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.
Grab the entire list as a Readlist.
Alexis Madrigal and Ian Bogost reverse engineered Netflix's tens of thousands of genre categories to see how .
The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood
A fascinating thing I learned from Yellin is that the underlying tagging data isn't just used to create genres, but also to increase the level of personalization in all the movies a user is shown. So, if Netflix knows you love Action Adventure movies with high romantic ratings (on their 1-5 scale), it might show you that kind of movie, without ever saying, "Romantic Action Adventure Movies."
Writer and designer Craig Mod writes about his personal history with cameras and the rise of networked photography.
The New Yorker: Craig Mod - Goodbye, cameras
As I’ve become a more network-focussed photographer, I’ve come to love using the smartphone as an editing surface; touch is perfect for photo manipulation. There’s a tactility that is lost when you edit with a mouse on a desktop computer. Perhaps touch feels natural because it’s a return to the chemical-filled days of manually poking and massaging liquid and paper to form an image I had seen in my head.
And, in case you missed it over the holidays, Luke O'Neil looks back at a year of botched reporting and online hoaxes.
Esquire: Luke O'Neil - The year we broke the internet
These all had one thing in common: They seemed too tidily packaged, too neat, “too good to check,” as they used to say, to actually be true. Any number of reporters or editors at any of the hundreds of sites that posted these Platonic ideals of shareability could’ve told you that they smelled, but in the ongoing decimation of the publishing industry, fact-checking has been outsourced to the readers. Not surprisingly—as we saw with the erroneous Reddit-spawned witch-hunt around the Boston Marathon bombing—readers are terrible at fact-checking. And this, as it happens, is good for business because it means more shares, more clicks.
Daniel Engber reports on the future of sugar substitutes and the search for a zero-calorie sweetener.
The New York Times: Daniel Engber - The Quest for a Natural Sugar Substitute
We’re more afraid of sugar than we’ve ever been. What yesterday were seen as “empty calories” have today been designated “toxic.” Doctors warn that cans of soda put fat into your liver, weaken your response to insulin and increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes. The panic over sugar has grown so pervasive that other dietary boogeymen — salt and fat and gluten — seem like harmless flunkies in comparison. (In 2012, when the market-research firm Mintel asked consumers which ingredients or foods they were trying to avoid, sugar and added sugar topped the list, by a wide margin.)
Bill Wasik surveys the challenges and promises of wearable tech.
Wired: Bill Wasik - Why Wearable Tech Will Be as Big as the Smartphone
The problem with Google Glass is not that it’s bad industrial design. Google, like the rest of Silicon Valley, has learned a great deal about how to make an aesthetically pleasing product. But Glass is meant to be a highly visible addition to someone’s body as they walk around in public. That demands more than just a gorgeous product; it demands a fashionable product. And the tricky task of wearables makers will be to understand the distinction.
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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.