interesting thing though is the attempts to shoe horn in these founders to a larger corporation, many don’t last, Bret included as they year for the freedom and challenge of their own company but what about the others staff members? How do they fare? What about the users who helped build these companies with their usage only to see them left to rot, ala FriendFeed or closed down with a cheery ‘our incredible journey‘ type message.  I wanted to write something about this but time, ability and focus means I haven’t but thankfully someone else has that is better than anything i could have dribbled out (see first link of the week). Other topics for reads of the week include the failure of hackathons, the destruction of the middle class, advertising tyranny, Ikea love, AI love, Apple photo hate and an interview with Jason Fried. Enjoy.


The Corrosive Downside of Acquihires

I know the buyers try the best to believe that [insert well known founder name here … David Sacks, Max Levchin, Dennis Crowley, Keith Rabois] will stay and help lead their company in a totally new direction. But evidence suggests otherwise.


Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class

You argue that the middle class, unlike the rich and the poor, is not a natural class but was built and sustained through some kind of intervention. Has that changed in the last decade or two as the digital world has grown? Well, there’s a lot of ways. I mean, one of the issues is that in a market society, a middle class has always required some little artificial help to keep going. There’s always academic tenure, or a taxi medallion, or a cosmetology license, or a pension. There’s often some kind of license or some kind of ratcheting scheme that allows people to keep their middle-class status.


The tyranny of digital advertising

Let’s be clear: big businesses have grown up around the availability and theory of mass media and buying attention. Any big client older than15 years old will have grown up with the reassuring ability of tv and print advertising to reach mass audiences. Those were methods of advertising predicated on guaranteed access to peoples’ attention through interruptions in mass media.


Jason Fried: Interview

Are you satisfied creatively? Yes, but I’m also impatient. I’m satisfied in that I get to build what I think is right. I don’t feel repressed in that way. I have a lot of friends in this business who feel repressed because they have an idea, but can’t act on it for whatever reason. I feel very free, but I’m also always slightly frustrated with the fact that there are more ideas and more things I want to do, but can’t because I don’t have time or knowledge to do them yet.


The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love (PDF & free subscription required)

Labor leading to value thus appears to be a very basic process, and an effort justification account predicts that effort and valuation increase in lockstep. We suggest, however, that the psychological process by which labor leads to love requires consideration of an additional crucial factor: The extent to which one’s labor is successful.


Dear Apple, let’s talk about photos

So Apple, I think you’ve got a bit confused. Don’t worry about sharing, we don’t need you for that. Your job is to take photos, organise them and make sure they don’t get lost. So let’s talk about how you can do that.


Hackathons Don’t Solve Problems

– and certainly not big problems. The big problems are big for a reason. They’re hard, bordering on intractable, and people are working to solve these problems constantly, spending much more energy and resources than a single hackathon could ever do. There is nothing magical about putting a bunch of technologists and creatives in a room which will suddenly solve disasters, world crises, the economy, or anything else.


Love machines

Then again, isn’t love always uncertain? And isn’t the fear that our children will turn against us also an aspect of love? Partners and children might indeed abandon us, regardless of what good we did for them. But perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way. MIRI suggests that we should embed a fail-safe program in all future AI to prevent them from ever hating us.


Bonus self promotion link – Web Curios the spreadsheet edition

This week I made a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet version of the wonderful Web Curios. You can read about it here and see it mentioned in this weeks Web Curios here. While you are there read the rest of it, every single bit of it.


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