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.
GamesBeat: Dean Takahashi - The making of the Xbox: How Microsoft unleashed a video game revolution Part 1 and Part 2
Microsoft earned credibility with game developers and consumers by breaking the chokehold of the Japanese game giants. On a consumer level, Microsoft generated its most passionate fans. Gamers loved new titles such as Halo. In this arena, Microsoft was an underdog that had the power to upset the status quo and invigorate a market with new competition. In any other market it entered, Microsoft was always seen as an anti-competitive gorilla. Here, it was the good guy.
Rob Beschizza considers the design thinking at Sony that makes the Vaio Z so frustrating to use. While you're at it, check out Businessweek's profile of CEO Sir Howard Stringer.
BoingBoing: Rob Beschizza - What the Vaio Z says about Sony's little design problem
Taste often describes flavors, appearances and forms; it blends into fashion, which spins as fast as people can spend their money. Even the classics shift as priorities change; something may be tasteful but irrelevant. Design, however, also concerns itself with function. If a design fails to encompass good taste, the result will be ugly. But if taste fails to encompass good design, it'll be useless. Talking about another Sony laptop that buries functionality under tasteful appearances and spec sheets, it's not hard to see the point in all this.
Hipster Runoff's Carles takes a looks at the curious state of pro athletes and celebrity in the age of the internet.
Grantland: Carles - Consuming Sports in Our Crowded Meme Economy K
LeBron James is not the best basketball player in the world, he is a source of highlights and 140-character opinion pieces. Ricky Rubio is seriously just a couple of YouTube videos. Brian Wilson has a black beard.
On Seamless Sharing
The newspapers and content partners that signed up for 'seamless sharing' feature introduced at f8 earlier this year have noticed an odd side effect from plugging into the Facebook network.
Financial Times: Tim Bradshaw - The unexpected impact of Facebook’s "seamless sharing" on newspaper sites
But the transformation is not necessarily what Facebook’s founder or his new partners in the news industry might have expected. A surge of Facebook traffic to years-old stories may be forcing news sites to reassess the importance of, well, news.
On video games
Game designer and professor Ian Bogost talks with Forbes about the concept of a "gamer," the game industry's poor efforts at putting forward an identifiable face (think of the movie industry), and more.
Forbes: David M. Ewalt - How To Do Things with Videogames: An Interview With Ian Bogost
One of the things I found interesting about it is that it’s kind of retrograde in some way –this idea of making a game about the conventions of games, of using that self reference of talking about the form. We are kind of over that in literature… even in cinema it’s kind of an old fashioned idea. But we never did that much with games. We are kind of rediscovering these creative techniques that were explored in other media, but never quite made it into video games.
On New York
We've come to expect the East Coast vs. West Coast battle to light up the web every few months following yet another tiresome 5,000 word rant about the city that best nurtures innovation through better burritos or transportation. A bit more calmly, these two pieces examine new research, incubator, and infrastructure proposals in and around New York, and experience the city's tech scene through the eyes of Yipit.
The New York Times: Ginia Bellafante - Re-engineering New York: More Than a Sci-Fi Dream? and Alan Feuer - On the Move, in a Thriving Tech Sector
The mythology, and partial truth, of Silicon Valley is that genius was birthed in so many attached garages. In New York we don’t have garages, we have underground labyrinths that take $400 a month from us to park a car 10 blocks away from our apartments. But we do have places for businesses to grow, once we think about New York as a city that extends beyond Upper and Lower Manhattan.
On Facebook in politics
While Facebook has strong ties to the Democratic Party, Zuckerberg and company are finding that dealing with Washington isn't as easy as rolling out a new profile page. Looks like it's time to lobbyist up!
The New Republic: Nicole Nguyen - What’s Facebook’s Relationship Status With the GOP? It’s Complicated.
"Expanding their influence in D.C. is a sign of the company becoming more mature. They seem to be following the same path as Microsoft did in the ’90s and as Google has done recently; although we haven’t seen Facebook at any major hearings, we haven’t seen their executives take to the floor like those companies, it may be that they are taking these steps preemptively."
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.