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.
Speaking from experience, editor-in-chief and publisher of Technology Review Jason Pontis laments the time and energy wasted by publishers building custom apps.
Technology Review: Jason Pontis - Why publishers don't like apps.
We wasted $124,000 on outsourced software development. We fought amongst ourselves, and people left the company. There was untold expense of spirit. I hated every moment of our experiment with apps, because it tried to impose something closed, old, and printlike on something open, new, and digital.
Observations like executive committee parking lots surrounded by barbed wire and Fort Collins employees forced to bring their own lights to the office make James Bandler and Doris Burke's look at HP's tumultuous decline and culture of bickering an excellent read.
Forbes: Author - How Hewlett-Packard lost its way
Two visiting consultants are waiting for the elevator at a big company’s headquarters. One is from HP, the other from IBM. The consultant from Big Blue pushes the up button to visit the CEO on the top floor. The HP man, by contrast, hits the down button to see the IT guy in the basement. The message was clear: IBM was consorting with kings while HP was on hands and knees, fixing the plumbing.
Michael Specter explores the past, present, and future of human efforts to alter the affects of global warming.
The New Yorker: Michael Specter - The Climate Fixers
"We have devised a system that introduces no additional threats into the environment,’’ he told me. "And the idea of interfering with benign nature is ridiculous. The Bambi view of nature is totally false. Nature is violent, amoral, and nihilistic. If you look at the history of this planet, you will see cycles of creation and destruction that would offend our morality as human beings. But somehow, because it’s ‘nature,’ it’s supposed to be fine.’’
Consider a Photoshop — or any pro app, really — with a learning curve that doesn't send you to hours of YouTube tutorials while you attempt to maintain the barely contained rage nudging you to throw your computer across the room.
Rands in Repose: Michael Lopp - Two Universes
The plethora of online Photoshop tutorials demonstrate its power and its flexibility, but I believe they also demonstrate its poor design. Think about it like this: what if each time you plunked down in front of World of Warcraft, you had to spend an hour trying to remember, wait, how do I play this?
Karen Weise checks in on Diaspora's progress two years after the team announced its Facebook alternative.
Businessweek: Karen Weise - On Diaspora's Social Network, You Own Your Data
On Facebook, users are funneled into the same design.Whether they’re mad or elated, their updates on Facebook all appear identical: all in Lucida font, all the same size, everything in blue and white. Surely online personas could be a better visual depiction of personalities. Diaspora’s hoping that with the right tools, people could be proud of the things they make online and could channel the joy of DIY creativity.
Peter Kirwan provides a detailed look at how Nokia has dealt with the changing phone marketplace since the launch of the iPhone five years ago.
Wired UK: Peter Kirwan - Nokia's last stand: can the 147-year-old company design its way back?
Asked how the company had changed when he returned in 2009, Ahtisaari thinks silently for 12 seconds before replying. "I could feel it in my bones that there was a great degree of complexity in how things were getting done," he says. "I also didn't feel that design was at the core of the decision-making process."
Benjamin Jackson considers the "connection between memes, the internet and the divine."
Buzzfeed: Benjamin Jackson - Is The Free Internet A New God?
Our God, the internet, is eerily similar to the gods of old. As it’s really just a huge mess of loosely connected individuals, its behavior tends to reflect our predispositions. It acts quickly, and often without due consideration. It has a short attention span. It likes babies, and things that are physiologically similar to babies. And much like our ancestors, we hold ceremonies to worship our idols and form angry mobs to make our points clear.
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.