We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
On social graphs
Pinboard's Maciej Cegłowski tears into the "social graph" concept, touching on the difficulties of representing real human relationships online, and how most efforts from self-described social networks have led us into a "social version of the Uncanny Valley."
Pinboard Blog: Maciej Cegłowski - The Social Graph is Neither
There's no way to take a time-out from our social life and describe it to a computer without social consequences. At the very least, the fact that I have an exquisitely maintained and categorized contact list telegraphs the fact that I'm the kind of schlub who would spend hours gardening a contact list, instead of going out and being an awesome guy. The social graph wants to turn us back into third graders, laboriously spelling out just who is our fifth-best-friend. But there's a reason we stopped doing that kind of thing in third grade!
On aging and the internet
The Facebook behemoth, inescapable now, launched only a few short years ago in 2004, and YouTube debuted less than a year later. For those that have grown up with the web, it's hard to remember a previous era, so it's no surprise that the experience of aging is getting tangled up with the internet.
The New York Times Magazine: Edith Zimmerman - Dealing With Your Own Cultural Irrelevance (at Age 28)
Unlike in generations past, when (I imagine) you just kept doing what you and your same-aged friends did, and aged into obscurity in comfort on a cloud of your own tastes and generational inclinations, until you died either thinking you all were still the coolest or not caring anymore about being cool, these days the Internet exists in part to introduce you to all these things you didn’t know about, but in part to remind you how much there is out there that you’ll never know about.
On social media
Even if you dodge out of group photos and delete all your social networking profiles, you're likely still going to have a web presence. Being captured in public is often just an upload away, and Dave Pell looks at the darker side of ubiquitous mobile devices.
Tweetage Wasteland: Dave Pell - Something Disintegrates at a Burger King
But maybe the ubiquity of smart phones and new technologies, coupled with a decreasing respect for boundaries, has changed the equation. You no longer get to decide when to share. You don’t even get to decide whether you want to use Twitter or Facebook. If you leave the house, you’re on social media.
Michael Erard examines the emerging Social Media Quitter genre.
The Morning News: Michael Erard - What I Didn’t Write About When I Wrote About Quitting Facebook
I did, however, start an essay that could have been about why I quit Facebook, except that I got distracted by the emergence of a genre you could call the Social Media Exile essay, and I wondered whether I could meet the conventions of that genre if I ever tried to write about why I quit Facebook, though the truth is, I didn’t really want to write another version of the Social Media Exile Essay, dramatizing the initial promise of this or that social media or network, the enthusiastic glow of online togetherness, then the disillusionment, the final straw, the wistful looking back.
In this week's New Yorker coverage of Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography, Malcolm Gladwell argues that Steve Jobs showed more of an editorial sensibility — endlessly tweaking, refining, and whittling down Apple's hardware and software experiences — than an Edison-esque inventive mindset.
The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell - The Tweaker
I’ll know it when I see it. That was Jobs’s credo, and until he saw it his perfectionism kept him on edge. He looked at the title bars—the headers that run across the top of windows and documents—that his team of software developers had designed for the original Macintosh and decided he didn’t like them. He forced the developers to do another version, and then another, about twenty iterations in all, insisting on one tiny tweak after another, and when the developers protested that they had better things to do he shouted, "Can you imagine looking at that every day? It’s not just a little thing. It’s something we have to do right.
The New York Times profiles Larry Page's efforts to reboot Google's management and focus as the company continues to rapidly grow with new employees.
New York Times: Claire Cain Miller - Google’s Chief Works to Trim a Bloated Ship
Despite the many external pressures on Google, it is dominant in its business and highly profitable. But, when asked at a recent conference about the biggest threat to his company, Mr. Page answered in one word, "Google."
On the iPod
On occasion of the iPod's 10th anniversary, here's Steven Levy's first look at that original 5 gigabyte, iTunes 2-powered device.
Newsweek: Steven Levy - Mac Music
The iPod certainly got a lot of attention when I showed it to people, including a Windows guy named Bill Gates. He spun the wheel, checked out the menus on the display screen and seemed to get it immediately. "It looks like a great product," he said. And then he added, incredulous, "It's only for Macintosh?"