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 Stanford and Silicon Valley
Ken Auletta looks at Stanford and its president John Hennessy's close ties to Silicon Valley, and the university's failure to open a New York campus.
The New Yorker: Ken Auletta - Get Rich U.
But online education might also disrupt everything that distinguishes Stanford. Could a student on a video prompter have coffee with a venture capitalist? Could one become a T-student through Web chat? Stanford has been aligned with Silicon Valley and its culture of disruption. Now Hennessy and Stanford have to seriously contemplate whether more efficiency is synonymous with a better education.
Craig Mod wrote an interesting series of essays recently on the importance of pointing on the web, which neatly explains why most publishers' iPad apps are so frustrating to use.
This lack of platforminess is what makes many iPad magazine apps impotent. They end up in no better a position than a printed magazine. There are no routes by which you can directly get to their content. You can't point in. You're forced to go through the "front door" to get anywhere. And it's a door usually weighing several hundred megabytes and infuriatingly difficult to unlock.
For much of the past decade, 92-year-old Hyman "Big Hy" Strachmanhas has spent over 60 hours a week copying films to send inc are packages to U.S. soldiers abroad.
The New York Times: Alan Schwarz - At 92, a Bandit to Hollywood but a Hero to Soldiers
Mr. Strachman has never ripped a movie from a store-bought DVD and does not even know how; rather, he bought bootlegged discs for $5 in Penn Station before finding a dealer closer to home, at his local barbershop. Those discs were either recordings made illegally in theaters or studio cuts that had been leaked.
On The Huffington Post
Michael Shapiro profiles the rise of The Huffington Post from its official launch in mid-2005 to its most recent Pulitzer Prize success, while also stepping back to examine the dynamics of networks and virality.
Columbia Journalism Review: Michael Shapiro - Six degrees of aggregation: How The Huffington Post ate the Internet
Still, networks were eternally undermined by the inevitable force of randomness. It was one thing, say, to go to a baseball game and hear the stirrings of rhythmic clapping that then cascade around the ballpark so that quickly everyone is clapping in unison. A powerful thing to behold—so much so that an inning later, you yourself might want to start the whole stadium clapping. Maybe the person to your left joins in, and maybe five or six others do, too. Until the clapping dies. In Watts’s view, networks were a wonderful phenomenon to observe, but all but impossible to replicate. Why did everyone in the ballpark feel the desire to join in the clapping in the sixth inning but not in the seventh?
On a universal library
Nicholas Carr offers an excellent primer on the rocky efforts to create a universal library, ranging from Google Book Search to the Digital Public Library of America project.
technology review: Nicholas Carr - The Library of Utopia
Darnton soon became the most eminent and influential critic of the Book Search settlement, writing articles and giving lectures in opposition to the deal. His criticism was as withering as it was learned. Google Book Search, he maintained, was "a commercial speculation" that, under the liberal terms of the settlement, seemed fated to grow into "a hegemonic, financially unbeatable, technologically unassailable, and legally invulnerable enterprise that can crush all competition." It would become "a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel, but of access to information."
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.