The best tech writing of the week, July 15th

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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 'People Staring at Computers'

Artist Kyle McDonald tells the story behind his Apple Store project, 'People Staring at Computers,' that snapped photo of people at NYC Apple Stores and his run-ins with the Secret Service.

Wired: Kyle McDonald - When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’

Then I saw the comments. Hundreds and hundreds of comments, on dozens of major blogs. I’m no stranger to publicity, but this was on a completely different scale. Everyone had an opinion and wanted to argue with each other. Yet I had to remain completely silent. I spoke only with my parents, for a few minutes. Once I saw it on the BBC, I knew if I didn’t tell them first, my grandmother would.

On profitability

In light of Digg's recent sub-million dollar sale and Facebook's rough performance post-IP, Derek Powazek conducts a thought a thought experiment on the all-consuming race to monetize growth.

Powazek: Derek Powazek - What If Social Networks Just Aren’t Profitable?

What if we all realized that social networks are a societal good (at least as good as a local alt weekly) but not necessarily good businesses? We’re all desperately hoping that Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr will figure out the secret ingredient that turns a large-scale community of free members into a cash machine. What if we’re all just waiting for the impossible? Like a business that turns water into gold?

On startups

Maria Bustillos reflects on her "surreal" time as a co-founder of a startup around the 2000s to question just what it is that's being invested in so heavily these days.

FWD: Maria Bustillos - How VCs Turned My Startup Into A Nightmare

I did meet one angel back in those days, a very rich entrepreneur, who articulated something of the problem we were facing then, and are now facing for the second time.

"If you're doing this mainly so you can get rich," he said, "that's a huge red flag for me. The people who are going to succeed aren't the ones who just want to get rich."

On internet addiction

Alexis Madrigal responds to Newsweek's recent cover story on internet addiction.

The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - Confessions of an Internet Addict

There was no doubt that he felt the magnetic power of his phone and its tentacled apps at inappropriate times (dinner, watching movies, Christmas Eve). There was no doubt that sometimes the medium overtook the messages. He would tweet something solely so it would be retweeted. He would check Instagram twice in 10 minutes. The means to connect would become an ends; the feedback mechanism, the game mechanic, would flatten real connections into numbers.

On libraries and ebooks

David A. Bell considers the library's role in an increasingly digital world.

The New Republic: David A. Bell - The Bookless Library

Far more readers, of course, appreciate physical books for their aesthetic qualities: the feel of the paper, the crisp look of print on the page, the elegant binding, the pleasant heft of the volume in the hand, the sense of history embedded in a venerable edition that has gone through many owners. But this sort of pleasure, real and meaningful as it is, is harder to justify financially, as resources grow increasingly scarce.

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.

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