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Verge Hack Week 2014

This week we're totally blowing up our site: we've given our reporters and editors the entire week to play with new tools and experiment with new storytelling ideas, while members of our amazing product team have gathered in New York to help build all sorts of interesting new things. We've also invited people from across Vox Media to write us editorials about the future — look for pieces from Vox.com editor-in-chief Ezra Klein, Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt, Racked national editor Leslie Price, senior product manager (and former Editorially CEO) Mandy Brown, Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele, and many, many others. It's going to be crazy.

  • Mike Case

    Aug 23, 2014

    Mike Case

    Our future government will work more like Amazon

    There is a lot of government in the United States. Several hundred federal agencies, 535 voting members in two houses of Congress, more than 90,000 state and local governments, and over 20 million Americans involved in public service.

    We say we have a government for and by the people. But the way American government conducts its day-to-day business does not feel like anything we, the people weaned on the internet, would design in 2014. Most interactions with the US government don’t resemble anything else we’re used to in our daily lives. When we need to shop, we’re used to using our smart phones to visit Amazon where we know we’ll see carefully customized suggestions based on our purchase history. We pay for same day delivery and can track the location of our package as it moves around the warehouse, onto a truck, and towards our home. Hell, we can do the same thing with a pizza order.

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  • Ryan Gantz

    Aug 22, 2014

    Ryan Gantz

    The future of self-driving cars: welcome to Autocon 2035

    Good evening ladies, gentlemen, and fellow Sentients! Welcome to the 20th annual Autocon, presented by Google Motors and Lockheed-Uber. I know you’re all excited for new product demos, and to learn what the pending merger of our two companies means for your job and future. But to kick things off, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at a few important milestones from the past two decades. So join me for a little “drive” down memory lane.

    [laughter]

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  • Aug 22, 2014

    Dan Rubenstein

    In the future, we'll all be like my grandfather

    As essentially impossible as it is to be completely encouraged about the future of media or technology, there may be nothing that drives my optimism and ability to (hopefully) put things in their proper perspective than my grandfather Ben, who passed away the better part of 20 years ago.

    His life spanned many, if not all of the huge cultural shifts of the 20th century, and he toed that fantastic old man line of being both in awe and skeptical of technology. What still stands out to me, though, is the degree to which he was blown away by how clear Arizona Wildcats basketball games were on my family’s relatively ordinary 32" CRT standard definition TV. This was the mid ‘90s, obviously well before consumer HD was even close to being a thing, and yet… BLOWN AWAY.

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  • Aug 22, 2014

    Katie Drummond and Carl Franzen

    These are the 23 most viral cats of all time

    A cashcat from the popular Tumblr Cashcats.biz, which did not make the list because it features an assortment of cats
    A cashcat from the popular Tumblr Cashcats.biz, which did not make the list because it features an assortment of cats
    Cashcats.biz

    Katie Drummond: cat lover since 1986, human cat companion since 1992.

    Carl Franzen: cat lover since 1987, human cat companion since 2012 (it would have been sooner, but his dad was "allergic").

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  • Russ Frushtick

    Aug 22, 2014

    Russ Frushtick

    Will owning a FitBit finally make me cool?

    In the early 1990s, the power of the slap bracelet was unquestioned. It was a dangerous tool, wielded by the most popular and fashionable members of my second grade class. Wannabes would cluster around, ogling the latest acquisition, be it a sparkly, hypnotic number or one featuring the likeness of a preferred Ninja Turtle. I was drawn in by the fame of it, a wearable social weapon with which to gain friends and intimidate enemies. I was profoundly late to the party, though, acquiring one long after the fad had exploded and just two weeks before the sheathed metal bands were deemed contraband.

    At the age of 30, I am reliving that experience on a daily basis. You see, I do not have a FitBit.

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  • Michael Zelenko

    Aug 22, 2014

    Michael Zelenko

    Check out the first generation of your favorite websites

    Before websites were wild, dynamic, all-encompassing entities that contained the depressing entirety of the human experience, they were simple affairs: a phone number, a mailing address, a bulletin board, and maybe even a random chat room if you were really lucky. It was a simpler — and uglier — era. Thanks to The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we've travelled back in time to see what some our favorite sites looked like in their salad days and we invite you to look over our shoulders. Ladies and gentlemen...start your modems!

