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.
Are mandatory comments attached to every article a necessary evil, or a burden we've assumed?
Animal New York: Joel Johnson - Comments are bad business for online media
Moreover, the most active commenters are given a sense of entitlement by the deference they’ve been given by media experts and all-internet-is-good-internet cheerleaders over the years, leading to authors who live in perpetual fear of shaming by the very people who are supposedly their most ardent fans. We somehow fooled ourselves into thinking we owed random people the right to comment on our work literally on our work, that this was somehow an integral part of the commons.
Steven Marche dives into the world of modern loneliness, and questions whether Facebook is driving the growth of shallow connections.
The Atlantic: Steven Marche - Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?
The beauty of Facebook, the source of its power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the embarrassing reality of society—the accidental revelations we make at parties, the awkward pauses, the farting and the spilled drinks and the general gaucherie of face-to-face contact. Instead, we have the lovely smoothness of a seemingly social machine. Everything’s so simple: status updates, pictures, your wall.
Paul Ford teases apart Facebook's billion dollar purchase of Instagram, offering a level-headed look at why so many Instagram users recoiled in anger at Mark Zuckerberg's announcement. Additionally, check out Matt Webb's take on Instagram as an island economy.
New York: Daily Intel: Paul Ford - Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out
Then along comes Facebook, the great alien presence that just hovers over our cities, year after year, as we wait and fear. You turn on the television and there it is, right above the Empire State Building, humming. And now a hole has opened up on its base and it has dumped a billion dollars into a public square — which turned out to not be public, but actually belongs to a few suddenly-very-rich dudes.
As a hobby, Phil Gyford started publishing Samuel Pepys's 17th century diaries online back in 2003. Gyford's continued the project for nearly a decade, and as Pepys wrote his last diary entry on May 31, 1669, Gyford will wrap up the blog on May 31, 2012.
Wired UK: Russell M. Davies - History will remember Samuel Pepys' blog
From the start it was clear that Pepysdiary.com meant something. Clay Shirky said in 2003, talking about the emergence of blogs: "The vertigo moment for me was when Phil Gyford launched the Pepys weblog... What that said to me was: Phil was asserting, and I now believe, that weblogs will be around for at least ten years, because that's how long Pepys kept a diary. And that was this moment of projecting into the future: this is now infrastructure we can take for granted."
Dan Moren argues that Apple upsets the online chat balance by integrating iMessage into the desktop Messages app, and provides a detailed take on why instant messaging is all about control.
Macworld: Dan Moren - iMessage and instant messages deserve different apps
Instant messaging is inherently a stateful system: You’re online, you’re away, you’re idle, you’re invisible, you’re offline. Most importantly, you get to dictate your status. For instance, I mark myself as away when I’m at lunch; sometimes—spoiler alert—I’m still at my desk; I just want to dissuade people from expecting a prompt reply.
On fantasy baseball
Bess Kalb profiles John Burgeson's invention of fantasy baseball, anticipating sabermetrics long before Bill James and Billy Beane.
Grantland: Bess Kalb - The Lost Founder of Baseball Video Games
By the end of 1960, John’s life had slowed to an existential halt. Just before Christmas, he came down with a nasty flu. Bedridden, bored as all hell, and finally surrounded by a rare quiet, he thought about the IBM 1620, and how its algorithmic alacrity bordered on self-learning, and realized, maybe deliriously, that the machine had the capability of making a little baseball simulator.
On Microsoft Word
Tom Scocca explains the pain of using Microsoft Word and its inability to move beyond the printing paradigm. Here's to hoping Office 15 offers some improvements.
Slate: Tom Scocca - Death to Word
It took years for me to get to this point. I came of age with Word. It’s the program I used to write my college papers, overcoming old-fashioned page counts with its magical font-switching technology: Times, tightly justified, if the writing was running too long; airily monospaced Courier if things were too short. In those days, Word was an obedient and resourceful servant.