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.
It's nearly impossible to avoid cats online these days, and Gideon Lewis-Kraus traveled to Japan to get to the source of the world's most popular online felines.
Wired: Gideon Lewis-Kraus - In Search of the Living, Purring, Singing Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex
What an Internet cat does is thus confront us with how cravenly we ourselves court approval. A cat, if it decides to love you, will do so only on its own terms, and, as that Viennese study showed, the more you let it come to you, i.e., the less you need it, the better loved you’re going to be. The reason the lolcat says "Oh hai" is because he only just noticed, and certainly doesn’t care, that you caught him serenely occupying ur nouns, verbing ur other nouns. He doesn’t worry about you or what you think; by his living in your screen, you can love him, but there isn’t a prayer of reciprocation. Thus is the Internet cat the realest cat of all.
On spam comments
Among the usual examples of humanity's best flooding the web's comments sections, you'll often find vaguely topical compliments and notes. Greg Stevens looks at the tools and SEO companies behind the comment spam.
The Kernal: Greg Stevens - Revealed: The Grubby World of Comment Spam
If you run your own blog or news site, you may see dozens of these comments a day. They come in many varieties. There is the Vague Compliment ("Excellent post! Thanks for the useful information!"), the Vague Criticism ("of course like your web-site but you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts"), and of course the very charming categories of Endless Rambling Nonsense and Endlessly Repeated Links. Often exactly the same comments will appear, word-for-word, across dozens or hundreds of different web pages.
Marc Tracy profiles BuzzFeed's upstart politics site led by ex-Politico Ben Smith, and the team's efforts to drive the political conversation in the age of Twitter.
The New Republic: Marc Tracy - The Tweeps on the Bus
Think of CNN offering 24-hour updates during the Gulf war; or the Drudge Report embodying the Internet’s premium on sensationalism during the Monica Lewinsky mess; or Politico, which, in 2008, exploited the blogosphere’s expansion of the community of political junkies during an especially captivating election. Looked at this way, BuzzFeed—lightning-quick, light-hearted, addictive, and a little dumb—is the defining media outlet of 2012.
On Nintendo Power
With the news of Nintendo Power closing after nearly two and a half decades, Reeves Wiedeman remembers a youth of reading and considers how radically video games have changed.
The New Yorker: Reeves Wiedeman - Under the power of Nintendo Power
In hindsight, reading so extensively about video games without owning is like poring over Rolling Stone without owning a record player. But there was a practical purpose: one of Nintendo Power’s great draws were its walk-throughs: step-by-step guides to beating especially difficult sections of games. I read the walk-throughs so that I would not embarrass myself when invited to play Nintendo by friends with cooler parents, or when a babysitter snuck a Nintendo console into the house under my parents’ noses, swearing my brother and I to secrecy, in the (correct) belief that the presence of the games would make her job much easier.
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.