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  • Thomas Houston

    Aug 22, 2014

    Thomas Houston

    It's all in the details: these miniatures changed movies

    Perhaps it’s having grown up in the ’80s and a hearty dose of nostalgia in the face of overwrought visual effects in modern movies, but there’s something indescribably powerful about the special effects in films like Blade Runner, Alien, and Dark City. It was an era before CG took over, a time when nearly a century of practical special effects culminated in whole armies of craft workers and artists that knew how to bring the audience to another world or dimension.

    Visual effects masters like Douglas Trumbull, the mind behind the visual effects in Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey pushed the limits of filmmaking in the blockbuster era and beyond.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Aug 22, 2014

    Sean O'Kane

    The best vines from space (so far)

    The first tweet from space was sent in 2009 — but considering how rapidly social media platforms grow, it's kind of amazing how long it's taken for astronauts to start using other services to share their unique view of our planet. Sure, they have "more important" things to do like "science experiements" that "benefit our society," but we totally should have had "Which Rugrats Character Are You?" quizzes on our Facebook news feed shared directly from space by now.

    In the last two years, though, Commander Chris Hadfield upped the ante with his David Bowie cover; meanwhile, other astronauts like Koichi Wakata, Karen Nyberg, and Don Pettit embraced digitally sharing their photography, thoughts, and daily activities with us groundlings. That brings us to current International Space Station resident Reid Wiseman — the first man to vine from space. As of right now he's only posted 24 vines since his first on June 6th, but many of them are remarkable.

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  • Leslie Price

    Aug 22, 2014

    Leslie Price

    Screw perfection: the new normal on social media is just normal

    Aesthetically driven, the fashion, beauty, and health industries have glommed on to Instagram and other visual-sharing platforms, with users uploading streams of inspirational, FOMO-inducing photos. Whether it's hot dog legs on the beach; a pretty manicure; or a latte with a designer handbag artfully arranged next to it, these unblemished vignettes play right into our collective insecurities. Let’s be honest: It's a game of whose life is better. There are winners and there are losers. And the losers are looking at the winners’ photos.

    On the social web, we’re supposed to be posting real, in-the-moment snaps — not altered fabrications. Still, the urge to "improve" reality has proven hard to ignore. In June, the news that 11 percent of #nofilter photos actually utilize a filter — confirmed by social media marketing company Spredfast — quickly made headlines. A filter is the least of it. More insidious are the perfectly-crafted veneers of online fashion and health personalities, whose constant outfit and lifestyle documentation has grown into a cottage industry.

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  • Sam Byford

    Aug 22, 2014

    Sam Byford

    How does the iPhone hold up against a serious camera?

    Everyone knows that the iPhone 5S has a great camera. I say it myself all the time, even as someone who’s spent too many thousands on cameras and lenses over the years. What does that really mean, though? It’s true that the iPhone 5S does take better pictures than just about any other smartphone. But how close am I to throwing away my dedicated photography setup? I decided to put the 5S against a “real” camera — taking near-identical snapshots across a day and night in Harajuku, Tokyo — to see how things shake out in practice.

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  • Christopher Grant

    Aug 21, 2014

    Christopher Grant

    Why 'P.T.' is more exciting than 'Silent Hills,' and the future of the video game demo

    A mysterious new horror game for PlayStation 4 — simply titled P.T. — was revealed last week during Sony's Gamescom press conference in Germany. Not only that, it was in development by the wholly unknown 7780s Studio... and a demo was available right then on the PlayStation Store. Something seemed off.

    Does this sound familiar?

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  • Nathan Cykiert

    Aug 21, 2014

    Nathan Cykiert

    The Hollywood stars who should play your favorite tech executives

    When a group of San Francisco residents unite to turn Silicon Valley into a locally run farmers market, tech titans Steve Ballmer, Marissa Mayer, Tim Cook, and Larry Page must put their differences aside in order save their beloved town. However, in northern California, there's always more than meets the code.

    Technology: The Movie is a pulse-stopping, mind-bending political thriller that will have you asking, "Why am I watching this?"

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  • Ross Miller

    Aug 21, 2014

    Ross Miller

    The Verge Hack Week podcast

    The first-ever Verge Hack Week is coming to an end. Join Nilay Patel, Dieter Bohn, and David Pierce as they look back at the week that was, the week that will be, and the week that might be going on right now some crazy other dimension. Just go with it.

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  • Ross Miller

    Aug 21, 2014

    Ross Miller

    See the world's magazine covers from the day 'The Simpsons' premiered

    On Sunday, December 17th, 1989 at 8:30PM ET, Fox aired The Simpsons series premiere, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," bookended by America's Most Wanted at 8PM and an hour of Married... with Children at 9PM. There wasn't much fanfare or press, relative to what you might imagine now. The Simpsons didn't grace magazine covers, the PR machine wasn't in full swing. But what was on magazine covers is an amazing reminder of just how far we've come as a society. Or not, in some instance.

    In honor of The Simpsons 12-day marathon, which kicked off this morning, here's what your newsstand probably looked on the day of the premiere. (For issues that might have published early or lingered late, we put both — they're so amazing.)

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  • Aug 21, 2014

    Amanda Kludt

    Can the restaurants of the future be good to people?

    The future of the restaurant industry — if all the startups and venture firms have their way — will be devoid of inefficiencies. Apps like Foursquare, Yelp, and many others aim to improve discovery, getting diners to the food they want when and where they want it. A swath of apps and sites — OpenTable, SeatMe, City Eats, Resy, Zurvu, and more — are battling for dominance in for paid and unpaid reservations with a good deal of venture money on the line. Priceline-owned OpenTable is getting into the payment game, and serious investors are also backing nascent payment apps, including Cover and Settle. Meanwhile a Chicago restaurateur hopes to change the model entirely with a new offering called Tickets which (among other features) treats restaurant reservations like concerts or theater — pay in advance in full, and pay more for premium times and seats. Others are finding ways to share Big Brother-style diner intelligence, providing restaurants with data on diners from nut aversions to anniversary dates, seat preference, and average wine spends. Behind the scenes, various services offer to connect farmers to restaurants, wine suppliers to sommeliers, and cut out other annoyances of the notoriously inefficient supply chain.

    In the near future, these new companies will battle for dominance, some will win out, and some may eventually offer cost savings to restaurateurs and time savings to consumers.

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  • David Pierce

    Aug 21, 2014

    David Pierce

    Messenger warfare: I put same-day delivery to the test

    Justin Sullivan

    Twenty years ago last week, Phil Brandenberger paid $12.48 plus shipping for Sting's album "Ten Summoners' Tales." He was the first person to buy something on the internet. In his honor, I fired up Spotify and searched for the album. Before you can say "Fields of Gold is a masterpiece you seriously don't know what you're talking about," I'd ordered a phone charger, a dozen eggs, some underwear, a bunch of cupcakes, and a six-pack of beer. I ordered it on the internet. And it's all going to be here in the next few minutes.

    Two decades into online shopping, same-day delivery is the next frontier, at least in densely populated urban areas like New York City. (Bringing quick and varied delivery options anywhere else is going to be an entirely other challenge.) This is how Amazon and others think they'll kill brick-and-mortar stores once and for all, bringing you the convenience and pants-free experience of online shopping right alongside the immediate gratification of buying something in a store. Amazon, Google, eBay, and countless startups of all sizes are competing to see who can get to your door first. Even Uber is in on it — and it won’t be the last to try.

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  • Aug 21, 2014

    Joe Alicata

    The future of the home screen isn't about apps

    "Have you seen this?"

    "This" could be anything; a song, a video clip, a great gallery of photos. Regardless, if that seemingly innocuous question leads me to an app store where I search for 10 minutes through 50 variations of the same name and keyword, then wait for the download, open the app, and finally find the content, we have massively failed at moving media consumption and discovery forward.

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  • Josh Lowensohn

    Aug 20, 2014

    Josh Lowensohn

    Quiz: can you pick the tech product from its obscure codename?

    As a human, you're unlikely to get a codename unless you're an important person with a security detail, but products get them all the time. Sometimes these end up being the real name by the time consumers buy it, like what Apple's done with its Mac operating systems. But more often they're used to keep things under wraps until everything's ready for the public. We've rounded up some you might know, and many others you probably don't. Test your knowledge below.

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  • Cory Williams

    Aug 20, 2014

    Cory Williams

    I'm the victim of a Spotify bully

    Spencer Hall has been been laughing at me for weeks.

    Spencer qualifies highly on my list of coworkers that I am genuinely excited to see in the Vox Media office. Having not seen him in months, I spotted him rummaging through our snack bin in the kitchen, and approached to say hello.

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  • Lockhart Steele

    Aug 20, 2014

    Lockhart Steele

    The retro-futuristic future of blogging

    I've been thinking about ecosystems lately. As we're digging deeper into YouTube at Vox Media, I'm coming to appreciate the ways YouTube personalities interact with each other, recommending each other's work with in-video shout-outs. It feels a lot like the early days of blogging. Back then, linking to and recommending each others' posts was the whole fun of it; Technorati existed mostly just to validate this behavior.

    Today everyone in the media world is launching email newsletters. Jason Hirschorn, Ian Schafer, Ann Friedman, Lauren Sherman — as I'm typing these words I see that Dan Shanoff is soliciting signups for his forthcoming dailyish email (I signed up) — my inbox fills anew each day with emails. So many emails. Great. But what I miss from emails is the sense of community, the shared experience of shared linking in real time. Obviously Twitter replaced parts of that; Facebook others. Still, it's a far noisier conversation these days, and perhaps there's something to be said for good old blogging itself.

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  • The zodiac is the key to unlocking tech's greatest feuds

    Thomas Edison was an Aquarius, born in the Week of Acceptance; Nikola Tesla was a Cancer, born in the Week of the Unconventional — no wonder the two godfathers of electricity never vibed on the same wavelength. They were working with shockingly different astrological energies — the stars had pre-wired the sires of sparks for a faulty relationship.

    During a recent party at a friend’s home, I ran across a book that shook me as if I were a Magic Eight Ball: Gary Goldschneider and Joost Eiffers’ epic tome, The Secret Language of Relationships. A follow-up to the duo’s astounding The Secret Language of Birthdays, the book assigns every birthday a unique astrological "week" (for some divine reason, there are only 48 categories) and creates a matrix of relationships, revealing the fault lines between romantic, creative, familial, and business rapports.

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  • Ross Miller

    Aug 20, 2014

    Ross Miller

    Watch 50 years of 'Doctor Who' deaths and regenerations

    A new season of Doctor Who premieres this Saturday, August 23rd, starring a brand new, somewhat older Doctor (Peter Capaldi). The show has been around for more than 50 years and 800 episodes, but while that may seem daunting, surprisingly little of that matters. He's an alien — specifically a Time Lord — with a time machine that's bigger on the inside and looks like a police box to the naked eye. He has a Sonic Screwdriver for fixing plot holes and a companion to serve as character foil.

    More importantly, The Doctor regenerates, which is to say he can "die" and be replaced with a new actor without screwing up the canon. Here's a look back at the (more than) 12 Doctors and their goodbyes.

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  • Aug 20, 2014

    Ezra Klein

    The future is awesome, unless you're following politics

    The future looks good when I read The Verge. The watches are smarter, the televisions are curvier, and the buckets of ice are icier.

    But honestly, the future looks less good from where I sit in Washington.

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  • Aug 20, 2014

    Vlad Savov

    Which is the most memorable tech ad of the past decade?

    With Apple collecting an Emmy for its 2013 iPhone ad depicting a misunderstood youngster, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the other prominent ads the tech industry has produced in recent years.

    Having started off as fabulously geeky and low-budget video promos, tech commercials have matured into artful and expansive productions. They now speak to the way we live and the way technology weaves itself into our most routine of activities. At their best, these ads make the artificial and manmade feel authentic and harmonious with our natural way of being and living. Or, alternatively, they just do a really amusing job of talking trash about the competition. And though the failures deserve the mercy of being forgotten, there are still some that are so outstandingly and singularly woeful that they remain imprinted in the common memory, like a lousy aftertaste refusing to go away.

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